Tuesday, February 20, 2018

“Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer and forgiveness.”

God always forgives when you are totally repentant and you desire to change. He forgives…and He never gets tired of forgiving. Never. You may get tired asking. I hope not. He never, never tires of forgiving. Never. - Mother Angelica – EWTN Radio

Gospel text: (MT 6:7-15)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

"If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."

In today’s gospel, Jesus gently nudges us toward the important truth that God our Father sustains us even as he invites us to ask him for sustenance.  Notably, both food and forgiveness are part of that sustaining power. With the help of modern technologies, food has become widely available, but I do not think we are doing so well with forgiveness.  In fact, technologies make it possible for accusations and complaints to fly freely all around us, creating a toxic atmosphere that affects our ability to give and receive forgiveness. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

“Nothing is more difficult than focusing on the needs of others we normally wouldn’t care about. This is the ‘holy moment’ we can all find ourselves in. This is the leap of faith that transforms. Jesus, by commanding us to love those we’d rather ignore or hate, gives us an opportunity to lean on his grace and love instead of our own understanding and power.”

“Whenever I meet someone in need, it is really Jesus in his most distressing disguise.” – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta: (1910 – 1997:Founded the Missionaries of Charity)

Gospel Text: (MT 25:31-46)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."

The struggle between choosing the good and what is evil is not a theoretical struggle. It is an everyday struggle, with everyday examples.

Do we really not know what it means to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the imprisoned? Do we really not know the Jesus who is sick and dying, who is hungry, who is without shelter and who is afraid and shivering, people who may be living within our parishes and communities?

I think we do………….

We may even know some by name. However, that doesn’t mean that sometimes we don’t feel helpless and powerless to help, but I believe that we know this Jesus.

Let us not be led astray by those who have turned their back to the Jesus of the Gospel. Let us choose the more excellent way, the Way of Love. We’ve looked at Life from both sides now and we choose Love!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lent invites us to ‘let go’ of whatever it is that keeps us from building the Kingdom of God. What ‘facts’ does Jesus want to show you this Lent?

Prayer, mercy and fasting: These three are one, and they give life to each other. Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing.

So if you pray, fast; if fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give.  - Saint Peter Chrysologus (380 – 450: was Bishop of Ravenna from about 433 until his death. He is known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna. 

Gospel Text: (MK 1:12-15)
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Lent is a journey in the desert for each of us. It's quieter and clearer in the desert. There are fewer distractions, fewer toys, fewer addictive behaviors, fewer arguments. There's no one to yell at in the desert but myself and the enemy. The word "temptation" has its roots in a word that means "leaning" or "tending." Our temptations are the attractions, habits, safe havens of escape for us. Going into the desert - stripping ourselves of all the noise and distractions (things that lean us or tend us in the opposite direction) - so that we can see more clearly, understand with greater focus, what we are really like - what we are really about.

During Lent, we can see the fault lines, with our eye wide open. We can recognize where the battle for integrity really is, where the struggle for our best self is waged on a day to day basis. Each of us can give ourselves to concretely discovering the place where we teeter between doing what we know is right and good and loving, and responding selfishly, even with revenge and divisiveness. In the desert of Lent, those choice points become clearer and can result in our discovering riches Jesus is offering us in a life that is more whole and balanced, responsive to his grace, and full of self-sacrificing love.

Friday, February 16, 2018

“Fasting is an act of humility that spotlights our weaknesses and reveals dependence on things rather than on God.”

Do you fast? Then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, do not forget the imprisoned, have pity on the tortured, comfort those who grieve and who weep, be merciful, humble, kind, calm, patient, sympathetic, forgiving, reverent, truthful and pious, so that God might accept your fasting and might plentifully grant you the fruits of repentance.  – St. John Chrysostom: (349 - 407: Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father.)

Gospel Text: (MT 9:14-15)
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
"Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast."

A Facebook meme says, "Fasting without prayer is dieting." This meme reflects the reality that fasting is much more than denying oneself of food. When one fasts, he does so in order to be in closer union with God.

As we enter the season of Lent, let us ask ourselves about the meaning and relevance of fasting in our lives. In current Church law we have only two days of mandatory fasting: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Why do we even bother speaking of "fasting"?

We can ask ourselves what pleasures and practices we indulge in that distract us from a true relationship with God. What can we give up or do to make ourselves and our lives closer to God? Let us consider what practices we can do during Lent which would be a "fast that pleases the Lord." (Is 58: 6)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

“All God’s plans have the mark of the cross on them, and all His plans have death to self in them. “

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work.” - Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Gospel Text: (LK 9:22-25)

Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised."

Then he said to all,
"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?"

The following of Christ for us would most probably not entail the physical cross and suffering Christ himself embraced for love of us. What is Christ asking of his followers when he demands that his followers "deny yourself [themselves] and take up your [their] cross each day and follow me"?

Christ is asking his followers to deny themselves and not be centered on self, to put others ahead of self in what they do, to take inconveniences and suffering in imitation of the suffering Christ. He is asking that at times we give up certain pleasures and delights to be like so many men and women who lack even the barest necessities of life. He is asking that we accept the many daily crosses that come in our lives to be more like Christ.

To follow Christ is to be obedient like him to the Father's will for us.