Sunday, December 9, 2018

Confession is an act of honesty and courage – an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.

Those, on the other hand, who recognize that they are weak and sinful entrust themselves to God and obtain from him grace and forgiveness. It is precisely this message that must be transmitted: what counts most is to make people understand that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whatever the sin committed, if it is humbly recognized and the person involved turns with trust to the priest-confessor, he or she never fails to experience the soothing joy of God's forgiveness. - Pope Benedict XVI – On the Sacrament of Confession 

Gospel Text: (LK 3:1-6)
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Take a very common example of sacrifice to reflect on what God calls us to during Advent. There are a lot of different sacrifices that parents are called to make to prepare for their unborn child. Parents have to be ready to sacrifice space: for example, to figure out where the child is going to sleep. Parents have to be ready to sacrifice money, of course: lots of money, for all sorts of needs.

Parents also have to be ready to sacrifice some of their favorite vices. They have to be ready to become less selfish, and more self-less. The problem for all of us is that the longer we cling to our vices, the more entrenched those vices become in our lives, and the harder they become to give up. This is one of the difficulties faced by those who wait until later in life to bear children.

Yet what is challenging for parents as they prepare for their child, is challenging for each of us as we prepare for the Christ child. The greater the sacrifices that we are willing to make, through examining our consciences, confessing our sins, and accepting the grace of reconciliation, the greater the joy that we will be open to, throughout the entire Christmas Season and throughout this new year of grace.

Friday, December 7, 2018

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis: (1898 – 1963: was a British writer and lay theologian)

Gospel Text: (MT 9:27-31)
As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out,
"Son of David, have pity on us!"
When he entered the house,
the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them,
"Do you believe that I can do this?"
"Yes, Lord," they said to him.
Then he touched their eyes and said,
"Let it be done for you according to your faith."
And their eyes were opened.
Jesus warned them sternly,
"See that no one knows about this."
But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.

We know well the stories.  We know how He healed the blind and the lame.  Sometimes it took a simple word or no words at all, a mere look or touch from Christ.  Sometimes He used mud or water, but oftentimes he used nothing.  Sometimes He touched those whom He healed, while other times He healed from far away.

One thing is clear in these stories: Christ only heals those who want His healing.  We forget that too often.  We forget that Christ only heals those who believe in Him, who trust Him, who want to be healed.  We forget how He reacts to those with great faith, and also how He reacts to those with little faith.  We forget how, in our own lives, we embrace or reject Christ.  God does not make us love Him, since coerced love isn’t love at all.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”

It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbor. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God, and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. – St Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997: Founded the Missionaries of Charity)

Gospel Text: (MT 7:21, 24-27)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined."

The faith we received handed on to us at our baptism must be nourished in our lives for it to grow, by prayer and the sacraments, listening and reading God's word and listening to commentaries on God's word and spiritual and corporal acts of mercy and love. These make our faith strong, even in the midst of doubt, temptations and trials. Indeed "not everyone who says to me: Lord! Lord! will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father." 

To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must do God's will.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

“It became obvious why Catholics had built such beautiful cathedrals and churches throughout the world. Not as gathering or meeting places for Christians. But as a home for Jesus Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. - Cathedrals house Jesus."

"If I can give you any advice, I beg you to get closer to the Eucharist and to Jesus... We must pray to Jesus to give us that tenderness of the Eucharist." - Mother Teresa of Calcutta: (1910 – 1997: Founded the Missionaries of Charity)

Gospel Text: (MT 15:29-37)
At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking,
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
"My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way."
The disciples said to him,
"Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?"
Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?"
"Seven," they replied, "and a few fish."
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for an even greater miracle where Jesus would expand our vision even more. The multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for the miracle of the Eucharist. To human eyes in the Eucharist one sees bread and wine but with the eyes of faith we see the Body and Blood of Jesus. Again according to the world it is irrational and stupid to believe in transubstantiation, that the bread really changes into the body of Jesus and the wine really changes into the blood of Jesus. But following Jesus does not entail looking at Jesus with the vision of the world. Following Jesus means looking at Jesus with the eyes of faith, with the faith of Mary who accepted the impossible from the angel Gabriel and responded, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) We do not allow our vision of ourselves to be tainted and contaminated by the world but we take our vision of ourselves and our possibilities from Jesus.