Friday, December 31, 2010

To Call God Father is to know yourself His Child

It is better to be the child of God than king of the whole world - Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Gospel text (Jn 1:1-18): In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in him, life which for humans was also light. Light that shines in the dark: light that darkness could not overcome.

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light but a witness to introduce the Light.

For the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was already in the world and through him the world was made, the very world that did not know him. He came to his own, yet his own people did not receive him; but all who have received him he empowers to become children of God for they believe in his Name. These are born, but without seed or carnal desire or will of man: they are born of God. And the Word was made flesh; he had his tent pitched among us, and we have seen his Glory, the Glory of the only Son coming from the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness.

John bore witness to him openly, saying: «This is the one who comes after me, but he is already ahead of me for he was before me». From his fullness we have all received, favor upon favor. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-Only-Son made him known: the one who is in and with the Father.

As the days of the Christmas Octave draw to a close, we are privileged to hear the moving Prologue of the Gospel of John. Among the many stately phrases that pour out one after the other, I am struck by the following: “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.”

Having power to become a child—it is a curious phrase. We normally do not associate the words “power” and “child.” Yet, it is the heart of the Christian mystery. Incapable of saving ourselves, we need a savior. But the path to salvation is not “upward mobility,” but rather “downward humility.” Christian maturity consists in “growing up” enough to become a child, dependent on and totally confident in God. To be “saved,” is to become a child.

And this must come from a power that does not originate within us. The power comes through the choice to “accept him” – to say “yes” to being saved, rescued, by the Word made flesh, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must be born “of God.”

And so Christmas is surely about a birth, in Bethlehem long ago. But just as surely it is about many births, the births of all those who accept Jesus and consent to be born again as children.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Patience and fortitude conquer all things

“My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn" (Ps 130:6)

Gospel text (Lk 2:36-40): There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father's home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple , serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God and spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem .

When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee . There the child grew in stature and strength and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him.

What can we learn from this passage about our own lives? We can reflect that Mary and Joseph were faithful to the Jewish traditions as they understood them. We can reflect that Mary and Joseph were chosen from the working class of people who were not distracted by riches and power. We can reflect that Jesus grew as a normal human being – as we do.

He grew in wisdom...and “the favor of God was upon him.” Jesus grew in the wisdom and knowledge of the Father and he fulfilled all the prophecies about him. He was obedient unto death for the love of us.

We also grow in “wisdom” about who we are and what we are supposed to do in life. We are to grow in wisdom and knowledge and actualize the potential God has given each one of us. Today, we can ask ourselves these questions: Why was I born? What am I supposed to do with my life? How should I serve the world?

St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man (and woman) fully alive.” How can we be fully alive with all the frailties we observe in ourselves and others? That’s the mystery of our lives. We need to find our unique gifts – among our frailties – all during our lives. When we are young, middle aged, older, whether rich or poor, whether in good health or poor health we are to actualize our unique gifts for the benefit of ourselves and others.

Loving God, help us reflect on our own lives and understand the gifts you have given each one of us. Help us actualize those gifts – no matter what our age – in the service of the poor, the powerless, the sick, their caregivers, those who do not have education. Help us, with your Son, give ourselves in service to the world….All for your greater honor and glory. Amen

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Temptation is necessary to make us realize that we are nothing in ourselves

"To be pure, to remain pure, can only come at a price, the price of knowing God and loving him enough to do his will. He will always give us the strength we need to keep purity as something beautiful for him." - Blessed Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lk 2:22-35): When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the baby up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel , and he had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law. Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying, «Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations and the glory of your people Israel ».

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, «See him; he will be for the rise or fall of the multitudes of Israel . He shall stand as a sign of contradiction, while a sword will pierce your own soul. Then the secret thoughts of many may be brought to light».

Today, we contemplate the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple , to accomplish what the Law of Moses prescribes: mother's purification and presentation and ransom of the firstborn child.

This scene is described by Saint Josemaría Escrivá in the fourth Joyful mystery of his book The Holy Rosary, while inviting us to get involved in it: «This time, my friend, it will be up to you to bring the cage with the turtledoves. —Do you realize? She —the Immaculate!— submits to the law as if she was unclean. Will you ever learn, you silly child, to submit, no matter what personal sacrifices, to God's Holy Law?

»Purified! It is certainly you and I who need to be purified! To atone, and, over and above atonement, Love. —A love that sears, that burns away our soul's dirt, and a fire, that inflames with divine flames our heart's misery».

This Christmas it is appropriate to take advantage of Mary's example to “clean” our soul, by making a sincere sacramental confession and to be able to receive our Lord with our best attitude. Thus, Joseph offers the pair of turtledoves, but most of all, with his work and his pure love, he offers his own capacity to carry forward God's established plan for the Holy Family, example to all families.

Simeon had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Christ. He goes to the Temple and when, full of joy, he holds in his arms the Messiah, he says: «Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation» (Lk 2:29-30). With the eyes of faith, this Christmas, let us contemplate Jesus who, with his birth, has come to save us. Just as Simeon intoned a thanksgiving song, let all the families gather around the manger and, together, sing in joy, for we are aware we have been saved by the infant Jesus.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feast of the Holy Innocents – "Lord, you give us life even before we understand"

The Holy Innocents are few, in comparison to the genocide and abortion of our day. But even if there had been only one, we recognize the greatest treasure God put on the earth—a human person, destined for eternity and graced by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Gospel text (Mt 2:13-18): After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, «Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt , and stay there until I tell you for Herod will soon be looking for the child in order to kill him». Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt , where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled: «I called my son out of Egypt ».

When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old or under. This was done in line with what he had learned from the wise men about the time when the star appeared. In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled: «A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more».

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs. Embedded within the Christmas celebrations, we cannot ignore the message the liturgy wants to convey to us to define with two clear accents, and even more, the good news of the birth of Jesus. In the first place, St. Joseph 's predisposition in God's design for our salvation, by accepting God's will. And, at the same time, the evil, the injustice we often find in our life, determined in this case by the martyrdom of those innocent infants. All this requires a personal and social attitude and response.

St. Joseph offers us a very clear and responsive testimony to God's call. We can, thus, identify ourselves with him when we are to take decisions, from our own faith, in difficult moments of our life: «Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt » (Mt 2:14).

Our faith in God entails our own life. It wakes us up, that is, makes us fully alert to those things happening around us, because —quite often— it is where God speaks to us. He makes us take the child and his mother, i.e., God becomes closer, our travel companion, and He strengthens our faith, hope and charity. And He makes us leave at night for Egypt , i.e. He invites us not to be afraid of our own life, which, more often than not, is full of shadows too difficult to illuminate.

Today, those infants martyrs also have specific names in other infants, youngsters, old people, immigrants, ailing persons... requesting the response of our charity. So, John Paul II, tells us: «Many are, indeed, in our time the needs questioning our Christian sensibility. It is time for a new idea of charity that can be displayed not only in the efficiency of the help provided, but in our capacity to become closer and more supportive with those suffering».

Let us hope that God Infant's clear and strong new light fills up our lives and reaffirm our faith, our hope and our charity

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Beloved Disciple – The Feast Day of St John the Evangelist

Because of the depth of his Gospel, St John is usually thought of as the eagle of theology, soaring in high regions that other writers did not enter.

Gospel text (Jn 20:2-8): On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala ran to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved. And she said to them, «They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where they have laid him». Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came following him and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. The cloth, which had been around his head was not lying flat like the other linen cloths but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and believed.

Today, the liturgy celebrates the festivity of Saint John , Apostle and Evangelist. The first day after Christmas, the Church celebrates Saint Stephen's day, the first martyr of the Christian faith. And the following day is the feast of Saint John . Saint John is the one who better and most deeply understood the mystery of the Word Incarnate. John was the very first “theologian” and best example for any other true theologian. Today's proposed fragment of his Gospel helps us to consider Christmas from the perspective of the Lord's Resurrection. Indeed, when John arrived to the empty tomb, «he saw and believed» (Jn 20:8). Trusting the Apostles’ testimony, every Christmas we are stimulated to ‘see’ and ‘believe’, too.

We can also find these same words “see” and “believe” in connection with Jesus' birth, the Verb incarnated. Pushed by his heart's intuition —and we should add, by “grace”— John “sees” beyond what, at that time, his eyes cannot yet see. In fact, he believes without “having yet seen” the Christ; and receives the praise of those «who haven't seen me and believe anyway» (Jn 20:29), that ends chapter twenty of his Gospel.

Peter and John “run” together towards the tomb, but the text says John «outran Peter and reached the tomb first» (Jn 20:4). It seems that the desire to be again by the side of the One he loved —Christ— was stronger than that of physically being next to Peter, with whom, however —by waiting for him and allowing him to be the first to enter the tomb— he shows that it is Peter who holds the primacy of the Apostolic College. Yet, it is his ardent heart, full of zeal, John's impassionate love, which impels him to “run” and “outrun”, in a clear invitation for us to equally live our faith with such a fervent desire to see the Resurrection.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The family unit is the domestic church

Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other - it doesn't matter who it is and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.
- Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Mt 2:13-15.19-23): After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, «Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the child in order to kill him». Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled: ‘I called my son out of Egypt’.

After Herod's death, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, «Get up, take the child and his mother and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the child are dead». So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when Joseph heard that Archilaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. He was given further instructions in a dream, and went to the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way what was said by the prophets was fulfilled: «He shall be called a Nazorean».

Today, we contemplate the mystery of the Holy Family. The Son of God begins his path through men in the midst of a plain family. It is the Father's design. The family will always be the irreplaceable human habitat. Jesus has a legal father that “carries” him and a Mother that is always by his side. God always used St. Joseph, a just man, faithful husband and responsible father, to protect the Family of Nazareth: «An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you’» (Mt 2:13).

Today, more than ever before, the Church is expected to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of the Family and of life. Today, more than ever before, a deep inhuman culture trumpets, while trying to inflict it upon us, their anti-gospel of confusion and death. In John Paul II's postsynodal apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa, he reminds us: «The Church (…) must faithfully proclaim anew the truth about marriage and the family. She sees this as burning need, for she knows that this task is integral to the mission of evangelization entrusted to her by her Bridegroom and Lord, and imposes itself today with unusual force. Many cultural, social and political factors are in fact conspiring to create an increasingly evident crisis of the family. In varying ways they jeopardize the truth and dignity of the human person, and call into question, often misrepresenting it, the notion of the family itself. The value of marital indissolubility is increasingly denied; demands are made for the legal recognition of de facto relationships as if they were comparable to legitimate marriages...!».

«Herod will soon be looking for the child in order to kill him» (Mt 2:13). Once again, Herod is striking, but we are not to be afraid, for God's help is not lacking in our life. Let us go to Nazareth. Let us rediscover the truth about the family and about life. Let us live it up joyfully and let us proclaim it to our brothers thirsty for light and hope. The Pope invites us to: «It is necessary to reaffirm that these institutions [marriage and family] are realities grounded in the will of God. Furthermore, it is necessary to serve the Gospel of life».

And, again, «an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said: ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go back to the land of Israel’» (Mt 2:19-20). The return from Egypt is imminent!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…………..

The baby Jesus in the manger reminds us what God can do with something small - Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Jn 1,1-18): In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in him, life which for humans was also light. Light that shines in the dark: light that darkness could not overcome.

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light but a witness to introduce the Light.

For the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was already in the world and through him the world was made, the very world that did not know him. He came to his own, yet his own people did not receive him; but all who have received him He empowers to become children of God for they believe in his Name. These are born, but without seed or carnal desire or will of man: they are born of God.

And the Word was made flesh; He had his tent pitched among us, and we have seen his Glory, the Glory of the only Son coming from the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness. John bore witness to him openly, saying: «This is the one who comes after me, but He is already ahead of me for He was before me». From his fullness we have all received, favor upon favor. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-Only-Son made him known: the one who is in and with the Father.

Today, with children's simplicity, we are considering the great mystery of our Faith. Jesus' birth emphasizes the arrival of the “Fullness of Time”. As a result of the original sin of our first parents, the human lineage diverged from its Creator. But God, grieving over our sad condition, sent his Eternal Son, born from the Virgin Mary, to us, to redeem us from the slavery of sin.

John, the apostle, explains it by using expressions of great theological deepness: «In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God» (Jn 1:1). John names the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, as “the Word”. And he adds: «And the Word was made flesh; He had his tent pitched among us» (Jn 1:14).

This is what we are celebrating today; this is why it is a great feast. We marvel at Jesus, newly born. He is a baby... but also, God All Mighty; He is God, but now, He is also one of us.

He has come to Earth to bring us back to our condition of children of God. However, we must welcome within us the salvation He is offering us. As St. John explains, «but all who have received him He empowers to become children of God for they believe in his Name» (Jn 1:12). Children of God! Let us prize this ineffable mystery: «The Son of God has become son of man, in order to make us sons of God» (St. John Crysostom).

Let us welcome Jesus, let us seek him: we shall find salvation, and the true solution to the problems of our world, only in Him; He only is giving us the ultimate meaning of life, of our pains and setbacks. This is why, today, I am proposing you: let us read the Gospel, and let us mull over it; let us try to truly live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, the Son of God that has come into us. Only then, we shall realize that, together, we could truly build a better world.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Thoughts - Family, Parents and the responsibilities that come with it

During the Christmas season, and especially on Christmas Eve, I cannot help but think of family, and especially about how families “work.” I especially try to avoid comparing my family’s holiday traditions with those of others. What works for my family does not necessarily work for yours. Some families decorate their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Others decorate the tree weeks before. We should always beware of characterizing a family as “close” or perhaps “dysfunctional” solely by observing their traditions. Because what we might see when observing a family from the outside might not be totally accurate.

Similarly, many of us struggle, especially during the holidays, with how we care for our families, especially our parents. There can be much guilt associated with this struggle. Should we be doing more for our parents? Should we be visiting them more often, even though our busy lives do not yield to this very easily? With a parent in a nursing home, we might wrestle with the question about bringing the parent into our own home. If we determine that we cannot, is it out of selfishness or necessity? All of these questions come to a head during the Christmas season.

Today’s readings have an answer, of course. (They always do.) In the first reading, the Lord reminds David through Nathan that He was the one who made David a great King in the first place. The Lord is “a father to him.” So who is David to worry about the Lord? The reading reminds us to always remember that we are products of our parents, of the families and circumstances into which we were born. Our parents had a very large role in making us who and what we are today. Should we therefore succumb to our guilty feelings and second-guess the life decisions we have made? Since our parents taught us how to make these life decisions, wouldn’t that be like second-guessing them?

From today’s Gospel reading, we can also see where parents’ true joys lie: to watch their lineage blossom and grow and move out into the world to do great things in the Lord. Zechariah was able to watch his son, John the Baptist, grow into a young man who could “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” For those of us who are parents, we share in Zechariah’s joy when we see our children, or grandchildren or great-grandchildren, go out in the world and make a difference.

So if we are feeling guilty about not doting over our parents, I believe today’s readings tell us to relax. We are simply doing what they taught us to do.

There are limits, of course. Everyone needs to have their basic needs met, and deserves to live out their senior years with dignity. This is not just a family issue, but a global one. So if we are not doing what we can in this area, it is not just our parents we are letting down.

If we pity our parents and their current situation, perhaps it will help if we remember that it was they who built the world we are currently living in, and their greatest joy is to watch us build something even greater.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No greater man was born of woman than John the Baptist, our Lord said

“I must decrease and He must increase” (John 3:30) – These are the words of John the Baptist – Remember them!

Gospel text (Lk 1:57-66): When the time came for Elizabeth , she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her and they rejoiced with her. When on the eighth day they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, «Not so; he shall be called John». They said to her, «No one in your family has that name»; and they asked the father by means of signs for the name he wanted to give. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote on it, «His name is John», and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again and his first words were in praise of God. A holy fear came on all in the neighborhood, and throughout the Hills of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds and wondered, «What will this child be?». For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

Today’s Gospel passage recalls almost fondly the birth of John the Baptist, who will be the forerunner and messenger of the Lord whom we all seek. The Precursor's birth speaks of the proximity of Christmas. The Lord is at hand! Let's get ourselves ready! When asked who he was by the priests who had come from Jerusalem , John said: «I am the voice crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord» (Jn 1:23).

«Look, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my call and open the door, I will come in to you and have supper with you, and you with me» (Rev 3:20), we read in the Communion antiphon. It is necessary to examine ourselves to see how we are preparing ourselves to receive Jesus this Christmas: God, more than anything, wants to be born in our hearts.

The Precursor's life teaches us the virtues we need to receive Jesus properly; fundamentally, humility of the heart. He acknowledges himself as an instrument of God, to fulfil his vocation, his mission. As Saint Ambrose says: «Do not boast that they call you son of God —let us acknowledge His grace without forgetting our human nature—; do not become proud if you have served well because you have done just what was expected from you. The sun does its job, the moon obeys, the angels of the Lord do their duty. The instrument chosen by God to serve the Gentiles said: ‘I am the last of the apostles, and I do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God ’ (1Cor 15:9)».

We are looking for the glory of God only. The virtue of humility will help us to prepare ourselves for the coming festivities appropriately.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And Mary said Yes…..Because it was the will of God…….How about you?

"We confess, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and a body, begotten before all ages from the Father in his Godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary the Virgin according to his humanity, one and the same consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity, for a union of two natures took place. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy Virgin to be the Mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her" - The Council of Ephesus, Formula of Union, A.D. 431

Gospel text (Lk 1:46-56): Mary said: «My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior! He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is his Name! From age to age his mercy extends to those who live in his presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He held out his hand to Israel , his servant, for he remembered his mercy, even as he promised our fathers, Abraham and his descendants forever». Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.

Today's Gospel presents for our consideration the Magnificat Canticle, with which the Virgin Mary, full of joy, greets Elizabeth, her relative, mother of John the Baptist, in her home. Mary's words remind us of other Biblical canticles and songs She knew quite well and had so often, recited and contemplated. Now. however, those very words, on her lips, have a much deeper meaning: behind them, God's Mother spirit shows through while also evincing the purity of her heart. Every day, at the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church makes these words hers when, with the Vespers, the Church addresses to Heaven the same song with which Mary rejoiced, blessed and thanked God for all His graciousness and sheer kindness.

Mary has benefited of the most extraordinary Grace any woman has ever received or will ever receive: amongst all other women in History, she has been chosen by God, to become the Mother of the Redeemer Messiah, whom Mankind had been awaiting for so many centuries. It is the highest honor ever granted any human person, and She accepts it with total restraint and humility, by realizing it all is Grace and a gift, and her own lowliness before the immensity of God's power and greatness, which has done wonders on Her (cf. Lk 1:49). This is a great lesson of humility for all of us, Adam's sons, and heirs of a human nature deeply stained by Original Sin which, day after day, would try to drag us down.

We are getting close to the end of Advent, a time of conversion and purification. To day, it is the Virgin Mary who is showing us the best way. Mulling over our Mother's prayer —by wishing to make it ours— will help us to become more humble. Mother Mary will help us if we truly ask her.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Joy is the feeling of grinning on the inside

Joy is prayer - Joy is strength - Joy is love - Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. - Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lk 1:39-45): Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth . When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with holy spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, «You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord's word would come true!».

Today, the text of the Gospel corresponds to the second joyful mystery: the «Visitation of the Blessed Virgin to Her Cousin, St. Elizabeth». It certainly is a complete mystery! A silent inburst of profound and intense joy as History has never ever narrated! It is Mary's joy that has just become a mother, because it is fitting that all grace continues to come through Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit. The latin word “gaudium” express a deep and intimate joy that does not burst out. Despite that, the mountains of Judah were covered with joy. Mary exulted as a mother who has just realized she is expecting a child. And what a Child! A Child that, before being born, already peregrinated through the bouldery trodden tracks leading to Ain Karim, nestled in the heart and lovely arms of Mary.

Joy in Elisabeth's soul and face, and in the baby leaping in her womb. The words of Mary's cousin will travel through time: «Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!» (Lk 1:42). The prayer of the Saint Rosary, as a source of joy, is one of the new perspectives discovered by our Pope John Paul II in his apostolic Letter about the Rosary of the Virgin Mary.

Joy is indivisible from faith. «But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?» (Lk 1:43). The joy of God and Mary has spread all over the world. To allow it within us, we need only to open ourselves through our faith to God's constant influence in our life, while walking our path with the Infant, with She who has believed, by holding St. Joseph's strong and enamored hand. Earthen paths, asphalt, cobblestones or muddy roads through, any Christian always carries upon him, two dimensions of faith: the union with God and the service to others. Both quite closely linked up: with a unity of life that establishes no solution of continuity between one thing and the other.

But WHY should we feel joy? We have this event in which we believe the Son of God is born as a human being in our midst. Our God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, the God of the prophets, the one, true God, sent His Son to be one of us, to be human, to experience what we experience, to live as we live, and to die as we die. What does it say of the love God must have for each one of us that God would send His Son to live this life of ours? How can we doubt God’s love once we understand this priceless gift?

But knowing is not the same as feeling. We might believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but how does that make us feel? Do we really feel joy at this time of year, the joy of knowing that God is in our midst? Or are we so distracted by the trappings of celebration, by the bustling of buying, by the hurrying about to get to this or that event, to shut down business activity for year end, to balance the books, to make year-end resolutions for next year, to relax with family and friends, that we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to feel the wonder, the awe, the incredible joy of knowing that this baby, Jesus, is the most unique baby in the history of humankind, because this baby, Jesus, is the Son of God.

My challenge for myself, and you if you wish, is to go off by myself for a small piece of time to reflect on the awe of God in our midst in the form of the baby Jesus. My hope is that by being separate for a time from all that makes this season so special for us as humans, I can feel the divine in my life that is the baby Jesus.

And so my prayer today is for the grace to look beyond the pleasant distractions of this season of celebration, however wonderful they are, so I can feel the true joy of knowing that Jesus has come into the world for me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

“Do not be afraid, Mary!”...

Are you aware that the phrase “Do not be afraid” is spoken over 500 times in scripture? So, my question to you all is: Why are we all so afraid to trust Jesus? Do we believe Him when he says point blank: DO NOT BE AFRAID!

Gospel text (Lk 1:26-38): In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth . He was sent to a young virgin who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, «Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you».

Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the angel said, «Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David , his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever and his reign shall have no end».

Then Mary said to the angel, «How can this be if I am a virgin?». And the angel said to her, «The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the holy child to be born shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child, and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible». Then Mary said, «I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said». And the angel left her.

Today, once more, we contemplate the impressive scene of the Annunciation. God, always true to his promises, lets Mary know, through the Angel Gabriel that she is the one chosen to bear the Savior of the world. As we learn to expect from the Lord, the most important event in the history of mankind —the Creator and Lord of all things becoming man, just like us— takes place in a very simple way: a young woman in a small village in Galilea. No fireworks.

The way of going about it is simple; the event is magnificent as are the virtues of the Virgin Mary: filled with grace, the Lord is with her, humble, simple, available for God's will, generous. God has plans for her, as he has for you and for me, but He relies on our free and loving cooperation to carry them out. Mary is our example: «I am the hand¬maid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word» (Lk 1:38). It is not only a “yes” to the message of the Angel; it is turning herself into the hands of God the Father, to abandon herself to his intimate providence, to let God work through her now and in all the circumstances of Her life.

Of Mary's answer to God's will, as of ours,—Saint Josemaría Escriva— writes, «never forget it, a great deal depends on it».

We are preparing to celebrate Christmas. The best way to do so is to be with Mary, contemplating Her life and trying to imitate Her virtues in order to receive the Lord with the right heart: What does God expect from me, now, today, at work, with this person I deal with all the time, from my relation with Him? A great deal depends on our response to the little things of every day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

St Joseph - A man of few words

St. Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied to do great things. He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do, in each and every event that went to make up his life. - Blessed Josemaria Escriva:

Gospel text (Mt 1:18-24): This is how Jesus Christ was born. Mary his mother had been given to Joseph in marriage but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to discredit her.

While he was pondering over this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, «Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a son. You shall call him “Jesus” for he will save his people from their sins».

All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: «The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Emmanuel which means: ‘God-with-us’». When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do and he took his wife to his home.

Today, the liturgy of the Word invites us to consider and admire St. Joseph's figure, a truly good man. About Mary, God's Mother, it has been said that she was blessed among women (cf. Lk 1:42). About Joseph it has been written he was a just man (cf. Mt 1:19).

As persons made after God's image and semblance, we all owe our individual identity to God the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth, with actual and radical freedom. And as a response to that freedom we can glorify God, as He deserves, or we can also make, out of ourselves, something quite unpleasant to God's eyes.

We have no doubt that Joseph, through his job and personal commitment to his familial and social surroundings, sort of won our Creator's “Heart”, by considering him a man to be trusted in the collaboration of human Redemption through his Son, made a man as we are.

Let us therefore learn from St. Joseph his allegiance —already proven from the very beginning— and his good behavior during the rest of his life —closely— correlated to Jesus and Mary.

We make him patron and mediator of all fathers, whether biological or not, that in our world must help their sons to provide a similar response to his. We make him patron of the Church, as an entity intimately linked to his Son, and we keep on hearing Mary's words when she finds that the Child Jesus was “lost” in the Temple: «Your father and I...» (Lk 2:48).

Therefore, with Mary, our Mother, we find Joseph as the father. St. Teresa of Avila wrote: «I took for my advocate and comforter the glorious Saint Joseph, and commended myself fervently to him (...). I do not remember at any time having asked him for anything which he did not grant».

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We can not give what we do not have

When you look at electrical things you can see that they are made of small and big wires¸ cheap and expensive all lined up. Until the current runs through them there will be no light. Those wires are you and me and the current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us¸ use us and produce the light of the world or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread – Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Mt 15:29-37): Jesus went to the shore of Lake Galilee , and then went up into the hills where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the dumb, the blind, the lame, the crippled, and many with other infirmities. The people carried them to the feet of Jesus, and he healed them. All were astonished when they saw the dumb speaking, the lame walking, the crippled healed and the blind able to see; so they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus called his disciples and said to them, «I am filled with compassion for these people; they have already followed me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away fasting, or they may faint on the way». His disciples said to him, «And where shall we find enough bread in this wilderness to feed such a crowd?». Jesus said to them, «How many loaves do you have?». They answered, «Seven, and a few small fish». So Jesus ordered the people to sit on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the small fish and gave thanks to God. He broke them and gave them to his disciples, who distributed them to the people.

They all ate and were satisfied, and the leftover broken pieces filled seven wicker baskets.

Today we reflect on the multiplication of the bread and fish in the Gospel. Many people —Matthew states— «came to him» (Mt 15:30). Men and women who were in need of Christ: blind people, cripples and sick people of every kind, together with those who accompanied them. We are all in need of Christ. Of his tenderness, his forgiveness, his light, his mercy... In him, the fullness of all that is human can be found.

Today's Gospel makes us aware of the need for men who will lead others to Christ. Those who bring Jesus the sick so that he can cure them are the image of all those who know that the greatest act of charity towards their fellow man is to get them close to Christ, the source of our life. A life of faith demands holiness and apostolate.

Saint Paul urges us (Phil 2:5) to have the same feelings as Christ. This story shows what Jesus' heart is like: «I am filled with compassion for these people». He cannot leave them, because they are hungry and tired. Christ searches man out in his necessity and manages to be there for us to find. How good he is to us!; and how important we people are for him! Our hearts swell with gratitude, admiration and a sincere wish for conversion.

This God made man, all-powerful, who loves us passionately, and whom we need in everything and for everything —«apart from me you can do nothing» (Jn 15:5)— paradoxically requires something from us as well: this is the meaning of the seven loaves of bread and the few fish that he will use to feed a crowd. If we really realized how much Jesus counts on us, and of the value of all we do for him, as small as it is, we would try all the harder to correspond to him with all our being.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called

It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey. --Saint Ignatius

Gospel text (Mt 4:18-22): As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee , He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, «Come, follow me, and I will make you fish for people». At once they left their nets and followed him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them. At once they left the boat and their father and followed him

St. Andrew seems to have been a transparent disciple. Andrew has no identity in the Gospels apart from Jesus. He is always portrayed as either following Jesus or bringing others to Jesus.

The top group of apostles in the gospel are always Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Peter, James, and John are portrayed in the Gospels with lofty ambition or grandiose goals (e.g. Mk 10:35ff; Lk 22:33), but never Andrew. Although he was a privileged apostle with special access to Jesus (see e.g. Mk 13:3), he was apparently content to humbly and transparently bring others to Jesus without drawing attention to himself (see Jn 1:40-42).

Once the apostle Philip was approached by a group of Greeks who wanted to see Jesus. Instead of bringing them directly to Jesus, Philip brought them to Andrew (Jn 12:20-22). Philip apparently was certain that if he could just get the Greeks to Andrew, then Andrew would be able to bring them straight to Jesus.

The upcoming season of Advent is a time of preparing to meet Jesus. Many people don't know Jesus, but they do know us. We can be another Andrew for them.

Perhaps the Gospel lesson explains why so many of us do not lead others to Jesus. Jesus called Peter and Andrew to be his followers and Matthew says that “at once” they left everything and followed him. Jesus called James and John and “immediately” they left their job and their family to follow him. In Jesus these two sets of brothers found everything they wanted in this life and the life to come. With this confidence, they shared their faith even unto death - some boldly, some stepping back.

To each one of us —to all Christians— Jesus is also asking every day to place at his service whatever we are and whatever we have —that means to leave everything, not to have anything of our own— so that, while living with him our professional and familial obligations, we may become “fishermen for people”. What does it mean to be “fishermen for people”? A nice answer might be a commentary by St. John Chrysostom. This Father and Doctor of the Church says that Andrew did not know how to explain to his brother Peter who was Jesus and, consequently, he «brought him to the very source of light», that is, Jesus Christ. “To fish men” means to help all those around us, in our family and in our work, to find Christ who is the only light for our route.

Monday, November 29, 2010

He who prizes little things is worthy of great ones

"The world being unworthy to receive the Son of God directly from the hands of the Father, he gave his Son to Mary for the world to receive him from her."-- Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Mt 8:5-11): When Jesus entered Capernaum , an army captain approached him to ask his help, «Sir, my servant lies sick at home. He is paralyzed and suffers terribly». Jesus said to him, «I will come and heal him». The captain answered, «I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers. And if I say to one: ‘Go’, he goes, and if I say to another: ‘Come’, he comes, and to my servant: ‘Do this’, he does it».
When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those who were following him, «I tell you, I have not found such faith in Israel . I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven».

Today, Capernaum is our city and our village, where there are sick people, some we know, others anonymous, often forgotten because of the hectic rhythm of life that we lead. Loaded with work, we rush about non-stop without thinking of those who, due to their illness or for whatever other circumstance, remain marginalized from the frenetic activity of our world. However, Jesus told us: «Truly, I say to you: whenever you did this to these little ones who are my brothers and sisters, you did it to me» (Mt 25:40). The great thinker Blasé Pascal follows this idea when he says that «in his believers, Jesus finds himself in the agony of Gethsemane until the end of time».

The centurion of Capernaum does not forget about his servant who is ill in bed, because he loves him. In spite of being more powerful and having more authority than his servant, the centurion is grateful to him because of all his years of help and appreciates him very much. Because of that, he approaches Jesus, and in the Savior’s presence, manages to make an extraordinary confession of faith, seen in the liturgy of the Eucharist: «I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my servant will be healed» (Mt 8:8). This confession is based on hope; it comes from the centurion's faith in the Lord and, at the same time, from his feeling of lack personal worthiness, which makes him aware of his own neediness.

We can only approach Jesus with a humble attitude, like that of the centurion. That way we can live the hope of Advent: the hope of salvation and life, of reconciliation and peace. Only he who acknowledges his poverty and realizes that the meaning of life is not to be found in himself, but in God, in turning his life over to Him, can really have hope. Let's approach Christ confidently, and, at the same time, make the centurion's prayer our own.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent - Prepare the Way!

"Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in this season the whole Church is called to be hope, for itself and for the world. The whole spiritual organism of the mystical body assumes, as it were, the 'color' of hope."~ Pope Benedict XVI

Gospel text (Mt 24:37-44): Jesus said to his disciples, «At the coming of the Son of Man it will be just as it was in the time of Noah. In those days before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, and marrying, until the day when Noah went into the ark. Yet they did not know what would happen until the flood came and swept them away. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. Of two men in the field, one will be taken and the other left. Of two women grinding wheat together at the mill, one will be taken and the other left.

»Stay awake, then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Just think about this: if the owner of the house knew that the thief would come by night around a certain hour, he would stay awake to prevent his house to be broken into. So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect».

Today, in this Sunday, when we are just entering the time of Advent, we are also starting a new liturgical year. We can use this status as an invitation to refurbish some aspects of our life (spiritual, family, etc.).

In fact, we need to live our life, day by day, with a new rhythm and hopes. Thus, we can move the danger of routine and boredom further away. This feeling of permanent renewal is the best way to be alert. Yes, we must be on the alert! It is one of our Lord's messages that He transmits in the words of today's Gospel.

In the first place, we need to be alert because the reason of our mortal life is the preparation for eternal life. This time of preparation is a gift and a grace from God: He does not want to impose upon us neither his love nor heaven; He wants us free (which is the only way to love). A preparation that we do not know when will it end: «We announce Christ's advent, and not only one, but also another one, the second one (...), because this present world must eventually terminate» (St. Cyril of Jerusalem). We must, therefore, struggle to keep a hopeful attitude of renewal.

In the second place, we must be alert because routine and adjustment are not really congenial with love. In today's Gospel the Lord reminds us how in the time of Noah «people were eating and drinking» and «Yet they did not know what would happen until the flood came and swept them away» (Mt 24:38-39). They were “busy in other things” and —we have already said it— our time here must be a time of “betrothal” for our freedom to ripen: the gift that has been granted to us not to get rid of the others, but for our deliverance to the others.

Most of the world did not notice Jesus' first coming. We need to stay awake and notice how he comes to us each day. What about those special graces that come to us each day? What about those amazing opportunities that he gives us each day to love him more and more. When we are inattentive, when we are lazy, when we are indifferent, we miss out on so much. Advent is a time to wake up and to leave aside our laziness and tepidity. "Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24: 42).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What is more important to you - The “gift or the “giver” of the gift?

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
And pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones
St Teresa of Avila

Gospel text (Lk 21:34-36): Jesus said to his disciples, «Be on your guard; let not your hearts be weighed down with a life of pleasure, drunkenness and worldly cares, lest that day catch you suddenly as a trap. For it will come upon all the inhabitants of the whole earth. But watch at all times and pray, that you may be able to escape all that is bound to happen and to stand before the Son of Man».

This gospel, the last of the liturgical year, is aimed at our attachment to the things of this life and our focus on them, at what is both literally and metaphorically our clinging to such things. Jesus asks that instead of holding tight to what we have and where we are, we trust in Him and have an active willingness to let go, to be free even of His past gifts.

We pray for Christ to come to us, after all, and we pray that His Kingdom will come, but do we really mean it? Are we ready to get up and go when He beckons to us to enter the fullness of that Kingdom in loss or even in death? Are we truly eager to join Him even in His passion and death? Enough to let go of all God's gifts and enter into Christ's death and rising, holding on to nothing and no one in this world? Are we already packing our bags, deciding what really merits taking with us and already setting aside what is of no real importance? Do we even now look forward to the time when we can move on freely, unencumbered even by the good things and people of this world?

Having such an attitude demands a great trust on our part that the Lord really does know what He is doing and that what He calls us to in death is actually a matter of His wisdom and love. We ourselves are not wise enough or loving enough to embrace death as a gift, as a calling to go to the home of our Father, so we need to prepare by these small separations, fastings, and refusals of self.

And our preparation is living the small things of daily life, trusting that what the Lord asks of us is "right and availing unto salvation" (the opening of most prefaces of the Latin Mass), that it is possible for us to live with what is sometimes painful and even to find joy in it. Our preparation is learning to let go in every small thing that comes our way, to use the gifts of God (which remain His even though they are in our hands) in such a way that we are not attached to them, and to be ready to set the gifts aside so that we can embrace the Giver.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The kingdom of Heaven is within you

There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect – GK Chesterton

Gospel text (Lk 21:29-33): Jesus said to his disciples, «Look at the fig tree and all the trees. As soon as their buds sprout, you know that summer is already near. In the same way, as soon as you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all this has happened: heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away».

In today’s Gospel, Christ tells yet another parable using the fig tree as an example. When the fig tree blooms, He explains, have burst open, summer cannot be far away. Neither then is the Kingdom of God when they see “these things” happening. And what were these things? This verse is followed closely by the beginning of the Passion.

Jesus invites us to read the signs of our times and epoch, and to acknowledge in them the closeness of the Kingdom of God . He invites us «Look at the fig tree and all the trees» (Lk 21:29) paying attention to what is happening with them: when you look at them, «you know that summer is already near» (Lk 21:30). The fig trees start to blossom. The buds burst open. It is not only the anticipation of the flowers and fruits that springs up, it is also the prognosis of summer, when all trees "begin to show fruit".

Today, I would like to speak as the prophets did: we are about to contemplate a great sprouting in the Church. Look at the signs of the times (cf. Mt 16:3). Set the seeds enthusiastically. And, afterwards, you will joyfully return carrying your bundled sheaves (cf. Ps 126,6). It is true that the enemy-man will keep on sowing darnel. The evil will not burn until the end of time (cf. Mt 13:30). But the Kingdom of God is already here amidst us. And, through great efforts, it is making his way (cf. Mt 11:12).

According to Benedict XVI «The Word of God makes us change our concept of realism» Indeed, «the realist is the one who recognizes in the Word of God the foundation of all things». This Living Word, that shows us the summer as a sign of imminence and exuberance of all things luminous, is the very Light: «As you see these things happening, you know that the Kingdom of God is near» (Lk 21:31). In this sense, «Now the word is not simply audible; not only does it have a voice, now the word has a face, one which we can see: that of Jesus of Nazareth» (Benedict XVI).

The communication between Jesus and the Father was perfect; and everything He received from the Father, He gave to us by communicating with us in the same perfect way. Thus, the nearness of the Kingdom of God, that articulates God’s free initiative to come to our encounter, must impel us to recognize that proximity of the Kingdom, so that we can also communicate with the Father in a perfect way by means of the Word of the Lord —Verbum Domini—, by appreciating the signs of the Kingdom of God that is so close, as a fulfillment of the Father’s promises in Jesus Christ.

The hidden reality that makes no noise, is this constant work we are doing together, impelled by the force of the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action

In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks. - St. Teresa of Avila

Psalm 138: Of David. I thank you, LORD, with all my heart; before the gods to you I sing.

I bow low toward your holy temple; I praise your name for your fidelity and love. For you have exalted over all your name and your promise.

When I cried out, you answered; you strengthened my spirit.

All the kings of earth will praise you, LORD, when they hear the words of your mouth.

They will sing of the ways of the LORD: "How great is the glory of the LORD!"

The LORD is on high, but cares for the lowly and knows the proud from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of dangers, you guard my life when my enemies rage. You stretch out your hand; your right hand saves me.

The LORD is with me to the end. LORD, your love endures forever. Never forsake the work of your hands!

Today is Thanksgiving, and many in this country are facing severe economic hardship or trouble of other kinds. I don't want to belittle anyone's situation, because I understand the worry about what the future might hold. Things look pretty dark to many people. But I want to offer some perspective on suffering.

When our pilgrim forefathers came to this country, what they were up against was far worse than anything we face now. The first year, over half of their band of 110 died. Our pilgrim fathers dug seven times more graves for the dead than they built huts for the living. And yet during that same period is when they decided to carve out a day where they could say, "Thank you, Lord, for all of your benefits." One of their leaders, Edward Winslow, wrote of that first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621: "And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in 1863, in the middle of a terrible civil war. He said the country's blessings were due to the "ever watchful providence of Almighty God... No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy." And he asked for the "Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it."

That's our history. I think that kind of thankfulness pleases the Lord. And as a country, we have a lot to be thankful for, but as Christians we have even more.
This idea of giving God thanks; it's God's will! People ask me all the time, "How can I know the will of God?" One part of the will of God for your life is that you be a thankful person, that you have an "attitude of gratitude."

In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul gives a series of short little commands like "rejoice always," and "pray without ceasing." In verse 18 he says, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." One of the things God loves is when we're thankful, even if we don't understand, even if we're going through hard times.

So let's not forget the "gracious gifts of the Most High God." Here's my question: Can you thank the Lord, no matter what? Can you say that God is good, no matter what? Say it with me right now: "God is good, all the time!"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What does the Holy Father really say about condoms in the new book?

Concering this report from the AP regarding remarks from Pope Benedict XVI on condom use, everyone is expecting clarifications. We can be pretty certain of that, but in the meantime, I’ll offer one.

The key phrase that explains everything that will go right over the vast majority of people’s heads? ”Re-develop the understanding”.

From the AFP [emphasis mine]:
Benedict offered the example of a male prostitute using a condom.
“There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be … a first bit of responsibility, to re-develop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes,” Benedict was quoted as saying.

The scenario offered is of someone in a state of complete ignorance about Catholic teaching. A prostitute doesn’t understand much at all about morality. Perhaps the only morality he can muster is that he shouldn’t do something intentionally that could kill another person. The fact that the Pope used a prostitute as an example shows he’s referring to that type of person. Someone who actively, and as a profession, engages in sex outside of marriage has no inkling of what the Christian moral teaching is on human sexuality. Most of the rest of us have more culpability on the matter than a prostitute. Because most of the rest of us are not prostitutes, we have more “responsibility” than that “first bit of responsibility” a prostitute can muster.

As long as you have an ounce of moral responsibility in you, there is hope that you can “re-develop your understanding”. “Re-developing” your understanding means coming to a more Christian perspective on things. Common sense should tell you that someone who is HIV-positive who goes around intentionally infecting others with HIV is more evil than someone who would say no to that. The Pope was using the extreme example of a prostitute to explain just such a difference.

Does this mean that the Pope is going to approve of the use of condom distribution to prevent AIDS? Nope. His very next statement shows where he is on that.
“But it is not the proper way to deal with the horror of HIV infection.”
The Catholic track record in Africa on this issue is better than the non-Catholic track record.

From the Times-Online:
The head of a Harvard-based AIDs prevention centre says the Pope is “correct” to claim that condom distribution risks aggravating the transmission of HIV.
Last week Benedict XVI incurred the wrath of AIDs campaigners and criticism from the Governments of France and Germany for saying, en route to Africa, that AIDS could not “be overcome by the distribution of condoms.” In comments condemned as “scary” and “alienating” by members of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Benedict XVI lauded monogamy as a way to combat the spread of AIDs. He said that condom distribution risked exaggerating the spread of the virus.
Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Center at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies said this week: “The best evidence we have supports the Pope’s comments.”

So, there you have it. Condom distribution exacerbates the AIDS crisis. In Catholic areas of Africa, where condoms are not distributed and it is taught that sex is forbidden outside of marriage, there is greater success.

Claims that the Pope has ‘softened’ or ‘shifted’ on the issue of condoms are false. Condoms are still off limits. The Pope was using an extreme example of a prostitute to demonstrate a point about “intention”.

“In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”

God judges based on the intentions of the heart.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The smallest good deed is worth a thousand grand intentions

“Teach us to give and not to count the cost.” - Saint Ignatius Loyola

Gospel text (Lk 21:1-4): Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasure box; He also saw a poor widow dropping in two small coins. And he said, «Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all gave an offering from their plenty, but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on».

Today, as it happens so often, small things go by unnoticed: small alms, small sacrifices, small prayers; but what, at times, may look small and unimportant, it frequently represents the culmination of master works: be it great works of art, be it the maximum goods and deeds of personal saintliness.

Because these small things are mostly unnoticed, their bona fide intention is out of question: we are not to seek in them neither recognition nor human glory. Only God will discover them in our heart, in the same way as only Jesus could see the poor widow's generosity. It is more than certain that the poor woman did not play trumpets to announce what she was doing, and it is even possible she was ashamed and felt ridiculous before the eyes of the wealthy, who, while offering splendid gifts into the treasure box, were making others, feel admiration for them. Yet, that woman's unselfishness, that caused her to drop the two small coins despite her poverty, deserved the Lord's praise: «Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all gave an offering from their plenty, but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on» (Lk 21:3-4).

The widow's generosity is a good lesson for us, Christ's disciples. When we give all, we are then empty; we "have no more" left (Jn 2:3). Jesus then fills us with a miraculous superabundance of His new life (see Jn 2:5ff) which comes only when we've "emptied ourselves" (see Phil 2:7). When we give it all to Jesus, He gives it all to the Father, Who fills us with new life, so through Him we "may be all in all" (1 Cor 15:28).

Generous giving out of our plenty is important and necessary as it is the practice of justice. But the real imitation of Christ is the generous donation out of our poverty. The woman who gives her “mite” is greater in her love than the mighty. When we give to others out of the resources that we really need for ourselves – when we give the substance of our life rather than the “extra” – then we really understand and practice Charity, the Divine gift that is so evident in Christ’s outpouring of his life for our sakes.

What is your "want"? Do you want wealth, financial freedom, a new car, sexual fulfillment, popularity, or vacations? St Augustine tells us, " it is better to have God in our soul than gold in the safe. " Quite true: Let us be generous with God and He will be much more so with us.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The first saint in heaven was a thief!

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" — David Livingstone

Gospel text (Lk 23:35-43): The people stood by watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at him, saying to one another, «Let the man who saved others now save himself, for he is the Messiah, the chosen one of God!». The soldiers also mocked him and when they drew near to offer him bitter wine, they said, «So you are the king of the Jews? Free yourself!». For above him was an inscription which read, «This is the King of the Jews».

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted him, «So you are the Messiah? Save yourself and us as well!». But the other rebuked him, saying, «Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as he did? For us it is just: this is payment for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong». And he said, «Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom». Jesus replied, «Truly, you will be with me today in paradise».

Today's Gospel makes us raise our eyes to the cross on which Christ is in agony on Calvary. Here we see the Good Shepherd giving up his life for his flock. And, there up high is the sign that reads, «This is the King of the Jews» (Lk 23,38). This man who is suffering so horribly whose face has been so disfigured, is the King? Could it be possible? The good thief, one of the two men condemned at each side of Jesus, understands. He says with faith, «Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom» (Lk 23,42). Jesus' reply is consoling and certain, «Truly, you will be with me today in paradise»(Lk 23,43).

Yes, we profess that Jesus is King. “King” with a capital “K”. Nobody could ever be at such a level of royalty. The Kingdom of God is not of this world. It is a Kingdom that is entered through Christian conversion. A Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace. A Kingdom that is born from the Blood and water that pours from Jesus' side.

Those of us who desire to follow Him in our lives have answered the big question about reception or rejection. In doing so we, being of His Kingship, are meant to be, sent to be, yes, persons who are “experiences”. We are of the provocative King and of His ways. We make choices which may provoke questions or wonderings in the minds of others. We are “unusual” in how we relate with others, with injustices, with pains, losses, tragedies. We are not vanilla, we are “Salt of the Earth” and “Pepper” in the Soup”.

Jesus as King did catch the attention of all who encountered Him. He was the Servant of God Who served God’s people even to His death. Our entering His Kingdom follows His ways of catching people’s attention so as to ask themselves about the “Why” of our ways. He was an “experience”. We all are ordained by our being baptized into His Kingdom, to be an “experience” of Grace by just showing up.

«The Kingdom of God is amongst you» (Lk 17,21 We should live in the Kingdom now with holiness and we should be witnesses to the charity that testifies the authenticity of faith and hope.

“Viva Christo Rey - Long live Christ the King!" (the last words of Blessed Miguel Pro, who died as a martyr, executed on the firing squad by federal soldiers on November 23, 1927 in Mexico.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

True Love is a choice, much more then a feeling

The more of Heaven we cherish, the less of Earth we covet.

Gospel text (Lk 20:27-40): Some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection and they asked Jesus this question, «Master, in the Scripture Moses told us: ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and the child to be born will be regarded as the child of the deceased man’. Now, there were seven brothers; the first married a wife, but he died without children; and the second and the third took the wife; in fact all seven died leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be wife? For the seven had her as wife».

And Jesus replied, «Taking husband or wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die for they are like the angels. They too are sons and daughters of God because they are born of the resurrection. Yes, the dead will be raised, and even Moses implied it in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For He is God of the living and not of the dead, and for him all are alive».

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, «Master, you have spoken well». They didn't dare to ask him anything else.

Today, God's word deals with the outstanding matter of the resurrection from the dead. It is peculiar that, as the Sadducees did, we keep on asking useless and pointless questions. We try to explain the substance of afterlife with world criteria, when in the world to come everything is different: «But for those who are considered worthy of the world to come and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage» (Lk 20:35). Setting off from wrong criteria leads you to wrong conclusions.

Should we love each other more and better, we would not be surprised to see that, in Heaven, there is not the exclusive kind of love we have down here, otherwise normal for us because of our limited intelligence, but which makes it very difficult for us to get away from our closer circles. In Heaven we shall all love each other with a pure heart, without any feelings of envy or distrust, and, not only husband and wife, our sons or those or our own blood, but everybody, without exception nor language country, race or culture discriminations, for «true love attains a great strength» (St. Paulinus of Nola).

These words of the Scripture coming out of Jesus' lips are very convenient for us. They indeed are, for, it could happen to us that, in the maelstrom of our daily chores that do not allow us any time to think, and influenced by an environmental culture that denies eternal life, we should be doubtful with regards to the resurrection of the dead. Yes, it is very convenient that the same Lord tells us there will be a future beyond the destruction of our body and of this passing world: «Yes, the dead will be raised, and even Moses implied it in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For He is God of the living and not of the dead, and for him all are alive» (Lk 20:37-38).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Immigration Reform: A Reflection from a Catholic from Nebraska

“I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me - Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Gospel (Luke 19:45-48)
Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
“It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.”
And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.

The Gospel Reading sparks many memories of hearing this Gospel for years and the homilies given on it. A common theme I have heard is that of the righteous anger of Jesus.

A 2010 issue globally that individuals are addressing is immigration on all continents. I see this Gospel Reading integrating with that. Is the ‘house of prayer’ that I participate in welcoming to the stranger? A church of parishioners and clergy who demonstrate voice and courage in welcoming immigrants? Or, are parishioners using their money ‘in a withholding manner’ if other parishioners welcome immigrants?

Selling and thievery comes in many forms, including ideas, philosophies, strategies, etc. What is being sold in our parishes? Strategies to further the needs of the majority parishioners? Strategies to further the needs of our ‘own tribe’? Strategies to keep out those not who are not like the majority of parishioners? Who are not like ‘our kind of people’?

I write this Reflection from a state (Nebraska) and a country (the United States) where such issues are front and center for Catholic parishioners. An Arizona state immigrant discrimination law is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. A similar law will be introduced in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature in January. A small town 45 minutes from where I live is now divided because of a city ordinance they passed relating to immigrant discrimination. I hear stories about Catholic churches not nurturing the inclusion of immigrants, of diocesan clergy leaders being told their parishioners will withhold money if such were to be done, etc. Over decades many have observed that the most segregated places in the U.S. on Sunday mornings are the churches. Have we considered the 2010 opportunity placed before us, in multiple parts of the globe, to welcome the immigrant and not be at the angry end of Jesus’s statement of thievery? How do we spend our time, energy, money, voice, and behavior on this issue? Are we thieves in any of those aspects in Jesus’s houses of prayer (churches and the universe)?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jesus and his Blessed Mother were Jews - And good ones at that!

“Our dearly beloved older brothers.” - Pope John Paul 2 proclaimed in April 13, 1986 on a visit to the Great Synagogue in Rome.

Gospel text (Lk 19:41-44): When Jesus had come in sight of the city, He wept over it and said, ‘If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now your eyes are held from seeing. Yet days will come upon you when your enemies will surround you with barricades and shut you in and press on you from every side. And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and leave not a stone within you, for you did not recognize the time and the visitation of your God».

In today's gospel, St. Luke tells us about the approach of Jesus and his disciples to Jerusalem. This will be the last visit to Jerusalem that Jesus will make during his public life here on earth. Jesus looks upon the city and he weeps. That is, he is overcome by intense emotion.

As I picture Jesus weeping, I seek the cause of his grief. Jesus then speaks of the destruction of the city which will happen 30 some years in the future, but which is already known to him.

I can think of several reasons for this grief. First of all Jesus knew that there would be terrific loss of life during the Jewish revolt. Included among them would be friends of Jesus and people who had heard him preach and teach. Also people who witnessed some of his miracles. Jesus very much valued his friends and those who followed him. And their cruel death would naturally cause him great sadness. Then there was the destruction of the temple. The great temple of Jerusalem was a very special place for the people of Israel. It was the location for contacting the One True God and seeking his help and his protection. It was thus very important to all the people of Israel. Its total destruction was a terrible blow to them. The Menorah and the sacred vessels were taken to Rome. The temple treasury was looted. And as Jesus says the destruction was so complete that not one stone was left upon another. When Jesus foresees all of this it causes him great anguish and he weeps for the people and their loss. There was also the matter of the Diaspora, or the scattering of the Jews. After the destruction of Jerusalem the whole land of Israel was devastated, and not fit to live in. Many of the people moved to other lands, some at terrific distances from Israel. The people of Israel, who had survived other periods of exile earlier in their history and had always returned to their land after a few generations, were destined to be scattered around the earth for nearly 2,000 years before some of them returned to the land of their ancestors. They also were to undergo much persecution from the people of the lands where they settled. The knowledge of all of this suffering for his people had to be a cause of great sorrow to Jesus. He himself was a Jew and he loved the people of his land. But Jesus also knew that the people of Israel did not always obey God, and this had to cause him sorrow. And so Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God

Great talents are the most lovely and often the most dangerous fruits on the tree of humanity. They hang upon the most slender twigs that are easily snapped off. - Carl Jung

Gospel text (Lk 19:11-28): Jesus was now near Jerusalem and the people with him thought that God's reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, «A man of noble birth went to a distant place to have himself appointed king of his own people, after which he would return. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. He said: ‘Put this money to work until I get back’. But his compatriots who disliked him sent a delegation after him with this message: ‘We do not want this man to be our king’.

»He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and reported: ‘Sir, your pound has earned ten more’. The master replied: ‘Well done, my good servant. Since you have proved yourself capable in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities’. The second reported: ‘Sir, your pound earned five more pounds’. The master replied: ‘Right, take charge of five cities’. The third came in and said: ‘Sir, here is your money which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you for you are an exacting person; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow’. The master replied: ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words. So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow! Why, then, did you not put my money on loan so that when I got back I could have collected it with interest?’.

»Then the master said to those standing by: ‘Take from him that pound, and give it to the one with ten pounds’. They objected: ‘But, sir, he already has ten!’. ‘I tell you: everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who did not want me to be king, bring them in and execute them right here in my presence’».

So Jesus spoke, and he went on ahead of them, on his way to Jerusalem.

Today, the Gospel proposes us the parable of the pounds: an amount of money that a noble man gives out to his servants, before leaving for a far country. First, let us pay attention to the occasion provoking Jesus' parable. He was “getting near” Jerusalem, where He was to face his Passion and his subsequent resurrection. The disciples «with him thought that God's reign was about to appear» (Lk 19:11). Under these circumstances Jesus proposes this parable. With it, Jesus teaches us that we have to put the gifts and qualities He has given each one of us, to work. They are not “ours” for us to do whatever we want with them. He has given them to us in trust so that we can yield a return. Those who had yielded a profit from the pounds were —more or less— praised and rewarded by their Lord. It was for the loafer servant, who kept the moneys in safekeeping without getting any pay-off, to get the blame and be punished.

We, Christians, must —naturally!— wait for our Lord Jesus' return. But, if we want the meeting to be friendly, we must meet both of the following two conditions. The first one is for us to avoid any unhealthy curiosity to know the timing of the Lord's solemn and victorious return. He will come, He says somewhere else, when we least expect it. So, quit worrying over that. Let us wait with hope, but with a hope without any unhealthy curiousness. The second condition is that we waste no time. Waiting for this meeting cannot be taken as a reason not to seriously look at the present moment. Because the joy and enjoyment of the final gathering will precisely be the better depending upon each one's contribution, in our present life, to the cause of the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The question isn't were you challenged. The question is were you changed?

Ahead! Courage! In the spiritual life he who does not advance goes backward. It happens as with a boat, which always must go ahead. If it stands still, the wind will blow it back. - Padre Pio

Gospel text (Lk 19:1-10): When Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the city, a man named Zaccheus was there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus who had to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zaccheus, come down quickly for I must stay at your house today’. So Zaccheus hurried down and received him joyfully.

All the people who saw it began to grumble and said, «He has gone to the house of a sinner as a guest». But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, «The half of my goods, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much». Looking at him Jesus said, «Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost».

Today, I'll be Zaccheus. This personage was a wealthy man and the chief of the Publicans; I have more than I need and, perhaps too often, I behave like a Publican and forget about Jesus Christ. Amidst the crowd, Jesus seeks Zaccheus; today, amidst our world, He is precisely looking for me: «Come down quickly for I must stay at your house today» (Lk 19:5).

Zaccheus wants to see Jesus; if he does not run ahead and climbs up the sycamore tree, he will not be able to see him. I would also like to see God's deeds as much as possible!, but I'm not too sure I am willing to behave like a fool as Zaccheus did. To allow for Jesus' reaction, the disposition of the chief among the Jericho Publicans is required; and, if he does not hurry up, he may eventually lose the opportunity to be touched by Jesus and be therefore saved. Maybe I have had too many occasions to meet Jesus and maybe it is about time to be courageous, to leave home to meet him and invite him to enter me, so that He can also say about me: «Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost» (Lk 19:9-10).

Zaccheus receives Jesus into his home, his life and his heart, even though he probably does not feel worthy of a visit like that. His conversion is total: he begins by giving up any ambition for riches, followed with the intention to share his goods and he ends up with the strong decision to impart justice, while remedying his sins. Maybe, since a long time ago, Jesus has been asking me something similar, but I did not want to hear him and turned my deaf ears; I must still be converted.

St. Maximus said: «There is nothing God loves more and pleases him best as a man converting with true regret». Let him help me to make it come true today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What do you want Jesus to do for you? Is that what Jesus wants to do?

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. “

Gospel text (Lk 18:35-43): When Jesus drew near to Jericho , a blind man was sitting by the road, begging. As he heard the crowd passing by, he inquired what it was, and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was going by. Then he cried out, «Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!». The people in front scolded him, «Be quiet!», but he cried out all the more, «Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!». Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him, and when he came near, He asked him, «What do you want me to do for you?». And the man said, «Lord, that I may see!». Jesus said, «Receive your sight, your faith has saved you». At once the blind man was able to see, and he followed Jesus, giving praise to God. And all the people who were there also praised God.

Today, the blind beggar Bartimaeus (cf. Mk 10:46) gives us a complete lesson about faith, expressed with total simplicity in front of Christ. It would be good for us to repeat, every now and then, Bartimaeus' prayer: «Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!» (Lk 18:37). It is so profitable for our soul to feel destitute! Because we certainly are so though, unfortunately, very seldom are we willing to admit it. And..., consequently, we make fools of ourselves. It is for that reason St. Paul reproaches us, when he says: «For who makes you different? And what do you have that you didn't receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?» (1Cor 4:7).

Bartimaeus is not ashamed of feeling like that. Quite often, our society, the culture of the “politically correct”, will try to shut us up: with Bartimaeus they were not able to. He did not shrink back. Despite «people (…) scolded him, ‘Be quiet!’, he cried out all the more, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’» (Lk 18:39). What a wonderful thing! We feel like saying: —Thank you, Bartimaeus, for this example.

And it does pay to do like him, because Jesus does listen. He always listens!, no matter how much noise some may make around us. Bartimaeus' simple but complete trust —uncomplicated— disarmed Jesus and got to his heart: «and ordered the blind man to be brought to him, [and] (...) He asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’». (Lk 18:40-41). Before so much faith, Jesus does not waste his time! And... neither does Bartimaeus:« «Lord, that I may see!» (Lk 18:41). And, no sooner said than done: «Receive your sight, your faith has saved you» (Lk 18:42). Because, if «our faith is solid as a rock, it will also defend our home» (St. Ambrose), that is, it will overcome everything.

He is everything, He gives us everything. What else can we, then, do in his presence but give him a reply of faith? And this “reply of faith” is equivalent to “let him find us”, this God that —because of his affection for the Father— is looking for us from the very beginning. God does not impose himself against our power of choice, but often enough He comes by close enough: let us, then, learn Bartimaeus' lesson and... let us not miss him!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The son of man came to serve not to be served

Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal. - Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lk 14:1.7-11): One Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and he was carefully watched. Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for He had noticed how they tried to take the places of honor. And He said, «When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited, and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you: ‘Please give this person your place’. What shame is yours when you take the lowest seat! Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that your host may come and say to you: ‘Friend, you must come up higher’. And this will be a great honor for you in the presence of all the other guests. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised».

Today, did you notice the beginning of this Gospel? «They [the Pharisees] were carefully watching him». Jesus also watched and «noticed how they tried to take the places of honor» (Lk 14:1). But... what a different way to watch!

Watching, as any other internal or external action, substantially varies depending upon the motivations that provoke it, depending upon the internal motives, upon what the observer's heart has inside. The Pharisees —as mentioned in different places of the Gospel— always observe Jesus to try to incriminate him in something wrong. And Jesus observes to help, to serve, to do well. And, as a loving mother, advises: «When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat» (Lk 13:8).

Jesus says with words whatever He is, whatever He has in his heart: He is not looking to be honored but to honor; He does not think of his honor, but of his Father's glorification. He does not think of himself but of the other. Jesus' whole life is a revelation of who God is: “God is love”.

This is why, in Jesus, it becomes a reality —more than in anybody else— his teaching: «Rather, He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance (…) Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name» (Phil 2:7.9).

Jesus is Master in deeds and words. We, Christians, want to be his disciples. We can only assume the Master's behavior if we have inside our heart what He had, if we have his Spirit, his Spirit of love. Let us work to completely open ourselves to his Spirit and to let him get hold of us and be entirely possessed by him.

And, let us do this, without thinking of being “enhanced”, without thinking of us, but only of him. «Should there be no heaven, I would love you; should there be no hell, I would be afraid of you; just as I love you I should love you» (Author unknown). Being only carried by love.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Christ said, “I am the Truth”; he did not say “I am the custom.” - St. Toribio

2 Jn 4-9 [Chosen Lady:]
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth
just as we were commanded by the Father.
But now, Lady, I ask you,
not as though I were writing a new commandment
but the one we have had from the beginning:
let us love one another.
For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;
this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning,
in which you should walk.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world,
those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh;
such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.
Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for
but may receive a full recompense.
Anyone who is so “progressive”
as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God;
whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.

Although the church of the USA has in many circles the reputation of being alive, some maintain that the church has a percentage of its body that is dead (see Rv 3:1). If this is true, the Lord's word to us is: "Wake up, and strengthen what remains before it dies" (Rv 3:2). We may lose what we have worked for and what remains of what we have worked for (2 Jn 8) if we in any way share in the misguided ideals and / or deceptions of “Christians”, who are so "progressive" that they do not remain rooted in the teaching of Christ (2 Jn 7, 9, 11). We must guard the rich deposit of faith (2 Tm 1:14) and fight hard for the faith (Jude 3); otherwise, we will lose what we have left, and "even the little" we think we have (Lk 8:18).

"Progressive," (it is so interesting that this word is used today in the media, as well as was noted 2000 years ago by the Beloved Disciple John – have things really changed that much?) that is, false, teaching is very destructive. It spreads like the plague and upsets Christians' faith (2 Tm 2:17-18). False teaching eventually creates an intolerance (2 Tm 4:3) and contempt (2 Pt 2:2) for true teaching. Therefore, these false teachers must be addressed with love (Ti 1:11). We can do this by:

1. learning the truth from the Church (see 1 Tm 3:15) and the Bible,

2. teaching the truth,

3. Directly (Ti 1:13), yet gently (2 Tm 2:25), correcting false teachers,

4. staying clear of false teachers (2 Tm 3:5-7) and the influences of secular humanism, and

5. suffering persecution for living and teaching the truth (see Sir 4:28).

When we fight for the truth, we will both spread the faith and keep from losing the faith