Sunday, August 29, 2010

“I am who I am in the eyes of God alone” - Humility is truth!

Humility can not be learned in books, it must be felt - Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lk 14:1.7-14): 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».

Jesus also addressed the man who had invited him and said, «When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives and wealthy neighbors. For surely they will also invite you in return and you will be repaid. When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they can't repay you; you will be repaid at the Resurrection of the upright».

Today, Jesus teaches us a masterly lesson: do not choose the best seat: «When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat» (Lk 14:8). Jesus knows we like to look for the best places: in official acts, informal gatherings, at home, at the table. He knows our trend to overrate ourselves out of vanity, or worse still, out of a poorly hidden pride. So let us therefore be careful with honors, for «the heart remains chained where it finds the possibility of delight» (St. Leo the Great).

Haven't we ever been told that there were no colleagues with more merit or better personal values than us? It is not, therefore, a question of a sporadic feat, but of an assumed attitude of considering ourselves the smarter, the most important, the most deserving, the always rightful ones; an aspiration supposing a narrow vision of ourselves and of those around us. In fact, Jesus invites us to practice the perfect humility, consisting in not judging ourselves or others, and to be conscious of our individual insignificance, in relation to creation and of life in concert.

It is common in Wisdom literature to praise humility. In fact, humility is one of the most valued qualities in our day in a friend, a spouse, a leader. We admire that rare, special quality of humility some people have. We find "know-it-all" characters, people who seem to talk down to everyone, or any form of arrogance quite unattractive. We all see in our everyday experience that a lack of humility is a key component in the breakdown of many relationships and the tragic downfall of many entertainment, sports, business, professional and political leaders. Upon reflection, we realize that humility rarely just comes naturally. It is often born and nurtured in an environment of faith and respect for others, and, quite often, it has come from some suffering. The word "humility" has its root in the Latin word "humus," which means "soil" or "earth." From this root meaning, "humility" gets its connotations of lowly or close to the earth, modest, rooted in reality, comfortable just being oneself. Quite literally, a humble person, like soil, has gone through a process which has involved some dying and transformation - a loss of ego and self-centered energy - and has grown to become a marvelously nurturing, for-others type of person.

In the same line of thought, the Master invites us to place ourselves with humility beside those chosen by God: the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, and to be at the same level with them to find ourselves amidst those God loves with special tenderness, and to overcome the repugnance and shame to share with them table and friendship.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

God has entrusted me with myself

We need to restore the full meaning of that old word, duty. It is the other side of rights. ~Pearl Buck

Gospel text (Mt 25:14-30): Jesus told this parable to his disciples, «Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one, then two to another, and one to a third, each one according to his ability; and he went away. He who received five talents went at once to do business with the money and gained another five. The one who received two did the same and gained another two. But the one with one talent dug a hole and hid his master's money.

»After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who received five talents came with another five talents, saying: ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see I have gained five more with them’. The master answered: ‘Very well, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you with much more. Come and share the joy of your master’. Then the one who had two talents came and said: ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; I have two more which I gained with them’. The master said: ‘Well, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you with much more. Come and share the joy of your master’. Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said: ‘Master, I know that you are an exacting man. You reap what you have not sown and gather what you have not invested. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours’. But his master replied: ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not invested. Then you should have deposited my money in the bank, and you would have given it back to me with interest on my return. Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, throw him out into the dark where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’».

A great man sets out to start a long trip, and entrusts his assets to his servants. He might have distributed them equally, but he preferred not to. He gave each one according to his abilities (five, two and one). Each servant could capitalize with that money at the beginning of a good business. The two first servants did well administering their deposits, but the third one —through fear or laziness— preferred to hide it away and eluded any investment: he chose the comfort of his own poverty.

The master came back... and asked for a reckoning. He rewarded the courage and foresight of the two first servants that were able to duplicate his entrusted deposits. But the treatment to the “cautious” servant was very different.

Two thousand years later the message of this parable is still very much applicable. “Modern” democracies are moving towards a progressive separation between Church and State. This global and progressive mentality hides a secondary effect, which may be dangerous for us Christians: to become the living image of that third servant whom the master (biblical figure of God Father) scolded to with great severity. Without any malice, just out of comfort or fear, we are running the risk of hiding away and reducing our Christian faith to the private environment of our family and intimate friends. The Gospel should not be limited to a reading and sterile contemplation. With courage and risk, we have to manage our Christian vocation in our own social and professional environment, while proclaiming the figure of Christ with words and examples.

St. Augustine cites: «Those of us who preach the word of God to the people are not so far away from human condition and from the thinking supported by faith that we may not realize our own dangers. But we are consoled by the fact that where our risk lies because of our Christian ministry, we have the help of your prayers».

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why always "not yet"? Do flowers in spring say "not yet"?

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.
-- James Baldwin

Gospel text (Mt 25:1-13): Jesus said to his disciples, «This story throws light on what will happen in the kingdom of heaven. Ten bridesmaids went out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were careless while the others were sensible. The careless bridesmaids took their lamps as they were and did not bring extra oil. But those who were sensible, brought with their lamps flasks of oil. As the bridegroom delayed, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight, a cry rang out: ‘The bridegroom is here, come out and meet him!’ All the maidens woke up at once and trimmed their lamps. Then the careless ones said to the sensible ones: ‘Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out’. The sensible ones answered: ‘There may not be enough for both you and us. You had better go to those who sell and buy for yourselves’. They were out buying oil when the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him to the wedding feast, and the doors were shut. Later the rest of the bridesmaids arrived and called out: ‘Lord, Lord, open to us’. But he answered: ‘Truly, I do not know you’. So, stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour».

Today, Friday, 21st week in ordinary time, the Lord, in the Gospel, reminds us of the convenience of staying always awake and ready to meet him. Whether at midnight, or at any other moment, a cry can ring out at our door to invite us to come out and meet our Lord. Death never makes appointments. In fact, «you do not know the day nor the hour» (Mt 25:13).

To be on the alert does not mean to live with fear and anguish. It means to live our life as sons of God, our life of faith, hope and charity, in a responsible way. The Lord is continuously waiting for our response of faith and love, constant and patient, amid the chores and preoccupations that weave our life.

And this response can only be given by us; you and I. Nobody else can give it in our place. This is what it means in the denial of the sensible maidens to the careless ones to share their oil for the lamps that were going out: «You had better go to those who sell and buy for yourselves» (Mt 25:9). Our response before God is, therefore, personal and not transferable.

Let us not wait for a “tomorrow” —that may never come— to trim up the lamp of our love for the Spouse. Carpe diem! We must live every second of our life with all the passion a Christian must feel for his Lord. It is a well-known saying but we might as well refresh our memory: «Live every day of your life as if it is your first, as if it is your only available day, as if it is your last day». A realistic call for a necessary and reasonable conversion that we have to carry out.

Let us treat the Lord in this life in such a way we may become his acquaintances and friends in our time and in eternity.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Mother Teresa – Today would have been her 100th birthday!!!!

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)

Some words of wisdom from Mother………………….


"I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?"
I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn't touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God.


When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.


Abortion "is murder in the womb ... A child is a gift of God. If you do not want him, give him to me."
The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between.


God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.

The work

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
We can do no great things, only small things with great love.

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.

Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone, person-to-person.

I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Ask yourself “How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?” Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery.

Hunger for love

The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat. If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

Doing Right

There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone's house. That says enough.
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful you will win some false friends and true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.

Action of Love

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive.
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."
Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.
Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.


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.
Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush; anxious for greater developments and greater wishes and so on; so that children have very little time for their parents; Parents have very little time for each other; and the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.
Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.
It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.
There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family.
Find them.
Love them.


Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.
Good works are links that form a chain of love.
If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.
Intense love does not measure, it just gives.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I don't know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will NOT ask, How many good things have you done in your life? Rather he will ask, How much LOVE did you put into what you did?
Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God - the rest will be given.
Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.
“There is much suffering in the world - physical, material, mental. The suffering of some can be blamed on the greed of others. The material and physical suffering is suffering from hunger, from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases. But the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.”
Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.
I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.
Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.
It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.

Mother’s Experiences

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.
I do not pray for success. I ask for faithfulness.
"I once picked up a woman from a garbage dump and she was burning with fever; she was in her last days and her only lament was: ‘My son did this to me.’ I begged her: You must forgive your son. In a moment of madness, when he was not himself, he did a thing he regrets. Be a mother to him, forgive him. It took me a long time to make her say: ‘I forgive my son.’ Just before she died in my arms, she was able to say that with a real forgiveness. She was not concerned that she was dying. The breaking of the heart was that her son did not want her. This is something you and I can understand."
“If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride, because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about other people's opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. Remember St. Aloysius, who said he would continue to play billiards even if he knew he was going to die. Do you play well? Sleep well? Eat well? These are duties. Nothing is small for God.”
I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.

"When once a chairman of a multinational company came to see me, to offer me a property in Bombay , he first asked: ‘Mother, how do you manage your budget?" I asked him who had sent him here. He replied: ‘I felt an urge inside me.’ I said: other people like you come to see me and say the same. It was clear God sent you, Mr. A, as He sends Mr. X, Mrs. Y, Miss Z, and they provide the material means we need for our work. The grace of God is what moved you. You are my budget. God sees to our needs, as Jesus promised. I accepted the property he gave and named it Asha Dan (Gift of Hope).

"I choose the poverty of our poor people. But I am grateful to receive (the Nobel) in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, of the crippled, of the blind, of the lepers, of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone." -- Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.


A clean heart is a free heart. A free heart can love Christ with an undivided love in chastity, convinced that nothing and nobody will separate it from his love. Purity, chastity, and virginity created a special beauty in Mary that attracted God’s attention. He showed his great love for the world by giving Jesus to her.

Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well.

A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty us. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.


Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.
Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.
"There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people. We have among us 475 souls - 30 families are Catholics and the rest are all Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs—all different religions. But they all come to our prayers."
Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience.
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.
"Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet especially your family. Be holy – let us pray."
A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.


"There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ:
Jesus is my God,
Jesus is my Spouse,
Jesus is my Life,
Jesus is my only Love,
Jesus is my All in All;
Jesus is my everything."
Jesus said love one another. He didn't say love the whole world.
"The other day I dreamed that I was at the gates of heaven. And St. Peter said, 'Go back to Earth. There are no slums up here.'"
"Like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength."


The more you have, the more you are occupied, and the less you give.
It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.
Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.
Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.
But the less you have the freer you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy.

On war

"I have never been in a war before, but I have seen famine and death. I was asking (myself), 'what do they feel when they do this?' I don't understand it. They are all children of God. Why do they do it? I don't understand."

"Please choose the way of peace. ... In the short term there may be winners and losers in this war that we all dread. But that never can, nor never will justify the suffering, pain and loss of life your weapons will cause."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected. – Julius Caesar

Being a Practicing Catholic can at times make for a tough life but rest assured, it always provides for a peaceful death

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

You do not know on which day your Lord will come. We don’t know the day or the hour. We have to be prepared and be vigilant. Stay awake! On September 11th 2001, many men and women got up on that faithful Tuesday morning for just “another day of work”. Many people from Westchester , Connecticut, and Upper Bergen County got into their black cars and were driven downtown. Little did they know that within the hour, they would be standing in front of God - face to face! Are we any different then they were, on that day, that will live in infamy?

My aunt died a few weeks ago, unexpectedly. She had been sort of sick, but was being treated. She was in the hospital a few days before she died, but the day before she was much better. The doctors had said she was stronger and breathing better, and they thought she was on the road to recovery. Then that night she took a turn for the worse and died the next day. We didn’t know it would be that day, that hour. But even as we hoped for the best, we prepared for the worst, I guess.

In an episode of the Simpsons, Bart says he plans to live a debauched life and then go for a deathbed conversion. I guess that works if you know when you’re going to die, but since you don’t always know the day or the hour, that plan can backfire. Luckily, my aunt did not really have to worry about that either. She had spent her whole life devoted to family, giving to charity, helping anyone who needed help. My aunt and uncle were always ‘bringing home strays.’ My aunt was always feeding neighbor kids. My uncle always stopped to help when someone was stranded at the side of the road.

Jesus says to be ready at any time. When the boss is away, the employees will goof off. But if the boss comes back early, the employees who are doing their work will be rewarded, and those who are partying will be “let go”. We need to be ready at any time. We don’t know when our time is up and we can’t always count on having time to make things right.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Assumptions allow the best in life to pass you by

“A mind that is a fast judge is sick. A mind that is a slow judge is sound. A mind that is still is divine”

Gospel text (Jn 1:45-51): Philip found Nathanael and said to him, «We have found the one that Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets as well: He is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth ». Nathanael replied, «Can anything good come from Nazareth ?». Philip said to him, «Come and see». When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said of him, «Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him». Nathanael asked him, «How do you know me?». And Jesus said to him, «Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree and I saw you». Nathanael answered, «Master, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!». But Jesus replied, «You believe because I said: ‘I saw you under the fig tree’. But you will see greater things than that. Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man».

In today’s Gospel, Nathaniel – also known as Bartholomew the Apostle, whose feast we celebrate today – is presented to us as someone who is quite prejudiced. He could not believe that Jesus is the promised liberator and savior because he comes from Nazareth , a small and insignificant town. «Can anything good come from Nazareth ?» (Jn 1:46). Something similar happens almost everywhere. It is standard procedure in every city or every town to be inclined to think that nothing worth its while may come from the next city, or town... there, they are all worthless... And vice versa. At the same time he is a good man who genuinely seeks to understand the truth. Jesus recognizes him as such and calls him a “true child of Israel .”

Jesus makes a cryptic reference to having seen him under the fig tree. In ancient Israel , people congregated in the shadow of the fig tree to discuss important matters of life and faith. In other words, having seen Nathaniel under the fig tree means that Jesus recognizes him as someone who honestly seeks the truth.

Nathaniel has shortcomings and at the same time he is also genuinely trying to live his faith. In that he is like all of us. We have shortcomings and do many things (in word, thought, or deed) that can contradict our faith. At the same time we also seek to understand our faith, want to be active parts of our faith community, and strive to live our faith through prayer and social engagement. As Mother Teresa would say, “God does not call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful.”

Come and see» (Jn 1:46). He goes, and from the very first moment he sees Jesus his vocation shows up. What, apparently, may look as sheer chance, it was, no doubt, set up since time began in God's plans. Nathanael is certainly not an unknown person for Jesus: «Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree and I saw you» (Jn 1:48) Just like all of us, all the time. But to realize the infinite love of God for each one of us, to be fully conscious He is at my door knocking I need an external voice, a friend, a “Philip” who may tell me: «Come and see», somebody to take me to him. At times, we can be both “Philip” and “Nathaniel”, the person who takes a friend to Christ by the way we live our lives and the words we speak or we can be taken to Christ by someone else. The important thing to remember is our participation in the process is critical. Jesus stated, “'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20). If we do not approach the door, listen for the "knock", and open it ourselves, no one is going to let us in.

Monday, August 23, 2010

“Truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas”

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

Gospel text (Mt 23:13-22): Jesus said, «Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor do you allow others to do so. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to win a single convert, yet once he is converted, you turn him twice as fit for hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides! You say: ‘To swear by the Temple is not binding, but to swear by the treasure of the Temple is’. Blind fools! Which is of more worth? The gold in the Temple or the Temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure? You say: ‘To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is’. How blind you are! Which is of more value: the offering on the altar or the altar which makes the offering sacred? Whoever swears by the altar is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the Temple is swearing by it and by God who dwells in the Temple . Whoever swears by heaven is swearing by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it».

Today, the Lord wants to enlighten us about a concept which, being elementary per se, very few succeed in assimilating it in depth: guiding someone towards disaster is not to guide towards life but towards death. He who teaches how to die or how to kill others is not a master of life, but an “assassin”.

We could easily say that, today, the Lord is bad-tempered, He is fairly annoyed with those guides who make their fellow men lose their way and their taste of life and end up by removing their very life: «Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to win a single convert, yet once he is converted, you turn him twice as fit for hell as yourselves!» (Mt 23:15).

Many are those who honestly try to enter the Kingdom of heaven, and removing this illusion of theirs is certainly very serious. They hold the keys to the entrance, but for them they represent nothing but a “toy”, something quite fancy to hang on their belt, and nothing more. Pharisees go after people to “catch” them and induce them to accept their own religious conviction; not that of God, but their own; not to convert them into sons of God, but into sons of hell. Their pride does not uplift one to heaven, does not lead to life, but to perdition. What a terrible mistake!

«You blind guides! You strain out a gnat —Jesus tells them— but swallow a camel!» (Mt 23:24). Everything is upside down, mixed up; the Lord has, repeatedly, tried to open up their ears and unveil the Pharisees' eyes, but Zacharias, the prophet, says: «They did not want to listen, and turned their backs and covered their ears not to hear» (Za 7:11). Then, when the judgment comes, the judge will return a severe sentence: «I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!» (Mt 7:23). It is not enough to know best: it is necessary to know the truth and teach it with true humble faithfulness. Let us remember the quote from a true master of wisdom. St. Thomas Aquinas: «While the arrogant ones extol their own courage, they degrade the excellence of truth».

Sunday, August 22, 2010

“God owns heaven but He craves the earth”

“Union with God is the only heaven there is, and it begins here on earth.”

Gospel text (Lk 13:22-30): Jesus went through towns and villages teaching and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, «Lord, is it true that few people will be saved?». And Jesus answered, «Do your best to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you will stand outside; then you will knock at the door calling: ‘Lord, open to us’. But he will say to you: ‘I do not know where you come from’. Then you will say: ‘We ate and drank with you and you taught in our streets!’. But he will reply: ‘I don't know where you come from. Away from me all you workers of evil’. You will weep and grind your teeth when you see Abraham and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves left outside. Others will sit at table in the kingdom of God, people coming from east and west, from north and south. Some who are among the last will be the first, and others who were first will be last!».

Today, the Gospel raises the theme of the salvation for our souls. This is the essence of Christ’s message and the “supreme law of the Church” (in fact, this is also mentioned in Code of Canon Law). The salvation of our soul is an actual fact insofar as a gift from God, but for those of us that have not yet crossed the threshold of death, it is only a possibility. To be saved or to be damned to hell! That is, to accept or to reject God's everlasting offer of love.

St. Augustine said «the man who self-annihilated his goodness, which could have been eternal, deserved the eternal damnation». We have only two possibilities in our life: either God or the void, for without God nothing has any meaning. In this sense, when they do not participate of the essence of God, life, death, joy, pain, love, etc., are just concepts without any logic. When the man sins, he avoids the Creator's glance to center it upon himself. God is constantly looking at the sinner with love, and in order not to force his freedom, He expects a minimum gesture of being willing to get back to him.

«Lord, is it true that few people will be saved?» (Lk 13:23). Christ does not respond to this question. Therefore, it remained unanswered, just as it is today, for «it is an inscrutable mystery between the saintliness of God and the conscience of man. The silence of the Church is, therefore, Christians' only opportune position» (John Paul II). The Church does not state any opinion about those who dwell in hell, but —basing itself in Christ's words— it does state an opinion about its existence and the fact there will be many damned in the Final Judgment. And whoever denies this, whether clerical or lay, incurs, without further ado, in heresy.

We are free to turn the stare of our soul towards the Savior, and we are also free to stick to our refusal. If we struggle every day, we will gain eternal life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls self-mastery a training in human freedom. "The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy" (#2339). The Catechism goes on to say that "self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life" (#2342).

To conclude, be consistent with your spiritual life. Form firm habits of daily prayer. Get to confession every month or whenever necessary. Be sure to form these habits in your children. Do not let sloth ruin your personal happiness. Do not let sloth cause you to lose out on getting to heaven.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed" (Hebrews 12: 12-13).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saint of the Day - St. Pius X (1835-1914)

Pope Pius X is perhaps best remembered for his encouragement of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially by children.

Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint

The second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pius X at
68, one of the twentieth century’s greatest popes. Ever mindful of his humble origin, he stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court. “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend. To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices. They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”

Interested in politics, he encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved. One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the conclave which had elected him.

In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.

While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.
On the eleventh anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I. Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him. “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” He died a few weeks after the war began. He was canonized in 1954.

His humble background was no obstacle in relating to a personal God and to people whom he loved genuinely. He gained his strength, his gentleness and warmth for people from the source of all gifts, the Spirit of Jesus. In contrast, we often feel embarrassed by our backgrounds. Shame makes us prefer to remain aloof from people whom we perceive as superior. If we are in a superior position, on the other hand, we often ignore simpler people. Yet we, too, have to help “restore all things in Christ,” especially the wounded people of God.

Describing Pius X, a historian wrote that he was “a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everyone.”

Friday, August 20, 2010

Do you want to change the world , be a saint, for only saints change the world!

Saint of the Day - St. Bernard of Clairvaux - (1091-1153)

Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint

Man of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “Quarterback of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But the “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days.

In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.

His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know.
Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.

Bernard’s life in the Church was more active than we can imagine possible today. His efforts produced far-reaching results. But he knew that they would have availed little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and heavenly direction. His life was characterized by a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. His sermons and books about Mary are still the standard of Marian theology.

“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal” (St. Bernard).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Someday is not a day of the week

You may delay, but time will not. ~Benjamin Franklin

Gospel text (Mt 22:1-14): Jesus began to address the chief priests and elders of the people, once more using parables: «This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A king celebrated the wedding of his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the wedding feast, but the guests refused to come. Again he sent other servants ordering them to say to the invited guests: ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now everything is ready; come then, to the wedding feast’. But they paid no attention and went away, some to their fields, and others to their work. While the rest seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them. The king became angry. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city.

»Then he said to his servants: ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go, then, to the crossroads and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast’. The servants went out at once into the streets and gathered everyone they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see those who were at table, and he noticed a man not wearing the festal garment. So he said to him: ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding garment?’ But the man remained silent. So the king said to his servants: ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the dark where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth’. Know that many are called, but few are chosen».

We can imagine Jesus telling this story today. How often does it seem that we who have been invited to be part of the kingdom of heaven, simply take it for granted. We can unconsciously act as though, "well, if I don't do anything seriously wrong, I'm in. What more do I need to worry about?"

In this gospel it is clear that our holiness has to "surpass that of the scribes and pharisees." (Mt. 5:20) Jesus wants us to know that it is "mercy that I desire, not sacrifice." (Mt. 9:13) And, one of his final parables will tell us that our judgment - the decision about whether we ultimately will enter the Kingdom of heaven - depends upon whether we care for the "least of my brothers and sisters" - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and imprisoned. (Mt. 25)

But the different characters appearing in the parable may also be images of the different states of our soul. Thanks to the grace of baptism we are God's friends and inheritors along with Christ: we have a place reserved for us in this banquet. If, however, we forget our condition of sons, God proceeds to treat us as acquaintances while maintaining his invitation. If we let the grace within us to die, then we become people found in any crossroad, just passers-by without a penny in matters of the Kingdom. Yet, God keeps on calling us.

His call may reach us any time. It is by personal invitation. Nobody has any right to be there. It is God who finds us and tells us: «Come to the wedding!». And we have to receive this invitation with words and the way we live our lives. This is why that guest who was not properly dressed is thrown out: «Friend, how did you get in without the wedding garment?» (Mt 22:12).

Today, let's ask for the grace to receive the invitation worthily. Let us respond more and more fully to Jesus' invitation to love as we have been loved. Let us see, feel, and act upon the invitation to eternal life by dying to ourselves a bit more today, particularly in each of our relationships. Let's forget about our own wounds and become healers of others' wounds. Let us open our hearts to hear the cries of all those who are poor and on the margins of our societies. Let us ask ourselves how we can respond, what role we can take, how we can make a difference. Today, let's put on a wedding garment, committing ourselves, and witnessing to everyone, that we are ready for the banquet of heaven.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It’s not how you start, its how you finish that counts…so let us begin!

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. - C.S Lewis

Gospel text (Mt 20:1-16): Jesus said to his disciples, «This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the workers a salary of a silver coin for the day, and sent them to his vineyard. He went out again at about nine in the morning, and seeing others idle in the square, he said to them: ‘You, too, go to my vineyard and I will pay you what is just’. So they went. The owner went out at midday and again at three in the afternoon, and he did the same. Finally he went out at the last working hour —it was the eleventh— and he saw others standing there. So he said to them: ‘Why do you stay idle the whole day?’ They answered: ‘Because no one has hired us’. The master said: ‘Go and work in my vineyard’.

»When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager: ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first’. Those who had come to work at the eleventh hour turned up and were given a denarius each (a silver coin). When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received a denarius each. So, on receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner. They said: ‘These last hardly worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured the day’s burden and heat’. The owner said to one of them: ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on a denarius a day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don't I have the right to do as I please with my money? Why are you envious when I am kind?’ So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last».

Today, God's Word invites us to realize that divine “logic” goes beyond merely human logic. While we, men, calculate («they thought they would receive more»: Mt 20:10), God —who is a dear Father too—, simply loves («Why are you envious when I am kind?»: Mt 20:15). And the measure of love is to have no measure: «I love because I love, I love to love» (St. Bernard).

However, this does not mean justice is pointless: «I will pay you what is just» (Mt 20:4). God is not arbitrary and He wants to treat us as intelligent sons: it is, therefore, logical that He makes “deals” with us. In fact, some other times, the Lord's teachings clearly state that who has received more will also be demanded more (let us remember the Parable of the Talents). In short, God is just, but charity does not conflict with justice; it rather goes beyond (cf. 1Cor 13:5).

A popular saying asserts that «justice per se is the worst injustice». Luckily for us, God's justice —let us repeat it again— exceeds our schemes. If it would be a matter of mere and strict justice, we would still be pending of redemption. What is even more, we would not have any hope of redemption. In strict justice, we should not deserve any redemption: we would simply remain disowned of what we were given in the moment of Creation and we rejected with the original sin. So, when we have to deal with others let us examine ourselves, to find out how are we doing regarding judgments, comparisons and estimations.

Furthermore, if we are talking about saintliness, we have to start from the basis that all is grace. The most evident sample is the case of Dimas, the good thief. Not only, the possibility of being deserving before God is also a grace (something that is freely given to us). God is the master, our «landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard» (Mt 20:1). The vineyard (that is, life, heaven...) is his; we are just invited there and not just in any way: it is a privilege to be able to work there and be eventually “rewarded” with heaven

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Those who have been given much..........much is expected

Wealth, per se, is not bad; its origin is, if it was unjustly acquired or its destination, if it is selfishly employed without bearing in mind the needy, if it closes our heart to the true spiritual values (where there is no need of God).

Gospel text (Mt 19:23-30): Jesus said to his disciples, «Truly I say to you: it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe me: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven». On hearing this the disciples were astonished and said, «Who, then, can be saved?». Jesus looked steadily at them and answered, «For humans it is impossible, but for God all things are possible».

Then Peter spoke up and said, «You see we have given up everything to follow you: what will be our lot?». Jesus answered, «You who have followed me, listen to my words: on the Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man sits on his throne in glory, you, too, will sit on twelve thrones to rule the twelve tribes of Israel. As for those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for my Name's sake, they will receive a hundredfold and be given eternal life. Many who are now first will be last, and many who are now last will be first».

Today's readings call us almost irresistibly to look carefully at the relation between faith in God and worldly success. The Prophet Ezekiel holds up the fabulously rich and prosperous Island City of Tyre as an example of an arrogant community for whom wealth has become a god. It is idolatry personified! After reading this prophecy of the utter destruction of those who serve money rather than the living God, it should not surprise us to hear Jesus say that riches are an almost insurmountable obstacle to attaining eternal life. If we have it all here and now, there is nothing left for us hereafter. We become what we seek, what we serve, what we worship. So a bloody and disastrous end to all our futile efforts to make ourselves immune from human frailty and mortality by amassing treasures on this earth is inevitable. Is earthly security and prosperity and good fortune really worth the sacrifice of our true self?

I think my prayer today should be a careful examination of my attitude toward and use of worldly goods. Am I serving God or money? (Or, rather, am I winning the battle to do this?) Am I in pursuit of heavenly treasures or earthly comforts? Am I willing to leave everything behind for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel? Am I willing to be last now in order to be first to enter eternal life? Do I fully trust the promises of God?

In Jesus all things are possible. Grace is stronger than sin. But we need to be much more than half-hearted. God's Kingdom of love is all or nothing. Let us pray with all our hearts that we may be drawn by God's love (the power of the Holy Spirit) to desire and seek "the things that are above," where our lives are hidden in God through Christ Jesus. For, in the clear and strong words of Jesus, "What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of the eternal self?"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Charity begins at home

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when? - Rabbi Hillel

Gospel text (Mt 19:16-22): A young man approached him and asked, «Master, what good work must I do to receive eternal life?». Jesus answered, «Why do you ask me about what is good? Only one is Good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments». The young man said, «Which commandments?». Jesus replied, «Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself». The young man said to him, «I have kept all these commandments, what is still lacking?». Jesus answered, «If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all that you possess and give the money to the poor and you will become the owner of a treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow me». On hearing this answer, the young man went away sad for he was a man of great wealth.

Today, the liturgy of the Word submits to our consideration the famous passage of the rich young man, that young man that did not succeed in reacting to the eye-beaming look Jesus Christ cast at him (cf. Mk 10:21). John Paul II reminds us that we can recognize in that young man all those that approach Jesus Christ by asking him about the meaning of their own lives: «Master, what good work must I do to receive eternal life?» (Mt 19:16).

How many ask themselves that same question! If we look around us, we may think there are not that many who can see beyond, or, perhaps, that the 21st century man does not need that type of questions, being the answers are not good enough for him. Jesus answers him: «Why do you ask me about what is good? Only one is Good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments» (Mt 19:17).

For some, or for many —it does not really matter— now a days it may seem impossible “to be good”... Or it may seem something with little sense: a piece of nonsense, in fact! But, today, as well as twenty centuries ago, Jesus Christ keeps on reminding us that to enter eternal life we must keep the Commandments of the Law of God.

But Jesus’s message is that things are far from being that simple, because we have “positive” duties too; most especially to have compassion for those who weren’t born into circumstances as comfortable. It’s not good enough to pass by the less fortunate without lending a helping hand and feeling compassion. Who on Judgment Day will be viewed as worse? The beggars and prostitutes who were trying to feed their families the only way they knew how or the rich who walked by them and sneered in contempt and did nothing to help? We know the answer Jesus gave because of His words how He spent his earthly time. Let’s all learn from His example.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary: A Reflection On Purity

Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into heaven. What exactly does this mystery of our faith mean? The dogma of the Assumption is directly linked to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary was conceived without Original Sin. Since Mary, through a special privilege of grace did not have any sin, including Original Sin, her body did not suffer the normal consequences of death that we do. The Tradition, both of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church maintain that Mary died in the presence of the Apostles. Thomas was not present. When he did join them a few days later, they took him to her tomb. When the Apostles opened her tomb, her body was not present.

The sixth beatitude proclaims, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (see Mt 5:8). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "'Pure in heart' refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God's holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity; chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith" (No. 2518).

The baptized must "struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires" (CCC No. 2520), yet with God's grace we will prevail. When we meditate upon the meaning of "pure in heart," we can find no better example of these Christian virtues than our Virgin Mother who was assumed body and soul into heaven.

The Mother of God lived charity in its fullness, from her nourishing care of the Christ child in Bethlehem, to the wound of love she experienced deep within her heart which, pierced by that terrible sword of sorrow as she stood at the base of the cross, held firm in trust. As for love of truth and orthodoxy of faith, the Virgin Mary, as the Mother of God, is a most perfect example of these virtues, for her Son is Truth, and she loves him and all that he is with maternal devotion.

During St. Bonaventure's Fourth sermon on Annunciation, he described Mary as a "tabernacle" in which the Lord rested. He encourages the faithful to turn toward the Blessed Mother for help: "Let us go to the Virgin with great confidence, and we will tranquilly find her in our necessities. Therefore this tabernacle is rightly to be honored, and to this tabernacle flight should be made, in which the Lord rested so familiarly, so that the Blessed Virgin herself could say truly and literally, "Who made me rested in my tabernacle" (IX, 673).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Feast of St Lawrence – Deacon and Martyr

Only to the extent that someone is living out this self transcendence of human existence is he truly human or does he become his true self. He becomes so, not by concerning himself with his self actualization, but by forgetting himself and giving himself, overlooking himself and focusing outward” Viktor Frankl (Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist. 1905-1997)

Brief story of St Lawrence (258 AD) : When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that the Christians must have considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, “You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures—the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him—only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.”

Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. “I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory.” After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasure of the Church.”

The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die—but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence ’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, “It is well done. Turn me over!”

Gospel text (Jn 12:24-26): Jesus said, «Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world keep it for everlasting life. Whoever wants to serve me, let him follow me and wherever I am, there shall my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him».

Today, the Church —through the liturgy of the Eucharist celebrating the feast of St. Lawrence, the roman martyr— reminds us that «there exists a testimony of coherence that all Christians must be willing to give, even at the cost of great sacrifice and suffering» (John Paul II).

Moral law is inviolable. This assertion, certainly contrasts with the relativistic environment abounding now a days, whereas we tend to easily adapt ethical demands to our personal comfort or to our own weaknesses. We shall certainly not find anyone admitting: —I am immoral; —I am unconscious; —I am a person without truth... Anyone admitting these facts would automatically and immediately disqualify himself.

The definite question would therefore be: what moral, what conscience and what truth are we talking about? It is evident that social peace and healthy coexistence cannot be based on a “moral à la carte”, where each one chooses his own way, without bearing in mind the inclinations and aspirations of the Creator as set out by our nature. This “moral”, far from leading us through the «paths of righteousness» towards the «green pastures» the Good Shepherd wants for us (cf. Ps 23:1-3), it would irremediably take us to the quicksand of the “moral relativism”, where absolutely everything can be debated, agreed upon and justified.

Martyrs are unappealable testimonies of the saintliness of the moral law: there are basic demands of love that accept neither exceptions nor adaptations. In fact, «in the New Covenant we can find numerous testimonies of followers of Christ that (...) accepted persecutions and death before making the idolatrous gesture of burning incense before the statue of the Emperor» (John Paul II).

In the Roman environment of Emperor Valerian, the deacon «St. Lawrence loved Christ in life, and imitated Christ unto death» ( St. Augustine ). And, once again, we see confirmed that «the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life» (Jn 12:25). Luckily for us, the memory of St. Lawrence will perpetually remain as a signal that to follow Christ is worth offering our life rather than admitting frivolous interpretations of His path.

Monday, August 9, 2010

“God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails ”

During the Depression, the Capuchins opened a soup kitchen in Detroit . This man of simple faith was told that there was no more bread to serve the crowd of people waiting. “Just wait and God will provide.” Fr. Solanus said an “Our Father” after inviting the men to join him in prayer. We just turned around and opened the front door … a bakery man was coming with a big basket full of food … when the men saw they started to cry … Fr. Solanus in his simple way, said, “See, God provides. Nobody will starve as long as you put your confidence in God, in Divine Providence.” Solanus Casey: The Story of Father Solanus by Catherine M. Odell pg 132

Gospel text (Mt 17:22-27): On day when they were together in Galilee , Jesus said to his disciples, «The Son of Man will be delivered into human hands, and they will kill him. But He will rise on the third day». The Twelve were deeply grieved.

When they returned to Capernaum , the Temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked him, «Does your master pay the temple tax?». He answered, «Certainly». Peter then entered the house, but immediately Jesus asked him, «What do you think, Simon? Who pays taxes or tributes to the kings of the earth: their sons or the other people?». Peter replied, «The others». And Jesus told him, «The sons, then, are tax-free. But so as not to offend these people, go to the sea, throw in a hook and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin in it, take it and let it pay for you and for me».

Today is the Feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, to her family, Edith Stein. Stein was born in 1891 to a German orthodox Jewish family. In her teen years, she left her Jewish roots and professed to be an atheist. Some time after that, the study of philosophy and the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila are credited with her conversion to Roman Catholicism. In 1933 as Hitler was coming to power, she joined the Carmelites and made final vows in 1938. In order to protect her from the Nazis who were arresting all Jews, even converts like herself, she was sent to Holland where Jewish Christians were somewhat protected until the bishops spoke out against the persecution of the Jews. To retaliate, the Nazis arrested all Jewish-Christians including St. Teresa and her sister Rosa. She was sent to Auschwitz in 1942 and died in the gas chambers there. In 1999, she was named co-patron of Europe along with Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena.

What an adventurous faith life! From orthodox Jew to atheist to Roman Catholic nun to martyr’s death to patron of Europe ! There is much to admire in someone who continues to search for her truth no matter where it took her—even to death in a gas chamber.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is again exploring with His disciples their responsibility to the State. Rather than risk a run-in with civil authorities until His time for that final encounter had arrived, Jesus sent Peter off to fish for the tax that was due and indeed Peter found twice what was owed in the mouth of the first fish that was caught. In fact, Jesus avoided negative encounters with civil authorities, even to the end when Pilate said the famous words: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.” And then, Pilate buckled under to the pressure of the religious authorities who most feared the message of Jesus and handed Him over to be scourged and ultimately crucified.

St. Teresa Benedicta and Pilate stand in stark contrast to one another. She stood with the truth as she came to know it; he refused to use the authority he had and succumbed to the political pressure that resulted in the horrid death of Jesus. Truth in our lives: Are we running to it or away from it? Are we settling for sound bytes when living in truth demands becoming more informed despite the complexity of the issues of today?

Our interior life must be centered in Christ, in his love for us, in his dying on the Cross for me, in his constant search of our heart. In his meeting with the youth, in Spain , in 1982, John Paul II expressed it very well, when he said, out loud: «Look at Him!».

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Faith is like electricity. You can't see it, but you can see the light

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew.
-- Saint Francis de Sales

Gospel text (Mt 15:21-28): Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon . Now a Canaanite woman came from those borders and began to cry out, «Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon». But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So his disciples approached him and said, «Send her away: see how she is shouting after us». Then Jesus said to her, «I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel ». But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus and said, «Sir, help me!». Jesus answered, «It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to the little dogs». The woman replied, «It is true, sir, but even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master's table». Then Jesus said, «Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish». And her daughter was healed at that moment.

This passage of the Gospel draws the attention to that Canaanite mother that demands grace for her daughter by recognizing in Jesus the Son of David: «Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon» (Mt 15:22). The Master is surprised: «Woman, how great is your faith!” and He can do nothing but to act in favor of those persons: «Let it be as you wish» (Mt 15:28), although this does not seem to fall within his schedule. However, God's grace is manifested in human realities.

St Augustine stated: “The woman was ignored, not that mercy might be denied but that desire might be enkindled; not only that desire might be enkindled but... that humility might be praised.”Whatever forces these various points may have, in the end Jesus helped this foreign pagan woman and even praised her faith. This must be a challenge to every purely intellectual definition of faith. Like the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:25-29), this Canaanite woman publicly acknowledged Jesus' identity before any of the disciples did (Mt 16:16).

Faith is not a privilege of a few, nor is it the property of those who think they are so good or of those who have ever been good, and have this social or ecclesial label. The Holy Spirit is already acting upon persons we would have never suspected could bring us a message from God, a request in favor of the needy. St. Leo says: «My beloved, the virtue and wisdom of Christian faith is our love of God and of our neighbor: it does not miss any obligation to any pious works procuring to render God worship due to him and to help our brethren».

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
--Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace

You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don't let yourself indulge in vain wishes. - Rabindranath Tagore

Gospel text (Mt 14:22-36): After the crowds have eaten their fill, Jesus obliged his disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by himself to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone.

Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves for the wind was against it. At daybreak, Jesus came to them walking on the lake. When they saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once Jesus said to them, «Courage! Don't be afraid. It's me!». Peter answered, «Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you walking on the water». Jesus said to him, «Come». And Peter got out of the boat, walking on the water to go to Jesus. But, in face of the strong wind, he was afraid and began to sink. So he cried out, «Lord, save me!». Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and took hold of him, saying, «Man of little faith, why did you doubt?». As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus saying, «Truly, you are the Son of God!».

They came ashore at Gennesareth. The local people recognized Jesus and spread the news throughout the region. So they brought all the sick to him, begging him to let them touch just the fringe of his cloak. All who touched it became perfectly well.

These days in the Christian community we need lots of folks with the courage of Peter. His at this moment of this story is not a great courage, but it is a wise courage. That is, he trusts his limited insight and tests whether what he sees is Jesus by asking him to give him the command that he is familiar with – “Come.” Perhaps he hears the Lord say “get out of the boat and walk on that stormy water – I will give you my power to do so.” That certainly is what he is willing to do. How many of us instead of asking for the truth of the vision in front of us huddle in the boat of the familiar way of doing things – unwilling and too frightened to test the new possibilities suggested by this way of experiencing Christ.

This faith was first demanded to Peter, who said: «Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you walking on the water» (Mt 14:28). With these words, Peter showed that faith consists of abiding by the word of Christ: he did not say «let me walk on the water» but he just wanted to follow what the very and only Lord could command him to do, to believe the truthfulness of the Master's words. His doubts, however, made him reel, but they led the other disciples to bow down and confess before their Master: «Truly, you are the Son of God!» (Mt 14:33). «The group of those that already were apostles, but did not yet fully believe, when they saw the waters waving below the Lord's feet and appreciated his steps were firm through the stormy waves (...) they believed Jesus was the true Son of God, and accepted him as such» (St. Ambrose).

Christ’s coming to us will often be in demanding, stretching, and challenging ways – calling us out of the false securities within which we huddle in fear. Its this “fear” that doesn’t want to take the time to discern whether it is Jesus who calls me to some new and challenging task – the task of loving more deeply, responding more enthusiastically, trying something new and dangerous – and life giving! It is the fear that doesn’t want me to risk even praying to find out what the Spirit calls me to. It is the silent dread that refuses the work of opening my heart and mind to the call to “Come.”

"In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Help us to see beyond our littleness to the vastness that is You!

God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with – Billy Graham

Gospel text (Mt 14:13-21): On hearing the death of John the Baptist, Jesus set out secretly by boat for a secluded place. But the people heard of it, and they followed him on foot from their towns. When Jesus went ashore, He saw the crowd gathered there and He had compassion on them. And He healed their sick.

Late in the afternoon, his disciples came to him and said, «We are in a lonely place and it is now late. You should send these people away, so they can go to the villages and buy something for themselves to eat». But Jesus replied, «They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat». They answered, «We have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes». Jesus said to them, «Bring them here to me».

Then He made everyone sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fishes, raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced the blessing, broke the loaves and handed them to the disciples to distribute to the people. And they all ate, and everyone had enough; then the disciples gathered up the leftovers, filling twelve baskets. About five thousand men had eaten there besides women and children.

The story reminds us how little we seem to have most of the time. How inadequate our efforts seem in the face of the monumental issues confronting us and our world: the enormity of the evil our world faces in the mean-heartedness, the violence, the wars, and the rumors of war that make up the days and the lives of us and our contemporaries; in a word all the inhumane ways that we slash and burn our sisters and brothers and our world. What can be done? We have so little, it seems, in front of it all.

But the truth is that we are not alone. The Risen Jesus continues to be with us and to take the little we have and multiply it for the benefit of others. And that presence of the master makes all the difference in the world. Can we, like the disciples in the gospel today, see it and understand it? Are we willing, like them, to offer the smallness of what we have so that it can be transformed by Jesus?

By quoting St. Josemaria Escrivà, it would not do us any harm to remember here that: «It is a good thing in our apostolate —it is in fact an obligation—to figure out our earthly means (2+2=4), but do not ever forget! you must also luckily count on another addend: God +2 +2...». Christian optimism is not based upon the absence of difficulties, of resistance and of personal errors, but upon God who says: «And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age» (Mt 28:20)

It would be good that both you and I, when facing our own difficulties, and prior to granting a death sentence to the boldness and optimism of the Christian spirit, we could relay upon God. If only we could say along with St. Francis that great prayer: «Wherever there is hate let me put love»; that is, wherever my accounts do not square up, let me rely upon God.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Just what does matter to God?

"If we could comprehend all the good things contained in Holy Communion, nothing more would be wanting to content the heart of man. The miser would run no more after his treasures, or the ambitious after glory; each would shake off the dust of the earth, leave the world, and fly away towards heaven." - Saint John Marie Vianney

Gospel text (Lk 12:13-21): Someone in the crowd spoke to Jesus, «Master, tell my brother to share with me the family inheritance». He replied, «My friend, who has appointed me as your judge or your attorney?». Then Jesus said to the people, «Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for even though you have many possessions, it is not that which gives you life».

And Jesus continued with this story, «There was a rich man and his land had produced a good harvest. He thought: ‘What shall I do? For I am short of room to store my harvest’. So this is what he planned: ‘I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones to store all this grain, which is my wealth. Then I may say to myself: My friend, you have a lot of good things put by for many years. Rest, eat, drink and enjoy yourself’. But God said to him: ‘You fool! This very night your life will be taken from you; tell me who shall get all you have put aside?’. This is the lot of the one who stores up riches instead of amassing for God».

Today, Jesus places us facing what is fundamental in our Christian life, in our relationship with God: to get rich before him. That is, to fill our own hands and heart with all kinds of supernatural and spiritual goods of grace, and not of material possessions.

This is why, in the light of today's Gospel we can wonder: what do we fill our heart with? The man of the parable saw it quite clearly: «Rest, eat, drink and enjoy yourself» (Lk 12:19). But this is absolutely not what God expects from his good sons. The Lord does not want our happiness to rely upon legacies, banquets, last model cars, exotic holidays, estates, our armchair, beers or money. All these things may be good, but they cannot satisfy per se our yearning for the plenitude of our souls, and, consequently, we should employ them only as the means they simply are.

This is the experience of St. Ignatius Loyola's, whose celebration was yesterday. This is how he admitted it in his own auto-biography: «When he thought of worldly things, he delighted in them, but when he gave them up, dead bored, he felt sad and empty; when he thought, instead, of the penances he observed in the just men, he felt solace and comfort, not only in that very moment, but even afterwards, he felt contented and cheerful». And this can also be our own experience.

Because material and earthly things become outdated and expire; but, spiritual things are eternal, they last forever and are the only ones that can fill our heart and give a meaning to our human and Christian life.

Jesus said it very clear: «You fool!» (Lk 12:20), this is how He qualifies those who only have material, earthly and selfish aims. Let us beg we may always present ourselves before God, at any time, with our hands and heart full of our efforts to seek our Lord and to look for what it pleases to him, for this is the only thing that will take us to Heaven.