Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sympathy is no substitute for action

God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply

Gospel text (Lk 10:1-12): The Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place, where he himself was to go. And He said to them, «The harvest is rich, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest. Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know.

»Whatever house you enter, first bless them saying: ‘Peace to this house’. If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house.

»When they welcome you in any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there and say to them: ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you’. But in any town where you are not welcome, go to the marketplace and proclaim: ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off and leave with you. But know and be sure that the kingdom of God had come to you’. I tell you that on the Judgment Day it will be better for Sodom than for this town».

Today, Jesus speaks to us of his apostolic mission. Though «He appointed seventy-two other disciples and sent them» (Lk 10:1), the Gospel's proclamation is a task that «cannot be delegated to a few “specialists”» (John Paul II): we have all been called and we all have got to feel responsible. Each one from his own place and condition. The day of our Baptism we were told: «You are Priest, Prophet and King and you will receive eternal life». Today, more than ever before, our world needs the testimony of Christ's followers.

The harvest is rich, but the workers are few» (Lk 10:2): this positive interpretation of the mission is interesting. The text does not say, «there is a lot to sow and a few workers». Maybe today, we might have to speak like that, in view of the great ignorance of our society about Jesus Christ and his Church. A hopeful glance at the mission may engender optimism and illusion. Let us not be discouraged by pessimism or despair.

To start with, the mission waiting for us is, at the same time, exciting and difficult. Our mission neither can nor must pretend to force adhesion to the announcement of the Truth and of Life, but simply to offer an invitation. Our Pope reminds us that the ideas are to be proposed not imposed.

«Set off without purse or bag or sandals...» (Lk 10:4): the source of the missionary's strength must be Christ. And, so that Christ may fill his life, the evangelizer must disconnect with whatever is not from Christ. Evangelic poverty is the great requisite and, at the same time, the most believable testimony the Apostle may offer, while only this unselfishness can make us free.

The missionary announces peace. He is a bearer of peace because Christ, is the “Prince of Peace”. This is why, «whatever house you enter, first bless them saying: ‘Peace to this house’. If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you» (Lk 10:5-6). Our world, our families, our personal ego, they all need Peace. This is why our mission is so urgent and exciting.

But are we all so good at recognizing it when God comes calling? Sometimes I get so caught up in the day-to-day world that I wonder whether I wouldn’t have been in one of those households that wasn’t so keen on receiving two strangers. Do we let those tiny whispers from God go unanswered? I know I do sometimes. Paying attention to those small calls is where the rubber meets the road. It is where we encounter the living Christ. It is where we find true peace!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All God's angels come to us disguised

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. - Saint Augustine

(Rv 12:7-12ab)War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them."

Today, in the feast of the Saints Archangels, Jesus manifests to his Apostles and to everybody else, the presence of his angels and their relation with him. They are in the Lord's celestial glory, where they perennially exalt the Son of man, who is the Son of God. They surround him and are at his service. Angels, we believe, are messengers from God who protect us, heal us, call us, send us, unite us. Michael the Archangel fought against evil (the accuser, the one who deceives) and prevailed. Gabriel, of course, announced to Mary her role as Mother and First Disciple of Jesus. And Raphael was the healer and guide of Tobit, confirming him in his marriage to Sarah.

To live the abundant life and proclaim the full gospel, we must get to know the angels and let them do God's work in our lives (Heb 1:14). The archangels lead other angels, and we must know these three leaders to get acquainted with the others. The Bible names only three angels. This may mean we are to get to know them personally, but we find this difficult since angels are far different creatures than we are.

In fact, it's easier to get to know God than angels because God became man. No angel has become man. Angels are neither human nor divine; they're just angels, totally different from earthly creatures. The Holy Spirit bridges the gap between human beings and the holy angels. After Pentecost, Christians experienced a flurry of angelic activity because the Holy Spirit was teaching them how to make use of the angels' services (Jn 14:26). The Spirit often first acquaints you with Michael (Dn 10:13), who sometimes works with Gabriel (Dn 8:16; 9:21; 10:13). Next you'll meet Raphael (Tb 12:12-15). At that point you'll know the three lead angels, and knowing them puts you in touch with all the heavenly host. God sends angels not as optional extras, but as agents for full life in the Spirit.

Prayer: "St. Michael, the Archangel , defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. Rebuke him, O God..."

Promise: "I solemnly assure you, you shall see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." —Jn 1:51

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To free a person from error is to give, and not to take away

We tolerate without rebuke the vices with which we have grown familiar – (Publilius Syrus - Roman author 1st century BC)

Gospel text (Lk 9:51-56): As the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, He made up his mind to go to Jerusalem . He had sent ahead of him some messengers who entered a Samaritan village to prepare a lodging for him. But the people would not receive him because He was on his way to Jerusalem . Seeing this, James and John, his disciples said, «Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes?». Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village.

Today, in the Gospel, we can see how «James and John, his disciples said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them» (Lk 9:54-55). These were the Apostles’ shortcomings the Lord corrected.

There is a tale about a water carrier in India who, at the end of a stick of wood he had hanging on his back, he carried two vessels: one was perfectly made but the other was half cracked in its surface and was losing most of the water. This one —quite sadly— used to glance at the other, so perfect, until one day, quite ashamed, told its owner how miserable it felt because due to its cracks it could only give him half of the water he should be selling. But the water carrier told the vessel: —When we get back home look at the flowers growing along the way. And, sure enough, the vessel did look at them: they were indeed the most beautiful flowers, but realizing its cracks were again dropping half of its water, the vessel insisted: —I am worthless, I do everything wrong. But the carrier said: —Did you notice that these flowers only grow on your side of the way? I knew you had cracks so I figured out how to take advantage of them, and I sowed the seeds of the flowers where you dropped the water and, by watering them as you did I am now able to pick these flowers for God's Mother altar. If you were not as you are, this beauty could not have been created.

In a way, we are all like this cracked vessel, but God knows quite well his sons and gives us the possibility to take advantage of our cracks-defects for something good. Thus, the apostle John —that today wants to destroy—, with Lord's correction, becomes, in his letters, the apostle of love. The chastening did not discourage him, but he could rather see the positive side of his burning temperament —impassionate— by placing it at the service of love. Let us hope we will also know how to take advantage of the corrections, drawbacks —sufferings, failures, limitations— to “start and restart”, as St. Josemaria defined saintliness: docile to the Holy Spirit in converting ourselves to God and become his instruments.

Monday, September 27, 2010

All grown-ups were children first. (But few remember it)

The first will be last and the last will be first – The son of man came to serve not to be served

Gospel text (Lk 9:46-50): One day the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he took a little child and stood him by his side. Then He said to them, «Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. And listen: the one who is found to be the least among you all, is the one who is the greatest».

Then John spoke up, «Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon your name, and we tried to forbid him because he doesn't follow you with us». But Jesus said, «Don't forbid him. He who is not against you is for you».

Today, on their way to Jerusalem heading towards the Passion, «the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important» (Lk 9:46). Every day the media, and even our conversations, are full of comments regarding the importance of some people: whether others or ourselves. This kind of logic, which is strictly human, quite often results in an unreasonable yearning for success, recognition, admiration, gratitude, or in a lack of peace if these expected rewards fail to reach us.

Jesus' reaction to the thoughts of his disciples —and, perhaps, their remarks, too— reminds us of the old prophets. Before words come gestures. Jesus «took a little child and stood him by his side» (Lk 9:47). Afterwards, comes the teaching: «the least among you all, is the one who is the greatest» (Lk 9:48). —O Jesus, why is it so difficult for us to accept this is not a utopia for those who are not involved in the hustle and bustle of overwhelming activity, fighting one another for success, whereas, thanks to your grace, it could, instead, be enjoyed by all of us? If we could, we would deep down have much more peace and would be able to do our job with more serenity and joy.

This attitude is also the source where joy comes from, when seeing that others work well for God, with a different style to ours, but always in Jesus' name. The disciples wanted to prevent it. The Master, instead, protects those other persons. Once again, the fact of feeling as God's small children makes it easy for us to open our hearts to everybody while growing in joy, peace and thankfulness. This doctrine is what deserves St. Therese of Lisieux the title of “Doctor of the Church”: in her book Story of a Soul, she admires the Church as a beautiful garden of flowers, where she is happy to consider herself just a little flower. By the side of the great saints —roses and white lilies— there are the little ones —daisies and violets— intended to give pleasure to God's eyes, when He gazes at the Earth.

Thought for the day: Be content being small and doing small things for the love of God.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Poor have so much to teach us

During your life time, if you are good to the poor - at the hour of death, you will not be afraid - St Vincent De Paul

Gospel text (Lk 16:19-31): Jesus said to the Pharisees, «Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man's table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.

»It happened that the poor man died and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. From hell where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out: ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus with the tip of his finger dipped in water to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire’. Abraham replied: ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you or from your side to us’.

»The rich man implored once more: ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father's house where my five brothers live. Let him warn them so that they may not end up in this place of torment’. Abraham replied: ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them’. But the rich man said: ‘No, Father Abraham. But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent’. Abraham said: ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the grave’».

Today, Jesus confronts us with social iniquity, the direct consequence of the growing inequality between rich and poor. But the situation is balanced when both die. And, it is now when the difference is reversed: one takes his place with Abraham; while the other, is simply buried.

The rich man kept Lazarus at a safe distance. He refused to reach out, to touch a very needy person. He also resisted being touched by the poor man. Here is just a simple statement. Every person I know who has been touched through their personal contact with the poor, in its many forms, is a deeper person for that contact. That depth has to do with the awareness of the more important values of life. Generally speaking one might notice that the rich are forced to live more on the surface where wealth is easily displayed. So then they are the poorer in spirit and in relationships. Lazarus had something of real worth to offer the rich man and when death came the transmission of Lazarus’ gifts became impossible. Maybe it is this: the less our hands are wrapped around things for our identity and meaning, the more they will be open and available for receiving and sharing. To receive is sacramental. To grasp, cling to, and protect as ultimate, is sacrilegious.

When the rich man ultimately reconciles himself to his fate during his discussion with Abraham, he then asks for help for his brothers, but Abraham tells him that his brothers have Moses and the prophets for enough guidance.

My friends, that “help” and that “voice” is the voice of the Church today - Are we listening!!!!!!

True wealth is getting to see God, and what we need, as St. Augustine asserted, is: «Walk with the poor man and you will reach God». May the "Lazarus" we encounter in our everyday life help us to find God.

Thought for the day: One day an American journalist commented, observing Mother Teresa as she tended a gangrenous patient: "I wouldn't do that for a million dollars!" "Neither would I," replied Mother Teresa, "but I do it for Christ."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble

He who has ears, let him hear

Gospel text (Lk 9:43b-45): While all were amazed at everything Jesus did, He said to his disciples, «Listen and remember what I tell you now: The Son of Man will be delivered into human hands». But the disciples didn't understand this saying; something prevented them from grasping what He meant, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

The Gospel ends today's reading by Jesus telling us, "Pay attention to what I am telling you." We may not always understand why life is unfolding in certain ways But we are asked to "pay attention" to what God has taught us in our youth and as we experience life. When we "pay attention" to what God has taught us and "pay attention" to what others are saying or doing we are advised to bring these life experiences to God. In our prayer, our reflection, our discernment, God will give us insight, understanding, the ability to forgive, or move in a new direction, if we are not afraid to ask God to give us what we need and then to "pay attention" to what happens next.

One of the keys of Christian wisdom is the acknowledgment of the greatness and immensity of God's Love, while we also acknowledge our smallness and the vileness of our sin. How slow we can be to grasp it! When the day will come we shall discover we have at our disposal God's Love, and we shall say along with St. Augustine, with tears of Love: «It took me so long to love you, O God!». And that day can be today. It can be today.

It certainly can!

Friday, September 24, 2010

All in God’s Time

The past belongs to His mercy, the future to His providence, and the present to His love – Let us begin! – Mother Teresa

Eccl 3:1-11
There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every thing under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What advantage has the worker from his toil? I have considered the task that God has appointed for the sons of men to be busied about. He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man's ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

What is it that is so attractive about the well-known verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes which we hear today? Is it the rhythm that sways back and forth (A time . . ., a time)? Is it the stark contrasts that mark each verse (born/die, weep/laugh, love/hate)? Perhaps it is a combination of all the above.

As much as these characteristics may unite to attract our attention, the “commentary” provided in the text defines most of all the attraction of these haunting verses: “There is an appointed time for everything. . . . [God] has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts.” The breadth of human experience chronicled by Ecclesiastes exhausts us until we relax into the truth that no part of human experience escapes God’s view, God’s presence.

Without that truth, the times of daily life feed a frenzy that continually looks to “the next thing” because the present is too difficult to bear, or seems empty. On we run to the next thing, in the hope of finding relief, something better, more satisfying, happier. But if everything mysteriously bears the stamp of God’s design and purpose, then no time is outside of his loving Providence , no event outside his loving Presence. Relaxing into that truth, then we know that the “rush” inside our hearts to “move on,” comes not from the worthlessness of passing moments. Rather, “God has put the timeless into their hearts.”

A line from the poet William Blake comes to mind: “The wind is old and still at play, but I must hurry upon my way, for I am running to Paradise .”

It’s all God’s – both time and eternity. What a relief!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Feast Day of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

In darkness, at times of tribulation and distress of the spirit, Jesus is with you. In such a state you see nothing but darkness, but I can assure you on God's behalf that the light of the Lord is all around you and pervades your spirit. . .You see yourself forsaken and I assure you that Jesus is holding you tighter than ever to His divine Heart. - Padre Pio

Francesco, named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, was born to Giuseppa and Grazio Forgione, peasant farmers, in the small Italian village of Pietrelcina on May 25, 1887. From his childhood, it was evident that he was a special child of God. Francesco was very devout even as a child, and at an early age felt drawn to the priesthood. He became a Capuchin novice at the age of sixteen and received the habit in 1902. Francesco was ordained to the priesthood in 1910 after seven years of study and became known as Padre Pio.

On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was kneeling in front of a large crucifix when he received the visible marks of the crucifixion, making him the first stigmatized priest in the history of Church. The doctor who examined Padre Pio could not find any natural cause for the wounds. Upon his death in 1968, the wounds were no longer visible. In fact, there was no scaring and the skin was completely renewed. He had predicted 50 years prior that upon his death the wounds would heal. The wounds of the stigmata were not the only mystical phenomenon experienced by Padre Pio.

The blood from the stigmata had an odor described by many as similar to that of perfume or flowers, and the gift of bilocation was attributed to him. Padre Pio had the ability to read the hearts of the penitents who flocked to him for confession which he heard for ten or twelve hours per day. Padre Pio used the confessional to bring both sinners and devout souls closer to God; he would know just the right word of counsel or encouragement that was needed. Even before his death, people spoke to Padre Pio about his possible canonization. He died on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. His funeral was attended by about 100,000 people.

On June 16, 2002, over 500,000 Padre Pio devotees gathered in Rome to witness Pope John Paul II proclaim Padre Pio, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. The Padre Pio Foundation and many benefactors traveled to Rome, San Giovanni Rotondo, Pietrelcina, Piana Romana and many other holy places to celebrate Padre Pio's Canonization.

Take a moment to view this link of Padre Pio's body exhumed 40 years after his death. To this day, his body can be viewed in Southern Italy

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Preach always and when necessary, use words – St Francis

He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God's providence to lead him aright. - Blaise Pascal

Gospel text (Lk 9:1-6): Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to drive out all evil spirits and to heal diseases. And He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He instructed them, «Don't take anything for the journey, neither walking stick, nor bag, nor bread, nor silver coins; and don't even take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. And wherever they don't welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust from your feet: it will be as a testimony against them». So they set out and went through the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Jesus cannot be imposed on people. Jesus can be modeled for them, however. Our vocation is to love, as Jesus did. This begins with a smile, which each and every person can give away each day.

We are here to preach the Gospel not only with words, but with our lives.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And he got up and followed him…….How about you?

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion - it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ. - Billy Graham

Gospel text (Mt 9:9-13): As Jesus moved on, He saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom-house, and He said to him, «Follow me». And Matthew got up and followed him. Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew's house, many tax collectors and other sinners joined Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, «Why is it that your master eats with those sinners and tax collectors?». When Jesus heard this he said, «Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and find out what this means: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners».

Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Matthew, the Apostle and evangelist. When Jesus told him “Follow-me,” Matthew did so without second guessing. Not only did Matthew follow Jesus, but he also became an apostle, building the Body of Christ.

Matthew’s profession, as a tax collector, was frowned upon. Those practicing it were considered as publicans and sinners. He was at the service of king Herod, lord of Galilee, a king hated by the people and who is depicted in the New Testament as adulterous, John the Baptist's murderer and who, on Good Friday, mocked Jesus. What would Matthew think when he was due to render accounts to king Herod? Matthew's conversion must have meant a true release for him, as proved by the banquet he organizes by inviting publicans and sinners. It was his own way of showing his gratitude to the Master for having been able to get rid of a most miserable position and find true happiness.

"What reason" could Jesus have for enjoying fellowship with those who sin? Why does He sit down, relax, and eat with "those who disregard" His very own commands (that is, the Old Testament)? When Jesus went to Matthew's for dinner, the people with whom He ate were not reformed sinners looking for holiness. They were still "known as sinners" committed to a sinful lifestyle (Mt 9:10). These people were sinners who wanted to meet Matthew's new Friend, Jesus. Thus, Jesus' reputation took a nose-dive with the faithful.

Churchgoers can give lip-service to conversion, but a lot of people would resent suddenly having a bunch of sinners in the next pew. Would the church potluck lose its regulars if a group of alcoholics and prostitutes began coming on a regular basis? Would those regulars turn against you if you were the person inviting these sinful newcomers to new life in Jesus?

As disciples of Jesus, we place a higher priority on reconciliation than on our own reputation. Conversion comes first. If gaining conversions creates conversations that harm us, then so be it. Jesus Himself said: "Woe to you when all speak well of you" (Lk 6:26). Therefore, it can be a good thing for us when people speak against us for following Jesus.

Be like Matthew. Invite sinners to meet Jesus. Cause heaven to rejoice (Lk 15:7), even if it makes your reputation suffer.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not overcome it

"When you go out into the darkness, put your hand into the Hand of God, for that shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way." (Author is unknown)

Gospel text (Lk 8:16-18): Jesus said to his disciples, «No one, after lighting a lamp covers it with a bowl or puts it under the bed; rather he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people coming in may see the light. In the same way, there is nothing hidden that shall not be uncovered; nothing kept secret that shall not be known clearly. Now, take care how well you listen, for whoever produces will be given more, but from those who do not produce, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them».

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells his followers - and us - that no one who lights a lamp hides it but rather lets it radiate its light. We all have been blessed with the light of Jesus. He has made his father known to us and has brought his father’s light to us. What an awesome and humbling gift that is. It is also a gift that comes with responsibilities for sharing it with others.

Sometimes, we may want to keep that gift of light for ourselves or hide it from the world. We may mistakenly think that somehow we deserve that gift, but there is nothing that we do that makes us deserving of God’s love. It is a gift freely given to all of us. It is a gift that cannot be savored in a selfish way; it has to be allowed to radiate beyond us to all others that we encounter.

It is not easy to share our gift of light when we feel slighted by someone and we are angry. Other times it may not be easy when we are afraid of what someone else might think of us if we take a public stand and live our lives according to the teachings of Jesus. Some days, it may be a bigger challenge to share our gift and other days there may be a series of smaller challenges that are hardly noticed because we are so tied up with the demands of our daily lives. But, Jesus has called us to let the glory of his father shine so that all who encounter us may see his father through us.

“When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them, there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the light of the world, Jesus, in us. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.” Mother Teresa quote

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Those who have been giving much, much is expected

"For it is in giving that we receive" — Saint Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Lk 16:1-13): Jesus told his disciples, «There was a rich man whose steward was reported to him for fraudulent service. He summoned the steward and asked him: ‘What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service for it is about to be terminated’. The steward thought to himself: ‘What am I to do now? My master will surely dismiss me. I am not strong enough to do hard work, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do: I must make sure that when I am dismissed, there will be some people to welcome me into their house’.

»So he called his master's debtors one by one. He asked the first who came: ‘How much do you owe my master?’. The reply was: ‘A hundred jars of oil’. The steward said: ‘Here is your bill. Sit down quickly and write there fifty’. To the second he put the same question: ‘How much do you owe?’. The answer was: ‘A thousand measures of wheat’. Then he said: ‘Take your bill and write eight hundred’.

»The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the people of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the people of light. And so I tell you: use filthy money to make friends for yourselves, so that when it fails, these people may welcome you into the eternal homes. Whoever can be trusted in little things can also be trusted in great ones; whoever is dishonest in slight matters will also be dishonest in greater ones. So if you have not been trust-worthy in handling filthy money, who could entrust you with true wealth? And if you have not been trustworthy with things which are not really yours, who will give you the wealth which is your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he does not like the one and is fond of the other, or he regards one highly and the other with contempt. You cannot give yourself both to God and to Money».

Today, the Gospel introduces us to the figure of the unfaithful steward: a man rendering a fraudulent service to his master. He is just a simple steward, but behaves as his master. We must bear in mind:

1) Material goods are actually necessary and good, because they come from God's hands. Consequently, we have to prize them.

2) But we cannot “worship” them as if they were God and the ultimate meaning or purpose to our existence; we have to be open-handed. Riches are meant for us to better serve God and men, our brothers; not to expel God from our heart and our deeds: «You cannot give yourself both to God and to Money» (Lk 16:13).

3) We are not owners, but simple stewards; therefore, not only are we supposed to be trustworthy with whatever we administer, but we are also to make it yield to the best of our possibilities. The parable of the talents shows it quite clearly (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

4) Do not let greed drag us along; we have to practice liberality, which is a virtue we should all have, whether rich or poor, each one depending upon his circumstances. We have to give others!

What if I have enough for my own expenses? Yes, you must also try to increase your wealth to be able to give more (parish, diocese, Caritas, apostolate). Remember St. Ambrose's words: «It is not part of your worldly goods what you give to the poor; what you are giving them is already theirs. Because you have appropriated what has been given for the fruition of all. Land belongs to all, not only to the rich».

Are you so selfish that you only think of amassing material goods, even if it is as the Gospel's steward did, by lying, stealing, by being stingy, hard-hearted and indifferent to others' needs? Do you ever ponder over St. Paul's words? «God loves a cheerful giver» (2Cor 9:7). Be generous!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The feast of our Lady of Sorrows – Every noble crown is, and on earth will ever be, a crown of thorns.

"At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed."
(Stabat Mater)

Gospel text (Lk 2:33-35): The father of Jesus and his 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, in the celebration of the feast of our Lady of Sorrows, we hear the most unspeakable words in the mouth of old Simeon: «And a sword will pierce your own soul» (Lk 2:35). From its context, we can assert this declaration does not only concern Jesus Christ's passion, but his missionary work, that will stir up the division of the people of Israel , and therefore, a painful grief in Mary's heart. All along Jesus' public life, the Virgin Mary will experience great sufferings upon seeing Jesus rebuked and threatened with death by the city authorities.

The principal biblical references to Mary's sorrows are in Luke 2:35 and John 19:26-27. The Lucan passage is Simeon's prediction about a sword piercing Mary's soul; the Johannine passage relates Jesus' words to Mary and to the beloved disciple.

John's account of Jesus' death is highly symbolic. When Jesus gives the beloved disciple to Mary, we are invited to appreciate Mary's role in the Church: She symbolizes the Church; the beloved disciple represents all believers. As Mary mothered Jesus, she is now mother to all his followers. Furthermore, as Jesus died, he handed over his Spirit. Mary and the Spirit cooperate in begetting new children of God—almost an echo of Luke's account of Jesus' conception. Christians can trust that they will continue to experience the caring presence of Mary and Jesus' Spirit throughout their lives and throughout history.

St. Ambrose in particular sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. Mary looked on her Son's wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear to be killed but offered herself to her persecutors.

Also in her pain, Mary is the model of perseverance of the evangelic doctrine while sharing Christ's suffering through her patience (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue 50). She has done it all her life, and most than all, while in the Calvary . There she becomes the prototype and model for all Christians. Because she has been so closely linked to Christ's death, she is linked afterwards to his resurrection too (cf. Rm 6:5). In her excruciating pain, Mary's perseverance to abide by the Father's will, deserved her a new irradiation in benefit of the Church and of Mankind. Mary precedes us and helps us to follow Christ in our way of faith. And the Holy Spirit leads us to share with her this great adventure.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - Bear the Cross cheerfully and it will bear you.

“To deny one's self, to take up the cross, denotes something immeasurably grander than self-imposed penance or rigid conformity to a divine statute. It is the surrender of self to an ennobling work, an absolute subordination of personal advantages and of personal pleasures for the sake of truth and the welfare of others and a willing acceptance of every disability which their interests may entail.” - GEORGE HORACE LORIMER: American editor and writer (1868 - 1937)

Gospel text (Jn 3:13-17): Jesus said to Nicodemus, «No one has ever gone up to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved».

Today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the text from the Gospel passage, “for God so loved the world that He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life,” puts us at the very center of our life of faith in Jesus. It doesn’t get any simpler: we are saved by God’s goodness in the person of His Son Jesus the Christ.

But with so many issues of our faith life that we describe as simple, the simplicity masks some of the difficulties that we have in accepting the tremendous love of God for us. In one sense it is all there – we are saved by the cross and resurrection of Jesus, but the realization of that wondrous reality takes us a lifetime to receive.

The profound reality of God’s love in the person of Jesus is our very reason to be as Christians. We are blessed beyond any measure by that love. It is the very cornerstone of our faith in God and in Christ.

My prayer for us all is that as we contemplate that marvelous goodness of God and Jesus’ words recorded in John’s gospel each day of our lives. So that we can understand it, yes, but more specially that we may joyfully live it because indeed God does love the world and us so that we have eternal life, the ultimate gift of God to you and me. And that the cross that we live each of our days will link us to Jesus’ own life, death and resurrection.

Help us then, Lord, to be so united with the paschal mystery of Jesus, that through Him the world can become a better place to dwell. You promise us much for this life and for our eternal presence with You; may we live into that promise each day

Monday, September 13, 2010

God is even kinder than you think

Frequently remind yourself that God is with you, that He will never fail you, that you can count upon him. Say these words, "God is with me, helping me."

Gospel text (Lk 7:1-10): When Jesus had finished teaching to the people, He went to Capernaum . There was a captain whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade him to come and save his servant's life. The elders came to Jesus and begged him earnestly, saying, «He deserves this of you, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us».

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the captain sent friends to give this message, «Sir, do not trouble yourself for I am not worthy to welcome you under my roof. You see I didn't approach you myself. Just give the order and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers and I say to this one: ‘Go’, and he goes; and to the other: ‘Come’, and he comes; and to my servant: ‘Do this’, and he does it».

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with him, «I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith». The people sent by the captain went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Today, we are faced with an interesting question. Why did the captain in the Gospel not personally approach Jesus but rather, sent messengers ahead with the request to heal his servant? The captain answers this question for us in the Gospel passage. «You see I didn't approach you myself. Just give the order and my servant will be healed» (Lk 7:7). The captain possessed the virtue of faith to believe that Jesus could work this miracle if it was in accord with his divine will. Faith allowed the captain to believe that no matter where Jesus was located He could heal the ill servant. The captain believed that no distance could prevent or stop the Christ from carrying out his work of salvation.

We are called to have that same faith in our own lives. There are times when we are tempted to think that Jesus is far away and not listening to our prayers. However, faith illumines our minds and hearts to believe that Jesus is always there to help us. In fact, the healing presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a reminder that Jesus is always with us. St. Augustine , with eyes of faith, believed this reality: «What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice is the Blood of Christ». Faith illumines our minds to see that it is the very presence of Jesus in our midst.

Today is the feast of St. John Chrysostom, who for a time was patriarch of Constantinople and who lived some 300 years after Paul penned these words. In one of his sermons he had something to say on this same issue:

"Do you want to honor the body of Christ? Then do not despise his nakedness. You come to attend church services dressed in the finest silks which your wardrobe contains; and it is right that you should honor Christ in this way. But on your way, do you pass naked beggars in the streets? It is no good coming to the Lord’s table in fine silks, unless you also give clothes to the naked beggar – because the body of that beggar is also the body of Christ. Do you want to honor the blood of Christ? Then do not ignore his thirst. You have donated beautiful gold chalices for the wine, which becomes a symbol of Christ’s blood; and it is right that you should honor Christ in this way. But on your way to services, you passed by beggars who pleaded for food and drink. It is no good putting gold chalices on the Lord’s table unless you give food and drink to the poor from your own tables. The service which we celebrate in church is a sham unless we put its symbolic meaning into practice outside its walls. Better that we do not come at all than we become hypocrites – whose selfishness can only besmirch the Gospel in the eyes of others."

We like the captain say, «I am not worthy to welcome you under my roof» (Lk 7:6). Yet, we humble ourselves before our Lord and Savior and He still draws near to heal us. May we allow Jesus to enter our soul, under our roof, to heal and strengthen our faith so we may press on towards Eternal Life.

"All depends on faith" (Rm 4:16)

Friday, September 10, 2010

When looking for faults use a mirror, not a telescope

It's sad that, in our blindness we gather thorns for flowers

Gospel text (Lk 6:39-42): Jesus offered this example, «Can a blind person lead another blind person? Surely both will fall into a ditch. A disciple is not above the master; but when fully trained, he will be like the master. So why do you pay attention to the speck in your brother's eye while you have a log in your eye and are not conscious of it? How can you say to your neighbor: ‘Friend, let me take this speck out of your eye’, when you can't remove the log in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the log from your own eye and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your neighbor's eye».

Jesus says we might have a plank lodged in our eye. If so, He's doing us a big favor to tip us off. We need to remove this plank or we'll blindly fall into the ditches of apathy, sin, hatred, unforgiveness, compulsive behavior, a selfish lifestyle, broken relationships, missed opportunities, or other such pitfalls (Lk 6:39).

If we aren't sure what our plank is, we must ask the Lord to identify it for us. He's surely been trying to tell us how blind we are (see Rv 3:17). If He doesn't tell us directly, it's probably because He's already been speaking to us through our spouses, children, siblings, parents, co-workers, or brothers and sisters in Christ. No doubt they see our plank clearly, and have been trying to tell us about it.

Even if the Lord breaks through our short-sightedness and gets us to see our plank, we might still choose to hold onto it. Because our hearts are hard and twisted (Jer 17:9), we might prefer our familiar plank to a painful removal and a humbling recovery. We might say: 'I find the old [way] better" (see Lk 5:39) and prefer the darkness of our plank-eye to the bright light of freedom in Jesus (see Jn 3:19-20).

Jesus is the Carpenter (Mk 6:3), and He knows how to handle planks. Bring your planks, specks, eyes, and life to Jesus. "Fix your eyes on Jesus" (Heb 3:1) and let Him fix your eyes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Love is a choice; it is not always a feeling

“It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more ‘manhood’ to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex. Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind.” - Alex Karras: first round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 1958

Gospel text (Lk 6:27-38): Jesus said to his disciples, «But I say to you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you and pray for those who treat you badly. To the one who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek; from the one who takes your coat, do not keep back your shirt. Give to the one who asks and if anyone has taken something from you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have others do to you. If you love only those who love you, what kind of graciousness is yours? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do favors to those who are good to you, what kind of graciousness is yours? Even sinners do the same. If you lend only when you expect to receive, what kind of graciousness is yours? For sinners also lend to sinners, expecting to receive something in return. But love your enemies and do good to them, and lend when there is nothing to expect in return. Then will your reward be great and you will be sons and daughters of the Most High. For He is kind towards the ungrateful and the wicked.

»Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Don't be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back».

Today, the Gospel of the Lord is asking us twice to love our enemies. And, immediately afterwards, it gives three positive instances of this commandment: do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who offend you. It is a commandment that looks difficult to abide by: how can we love those who do not love us? What is more, how can we love those we know for sure hate us? To love like that is a gift from God, but we must be open to it. After all, loving our enemies seems to be the wisest thing to do from a human point of view: our enemy will feel unarmed; and to love him may be the definite condition for him to refrain from being our enemy any more. In line with the above, Jesus goes on saying: «To the one who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek» (Lk 6:29). This could be interpreted as an excessive mansuetude. But, what did Jesus do when He was struck in the face in his Passion? He certainly did not struck back, but with so great a firmness, full of charity, that must have surprised that irate servant, He replied: «If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?» (Jn 18:22-23).

All religions have a golden maxim: «Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you». Jesus, however, is the only one to formulate it positively: «Do to others as you would have others do to you» (Lk 6:31). This golden rule is the basis for all morals. Commenting on this little verse, St. John Chrysostom says: «There is even more, for Jesus did not only say: ‘wish good to others’, but ‘do good to others’»; this is why, the golden maxim proposed by Jesus cannot just remain as wishful thinking, but it must be translated into deeds.

I wonder what our hearts look like to God. Has he ever viewed us as beyond salvage? Obviously not or there would not have been the offer to allow Jesus into our hearts. Today’s culture always says it’s about me. Citizens of this world view others as second rate and beyond repair. As citizens of God’s kingdom we are called by Christ to be second. To put others first. Even those we may not like. A tall order, but one that can reap rewards beyond our imagination.

My prayer today is for those of us who look at something or someone as beyond salvage. That we would allow Christ, the Master Carpenter, into our hearts for a restoration project.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
– Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Gospel text (Mt 1:18-23): 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”.

Today, Jesus' genealogy, the Saviour that had to come and be born of Mary, shows us how the work of God is interwoven into human history, and how God acts in the secret and silence of every single day. At the same time, we can see his reliability to accomplish his promises.

Micah prophesied that times would change when a certain mother would give birth. Isaiah prophesied to Ahaz that times would change when a "virgin shall be with Child, and bear a Son, and shall name Him Immanuel" (Is 7:14). Paul taught: "When the designated time had come, God sent forth His Son born of a woman" (Gal 4:4).

A mother giving birth is the Biblical sign of changing times. Mary, through giving birth to Jesus, the Messiah and God, is a sign that we are in the best of times, even despite the appearance of the worst of times. Mother Mary is a sign that "despite the increase of sin, grace has far surpassed it" (Rm 5:20). Mother Mary is a sign that "God makes all things work together for the good of those who love" Him (Rm 8:28).

At Vatican II, the Church called Mary "a sign of certain hope" (The Church, 68). She is a sign that no matter how things look or how we feel, the Lord has plans for our welfare, not for woe; plans to give us "a future full of hope" (Jer 29:11). Mother Mary was present at the foot of the cross. Even at Calvary , the Sorrowful Mother was a sign that times were changing from death to resurrection. Jeremiah prophesied: "The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward...There is hope for your future, says the Lord" (Jer 31:16, 17).

Do you wish that times would change for the better — for the Lord? Look to Mary, mother and prophetess of Hope. She will lead you to her son!

"We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek - Jesus, her Son."
-Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

Ave Maria!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Short is the joy that guilty pleasure brings. - Euripides (484 BC - 406 BC)

Our highest happiness consists in the feeling that another's good is purchased by our sacrifice. --BISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN

Ps 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

Joy & Delight. Do you recall when you last felt pure joy and delight? In a world where we are bombarded with life and all of its details, I think joy might escape sometimes, unheeded in our rush to finish our to-do list. We do have to get those things done. We have responsibilities to our families, to our jobs, to society. For adults, the moments of pure joy can be few and far between. And we probably take so much time trying to figure out if that moment actually was joy that we miss it. Maybe parents with children can more easily think of those moments when the toddler giggles uncontrollably at a simple game of peek-a-boo. The child is so completely in the moment, present, full of joy and delighted to be there.

Today’s responsorial psalm made me think of this. “The Lord takes delight in his people. Let them praise his name in the festive dance, let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp. For the LORD loves his people, and he adorns the lowly with victory.”

The Lord does take delight in us. We need to remember that when we are being less than delightful. The festive language of the psalm contrasts with a more stern reading from Corinthians 6:1-11 (in today's mass), where we are told the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God . The list of those who will not inherit is pretty exhaustive and a good reminder to be true to God and to ourselves, to our true selves where there is joy.

How do we open ourselves up to joy? The Gospel (in today's mass - Luke 6:12-19) gives us a clue. Jesus goes to the mountain to pray. Take time for yourself to pray even if your mountain isn’t quite so mountainous. Quiet time, even if it’s in the shower or in your car after dropping the kids off or late in the evening when you’re loading the dishwasher or at your computer. Jesus then came down from the mountain and chose the Twelve. Surround yourself with people who are posititve. You can’t do it all yourself. Be in the moment, be present and feel the power of joy. The Lord takes delight in his people.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day: The End of Summer invites us to Reflect on the Dignity of all Human Work

“Work is for man, not man for work. “

Labor Day is a day on which families gather for cookouts and parades march through our town squares. It is a day when we all get to sleep in a bit later than usual and we relax from what is so often a frenzied pace in our contemporary existence. The United States Department of Labor tells us of this National Holiday, "Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Our Catechism instructs us: "Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty: "If any one will not work, let him not eat."( 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain ... fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ. In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary.

For the Christian, "work" is an invitation to participate in that extraordinary plan, if it is joined to Jesus Christ. No matter what we are doing we are, as the Apostle wrote, to "do it as unto the Lord" (see Col 3). Our work then changes "the world", both within us and around us. This means all work - not just the so called "spiritual" or "religious" stuff, has redemptive value. Remember, God Incarnate did not just do the "spiritual" stuff. All human work sanctifies and changes the world which God still loves.

We can live this "Gospel of Work" in an age which desperately needs a new living witness of its dignity, meaning and true value. Happy Labor Day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What is the most important thing in your life - Be honest?………

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work. “

………………If your family is what is the most important thing in your life, then you want what is BEST for them - that they get to heaven. The only way to accomplish that goal is to put God first. - That is the only way, there simply is no other way.

Gospel text (Lk 14:25-33):
Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.' Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."

The beginning of this Sunday's gospel can sometimes turn people off. For some of us, the great resistance might come from our families. However, I suspect the greatest resistance for most of us comes from two other places first: 1) our own hearts and 2) the cultural support group we all have around us. The first place where conversion happens is in our own hearts. Jesus is asking us to let him love us and to let him win over our hearts. We understand the challenge most when we know our own hearts well, when we understand the parts of our own hearts which resist the Gospel, the parts of each of us which need healing and conversion. This is where Jesus encourages us to prepare, to calculate if we have the resources to build what we need to build, to wage the battle we need to wage. Too often it is difficult for me to let go of ideas and strong feelings and habits I've had for many years. Jesus is inviting us to consider carefully what it will take to fully give him our hearts. Imagine someone addicted to cocaine who said she wanted to quit, but didn't get rid of her stash or break off ties with her user friends. Imagine a fellow wanting to confront his addiction to compulsive sexual liaisons, but doesn't take the step of blocking his access to social networking sites. We'd agree with Jesus: They aren't equipping themselves for what they need to do.

The second place we find a challenge for conversion to discipleship is in our friends and the circle of cultural support around us. Sometimes the society we live in, the values it espouses, are simply so contrary to the Gospel that it is difficult for us to see it. Is it possible that, in speaking to us today, Jesus might say his challenging words a bit differently?

"If anyone of you comes to me without hating your friends, associates, and any part of the culture around you, and even your own life - insofar as through these you are being shaped by any values contrary to the Gospel - you cannot be my disciple."

I think of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who was assassinated, martyred, for challenging the political leaders and soldiers of his day to renounce the injustice and violence they had found a justification for, but which could not be justified in light of the Gospel. In each of our cultures, there are values which conflict with the message of Jesus. Often, the Church leaders clearly speak out in defense of the Gospel in a very direct and counter-cultural way. At times, our political biases, our financial status, our racial prejudices are challenged by the Gospel of Jesus and the teaching of the Church. Jesus is calling us to complete renunciation of whatever is counter to the Gospel.

We might say, "I can't possibly renounce all my possessions. That would be irresponsible. I have a family. I need a roof over my head. I contribute to society and to my church." Jesus' challenge becomes a meaningful call to action if we hear how it might apply to us and we reflect upon it more deeply.

I'm asking you to grow in the freedom it takes to follow me with all your heart. Renounce whatever turns your heart against me and my Word. Disassociate yourself from habits, stances, positions, parties, identities which are foreign to the spirit of generosity, self-sacrifice and love for others the way I love you. It will involve carrying a cross, but for everything you surrender, I will repay with more than you can ask or imagine.

If we need more resources for this commitment, we can ask for the graces we need. Jesus will always give us the graces to do what he asks us to do and he will always give us the graces he wants to give us, if we are open to them.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Who are Jesus' friends?

You can tell a lot about a person by the people they hang around with. Someone, I forget who, once said, “Show me a man’s friends and I will show you the man.”

Who are Jesus’ friends? When we read the Gospels, Jesus seems to spend a great deal of time with the poor, those who are blind, deaf, ignorant, tax collectors, prostitutes, those possessed by demons and very simple people. In short, we could say people who are broken and who know it and do not try to hide behind any illusion or false estimation about their own righteousness. Jesus came into their life, not with a hand of judgment ready to slam down upon them, but with a tender touch of mercy, love, healing, forgiveness and hope.

Over the past two years, I have had the privilege of attending post-abortion retreats for men and women who have participated in an abortion in the past. Why did I say it was a privilege to attend such retreats? Because I have met the people who, if Jesus still walked upon the earth, He would have spent most of his time with—people who are broken and wounded by sin, yet humble and extremely aware of their need for God and their need for a Savior.

There is no “stereotype” person on these retreats. They include both men and women ranging from ages 15-60, people who are rich and those who are poor, people of various nationalities and backgrounds, people who want to be at the retreat and those who sometimes do not want to be there. Despite all these differences, there is one thing they all have in common: a profound humility that proclaims and witnesses to me the love and mercy of God and brings to life those words spoken by Jesus in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God; blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:3-4)

Most of the people who attend these retreats do not try to hide behind things like a career, external appearances, the “perfect” family, a new car, or any of the other gimmicks contemporary society will often use to try and hide their pain. They have taken it directly to Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician, the only one who can ultimately heal them and bring them back to the happiness and joy of knowing God’s love for them. Hence, the reason for their profound humility is that they have come to believe, maybe not perfectly, but at least partially, in God’s love for them.

While I am at these retreats, I always feel challenged (in a good way) about my own relationship with Jesus. I find myself asking: Am I really giving Jesus everything? Is He really the Lord of my life? Am I seeking to serve Him? Have I become somewhat lazy in my prayer life or in the spiritual life in general?

The reason why I ask these questions is because of the wonderful example of the people who attend these retreats. Being with them, even in their continued struggles with forgiving themselves and dealing with guilt, I see the presence of a loving God who is “nursing” them back to health and back into His loving embrace.

Reflection By: Br. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock CFR

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Faith makes things possible, but not easy

Faith enables persons to be persons because it lets God be God

Gospel text (Lk 5:1-11): One day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret , with a crowd gathered around him listening to the word of God, He caught sight of two boats left at the water's edge by the fishermen now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There He sat and continued to teach the crowd.

When He had finished speaking He said to Simon, «Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch». Simon replied, «Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will lower the nets». This they did and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats almost to the point of sinking. Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus' knees, saying, «Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!». For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made and so were Simon's partners, James and John, Zebedee's sons. Jesus said to Simon, «Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on». So they brought their boats to land and followed him, leaving everything.

Today, we are still surprised at how those fishermen were capable of leaving everything behind, their job, their families, to follow Jesus («They brought their boats to land and followed him, leaving everything»: Lk 5:11), precisely when He manifested himself before them as an exceptional collaborator for the business which they lived from. If Jesus of Nazareth would make the same proposal to us, in our 21st century..., would we have as much courage as those other men had?; should we be able to sense which is the true gain for us?

We Christians believe that Christ is ever present; this resurrected Christ, therefore, requests us, not only to Peter, John or James, but to George, Joe, Paula, and all of us who accept him as our Lord, that we accept him —from Luke's text— in the boat of our life for He wants to rest by our side; He requests us to let him make use of us, to allow him to show us where He wants to guide our existence to, so we can become productive amid a society which every day is more far away and in need of God's Good News. The proposal is quite attractive, we need only to know how are we, and if we really wish, to manage to get rid of our fears, of our worries about what people may “say” or “think” and set a course for deeper waters, or what is equivalent, to horizons which may be farther away than those restricting our quotidian mediocrity of anguish and disappointments.

«He who stumbles on his way, no matter how little he moves forward, always gets somewhat closer to the end of his journey; but he who runs out of his way, the more he runs the farther he gets from the end of his trip» (St. Thomas Aquinas).

«Duc in altum»; «To pull out a little from the shore» (Lk 5:4): let us try not to rest by the shore of a world that lives by contemplating its navel! Our navigation through the seas of life has to take us towards the harbor on the promise land, the end of our course in this Heaven long waited for, which is a gift from the Father, but, indivisible too, the work of man —yours, mine— from the service to others in the Church's boat. Christ knows quite well the fishing grounds; it all depends upon us: or in our harbor of selfishness, or towards his horizons