Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

He who prizes little things is worthy of great ones

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent - Prepare the Way!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

The kingdom of Heaven is within you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God judges based on the intentions of the heart.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The smallest good deed is worth a thousand grand intentions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The first saint in heaven was a thief!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

True Love is a choice, much more then a feeling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Immigration Reform: A Reflection from a Catholic from Nebraska

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The son of man came to serve not to be served

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 12, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

2. teaching the truth,

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today."

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

Gospel text (Lk 17:20-25): The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was to come. He answered, «The kingdom of God is not like something you can observe and say of it: ‘Look, here it is! There it is!’. See, the kingdom of God is among you».

And Jesus said to his disciples, «The time is at hand when you will long to see one of the glorious days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Then people will tell you: ‘Look there! Look here!’. Do not go, do not follow them. As lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will it be with the Son of Man. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this people».

Today, the Pharisees ask Jesus, with a mixture of interest, curiosity, fear... something that has always been of interest for all of us: when will the Kingdom of God come over? when will it be the last day, the end of the world, Christ's return to judge the living and the dead in the day of the Last Judgment?

Jesus tells them that this is unpredictable. We only know that it will suddenly come, without notice: it will be «As lightning» (Lk 17:24), a sudden occurrence, full of light and glory, at the same time. As for other circumstances, Jesus' second advent remains a complete mystery. But Jesus gives us a true and certain clue: as of now, «the kingdom of God is among you» (Lk 17:21). Or: «inside you».

The great event of the last day will be a universal accomplishment, but it also happens in the little microcosm of each one's heart. It is there where we must actually seek the Kingdom. Heaven can be found deep inside us, where we must also find Jesus.

This Kingdom that unpredictably will start “outside” may commence right now “inside” us. The last day starts its configuration right now, inside us. If we want to be allowed into the Kingdom in that last day, we must let the Kingdom get inside us, right now. If we want Jesus to be our merciful judge in that particular moment, we better make him right now our best friend and our inside guest.

St. Bernard, in a sermon for Advent, speaks of the three advents of Christ. The first advent, which we now commemorate as Christmas; the third advent, is the Parousia, the advent in which Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, and to take us to himself. Then St. Bernard explains the second, or middle, advent as the “time of visitation” by which Christ is now present and active in each of our lives. It is there, where the first and the third advents appear on a personal and experienced level. Jesus' verdict on Judgment's day must already be resounding now in our heart. That, which has yet to arrive, is already now a reality.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?"

Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self. - St. Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Lk 17:11-19): On the way to Jerusalem , Jesus was passing along the border between Samaria and Galilee , and as He entered a village, ten lepers came to meet him. Keeping their distance, they called to him, «Jesus, Master, have pity on us!». Then Jesus said to them, «Go and show yourselves to the priests». Now, as they went their way, they found they were cured.

One of them, as soon as he saw he was cleansed, turned back praising God in a loud voice, and throwing himself on his face before Jesus, he gave him thanks. This man was a Samaritan. «Was no one found to return and give praise to God but this alien?». And Jesus said to him, «Stand up and go your way; your faith has saved you».

Today, Jesus passes by close to us so that we can actually relive the above mentioned passage in the shape of so many people relegated to an outer edge by our society, and who look at us Christians as their only possibility to find Jesus' love and goodness. In the days of the Lord, lepers were totally marginalized. In fact, those ten lepers met Jesus «as He entered a village» (Lk 17:12), as they were not allowed in the villages, nor could they get close to people («keeping their distance, they called to him»).

With some imagination, each one of us can reproduce the image of the outcasts in our own society, who also have names and surnames, like we do: immigrants, drug addicts, wrongdoers, AIDS victims, unemployed, destitute... Jesus wants to heal them, to remedy their suffering, to solve their problems; and He expects our unselfish, free, efficient collaboration... for love.

We can also assume Jesus' lesson for us. For we are sinners and in need of forgiveness, we are beggars who depend totally on him. Would we be able to say like the leper «Jesus, Master, have pity on me!» (cf. Lk 17:13)? Do we know how to turn to Jesus with a profound and confident prayer? Do we imitate the cleansed leper that goes back to Jesus thanking him out loud? I think that question is ours.

We know who God is and what God does in our lives. But so seldom do we acknowledge the grace in which we have our being and good fortune. None of it is our own doing; it is all by the grace of God. Yet, we live in an individualistic meritocratic society where we think everyone gets what they deserve based on how hard they work and how much they do the right things. In many ways, we are like the nine other lepers, who go joyfully on our way, after encountering “good luck”.

Accordingly, how do we thank God for the great gift of our life, and that of our family; for the grace of the faith, the Holy Eucharist, the forgiveness of sins...? Is it not true that quite often we do not thank him for the Eucharist, even though we may be frequently participating of it? The Eucharist is, no doubt, our best daily experience.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The loftier the building, the deeper must the foundation be laid

Clearly the person who accepts the Church as an infallible guide will believe whatever the Church teaches." -- Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Roman Catholic philosopher

Gospel text (Jn 2:13-22): As the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem . In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, «Take all this away and stop turning my Father's house into a marketplace!». His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: ‘Zeal for your House devours me as a fire’.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, «Where are the miraculous signs which give you the right to do this?». And Jesus said, «Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up». The Jews then replied, «The building of this temple has already taken forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?». Actually, Jesus was referring to the temple of his body. Only when He had risen from the dead, did his disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.

God's plan of salvation is to build a new temple, "an edifice of spirit" (1 Pt 2:5), the Church. This temple is not built with inanimate stones, but living ones. Jesus is "a living Stone, rejected by men but approved, nonetheless, and precious in God's eyes" (1 Pt 2:4). He is the Foundation Stone (1 Cor 3:11) and the Cornerstone (1 Pt 2:6-7). The apostles and prophets are also living stones and part of the temple's foundation (Eph 2:20-22). In a special way, the apostle Peter and his successors are a rock on which Jesus decided to build this new temple, the Church (Mt 16:18).

We "too are living stones." We can decide to become part of "this temple, to become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit" (Eph 2:22), or we can be co-opted into being part of one of the devil's strongholds (see 2 Cor 10:4). We decide to become part of the Church by believing in Jesus and His word (1 Pt 2:7-8). We express this faith by being baptized and living our baptisms in our day to day lives. This means we witness for Jesus to lead others to Him and to His Church. We work to build up the Church and live in the community of the Church. We are faithful members of the Catholic Church through our dioceses, of our dioceses through our parishes, and of our parishes through our small communities.

Jesus is the building—the foundation upon which we must live. Today we might ask ourselves: “What are the “temples” in our lives? Are those “temples” leading us to God? Are we reverencing the temple of our own, unique selves?”

Love the Church and be a faithful member of the Church, it is your true home and your inheritance.

Monday, November 8, 2010

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you

“People ask me what advice I have for a married couple struggling in their relationship. I always answer: pray and forgive. And to young people from violent homes, I say pray and forgive. And again even to the single mother with no family support: pray and forgive” – Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lk 17:1-6): Jesus said to his disciples, «Scandals will necessarily come and cause people to fall; but woe to the one who has brought it about. It would be better for that one to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around the neck. Truly this would be better for that person than to cause one of these little ones to fall.

»Be careful. If your brother offends you, rebuke him and if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he offends you seven times in a day but says to you seven times: ‘I'm sorry’, forgive him».
The apostles said to the Lord, «Increase our faith». And the Lord said, «If you have faith even the size of a mustard seed, you may say to this tree: ‘Be uprooted and plant yourself in the sea’, and it will obey you».

Jesus tells his disciples, "Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur." There is a terrific sense of reality here. I know that I sometimes am too easily scandalized when I see great evil in the world. "How can that happen?!" I'll ask. Jesus knows that the evil spirit is present and tempts us. And, Jesus knows that we sometimes fall into temptation. And sometimes, that sin is severe. So his warning is serious.

His further warning is amazing, as it reveals the depth of his concern for his "little ones." He continues, speaking about the one through whom things that cause sin occur, "It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." The severest warning is for one who causes "little ones" to sin. Our minds don't need much help to imagine the horrible ways that tragedy happens today - from small ways children are neglected and left to make bad choices and fall into terrible life patterns, to the horrible way children are abused by parents, family members, care givers, teachers, even some priests.

However, the most surprising part of this story is the third part of Jesus' message. "If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him." Jesus gives his most severe warning (just imagine being thrown into a sea with a huge stone used in a mill to grind wheat tied around our neck!) and then tells us how merciful he wants us to be with the sinner. How can he do this? Because he is inviting us to love the way he loves us.

Notice that the sinner has the freedom to turn away and not repent. But, if we, as sinners, repent, we are forgiven time and time again. Jesus will always be there to give us another chance. And, every blessing comes with a responsibility. Because we are loved this much, we are called to love this much.

It is easy to understand why the disciples, upon hearing Jesus call them to this kind of mercy, ask him, "Lord, give us faith!" It is the most spontaneous response each of us would have if called to love unconditionally, as we are loved. And, Jesus just replies, as he always does, assuring us: All we need is a mustard seed size faith and we can do it. He'll make it possible. Apart from him, we can't do anything, but with him, we can do anything.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey – St. Ignatius Loyola

(Phil 3:17—4:1)Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters,
and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us.
For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved.

In today’s reading, Paul writes to the Philippians from jail. The letter shows the great affection that he had for the people there and their faith and unity since the days that he preached Christ Jesus to them. But all is not well now in the sense that some have come to the Philippians and spread a “gospel” that was foreign to Paul’s original preaching/teaching. He refers to them as “enemies of the cross of Christ,” a strong warning to the Philippians of the danger of following them.

He encourages the people to “stand firm in the Lord.” What a powerful message for all of us to hear. The famous hymn from Philippians just earlier in the letter focuses on the humility and obedience of Christ Jesus, “Though he was in the form of God . . . he emptied himself . . . becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross.” Clearly that’s the way we are invited to live our lives, and, indeed, the saints throughout history became extraordinary in their imitation of Christ.

Realizing that our true home is in heaven shows us how we should live our lives right now. The great saints and spiritual writers of the centuries refer to this holy way of living as "detachment." By not allowing undue affection for created things, detachment keeps our eyes focused on heaven. "Beloved, you are strangers and in exile; hence I urge you not to indulge your carnal desires. By their nature they wage war on the soul" (1 Pt 2:11).

While everything God created is good (Gn 1:31), "no man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other" (Mt 6:24). Detachment lets us follow God in total freedom. The Bible and Church history are filled with examples of saints who joyfully gave up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or lands (Mt 19:29).

Focusing on our heavenly citizenship is a great way to die. Yet being detached from “things” so as to more closely follow the Creator is an even greater way to live.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home

Confession is an act of honesty and courage - an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God. -- Pope John Paul 2

Gospel text (Lk 15:1-10): Tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering. «This man welcomes sinners and eats with them».

So Jesus told them this parable: «Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and seek out the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbors together and say: ‘Celebrate with me for I have found my lost sheep’. I tell you, just so, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine upright who do not need to repent.

»What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp and sweep the house in a thorough search till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbors and say: ‘Celebrate with me for I have found the silver coin I lost!’. I tell you, in the same way there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner».

Today, the evangelist of God's mercy imparts two parables of Jesus that lighten up his divine behavior towards those sinners returning to the right path. With the human image of joy, he reveals God's goodness finding pleasure in the homecoming of those who moved away from sin. It is like coming back to the Father's home (as more distinctly will say at Lk 15:11-32). «For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved» (Jn 3:17), and He did it while welcoming those that, full of confidence, «were seeking the company of Jesus (...), to hear what He had to say» (Lk 15:1), as He healed their soul as the doctor heals the body of the ailing (cf. Mt 9:12). While the Pharisees believed they were so righteous and felt they needed no doctor, it is actually for them —the evangelist says— that Jesus proposes the parables we read today.

If we feel spiritually sick, Jesus will tend to us and will be happy that we have gone to him. But if, on the contrary, we would think, as those proud Pharisees did, that we need not to plead forgiveness, the divine Doctor will not heal us. Each time we recite the Lord's Prayer, we must feel like sinners, as we say «and forgive us our wrongs...». And we sure must be grateful to him for doing it! As grateful we must also be, for having placed, so mercifully, at our disposal, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let us hope our haughtiness will not make us to look down on it. St. Augustine tells us that Jesus Christ, God and Man, gives us an example of humbleness by removing the “tumor” of our arrogance, «for, though great is the misery of a haughty man, greater is still the mercy of the humble God».

Let us further add that the lesson Jesus gives to the Pharisees is also an example for all of us; we cannot throw sinners away from us. The lord wants us to love them as He has loved us (cf. Jn 13:34) and we must rejoice to bring back home the lost sheep or to recover the lost coin.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In order to be filled, we must first become emptied

“The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices.” St. Anthony of the Desert – (3rd Century AD)

Gospel text (Lk 14:25-33): One day, when large crowds were walking along with Jesus, He turned and said to them, «If you come to me, without being ready to give up your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not follow me carrying his own cross cannot be my disciple.

»Do you build a house without first sitting down to count the cost to see whether you have enough to complete it? Otherwise, if you have laid the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone will make fun of you: ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’. And when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand can stand against the twenty thousand of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off he sends messengers for peace talks. In the same way, none of you may become my disciple if he doesn't give up everything he has».

Disciple means “follower”. To follow the steps of the Master, to be like Him, to think like Him, to live like Him... The disciple coexists with the Master and accompanies him. The Lord teaches with facts and words. They have certainly seen Christ's attitude before the Absolute and the relative. They have heard him saying quite often that God is the supreme value of our existence. They have admired the relation between Jesus and the celestial Father. They have seen the dignity and confidence, which Jesus displayed when praying to him. They have admired his radical poverty.

Today, the Lord speaks to us in clear-cut terms. Our Lord Jesus Christ must be loved by the true disciple with all his heart, well over all kind of ties, even the closest ones: «If you come to me, without being ready to give up your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be my disciple» (Lk 14:26-27). In the follower's life, He is always the first one. St. Augustine says: «Let us reply to our father and to our mother: ‘I love you in Christ, not instead of Christ’». In following Jesus even our love for life must rank as a second priority. To follow Jesus, after all, entails to embrace the Cross. Without the Cross there is no disciple.

The evangelic call exhorts to prudence, that is, the virtue dictating our adequate behavior. Who wants to build a house must first find out whether he can face the expense. The king who must fight, after figuring out his own forces, decides whether going to war or negotiating peace. He who wants to be a disciple of the Lord must first give up all his possessions. His own denial will be his best bet!

"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do,and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is."
Romans 12:2

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them

“Have pity on the souls in purgatory, especially the most abandoned.” - Our Lady of Fatima (1917)

(Jn 6:37-40) Jesus said to the crowds:
“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Every year on the 2nd of Novembers we commemorate “All the Faithful Departed.” It is a reminder for us to reflect again on those no longer with us, so we can ask them to remember and intercede for us. After all, we believe that even though they left their worn out bodies here on earth their souls are alive with and in Christ.

Let me explain. For example when we gather around the dining room table we eat and drink dinner which in turn is absorbed into cells nourishing our muscles, organs and blood. The food becomes part of our bodies. Contrariwise, in the Mass we gather around the table of the altar. We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by which we are spiritually absorbed little by little into Christ’s glorified body. Each time we participate in the Eucharist and receive the Body and Blood of Christ we become more intimately connected with his divine life. Our souls have no measureable dimensions, so there is no limit to how many souls can be sharing in and with the glorified body of Christ.

We might tend to forget some of our departed loved ones months and years after their Mass of Resurrection. So it makes sense that at least one day of the year, we forget our problems and forego some of our activities to remind ourselves that they haven’t forgotten us. By remembering them and praying for them today we remind ourselves that we have great intercessors with Christ remembering and interceding for us. On “All Souls Day” we acknowledge and profess our faith in the one “Body of Christ”. It is awesome and comforting to realize that both the living and deceased are united in and with our Lord.

A second advantage is that, by remembering the deceased, we also pray for them. We do it from the bottom of our heart, through our intimacy with God, and each time we pray together in the Eucharist: in front of the mystery of death and life, we are not alone but we share it as members of Christ's Body.

Hence, let us remember what St. Francis gratefully proclaimed: «Praise to You, O Lord our God, for our Sister Death».

Monday, November 1, 2010

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future

We don’t become saints by leading virtuous lives after Baptism; we become saints by virtue of Baptism.

Gospel text (Mt 5:1-12a): When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and his disciples gathered around him. Then he spoke and began to teach them: «Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle, they shall possess the land. Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God. Fortunate are those who work for peace, they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you».

Today, we celebrate the reality of the Mystery of Salvation. A reality that we evince in the “Creed” and which is very soothing: «I believe in the communion of saints». All saints, who have already passed from death into eternal life, from the Virgin Mary on, form a wholeness: they represent the Church of the Blessed, whom Jesus congratulates: «Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God!» (Mt 5:8). At the same time, they join us in communion, too. Because the saints already enjoy the eternal vision of God, they cannot be united to us through faith and hope; but, they can, instead, be united to us through charity. «So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love» (1Cor 13:13). Charity understood as that kind of love that links us, through them, to the same Father, to the very same Christ Redeemer and to the same Holy Spirit. The kind of love that makes them solidary and solicitous with us. Therefore, it is not that we venerate the saints only because of their exemplarity. There is a stronger reason than that: to be united in Spirit with the whole Church invigorated by the practice of the fraternal charity.

Because of this deep and profound unity we must feel close to all those saints that, before us, have believed what we now believe, have waited for what we are now waiting and, mostly, have loved God Father and their brothers, men also seeking the imitation of Christ's love.

The saint apostles, the saint martyrs, the saint confessors, who have lived through history are, therefore, our brothers and our intercessors; on them, these prophetical words of Jesus have been fulfilled: «Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God» (Mt 5:11-12). The treasures of their sanctity are like family assets, which we can rely upon. These are the treasures in heaven, which Jesus invites us to store up (cf. Mt 6:20). As the Vatican Council II asserts, «So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped» (Lumen gentium, 49). This solemnity brings some comforting news, which invite us to joyous festivities and celebrations.