Monday, January 31, 2011

Action expresses priorities

Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are

Gospel text (Mk 5:1-20): Jesus and his disciples arrived on the other side of the lake in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than He was met by a man with evil spirits who had come from the tombs. He lived among the tombs and no one could restrain him, even with a chain. He had often been bound with fetters and chains but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him. Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming and beating himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at his feet and cried with a loud voice, «What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? For God's sake I beg you, do not torment me». He said this because Jesus had commanded, «Come out of the man, evil spirit». And when Jesus asked him, «What is your name?», he replied, «Legion is my name, for we are many». And all of them kept begging Jesus not to send them out of that region.

Now, a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged him, «Send us to the pigs and let us go into them». So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the herd rushed down the cliff and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled and reported this in the town and in the countryside, so all the people came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the man freed of the evil spirits sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to stay with him. Jesus would not let him and said, «Go home to your people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you». So he went throughout the country of Decapolis telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were astonished.

Today, we find a fragment of the Gospel that might induce someone to smile. Imagining a herd of some two thousand pigs rushing down a cliff and into a lake, is a sort of funny image. But the truth is that those herdsmen did not find any fun in what had happened; they were very angry and begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood immediately.

While the herdsmen's attitude may seem logical, it is actually quite admonishing: for they would have undoubtedly preferred to save their pigs rather than have that demonized man delivered from his evil spirits. That is, first the material goods, which bring us money and ease, instead of a dignified life for a man who does not belong “to our class”. Because the man possessed by the evil spirit was nothing but a person that «night and day stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming and beating himself with stones» (Mk 5:5).

Quite often we run the risk to cling to what we own and get infuriated when we lose whatever material possessions we may have. Thus, we have the farmer despairing when he loses his crop, even if fully insured or the stock market investor who angers if his shares go down. On the other hand, few are those who actually anguish when they see millions of human beings, many of which may live next to us, living in extreme poverty or dying of hunger.

We have many places, businesses, cities, nations, families, and even churches where Jesus has been told to go away. As requested, Jesus left. However, He also has left us behind. We live in these cities and families. We work in these businesses and churches. Jesus is still present through us, the members of His body. We are to be "other Christs" in the Christ-less situations of our society. We are to be sacraments, signs of Christ's presence. We are to be walking tabernacles, invading the secular world by carrying within us God's presence.

Jesus always placed persons before anything else, even before the law and the powerful people of his time. But, just too often, we only think of us and of what we believe may bring us some happiness, despite the fact that selfishness never has brought any happiness to anyone. As the Brazilian Bishop Dom Helder Cámara would say: «Selfishness is the deepest root of all unhappiness. Your own and that of the whole world».

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product

Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible. - Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Mt 5:1-12): 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».

Surely, happiness is what we all are looking for in our life. And if we would ask anyone how is he trying to be happy, or where does he look for their own happiness, we should probably get many different answers. There would be those who would claim they only find happiness in solid Christian family principles; others, in being healthy and have a job; others, who revel in friendship and leisure time..., and then, there would be those more influenced by our consumer society, who would claim that happiness consists in having plenty of money to be able to acquire as many things as possible and, most of all, to reach the highest possible social status.

The beatitudes Jesus is proposing us are not, precisely, those our world today are offering us. The Lord says that «fortunate» will be those who are poor in spirit, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, those with a pure heart, those who work for the peace, those who are persecuted for the cause of justice... (cf. Mt 5:3-11).

This message by the Lord is addressed to those who want to live a life of unselfishness, of meekness, of desire for justice, of preoccupation and interest for the problems of their fellow men, and cast aside all the rest.

We can make a lot of good by praying, or by fraternally correcting those who criticize us for believing in God and belonging to the Church! Jesus clearly points this outs in the last beatitude: «Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers!» (Mt 5:11).

St. Basil says: «Beauty, nor stature, nor honors bestowed by all mankind, nor kingship itself, nor other human attribute that one might mention, do we judge great, nay, we do not even consider them worth praying for, nor do we look with admiration upon those who possess them, but our hopes lead us forward to a more distant time, and everything we do is by way of preparation for the other life».

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Do you still have no faith?

If you have faith in Christ, you will also have courage. If you do not have courage, it is because you do not have faith.

Gospel text (Mk 4:35-41): On that same day when eve­ning had come, Jesus said to them, «Let's go across to the other side». So they left the crowd and took him away in the boat he had been sitting in, and other boats set out with him. Then a storm gathered and it began to blow a gale. The waves spilled over into the boat so that it was soon filled with water. And Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. They woke him up and said, «Master, don't you care if we sink?».

As Jesus awoke, He rebuked the wind and ordered the sea, «Quiet now! Be still!». The wind dropped and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to them, «Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?». But they were terrified and they said to one another, «Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him!».

“Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” Why fear bodily harm, if you have faith? You might consider placing yourself as one of the disciples in this scene in contemplation, imagining how you would feel, how you would react to Jesus’ comments (rebukes?).

So, again, what is faith to you? Aquinas said, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” Gandhi stated, “There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” Patrick Overton described faith as follows: “When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”

Faith – in who? I suspect we all have experienced times when we have placed trust (faith?) in another person, or organization, or other human endeavor, only to experience disappointment, anger, frustration, when they inevitably let us down or don’t live up to our expectations. But God doesn’t disappoint us, never lets us down, and always exceeds our expectations.

What do you understand faith in God to mean? Is your faith ebbing, or flowing? Is your faith vibrant and pulsing, or is it shallow and perfunctory? Does your faith move you to act, to change your life, to be less worried, to be more open to God’s surprises? Does your faith move you closer to re-union with God?

At times in my life, my faith has been weaker than others. At times I have been un-faith-full to my call to strengthen and renew my relationship with God. But I can’t recall a time when God has given up on me. I can’t recall a time when there hasn’t been some small voice that reminds me to repair this broken relationship. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t yearned for more – understanding, solace, peace, joy – that comes from knowing God is there for me. I don’t question where this voice, this yearning comes from, I am only grateful that it is there, that it moves me to seek more, and to try harder, and move closer, to the one person in whom I know that my faith always will be safe.

And so my prayer today is for the grace to strengthen my faith, to be faith-full in seeking God, and to let go of the worry that I let creep into my life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Judge each day not by it's harvest, but by the seeds you plant

We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self. -- St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Gospel text (Mk 4:26-34): Jesus said, «In the kingdom of God it is like this. A man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting they take the sickle for the cutting: the time for harvest has come».

Jesus also said, «What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden and even grows branches so big that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade». Jesus used many such stories or parables, to proclaim the word to them in a way they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to his disciples he explained everything.

Today, Jesus is telling people about an experience very close to his life: «A man scatters seed upon the soil (…), the seed sprouts and grows (…). The soil produces of itself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear» (Mk 4:26-28). With these words Jesus is speaking of the kingdom of God , consisting «of sanctity and grace, Truth and Life, justice, love and peace» (Preface of the Solemnity of our Lord Christ the King), that He is bringing us. We must make this kingdom real. First, within each one of us; afterwards, for all our world.

In every Christian's, soul Jesus Christ has sown —by virtue of the Baptism— the grace, the sanctity, the Truth... It is necessary that these seeds sprout, grow and bear a multitude of good fruits, our deeds: deeds of service and charity, of kindness and generosity, of sacrifice to properly comply with our daily duty and to make happy those around us; deeds of constant prayer, of forgiveness and understanding, of effort to grow in virtue, of joy...

Thus, this Kingdom of God —that begins within each one of us— will extend to our family, to our people, to our society, to our world. Because, he who lives like that, «what does he do but prepare the path for God (...), so that the strength of grace fills him and the light of truth lights him up; so that his ways to God are always straight?» (Saint Gregory the Great).

The seed begins very small, «It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden» (Mk 4:31-32). But the force of God's will scatters it all over and makes it grow up with a surprising vigor. Jesus asks us today —as in the beginning of Christianity— to spread his kingdom throughout all the world.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single a candle

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

Gospel text (Mk 4:21-25): Jesus also said to the crowd, «When the light comes, is it to be put under a tub or a bed? Surely it is put on a lampstand. Whatever is hidden will be disclosed, and whatever is kept secret will be brought to light. Listen then, if you have ears!».

And he also said to them, «Pay attention to what you hear. In the measure you give, so shall you receive and still more will be given to you. For to the one who produces something, more will be given, and from him who does not produce anything, even what he has will be taken away from him».

Can you imagine someone placing a lit candle under a bed? Wouldn’t that be a foolish thing to do? This is what happens when we do not place all our love and knowledge at the service of our Faith. How unnatural of us to selfishly retreat into ourselves, by limiting our life to the scope of our own personal interests! To live under the bed!

On the other hand, the Gospel is an outburst of passionate Love that wants to communicate, that needs “to say”, and that carries along a demand of personal growth, of interior maturity and service to others. «If you say: Enough!, you are dead», saint Augustine says. And saint Josemaria Escrivà also says: «O Lord: let me have temperance and restraint in everything… except in Love!».

«Listen then, if you have ears!». And He also said to them, «Pay attention to what you hear» (Mk 4:23-24). But, what does it mean “to hear”?; what are we to hear? This is the great question we have to ask ourselves. It is an attitude of sincerity towards God that demands to know what we really want to do. And to find it out we must hear: we must pay attention to the hints of God. We have to enter into a dialogue with him to put an end to the “mathematics of measure”: «In the measure you give, so shall you receive and still more will be given to you. For to the one who produces something, more will be given, and from him who does not produce anything, even what he has will be taken away from him» (Mk 4:24-25). God's accrued interests, are unpredictable and extraordinary, so as to stimulate our generosity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Only God can make a tree, but we are in charge of the weeds

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. – Saint Basil

Gospel text (Mk 4:1-20): Jesus began to teach by the lake, but such a large crowd gathered about him that He got into a boat and sat in it on the lake while the crowd stood on the shore. He taught them many things through stories or parables. In his teaching he said, «Listen! The sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some of the seed fell along a path and the birds came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil; it sprang up immediately because it had no depth; but when the sun rose and burned it, it withered because it had no roots. Other seed fell among thorn bushes and the thorns grew and choked it, so it didn't produce any grain. But some seed fell on good soil, grew and increased and yielded grain; some produced thirty times as much, others sixty and others one hundred times as much». And Jesus added, «Listen then, if you have ears».

When the crowd went away, some who were around him with the Twelve asked about the parables. He answered them, «The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But for those outside, everything comes in parables, so that the more they see, they don't perceive; the more they hear, they don't understand; otherwise they would be converted and pardoned».

Jesus said to them, «Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those along the path where the seed fell are people who hear the word, but as soon as they do, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Other people receive the word like rocky ground. As soon as they hear the word, they accept it with joy, but they have no roots so it lasts only a little while. No sooner does trouble or persecution come because of the word, than they fall. Others receive the seed as among thorns. After they hear the word, they are caught up in the worries of this life, false hopes of riches and other desires. All these come in and choke the word so that finally it produces nothing. And there are others who receive the word as good soil. They hear the word, take it to heart and produce: some thirty, some sixty and some one hundred times as much».

Today, we hear our Lord teaching the “Sower's parable”. The example is highly topical. Our Lord is always “sowing”. Lots of people today also listen to Jesus through his Vicar —the Pope—, his ministers and... his faithful laymen and women: Christ has given a share in his priestly mission to all of us, who have been baptized. There is “hunger” for Jesus. Never before has our Church been so "Catholic" (Catholic - which means universal), men and women of all races and colors finding cover under its wings all over the world. He sent us all over the world (cf. Mk 16:15) and, despite the shadows of the panorama, this has become true in Jesus Christ's apostolic commandment.

The sea, the boat and the shore have been replaced by stadiums, screens and modern communication and transport means. However, Jesus today is no different than yesterday. Man and his urge to learn how to love have not changed either. Today, there are also some who, more directly, receive and understand the Word — by grace and free divine election, mysteriously... while, on the other hand, there are many who need more descriptive and deliberated explanations of the Revelation.

God, in any case, requests from both of us the fruits of sanctity. The Holy Spirit helps us but not without our personal cooperation. In the first place, diligence is needed. If we half react, that is, if we halt at the “border” of the road without fully going in, we shall be easy prey for Satan.

Secondly, we need perseverance in prayer —dialogue—, to be able to get a deeper knowledge and love for Jesus Christ: «Saint without praying...? —I do not believe in this sanctity» (Saint Josemaria Escrivà).

Finally, the spirit of poverty and self-abnegation, will prevent our “suffocating” on the way. Its better to be clear of that and live simply: «No one can serve two masters....» (Mt 6:24).

In the Virgin Mary we can find the best model of how to react to the God's call.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Conversion is not implanting eyes, for they exist already; but giving them a right direction, which they have not"

There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle, and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection. - Pope St. Gregory the Great

Gospel text (Mk 16:15-18): Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them, «Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned. Signs like these will accompany those who have believed: in my Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes and, if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed. They will lay their hands on the sick and they will be healed».

Today, the Church commemorates the conversion of St. Paul , apostle. The short fragment of the Gospel according to St. Mark contains part of the address on the mission bestowed to the apostles by Jesus, resurrected. His exhortation to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News includes the thesis that faith and baptism and necessary essentials for salvation: «The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned» (Mk 16:16). Furthermore, Christ guarantees that preachers will be given the faculty to work out miracles or prodigies which will support and confirm their missionary preaching (cf. Mk 17:18). The mission is big —«Go out to the whole world»—, but it will not be without the Lord's escort: «And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age» (Mt 28:20).

Today's collect, tells us: «O God, who, by the preaching of your apostle Paul, has caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: grant, we beseech you, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness to you for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught». A gospel God has allowed us to know and that so many souls would desire to have: we have the responsibility to transmit this wonderful heritage to whatever extent we are able to.

St. Paul 's conversion is a great event: from persecuting Jesus' followers he converted into a servant and defender of the cause of Christ. Quite often, perhaps, we have also been “persecutors”: and, as St. Paul , we need to convert from “persecutors” into servants and defenders of Jesus Christ.

So we reflect:

1) By his conversion Paul advanced from being blind to seeing with the eyes of Christ. So we ask ourselves: as this new congress begins are there people and political beliefs whose goodness we are blind to? Can we see how we have exercised our ‘right to be wrong’ and now need to be converted to Jesus’ way of love and mercy?
2) By his conversion Paul revealed the Spirit’s power to change us, and through us, to transform the world. So we ask: despite our occasional blindness and stubbornness, how has the Spirit used us/me as chosen instruments to make Jesus known and to change our immediate community---home, workplace and school—for the better?
3) By his conversion Paul encourages us to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. As Jesus left his disciples telling them to “go into the world and proclaim the gospel…” So it is our turn. As Mother Teresa noted: “today Christian women and men have to carry our Lord to places he has not walked before…” Are you/we up to that challenge?
4) By his conversion from prosecutor to believer, Paul became our mentor and teacher in the Christian faith; so we reflect: are we open enough to ask ourselves if we are prepared to experience a conversion in those areas of faith, behavior or attitude that need to be refocused on the love and mercy of the Lord?

With the Virgin Mary, we should realize the Almighty has also noticed us and has chosen us to share and carry out the priestly and redeeming mission of his divine Son: Regina apostolorum, Queen of the apostles, pray for us!; give us courage to bear witness of our Christian faith in this world of ours."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience

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

Gospel text (Mk 3:22-30): The teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem said, «He is possessed by Beelzebul: the chief of the demons helps him to drive out demons». Jesus called them to him and began teaching them by means of stories or parables, «How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive. In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished. No one can break into the house of the Strong one in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the Strong one. Then indeed, he can plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven: he carries the guilt of his sin forever».This was their sin when they said, «He has an evil spirit in him».

Today, when we read about this event in the Gospel we are more than a little surprised when «the teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem» recognize Jesus' compassion for the oppressed and witness the divine miracles with which He blesses them, but then say, «He is possessed by Beelzebub», and «the chief of the demons helps him to drive out demons» (Mk 3:22). It is surprising how even intelligent people permit personal and religious animosity to blind them to the good in others. These teachers were in the presence of Him who personified Goodness. They must have sensed, as did others, the unassuming Heart of Jesus, and they will have understood that they stood before One who was the only true Innocent. Yet, because of their intransigence, they obstinately refused to acknowledge him. Those who claim to be knowledgeable in the things of God, were those who not only did not recognize him, but who also accused him of being satanic.

While others might have retaliated in an angry outburst, or turned away from them and their contemptuous accusation, our Lord does not, for He knows that He must try to convince them of his divinity for the sake of their souls. As John Paul II has asserted, our Lord «is an insuperable testimony of patient loving and humble gentleness». His unlimited condescension brings Him to try to open their closed hearts by reasoning with them by parables, but to no avail. Finally, Jesus in the divine but stern authority of the Godhead warns them that their hard-heartedness is rebellion against the Holy Spirit, and that it will never be forgiven (cf. Mk 3:29). That rebellion remains unforgiven, not because God does not want to forgive, but because, to be forgiven, one must first recognize one's sin, which the rebellious will not do.

The Master knows that His followers also experience that same obstinacy, even when they are acting in good faith for the benefit of unbelievers. All of us will, at times, face the same kind of difficulties and rejection as Jesus did. When we do, let us remember Saint Terese of Jesus when she was leading her sisters closer to holiness.

Let us not, therefore, be surprised if we find in our path these contradictions. They will just be the sign we are following the right way of life. Let us then pray for these people and ask our Lord to give us the necessary patience.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Seek the truth - Listen to the truth - Teach the truth - Love the truth - Abide by the truth And defend the truth unto death

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” St. Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Mt 4:12-23): When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to settle down in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled: «Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live by the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans, listen: The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a light has shone». From that time on Jesus began to proclaim his message, «Change your ways: the kingdom of heaven is near».

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. Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

Today, Jesus teaches us a lesson of “holy prudence”, totally congenial with boldness and courage. Certainly, He —who is not afraid of promulgating the truth— decides to pull away when realizing that his enemies —as they had already done with John the Baptist— also want to kill him: «Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you» (Lk 13:31). —If his slanderers, whom He had spent his life doing well to, were trying to kill him, you should not be surprised if you, eventually, also suffer maltreatment, as the Lord already warned us.

«When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee» (Mt 4:12). It would be foolish to challenge danger without a commensurate reason. Only through prayer can we make out whether silence or abeyance or letting time go by, are symptoms of wisdom or of cowardice and lack of fortitude. Forbearance, the science of peace, will help making up serenely our mind in the difficult moments, provided we do not lose the supernatural vision.

«Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people» (Mt 4:23). Neither threats nor fear of what others may say can force us to retreat from doing good. Those of us who are called to become salt and light, workers of goodness and truth, cannot yield before extortion and threats that, more often than not, will be nothing but hypothetical or merely oral dangers.

Unwavering, fearlessly, without looking for any excuses to postpone for “to-morrow” our apostolic action. They say, «“to-morrow” is the adverb of the defeated». This is why St. Josemaría recommended «Here is a recipe to make your apostolic spirit effective: make definite plans, not for the whole week but for the day ahead, for this moment and the next».

To enthusiastically carry out God's will; to be righteous in any environment and to follow the ruling of our well shaped conscience, calls for a strength and might we have to request for all of us, because the danger of cravenness is great. —Let us beg our Holy Mother in Heaven to help us always, and in all instances, to abide by God's will, by imitating her heroic fortitude at the foot of the Cross.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Neutral men are the devil's allies

A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth - beware! - is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call. - Archbishop Oscar Romero

Gospel text (Mk 3:20-21): They went home. The crowd began to gather again and they couldn’t even have a meal. Knowing what was happening his relatives came to take charge of him: «He is out of his mind», they said.

Today, we see how Jesus' own relatives react «He is out of his mind» (Mk 3:21). Once again, the old proverb «only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor» (Mt 13:57), is seen to be true. It is unnecessary to say this complaint does not “taint” the Blessed Virgin Mary, because from the beginning to the last moment —when she was at the foot of the Cross— she always kept her unmovable faith and trust towards her Son.

But, what about us? Let us consider! How many, amongst our neighbors, or those closer to us, can we say light up our lives..., and what about us...? We do not have to go far: let us consider the Holy Father John Paul II: how many people followed him, and..., how many did not hesitate to accuse him of being an “stubborn old person”, jealous of his “power”? Is it possible that after two thousand years we still keep Jesus crucified on the cross for our salvation while we onlookers continually say «come down from the Cross so we may see and believe» (cf. Mk 15:32)?

Let us look at it another way! If we valiantly identify ourselves with Christ, our presence will not be neutral for those interacting with us for reasons of kinship, work, etc. What is more, for some, our presence will be a pain in the neck, because we shall be like a reminder for their conscience. We can be certain: «If they persecuted Me they will persecute you...» (Jn 15:20). With their mockery they will try to conceal their fears; with their disqualifications they will perform a poor defense of their “laziness”.

How many times we Catholics are being accused of “exaggerating”? We have to reply we are not. For it is impossible to exaggerate in matters of love. Instead, it is quite true we are “radical”, because love is just so “absorbent”: «it has to be either all or nothing»; «or love kills the I or the I kills love».

This is why the Holy Father spoke of “evangelic radicalism” and of “not being afraid”: «In the cause of the Kingdom we have no time to look backwards, and much less to let ourselves be carried away by laziness» (John Paul II).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Some wish to hear the word of God, others wish to receive it

"Many Christians have what we might call a "cultural holiness". They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God."

Gospel text (Mk 3:13-19): Jesus went up into the hill country and called those He wanted and they came to him. So He appointed twelve to be with him; and he called them apostles. He wanted to send them out to preach, and He gave them authority to drive out demons. These are the Twelve: Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom he gave the name Boanerges, which means “men of thunder”; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

"And what does God require of those He calls? He asks us to live close to him as we serve him, and in return, He promises to stay close to us. Yet, God speaks to each one of us individually and specifically. «One day perhaps an ordinary Christian, just like you, opened your eyes to horizons both deep and new, yet as old as the Gospel. He suggested to you the prospect of following Christ earnestly, seriously, of becoming an apostle of apostles. Perhaps you lost your balance then and didn't recover it. Your complacency wasn't quite replaced by true peace until you freely said “yes” to God, because you wanted to, which is the most supernatural of reasons. And in its wake came a strong, constant joy, which disappears only when you abandon him» (Saint Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer).

It is a blessing, but it is a blessing that can only be fully realized when we become holy through our willingness to serve, through prayer, and through the blessed sacraments. «All faithful Christians, of any kind and condition, are called to the plenitude of Christian life and to the perfection of charity; a sanctity that, also in our earthly society, contributes to humanize our way of life» (Vatican Council II).

This is how we learn of our apostolic mission of taking Christ to others. First, having him ourselves so that we can share him. Today, and every day, we must meditate upon the true nature of our call to vocation, answering his call with an increased love, born of our increased understanding of what He calls us to do and to be.

What demons would Jesus be driving out today? Whom would he be healing? With whom would he be eating? About what would he be preaching? What authorities would think he was mentally ill, threatening, or evil? Would I have the courage and faith to follow such a man when he called?

Of course, Jesus is calling each of us every day. We need to discern in our lives what that call is and if we are truly willing to accept it. Jesus' call looks different in different people's lives, but I believe that one way or another it involves dining with and caring for the poor and marginalized, loving, forgiving, healing, welcoming the stranger and the migrant, and tirelessly working for peace and justice."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves

"You should take up as your own cause a Holy Hour of Adoration so that Peace and Unity can be brought about in the Church." Pope Paul VI (1963 to 1978)

Gospel text (Mk 3:7-12): Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the lakeside and a large crowd from Galilee followed Him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem , Idumea, Transjordan and from the region of Tyre and Sidon , for they had heard of all that He was doing. Because of the crowd, Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him, to prevent the people from crushing Him. He healed so many that all who had diseases kept pressing towards Him to touch Him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw Him, would fall down before Him and cry out, «You are the Son of God». But He warned them sternly not to tell anyone who he was.

In today's Gospel we see that «A large crowd from Galilee followed him» and also «a great number of people» coming from other places (cf. Mk 3:7-8) are surrounding the Lord. And He paid heed to all procuring, without exception, their good. We have to keep this in mind during the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Let us realize how, throughout centuries, we Christians have divided ourselves into Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and a long etc. of Christian confessions. A historic sin against one of the essential points of our Church: its unity.

But, let us face today's ecclesial reality. Our bishopric's, our parish's, our Christian group's. Is "our own individualized" type of unity really a motive for conversion of those away from the Church? «that all of them may be one, … so that the world may believe» (Jn 17:21), pleaded Jesus to the Father.This is our challenge. That people all over may see a group of believers relate to one another, gathering by the Holy Spirit, under the Church of Christ : all the believers were one in heart and mind. (cf. Acts 4:32-34).

Let us remember that, as a fruit of the Eucharist, the unity of the Assembly is to manifest itself along with the union with Jesus who lives in each one of us, as we are fed by the same Bread to be a one and only body. Therefore, what the sacraments stand for, and the grace therein instilled, demand from us gestures of communion towards all others. Our conversion is to the Trinity unit (which is a gift coming from Heaven) and our sanctified task cannot avert the gestures of communion, of understanding, of welcome and forgiveness towards our brothers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted

"All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man." - Saint John Marie Vianney

Gospel text (Mk 3:1-6): Again Jesus entered the synagogue. A man who had a paralyzed hand was there and some people watched Jesus: Would he heal the man on the sabbath? If he did they could accuse him. Jesus said to the man with the paralyzed hand, «Stand here in the center». Then he asked them, «What does the Law allow us to do on the sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?». But they were silent. Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness because they had closed their minds. And he said to the man, «Stretch out your hand». He stretched it out and his hand was healed. But as soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod's supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.

Today, Jesus tells us we must always do good: there is no such thing as a time to do good and a time to overlook our love for others. The love we get through God brings us to the supreme Law, Jesus left with us, in the new commandment: «Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another» (Jn 13:34). Jesus neither repeals nor criticizes Moses' Law, inasmuch as He is the first one to comply with its precepts and go to the synagogue on the Sabbath; what Jesus criticizes is the narrow minded version of the Law by its masters and the Pharisees, an interpretation leaving little room for mercy.

This Gospel reading always catches me off guard, but perhaps it shouldn’t. It’s easy to picture the scene. Jesus enters the Temple to pray on the Sabbath and is confronted by the well-off, well-educated and powerful Pharisees. Then Jesus sees the man with the withered hand and weighs the prescription against working on the Sabbath against curing the man. Of course, Jesus chooses the higher good of healing the man and in so doing angers the Pharisees to the point that they begin to plot his death.

On the one hand, the reading astonishes me. I have a hard time imagining how human beings seeing such a wondrous sign could retreat behind technical rules and use that as a reason to condemn to death the man who was performing such a sign.

But the more I think about it, the less it astonishes me. Of all of the sins that plague us, pride may be one of the most common and among the worst. I know I battle it constantly. It is so easy – almost reflexive – to lash out against someone who criticizes us without bothering to consider whether the other person actually has a point. It’s hard, so very hard, for me to admit that perhaps I was wrong, or that someone else’s idea is better than mine. It’s harder yet when the other person is someone with whom I have a difficult personal relationship.

Although an extreme illustration, the Pharisees’ actions were brought on by sinful pride. They were exalted citizens of their time and then along came Jesus of humble origins to upstage and embarrass them. Instead of thinking about the deeper significance of a man who could do such things, they see red because their pride is wounded. It’s easy for us to do the same thing; to ignore the small signs and instead focus on how important we are. It’s a common human mistake, but often a tragic one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself"

“Law; an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community”. St. Thomas Aquinas

Gospel text (Mk 2:23-28): One sabbath Jesus was walking through grainfields. As his disciples walked along with him, they began to pick the heads of grain and crush them in their hands. Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, «Look! they are doing what is forbidden on the sabbath!». And He said to them, «Have you never read what David did in his time of need, when he and his men were very hungry? He went into the house of God when Abiathar was High Priest and ate the bread of offering, which only the priests are allowed to eat, and he also gave some to the men who were with him». Then Jesus said to them, «The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. So the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath».

Today, as yesterday, Jesus has to contend with the Pharisees, who are distorting Moses' Law, by highlighting the letter of the law while ignoring the actual spirit of the Law. The Pharisees accuse, indeed, Jesus' disciples of violating the Sabbath (cf. Mk 2:24). According to their overwhelming casuistry, to pick the heads of grain means “to reap”, while crushing them in their hands signifies “to thresh”: these agricultural tasks —and some forty other— were forbidden on the Sabbath, as a day of rest. As we already know, the breads of offering the Gospel speaks of, were twelve breads that were placed every week in the sanctuary table, as a tribute from the twelve tribes of Israel to their God and Lord.

The less important precepts of the Law have to give way before the most important ones; a ceremonial precept has to give way to a precept of the natural law; the precept of resting on the Sabbath should not, therefore, prevail over the basic needs of subsistence. The II Vatican Council, was inspired by the previous example, and to underline that people have to prevail over economic and social questions, says: «Social order and its progressive development have to subordinate always to persons' welfare, because things are made for man and not the other way round. The Lord pointed it out already when He said the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (cf. Mk 2:27)».

What about us? Like the Pharisees in today's passage, some of us have devoted years of our lives studying the Scriptures. Yet there are always deeper levels of meaning in the Word of God not yet open to us. Are we content with our current understanding of the Bible? Jesus longs to open our minds to the understanding of the Scriptures (see Lk 24:45), but we must desire understanding and wisdom. It's hard for Jesus to open if we don't bother to knock. Jesus says: "Knock, and it will be opened to you" (Mt 7:7).

Stay rooted in God's Word. Read and study it daily (Acts 17:11). Beg the Lord for an ever deeper desire to sit with Him and listen to His word (Lk 10:39). Whenever possible, read the daily Scriptures , mediate on them when praying the Rosary , and contemplate them when attending Eucharistic Adoration in the presence of Jesus, the Living Word (Heb 4:12), Who will unlock His word for you.

May God's word be the joy and the happiness of your heart (Jer 15:16).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving - Nothing can be more effective in uprooting sin

Spiritual fasting is not just about giving up food or other items, but it is about feeding the spirit through our obedience to God. - One must become empty before one can be filled

Gospel text (Mk 2:18-22): One day, when the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting, some people asked Jesus, «Why is it that both the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?». Jesus answered, «How can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them and on that day they will fast.

»No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear away from the old cloth, making a worse tear. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, for the wine would burst the skins and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!».

Today, we can see that, besides fasting on the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev 16:29-34), the Jewish people observe many other days of fasting, both public and private. Days of fast manifested mourning, penance, purification, preparation for a feast or a mission, demand of God's grace, etc. Pious Jews considered fasting an act of virtue of their religion which pleased God. One who fasts addresses God in an attitude of humility; he implores forgiveness for his separation from God while depriving himself of those things that often cause the separation.

That Jesus does not instill this practice into his disciples and followers comes as a surprise for John's disciples and for the Pharisees. They cannot understand it. But Jesus gives them a fundamental reason: «How can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?» (Mk 2:19). For Israel's prophets, the bridegroom signifies God himself, faithful Yahweh, and his divine love for men (in contrast to Israel, his not always so faithful spouse). Hence, Jesus is tantamount to Yahweh, and He here declares his divinity: he calls his disciples «the bridegroom's friends», and those who are with him do not need to fast for they are not separated from him.

The Church has remained faithful to Christ's teaching on fasting which, though coming from the prophets and even being a natural and spontaneous practice in many religions, our Lord confirms with a new meaning. Fasting can be used as preparation; it strengthens prayer and contemplation. Jesus fasts in the desert as a preparation for his public life.

Many poor people, not unacquainted with shabby clothes were among those who listened to our Lord. So too were vintners who certainly knew what happens when the new wine is put into old wineskins. Jesus reminds them all that they have to receive his message with a new spirit, one that breaks with conformity and the routines of jaded souls; Jesus proposes something entirely different, not another version of the Law, but a new life altogether.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Christ is gentle as a lamb - Why then are we afraid to approach him?

Our God is a gentle God, and will not advance unless we permit Him to do so, as He so honors our free will. - St Faustina

Gospel text (Jn 1:29-34): The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, «There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. It is he of whom I said: A man comes after me who is already ahead of me, for he was before me. I myself did not know him, but I came baptizing to prepare for him, so that he might be revealed in Israel».

And John also gave this testimony, «I saw the Spirit coming down on him like a dove from heaven and resting on him. I myself did not know him but God who sent me to baptize told me: ‘You will see the Spirit coming down and resting on the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’. Yes, I have seen! and I declare that this is the Chosen One of God».

Today, when seeing Jesus, we have heard John saying «There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world» (Jn 1:29). What may all those people have thought? And, what do we think, ourselves? In the celebration of the Eucharist we all pray «Lamb of God who remove the sins of the world / have mercy on us». And the priest invites the congregation to the Communion, by saying: «There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world...».

When John said, «this is the Lamb of God» we should have no doubts they all understood what he meant, as the lamb is a metaphor of messianic character that prophets like Isaiah had already used, and it was very well known to the good Israelites.

On the other hand, the lamb is the animal Israelites sacrifice to celebrate their Passover, marking freedom for the Israelites from the Egyptian slavery. The Pasch dinner consists of eating a lamb.

And even the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church state hat the lamb is a sign of purity, simplicity, goodness, and innocence... And Christ is Purity, Simplicity, Goodness, and Innocence. Saint Peter will say: «For you know that it was not with perishable things (…) but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect» (1Pet 1:18.19). And St. John, in the Revelation uses thirty times the word “lamb” to describe Christ. Jesus Christ is the lamb who takes away the sins of the world, which has been immolated to give us Grace. Let us fight to always live by Grace, to fight against sin, to hate it. The beauty Grace gives to the soul is so great that no treasure can compare with it. It makes us agreeable to God and worthy of being loved. This is why, the “Gloria” of the Mass mentions the peace of those men the Lord loves, of those who live by Grace.

John Paul II tells us, while urging us to live by the Grace the lamb has given us: «Pledge to live by the Grace. Jesus was born at Bethlehem precisely for that reason (...). To live by Grace is the supreme dignity, the ineffable joy, the guarantee of peace, the marvelous ideal».

Friday, January 14, 2011

The heart has reasons that reason does not understand

"Keep your heart pure. A pure heart is necessary to see God in each other. If you see God in each other, there is love for each other, then there is peace." Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Mk 2:1-12): Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that he was at home, so many people gathered that there was no longer room even outside the door.

While Jesus was preaching the Word to them, some people brought a paralyzed man to him. The four men who carried him couldn't get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralytic, «My son, your sins are forgiven».

Now, some teachers of the Law who were sitting there wondered within themselves, «How can he speak like this insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?».

At once Jesus knew through his spirit what they were thinking and asked, «Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man: ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say: ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins». And he said to the paralytic, «Stand up, take up your mat and go home».

The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God saying, «We have never seen anything like this!».

Today, we see the Lord surrounded once more by crowds: «so many people gathered that there was no longer room even outside the door» (Mk 2:2). His heart is melted by people's needs and makes him to bestow upon them as much relief as possible; by forgiving, teaching and healing them at the same time. He certainly offers them physical help (as in today's parable, by curing the paralytic), but —actually— He is intent on getting the very best for each one of us: the well-being of our soul.

Fortunately, the supporters of the physically impaired men in the Gospel did not give up but found a creative way to bring him to Christ’s attention. And Christ showed his divinity by forgiving him his sins and underscored his divine authority by healing the man. While the reading guides our attention to Christ’s divine powers, the reading also says something about the Church. For it is only through the Church that we can revive this miracle, often, through the Sacrament of Confession. With the words of forgiveness said by the minister of God («I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit») Jesus —discreetly— accords us once more the external guarantee of remission of our sins, a guarantee that is tantamount to the spectacular cure of the paralytic of Capernaum.

In addition, keep in mind that sometimes within the Church, we lose sight of what is going on around us and we forget that it is our mission to be witnesses of the Good News. Instead, we sometimes overlook the human suffering around us. We forget Christ’s preferential option for the marginalized and suffering. None will deny that it is important to focus on Christ and be united in faith when we gather for religious services and pray together. The reading from the letter to the Hebrews makes this very clear: “But the word that they heard did not profit them, for they were not united in faith with those who listened.” (Heb 4:5) However, it is also important to put our eyes on the world around us: listening to Christ and being united in faith with each other should sharpen our eyes to see the human suffering around us, to increase our desire to alleviate it, and to commit ourselves to serve the marginalized in our society and globally.

Let us look at our world today with open eyes and a pure heart for those who need our support. Blessed are the pure of heart - for they shall see the face of God. A good monthly confession is the best way to purify our hearts. Then, little by little, you will see Christ in everyone!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

He jealously awaits us daily in prayer

Without a daily prayer life we have neither light nor strength to advance in the ways which lead to God

Gospel text (Mk 1:29-39): As soon as Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. As Simon's mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told Him about her. Jesus went to her and taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits: the whole town was pressing around the door. Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but he did not let them speak, for they knew who he was.

Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where He prayed. Simon and the others went out, too, searching for him; and when they found him they said, «Everyone is looking for you». Then Jesus answered, «Let's go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came». So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues throughout Galilee ; he also cast out demons.

Today, we are clearly shown how Jesus split his working hours. On one hand He prayed and, on the other, He consecrated time to his mission of praying with words and deeds. Contemplation and Action. Prayer and Work. Being with God while amongst men.

We indeed see Jesus dedicated in body and soul to his task as Messiah and Savior: He cures the sick, as Saint Peter's mother in law and many others; He comforts the sad ones, drives out demons and preaches. People bring him the ailing and those with evil spirits. And they all want to hear his words. His disciples tell him: «Everyone is looking for you» (Mk 1:37). More often than not He surely had an exhausting activity that did not give him even time to breathe. But, at the same time, Jesus also had to look for some lonely place where He could pray: «Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where He prayed» (Mk 1:35). In other Gospels we can also find Jesus devoted to praying in different hours and even at night. He knew how to distribute his time, so that his working days would have a proper balance between work and prayer.

We often say: —I have no time! We are so busy with our homework, our professional activity, the countless tasks in our agenda... So, quite often, we believe we should be relieved from our daily prayers. We do a lot of important things, but often run the risk of forgetting the absolutely necessary one: prayer. We have to establish a balance to be able to do the former without neglecting the latter.

Saint Francis brings it up like that: «We must faithfully and devotedly work, without extinguishing the spirit of the holy prayer and devotion which the worldly things must be submitted to».

Maybe we should organize ourselves a little bit better. Discipline us, by “domesticating” our time. Certainly, what is important must be done. But what is necessary should be an absolute must.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What “Authority” governs your life?

"His authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His presence with us leaves us no other choice."

Gospel text (Mk 1:21-28): Jesus and his disciples went into the town of Capernaum and began to teach in the synagogue during the Sabbath assemblies. The people were astonished at the way he taught, for he spoke as one having authority and not like the teachers of the Law. It happened that a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue and he shouted, «What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: You are the Holy One of God». Then Jesus faced him and said with authority, «Be silent and come out of this man!». The evil spirit shook the man violently and, with a loud shriek, came out of him.

All the people were astonished and they wondered, «What is this? With what authority he preaches! He even orders evil spirits and they obey Him!». And Jesus' fame spread throughout all the country of Galilee .

Today, first Tuesday in Ordinary Time, Saint Mark presents Jesus while teaching in the synagogue and, immediately, he comments: «The people were astonished at the way he taught, for he spoke as one having authority and not like the teachers of the Law» (Mk 1:21). This is quite an extraordinary initial notice. On one hand, what His listeners admire is certainly not the doctrine but the Master; it is not what is said, but Who says it. And, on the other hand, it is not the preacher as much but, rather, specifically who He is: Jesus taught «as one having authority», that is, with legitimate and unimpeachable power. Later on, this particularity is reconfirmed with a straight comparison: «He did not do it like the teachers of the Law».

A little later, though, the scene of the man with an evil spirit integrates the doctrinal lesson with an admirable motivation: «What is this? With what authority he preaches a new Law!» (Mk 1:27). Notwithstanding, we may as well note the qualifying adjective does not refer so much to the contents as it does to the uniqueness: the doctrine is “new”. Here we find another reason of contrast: Jesus communicates something unheard of (never ever this word could be better applied).

We still add a third remark. His authority comes also from the fact Jesus «even orders evil spirits and they obey Him!». We are facing here such a deep contrast as in the other two previous ones. To the Master's authority and to the newness of His doctrine we must add His power against evil spirits.

Brothers! Our faith tells us this Liturgy of the Word makes us contemporaries of what we have just heard and comment on. What does that have to do with us? I think that it is very simple: we too must first let the word (Word) of God become the very nourishment of our lives and guide us in every way. We need to study it, pray it, love it, let it be our Law. We also need to constantly pray for the Spirit to bring that word (Word) to active life within us. And, thirdly, we must ourselves speak and act with and in the power and authority of that word (Word), not in a domineering or critical way but by letting our light (God's light) shine in all that we are and do and say, letting our very lives show the presence of God within us, revealing what God actually means to us and how much we have become His servants and handmaidens, how truly we are His children and resemble Him.

And then God will make Himself known to others through us and will Himself cast out the demons that we encounter in ourselves and others.

Monday, January 10, 2011

You change your life by changing your heart

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself - Leo Tolstoy

Gospel text (Mk 1:14-20): After John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, «The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News». As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee , he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, «Follow me, and I will make you fish for people». At once, they left their nets and followed Him. Jesus went a little farther on and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately, Jesus called them and they followed Him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.

Today, the Gospel invites us to change: «Change your ways and believe the Good News» (Mk 1:15). Change to what? It would perhaps be better to say, to whom? To Christ! This is how He said it: «Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me» (Mk 10:37). To change means to gratefully receive the gift of Faith and live a life of love and service. To change means to accept Christ as our only Lord and King of our hearts, so that we become a useful servant to Him. To change implies discovering Christ in every event in human history —and in our own personal history too— while realizing He is the origin, the core and the end of all History and that everything has been redeemed by Him and, in Him, everything attains its maximum plenitude. To change also implies living with hope, for He has defeated Sin, the Evil One and Death, and the Eucharist is His guarantee.

To change also involves loving Our Lord more than anything else in this world, with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. To change postulates to deliver our intelligence and our will to Him, in such a way that the Episcopal motto of the Holy Father, John Paul II, Totus tuus, that is, All yours, my God, is made true by our lives. And all, means time, qualities, possessions, illusions, projects, health, family, work, leisure, everything. Therefore, to change requires to love God's will in Christ over all things while enjoying it, which means to be grateful for whatever He may care to send us, even if it is contradictions, humiliations or ailments, and take them as treasures which allow us express more clearly our love for God: if You want it like that, so do I!

As it happened with the apostles Simon, Andrew, James and John, changing means to leave «immediately the nets» and follow Him (cf. Mk 1:18), once we hear His voice. After all, those who fish a lot catch a lot of fish.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on

Just as a man cannot live in the flesh unless he is born in the flesh, even so a man cannot have the spiritual life of grace unless he is born again spiritually. This regeneration is effected by Baptism: "Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" [Jn 3:5]. St. Thomas Aquinas

Gospel text (Mt 3:13-17): At that time Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, and said, «How is it you come to me: I should be baptized by you!». But Jesus answered him, «Let it be like that for now that we may fulfill the right order». John agreed. As soon as he was baptized, Jesus came up from the water. At once, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God come down like a dove and rest upon Him. At the same time a voice from heaven was heard, «This is my Son, the Beloved; he is my Chosen One».

Today, we contemplate the Messiah —the Anointed— by the river Jordan «to be baptized by him [John]» (Mt 3:13). And we can see Jesus Christ as betokened by the visible physical occurrence of the Holy Spirit and, through audible words, by the Father, who proclaims of Jesus the following: «This is my Son, the Beloved; he is my Chosen One» (Mt 3:17). Here, we have a marvelous motive and, at the same time, an encouraging incentive to live a life: to be beloved and chosen by the Heavenly Father. To enthrall the Father!

Somehow, we already request it in the collect prayer of today's mass: «Almighty and eternal God (...), turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness, that we may be ready to meet you in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ». God, who is infinitely good, “loves us well” all the time. But, do we allow him to?; Are we worthy of his divine benevolence?; Do we correspond to this benevolence?

To deserve such divine benevolence and complacence, Christ has provided the waters with a regenerating and purifying strength, so that, when baptized, we truly become sons of God. «Maybe someone will wonder: ‘why did He want to be baptized, if He is Holy? Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ was baptized not to be made holy by the waters, but to make holy the waters’» (St Maximus of Turin).

All this —undeservedly! — places us in a connatural level with divinity. But this first regeneration does not suffice: we need to experience the Baptism once more through a kind of continuous “second baptism”, which is our spiritual rebirth. Parallel to the Rosary's first Mystery of Light —Christ's Baptism in the Jordan river— we must contemplate Mary's example in the fourth Joyful Mystery: Purity of Heart. She, Immaculate, and a pure virgin, is quite willing to submit herself to the purification process. We crave for the simplicity, sincerity and humility that allow us to constantly live our purification as a sort of “second baptism”.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity

In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.--St. Thomas Aquinas

(Gospel Luke 5: 12-16) It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was;
and when he saw Jesus,
he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said,
“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”
Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
And the leprosy left him immediately.
Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but
“Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing
what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
The report about him spread all the more,
and great crowds assembled to listen to him
and to be cured of their ailments,
but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.

Who wouldn’t want to be healed?

It’s not surprising that crowds connected with Jesus’ healing ministry. I would have been there. You?

I find that there’s a sneaky element in these healings that really make life more complicated. Ready?

First, consider what might characterize the attitude of a leper. What feelings might drive such a person? How about: fear of being discovered and rejected; resentment at being excluded; shame at one’s physical appearance.

My question is this: When Jesus healed the leper of his disease, did he heal him also of his dis-ease? In other words, what if Jesus’ healing took care of the physical symptoms without dealing with the inner processes that were connected to leprosy?

So, what’s it like for a leper to be reintroduced into his/her community? That’s the upshot of Jesus’ command that sent him to the priests to “show himself.” The proof of healing opened the door for his reentry into relationship with family and friends.

What if this healed leper was very much at the same time still wounded in his spirit? How would that play out when moving back into relationship with others? What sort of havoc would resentment, fear, embarrassment, shame, and the like wreak back in relationships?

Physical healing seems to be the prelude that incites the community to enter into the healing process of receiving a member back who won’t fit in right away. Thus the community will have to undergo soul searching for it to see what its own needs for healing are and how all can respond to this turn of events.

That seem sneaky? Perhaps the hope many of us hold out for healing is actually a prelude to deeper healing as old relationships struggle to become new.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society

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

1 John 4: 19 – 5: 4 “Beloved, we love God because he first loved us….This is the commandment we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother…”

Psalm 72: 1-2, 9-10“…Lord, every nation on earth will adore you …”

Luke 4:14 - 22a “…’Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’…”

There are a couple of lessons in our readings today; one is a subject I think about sometimes myself. It is the basic question about why we/I believe in the Risen Lord? Why do I believe in the Catholic/Christian Faith? Today’s scriptures are one of the many that answers that question for me; and it is found in a single word or phrase, which describes the crowd’s reaction to their encounter with Jesus. In Luke it says they were “amazed” and he was “praised by all”. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to meet someone who moved you just because of their spirituality. Somehow you knew you were in the presence of holiness. For me it was an encounter with an old Missionary of Charity sister on Good Friday in the Bronx ( New York ). The sister had to have been in her late 80’s early 90’s and her body showed every bit of her age and labor for the Lord. When I looked into the face of this old woman, she simply glowed! Her eyes were on fire and her smile was radiant! It was a complete contradiction to how worn down her body was.

As the Good Friday Service progressed, and each of us, one by one went up to venerate the cross, a young Missionary of Charity sister was assigned to help this old sister up to the alter. Watching the two of them struggle up to the cross, resulted in me weeping in my pew. God is real and holiness is tangible!

That feeling of awe is how I imagine many of the people who heard Jesus talk back in his day might have been feeling. I don’t think about their credibility, you know they’re just like the everyday people of today, except they knew the earlier scripture prophesies (better than we do).

First Jesus read from the Prophet Isaiah and then He said “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) He had just told them “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19) The people were said to be amazed. And that describes the way I felt, amazed at the encounter with the old Missionary of Charity Sister, whose body was broken but the radiance of Christ could be perceived from her face on that Good Friday in the South Bronx .

So, today’s first lesson is easy to answer, but the second is a little harder, because a little further down in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says no prophet is accepted in his own native place, and so this encounter speaks of a second lesson, not to get distraught when your own family, or fellow co-workers and friends don’t appreciate that faith. Jesus had the same trouble as did others along the way. Jesus kept moving and spreading the Gospel. People were encountering Truth and Love, and some people just weren’t open to it. The first reading reminds us to love God and brother/sister. “…whoever is begotten by God conquers the world and the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” (1 John 5:4) We are asked to love as he loved, and in this week of Epiphany, might we allow ourselves to imagine the awe of the Magi who encountered the King of the Universe, and think about how far they traveled to have that experience. God Bless.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful. Deeds are precious"

Saying you believe in Jesus is the easy part – It’s the “living it” that proves it - The proof is in the pudding.........

For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another.... If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. (1 John 3) But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth ?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." (John 1)

It is not enough for us to say: "I love God," but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me. – Mother Teresa

We continue to celebrate Christmas by continuing to open our hearts to receive what we've been given by Christmas. It's like discovering new wrapped gifts, newly discovered and unopened. The invitation to "Come and see" what is still being offered us is so important these days.

How do we keep discovering the gifts? I think we are invited to go and to look in surprising places. We are invited to go to those places where we least expect to find an encounter with the divine. Notice how Nathanael discounts Jesus, simply because he's from the sleepy town of Nazareth : "Can anything good come from Nazareth ?"

We may think that no good can come from taking a hard look at our anxieties, or our fears, or at the anger in our hearts. We may ask, "What good can come from looking at the primary relationship in my life? What's going to possibly change there?" We might not have the imagination or the hope to look at how we live, what basic habits define our lives or what patterns tend to define our sinfulness. There may be dozens of "places" in our hearts which are simply "off limits" to our reflection.

Christmas comes alive again for us this week or whenever we can let God be with us, especially in the messy or challenging places of our lives. When my fears can be the stable and the manger into which Jesus is born, I receive a great Christmas gift.

What do we do? We follow the invitation: "Come and see." We let our Lord show us the seemingly unlikely places of encounter, discovery, incarnation. For example, we might ask, "What were the places which were tough over the Christmas holidays? Where did I feel hurt, bruised, upset?" When we come to those places, with eyes open to discover a Savior waiting for us there, we see his presence. We discover we are loved there. We experience a healer binding our wounds. We reflect upon his own coming in smallness, his own bonding with the poor and broken-hearted and we feel closer to Jesus. Finally, in that place of grace, we can hear the call to love others the same way - to see brokenness in others as an opportunity to love them.

Imagine what a sustaining Christmas gift it would be if we could look at our relationship with our spouse as the manger into which Jesus is looking for the opportunity to come and give life. A stable is a messy and sometimes unpleasant place. We can ask, "How will anything clean up, fix up this mess? It's been bad for a long time; how can I do it alone?" If we let Jesus into my hurt or anger, to my disappointment and fear, we can begin to believe that I can be healed by his presence and that he can give me the grace to forgive and to heal and to love my spouse because he/she needs healing and loving.

So our prayer during this Christmas season can be, "Keep coming, Lord Jesus. We still need you."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What are you looking for.................. Really?

"To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living but existing." – Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Gospel text (Jn 1:35-42): As John was standing with two of his disciples, Jesus walked by, and John looked at him and said, «There is the Lamb of God». On hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. He turned and saw them following, and He said to them, «What are you looking for?». They answered, «Rabbi (which means Master), where are you staying?». Jesus said, «Come and see». So they went and saw where he stayed and spent the rest of that day with him. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard what John had said and followed Jesus. Early the next morning he found his brother Simon and said to him, «We have found the Messiah» (which means the Christ), and he brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, «You are Simon, son of John, but you shall be called Cephas» (which means Rock).

“What are you looking for,” which is another way of saying, “What do you want”? Like so many people throughout the ages who are attracted to Jesus but do not know what they want, these followers said, and I paraphrase it the way I understand it, “Uh, well, we, um, where are you staying?” Really? That is what they want? They are following Jesus merely because they are curious as to where he lives? I take it that they did not really know what to say. They knew they wanted something from Jesus but did not yet know what. Jesus’ response? “Come and you will see.” Sure, they saw where he was staying but when Andrew found his brother Simon he did not say, “We found out where a great Rabbi lives.” No, he said, “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew is one of the great evangelists of the gospels. He follows Jesus, sees for himself, shares what he has found with others, brings them to Jesus, and then steps back and lets Jesus do his work. Like Jesus, he says, “Come and see.”

Exalted, they feel the urge to communicate what they have seen and lived to the first ones they may meet: «We have found the Messiah!» (Jn 1:41). Many saints have also done it similarly. St. Francis of Assisi , love wounded, went about streets and squares, hamlets and woods, shouting: «Love is not loved!».

In our Christian life, the essential part is to allow Jesus to gaze into us, to go and see where he stays, to stay with him and to share. And, afterwards, to announce it. This is the way and procedure followed by the disciples and saints. It is our way.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Wise Fool: John the Baptist Leads the Way

A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the Lord" (Isaiah 40:3)

Gospel text (Jn 1:29-34): John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, «There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. It is he of whom I said: ‘A man comes after me who is already ahead of me, for he was before me’. I myself did not know him, but I came baptizing to prepare for him, so that he might be revealed in Israel ». And John also gave this testimony, «I saw the Spirit coming down on him like a dove from heaven and resting on him. I myself did not know him but God who sent me to baptize told me: ‘You will see the Spirit coming down and resting on the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’. Yes, I have seen! and I declare that this is the Chosen One of God».

Today, this fragment of Saint John's Gospel shows a characteristic testimonial dimension. A witness is somebody who declares somebody else's identity. John the Baptist is introduced as the prophet par excellence who states Jesus' centrality. Let's look at it from different perspectives.

Firstly he states, like a seer: «There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world» (Jn 1:29). Later on, he says: «It is he of whom I said: A man comes after me who is already ahead of me, for he was before me» (Jn 1:30). He then confirms it because he is very aware of the mission he has been assigned: «I myself did not know him, but I came baptizing to prepare for him, so that he might be revealed in Israel » (Jn 1:31). And finally, as the prophet that he is, he states: «I myself did not know him but God, who sent me to baptize, told me: ‘You will see the Spirit coming down and resting on the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’. Yes, I have seen! And I de¬clare that this is the Chosen One of God» (Jn 1:33-34).

Given this testimony, which has kept the very same energy within the Church it had 2.000 years ago, we should ask ourselves: Do I contemplate Jesus as the One who is going to save me from moral evil in a society, which denies sin? Do I believe in Him as the One who has always existed, before John, before the world was created as opposed to the current of belief that places Him as simply an extraordinary religious figure? In a world with a thousand opinions and ideologies, do I accept Jesus as the One that makes my life something true? In the middle of a civilization, which disregards faith, do I adore Jesus as the One in whom the Spirit of God lies?

And one last question: Is my “yes” to Jesus, so absolute that I, like John, can say to the people I know: «I can tell you that Jesus is the Son of God!»?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

And they departed for their country by another way……How about you?

Christianity is not “a new philosophy or a new form of morality,” but an encounter with the person of Christ, an event that ignites a personal relationship with Him. Pope Benedict XVI

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

“They departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:12). Why? I tell you, they returned home by another way not simply because of the warning of the angel, but because they could no longer return by the same way they had come. In their encounter with Christ Jesus, everything changed in the moment of adoration, and nothing would ever be the same again.

The Magi said to King Herod: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matthew 2:11). To see the star at the moment it ascended the heavens the Magi must have been watching for it and waiting for it intently. Why spend so much time and energy looking for some sign in the heavens? They were restless, weary, uncertain, and ill at ease. Perhaps without realizing it the Magi knew that what Saint Augustine said is true: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”[1] In this way they awaited the advent of God himself.

We today are not the same as the Magi, and yet we are not too different from them, either.

It is true that we are no longer looking for a king, but we are concerned for the state of the world and we are asking: “Where do I find standards to live by, what are the criteria that govern responsible cooperation in building the present and the future of our world? On whom can I rely? To whom shall I entrust myself? Where is the One who can offer me the response capable of satisfying my heart’s deepest desires”?
[2]These are the very questions the Magi asked as they saw the rising of the star. Are they not the same questions we ask?

The Magi abandoned everything they owned and left their homes to be guided by the light of the star, all in the hopes of finding the fulfillment and the answer to all of the deepest longings and desires of their hearts.

Like the Magi, all believers – and young people in particular – have been called to set out on the journey of life in search of truth, justice and love. We must seek this star, we must follow it. The ultimate goal of the journey can be found only through an encounter with Christ, an encounter which cannot take place without faith.
[3]When we, like the Magi, set out on this journey we, too, will learn that the answer to our deepest yearning is not a thing, but a person. My dear friends, “the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity!”[4]

The Magi felt within their hearts the call of Jesus before they left their homes. Within their hearts they found him and so they set off to meet him because, as Pope Benedict reminds us, “The better you know Jesus, the more his mystery attracts you. The more you discover him, the more you are moved to seek him.”[5]

Arriving at Bethlehem, then, the Magi found him whom they sought and they did what Herod simply refused to do: “they prostrated themselves and did him homage” (Matthew 2:11). Why fall down before this Child? What power has he? He has the power of love. Christ Jesus conquers not with military or political might, but with the tremendous power of love, a love that knows no bounds, a love that is stronger than even death itself. Standing before the one who is Love itself, who abandoned the glory of heaven to be born in a filthy stable, the Magi could stand no longer; they had to bow down before him, they had to give him more than their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Now they have to learn to give themselves – no lesser gift would be sufficient for this King. Now they have to learn that their lives must be conformed to this divine way of exercising power, to God’s own way of being. They must become men of truth, of justice, of goodness, of forgiveness, of mercy. They will no longer ask: How can this serve me? Instead, they will ask: How can I serve God’s presence in the world? They must learn to lose their life and in this way to find it. Having left Jerusalem behind, they must not deviate from the path marked out by the true King, as they follow Jesus.
[6]And so, “they departed for their country by another way” because everything was now different, and for the better.

I ask you then: how has your encounter with Christ Jesus this Christmas changed you? For some I should ask: have you encountered Christ Jesus this Christmas?

The star shines brightly within our hearts even now and in only a few moments, he will come to us. “Present on the altar [will be] the One whom the Magi saw lying in the manger: Christ, the living bread who came down from heaven to give life to the world, the true Lamb who gives his own life for the salvation of mankind.”[7]

We have today a great choice to make: we can either, like the Magi, humble ourselves before the One who humbled himself for us; or, like Herod, we can refuse to be conquered by the power of Love. Herod feared to lose his kingdom to this Baby; what do you fear to lose? The Magi hoped to receive happiness, joy, peace, forgiveness, mercy, and love; what do you hope to gain? Which will you choose: the way of Herod or the way of the Magi? No one encounter Christ Jesus and remain the same as before.

Everything must yield to him. I urge you strongly: Do not be afraid of Christ! Yield to the power of his love and give your life to him. He takes nothing away and he gives you everything! Follow the light of the faith of the Magi – just as they followed the light of the Star – and you will find the only source of happiness for humanity: Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary. Amen.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Making Choices: I Firmly Resolve!

'For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love. That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then with God's help you will conquer. There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome.' (St. Jose Maria Escriva, The Forge, 344)

"New Years Eve is a great existential moment, ripe with expectations. It invites a spiritually cathartic time of reflection, offers hope for change and invites us to make choices. In reality, it is our choices which will make us. Over the years I have realized that every end really can become a beginning, for the man or woman who has faith in the God who invites us to begin again, again and again...

We all want to change as we end one year and look to a new one. In a rare moment of near universal reflection and honest self assessment, we admit our failures. We pledge to learn from them and move toward a better future.

On this New Year's eve, I pray that in the Year of Our Lord, 2011, we may all find the fullness of grace which comes through a living relationship with the One who makes all things new (Rev 21), Jesus Christ. There is a universal longing in every human heart to be made new, to begin again. In and through Jesus Christ, there is also a way. How deeply we want to be made new. There is Good News! We truly can! St. Paul reminded the Christians in the City of Corinth - and reminds every one of us "whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Cor. 5:17)"

Happy New Year!