Monday, February 28, 2011

What are you holding back from God?

There is no other remedy for your ills but patience and submission to the Will of God. St. Margaret Mary

Gospel text (Mk 10:17-27): Just as Jesus was setting out on his journey again, a man ran up, knelt before him and asked, «Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?». Jesus answered, «Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honor your father and mother». The man replied, «I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood». Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him and he said, «For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me». On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, «How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God !». The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, «Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God ! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God ». They were more astonished than ever and wondered, «Who, then, can be saved?». Jesus looked steadily at them and said, «For humans it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God».

Today’s Gospel is one of the most famous and one of the hardest to live out. A man asks Jesus what it takes to gain eternal life. Jesus gives the typical answer of the Ten Commandments. Follow those and you should be good, right? That’s what the man thinks, and that is what he answers. Yet Jesus, as he does throughout the Gospels, takes what the people have known one step further. He says, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Basically, 'give up everything you have, give up your very self and come follow me.' The man leaves, disheartened, because he doesn’t think he can do this.

Nobody can doubt of the good intentions of that man who knelt down before Jesus Christ to ask him: «Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?» (Mk 10:17). St. Mark tells us that it is clear that in the man's heart there was a need for something else, for we must assume that —as a good Israelite— he knew quite well what the Law said, but, deep inside him, he felt an uneasiness, a need to go further on and, hence, his questioning Jesus.

In our Christian life we must learn to master that tendency we have to consider our faith just as a mere matter of fulfillment. Our faith is much more than that. It is a sincere adhesion to Someone's heart, Someone who is God. When we set our heart upon something, we also place our life therein and, in the case of our faith, we then overcome the conformism that seems to grip the existence of so many believers. He who truly loves is never satisfied with giving just anything. He who loves is seeking a close and personal relationship; he takes advantage of the smallest details and knows how to discover in everything an opportunity to grow in his love. He who loves surrenders himself.

In fact, Jesus' reply to that man is an open door to his total deliverance to love: «Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me» (Mk 10:21). It is not a matter of quitting everything for the sake of it; it is actually quitting to abandon oneself into Jesus' hands and it is abandoning oneself because that is a the genuine expression of one's loving. It would be great if our relation with God is of such a magnitude. To pray, to serve, to work, to excel, to sacrifice oneself... all these are forms of deliverance and, consequently, forms of love. Let the Lord find in ourselves not only a sincere heart, but also a generous heart open to the demands of love. Because —as John Paul II said— «the love which comes from God, a tender and spousal love, gives rise to profound and radical demands».

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A coin can not be “HEADS” and “TAILS” at the same time

There are two gates, two roads, but only ONE WAY leads to life! ..... CHOOSE LIFE!

Gospel text (Mt 6:24-34): Jesus said to his disciples, «No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate one and love the other, or he will be loyal to the first and look down on the second. You cannot at the same time serve God and money.

»This is why I tell you not to be worried about food and drink for yourself, or about clothes for your body. Is not life more important than food and is not the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, they do not harvest and do not store food in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than birds? Can any of you add a day to your life by worrying about it?

»Why are you so worried about your clothes? Look at the flowers in the fields how they grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his wealth was clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass in the field which blooms today and is to be burned tomorrow in an oven, how much more will he clothe you? What little faith you have! Do not worry and say: What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? Or: what shall we wear? The pagans busy themselves with such things; but your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart first on the kingdom and justice of God and all these things will also be given to you. Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own».

This text from Mathew is very optimistic, it allows us to contemplate a Son who is proud of his own Father because He is a provider and constantly looks out for the welfare of His creation. We should share in Jesus’ optimism so as we can stand firm in hope —«Do not worry» (Mt 6:31)— when we come across difficult situations in our lives. It should also be an incentive to us to be a source in a world that needs to live true charity, in other words, love in action.

In the broadest sense, we are told that we should be the feet, the hands, eyes and the mouth of Jesus in the middle of the world, but, in terms of charity this is even more profound: we must be charity itself, and the Father will provide from heaven. We human beings are called to make the providence of God a reality by being sensitive and helping those most in need.

In the words of Benedict XVI, «those men, who have the love of God in them, are converted into instruments of Gods charity and weave a web of charity». But the Holy Father also reminds us that charity must always be accompanied by the Truth that is Christ, so as it is not converted into mere philanthropic deeds, that are bare of any Christian spiritual sense that is typical of those of us who live by the teaching of the Master.

The gospel reading today also makes a not so optimistic claim, “O you of little faith.” It is easy to ignore the blessings bestowed upon us in the daily rush of our lives. Finding any time to recognize God’s hand is a struggle.

Yet I find comfort knowing that God never forgets us. While we are all very human, and thus prone to forgetting and ignoring much of the world around us, God remains steadfast. We are never forgotten, never ignored, because we are God’s creations – the infants a mother can never forget , as Isaiah beautifully notes.

We may fall into darkness and ignore God’s love. Yet through his son, light will illuminate the love we’ve hidden in darkness. Even creatures of little faith find glorious love in God and his son. Never give up!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Old men can make war, but it is children who will make history

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

Gospel text (Mk 10:13-16): People were bringing their little children to Jesus to have him touch them, and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, He was very angry and said, «Let the children come to me and don't stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it».

Then He took the children in his arms and laying his hands on them, blessed them.

This notion of God as a father figure to humans continues into the Gospel for today. Jesus is portrayed as a father to all of the children—probably not necessarily children in a literal sense, but rather those who wanted to live as children of God. When it says, “Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it,” I think the scripture may be referencing what is typically thought of as a child’s innocence and purity of heart. Anyone who desires to live a life in God should not be held back like some of the people in today’s Gospel were, but should instead be allowed to be free and live a life fulfilling God’s covenant.

We must learn the art of receiving the Kingdom of God. He who is like a child can easily perceive that everything is a gift, a grace. From our smallness we should be open to receive. And, “to receive” God's favor, we must listen and contemplate with “receptive silence”. St. Ignatius of Antioch, to the Ephesians noted « He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognized by his silence».

What is it about “little children” that captured Jesus’ imagination?

Children are honest and express themselves easily or “say what they think”. Adults may think the same things, i.e., “that food tastes like dog poop…that hat is ugly…etc”, but we would not dare to say it aloud.

Little children are openly affectionate. They will run and hug you as you walk in the door. They will climb into your lap and give you a kiss. They will hold your hand or make you chase them and catch them with giggles. They love to laugh.

Little children trust you. They go through the “terrible two’s” to learn their own authority and then they know it is good to follow your adult directions. When you tell them something is harmful, they will listen.

Little children are fascinated with life and living creatures. They can watch a caterpillar or butterfly or bird or insect for a good while. Their curiosity is easily peaked.

Little children express awe. They let themselves be touched by a sunset, a deer loping across a suburban lawn or garden, waves on a beach or the vastness of an ocean. Beauty is held and relished.

We, “sophisticated adults“, could learn a thing or two from our “little children”.

Friday, February 25, 2011

True love is a choice

If you truly love someone, you want what is best for them – What is best for them is heaven!

Gospel text (Mk 10:1-12): Jesus went to the province of Judea , beyond the Jordan River . Once more crowds gathered around him and once more He taught them, as He always did. Some (Pharisees came and) put him to the test with this question, «Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?». He replied, «What law did Moses give you?». They answered, «Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce». Then Jesus said to them, «Moses wrote this law for you, because you are stubborn. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female, and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So they are no longer two but one body. Therefore let no one separate what God has joined».

When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked him about this and He told them, «Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his wife, and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another also commits adultery».

The Sacrament of Marriage represents a lifelong commitment on the part of the spouses. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part; marriage is forever.

Increasingly the dominant American culture has intensified the barrage against marriage. Every day millions of living rooms are inundated with the lustful images depicted in soap operas, situation comedies, movies, talk shows and music videos. Magazines extol immoral lifestyles. Weekly tabloids play up the scandalous sexual proclivities of film, sports and television celebrities.

This onslaught against marriage has been relentless, seemingly working toward discrediting the notion of Christian marriage as an institution and cornerstone of society.

It is very easy for married couples to become discouraged and overwhelmed.

Many Catholic priests agree, that in the majority of cases, the large number of failed marriages has resulted from the couples having been insufficiently prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage in the first place. True, many couples do marry for the wrong reasons; however, parishes in many parts of the country have been negligent in providing thorough and caring marriage preparation for engaged couples.

Still, the best preparation for marriage is Christian chastity. It is this virtue of chastity that helps a married couple to remain faithful to one another. But, if young people are not being sufficiently challenged to cultivate this virtue, the Church may be marrying many who have developed profound sexual addictions through a promiscuous life style; and these addictions in and of themselves may not allow for the necessary full and free consent to take place.

Whether clergy or concerned lay people, we need to take the time to help young people live chastely in a very difficult world. Encouraging them to develop a rich Eucharistic life, to use the Sacrament of Confession frequently, to practice devotion to Mary and to avail themselves of on-going spiritual direction, all these are the proven ways by which we can help strengthen young people to live out their relationship with Jesus and each other.

The Church must not capitulate to the clamors of the secular world. By the holiness of their lives, both the clergy and married couples can be a wonderful help to those who are called to the Sacrament of Marriage.

For those who are already married, mutual fidelity is the path that provides personal joy and peace. However, subject as we are to the effects of Original Sin, we are all fallen creatures of flesh and blood, and it is normal that fidelity can prove a struggle. For married couples a daily renewal of their personal commitment to their spouses, a well disciplined spiritual life and a realistic acceptance of their own personal limitations will provide the lasting strength to remain faithful until death.

Finally, although the Catholic Church upholds the indissolubility of marriage, the Church always welcomes her children who are divorced and separated. Those who suffer from difficult marital situations are always welcomed as living members of Christ’s Church. Even in those situations where individuals may not be able to participate fully in the Eucharist, the doors of the Catholic Church remain open to all, welcoming all to be living members of the family of God.

No matter how difficult a personal history or situation may be, there is always a solution for those who are open to doing God’s will. And all those who are entrusted with the pastoral care of souls must be kind, patient, compassionate, understanding and willing to spend a lot of time ministering to all those who seek their loving care.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

“I am third” – First comes God, then my family, then me

“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.”

Gospel text (Mk 9:41-50): Jesus said to his disciples: «If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear his name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward. If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck. If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot than with both feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them. Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another».

All the readings today at the Mass are really about not putting anything else before God in our lives. That’s the true definition of sin: putting something before God in our lives. All three readings today deal with that issue. The things of this earth are not the important ones. Power here means nothing when this life is over. Nothing in this world is worth messing up the next.

In today’s gospel, Jesus simply wants to emphasize that we have to learn how to give up those things that may hurt us, even though we like them, for they can be the cause of all sin and vice. St. Gregory wrote «we should not covet those things that only meet our material and sinful needs». Jesus expects us to be radical. In another part of the Gospel, it is written: «Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it» (Mt 10:39).

On the other hand, Jesus' demand is actually a demand for love and maturity. We shall not remain without our reward. What will make our deeds meaningful must always be our love: we should know how to offer a drink of water to whomever is in need of it, but not because of any personal interest but, simply, out of love. We must discover Jesus in those more needy and poor.

We must stop procrastinating: stop telling ourselves that tomorrow works better to start going to daily Mass, or after we receive the next raise we will be able to start giving donations to charities. True, good intentions are a start. But to the homeless man in the street, the single mom in need of a friend, the man who just lost his wife to cancer, or even our own relationship with God, our good intentions are meaningless; each day we soothe ourselves with our good intentions is simply another day of neglect.

So, today, let us take the step. Let us write the check, make the call, or whatever action we need to take in order to finally make our good intentions a reality. Will these actions be convenient? Of course not. But we are not called to live a life of ease; we are called to live a life for God.

Who knows if I will ever make it to my “whens.” I don’t know how long I have left on this earth, or what God’s plan is for my life. Of one thing, though, I am certain: I must stop letting my “whens” get in the way of my “now.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

Gospel text (Mk 9:38-40): John said to Jesus, «Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon your name, and we tried to forbid him because he does not belong to our group». Jesus answered, «Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in my name can soon after speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is for us».

“Ouch,” I said to myself. “Ouch! Ouch—again!”

I had read the Gospel for today: John brings to Jesus the news that he had seen someone else driving out demons in Jesus name, yet he “does not travel with us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Why might this passage be prickly for me to read? Because I recognize John’s response as one I have made many times. It happens when I am involved in some “good work” with a group perhaps, and we hear about another community group with similar and just as effective outcomes, yet not attached to ours. Do we collaborate graciously or compete aggressively?

Or when someone, identified with a different political party than mine, is found to have just as good a solution to a national problem. I have to decide whether or not I am willing to listen to what he/she has to propose, despite our divergence along partisan lines.

Or a person I have labeled as belonging to a different wing, say of the Church, who says or does something vastly different than my expectations, wiser, more compassionate, or more akin to my belief. How difficult to release my closely held stereotype? Very.

“Wisdom breathes life into her children…” “Those who serve her serve the Holy One; those who love her, the Lord loves. She comes back to bring them happiness and reveal her secrets….She will heap upon them treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice.” (Sirach 4:11-19)

Christians of all groups and denominations are brothers and sisters in the Lord. If we go to heaven, we will all be together forever. So we ought to start getting along here on earth. Our unity under our one Lord should overshadow our differences.

God's word commands and proclaims: "Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force. There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given all of you by your call" (Eph 4:3-4).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Only God can give unity to the Church," [Pope Benedict XVI] said. "A 'self-made' unity would be human, but we want the Church of God , made by God, who -- when he wishes and when we are prepared -- will create unity."

Gospel text (Mt 16:16-19): When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, «Who do people say the Son of man is?». They said, «For some of them you are John the Baptist, for others Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets». Jesus asked them, «But you, who do you say I am?». Peter answered, «You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God».

Jesus replied, «It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. And now I say to you: You are Peter (or Rock) and on this rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven».

Today, we celebrate the Chair of St. Peter. Since the 4th century, the Church wants to emphasize with this celebration the fact that —as a gift from Jesus Christ to us— the edifice of his Church stands upon the Prince of the Apostles, who enjoys a peculiar divine help to fulfill that mission. This is how the Lord said it at Caesarea Philippi: «You are Peter (or Rock) and on this rock I will build my Church» (Mt 16:18). Indeed, «from the whole world Peter alone is chosen to take the lead in calling all nations, to be the head of all the Apostles and of all the Fathers of the Church» (St. Leo the Great).

From its very beginning, the Church has benefited of this stony ministry so that St. Peter and his related successors, have presided over charity, have been a source of unity and, most especially, have had the mission to confirm their brothers in the truth.

Once He resurrected, Jesus confirmed this mission to Simon Peter. He, who deeply repented and had already cried over his triple denial before Jesus, makes now a triple statement of love: «Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you» (Jn 21:17). Henceforth, the Apostle will be soothed when realizing Jesus Christ does not deny him and, for three times, He confirms him in the ministry he had been announced before: «Tend my sheep» (Jn 21:16-17).

This authority is not conferred because of his own merits, as, Simon's declaration of faith, at Caesarea , was not either: «for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven!» (Mt 16:17). Yes, this is an authority granted with the supreme power to serve. This is why the Roman Pontiff, when signing his writings, he does it with the honorific title of: Servus servorum Dei.

It is, therefore, a power to serve the cause of the unity based upon truth. We undertake to pray for the successor of St. Peter, to intently listen to his words and to be grateful to God for this gift.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I do believe, help my unbelief

"Prayer gives us strength for great ideals, for keeping up our faith, charity, purity, generosity; prayer gives us strength to rise up from indifference and guilt, if we have had the misfortune to give in to temptation and weakness. Prayer gives us light by which to see and to judge from God's perspective and from eternity. That is why you must not give up on praying!" (Pope John Paul II)

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

In today’s readings, I encounter a majestic God and self-imposed limits. I can truly connect with these readings. I can imagine myself in role of the disciples who fail in their interaction with the possessed boy. They lack the fervor that will only come later with the Holy Spirit. I can imagine myself in the role of the father believing that Jesus can do something for his son, but living with a faith that has been challenged by his experience of the world. I know the feeling of connection I have with our Lord, but I also know the trials of desolation.

The disciples had been asked to deal with a possessed boy. They had seen God’s power in Jesus. They had grown in the confidence of their own connection with the Divine. They took a risk. They tried to imitate their Master. They were unsuccessful and their personal weaknesses were brought to their attention. I can imagine the life of the father of the boy in the Gospel. He has seen his son suffer for years and questioned why. I feel a real connection with today’s readings. I am grateful for a God that does not give up on us. I am a person who gets things wrong on a regular basis. I have my moments of quiet desolation. I look at the world I live in and see people working hard, but being unable to hold on to the jobs they deserve because of corporate economics. This leaves me challenged and frustrated.

In my profession it is the norm to call things into question. I work in a field where the idea of divine revelation is unwelcome. I have something down deep that keeps me coming back. “I do believe, help my unbelief”

My prayer today is first in thanksgiving for the moments of revelation.
I pray in gratitude for a God who welcomes us back showing Himself anew.
I also pray for strength when my spirit is challenged by experience.

All things are possible for one who believes!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hate is never conquered by hate - Hate is only conquered by love

When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you

Gospel text (Mt 5:38-48): Jesus said to his disciples: «You have heard that it was said: 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give when asked and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.

»You have heard that it was said: 'Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy'. But this I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect».

Jesus sounds so naive in this reading by today's standards (or any times standards for that matter). He is literally calling us to make a U-turn, and live a radically different lifestyle. Following Jesus is not just a modification of a worldly life, but an utterly new way to live. The old law of Talion from the book of Exodus (cf. Ex 21,23-35), that was to be the law to avoid all revenge and restrict "eye for an eye", the terror of war, is definitively superseded by the law of love. We are given, in these verses, an entire Carta Magna for moral belief; love of God and thy neighbor. We have heard this saying many times in our lives, and one would think we'd have it down by now. However, loving your neighbor is actually a hard thing to do. It is a daily commitment that takes effort and patience on one’s part, and depending on the day, a person may or may not be in the “love thy neighbor” mood.

Pope Benedict XIV tells us, «it is only through service to others that opens my eyes as to what God does for me and to how much He loves me». Jesus gives us a law whereby justice is infinite, whereby evil is not defeated by causing more hurt, but by expelling it entirely from our lives, thereby reducing its hold on us.

In order to triumph, Jesus tells us, one must have a strong hold of our own interior lives and be clear by which law we live, that of unconditional love, free and magnanimous. Love led Him to the Cross, as love triumphs over hate. This is the way to victory, without violence, with humility and abundant love as God is love translated into action. If our actions are driven by this same love that will not abandon us, Our Father will recognize us as his children. This is the perfect pat, one of superabundant love that places us in the current of the kingdom, whose most loyal expression is the sublime manifestation of overflowing love that God has drenched our hearts with through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5,5).

This little story illustrates today’s teaching:

A father recently told me of taking a walk with his son recently. They passed a young homeless man asking for money. The two walked by the man, but the nine year old looked up at his dad and asked why the father had not given some money to the man. So the father gave the son two dollars to return and give to him. Upon returning the lad asked what it meant to be homeless. When the father told him, the little fellow replied that they could have him live with them in their house.

The father said that there wasn’t any room for the man in their house. The lad noticed they were passing a large hotel. The youngster figured out that there would be lots of room in the hotel and why didn’t they fix it so the homeless man would be okay?
The father was being slapped on one cheek and had to turn the other. We all are called by this Gospel and we are beginning to feel the tension into which Jesus calls us. We all have the same good desires as the little boy. We all have felt the “pagan” side of us as well. We all would want that there be no more homeless on our streets and we all have had to keep on walking past the roomy hotels with money in our pockets. We are the imperfect trying to become more light and more salt. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary show us the way - Ave Maria!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Transfiguration of Our Lord - A small taste of what is to come

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

Gospel text (Mk 9:2-13): Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There his appearance was changed before their eyes. Even his clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, «Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah». For he did not know what to say; they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came this word, «This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him». And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them.

As they came down the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man be risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.

Finally they asked him, «Why then do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?». Jesus answered them, «Of course, Elijah will come first so that everything may be as it should be... But, why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? I tell you that Elijah has already come and they have treated him as they pleased, as the Scriptures say of him».

Everybody instinctively longs for happiness. But often one does not know what happiness is, and searches in places where there is no happiness and where it cannot be. By His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated that real happiness lies in union with God. In such union the entire essence of a human changes, or transfigures: unspeakable peace, harmony and joy settle in the soul; the intellect receives enlightenment, and all abilities of a person reach their utmost extent; the soul fills with Divine light and becomes godlike. Now the Kingdom of God enters the human.

For humans not to fall to laziness and pride, it is not given to them to feel the entire joy of communion with God, which shall be the reward in the world to come. Still at times our Lord out of His Grace gives us to feel this special joy of communion with Him. Such communion is perceived as shining of a mysterious light inside a person. This shining brings forward the particular unforgettable bliss, inexplicable to those who have never experienced it. Compared to it, all worldly joys seem scanty and miserable. We believe that the eternal life will start after this temporary world, and 'Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father' (Matt 13:43).

The Transfiguration is just a moment, a taste of glory, to give the apostles the possibility to decipher the meaning of that intimate moment.

Jesus had announced his disciples the imminent moment of His Passion, but upon seeing them so perturbed because of his tragic final, He explains with words and facts how his last days would be: days of passion and death, but days that will be over with his resurrection. Here is the enigma unraveled. Saint Thomas Aquinas says: «To properly walk one's way it takes one to know first, somehow, the target one is aiming at».

In the same way, today let us be challenged to strive to praise God, no matter how visible he is in our lives. At times we will experience a divine intervention, or a miracle: some clear indication that he is evident and present. Yet, there will be times when we feel like we are alone in our lives; faith will require us to step out of our comfort zone and to accept that God loves us and that He is there, even when we don’t want to believe it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

He sends a cross, but He also sends the strength to bear it

"I tell you that you have less to suffer in following the cross than in serving the world and its pleasures. “ - Saint John Marie Vianney

Gospel text (Mk 8:34-9:1): Jesus called the peo­ple and his disciples and said, «If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it. What good is it to gain the whole world but destroy your­self? There is nothing you can give to recover your life. I tell you: If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words among this adulterous and sinful people, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the Glory of his Father with the holy angels». And He went on to say, «Truly I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power».

Today’s Gospel speaks of two contemporary themes: the cross we all have to bear every day and its fruit, that is, Life with capital letters, supernatural and eternal.

When we listen to the Gospel, we stand up as a sign that we want to follow its teachings. Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, not to follow “the pleasure of our whims” —as the psalmist claims— or, as S aint Paul cites, to get rid of “the deceiving greeds”. To take up our own cross is to accept the little mortifications we find every day along the way.

We can be helped out by what Jesus said in his priestly sermon at the cenacle: «I am the true vine, and my Father is the dresser. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful» (Jn 15:1-2). A hopeful gardener pampering the grapes so they bear the best wine! Yes, we want to follow our Lord! Yes, we are conscious the Father wishes to help us so our branches bear an abundant fruit in our earthly life which we can later enjoy in the Eternal Life.

Saint Ignatious used to guide saint Francis Xavier with the words of today's text: «What good is it to gain the whole world but destroy your­self?» (Mk 8:36). This is how he got appointed the patron of Missions. With the same idea in our minds, we can read the last canon of the Canon Law Code (n. 1752): «(...) and the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one's eyes». And saint Augustine also has his famous lesson: «Animam salvasti, animam tuam praedestinasti», which could be translated as: «He who dedicates himself with true zeal to the salvation of souls has thus good reasons to hope for eternal life». The invitation is quite clear.

The Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, helps us to advance in this way.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lord, how can I think any differently? After all, human is what I am…

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

Gospel text (Mk 8:27-33): Jesus set out with his disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked them, «Who do people say I am?». And they told him, «Some say you are John the Baptist; others say you are Elijah or one of the prophets». Then Jesus asked them, «But you, who do you say I am?». Peter answered, «You are the Messiah». And he ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and after three days rise again. Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter saying, «Get behind me Satan! You are thinking, not as God does, but as people do».

I find it tempting to correlate Jesus’ use of the word “human” in this Gospel passage with a variety of negative adjectives. The cynic in me would cause me to do so, perhaps the cynic in all of us would. On the other hand, I would also feel compelled to defend my humanity as something that is sacred, beautiful, and noble.

In my imagination, Christ smiles at my exclamations, merely nodding his agreement with me. He says, “You’re right, humanity can be dark and destructive. I have shown you the Way of God in thoughts, words, and deeds, but it will always be up to you to live it. Do not speak from emotions and false pretenses like Peter did; rather, listen with your heart and think using what I have taught you. Then you will be on your way to living as I did.” He closes with a smile that thinly veils all the wisdom of the world, and comfortingly reminds me that, with grace, such a life is not impossible.

Now, maybe my imaginary Jesus did not say things in the way that yours might have said them, but I think the point is still viable. Namely, we must constantly strive to look beyond the little things in this world that cloud our vision and judgment. They can range from something as insignificant as a rude comment made towards us at the beginning of the day to something as serious as a moral failure on our part. Each moment is a new opportunity for us to live as Christ lived, to see the world through loving eyes, willing to serve each other and learn from each other.

We, Christians, must discover our identity and prove our own faith through being good examples with our life. This duty is an urgent task to transmit a clear and understandable message to our brothers and sisters, who will find in Jesus that Word of Life bestowing meaning to what they may think, say or do. But, this witness must begin with us being totally conscious of our meeting with Jesus. John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte wrote: «Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face».

Saint Mark, with this text, offers us the right way to contemplate Jesus. First, Jesus asks us who do people say He is; and we can answer, with the disciples: John the Baptist or Elijah, in other words an important, good and attractive person. Certainly, a good answer, but too far away from Jesus' Truth. Then, He goes on asking us: «But you, who do you say I am?». It is the question of faith, of our personal implication. And we shall only find the answer in the experience of silence and praying. It is the faith path Peter followed which we should follow also.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us come to know through prayer the liberating presence of God's love, which is present in our life. He keeps on making alliances with us with clears signs of his presence, as that rainbow appearing through the clouds promised Noah.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eyes can be blind – It is then that you have to look with the heart

Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up – Our Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see

Gospel text (Mk 8:22-26): When Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida , Jesus was asked to touch a blind man who was brought to him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had put spittle on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked, «Can you see any­thing?». The man, who was beginning to see, replied, «I see people! They look like trees, but they move around». Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again and the man could see perfectly. His sight was restored and he could see everything clearly. Then Jesus sent him home saying, «Do not return to the village».

About four years ago, a good friend of mine started wearing glasses. Describing his first experience at the optometrist, he told me, “It was crazy—David didn’t realize he couldn’t distinguish the trees on the other side of the highway until the doctor let him test some glasses. Then, when he could see clearer, David exclaimed, ‘Holy cow, look at all of that!’”

I imagine the blind man in today’s Gospel having a similar experience to my friend David. Jesus, rolling up his sleeves, spit on his hands and touched the blind one’s eyes, causing him to see. And see he did…although not clearly at first. Yes, he could see, but things were blurry. Not until Jesus clarified his vision and asked him to look again could the formerly blind man see well.

How many times do I think I can see clearly the paths on which I am walking, only to find out I am misinterpreting the gifts God has given me along my journey? Just like the blind man and my friend David, I think I can see clearly and just fine on my own, but there is so much more beauty God wants me to see if I let him lead and clarify my sight so I can understand.

Mark has framed this section of his gospel to teach us two things: (1) to show how the disciples needed to be healed from their blindness regarding the true nature of Jesus’ Messiaship, and consequently about what it means to be Jesus’ follower; (2) Mark expects his audience (including us) to identify with the blind disciples and to face the fact that we, too, may need to be healed from our own blindness regarding who Jesus is and what it means to follow him.

So today, let us try putting on our glasses, or letting Jesus rub some more spit in our eyes (whichever metaphor you prefer) and let ourselves realize with clarity and understanding what we may have been missing all around us.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves - Otherwise we harden

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; What is essential is invisible to the eye - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Gospel text (Mk 8:14-21): The disciples had forgotten to bring more bread and had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, «Keep your eyes open and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod». And they said to one another, «He saw that we have no bread». Aware of this, Jesus asked them, «Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or under­stand? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that don't see and ears that don't hear? And do you not remem­ber when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of leftovers did you collect?». They answered, «Twelve». «And having seven loaves for the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?». They answered, «Seven». Then Jesus said to them, «Do you still not understand?».

Today, —once again— we can see the wisdom of our Lord Jesus. His behavior is amazing. Jesus warns the disciples “watch out to guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” But they misunderstood these words to mean they had forgotten to bring bread (leaven) with them as they had when Jesus miraculously multiplied the food for the crowd in the desert. But here Jesus was challenging them at an even deeper level; he was calling them not to be like the Pharisees who misunderstood him. The truth is that it is already too late – the disciples really do not understand the man they had been called to follow.

Where is the good news in that for them or for us? Jesus is clearly not happy with how obtuse his close friends are and he goes after them with seven very abrupt and searing questions that had to have gotten their attention even if they didn’t know how to respond.

For us there is a hidden consolation in acknowledging that even his closest companions did not hear his message very clearly so as to understand what he was ultimately about. We can be deceived into thinking that the friends of Jesus have the advantage in seeing him, in hearing his words, and in personally watching him as he dealt with them with the crowds and with the situations they encountered together.

But despite that closeness to Jesus they were fallible human beings just like us who struggle in faith, hope and love so as to grow in our understanding of and, more importantly, in our intimate relationship and union with Christ. We see how we misunderstand his message and are slow to respond with open hearts to the situations and to the people around us. In this we are not that different from the close friends of Jesus who walked with him and grew in their relationship with him. Can we open ourselves to the vastness of God’s love for us in Jesus? If we allow ourselves to be enlightened and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, alerted and led by the good Shepherds, stimulated by all the faithful Christians, we shall believe what we ought to believe and we shall do what we ought to do. First, though, we must have the “desire” to see: «The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us» (Jn 1:14), visible, palpable; and the “desire” to listen: it was the Virgin Mary who was “the bait” that made Jesus say: «blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it» (Lk 11:28).

Our Lord never misses an opportunity to teach and, today, He keeps on doing it: «We must free ourselves from the false idea that faith has nothing to say to today’s Men» (Benedict XVI).

Monday, February 14, 2011

In order to bend your knee, you must first bend your will

Love consumes us only in the measure of our self-surrender. -- St. Therese of Lisieux

Gospel text (Mk 8:11-13): The Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then his spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, «Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people». Then he left them, got into the boat again and went to the other side of the lake.

“He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign?’” He sighed from the depth of his spirit. Another way of expressing this deeply personal response of Jesus might say: He gave a deep groan. What was contained in the sigh, in the groan? Is it the sound of disgust? Of impatient anger? Of dismissal?

The groan in the heart of Jesus is the sigh of rejected love. It is like the pain of parents who desire so much for a child, but experience the rejection of their love and the poverty of waiting for a child to awaken to love and to receive rather than reject all that they offer. The child makes demands, but remains blind to love.

The heart of Jesus, full of divine love, comes to call everyone to “believe in the gospel,” the good news of the nearness of the Kingdom of God . But in order for that good news to be received, a change of heart is necessary: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus groans and sighs in the face of rejected love. His heart will not rest until those he calls respond to the love he gives.

Nowadays, Jesus is also asked for some heavenly signs: that He let us see his presence in our world or that He tells us in a clear cut manner how we are to behave. The Roman Pontiff makes us see that Jesus' negative to give a sign to the Jews —and, consequently, to us, too— is due to the fact He wants to change the «world logics, oriented to look for signs confirming man's desire of assertiveness and power». The Pharisees did not want just any sign, but one showing Jesus as the Messiah they wanted. They were not waiting for the Messiah coming to save them, but for the Messiah who was to give them the certainty they were doing things the right way.

In short, when the Jews in Jesus' time, or to-day's Christians, ask —one way or another— for a sign, what we are actually asking for, is for God to act according to our own way, that which we think is better and which also stands by our way of thinking. But God, who is omniscient and omnipotent (this is why in The Lord's Prayer we say “your will be done”), has His own ways which, more often than not, we find it difficult to understand. But He, who allows us to find him when we are truly looking for him, if we ask him to enlighten us, He will give us to understand which are his ways and how we can, today, distinguish his signs.

In the light of today’s gospel, we might ask: where do I insist on having proofs of God’s power according to my way of thinking? Where might I be blind to the already-present power of the Kingdom of God ? In what way may Jesus be sighing in the face of my rejection of his love and presence?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On this Valentines Day weekend - Let’s exam what the word “LOVE” really means

(John 15:13)No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

What does that word, “love” really mean. The modern world has been corrupted by the devil who twists that word around to mean “sex,” or a feeling, or an emotion, but this is not love. Love is not an emotion. Love is not a feeling. Love is not sex. Love is a choice. We choose to love. Notice how the devil has even perverted that wonderful gift of God. God has given us free will. It is one of the things that makes us in the image and likeness of God. Animals do not have free will. They work on instinct. If you put a plate of food in front of a hungry dog, will the dog think, “should I fast today to show my Master how much I love him?” No, the dog will eat the food because the dog does not have free will. The dog is not made in the image and likeness of God. God gave us free will so that we could love. Love is a choice. The devil has even perverted in our evil society, the use of that word, “choice.” Choice is a good thing because it allows us to love, it makes us in the image and likeness of God. But we can choose death over life. We can choose sin over love. To have a choice means to have the ability to love. It also means to have the ability to murder innocent children by abortion. If you have been scarred by the tragedy of abortion, know that God loves you and invites you to healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Archdiocesan program called “Project Rachel.” But even outside any moral or ethical consideration, from the moment of conception, a genetically unique human being is created that will never be seen again.

When our immortal soul, given to us by God, is fused with our body, we become a human person who is very precious to God. Will we choose to love God or will we choose to love ourselves? When you cast your vote on election day, you have the freedom of choice. You can choose someone who will respect human life from its very beginning, or you can choose someone who sanctions the destruction of the yet to be born and the newly born. Love is a choice. You have a choice to make. “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever HE chooses shall be given him.” “The test of love” Fulton Sheen says, “is found not in emotion but self sacrifice.” All the Sacraments call us to share in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The sacramental words spoken by a man and a woman on their wedding day, in the power of the Holy Spirit, create an irrevocable bond between man and woman that cannot be broken except by death. This is why marriage is a holy sacrament because it shares God’s divine love and God’s divine life with us mere humans. But marriage like all the sacraments, involves the cross; it involves dieing to oneself, for that is the definition of love. From the Cross, comes the Resurrection, from dying to self comes new life, from the total self giving of the spouses in mutual dying to self comes children. Marriage between a man and a woman serves a unique place in society by allowing for the procreation and education of children within the context of the family. While recognizing the heartbreak that some husbands and wives are unable to bear children or must do so as single parents, the ideal of the family must still be promoted for the common good of the society. Governments did not create marriage, God created marriage. Therefore, governments do not have the right to change its meaning.

We can choose lust or we can choose love. You will be making a choice on election day. Will you choose to strengthen the true definition of love and marriage or will you choose lust and selfishness? Jesus said , “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It sounds simple enough, if love is simply an emotion that makes feel good. Because then whatever makes me feel good is love. But that is not what Jesus came to reveal to us. Love is a choice. Jesus chose to die on the cross to save us from our evil choices. So do we love God with our whole heart? Do we love with our whole body? Every part of our body? Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? Have you kicked God out of your temple by the bodily choices you have made? Do we love God with our whole soul? Does every choice of the will bring us closer to that image and likeness of God in which we were created? Does our free will choose grave evil and eternal damnation or do we choose righteous and life? Do we love God with our whole mind? Does our mind feed on the things of God or do we fill it with suggestive or pornographic images that degrade the image and likeness that every human being bears? Do we pick and choose those doctrines of Jesus’ Catholic Church that we like, and consider the rest as unreasonable? When I was younger, there was a very popular movie called, “Love Story” and the famous line from the movie was “Love means never having to say you are sorry.” We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Would you like it if somebody you loved NEVER said they were sorry for hurting you? Do you think maybe that is the reason why people stay away from the Sacrament of Confession because they really love God?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. - St Augustine

Gospel text (Mk 8:1-10): A great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat. So Jesus called his disciples and said to them, «I feel sorry for these people because they have been with me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way». His disciples replied, «Where in a deserted place like this could we get enough bread to feed these people?». He asked them, «How many loaves have you?». And they answered, «Seven».

Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish, so Jesus said a blessing and asked that these be shared as well. The people ate and were satisfied. The broken pieces were collected, seven wicker baskets full of leftovers. Now there had been about four thousand people. Jesus sent them away and immediately got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Whom is the Lord calling to? The text says: «So Jesus called his disciples» (Mk 8:1), that is, He calls me and you, not to send “them” home hungry, to give them something to eat. Jesus sympathizes with them —this time in a pagan land— because they are hungry.

Sheltered in our little world, we may say we can do nothing about it. «Where in a deserted place like this could we get enough bread to feed these people?» (Mk 8:4). Where shall we find a true and firm word of hope while knowing the Lord will be with us every day till the end of time? Today, the Lord simply asks us how many loaves have we. Whatever we have, this is what He needs. The text says «seven», a symbol for the pagan, just as twelve was a symbol for the Jewish people. The Lord wants to reach us all.

Give Him your prayer: it is a loaf of bread! Give Him the Eucharist you have celebrated: it is another loaf of bread! Give Him your decision to reconcile with those you love, with those that have offended you: still another loaf of bread! Give Him your sacramental reconciliation with the Church: another loaf! Give Him your little sacrifice, your fasting, your solidarity: and still another loaf! Give Him your love for his Word that soothes and gives you strength: more bread! Give Him whatever He asks from you, though you may believe it is not worthwhile.

As St. Gregory of Nyssa says: «He who splits his bread with the poor becomes a part of He who, for us, wanted to be poor. The Lord was poor; do not be afraid of poverty».

Friday, February 11, 2011

Are standards of right and wrong mere products of time and culture?

“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.” - Pope Benedict 16

(Gn 3:1-8)Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
“Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?”
The woman answered the serpent:
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman:
“You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.

When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day,the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.

Everyday in the local newspapers, we read about couples getting engaged, planning to get married in the Catholic Church. But how many seriously take counsel from the writings of the Popes and the wealth of the extraordinarily beautiful teachings of the Catholic Church on married life and human reproduction? Praise be to God for His glorious plan for man and woman!

The innocent eyes of Adam and Eve were opened to the world of sin and disobedience when they disobeyed God. Now in a sinful, secular world, which by its nature rebels against the will of God, married couples and those preparing for marriage desperately need to have their eyes opened (Gn 3:7) to the glory of God's beautiful plan for marriage. God's plan draws upon the original innocence and intimacy of man and woman before the fall. Yet God's plan far exceeds his original plan for Adam and Eve. It has been redeemed in Jesus to a new, risen, glorious innocence and intimacy of man and woman made into new creations in Jesus.

Married couples and those preparing for marriage, put your relationship in the hands of Jesus. Let Jesus touch your eyes and ears, and open them to hear God's will for your marriage. Jesus "has done everything well" (Mk 7:37), and He will make your relationship better than you could ever ask for or imagine (Eph 3:20).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Prayer may not change things for you, but it for sure changes you for things

“There are some people who, in order not to pray, use an excuse the fact that life is so hectic that it prevents them from praying. This cannot be…Prayer does not demand that we interrupt our work, but that we continue working as if it were a prayer…It is not necessary to always be meditating, nor to consciously experience the sensation that we are talking to God, no matter how nice this would be….What matters is being with Him, living in Him, in His will. To love with a pure heart, to love everybody, especially to love the poor, this is a twenty-four hour prayer.” -Mother Teresa on Prayer

Gospel text (Mk 7:24-30): Jesus went to the border of the Tyrian country. There He entered a house and did not want any­one to know He was there, but He could not remain hidden. A woman, whose small daughter had an evil spirit, heard of him and came and fell at his feet. Now this woman was a pagan, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus told her, «Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs». But she replied, «Sir, even the dogs un­der the table eat the crumbs from the children's bread». Then Jesus said to her, «You may go your way; because of such a reply the demon has gone out of your daughter». And when the wo­man went home, she found her child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Today, we see the faith of a woman that did not belong to God's chosen people, but trusted Jesus could cure her daughter. That mother «was a pagan, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter» (Mk 7:26). Pain and love bring her to insistently beg, ignoring scorn, delays or indignities. And she gets what she is asking for, as she «went home, and she found her child lying in bed and the demon gone» (Mk 7:30).

The Syrophenician woman is a good mother; she was begging something good («she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter») and she begged rightly («and came and fell at his feet»).

Our Lord wants us to use insistently the petition prayer or prayer of faith. There are, indeed, other kinds of prayers —meditation (i.e. the Rosary or Lectio Divina), contemplation (i.e. Eucharistic Adoration), worship (i.e.The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass), prayer of thanks—, but Jesus insists very much on our often using the petition prayer. Why? Many could be the reasons: because we need God's help to attain our greatest aim; because it expresses hope and love; because it is a clamor of faith.

In response to God’s love, it is important for us to humble ourselves before him and to put all our faith in him as the Syrophoenician woman in today’s Gospel does. The Syrophoenician woman has complete faith that Jesus can drive the demons out of her daughter. She humbles herself before him when she asks for only the leftovers of his blessings in saying, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”(Mk 7:28). Jesus cures her daughter because of these humble words. It is common for us to strive to be the center of attention, but Jesus shows us to do otherwise in the Gospel. In today’s Gospel, Jesus enters the district of Tyre as a sort of celebrity. Instead of calling for attention in this situation, he “wanted no one to know about it”. We should all follow this example and practice true humility before both God and God’s people.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

All that glisters is not gold

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23)

Gospel text (Mk 7:14-23): Jesus then called the people to him again and said to them, «Listen to me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters one from out­side can make that person unclean. It is what comes out from within that makes un­clean. Let everyone who has ears listen».

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this saying and he replied, «So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean? Since it enters, not the heart but the stomach and is finally passed out». Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean. And he went on, «What comes out of a person is what defiles, for evil designs come out of the heart: theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean».

Today, Jesus teaches us that God made everything good. But our intentions —which are not always right— may contaminate what we do. This is why Jesus Christ says: «Nothing that enters one from out­side can make that person unclean. It is what comes out from within that makes un­clean» (Mk 7:15). The experience of the offence against God is very real. And we Christians can easily discover the evil's deep mark in a sin's enslaved world. The mission Jesus charges us with, is to clean —with the help of His grace— all this contamination men's bad intentions have spread all over the world.

The Lord wants all our activities to be carried out well: He expects us to show in them intensity, method, science, know-how, eagerness for perfection, not looking for anything else but reinstating God's plan for Creation. For God made everything for man's benefit: «Purity of intention. —You will always have it if, in everything you do, you only look forward to pleasing God» (Saint Josemaria).

Looking at any religion, we see a number of rites and practices designed and instituted to help the participants grow in faith. It is very evident in our own Catholic faith. We go to Mass and Reconciliation, as well as fasting and almsgiving. Christ cautions us not to belittle these things. We can easily get caught up in passing judgment on who is or isn’t fulfilling the requirements of faith, but in doing this we become like the Pharisees. However, if we look at these requirements as tools of faith we can begin to understand their true purpose. Traditions in the church are more than just simple actions. They are practices used to guide our hearts and attitudes, making us more open to the Lord.

I know I sometimes feel as if I am only, “going through the motions.” In these times, I leave Mass feeling no different from when I entered. However, when I take the time to recognize that each part of the service is designed to draw me in and place me closer to the Lord, then I can truly grow and take advantage of the grace He offers in the Eucharist. Then I can leave the church with the knowledge that God loves me and desires me to be close to him. The challenge left by the Gospel is to engage our faith. Allow the soul to connect with tradition, and faith will become as alive as the Garden of Eden.

Only our will can spoil the Divine Plan. And we must watch that this is not so. Quite often we let in vanity, pride, despondency for lack of faith, impatience when our aims are not attained... This is why saint Gregory the Great warned us: «Be not seduced by any flattering prosperity, for only the foolish traveler stops along the way to admire the beautiful landscape while forgetting where he is heading for».

It will, therefore, be convenient to pay attention to how we offer our deeds to God, to always be aware of His presence and to frequently consider the Divine Filiation. Thus, all our days—through work and prayer— will be fortified and begin in our Lord, and whatever we start in his name will reach its desired ending.

For we can make great things if we realize that each one of our human actions is a co-redeemer when joined to deeds and actions of Christ.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Honor your Father & Mother

Why is it that one woman can take care of six children but six children cannot take care of one woman?

One day I visited a house where our sisters shelter the aged. This is one of the nicest houses in England, filled with beautiful and precious things, yet there was not one smile on the faces of these people. All of them were looking toward the door.

I asked the sister in charge, "Why are they like that? Why can't you see a smile on their faces?" (I am accustomed to seeing smiles on people's faces. I think a smile generates a smile, just as love generates love.)

The sister answered, "The same thing happens every day. They are always waiting for someone to come and visit them. Loneliness eats them up, and day after day they do not stop looking. Nobody comes."

Abandonment is an awful poverty. There are poor people everywhere, but the deepest poverty is not being loved.

The poor we seek may live near us or far away. They can be materially or spiritually poor. They may be hungry for bread or hungry for friendship. They may need clothing, or they may need the sense of wealth that God's love for them represents. They may need the shelter of a house made of bricks and cement or the shelter of having a place in our hearts. – A short story by Mother Teresa

The Fourth Commandment reminds all sons and daughters of their responsibilities to their parents. They have to help them, both morally and materially, to the best of their possibilities, during their aging days and when they are facing times of illness, loneliness or anguish. Jesus points out quite clearly this duty of gratitude.

The respect towards our elders (filial piety) is made out of the gratitude they deserve for the gift they have given us, i.e. our life, and for the sacrifices made for their sons and daughters to grow up in age, wisdom and grace. «With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; and what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?» (Sir 7:27-28).

The Lord honors the father in his children, and in them, also confirms the mother's right. «He who honors his father atones for sins; he obeys the Lord who brings comfort to his mother» (cf. Sir 3:2-6). These and other words of advice are a clear light for our life in relation to our parents. Let us ask our Lord the grace that we never lack the true love we owe our parents and always know, with our example, how to transmit our fellowmen this sweet “obligation”.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Adoration will heal our Church and thus our nation and thus our world

"The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in Heaven, and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth," - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Mk 6:53-56): Having crossed the lake, Jesus and his disciples came ashore at Gennesaret where they tied up the boat. As soon as they landed, people recognized Jesus and ran to spread the news throughout the countryside. Where­­ver He was they brought to him the sick lying on their mats. And wherever He went, to villages, towns or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplace and begged him to let them touch just the fringe of his cloak. And all who touched him were cured.

How open are you to the presence of God in your life?

Imagine that you live over two thousand years ago. While at work one day, word quickly spreads that Jesus, a man who has been known to heal the sick and befriend the unaccepted, has tied up his boat and is in Gennesaret. Upon hearing this, the people around you, trusting that Jesus will heal them and their loved ones, drop everything and immediately rush to Jesus. Would you rush to Jesus? Would you trust that he could heal you of your ills and help you through your struggles?

Often times, I find that I put on a tough face and try to keep my struggles to myself (“I can handle it!”). I ought to learn from the example of the people of Gennesaret. No matter how strong I may be, I need to turn to Jesus and accept his constant love.

Take a few moments to pray about what in your life needs Jesus’ touch. What have you been struggling with? What is weighing on your heart? Through faith, you will be healed.

Today, Jesus is no longer literally tying his boat up along the shores. We cannot touch his cloak and be healed. In my opinion, however, Jesus is far more present now than he was when he was alive. Jesus can be found nearly everywhere, if we look closely enough. It’s easy to be caught up in the busyness of life. However, if we all were to slow down, we might just see Jesus in each other and in life itself.

help me to be open to your presence.
Help me to slow down and recognize you in my daily life.

How open are you to the presence of God in your life?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

Saints are the lights of the world, but the light which shines in them is borrowed

Gospel text (Mt 5:13-16): Jesus said to his disciples: «You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its strength, how can it be made salty again? It has become useless. It can only be thrown away and people will trample on it. You are the light of the world. A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and covers it; instead it is put on a lamp stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before others, so that they may see the good you do and praise your Father in heaven».

Today, the Gospel clearly urges us to become witness to Christ. And it invites us in two different ways, which, apparently, may look contradictory: the salt and the light.

The salt cannot be seen but can be perceived; it can be tasted, relished. There are many persons that “can hardly be perceived”, as they are like “little ants” working and doing good all the time. At their side one can savor peace, serenity and joy. As it is said at present, their “radiations” are good.

Light, instead, cannot be hidden. There are persons that “can be seen from afar”: Mother Therese of Calcutta, the Pope, a parish's rector. They hold important positions because of their natural leadership or because of their concrete priesthood. They are “brought into the limelight”. As today's Gospel says «on top of a mountain» or on a «lamp stand» (cf. Mt 5:14-15).

We are all called to be salt and light. For over 30 years of his hidden life in Nazareth, Jesus himself was also “salt”. It is being said that, once, while he was playing, someone asked St. Aloysius Gonzaga what would he do if he knew that within a few minutes he would die. «I would keep on playing», he answered. He would go on carrying out his normal every- day's life, and making life pleasant for his play pals.

It may be we are called to be light. We are quite clearly so when we avow our own faith in difficult moments. Martyrs are great luminaries. And in certain environments, today, the mere fact of attending Mass may be the subject of jokes and general mockery. Going to Mass is already to be “light”. And light is always detected and seen, no matter how small it may be. A little light may change the night.

Let us pray to the Lord for one another that we always know how to be salt. And how to be light, if need be. That our daily chores are carried out in such a way that through our good deeds people may praise our Father who is in Heaven (cf. Mt 5:12).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Appearance of bread

Unless we believe and see Jesus in the appearance of bread on the altar, we will not be able to see him in the distressing disguise of the poor. - Mother Teresa

Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.
Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment,
and of the ill-treated as of yourselves,
for you also are in the body.
Let marriage be honored among all
and the marriage bed be kept undefiled,
for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.
Let your life be free from love of money
but be content with what you have,
for he has said, I will never forsake you or abandon you.
Thus we may say with confidence:

The Lord is my helper,
and I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The reading today is a reminder of the message, “Do unto others; as you would like others to do to you.” The reading also reminds me about the gifts received when we are generous. It is very easy for us to lose sight of our purpose here on earth. We tend to become distracted by material goods or trying to become better at something than the person next to us. We live our lives in constant competition to see who can come out on top. In the end however, we all lose. This is because we lose sight of God’s purpose for us. He gave us the gift of life on earth so that we may be able to live in his name. He says that we should not be focused on material possessions but instead on the love and respect we should share with each other. The reading says “do not neglect hospitality, for through it some unknowingly have entertained angels”. This means that we should share all we have with our brothers and sisters on this earth because we are all created in God’s name.

This concept can be very hard to follow through with though. We may interact with someone that we may not be able to get along with very well or we just genuinely do not like. God still calls us to be respectful towards these beings. If we do not respect the individual, then in a way we are disrespecting God since everyone is made in his name. Let us not judge people and treat them poorly, but instead give them a chance and treat them with the respect that God intended.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


“The power of obedience! The lake of Gennesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again to the water and they caught ‘a huge number of fish.’ Believe me: the miracle is repeated each day.”– St. Josemaria Escriva

Gospel text (Lk 2:22-40): When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought the baby up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel , and he had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying, «Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations and the glory of your people Israel ».

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

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

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

Today the Church celebrates the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem . In that same spirit, we present ourselves today to the Lord, especially in the Mass. We present ourselves to Jesus, the great High Priest, Who became like us "in every way, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest before God" on our behalf, to expiate our sins (Heb 2:17). "Since [Jesus] Himself was tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are tempted" (Heb 2:18).

We have days when things are going so badly that all we can do is come before the Lord Jesus just as we are and tell Him: "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner" (see Lk 18:13). We can always present ourselves to Jesus and tell Him: "Lord, I don't have much to offer You, but what I have I give You" (see Acts 3:6).

Jesus invites you to present yourself before Him, just as you are. He says: "Come to Me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you" (Mt 11:28). Jesus says: "No one who comes [to Me] will I ever reject" (Jn 6:37). Jesus became like you so that you would always know in the depths of your heart that you can "approach God through Him" (Heb 7:25; Eph 2:18). Present yourself to Jesus today, just as you are. Receive His life-giving love.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

O Lord, I believe; help my unbelief

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature. - Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Mk 5:21-43): Jesus crossed to the other side of the lake and while He was still on the shore, a large crowd gathered around him. Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came up and seeing Jesus, threw himself at his feet and asked him earnestly, «My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her so that she may get well and live».

Jesus went with him and many people followed, pressing from every side. Among the crowd was a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot at the hands of many doctors and had spent everything she had, but instead of getting better, she was worse. Since she had heard about Jesus, this woman came up behind him and touched his cloak thinking, «If I just touch his clothing, I shall get well». Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint. But Jesus was conscious that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, «Who touched my clothes?». His disciples answered, «You see how the people are crowding around you. Why do you ask who touched you?». But he kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, aware of what had happened, came forward trembling and afraid. She knelt before him and told him the whole truth. Then Jesus said to her, «Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace and be free of this illness».

While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the official's house to inform him, «Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further?». But Jesus ignored what they said and told the official, «Do not fear, just believe». And He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James.

When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion with people weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus entered and said to them, «Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep». They laughed at him. But Jesus sent them outside and went with the child's father and mother and his companions into the room where the child lay. Taking her by the hand, he said to her, «Talitha kumi!» which means: “Little girl, get up!”. The girl got up at once and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old.) The parents were astonished, greatly astonished. Jesus strictly ordered them not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

Today, the Gospel presents us with two of Jesus' miracles that speak of the great faith of two entirely different persons. The woman who thought she was unworthy of Jesus' attention, who did not dare to bother neither the Master nor those influential Jews, was the first one. Noiselessly, she came up behind him and, softly touching Jesus' cloak, she “draws out” her cure, and she can feel how her body is completely healed. Jesus, who knows what has happened, does not want to let her go without saying to her: «Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace and be free of this illness» (Mk 5:34).

To Jairus, Jesus is asking an even stronger faith. As God did with Abraham in the Old Testament, Jesus will ask Jairus to have faith against hope, a faith in impossible things. Jairus had been told the terrible news his little daughter had just died. We can easily imagine the deep anguish and horrible pain he must have felt in that very moment, and perhaps the temptation to despair. But Jesus, who had also heard the news, tells him: «Do not fear, just believe» (Mk 5:36). And, like those ancient patriarchs, hopelessly believing, he could see how his beloved little girl was resurrected by Jesus.

Two great lessons in faith for us. Jairus and the woman suffering a serious bleeding, along with so many others, from the Gospel pages, speak to us of the need to have an unmovable faith. Therefore, we should strive to live out Jesus’ proclamation in the Gospel when he says, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” (Mark 5:46).