Saturday, April 30, 2011

"The true greatness of any church in not how many it seats but how many it sends"

God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next... I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons... - Cardinal John Henry Newman

Gospel text (Mc 16,9-15):
When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.
But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

In today’s Gospel, a risen Jesus gives a rebuke to his companions – the Apostles who had known him best of all. Despite all they had learned from Jesus, they would not believe what they had heard, choosing instead to follow a path of doubt and unbelief for a time. They just didn’t get it. Like a good coach, Jesus gave the men on his team a good chewing out! This was no hand-holding, condescending, affirming speech: he “rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.” Essentially, he is telling them to stop feeling sorry for themselves, to be transformed in their thinking, and to get out of the locker room and onto the playing field: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Evidence of transformation and confidence appears in today’s passage from Acts,(Acts 4:13-21) which tells us of the works that the Apostles were doing boldly in the name of their risen Lord. Those works produced consternation among the religious leaders, in part because Peter and John were not part of their elite group and apparently were not that special. They were “uneducated, ordinary men,” but they were recognizable as companions of Jesus.

Ironically, when Jesus himself was ministering before these same leaders, Matthew’s gospel tells us that they asked him for a sign. However, Jesus told them he would not give them a sign other than the sign of Jonah. (Matt. 16). Now the Apostles are there ministering among them and a “remarkable sign” has occurred that left these leaders speechless. The scripture tells us, “they could say nothing in reply.” When there is no more to say, the time for doing comes. Doing generally reveals more than just talking.

When we encounter the Gospel, sometimes we may struggle with unbelief. Like the Apostles, we can experience difficulty in getting our mind around what is real and true. But there is always evidence to confront us. Hope persists, when we think it should be lost, and meaning is found, although some mystery remains. Peace comes to us in the midst of difficulty. Miracles may even happen. We must deal with these phenomena, which we do not always understand or grasp right away.

But for some, it is possible to recognize that the Gospel may be true, but you just can’t deal with the change that may require for you. This is really a more difficult position. The truth sometimes makes us uncomfortable because it may be disruptive. We may simply suppress what we know to be true in order to keep the peace, so to speak. But such peace is elusive and our discomfort remains. Encountering truth is harrowing. We cannot forget it, as much as we would like to try. In this sense, truth is a continuing witness. It can be suppressed, it can even be distorted, but it persists.

For the believer, this persistent nature of truth is a matter of joy. God is truth and we worship a risen Lord who is the way, the truth, and the life. The world may resist the truth, but it can offer nothing in substitution that is worth having. It certainly cannot offer eternal life, or life that is desirable. Thanks be to God who gives us this life so richly. Let us go and behave as companions of Jesus today.

Friday, April 29, 2011

“The Devil doesn’t fear austerity but holy obedience.”

”Naturally we all have an inclination to command, and a great aversion to obey; and yet it is certain that it is more for our good to obey than to command; hence perfect souls have always had a great affection for obedience, and have found all their joy and comfort in it.”-Saint Francis of Sales, Doctor of the Church

Gospel text (Jn 21,1-14):
Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias .
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee ,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

Peter had given up on Easter. Although Jesus had initially called Peter to be a fisher of men and no longer a fisherman (Mk 1:17), Peter decided to go back into the commercial fishing business. Peter went back to B.C., that is, to his state before He had ever known Christ.

Jesus came to Peter. Instead of punishing him for his disobedience, He blessed Peter with his greatest catch of fish ever (Jn 21:6). Peter repented and jumped ship (Jn 21:7). He quit his job.

That night they caught nothing! And when the day breaks and Jesus appears, they do not recognize him until He asks them for something to eat. When they tell him they have nothing, He just points out where they are to throw their net. And, even though fishermen seem to know all the answers and they had spent the night to no avail, they obey him. «O the power of the obedience. The lake of Tiberias was refusing its fish to Peter's nets. An entire night in vain. —But now, obedient, he returns the net to the water and they caught (...) a full load of fish. —Believe me: the miracle repeats itself daily» (Saint Josemaria).

The Evangelist points out «It was full of big fish —one hundred and fifty-three» (Jn 21:11) but, in spite of being so many, the net was not torn. These are details to bear in mind, as Redemption, amid normal work, takes place with responsible obedience.

They all «knew it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them» (Jn 21:12-13). He did the same with the fish. If we obey him we shall not lack either the spiritual or the material food. He taught this to his closest followers and John Paul II said it too: «When starting the new millennium, our heart reverberates with those words with which Jesus (...) invited the Apostle to put out into the deep, and let down the nets for a catch: ‘Duc in altum’ (Lk 5:4). Peter and the first disciples trusted Christ's word (…) and when they had this done, ‘they enclosed a great multitude of fishes’ (Lk 5:6). This word resounds for us to day too».

With our obedience —like Our Lady Mary's obedience— we ask the Lord to go on giving his Church his apostolic fruits.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A smile is the beginning of peace

"Yes, we love peace, but we are not willing to take wounds for it, as we are for war."

Gospel text (Lc 24,35-48):
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

Today, the risen Christ meets again his disciples with his desire of peace: «Peace to you» (Lk 24:36). This is how He makes disappear the fears and forebodings the Apostles had accumulated during their days of passion and loneliness.

He is not a ghost but totally real; at times, however, fright in our lives is taking shape as if it were the only reality possible. At times also, it is our lack of faith and of interior life which is changing things: fright becomes reality and Christ gradually vanishes from our life. The presence of Christ in our Christian life, instead, lightens up our existence, especially in those places no human explanation may account for. Saint Gregory of Nazianzen tells us: «Peace is a name and a substantial thing emanating from God, as the Apostle said to the Phillipians: ‘The peace of God’; and that it is from God is also shown when he tells the Ephesians: ‘He is our peace’». What does this tell us? There can be no peace in the world or in each of us for that matter without the presence of God.

It is the resurrection of Christ which gives a meaning to all our mishaps and sufferings, which helps us to recover our peace of mind and calm us down in the darkness of our life. All other small lights we may find in our life are only meaningful under this Light.

In the Gospel we read: «Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled...»: and again we read «He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures» (Lk 24:44-45), as He had already done with the disciples at Emmaus. The Lord also wants us to understand the meaning of the Scriptures for our life; He wants our poor heart to become a flaming heart, like his: with the explanation of the Scriptures and the chunk of bread, the Holy Eucharist. In other words: the Christian task is to see his story to become a story of salvation as He wants us to.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

People see God every day, they just don't recognize him

"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 of Calcutta

Gospel text (Lc 24,13-35): That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Today we are reassured by the Gospel that Jesus is alive and continues to be the center around which the disciples' community is built. The gathering of the community, the dialog with brothers and sisters who share the same faith, the reading of the Word of God, the love shared and expressed through fraternity and service, is precisely the ecclesial context in which the disciples can encounter the Resurrected.

If I were one of the disciples and had to witness the traumatizing experience of watching my teacher, my leader… my friend die on the cross, someone who I believed was the One whom I’ve been waiting for, the Christ, all my hope would be lost. It wouldn’t just be lost; it would be shattered.

Watching Jesus be taken to Pilot, found guilty and then sentenced to death. Watching him be beaten, stripped of his clothes, forced to carry a cross up a hill, and finally, seeing him nailed to it. I was supposed to watch all of this and still have hope? I was supposed to watch this and still have faith that God will never forsake me, that this was all part of a greater plan? I don’t think so. My human mind would not have been able to understand or grasp what God was doing in that moment. My human mind would not have been able to guess or understand what God was doing then and still can’t now.

Maybe this passage isn’t meant to just tell a story; maybe it is supposed to show us that we can never imagine anything as great as God’s plan. Maybe it is supposed to show us that although it may not be the timing we had hoped for or the method we had anticipated, God never goes back on his promises; that even in the most hopeless situations God still has a plan, one greater than any of us could have imagined. I couldn't then, and I can’t today imagine what God has in store for those who love him.

So, whatever it may be: whatever fears, doubts, hurt or worry we have in our lives, let us be challenged to find faith, hope and love in the midst of the storm. To find love in the Father that sent his only Son for us. To find reason to hope in the darkest part of night. And to have faith in the promises our Father has made to us.

The story of the disciples of Emmaus is useful as a guide to us in the long journey through a path of doubts, afflictions and sometimes even bitter disillusionments; the Divine traveler continues to be our companion who introduces us, by explaining the Scriptures, to the comprehension of God's mysteries. Upon the fulfillment of this encounter the light of the Word is followed by the light that emerges from the «Bread of Life», through which Christ fulfills perfectly His promise that He would be with us «always, until the end of the age» (Mt 28:20).

The Holy Father Benedict XVI explains that «The proclamation of the Lord's Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live».

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Its not how you start, its how you finish that counts

“Three conditions are necessary for Penance: contrition, which is sorrow for sin, together with a purpose of amendment; confession of sins without any omission; and satisfaction by means of good works.” - St. Thomas Aquinas

Gospel text (Jn 20,11-18):
Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.

Today, in the figure of Mary of Magdala we may contemplate two levels of acceptance of our Savior: the first one, imperfect; complete, the second one. According to the first one, Mary appears as the most sincere of Jesus' disciples. She follows him, unmatched Master; heroically, she sticks to Jesus, crucified because of his love; she looks for him, beyond death, buried and missing. How full of admirable and humble submission to her “Lord” are her two exclamations that, as two unique pearls, the evangelist John has kept for us: «They have taken my Lord and I don't know where they have put him» (Jn 20:13); «Lord, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him»! (Jn 20:15). History has seen few disciples as loyal and full of affection as Mary of Magdala.

It is not infrequent today to find many Christians that cannot clearly see what will come after this life and who, therefore, have doubts about Jesus' resurrection. Am I among them? On the other hand, there are too those Christians who have enough faith to follow Jesus privately, but who are afraid of apostolically proclaiming it. Do I belong to these ones?

Why was Mary Magdalene so much quicker to receive Easter than the apostles were? It was because of her love. When we love the Lord and His people, we can catch on to the risen Christ quickly. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pt 4:8). Love speeds things up, leaps over obstacles, and never fails (1 Cor 13:8).

Ask the Holy Spirit to point out to you a person you have difficulty loving. This situation will either be a detour from or an expressway to Easter. If you can accept God's grace to unconditionally love this person, you will be like Mary Magdalene and immediately have Easter and a deep relationship with the risen Christ. If you refuse to love this person, Easter will have to wait.

Be another Mary Magdalene, let us cling to his feet and let us go to our brothers and tell them: —The Lord has risen and I have seen him!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is

"When one is convinced that his cause is just, he will fear nothing."- St John Bosco

Gospel text (Mt 28,8-15):
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee ,
and there they will see me.”

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, “You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.

Today, the joy of resurrection has made brave messengers out of those women that went to Christ's tomb. The angel's announcement of the Master's resurrection filled their hearts with «great joy». And, immediately after, they “ran out”, to tell the news to the Apostles. They simply could not stand idle, their hearts bursting should they not let the disciples know about the great news. Paul's words resound in our souls: «For the love of Christ constrains us» (2Cor 5:14).

Jesus contrives to a “chance meeting” with Mary of Magdala and the other Mary —this is how Christ rewards their courage to look for him early in the morning—, and He does it too with all men and women of this world

The women's reactions before the Lord in the gospel today express the deepest attitudes of human beings before He who is our Creator and Redeemer: submission —«embraced his feet» (Mt 28:9)— and worship. What a lesson for all of us regarding what our attitude ought to be always before Christ in the Eucharist!

«Do not be afraid» (Mt 28:10), Jesus tells the pious women. Afraid of our Lord? Never, as He is the Love of loves! Afraid to lose him? Yes, because we are well aware of our feebleness. This is why we embrace his feet so strongly. As the Apostles in the stormy sea and as the disciples of Emaus when they beg him: Lord, do not leave us!

And the Master sends the women to his disciples so they can see him too. This is also our task, and our divine mission, since the day of our baptism: to proclaim Christ all over the World «so that everybody may find Christ, so that Christ may join each one of us in our journey through life, with the power of the truth (...) contained in the mystery of Incarnation and Redemption, with the power of the love He irradiates» (John Paul II).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ is Risen - Indeed He is Risen!

"Alleluia! Christ is truly risen! We can make absolutely no qualification of this fact whatever. Christ has really, truly, and substantially risen, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, from the dead. The whole Christ has risen indeed for the completion of the work of our redemption.” ~St. Thomas Aquinas

Gospel text (Jn 20:1-9): On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

Today, «is the day when the Lord has acted», as we shall be singing throughout Easter time. As this is the expression of Psalm 117 that fills out the celebration of our Christian faith. The Father has resurrected Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, whom He indulges in because He has loved to the point of giving his life for all of us.

Let us live this Easter with plenty of joy. Christ has risen: so let us celebrate it full of joy and love. Death, sin and sadness, have today been defeated by Jesus Christ... and He has opened the doors to a new life, the real life, the life we owe to the grace of the Holy Spirit. Nobody should be sad. Christ is our Peace and our Path forever and ever. Today, He «fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear» (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes 22).

The great sign the Gospel gives us today is that Jesus' tomb is empty. We have to look no more among the dead for He who is alive has risen. And his disciples, that later on will see him risen, that is, will experience him alive in a wonderful meeting in faith, also realize his tomb is empty. An empty tomb and apparitions will be the great signs for the believer's faith. The Gospel says that «finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed» (Jn 20:8). Through his faith he realizes that the emptiness and the linen cloths lying flat and the napkin rolled up in its place, were all signs God had been there, signs of the new life. Love can see signals where others cannot and small signs may suffice. «The other disciple whom Jesus loved» (Jn 20:2) was led by the love he had received from Christ.

The “seeing and believing” of the disciples must also be our aim. We renew our paschal faith. That Christ be our Lord in everything we do. Let his Life revitalize ours and let us renew the grace of the baptism we have received. Let us become his apostles and disciples. Let us be guided by love and announce to all our happiness to believe in Christ. Let us be hopeful witnesses of his Resurrection.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday: The Whole Earth Keeps Silent

O Mother of Sorrows, thou, who beneath the Cross of Jesus were given to
us as our Mother, look down with pity on us, thy children, who weep and
mourn in this valley of tears. By that sword of sorrow which pierced thy
Heart when thou looked upon the Face of thy dead Son, obtain for us
that comfort we so sorely need in our sufferings.

Thou were given to us our Mother in the hour of thy greatest grief that
thou might be mindful of our frailty and the evils that press upon us.
Without thy aid, O Sorrowful Mother, we cannot gain the victory in this
struggle against flesh and blood. Therefore, we seek thy help,
O Queen of Sorrows, lest we fall prey to the wiles of the enemy.
We are orphans in need of the guiding hand of our Mother amid the
dangers that threaten our destruction. Thou whose grief was boundless
as the sea, grant us by the memory of those sorrows the strength to be

Intercede further, O Mother of Sorrows, for us and all who are near and
dear to us, that we may ever do the Will of thy Son, and may direct all
our actions to His honor, and to the furtherance of devotion to thy sorrows.

Virgin Most Sorrowful, pray for us.

Today in fact, there is no “Gospel” to meditate upon or perhaps we should rather meditate upon the whole Gospel with capital letters (the Good News), because it all ends in what we are today recalling: Jesus surrendering to Death so that He can rise again and give us a New Life.

Today, the Church remains by our Lord's tomb, while meditating upon his Passion and Death. We shall not celebrate the Eucharist until the day will be over, until tomorrow, when it will start with the Solemn Vigil of the Resurrection. Today, is a day of silence, of affliction, of sadness, of thinking and waiting. Today, we do not find the Holy Eucharist to be reserved in the Sacrarium. There is only the remembrance and the sign of his “love to the end”, the Holy Cross we devotedly adore.

Today, is the day to be by Mary, his mother. We have to stay by her to be able to understand a little the significance of this tomb we are watching over. She, who with loving tenderness was keeping in his motherly heart those mysteries she did not quite understood from that Son of hers, who was the Savior of us all, is now sad and hurt: «He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him» (Jn 1:11). It is also the sadness of the other mother, the Holy Church, that suffers the rejection of so many men and women that have not sheltered Him, who was Light and Life for them.

Today, while praying together with these two mothers, Christ followers ponder and repeat the antiphon of the prayer of Laudes: «He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name» (cf. Phil 2:8-9).

Today, the faithful Christian listens to the Ancient Homily about the Holy Saturday the Church reads in the liturgy of the Office of Readings: «There is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and He has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear».

Let us prepare to commemorate the solitude of Mary to live the brightness of Resurrection and to celebrate and proclaim —when this sad day is over— with the other mother, the Holy Church: Jesus Christ has risen, just as he said! (cf. Mt 28:6).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Behold the man!

Behold the wood of the cross, on which has hung our salvation: come let us adore

What must St. Peter have thought as he heard the cock crowing? Jesus, Peter’s best friend for the past three years, the man whom Peter had come to believe was the Christ, was being led to his death. Peter had spent every day with Jesus, learning, healing, sailing, and probably (knowing Peter) laughing and joking around. They were best friends. But this man, in whom Peter had believed in enough to give up his life as a fisherman, was now to be scourged and killed.

Can you imagine what must have been going on in Peter’s mind when he denied Jesus? Was he thinking about some time when he had played a prank on another disciple and Jesus had laughed? Was he thinking about how Jesus healed his mother-in-law? Was he thinking about Jesus’ teachings of love and how they had changed him so personally?

It is so hard for me to put myself into this context without getting down on myself. I know there are times when I, too, have denied even knowing Jesus. I also know how Jesus has loved me throughout my life. I can look back at everything about my relationship with Jesus and share in St. Peter’s pain when I deny him again and again.

So what conclusions should I draw from the example St. Peter’s denial?

Christ is so so so good to us. Amidst my sinning against him, amidst my denial of love, and amidst my selfishness, he only seeks to prove to me how much he loves me. There is no room for passive aggressiveness in Christ’s love. Christ does not ever reject St. Peter after today’s denial. There are no grudges. He does not cease to love St. Peter even for an instant.

We are so blessed that even while we are denying God, we can pray and ask for his help to stop denying him. What an amazing relationship to have!

God loves us more than we can even comprehend. Today we see Christ’s ultimate proof to us that he loves us. It is not even something that we have to do by ourselves. He wants us to ask him for his help.

Allow your heart to be touched and your world to be shook by this breathless and unbelievable account of the demonstration of God's love for us revealed in the self-giving love of Jesus. For, in earlier words of John, "Greater love than this no one has than to lay down His life for His friends."

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The Lord ate from a common bowl, and asked the disciples to sit on the grass. He washed their feet, with a towel wrapped around His waist - He, who is the Lord of the universe! --Clement of Alexandria

Gospel text (Jn 13,1-15):
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Today, we remember the first Holy Thursday of history, when Jesus Christ gathers his disciples to celebrate the Passover. It is then He inaugurates the new Passover of the new Covenant when his sacrifice is offered for our salvation.

Along with Eucharist, Christ institutes the ministerial priesthood with which the sacrament of the Eucharist is to be perpetuated. The preface of the Chrism Mass reveals its meaning: «He chooses men to share his sacred ministry by the laying on of hands. He appoints them to renew in his name the sacrifice of our redemption as they set before your family his paschal meal. He calls them to lead your people in love, nourish them by your word, and strengthen them through the sacraments».

And that very same Thursday, Jesus gives us his new commandment of love: «Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another» (Jn 13:34). Before, love was based upon the expected reward in return, or upon the fulfillment of an imposed norm. Now, Christian love is based upon Christ. He loves us to the point of giving his life: this must be the measure of the disciple's love and the signal, the characteristic of Christian recognition.

However, man has no capacity to love like this. It is not simply the fruit of an effort but God's wonderful gift. Fortunately, He is Love and —at the same time— source of love that we receive through the Eucharistic Bread.

Finally, today we should mull over the washing of the feet. With a servant's attitude, Jesus washes the Apostles' feet, and He recommends them to wash one another's feet (cf. Jn 13:14). There is something more than a lesson in humility in the Master's gesture. It is like an anticipation, like a symbol of his Passion, of the total humiliation He has to suffer to save all men.

Theologian Romano Guardini says that «the attitude of our littleness bowing down in front of the great is not yet an attitude of humility. It is simply, an attitude to truth. But when the great bows down before our littleness that is true humility». This is why Jesus Christ is really humble. Before this humble Christ our usual patterns shatter. Jesus Christ turn human values over while inviting us to follow him to build a better and different world based on service.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Remember, God does not pay us for results, but for effort."

Conversion is a turning into the right road; the next thing is to walk in it. The daily going on in that road is as essential as the first starting if you would reach the desired end. To strike the first blow is not all the battle; to him that overcometh the crown is promised. To start in the race is nothing, many have done that who have failed; but to hold out till you reach the winning post is the great point of the matter. Perseverance is as necessary to a man’s salvation as conversion.

(Is 50:4-9a) The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

These words from Isaiah are a timely reminder to be true to ourselves during this Lenten season, always yearning to reform ourselves in Christ’s image, never giving up on God and his saving grace. No matter what obstacles we face, we cannot forget to create a moment of calm in order to check with Christ, our compass. He was betrayed by one friend and abandoned by others. It is difficult to imagine a deeper pain. Yet, he never lashed out, never condemned them for their failure.

As difficult as it is, we must strive to be the same. It starts with staying true to oneself, holding firm to the one deeply fundamental belief that we hold dear. Namely, that love can overpower the pains of the world, those we face personally and those we share.

Christ is the living testimonial to the power of love. May God grant us the grace to be like his son, able to “give and not count the cost, fight and not heed the wounds, toil and not seek for rest, labor without asking for reward, save that of knowing that we do his will.” (from the Ignatian prayer for generosity)

“Do not look for Jesus away from yourselves. He is not out there; He is in you. Keep your lamp burning, and you will recognize Him.” – Mother Teresa

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Will you really lay down your life for me?

Judas heard all Christ's sermons – Thought for the Day - Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22-23)

Gospel text (Jn 13,21-33.36-38):
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
“Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
“Buy what we need for the feast,”
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.”
Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”

Today, we contemplate the person of Judas, the traitor apostle. And his heart, full of evil intentions he is seeking to dissimulate; hypocritically, he is also trying to cover up the greediness that rules and blinds him, despite the fact he is so close to him, who is the Light of the world. In spite of being surrounded by Light and exemplar unselfishness, for Judas «it was night» (Jn 13:30): thirty silver coins dazzled and gagged him. Dominated by greed, he betrays and sells Jesus, the most honored amongst honored men; but Judas experienced despair too, for money is not everything and it can definitely enslave us.

Then we also consider Peter with attention and devotion. Everything in him is good will, love, generosity, simplicity, nobility... He is Judas' counterpoint. It is true that three times Peter denied Jesus, but his intentions were not mean; he just did it out of cowardice and human feebleness. «He denied him for the third time, and when Jesus Christ looks at him, he immediately cried, and bitterly he cried» (Saint Ambrose). Peter's remorse and repentance was sincere as shown by his excruciating pain full of love. This is why, Jesus afterwards, reaffirmed him in the vocation and in the mission He had prepared for him

All Peter wants to do is follow Jesus everywhere he goes. He loves him and wants to be with him. But, as we continually see throughout the Gospels, Peter just doesn’t quite get it. He doesn’t get that Jesus has just sent Judas off to pay for his death. He doesn’t get that truly following Jesus means persecution. I think that is why Jesus tells Peter that he can’t come yet. It is not out of anger or pride; it is out of love. Jesus is saying to Peter, “You are not ready yet. Wait awhile. Soon, you will be ready to lead my Church.”

I really like St. Peter. I like him, not because he is perfect or pre-made to be the first leader of the Church, but because he is precisely the opposite of all those things. He was a poor fisherman. He was most certainty imperfect, continually missing the mark on what Jesus was trying to teach. I can almost see Jesus slapping his forehead thinking, “Really Peter? You still don’t get it? Let’s go over this one more time.” Just after this passage, Jesus is being tried, and Peter denies him, just as Jesus said he would. Yet, Jesus doesn’t back out of his choice for the leader of the Church. He sticks by Peter, in all of his imperfections.

To me, this means we don't have to be perfect to follow Christ. In turn, we shouldn’t expect others to be perfect, including the leaders in our Church. We are called to look at everyone in the world, including ourselves, and see past the imperfections, the moments when we just don’t get it, and see the Christ in them. That is what Jesus did. He saw past Peter’s blemishes and denials and saw a man who would take the Church from a small group of disciples to a worldwide phenomenon. He saw the beauty beneath Peter’s outer shell, and he sees beyond our shells too. He sees us for the beautiful children we are and he loves us. Don’t we owe ourselves the same love?

Monday, April 18, 2011

"The smallest good deed is worth a thousand grand intentions"

"There are three kinds of givers -- the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get anything out of a flint you must hammer it. And then you get only chips and sparks. To get water out of a sponge you must squeeze it, and the more you use pressure, the more you will get. But the honeycomb just overflows with its own sweetness. Which kind of giver are you?"

Gospel text (Jn 12,1-11):
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany ,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.

In today’s gospel, Mary anoints Jesus' feet and she wipes them with her hair, because she truly believes this is what she must do. «Mary took a pound of costly perfume made from genuine nard» (Jn 12:3). It is an act of love, and like any act of love, difficult to understand by those who do not share it. Saint Augustine wrote about that moment in history saying: «Maybe in this world the feet of our Lord are still in need. For, of whom, other than his members, said He: ‘Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me. You spend that which you do not need, but you have done that which is good for my feet’».

Judas' complaint has no utility whatsoever, and it only led him to treachery. Mary's act led her to love her Lord even more and, as a consequence, to love more all the “feet” of Christ there are on this world.

Our faithful lives in Jesus are like that perfume. Our songs of praise are sweet-smelling (Sir 39:14). Our acts of love to others are a sweet fragrance (Sg 4:10). Even our charitable gifts for God's sake are fragrant (Phil 4:18). "We are an aroma of Christ for God's sake, both among those who are being saved and those on the way to destruction; to the latter an odor dealing death, to the former a breath bringing life" (2 Cor 2:15-16). Jesus "employs us to diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge everywhere" (2 Cor 2:14). Jesus uses even our very presence to change a house, neighborhood, school, workplace, etc. All we must do is remain in Jesus to keep our fragrance. When we smell good, we can change the entire atmosphere of a place simply by being present.

Jesus wants His house to be filled (Lk 14:23). Let's fill His house, the Church, with the sweet-smelling fragrance of our lives of faith in Him (2 Cor 2:16). On this Monday of Holy Week, pour out the fragrance of your life of obedient faith (Rm 1:5; Gal 2:19-20) as "a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord" (Lv 1:9).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Passion will move men beyond themselves

A single tear shed at the remembrance of the Passion of Jesus is worth more than a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or a year of fasting on bread and water. - St. Augustine

Today begins "Holy Week." The Lord wants this week to be unlike any other week in our lives — a week of grace, sorrow, repentance, and love. The week begins with the praises of Palm Sunday, changes into the screams of the crucifixion, and ends with the dead silence of the tomb. Throughout the week, we hear the sounds of crying, whipping, hammering, and blaspheming. The sounds of Holy Week are piercing and thunderous. "Jesus cried out in a loud voice, and then gave up His spirit. Suddenly the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, boulders split, tombs opened" (Mt 27:50-52).

Eventually the roar subsides, and it's our turn to join the choir. What sound will we make? Will we be sound asleep? (Mt 26:43) Or will we betray Jesus with a quiet kiss? Will we cry: "Crucify Him"? (Mt 27:23) Or will we make an act of faith and say: "Clearly this was the Son of God!" (Mt 27:54)

This easily marks one of the most important Gospel passages (Mt 26:14-27:66 or 27:11-54) we must read throughout the entire year. Yet, at the same time, it is one of the most difficult.

What strikes me most about Jesus’ Passion is his forgiveness. He knows what his fate will be, yet he still, somehow, finds the strength to carry through with God’s plan. First, Jesus enters Jerusalem with much fanfare from the crowds that have been following him during his public ministry, but those in Jerusalem are not so impressed. Within days of first encountering him, the city turns so against him, they are willing to kill him.

Then he knows his closest friends, those he had hand-chosen to follow him, will all abandon him. It is almost a defeatist attitude Jesus shows when he tells the apostles he knows they will all fold under the pressure of staying with him that fateful night. Who could blame Jesus if he had that attitude? How much must it have pained Jesus to hear Peter’s bravado, how the apostles would all stay with Jesus even to the point of dying themselves? He knew they would disperse. Then Peter, James, and John couldn’t even stay awake with Jesus for one hour in the garden. To top it off, Judas finally comes with soldiers to take Jesus away. But after all of this, how does Jesus refer to Judas? He calls Judas “Friend.”

We can find so much of ourselves in this snippet of the Passion. Like Peter, I have talked a big game. I think I have this unshakable faith that can help me sum up the strength necessary to back it up with action. When the time comes, though, when I am truly tested, I fall. What I thought was conviction, was really a hopeful prediction. I have a great prayerful experience, a time of fulfillment at Mass, and I think I am ready for the test. To make matters worse, sometimes this test comes quickly after what I thought was a “life-changing experience.” The result? Failure. Not only could I not stick to my beliefs with actions, but I turn my back on Jesus and betray him through sin. And yet Jesus knew this would happen. He knew about each of my failures, even before his crucifixion. He knew I would falter.

But Jesus still did what was necessary. He went all the way. Even though he must have been deeply discouraged, to put it mildly, he still found the strength to do God’s will. And after all of this, he still turns to us, after we betray him through sin, and calls us “Friend.” How is that possible? It’s possible because Jesus believes in us. It’s possible because he never fails to forgive us. But it’s up to us to seek that forgiveness and receive his mercy.

How can we do this? How can we face Jesus after betraying him? We must remember Jesus is there, waiting for us in the confessional. And he wants to meet us there. Before this Easter Triduum, let us take Jesus up on this offer of forgiveness and mercy. Let us commit ourselves to the sacraments, especially Reconciliation, and prepare ourselves for this incredibly important time of year.

If we can do this, if we can commit to seeking God’s mercy, we will have the strength to back up our faith. Then when Jesus turns to look at us, we won’t feel the need to flee into the night as Peter did during that first Holy Thursday. No, Jesus will turn to us and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the master.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.”

God is, even though the whole world deny him. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained. - Mohandas Gandhi

Gospel text (Jn 11,45-56):
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”

Ezekiel prophesied that the chosen people were a field of dry bones (Ez 37:1-2). They had been dead for centuries. Then he prophesied restoration, unity, and peace (Ez 37:21ff). How can dry bones be restored? By nothing other than resurrection of the dead. How can we be restored to unity and peace? By nothing less than resurrection.

We've tried to improve the human condition with education, law and order, communism, capitalism, secularism, and militarism. However, they were all in vain. The only way to deal with the dry bones of our human condition is resurrection. Therefore, Jesus is the only Answer for humanity because He alone can die and rise. Our only hope is to be united with Jesus' death and resurrection by faith in Him.

We are saved by faith from a "dry bones" existence. We express our faith in Jesus through baptism. We are baptized into Jesus and into His death and resurrection (Rm 6:3-5). The dry bones rattle and come together (Ez 37:7). We are born again and restored.

A week from today is Easter Vigil. Many throughout the world will be baptized, and all the baptized will be called to renew their baptismal commitment to Jesus. Give yourself to Jesus and His Church, Who has turned dry bones into the abundant life (Jn 10:10).

There lies the one and only answer my friends.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Love Watches

"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 (Jn 10:31-42): The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
The Jews answered him,
“We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.
You, a man, are making yourself God.”
Jesus answered them,
“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods”‘?
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world
blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power.

He went back across the Jordan
to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.
Many came to him and said,
“John performed no sign,
but everything John said about this man was true.”
And many there began to believe in him.

A week from today is Good Friday. For some days now, our scriptures have been pointing us toward the Triduum. In the gospel of John today, we recognize the same sort of bold yet humble rebuke from Jesus that we hear on Good Friday when the soldier slaps him: “If I have said anything wrong, tell me; if not why did you strike me?”

“How do you know Jesus is God? How do you affirm him?” In order to not be one of the people throwing stones at Jesus in the Gospel of today, shouldn’t we know why we believe that Jesus is one with God so I’m not one of the ones claiming he’s a blasphemer?

It’s something that I think each one of us are called to think about today: why do we believe that Jesus is a part of the Holy Trinity and not just a blasphemous man? (And you can’t say 'because that’s what church doctrine tells us to believe'!) I came up with my reason after only a little bit of thinking. When I go to Eucharist Adoration with a young adult group in New York City, I would periodically see some very educated and gifted young professionals, who are thriving in one of the biggest cities in the world break down and cry. These men and women had never felt so close or connected with Jesus until that time. During those moments, I would feel as if He was there, speaking, helping, guiding all of us. It is such a powerful experience that I can’t quite put it into words. But that’s why I know Jesus is not just a man claiming to be God – how could a simple human speak through the wonders of adoration and move people that much?

During this Lenten season we are called to question how we know that Jesus is Lord and not just a blasphemous man. By doing so, we separate ourselves from those throwing rocks and strengthen our faith in Christ. I found my reason; what’s yours?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Perseverance is the badge of true saints

"God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful" - Mother Teresa

(Gn 17:3-9) When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:
“My covenant with you is this:
you are to become the father of a host of nations.
No longer shall you be called Abram;
your name shall be Abraham,
for I am making you the father of a host of nations.
I will render you exceedingly fertile;
I will make nations of you;
kings shall stem from you.
I will maintain my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
I will give to you
and to your descendants after you
the land in which you are now staying,
the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession;
and I will be their God.”

God also said to Abraham:
“On your part, you and your descendants after you
must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”

In today’s First Reading, God tells Abram, soon to be Abraham, of the covenant that He will make with him and his descendents, a “whole host of nations.” “I will render you exceedingly fertile…kings shall stem from you.” Quite a promise to a man up in years with a barren wife and one adopted son, Ishmael, by his wife’s maid-servant!

How many covenants do we enter? Lent offers the invitation to take time to reflect on how God and I have done with the promises given.

As we are approaching the end of this Lenten season, I marvel over the ‘failures’ of Lenten ‘give-ups.’ Less than forty days ago, I heard many people state, “I’m giving up Facebook” or “I’m giving up coffee” and so on. By now I know that many of us have failed. So now the question arises: Why can’t we keep our promises? Why do we fall into temptation?

I think it’s just a part of our human essence, brought about by original sin. It’s who we are, no hiding it. But one line needs to be drawn: the one promise we must strive to hold is our faith. Yes, faith has its dry seasons at times, in which we feel distant and unconnected to God. That’s O.K.; that’s not a sign a failure. What is failure is when we—during such times—simply give up on God. If we ask for grace, with time, God will reveal himself to us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One cannot desire freedom from the Cross when one is especially chosen for the Cross

"True freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace." - Pope John Paul II

Gospel text (Jn 8:31-42):
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!”
So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”

Today, when we are only a few days from the Holy Week, our Lord is asking us to live some very specific things, small, but at times, not very easy. I shall explain them throughout this commentary: basically, it is a matter of persisting with His word. How important it is to always refer our life to the Gospel! Let's ask us: What would Jesus do in this situation I have to face now? How would He treat this person which I find so specially difficult to treat? Which would be his reaction before this circumstance? A Christian must be —according to Saint Paul — “another Christ”: «I no longer live, but Christ lives in me» (Gal 2:20). How is it, our Lord's reflection, on our daily life? Am I his mirror?

Our Lord assures us that, if we persist in his word, we shall know the truth, and the truth will make us free (cf. Jn 8:32). To be truthful is not always easy. How often do we tell small lies, how often do we pretend, how often do “we act dumb”? We cannot deceive God. He sees us, He contemplates us. He loves us and follows us, in our day-to-day routine. The eight Commandment teaches us not to bear false witness nor not to tell lies, no matter how small, even if they look trivial to us. “White lies” are not permitted either. Jesus Christ tells us in another moment: «Let your yes mean, "Yes" and your no mean "No"» (Mt 5:37). That trend to do good, which is true freedom, is very much related to Truth. Sometimes, we are not free enough because there is a double standard in our life, we are not clear. We must be convincing! The sin of lies enslaves us.

Our Lord says «If God were your Father you would love me» (Jn 8:42). How can we make it come true in our daily desire to get to know the Master? With what kind of devotion do we read the Gospel, even though we may have little time at our disposal? Which sediment will it leave in my life, in my day? When people look at you (and me) can it be said, that they see Christ's life?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

“Patience cures many an old complaint”

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.“

(Nm 21:4-9)
From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road,
to bypass the land of Edom .
But with their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
“We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents away from us.”
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

As I begin this reflection, bombs are falling on Libya and radiation is making its way across the north of Japan . These are all grounds for complaints: “When will winter end?” “Who will save us from this situation?” “What have we done to deserve this?” Both nature and man throw deadly bolts of destruction which disrupt life’s patterns. In the first reading the Israelites crossing the desert complained about the quality of food and drink and travel conditions. In today's gospel (John 8:21-30) both the people and the disciples were confused about Jesus’ fate. They did not understand what he was saying and challenged/queried him about his intentions. In these responses human nature is at play.

In day to day living we all complain about something—some small and some significant. Our complaints are quiet and personal or quite loud and public. In today’s readings the complaints are the latter, loud and public. We complain about persons, places and things—all quite human. Today’s readings focus on the peoples’ discontent with God and with the actions of God in the person of Jesus. This is a complaint of a different texture than our grumblings about the weather, a sports team, a meal, parking, politicians or even the in-laws!

In this fifth week of Lent you might reflect a bit and then ask yourself the question: do you have any complaints about God? Any resentment towards God? Any old unhealed wounds in your relationship with God? Do you grumble under your breath about God’s fairness or God’s mercy or God’s forgiveness? Are you agitated by God’s apparent generosity to others? Are you unmoved by the plight of those in great need of God’s justice? Are you close to imitating the disposition of the Israelites in the desert – unappreciative of what God is doing for you; doubting God’s care for His people? Or is your complaint more like the stubborn lack of understanding of the Pharisees in refusing to believe that Jesus was the son of God and on a mission from his father?

The timing is right for this exercise because we are nearing the cusp of Holy Week when “the Son of Man will be lifted up.” As the Lord said to Moses in the first reading: “Make a seraph and mount it on a poll and whoever looks at it will live.” How much more life saving and life giving is the crucified Jesus when He is lifted up on Good Friday as our Savior and Lord!

Surface your complaints about God, your resentments toward God and make the words of today’s psalm your words: “O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; in the day when I call, answer me speedily.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle”

And even if the sins of soul are as dark as night, when the sinner turns to My mercy he gives Me the greatest praise and is the glory of My Passion. --St Faustina

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

Today, we are given to see in the Gospel the merciful face of Jesus. God is love, and Love that forgives, Love that takes pity on our failings, Love that saves. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees «brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery» (Jn 8:4) and they asked the Lord: «But you, what do you say?» (Jn 8:5). They were not as much interested in following Jesus' teachings as they ware in accusing him of going against the Mosaic Law. But the Master takes advantage of this occasion to manifest that He has come to seek the sinners, to straighten out the fallen, to call them to conversion and to penance. And this is for us the message for Lent, inasmuch as we are all sinners and we all need God's saving grace.

Today, it is said that the sense of sin has been forgotten. Many do not know anymore what is good or bad, nor even care. We are all forced to live in a culture dominated by rampant impurity. Every day, this culture bombards us with its messages and tries to pressure us and our children, saying ever so subtly, "There is no such thing as a sin.” It is very easy to fall into this way of thinking.

This is why, the sense of conversion and penance during Lent is to confront us face-to-face with God, to look straight into the eyes of God on the Cross, to personally go and confess our sins to Him by way of the sacrament of Penance. And, Jesus will tell us, as He did with the woman in the Gospel: «Neither do I condemn you… go away and don't sin again» (Jn 8:11). God forgives, and, is on our side, this entails a demand, a commitment: Do not sin again!

Mary, haven of sinners, pray for us!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there.”

The great gift of Easter is hope - Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake. - Basil C. Hume

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
+Let us go back to Judea.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”
He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

Today, the Church presents us with a great miracle: Jesus resurrects a defunct that had been dead for several days. He asks all of us: «Do you believe this?» (Jn 11:26). Do we believe that God has given us a new life through the Baptism? St. Paul says that we are a new creation (cf. 2Cor 5:17). This resurrection is the foundation of our hope, which is not based upon an uncertain, future and false utopia, but upon a fact: «The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!» (Lk 24:34).

Jesus says to them: «Untie him and let him go» (Jn 11:44). Redemption has liberated us from the chains of sin that we were all suffering from. Pope Leo the Great said: «Mistakes were defeated, authority mastered and the world gained a new start. Because if we share in his sufferings we will also share in his glory (cf. Rom 8:17). This gain is not only prepared for those smashed in the name of the Lord, by those godless. Because all those who serve God and live in Him are crucified in Christ, and in Christ they will receive the crown».

We, Christians, are called to live in our earth this new supernatural life that allows us to get credit for our luck: Always ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope! (cf. 1Pet 3:15).

Just as “Jesus wept” for Lazarus and his friends, he weeps for us, pining after our stone-hard hearts and saying, “Take away the stone.” He does not want us to be bound to sin and death; he has given his life to ensure that we “will see the glory of God.” If we empty ourselves so that we can be filled with the Spirit, if we work hard to know him, trusting that he is the confidence that keeps us trying, he will say about each of us at the Judgment, “Untie him and let him go.”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"The Spirit Brings Us Together-But we pull ourselves apart"

“Truth can cause division, but it's the kind of division that strips away the blindfold layers over our eyes, so we can see the way forward.”

Gospel text (Jn 7:40-53):
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
“This is truly the Prophet.”
Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.
So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.”
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
“Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him,
“You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Then each went to his own house.

The dispute among those who heard the words of Jesus was whether Jesus was the Prophet, the Christ, or the Messiah. This created a division among the believers. The guards were timid to arrest Jesus because they said, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” The reaction of the Pharisees was contempt and the reaction of Nicodemus was timid. His heart was telling him to defend Jesus, but his head told him to not take the risk. I feel like this is the battle we play out in our lives daily. When we make decisions do we follow our heart or do we listen to our head? This is a very difficult balance to find, because we want to be smart with our decisions but at the same time follow our passion and listen to God.

In today’s readings we are challenged to take a stand for Christ and for the Gospel. After reading the Gospel I asked myself if I would have had the courage to stand up for Jesus, or if I would have shied away at the risk like Nicodemus?

Jesus Christ is truly a “sign that will be contradicted” as Simon had told Mary (cf. Lk 2:34). Those who listened to Jesus' words did not remain indifferent to them, to the point that, on this occasion, as in many others, «the crowd was divided over Him» (Jn 7:43). The reply of the officers who wanted to arrest the Lord centers the question and shows us the power of Christ's words: «No one ever spoke like this man» (Jn 7:46). It is like saying: His words are different; they are not empty boastful words, full of arrogance and falseness. He is “the Truth” and his way of speaking reflects this reality.

We all have to choose! God does not impose upon us; He offers himself to us. And it is up to us to decide to be for him or not. It is a personal matter each one —with the help of the Holy Spirit— has to solve by himself. Miracles are useless, if man's dispositions are not humility and simplicity. We can see the Jews divided before the same facts. And, this is because in love matters it is not possible to give a half-hearted, half way reply: Christian vocation implies radical response, so radical as the testimony of submission and obedience Christ gave in the Cross.

Today as then, we Christians are —must be— “a sign of contradiction”, because we do not speak and behave like others do. By imitating and following Jesus Christ, we likewise must use “the language of charity and love”, a necessary language that, in fact, we can all understand. As the Holy Father, our Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his encyclical Deus caritas est, «Love —caritas— will always prove necessary, even in the most just society (...). Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such».

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lukewarm acceptance is more bewildering than outright rejection

“If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” - Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Jn 7:1-
Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea ,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.
But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
"Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
"You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me."
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

Why was Jesus, the Holy One, traveling about in "heathen Galilee " (Mt 4:15), the pagan territory? It was because His life was in danger in the "holy" territory. Jesus had decided not to travel in the "churchy" area of Judea and Jerusalem , because some of the Jews there were looking for a chance to kill Him. These religious folks did have their eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb 12:2) — not to exalt Him, but to eliminate Him. All the while, these folks were busily carrying out their religious activities, such as the holy Feast of Booths (Jn 7:2). They gave Jesus outward lip-service (Mk 7:6), but internally they found Him "obnoxious" ( Wis 2:12) and so kept Him out of their worship.

It is likely that some of us are also deeply involved in religious activities. Accordingly, we must constantly "examine [ourselves]" (2 Cor 13:5). Are we, who reside in the holy territory, the ones among whom Jesus can do the least good? Are we giving Jesus lip-service, but working to keep Him out of "our" ministries and lives for fear? Are we pillars of the Church but "always opposing the Holy Spirit"? (Acts 7:51) Could it be that we are keeping Jesus away rather than rolling out the welcome mat for Him?

Scripture points out that one thing is for certain. We will all suffer trials in life and at times it may seem that the wicked are winning or being rewarded. It would be easy to become bitter and lose faith; to wonder, is God really seeing this? We can draw from today’s scripture readings that, yes, God is watching.

You wonder what Jesus thought. The Son of God comes among us and those in power plot to kill him. The disciples appear clueless. And the people in Jerusalem said you can’t be the Christ; we know where you’re from! One wonders how frustrated Jesus must have been.

In trying times where God seems distant and injustice seems to reign, we have a choice. We can distance ourselves from God or move closer to God. It always seems to come down to faith and trust. As we move towards Easter this is a time to think about Christ and His sacrifice. The Lenten season offers us an opportunity to spend more time with God. My prayer today is for each of us to know the Lord is watching over us and to deepen our relationship with God.

We must seek Christ when it’s the most difficult to do so, because that’s when he is the closest.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

“You can get to the contemplation of Christ's face only by listening”

«That Christ you see, is not Jesus. —It will be, in any case, the sad image your blurred eyes may form... —Purify yourself. Clarify your look with humility and penance. Afterwards... you won't be lacking the clear lights of Love. And you will have a perfect vision. Your image will really be: Him!». – St. Josemaria Escriva

Gospel text (Jn 5,31-47): Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”

There is a tendency in our society to not believe in what we cannot see. If something is not right there in front of us, society has taught us to believe that it isn’t real. We as Christians must be cautious of this idea. Many non-believers tend to use this argument against us in questioning us on how we could believe in something that we cannot see, touch, or hear. It is a difficult task for us to believe in the divine, but it is not impossible. We can take the small hints around us like the beauty of Mother Nature and use them to help us believe in the Lord. While these hints can help us believe more, they are not enough to fully convince ourselves. We must have the courage and strength to take a leap of faith.

The leap of faith we take is not easy. We put our total trust and faith into the unknown. We must trust in what we cannot see to be our guidance towards everlasting life. Once we’ve taken this leap of faith we should never look back. Continue on at full force and don’t ever let another being convince you that you’ve made a mistake. God is all-loving and he rewards those who take a chance on him and believe with all their hearts. Let us trust in him and ourselves and we will receive everlasting life.

God Bless

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"The battle belongs to God!" — David when facing Goliath

"We shall steer safely through every storm so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God." — St. Francis de Sales

(Is 49:8-15) Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene .
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

In today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah, God makes a powerful statement about his love for humanity referring to the image of a mother’s love, which is perhaps the strongest commitment to care among humans: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” God’s love for us is like a mother’s love for her child, but at the same time also stronger and more permanent than a mother’s love could ever be.

This comparison is not only expressive of the permanence and strength of God’s love but also indicates the type of love God has towards us: it is not so much a mere emotional attachment but a caring love; it is love that provides comfort and mercy, guides, protects, and provides for basic needs. The reading states very clearly that God’s love is not only a sensation felt inside us but also experienced in very tangible and concrete, even material terms.

This gives us an idea of how our love towards others ought to be: tangible and concrete, triggering social and structural change in our world! Our Christian goal should be a society, in which none of us has to suffer hardship. Obviously, this is an ideal which cannot be easily reached, but this should not deter us from going one step at a time towards creating such a society, which will – hopefully – over time increasingly resemble the heavenly Jerusalem , where God’s love permeates every aspect of life.

The reading makes it also very clear that God’s Word cannot be locked within the walls of a church building or the confines of a prayerful home. God’s Word is highly political and its power will spill over from churches and homes into every corner of our society and world! God’s Word inspires action transforming the world.

Christ says in today’s reading from the Gospel of St. John (Jn 5,17-30) that “for just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life.” Raising the dead refers to the life in eternal bliss promised to all followers of Christ but also to our mission to raise up those among us, who are “dead” in one way or another, who are, for example, constrained in developing their potential because of being born into a household that cannot afford a decent education, whose health is threatened because of their inability to afford basic health care, and who are depressed because they cannot find work.

This, our mission, asks us to reflect not only about our individual ways of showing love but also about our collective mission as church to “raise the dead.” Those of us in parish leadership need to go beyond organizing meetings and events and must also reach out to one another. Priests need to seek out the lost and suffering and bishops need to courageously make statements about our Mission to show God's love to our fellow human beings.

Let us be inspired by Christ who said the following in today’s Gospel: “whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life.” Listening to and believing in Christ gives us eternal life and inspires us to give life to humanity, raising others from death by transforming our society and world!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

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

"In all the miracles of healing performed by Our Divine Savior, we must admire the remarkable goodness which caused Him to heal first the sickness of the soul, then that of the body. He teaches us the great lesson that we must first purify our consciences before turning to God for help in our earthly needs." – St John Bosco

Gospel text (Jn 5,1-3.5-16):
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem .
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’“
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.

Today, Saint John speaks of the parable of the pool of Bethzatha. It rather looked like the waiting room of a traumathology hospital. «There lay a multitude of sick people-blind, lame and paralyzed» (Jn 5:3). Jesus went up there. It's rather curious!: Jesus manages to be found always in the middle of some problem. Wherever He goes, there is always somebody to be “liberated”; there He is when it comes to making people happy.

“Do you want to be well?” -John 5:6

Jesus poses such a poignant and direct question that it cannot help but jump out at us. Instead of asking the sick man if he wants to be cured of his disease, Jesus asks if he wants to be “well”.

Jesus jumps directly to the ultimate goal: contentment, joy, and peace. Even with modern medicine on our side, he offers so much more than we can ever provide, including forgiveness of sins. Therefore, this Gospel serves as a reminder for us to utilize this penitential Lenten season as an encouragement to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with our Spiritual Doctors: our beloved priests.

Just as he asks the sick man in the Gospel, he encourages us to ponder whether we are wallowing in our own pain and excuses. Are we choosing to be ensnared by a certain sin tendency? Are we purposefully letting a long-term illness define us? Are we consciously using a challenge in our lives as an excuse?

Jesus offers total and complete forgiveness from our sins and freedom from what ails us in life. Physicians face serious issues with non-compliance among patients who fall away from their treatment plans. A physician cannot treat a patient who does not want to be healthy. In precisely the same way, the desire to be well is central to Jesus’ offer.

That helpless disabled man in our gospel passage today, close to the water, does he not remind you of our own helplessness to do good? How can we dare solve by ourselves that which has a supernatural scope? Don't you see, every day, around you, a big crowd of disabled ones that are “moving” themselves about, while being totally unable to get rid of their lack of freedom? Sin paralyzes man, grows him old, kills him... We have to fix our eyes on Jesus. We need him —His Grace— to plunge us into the waters of prayer, of confession, of the opening of our spirit. You and I may be eternal disabled persons, or, on the contrary, bearers of his light.

Today in prayer, picture Jesus asking you, “Do you want to be well?”

What will you answer?

Monday, April 4, 2011

“Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof”

“Humanism or atheism is a wonderful philosophy of life as long as you are big, strong, and between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. But watch out if you are in a lifeboat and there are others who are younger, bigger, or smarter.”

Gospel text (Jn 4:43-54):
At that time Jesus left [ Samaria ] for Galilee .
For Jesus himself testified
that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast;
for they themselves had gone to the feast.

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee ,
where he had made the water wine.
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum .
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea ,
he went to him and asked him to come down
and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man was on his way back,
his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.
He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him,
“The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live,”
and he and his whole household came to believe.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea .

Today, we find Jesus again in Cana of Galilee, where He had previously made the well known miracle of changing the water into wine. Now, on this occasion, He performs a new miracle: the recovery of a royal official's son. In spite of how spectacular the first one was, this second miracle is, undoubtedly, more valuable, for what Jesus solves with this miracle is nothing material, but a problem of a human life.

What is so remarkable in this case is that Jesus does not go to Capernaum to directly heal there the sick one; He performs the miracle without moving from Cana : «The official told him: ‘Sir, come down before my child dies!’. And Jesus replied: ‘Go, your son is living’» (Jn 4:49-50).

This should remind us all that we can do a lot of good from a distance, that is, without having to make us present wherever our generosity is requested. We can, thus, help the Third World simply by collaborating economically with our Missions or with catholic organizations that may be working over there. Or let us help those in need on the marginal suburbs of the big cities with our contributions to institutions like Caritas International, without our having to set foot there. Or, we can even make a lot of people far away happy by means of just a telephone call, a letter or an e-mail.

Quite often we do not perform a good deed by excusing ourselves because of our impossibility to be physically present wherever there is an urgent need for outside help. Jesus did not use that excuse. He was not at Capernaum , but He simply performed the miracle.

If you want to be generous, distance should be no problem, for our generosity comes all the way directly from our heart and it crosses all frontiers. As Saint Augustine said: «He who is charitable at heart, always finds something to give».