Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"To be Catholic means to be pro-life.”

"It is a poverty that a "child must die", So that you may live as you wish...” – Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lc 1,39-56): Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, «You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord's word would come true!».

And Mary said: «My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior! He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is his Name! From age to age his mercy extends to those who live in his presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He held out his hand to Israel, his servant, for he remembered his mercy, even as he promised our fathers, Abraham and his descendants forever». Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.

Today, we contemplate the Virgin Mary's Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. As soon as she was told she had been chosen by God Father to be the Mother of the Son of God and that her cousin Elizabeth had also received the gift of motherhood, she decidedly set out for the hills to congratulate her cousin, to share with her the joy of having being blessed with the gift of maternity and to serve her.

The salutation of the Mother of God provokes that the infant Elizabeth carried in her womb, leapt with joy within his mother's entrails. God's Mother, who also carried Jesus in her womb, is a cause for joy. Families are happy when the arrival of a new life is announced. Christ birth certainly produces «good news of great joy» (Lk 2:10).

And yet, in these present times, motherhood is not duly prized. Quite often other interests, which are an expression of convenience and selfishness, oppose to it. Parent's love implies an eventual renunciation scaring many married couples that, perhaps, should be more generous with the goods they have received from God and say “yes” to new lives in a more responsible way. Many families stop being “shrines of life”. His Holiness John Paul II confirms that birth control and abortion «have their roots in an hedonist and irresponsible mentality with respect to sexuality and presuppose a selfish concept of liberty, that sees in procreation an obstacle to the development of their own personality».

During five months Elizabeth did not leave her home, and thought: «Look what the Lord has done for me!» (Lk 1:25). And Mary said: «My soul glorifies the Lord (...) for He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant» (Lk 1:46-48). The Virgin Mary and Elizabeth value and are grateful for what God has given them: maternity! It is necessary that we, Catholics, find again the significance of life as a sacred gift from God to human beings.

Monday, May 30, 2011

" Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act. "

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. ~Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.”

Today, the Gospel is almost as applicable as it was in the last years of St. John the Evangelist. In those days, to be a Christian was not in fashion (in fact, it was rather dangerous) as, now a days, it is not either. Should we want to be well regarded by our society, we better not be Christians, because, in many ways —as it happened to the first Christian Jews— «they will put us out of the Jewish communities» (Jn 16:2).

We are well aware that to be a Christian today is to go upstream. It has always been. Even when “everybody” was a Christian: those who really wanted to be Christians were not too well considered by some. If abiding by Jesus Christ's law, a Christian is a living witness of what God had planned for all men; it is the clear evidence that it is both possible to imitate Jesus Christ and to live with a man's dignity. Many, though, will not be pleased with this example, very much in the same way as Jesus displeased those who killed him. The reasons for this refusal may be several, and we have to bear in mind that, at times, our testimony will be taken as an accusation.

It would not be fair to say that, because of his writings, St. John was a pessimist: he gives us a vivid description of a victorious Church and of Christ's final triumph. It cannot be said either he did not have to go through the same suffering he describes. He does not hide the reality of life or the substance of Christian life: to fight.

A fight for all concerned, for we can never win by ourselves. The Holy Spirit is our battle partner who fights by our side. The Holy Spirit gives us the necessary strength. The Holy Spirit is the Protector, who delivers us from all danger. With The Holy Spirit by our side we should not be afraid of anything.

John fully trusted Jesus; He offered him his life. Thus, it was not difficult for him to trust He Who was sent by Him: the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Once you depart from the Ten Commandments as being the foundation of right and wrong, you are in a free fall."

“The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion” - John Adams (2nd US President (1797-1801)

Gospel text (Jn 14,15-21):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

We understand today's Gospel reading very well when we know that a Christian isn't a man who strives to follow devoted practices or precepts as, if one loves, it comes naturally to live as Jesus has indicated.

Rediscovering our own Baptism, through the guidance of the Spirit of truth, means therefore to search to know Christ's life better every day through reading the Scriptures, prayer, receiving the sacraments, and contributing to life within our community and then it will be easier to fall in love with Him!

From what has been proposed so far, there is nothing that emerges that anyone can say prohibits us from living a 'life' that is real, not even the fact that we can not yet see Jesus in the flesh.

It is then that we can finally understand St John's Gospel: 'Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me'. (Jn 14:19) The alternative between 'you' and the 'world' doesn't correspond to a moral or ethnic division but an alternative that dwells in the heart of every one of us!

If we, therefore, follow the world and its mentality, we will never see the Risen One. However, if we start to trust ourselves to the Church, our mother, to listen to that what she suggests and teaches us, then we will discover that in truth one can see the Lord.
We will discover that He has an exceptional, Real Presence that we will find fascinating and irresistible because He is the only true motor for the 'Christian life.'

Saturday, May 28, 2011

“The way of this world is, to praise dead saints, and persecute living ones.”

"“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” Therefore, according to the Gospel, any citizen can be a good Catholic – that is, side with Jesus Christ and the Pope, and do good to his fellow men – and at the same time side with Caesar, namely, observe the laws of the land, except when the rulers persecute religion or tyrannize the consciences and minds of citizens." - St. John Bosco

Gospel text (Jn 15,18-21):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.”

I have always found Jesus’ prediction in today’s Gospel to be particularly foreboding. It is one thing to know that there will be trials, that we will have crosses to bear for following him; it’s another to be told that we will be hated because of it.

Consequently, one of the main characteristics of Christ's followers is fighting all evil and sin to be found in the world and inside every man. This is why, Jesus is the light of men, the light that illuminates the world's darkness. Karol Wojtyla exhorts us «so that this light makes us strong and capable to accept and love the entire Truth of Christ, and love it even more when opposed by our world».

Neither Christians nor the Church can follow the passing fads or criteria of this world. Christ's criterion is the unique, definitive and unavoidable one for us to follow. It is not up to Jesus to adapt himself to the world where we live; it is up to us instead to transform our lives after Jesus. «Christ is the same yesterday, today, and always». This should make us wonder. When our secularized society demands from us and from the Church certain changes or licenses, we are simply being asked to move away from God. We, Christians, however, should be faithful to Christ and to his message. Saint Ireneus says: «God does not need anything; but man needs to be in permanent communion with God. And man's glory lies in persevering and always keep in God's service».

This fidelity may, quite often, mean persecution: «If they persecuted me, they will persecute you, too» (Jn 15:20). We should not be afraid of persecution; we should rather be afraid of not attempting strongly enough to always live in God's will. Let's be brave and let us proclaim without any fear Christ resurrected, light and joy of all Christians! Let us allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, so that we can inform the whole world about it!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A great Friend is waiting

«Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead»(James 2:15-17).

Gospel text (Jn 15,12-17): Jesus said to his disciples:
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

Are you Jesus' friend? You are His friend if you do as He commands you (Jn 15:14). His command is to love one another as He has loved us (Jn 15:12). If you do this, you will realize that Jesus laid down His life for you (Jn 15:13), and you will lay down your life for others (1 Jn 3:16). Then you will understand what Jesus the Master is about (Jn 15:15). God's work will not puzzle but enlighten you.

Only Jesus' loving, obedient friends experience this. This crucified love bears much fruit. It opens even the hardest hearts to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

We bear this abundant, lasting fruit not by our power or efforts but by abiding in the Lord and letting Him abide in us (Jn 15:5). We bear abundant, lasting fruit both by being servants of Jesus who obey Him even when we don't understand Him, and by being friends of Jesus who know what our Master is about (Jn 15:15). We bear fruit by letting the Lord trim us clean by His word (Jn 15:2-3). Ultimately, we bear the right quantity and quality of fruit by loving one another, even to the point of laying down our lives for each other (Jn 15:13). We bear fruit by denying our very selves, taking up the cross each day, and following Jesus (Lk 9:23). Jesus proclaims: "I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12:24).

The cross is the only fruit tree that bears abundant, lasting fruit. Bear the cross; bear fruit.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls”

"Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures." - Saint Thomas Aquinas

Gospel text (Jn 15,9-11): Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that
my joy might be in you and
your joy might be complete.”

Jesus offers us His complete joy. The question is: do we really want Jesus' type of joy, that is, "complete joy," or would we rather have a cheap, temporary joy?

Jesus promises us we can have His joy, the joy of God enthroned in heaven. We receive this joy by keeping God's commandments as Jesus kept the Father's commandments (Jn 15:10).

This may come as a surprise to many because we think joy depends on doing our own thing rather than God's thing. However, let the facts speak for themselves. Possibly never before has a culture been so preoccupied with feeling good, pleasure-seeking, and selfish pursuits. Yet we are very discontent. Alienated youth, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and apathy are telltale signs something's very wrong. We've tried to gain our lives but, just as Jesus said, we've lost them (Lk 9:24).

If we refuse to learn by believing, maybe we can learn by failing. Let's try God's way, the way of self-denial (Lk 9:23), the way of the cross. Jesus' way is the only way to happiness, contentment, and joy. Jesus is the Way (Jn 14:6). Sin and disobedience rob us of our joy. Repentance and obedience restore it.

Rejoice in the Lord! (Phil 4:4)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and in reach of every hand

“Love cannot remain by itself -- it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.” - Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Jn 15,1-8): Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Our Lord does not hide to his disciples all the dangers and difficulties they will have to face in the near future: «If they persecuted Me they will persecute you...» (Jn 15:20). But they should not be intimidated nor overwhelmed by all the hate they will find in this world: Jesus renews his promise of the arrival of the Protector, while assuring them they may ask and they will be given. Finally, the Lord prays for them —for all of us— to the Holy Father during his priestly prayer (cf. Jn 17).

But our danger does not come from outside, though: the worst menace may arise within ourselves when we fail to respect the fraternal love among the members of Christ's Mystic Body or the unity with the Head of that Body. The recommendation is clear: «I am the vine and you are the branches. As long as you remain in me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from me you can do nothing» (Jn 15:5).

The first generations of Christians managed to keep a very clear conscience of the importance of remaining united through charity. Here is the testimony of one the Fathers of the Church, saint Ignatius of Antioch: «Do you therefore all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father». And here is also an indication from the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Christians: «Whatsoever he said unto you, do [it]» (Jn 2:5).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”

”We must sometimes bear with little defects in others, as we have, against our will, to bear with natural defects in ourselves. If we wish to keep peace with our neighbor, we should never remind anyone of his natural defects.”--Saint Philip Neri

Gospel text (Jn 14,27-31a):Jesus said to his disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.
I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

Today, Jesus speaks to us indirectly of the cross: He will give us the peace, but at the cost of his painful “departure” of this world. Today, we read those words He said before the sacrifice on the Cross but that were written after his Resurrection. With his death on the Cross, He defeats both death and fear. He gives the peace «but not as the world gives peace» (Jn 14:27), inasmuch as He does it by going through the most excruciating pain and humiliation: this is how He proved his merciful love for man.

As of the moment sin entered the world, suffering in our lives is unavoidable. There are times when it is a physical pain; others, it is a moral suffering; and then, there are times when it is a matter of a spiritual pain..., and we all have to die. But God in his infinite love has given us the remedy to have peace amidst the pain: He has accepted “to leave” this world with a painful “departure” surrounded by serenity.

Why did He do it in such a way? Because thus, human pain —together with Christ's suffering— becomes a sacrifice that saves us from sin. «In the Cross of Christ (...), human suffering has been redeemed» (John Paul II). Jesus Christ quietly suffered to please the Heavenly Father with an act of costly obedience, through which He willingly offered Himself for our salvation.

An unknown author of the 2nd century attributes these words to Jesus: «See the spits over my face, which I received from you, to give you back the first gust of life I had blown on your face. See my cheeks, which were slapped so I could reform your deteriorated aspect according to my new image. See my back, which was lashed to remove the weight of your sins from your shoulders. See my hands, so strongly nailed to the cross for you, who, in times ago, fatally stretched out one of your hands towards the forbidden tree».

Monday, May 23, 2011

Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure

“I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible.” – St Teresa of Avila

Gospel text (Jn 14,21-26): Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him,
“Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us
and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.

“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit
whom the Father will send in my name
he will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”

Obedience is one of the main ways we express our love for God. The Lord gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). The Lord reveals Himself to those obeying Him (Jn 14:21) and conceals Himself from the disobedient (see Lk 10:21). The obedient not only know God's revelation but even His dwelling within them (Jn 14:23). In obedience, love is expressed, the Spirit received, God revealed, and His indwelling received. Sin and death entered the world through disobedience, but salvation entered the world through Jesus' obedience (Rm 5:19), even to death on the cross (Phil 2:8).

Obedience is the essence of the Christian life and the heart of our relationship with the Lord. Obedience is one of the most important ways of imitating Christ. It is a prerequisite to exercising authority over the evil one (2 Cor 10:4-6). Obedience is one of our greatest privileges, for the Lord could have accomplished His plan of salvation without letting us participate through obedience. Obedience is a way of life (1 Pt 1:2) and the way of love. Love to obey.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


"Each time that anyone thus looks lovingly at the Host,
Which contains sacramentally My Divine Body,
He will increase his merits for Heaven,
And add to his eternal joys an especial delight,
Corresponding to that with which he devoutly contemplated
This precious Body on earth." - St Gertrude

"Look around among your own number, brothers, for seven men acknowledged to be deeply spiritual and prudent, and we shall appoint them to this task. This will permit us to concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the word." —Acts 6:3-4

When priests are truly priests, we need more deacons. When deacons are truly deacons, it helps priests be truly priests. When lay people are truly lay people, they call forth more priests and deacons. "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy" (1 Cor 12:26).

Because we are all one body, we grow stronger or weaker together. Some think a decimated priesthood is a good opportunity for deacons, religious, and lay people to be more active in the Church. Rather, a weakened priesthood means less opportunities for others to minister. A weak priesthood is an effect of a weak laity, and will cause a weak diaconate and even weaker laity.

This vicious cycle can be reversed only by each of us — no matter what part of Christ's body we are — repenting and surrendering totally to Jesus. Renewal of Christ's body begins with us. If we deny our very selves, take up our daily cross (Lk 9:23), and become what the Lord has called us to be, we will build up the body of Christ. In this way, the word of God will continue to spread and the number of disciples enormously increase (Acts 6:7).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”

“How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment."- St. John Chrysostom

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to Jesus,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

Today, 4th Saturday of Easter, the Church invites us to consider how important it is for all Christians to be aware that they need to know Christ more and more. Which tools can we rely upon for this? Several, and all of them fundamental: well pondered and attentive reading of the Gospel; our personal involvement when praying, by trying hard to make our prayers become a true dialogue of love, not a mere introspective monologue, and the daily renewed effort to discover Christ in our fellow men: our relatives, our friends, a neighbor perhaps in need of our attention and help, of our advice, of our friendship.

«Lord, show us the Father», asks Philip (Jn 14:8). A good request for us to keep on repeating all this Saturday. —Lord, show me your face. And we may wonder: how is our behavior? Can others see Christ's reflection in me? What little thing could I fight for today? We Christians must find that divine something in our daily chores; God's footprint in all that surrounds us. In our job, in our social life amongst others, everywhere! Or, when we are sick, too: when we are ill it is a good time for us to identify ourselves with a suffering Christ. As St. Therese of the Child Jesus said, «if we do not decide ourselves to swallow once and for all our death and our lack of health, we shall never do anything».

The Lord of the Gospel assures us: «Everything you ask in my name, I will do» (Jn 14:13). —God is my Father and, as a loving Father, He looks after me: He does not want anything to hurt me. Everything that happens —everything that happens to me— is meant for my sanctification. Even though, with our own human eyes we might not understand it. Even though if we can never understand it. That thing —whatever it is— happens because God allows it to happen. Let us trust him just as the Virgin Mary trusted him too.

Friday, May 20, 2011

“If you add to the truth, you subtract from it”

There are two ways to be fooled: One is to believe what isn't so; the other is to refuse to believe what is so. --Soren Kierkegaard

Gospel text (Jn 14,1-6): Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Today, on this Friday 4th of Easter, Jesus invites us to stay calm. Serenity and joy flow smoothly like a river of peace from his resurrected Heart towards ours, dazed and restless, so often shaken by an activity as hectic as it is futile.

Ours are times of agitation, restlessness and stress. Times where the father of lies has infected man's intelligence by making him call what is evil good and what is good evil, to put light for darkness and darkness for light, to plant in his soul a burning doubt and skepticism that kills the slightest trace of hope in a horizon of plenitude which the world with its flattery does not know, nor can it give.

The fruits of this devilish enterprise are evident. Once the “nonsense” and the loss of transcendence prevail among so many men and women, they find that not only have they forgotten their way, but they have also lost it, because previously they forgot the Way. Wars, all kinds of violence, unreasonable hostility and selfishness before life (birth-control, abortion, euthanasia...), broken families, aimless youth, and so on and so forth, constitute the great lie over which the sad scaffolding of the so called society of “progress” leans on.

In the middle of it all, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, repeats to all men of good will, with his infinite gentleness: «Do not be troubled; trust in God and trust in me» (Jn 14:1). To the right of the Father, He cherish, as a hopeful dream of his mercy, the moment when He shall have us by his side «so that where I am, you also may be» (Jn 14:3). We cannot argue as Thomas did. We already know where the way is. We do know, by sheer grace, the path leading to the Father, in whose house there are many rooms. A place in Heaven is prepared for us that will remain forever empty if we do not occupy it. Let us, therefore, get closer, without any fright and with unlimited trust, to Him who is the only Way, the inalienable Truth and the fullness of Life.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

“It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” - St Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Jn 13,16-20):
When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
I am not speaking of all of you.
I know those whom I have chosen.
But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.
From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Today, as with those movies that, at the beginning, take us back in time, our liturgy remembers a passage that belongs to the Holy Thursday: Jesus washes the feet of his disciples (cf. Jn 13:12). Thus, this gesture —read from the Easter perspective— recovers a perennial validity. Let us consider only three ideas.

In the first place, the centrality of the person. In our society it seems that to do is the thermometer to measure a person's worth. Within this dynamic it is easy for people to be considered as tools; we use each other extremely easy. Today, the Gospel urges us to transform this dynamic into service dynamics: the other party will never be just a tool. It would rather be a matter of living a spirituality of communion, where the other one —quoting John Paul II— becomes “someone that belongs to me” and a “gift to me”, whom we have “to give room” to. In our language we could translate it as “to care about other people's feelings”. Do we care about other people's feelings? Do we listen to them when they speak to us?

In our world of image and communications, this is not a message to transmit, but a job to be done, to live up to every day: «and blessed are you if you put it into practice!» (Jn 13:17). Maybe, this is why the Master does not limit himself to an explanation: He imprints into his disciples' memory his gesture of service, to pass it immediately on to the Church's memory; a memory that we demand to become a gesture, time and again: in the lives of so many families, of so many people.

Finally, a warning signal: «The one who shared my table has risen against me» (Jn 13:18). In the Eucharist, Jesus resurrected becomes our servant, He washes our feet. But the physical presence is not enough. We have to learn in the Eucharist and get the necessary strength from so that it may become a reality that «having received the gift of love, we die to sin and we live for God» (Saint Fulgence, Bishop of Ruspe).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

“Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life”

If a man does what he can and is truly penitent, however often he comes to Me for grace and pardon, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live"; I will no longer remember his sins, but all will be forgiven him.--Imitation of Christ by Thomas (à Kempis)

Gospel text (Jn 12,44-50):Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me believes not only in me
but also in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.
I came into the world as light,
so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.
And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them,
I do not condemn him,
for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words
has something to judge him: the word that I spoke,
it will condemn him on the last day,
because I did not speak on my own,
but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”

During this month of May, we experienced what seemed like excessive cloudiness. Some days the clouds brought rain but more often they just hung around and brought gloom. “I am so tired of the clouds. When will it end?” became a frequent refrain that is usually associated with January and February rather than May.

Today’s gospel speaks of a different kind of darkness that permeates our environment. It is a darkness that results from a failure to recognize and accept the light of Jesus. The darkness of the May clouds weighed on peoples’ mood and spirit. That darkness cannot compare to the darkness experienced when we do not hear the word of Jesus.

Jesus provides more than a few hours or days of light, but rather an eternal light. It is a light that provides relief from the trials and sufferings of everyday life. It is a light that can warm and comfort us.

Christ “did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.” I think the nature of our worries comes from the pure essence of being human: we each have done wrong, and we each know it. It’s as if the more we examine ourselves and try to become closer to God, the farther we fall away. We might be faced with the questions: How can God ever forgive me? If my life were to end right now, would I be able to enter into God’s Heavenly Kingdom? What good can ever replace the bad?

I am sure that some of you have had similar thoughts; we wish we didn’t, but sometimes that notion cannot be overlooked. The same happens in our spiritual journeys: we realize that we have done bad, and we become inundated by guilt, a guilt that seems to rip us from God’s presence. How many times do we have to sin for God to say, ‘That’s it, it’s over!’?

Easy answer: never. It is NEVER too late for God, absolutely never.

Part of being human is embarrassment, and it is exactly what we get when our weaknesses are placed in the spotlight. But God is different. God always returns a warm smile. God always says the two words that we often struggle with when we go to Him: “I forgive.” God is always there to welcome us into his Kingdom and always will love us in a way that we cannot understand.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Now it's time for us to respond. - "I DO"

"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion." - Alexander the Great.

Gospel text (Jn 10,22-30):
The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem .
It was winter.
And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon.
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,
“How long are you going to keep us in suspense?
If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.
But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”

Many people are waiting for God to reveal Himself to them by doing great works or giving them special spiritual experiences. However, the Lord has already revealed Himself through His incarnation, death, and resurrection. He has loved us faithfully and perfectly every moment of our lives. Before we can deeply believe in His works, we must believe in Jesus, the Worker. Before we can fully hear His words, we must love Jesus, Who is the Word.

Only through Faith man is able to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God. When The Holy Father John Paul II addressed the young people on occasion of the 15th World Youth Day at Tor Vergata, in the year 2000, he spoke about the “school of faith”. To the question «Who do the crowds say that I am?» (Lk 9:18), there are many answers... But, then, Jesus becomes more personal: «But, who do you say that I am?». To correctly answer this question we need the “revelation of the Father”. To be able to answer like Simon Peter did —«You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God» (Mt 16:16)— it takes God's grace.

But, even though God wishes everybody to believe and be saved, only humble men are capacitated to receive the gift of grace. «But with the humble is wisdom», can be read in the Book of Proverbs (11:2). Man's true wisdom consists of trusting God.

Saint Thomas Aquinas comments on this passage of the Gospel by saying: «I can see thanks to the sun light, but if I close my eyes, I cannot see; but this is not the fault of the sun, but mine».

Jesus tells them to believe in him, if nothing else, because of his works that manifest God's power: «The works I do in my Father's name proclaim who I am» (Jn 10:25).

Jesus knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice. Faith allows us to connect with Jesus through prayer. What else is a prayer but a way to communicate with Jesus Christ, who loves us and takes us to the Father? And the outcome and reward of this intimacy with Jesus in this life is eternal life, as we have read in the Gospel.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Without a shepherd, sheep are not a flock

'Obedience is mission: "I have come into this world to do the will of my Father, who has sent me." Where there is no obedience, there is no virtue; where there is no virtue there is no good; where good is wanting, there is no love, there is no God; where God is not, there is no Heaven.'--St. Padre Pio

Gospel text (Jn 10,11-18): Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”

Today, Jesus tells us: «I am the good shepherd» (Jn 10,11). When St. Thomas Aquinas comments on this avowal, he writes «it is evident that the name of "shepherd" suits Christ, for just as the shepherd leads his fold to the pasture, Christ feeds his flock with a spiritual food: his own body and blood». It all begun with the Incarnation and Jesus carried it out all the way through, finally concluding it with His redeeming Death and Resurrection. Once resurrected, He entrusted Peter, the Apostles and the Church, with this shepherding till the end of time.

Through the shepherds, Christ gives His Word, spreads out His divine Grace with the sacraments and steers His flock towards the Kingdom: He offers himself as our nourishment in the sacrament of the Eucharist, imparts God's Word and Magisterial teachings, and caringly leads his People. Jesus has picked up shepherds for his Church in accordance with their heart, that is, those men that, by impersonating Him through the sacrament of Holy Orders, donate their lives for their sheep, with pastoral charity, with spirit of humble service, with leniency, patience and fortitude. St. Augustine frequently spoke of this shepherd's demanding responsibility: «This shepherd's honor worries me (...), if what I am for you frightens me, what I am for you reassures me. For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian».

And each one of us, Christians, work by supporting the shepherds, praying for them, loving them and following them. We are also shepherds for our brothers, by enriching them with the grace and doctrine we have received, by sharing their worries and joy and by helping everybody with all our heart. We go out of our way for all those encircling us in our familiar, social and professional world to the point of giving our life as a ransom for many of them with the same spirit of the Son of Man who «did not come to be served but to serve» (Mt 20,28).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What is taking me away from Jesus, my Shepherd?

The faith given to me in baptism suggests to me surely: by yourself you will do nothing, but if you have God as the center of all your action, then you will reach the goal.--Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Gospel text (Jn 10,1-10):
Jesus said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.
So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Today, in this Gospel, Jesus uses two images when referring to himself: He is the shepherd and He is the gate. Jesus is the good shepherd and He knows his own sheep. «He calls each of his sheep by name» (Jn 10:3). For Jesus we are not just numbers; He has a personal kinship with each one of us. The Gospel is not only doctrine: it is Jesus' personal attachment to us.

And not only He does know us personally. He also personally loves us. “To know”, in St. John's Gospel, does not simply mean an act of our intellect, but and act of adhesion to the known person. And Jesus bears each one of us in his Heart. We must also know him like that. To know Jesus does not only mean an act of faith, but also of charity, of love. «Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him —St. Gregory the Great tells us, while commenting this text— I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love». And love is proven by deeds.

Jesus is also the gate. The sole gate. «Whoever enters through me will be saved» (Jn 10:9). And a little further, He insists: «No one comes to the Father except through me» (Jn 14:6). Today, a misinterpreted ecumenism causes some to believe Jesus is but one of many saviors: Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed..., it does not matter! But no! Whoever is saved, is saved through Jesus Christ, even if he did not know it in this life. He who tries hard to do well, will enter through Jesus, whether he is or he is not aware of it. But, because of the gift of our faith, we do know it. Let us be grateful for it. Let us try hard to enter through that gate, which, though narrow, He keeps it wide open. We bear witness that all our hopes are placed on Him.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"We have him [God] before our eyes, masked in the sacred Host"

"When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now. This is why you should ask your parish priest to have perpetual adoration in your parish. I beg the Blessed Mother to touch the hearts of all parish priests that they may have perpetual Eucharistic adoration in their parishes, and that it may spread throughout the entire world," - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Jn 15,1-8):
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my Flesh is true food,
and my Blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum .

Today, Jesus makes three key avowals, such as: that we are to eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood; that if we do not take the Holy Communion we cannot have life; and that this life is the eternal life and the condition for resurrection (cf. Jn 6:53-58). There is nothing in the Gospel so clear, so emphatic and so definite as these statements of Jesus.

We Catholics are not always up to the level the Eucharist requires: at times, we try “to live” without the living conditions set up by Jesus and, yet, as John Paul II has written «Eucharist is too big a gift to admit any ambiguities and reductions».

“Eat to live”: to eat the flesh of the Son of Man is to live as the Son of Man. This food is called “communion”. It is “food”, and we say “food” so that there is no doubt with respect to its assimilation, to its identification with Jesus. We receive Holy Communion to remain united: to think like him, to speak like him, to love like him. We Christians were missing John Paul II's Eucharistic Encyclical, The Church lives from the Eucharist. It is a passionate encyclical: it is “fire” because the Eucharist is ardent.

«How I have longed to eat this Passover with you before my death!» (Lk 22:15), Jesus was saying that evening of the Holy Thursday. We have to recuperate the Eucharistic fervor. No other religion has a similar initiative. It is God himself who descends to man's heart to establish a mysterious love relationship. And as of that point the Church is built and participates in the Eucharist apostolic dynamism and eclesial mission.

We are actually digging into the entrails of the mystery, as Thomas did when he was touching the wounds of Christ resurrected. We Christians should revise our fidelity to the Eucharistic fact just as Jesus Christ has revealed it and the Church proposes it to us. And we should live once more the “tenderness” towards the Eucharist: well made and slow genuflexions, increase the number of spiritual communions... And, starting from the Eucharist, men will look sacred, as they just are. And we shall serve them with renewed tenderness.

"If I can give you any advice, I beg you to get closer to the Eucharist and to Jesus”

"When the Sisters are exhausted, up to their eyes in work; when all seems to go awry, they spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This practice has never failed to bear fruit: they experience peace and strength."-Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Jn 6,44-51):Jesus said to the crowds:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.”

One of my favorite foods is bread and bread is something that feeds the world. No one ethnicity or country can claim bread for their own or have it unique to their cuisine. All types of bread have the potential to end hunger for a time being, but there is only one bread that relinquishes hunger and allows one to live forever.

The Gospel today discusses the difference between regular bread and the Bread of Life. Jesus tells the crowds that although our ancestors ate the manna, they died. The daily bread that we break cannot keep us alive forever. Jesus is the “The Living Bread” that will allow us to live forever if we believe. Eating the Bread at Communion may not fill a belly up, but it fills an individual with the eternal life and love from Christ.

Today, we sing to the Lord whom we receive the glory and the triumph from. The Risen Lord presents himself to his Church with that «I am whom I am» that identifies him as a source of salvation: «I am the bread of life» (Jn 6:48). The community gathered around Him who is Alive, by way of thanks, lovingly recognizes him and accepts God's instruction, now known as the Father's teachings. Christ, immortal and glorious reminds us again that the Father is the true protagonist of everything. Those who listen and believe live in communion with Him who comes from God, with the only one who has seen him and, thus, faith is the very beginning of eternal life.

The living bread is Jesus. It is not nourishment we receive by eating this “bread” but this “living bread” assimilates us, if received by a person in the state of grace. It makes us feel hungry for God, thirsty for listening to his Word, which is, our heart's rejoicing and joy. The Eucharist is an anticipation of the heavenly glory: «We divide the bread, the medicine of immortality, the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ» (Saint Ignatius of Antioch ). Our communion with the flesh of Christ risen must get us used to all that comes down from Heaven, that is, to beg, receive and assume our true condition: we are made for God and only him can fully satisfy our hunger.

But this living bread will not only one day make us live beyond our physical death, but we receive it now «for the life of the world» (Jn 6:51). The Father's design, who did not create us to die, is tied to love and faith. He demands a present, free and personal reply to his initiative. Each time we eat from that bread, let us go deeper into the very Love! We do not live anymore for ourselves, we do not live anymore in error. The world is precious because there is He who keeps on loving it to the end, because there is a Sacrifice out of which we all benefit, even those who ignore it.

At every Mass, we believe that Jesus changes the bread and wine into His Body and Blood. This same Jesus will change our deaths into everlasting life. Therefore, every Holy Communion, like every day of Easter, is in one way a Sunday, a celebration of the risen Christ.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion."

"When you approach the tabernacle remember that He has been waiting for you for twenty centuries."--St. Josemaria Escriva

Gospel text (Jn 6,35-40):
Jesus said to the crowds,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
But I told you that although you have seen me,
you do not believe.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Today’s Gospel reminded me of a book I read two years ago: Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza. I would strongly suggest for you to pick up a copy and read it. Immaculee’s story is her personal story of surviving the Rwanda genocide. All of Immaculee’s family was murdered in the genocide, some by their own friends. A kind pastor takes Immaculee in and hides her. The book is her account of the genocide as well as how she learned to completely put her trust in God, finding peace in a time of chaos, and allowed God to soften her heart so she could completely forgive the people who murdered her family.

Immaculee’s story perfectly reflects today’s Gospel, by being a true example of relying only on God for everything, even mere survival. Many of us take the blessings we have for granted: food, shelter, water, family, community, freedom, etc. (I know I definitely do). It is easy for me to get sucked into today’s norm of continuously wanting more, never being satisfied, while trying to rely only on myself to obtain even the basic blessings of life: food, shelter, happiness. Through personal experiences, I’ve come to realize that I cannot obtain even the smallest grain of wheat on my own. All things come through our loving Father. The culture we live in makes it difficult, but I need to remember this on a daily basis. I need to stop giving myself credit for these blessings that have come into my life. I need to instead recognize I can only do these things because of the loving Father who has greatly blessed me. I am given the gift of a new day because of him. I am alive because of his love for me.

Jesus Christ invites us to follow him, to nourish ourselves through him, for this is what it means to see him and believe in him. At the same time, He shows us how to abide by his Father's will, just as He does. When teaching his disciples the prayer of the sons of God, the Lord's Prayer, He put together these two petitions: «Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today the bread that we need». This refers not only to the material bread, but to Himself, as the bread of eternal life whom, day after day, we have to remain very close to with the profound cohesion the Holy Spirit provides us with.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spiritual Poverty of the West vs. Material Poverty of the East

“In the West you have another kind of poverty, spiritual poverty. This is far worse. People do not believe in God, do not pray. People do not care for each other. You have the poverty of people who are dissatisfied with what they have, who do not know how to suffer, who give in to despair. This poverty of heart is often more difficulty to relieve and to defeat. In the West you have many more broken homes, neglected children, and divorce on a huge scale.” - Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Jn 6,30-35): The crowd said to Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Today in Jesus' words we can see both the differentiation and counterpart existing between the Old and the New Testaments: the Old Testament was an expectation of the New Testament and in the New Testament, God's promises to the fathers of the Old Testament are being fulfilled. Thus, the manna the Israelis ate in the desert was not the authentic bread from Heaven, but an anticipated image of the true bread that God, our Father, has given us in the person of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent to us as Saviour of the world. Moses begs for God to give the Israelis physical food; Jesus Christ, instead, has given Himself for us as that divine aliment yielding life.

«Show us miraculous signs, that we may see and believe you. What sign do you perform?» (Jn 6:30), the people ask unbelieving and irreverent. Do they perhaps consider meaningless the sign of the multiplication of the bread and fish Jesus had accomplished the previous day? Why did they want yesterday to proclaim Jesus as a king while today they do not want to believe him anymore? How often can the human heart change! St. Bernard of Clairvaux said: «It is so that these impious ones wander in a circle, longing after something to gratify their yearnings, yet madly rejecting that which alone can bring them to their desired end, not by exhaustion but by attainment». And so it happened that those people, engulfed by a materialistic vision, expected someone who would nourish them and would solve all their problems, but they did not want to believe; this is all they desired out of Jesus. Is not this the idea of he who is only interested in a comfortable religion, tailor-made and without any commitment?

Jesus becomes the Bread of Life by willingly surrendering his spirit to his Father in Heaven. It is not a symbol of defeat or giving up, rather, the sacrifice of one’s spirit is an act of supreme faith and love. That love is manifested in the form of forgiveness.

We are all constantly called to lift our own spirits to God by living through the Bread of Life, forgiving and loving each other as God does for us. Perhaps in doing so we can move beyond the various hungers and thirsts of the world, stepping ever closer to a life in solidarity with one another and Christ.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear, let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful, and he tells us: "My yoke is easy, and my burden light." - Saint Boniface

(Acts 6:8-15) Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyreneans, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia ,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Then they instigated some men to say,
“We have heard him speaking blasphemous words
against Moses and God.”
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes,
accosted him, seized him,
and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
They presented false witnesses who testified,
“This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.
For we have heard him claim
that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place
and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

St. Stephen’s ability to maintain a peaceful demeanor in the face of such uncertainty blew me away as I read the readings for today. He simply sits, calmly and patiently, as false witnesses testify against him. He simply sits, with an angelic expression on his faith, waiting to hear what the Sanhedrin will decide; whether or not he will be put to death. He has the courage- the faith- that we read about- even long for- yet most of us never seem to attain.

We go through Mass, even go through our days, saying things similar to those found in the responsorial psalm today (although probably in more colloquial terms),

“ Yes, your decrees are my delight;
they are my counselors.” -Psalm 119:24

And yet, when times of trouble hit, when the world isn’t all right, when life isn’t going as we have planned, how many of us can still honestly make this claim?

I know I can’t. The slightest change in a plan can send me into a frenzy, as many of my friends and family can attest. Sure, I love meditating on the Word of God, spending time in prayer, and even telling others about him when things are going well. But as soon as I hit a bump in the road, Jesus is kicked out of the driver’s seat and I take over.

I think this is where most of us are, but we know it’s far from where we’d like to be. The question now is, how do we get from point A to point B? How do we go from having a fragile faith to one that can withstand even a death sentence?

The answer, I believe, is trust. We must trust. The Lord has given us everything, could take away everything; so why do we still have such trouble letting him direct our lives?

When Jesus commands us in the Gospel,

“Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life. . .” - John 6:27

do we take it at face-value? Do we truly believe this should be our life’s goal. . . or are we only going halfway, hoping to give enough to please God, but not so much that we can’t take care of ourselves if he fails us? Is that trust?

St. Stephen was not only willing to lose his whole life for the Word, but he did. He lost everything on earth; yet he gained treasure upon treasure in heaven. St. Stephen trusted God; he trusted him enough to hand over the keys, and let the Lord decide where to take him. Do we?

Friday, May 6, 2011

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one."

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”~Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Jn 6,1-15): Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee .
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Today, we read in the Gospel the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves: «Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted» (Jn 6:11). The utter devastation of the Apostles facing so many hungry people makes us think of today's crowds, not on hunger, but much worse: far away from God, with a “spiritual anorexia”, preventing any participation in Easter and the possibility to meet Jesus. We do not know how to reach so many people... In today's reading, a message of hope is fluttering: lack of means does not matter; supernatural resources do; let us not be “realistic”, but “full of trust” in God. Thus, when Jesus asks Philip where could they buy some bread for all those people «He said this to test Philip, for He himself knew what He was going to do» (Jn 6:5-6). The Lord expects us to trust Him.

When looking at these “signs of the times”, we are not expecting passivity (laziness, languor for lack of fighting...), but hope: to make a miracle, the Lord wants the Apostles courage and dedication and the generosity of the boy who is willing to give some barley loaves and the two fish. Jesus also multiplies our faith, obedience and boldness, even though we cannot see right away the fruit of our efforts, just as the farmer cannot see the stalk already appearing after sowing. «Faith, without, however, allowing discouragement to overcome us; without being halted by merely human calculations. To surmount any obstacles, we must start by working, fully forcing our way into the task, so that our very effort brings us to open up new paths» (St. Josemaria Escriva), that will pop up unexpectedly.

Let us not wait for the right moment to place whatever we have at our disposal: but as soon as possible!, for Jesus is awaiting us to perform the miracle. «The troubles the world scene presents at the beginning of the new millennium lead us to think that only an intercession from above may allow us to expect a less darker future», John Paul II wrote. Let us, therefore, turn to the Virgin Mary with the Rosary, for her mediation has always been felt in so many frail moments Mankind has gone throughout history.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where in your life are there situations where you must obey God rather than men?

"Therefore, no law made by man can override the norm written by the Creator without society becoming dramatically wounded in what constitutes its basic foundation." - Pope Benedict XVI Feb. 12th, 2007

Gospel text (Jn 3,31-36):
The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.

Today, the Gospel invites us to cease being so “worldly”, to stop being men who can only speak about mundane things, to speak and behave instead as «he who comes from above» (Jn 3:31), who is Jesus. In this text we see —once more— that in evangelic radicalism there is no happy medium. We must always strive to follow God's thinking, endeavor to share Christ's feelings and aim at seeing men and their circumstances with the same spirit of the Word made flesh. If we behave as “he who comes from above” we shall discover the multitude of positive things happening all the time around us, for God's love is a continued action in favor of man. If we come from above we shall love everybody without exception, and our life will be an open invitation for others to do the same.

«He who comes from above is above all» (Jn 3:31). This is why He can be so helpful to every man and woman where they need help; furthermore «the One who comes from heaven speaks of the things he has seen and heard» (Jn 3:32). And his service costs nothing. This attitude of service without expecting anything in return, without needing a reply from the others, creates a profoundly human and respectful ambiance towards each person's free will; this is a contagious attitude that freely impels others to respond and behave in very much the same way.

Service and testimony go always together, they identify one another. Our world needs authenticity: and what can be more authentic than God's words? what is there more authentic than He who «gives the Spirit without measure» (Jn 3:34)? This is why «whoever does receive his testimony acknowledges the truthfulness of God» (Jn 3:33).

We as Christians need to remember to have faith in the Lord and not in things of this world. Let us not become discouraged by sin and its adversity. Take courage: even if it seems we have lost everything in our fight against sin, God is on our side and he will reward us for our efforts in the end.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

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

"Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence" - St Augustine

Gospel text (Jn 3,16-21):
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Today the Gospel proposes to us once more to follow in the footsteps of Thomas the Apostle, that go from doubt to faith. Like Thomas, we approach the Lord full of doubts, but He also comes to meet us: «God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life» (Jn 3:16).

Thomas was not present in the first apparition of Jesus to the apostles, that Easter morning. «A week later» (Jn 20:26), in spite of his refusal to believe, Thomas joins the other disciples. The hint is quite clear: faith is not maintained far from the community. Far from our brothers, our faith does not grow nor ripen. At each Sunday's Eucharist we recognize his Presence. If Thomas was honest enough to show his doubts it was because the Lord did not initially grant him what He did to Mary of Magdala: not only to listen and to see the Lord, but to touch him with her own hands. Christ comes to meet us, mostly when we are together with our brothers and are celebrating with them the partition of the Bread, that is, the Eucharist. It is then when He invites us to “put our fingers in His side”, that is, to penetrate the impenetrable mystery of His life.

The move from incredulity to Faith has its stages. Our conversion to Jesus Christ —our step from darkness into light— is a personal process, but we need the community. These past Easter days, we all have felt the urge to follow Jesus on his way of the Cross. Now, fully in Easter time, the Church invites us to enter the new life with Him, with our works being done in God (cf. Jn 3:21).

Today, we also have to personally feel Jesus' invitation to Thomas: «and be not faithless, but believing» (Jn 20:27). Our life is at stake, as «he that believed on him is not condemned» (Jn 3:18), but goes to the light.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead. How Should a Catholic Respond?

The question is not whether one evil man's reign of terror has ended. Fr. Frederico Lombardi, of the Vatican Press Office writes, "Osama bin Laden - as we all know - was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the death of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end." The question is - how should we respond to hearing of his death?

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead," from The Wizard of Oz, had gained vitality in the past twenty-four hours, expressing the sentiments of people from around the world. In the midst of this celebration the question still remains, "How should a Catholic Christian respond to the death of anyone?" Should we join the conga line or this there another way to look at what has just taken place.

Sunday night as President Barack Obama announced that the Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks of 9/11, was dead, the grounds surrounding the White House were filled with thousand of people shouting and celebrating, many shouting "USA.USA!"

The scene was similar in Times Square, as well as Ground Zero in New York and other landmark cities where lives had been taken in calculated acts of terrorism by al Qaeda, of which Bin Laden was both leader and icon of extremism.

In the midst of our nationwide sigh of relief, the question bodes - how should a Catholic respond to such an announcement? Is it right to celebrate a death?

America and allies have been involved for over almost a decade on a war on terror. Bin Laden himself made no secret of the fact that he wanted see America - and particularly the Christian West dead. Last night's reports made it clear that the mission regarding this man was never to catch him but kill him.

On Monday, Catholic Radio programs and online blogs were buzzing with opinions and reactions.

Some said that this was de-facto capital punishment, which the church discourages except in rare cases. They quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states.

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

"If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

"Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'" (CCC, 2267)

It would seem difficult to view the situation in such a way since his death did not come as a sentence through a jury trial or military tribunal. It came as the result of a strategic military attack as a part of this war.

Here the Catechism states, "The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. 'The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.'" (CCC, 2312)

The actual response from across the Church has been varied.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, "Some Catholic bishops, reacting to the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, said that although his killing was 'unjustified,' it was a 'big deal' in curbing terrorist violence in the world.

"'Although [his death] is a [form] of violence and no act of violence can be justified... it's a big deal to curb violence,' Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said in a phone interview with reporters on Monday.

"Iñiguez, who is also head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines Public Affairs Committee, hoped that the killing of Bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon almost 10 years ago, would pave the way for the decline of terrorist activities around the world, which have claimed many innocent lives."

Greg Sisk, professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, MN wrote on the Mirror of Justice blogsite, " while we as Catholics hold every human life as precious, even those of our enemies, Osama bin Laden was no longer a simple man but had become, by his own considered choice, the incarnation of unreasoning terror and the face of atrocity.

"The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of United States was the result of a strike against evil that should be respected. And, most importantly, today's events bring an end, not merely to the life of one man, but to that man's ongoing, personal, and dedicated efforts to kill more innocents."

Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, regretted that bin Laden had met a violent death. "The Church never endorses violence or associates with violence. Violence perpetrated by religion is never acceptable to any civilized society."

Dr. Jim West, a protestant professor in Tennessee quotes a Facebook posting from Jeremiah Bailey, which states, "Justice may require the death of evil men, but it never requires our joy at their passing."

Fr. Frederico Lombardi, Executive Director of the Vatican Press Office, was an early responder upon hearing of the death of Bin Laden.

"Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices," and will not create " an opportunity for further growth of hatred," Lombardi stated. " Osama bin Laden - as we all know - was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the death of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end."

He went on to say, " Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace."

By Randy Sly
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.”

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience.”

Gospel text (Jn 14,6-14):
Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

Today, we celebrate the feast of Philip and James, Apostles. The Gospel refers to those chats Jesus used to have with the Apostles only, with the purpose of giving them a clear idea about himself and his Mission on Earth. For the Apostles were very much imbued with the ideas Jews maintained about the Messiah: they expected a terrestrial and political liberator, whereas Jesus' person did not meet at all with any of those preconceived images.

The first words we read in today's Gospel are in reply to a question by the apostle Thomas. «I am the way, the truth and the life. If you know me, you will know the Father also» (Jn 14:6). This reply to Thomas gives way to Philip request: «Lord, show us the Father and that is enough» (Jn 14:8). Jesus' answer is —in actual fact— a reprimand: «What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know me, Philip?» (Jn 14:9).

The Apostles could not quite understand the unity between the Father and Jesus; they did not quite realize Jesus is God and Man in one person. But He does not limit himself to prove his equality with the Father, He also reminds them they are to keep on carrying out his Saving Work: He confers upon them the power to do miracles, He promises them they will forever be with him, and that everything they ask in his name, He will do.

But Jesus' answers to the Apostles are also intended for all of us. Saint Josemaria says, when commenting this text: «‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. With these unmistakable words the Lord has shown us, which is the path that leads to eternal happiness (...). He points it out for all men, but especially He emphasizes it for those who, as you and I, have told him we are decided to take up seriously our Christian vocation».

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Holy Spirit knows what a particular age's most pressing need is far better than men with their "programs."

"I firmly believe that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride, selfishness, and self-seeking ambition and every thing that is contrary to God's law, the Holy Ghost will come and fill every corner of our hearts; but if we are full of pride, conceit, self-seeking pleasures and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God; and I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is full already with something else." - Therefore, in order for the cup to be filled, it must first be emptied!

Gospel text (Jn 3,1-8):
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him,
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him,
“How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
Jesus answered,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The Gospel today is an interesting one; Nicodemus, a ruler with great authority, comes to Jesus in the dead of night to secretly speak to him about this faith of which Jesus speaks. Nicodemus is fairly apprehensive at first and quite questioning of what Jesus has to say to him. Jesus mentions being born from above and Nicodemus misinterprets this to mean to be born in flesh a second time. What Jesus is speaking of being born in the Spirit…in Baptism and Confirmation.

A few days ago we were still celebrating the Paschal Vigil. An integral part of it was the Baptism celebration, which is the Passover, a step from death to life. The solemn benediction of water and the renewal of baptismal promises were key points of that holy night.

In the baptism ritual there is an immersion in water (death symbol) and an emergence from water (a new life image). We are submerged in sin and we come out of it renewed. This is what Jesus calls «to be born from above» or «to be born again» (cf. Jn 3:3). This is “to be born of water”, “to be born of the Spirit” or “of the blowing wind...”.

Water and Spirit are the two symbols used by Jesus. Both express the action of the Holy Spirit that purifies and grants life, cleans and encourages, calms the thirst and breathes, smoothes and speaks. Water and Spirit make a single thing.

But Jesus also says the flesh is in opposition to the Spirit: «What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit» (Jn 3:6). Carnal man is humanly born when he appears down here. But the carnal man is defeated by the spiritual man, who is spiritually born in the Baptism. Which means to be born anew and of above. A beautiful formula by Saint Paul could be our reflection and action motto, mostly in this Paschal time: «Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life» (Rm 6:3-4).

Jesus then instructs the Pharisee about the Holy Spirit and how, although we cannot ever see the Spirit or feel it with us in a physical sense, the Holy Spirit is always with us, leading us to the Light. I think that our minds can sometimes become clouded just as Nicodemus’s mind became when speaking about the Holy Spirit with Jesus. The Spirit acts within us, and during this Easter season, I believe we should all contemplate how the Spirit is acting through us in our daily lives. We don’t know all the details of the Spirit or God’s plan for us, but that doesn’t really matter; we simply need to keep our faith strong in the Lord and trust him. My last point: the recurrence of the Holy Spirit in the reading for today brought to my mind my Confirmation and my Confirmation name; I hope everyone who has gone through Confirmation can take the time to reflect on why each of us chose that individual as an example to live by and seek to become more like him or her.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blessed John Paul II and his Message of Mercy Continue to Light the World

November 5, 1934. One morning, when it was my duty to open the gate to let out our people who deliver baked goods, I entered the little chapel to visit Jesus for a minute and to renew the intentions of the day. Today, Jesus, I offer You all my sufferings, mortifications and prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father, so that he may approve the Feast of Mercy. But, Jesus, I have one more word to say to You: I am very surprised that You bid me to talk about this Feast of Mercy for they tell me that there is already such a feast and so why should I talk about it? And Jesus said to me, And who knows anything about this feast? No one! Even those who should be proclaiming My mercy and teaching people about it often do not know about it themselves. That is why I want the image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. Make a Novena for the Holy Father's intention. It should consist of thirty-three acts; that is, repetition that many times of the short prayer - which I have taught you - to the Divine Mercy. St. Faustina's Divine Mercy Diary Exerpts (341)


Today, 2nd Sunday of Easter, we complete the octave of this liturgical time, one of the two octaves —along with that of Christmas— that have remained out of the renewal made by the Vatican Council II. During eight days we contemplate the same mystery and we try to go deeper into it by the light of the Holy Spirit.

Pope John Paul II decided to call this Sunday Divine Mercy Sunday. It is something that goes far beyond a particular devotion. In his encyclical Dives in Misericordia, the Holy Father explains that Divine Mercy is the ultimate manifestation of God's love in a history injured by sin. In Latin “Misericordia” (which means “mercy”) comes from two words: “Miseria” (misery) and “cor” (heart). Our own despicable situation due to sin is placed by God in Jesus' loving heart, that is faithful to His Father's designs. Jesus Christ, dead and resurrected, is the supreme manifestation and acting of the Divine Mercy. «For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son» (Jn 3:16) and has sent him to die to save us. «To redeem the slave He has sacrificed the Son», we have proclaimed in the Easter Proclamation of the Easter Vigil. And, once resurrected, He has constituted him into a source of salvation for all those who believe in Him. By faith and conversion we receive the treasure of his Divine Mercy.

Holy Mother Church, who wants her children to live the resurrected life, commands that —at least for Easter— we receive Holy Communion and we do it in the grace of God. The fifty days following Easter is the right time for us to fulfill the Paschal Precept. It is time to practice the sacrament of confession and benefit from the power of forgiving sins the Lord resurrected has conferred to His Church. As he said to the Apostles: «Receive the Holy Spirit; for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven» (Jn 20,22-23). We shall thus go to the source of Divine Mercy. And we should not doubt either to bring our friends to these sources of life, to the Eucharist and to Penance. Jesus resurrected expects us to.