Thursday, July 28, 2011


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

Ex 40:16-21, 34-38
Moses did exactly as the LORD had commanded him.
On the first day of the first month of the second year
the Dwelling was erected.
It was Moses who erected the Dwelling.
He placed its pedestals, set up its boards, put in its bars,
and set up its columns.
He spread the tent over the Dwelling
and put the covering on top of the tent,
as the LORD had commanded him.
He took the commandments and put them in the ark;
he placed poles alongside the ark and set the propitiatory upon it.
He brought the ark into the Dwelling and hung the curtain veil,
thus screening off the ark of the commandments,
as the LORD had commanded him.

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent,
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.
Moses could not enter the meeting tent,
because the cloud settled down upon it
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.
Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward.
In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling;
whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud
by the whole house of Israel
in all the stages of their journey.

The book of Exodus ends with the erection of the Dwelling by Moses. The Dwelling contained the ark of the covenant, and the ark contained the Ten Commandments (Ex 40:20-21). Here God was present in the most powerful way on earth. "In the daytime the cloud of the Lord was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud" (Ex 40:38). "The glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling" (Ex 40:34).

In the new covenant, it is amazing but true that the Dwelling of God is not only among us, but it is us. We who are baptized into Jesus have become the Dwelling of God. We are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). The Holy Trinity lives in us. God is in us and we in Him (see Jn 17:23).

Does your life indicate that you realize you are the Dwelling of God? "Test yourselves to see whether you are living in faith; examine yourselves. Perhaps you yourselves do not realize that Christ Jesus is in you" (2 Cor 13:5). Many Christians are surprised to hear that God's presence on earth is so strong and that we already experience in some way God's heavenly presence. Many people, even Christians, feel far away from God. To change this, "draw close to God, and He will draw close to you. How do we do this, you may ask. The answer is simple, by participating in the Sacrament of Penance. Cleanse your hands; purify your hearts" (Jas 4:8). When we repent and are purified, our awareness of God's presence will be restored. Believe it, and it is just that simple. Jesus loves us and we should never be afraid to confess our sins. He is God, He knows what we have done already. Now its time to just ask for his forgiveness and mercy, it is there for the taking.

Never forget, you are a living, walking, loving tabernacle. So, be pure as Jesus is pure (1 Jn 3:3)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Saint of the Day: St. Pantaleon (303AD)

Trials are nothing else but the forge that purifies the soul of all its imperfections. --St Mary Magdalen de'Pazzi

Pantaleon came from Nicomedia, near the Black Sea, in Asia. He lived in the fourth century. He was such a famous doctor that Emperor Galerius Maximian chose him for his personal doctor. There, at the wicked, pagan court, Pantaleon got into trouble. He was a Christian, but little by little, he let the bad example around him ruin him. He began to agree with the false wisdom praised by the pagans. At last, he committed the great sin of giving up his Christian faith entirely.

A holy priest named Hermolaos was deeply saddened to see the famous doctor desert Jesus. He went to him. With his wise, kind words, he made Pantaleon realize what a sin he had committed. Pantaleon listened to him and admitted that he had been very wrong. He detested his sin and joined the Church once more. To make up for what he had done, he greatly desired to suffer and die for Jesus. In the meantime, he imitated Our Lord's charity by taking care of poor sick people without any charge.

When Emperor Diocletian began his persecution, Pantaleon at once gave away everything he owned to the poor. Not long afterward, some jealous doctors accused him of being a Christian. He was given the choice of denying his religion or of being put to death. Pantaleon absolutely refused to say he was not a Christian and no torture could make him do it. There has been strong devotion in past ages to this saint. In the East he is called the "great martyr and wonder-worker."

Reflection: How do I let myself be influenced by friends or things that might threaten my faith in Jesus?

May we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts and minds.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” - Soren Kierkegaard

Gospel text (Mt 13,36-43):
Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the Evil One,
and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his Kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the Kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Today, through the parable of the weeds and the wheat, the Church urges us to ponder over the coexistence of good and evil. Good and evil within our heart; good and evil we may spot on others, good and evil we can see in the world, all around us.

«Explain to us the parable» (Mt 13:36), his disciples ask Jesus. And, today, we should all careful reflect on our prayer life , our everyday dealings with God. —Lord, we can ask him, explain to me why I do not progress enough in my interior life. Explain to me how can I be more faithful to you, how can I look for you in my work, or through these circumstances I do not understand or I do not want. How can I be a qualified apostle? A prayer is just this, to ask God for “explanations”. How is my prayer? Is it sincere?, is it constant?, is it trusting?

Jesus Christ invites us to keep our eyes fixed on Heaven, our eternal home. Quite often, haste can drive us crazy, but we seldom stop to think that there will come a day —we do not know whether far-off or near— when we shall have to settle our accounts with God and explain which are the fruits borne by the good seeds He has sown on us. And the Lord tells us that at the end of time we shall be chosen. So, we must pick up our cross in our everyday life, without waiting for situations that perhaps will never occur. We have to live boldly in our ordinary life! We must live by thinking of eternity and helping others to think of it, too! Paradoxically, «the man who strives to live must die» (St. Julian of Toledo).

We shall reap what we have sown. We have to fight to give today 100%. So when we are called into God's presence we might be able to go with our hands full: of acts of faith, hope and love. Which result in minor things and events that, when lived on an everyday basis, make us better Christians, saints and human.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor is given by what he gave. (Calvin Coolidge. 30th President of the United States)

Gospel text (Mt 20,20-28):
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

James' mother was proud of her boys, James and John. Her sons were on the fast track to the top in the fledgling Kingdom of God. She watched her sons get off to a flying start in Jesus' kingdom, leaving the family business to follow Jesus (Mt 4:22).

Her boys quickly became two of the top three apostles, that is, Peter, James, and John. These three were privileged intimates of Jesus and were granted special access to Him not given the other apostles (see Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33).

When she asked Jesus to promote her boys to surpass Peter, Jesus gently corrected mother and sons, saying: "Whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all" (Mt 20:27).

Then Jesus brought the family to the school of the cross. Mother passed the test, following Jesus to the cross, attending to His needs (Mt 27:55-56). John also passed the test, standing at the foot of the cross with Jesus (Jn 19:26-27). James failed miserably, abandoning Jesus and fleeing in terror (Mk 14:50).

After receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:4), James watched his brother surpass him in stature (see Acts 3:1ff; 4:7, 13, 19). Finally, James grasped Jesus' lesson of humble service. After failing at Calvary, he passed the greatest test of discipleship and became the first of all (Mt 20:27), the first apostle to give his life for Jesus in martyrdom (Acts 12:2). With St. James, let us allow Jesus to turn our failures into His greatest victories.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Where your treasure is, there you will find your heart

The Church possesses no greater treasure, for the Most Holy Eucharist contains the Church's entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself. (Pope Paul VI 1965)

Gospel text (Mt 13,44-52):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Today, our Gospel is helping us to look inside ourselves, to find something hidden in there: «The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field» (Mt 13:44). When we speak of a treasure we are always referring to something of exceptional value, of extreme importance, not to things or situations that, even though valuable for us are, nonetheless, nothing but futile and worthless refuse, for this is what temporal satisfactions and pleasures actually are: what so many people are striving to find outside, to end up totally thwarted, once experienced.

The treasure Jesus announces here is flowing in the midst of our soul, in the very nucleus of our being. It is the Kingdom of Heaven. It consists in lovingly finding, in a mysterious way, the Source of life, of all beauty, truth and goodness, and to remain united to it. The Kingdom of Heaven, the “destination” we all are searching for, is in our heart and is fostered by faith and love. When this occurs, our soul blossoms forth like a glowing flower that lets its hidden treasure appear in all its splendor.

Some, as St. Paul and the good thief on the cross next to Jesus, unexpectedly ran into the Kingdom of Heaven, without any previous thought, because God's ways are infinite, but, normally, to discover this treasure, we have to purposely look for it: «Again the kingdom of heaven is like a trader who is looking for fine pearls» (Mt 13:45). Maybe this treasure is only to be found by those difficult to be satisfied, or who do not make do with what they got, i.e. by idealists and adventurers.

In our temporal order, we tend to qualify the eager and unconformists as ambitious persons, but in the spiritual world, they are the saints. They are those willing to sell everything to buy the field, as St. John of the Cross points out when he says: «That you may possess all things, seek to possess nothing. That you may be everything, seek to be nothing».

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saint of the Day: St Bridget of Sweden - Patron Saint of Europe

Despite the hardships of life and wayward children (not all became saints), Margery Kempe of Lynn says Bridget was “kind and meek to every creature” and “she had a laughing face.”

From age seven on, Bridget had visions of Christ crucified. Her visions formed the basis for her activity—always with the emphasis on charity rather than spiritual favors. She lived her married life in the court of the Swedish king Magnus II. Mother of eight children (the second eldest was St. Catherine of Sweden), she lived the strict life of a penitent after her husband’s death.

Bridget constantly strove to exert her good influence over Magnus; while never fully reforming, he did give her land and buildings to found a monastery for men and women. This group eventually expanded into an Order known as the Bridgetines (still in existence).

In 1350, a year of jubilee, Bridget braved a plague-stricken Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome. Although she never returned to Sweden, her years in Rome were far from happy, being hounded by debts and by opposition to her work against Church abuses.
A final pilgrimage to the Holy Land, marred by shipwreck and the death of her son, Charles, eventually led to her death in 1373. In 1999, she, Saints Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein were named co-patronesses of Europe.

REFLECTION: Bridget’s visions, rather than isolating her from the affairs of the world, involved her in many contemporary issues, whether they be royal policy or the years that the legitimate Bishop of Rome lived in Avignon, France. She saw no contradiction between mystical experience and secular activity, and her life is a testimony to the possibility of a holy life in the marketplace.

Friday, July 22, 2011

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

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. - C.S. Lewis

Gospel text (Jn 20,1-2.11-18): On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene 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.”

Mary 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 Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

In the Gospel, we have the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb. Today we honor her service to Jesus and His disciples. Yet I am impressed once again, by Jesus, who calls Mary by name. It is not until He actually calls her by name that she recognizes Him. How does she respond? She calls him “Rabbouni,” meaning teacher.

I think about the people with whom I work. I know their names, mostly. I definitely know the names of my superiors, the people who have authority over me. I know the names of the people I audit. The others? The guy who always nods and says hello to me when we pass in the hall? Well, I know his face when I see it. The lady who sets out the food in the cafeteria at work? Again, I know her face, not her name. Is there a pattern?

Let’s think about the people who serve us during the day, who make us look good or feel good in one way or another. Do we know their names? As they board the bus to go home, could we look each of them in the eye, shake each hand, and thank each of them by name? Mary Magdalene may have been overlooked by the disciples. Perhaps many did not even know her name.

But Jesus did.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vision: the art of seeing the invisible

In everything, whether it is a thing sensed or a thing known, God Himself is hidden within. - St. Bonaventure

Gospel text (Mt 13,10-17):
The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted
and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

In our Gospel today Jesus concentrates on our response to Him in our little choices.

I believe that the key to today's passage, then, is that we mistakenly prefer the dramatic and the convincing so that we do not have to take any real responsibility for our choices. We adopt a position or a role and identify ourselves narrowly by that stance. We harden our hearts by sticking to our guns, refusing to find new growth in what Jesus has to show us and to say to us in the here and now: just as those who encountered Jesus in the New Testament, most notably the Pharisees and other leaders, we hear but do not understand, we see but refuse the obvious message. We reject change, what is coming to be, growth, today's revelation of who God is and who He calls us to be in the light of that understanding. We avoid risk; we resist trusting the Lord and His love, a mature relationship with God, and the love that lets nothing stand in the way of our being His.

So? We need to go to prayer far more frequently and personally than we do and to become familiar with the Holy Spirit. We must learn to let our faith take over our lives and change us, not just once but in every moment, in every encounter that the Lord sends us --- and that is a constant call to respond anew to His love...

Let us be grateful for our Christian faith, let us be joyous. Let us try to make our relationship with Jesus not a remote one, but as close as possible, as that of those disciples, who were by his side, who saw and heard him. Let us not look at Jesus from today to yesterday, but from today to today; let us actually share his time, a never-ending time. Prayer —to speak with the Lord— and the Eucharist —to receive him—assures us this nearness to him, and makes us really happy while looking at him with the eyes and ears of our faith.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful"

"I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather he will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?" — Mother Teresa

A successful businessman traveled to India to spend a month working in one of Mother Teresa's shelters. He longed to meet the tiny nun, but Mother Teresa was traveling, and it wasn't until the day before his departure that he received an audience. When he was finally in her presence, much to his surprise, he burst into tears. All the times when he'd been self-centered, busy or focused on his own gain flashed before his eyes, and he felt an enormous sadness that he had missed so many opportunities in his life to give of himself and his resources. Without a word, Mother Teresa walked over to where he was seated, put her hands on his shoulders and looked deeply into his eyes. "Don't you know," she said, "that God knows you are doing the best that you can."

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The will of God will never take you to where the grace of God will not

'More determination is required to subdue the interior man than to mortify the body; and to break one's will than to break one's bones.'--St. Ignatius of Loyola

Gospel text (Mt 12,46-50):
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside,
asking to speak with you.”
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Today, to start with, the Gospel surprises us: «Who is my mother? (Mt 12:48), wonders Jesus. It would seem the Lord is showing a contemptuous attitude towards Mary, his mother. Nothing of the sort! What Jesus wants to make quite clear is that, in his own eyes —God's eyes— the crucial value of a person does not lie on flesh and blood facts, but on the spiritual disposition to accept God's will: «Then He pointed to his disciples and said, ‘Look! Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is for me brother, sister, or mother’» (Mt 12:49-50). At that time, God's will was for Jesus to evangelize those who were listening and for these ones to actually listen to him. This was a priority over any other value, no matter how dear. To abide by his Father's will, Jesus Christ had left Mary and now He was preaching far away from home.

But, who was ever more willing to abide by God's will than Mary? «‘I am the Lord's servant’, Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said’» (Lk 1:38). This is why, St. Augustine says that Mary, first accepted God's word with a spirit of obedience and, only afterwards, she conceived it in her womb for the Incarnation.

God does not love us because we may be saints, rather it is the other way round: we are saints because He loves us. The first one to love is always our Lord (cf. 1Jn 4:10). Mary proves it when she says: «For He has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness» (Lk 1:48). In God's eyes our own lowliness is evident; but He wants to magnify us, to sanctify us.

It is not enough to simply call ourselves followers of Jesus because we have been baptized. Baptism welcomes us into the Christian family. However, the call of Baptism is to recognize that we are made in God’s image, and to live into that sacred call by recognizing each and every human person as a child of God.

Our care, concern, service and working for justice for and with others must reach beyond our familiar comfort zones to include all. The Gospel is a message of inclusivity rather than exclusivity or selectivity.

So I guess the question remains, “How do we do this?” Let us all contemplate the words of Mary at the wedding of Cana. When there was a need, the young couple approached Our Lady and asked her for assistance, and what did she say when she directed them to her son? Do whatever He tells you! (Jn 2:5).

There is the solution, plain and simple. And it will be with Mary’s help that we do just that, whatever He tells us (i.e. the will of God). To attempt this endeavor alone is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Mt 19:26)!

Ave Maria!

Monday, July 18, 2011

“Don’t believe in miracles – depend on them.”

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature. ~ St.Augustine

Gospel text (Mt 12,38-42):
Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply,
“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

Who is that “evil and unfaithful generation that seeks a sign?” Certainly, Jesus (as portrayed by Matthew) goes after the scribes and Pharisees. They have refused to accept his preaching and to discern the hand of God in his healing.

It seems that this was a very lively question in the early Church – why didn’t everyone accept Jesus as the Messiah who had come into the world? Why did the scribes and Pharisees reject him?

I can see several aspects of this question today that hearken back to the early Church’s plea. Yet, I also sense some differences that our situation promotes.
Why don’t more people accept the preaching of the Gospel?
Why have so many left the Church?
Why does a spirit of lethargy seem to permeate the Church?
Why is conversion so difficult?

One thing that I believe I have learned is that I should always include myself in any ‘condemnation’ or ‘judgment’ of others. When I see lethargy in the Church, I should look for its roots and tangles in my own life. When I wonder why “they” don’t accept the Word, I also have to wonder why I am so slow to let it in. And when I criticize American culture for its narcissistic individualism, I should look for its manifestation in my awareness and actions.

At least, that SHOULD be my intention.

The sign of the cross is like a stop sign. When we are driving and we see a stop sign, we automatically come to a stop and look to see what is happening. When we see a crucifix, we must react the same way. We should immediately stop. We look on the crucified Jesus, keeping "our eyes fixed on Jesus" (Heb 12:2). This should stop us in our tracks. We stand speechless before the sight of the Son of God hanging in agony, as have mighty men and women of old (see Is 52:14-15). We listen to Jesus, as He says: "Stop, and know that I am God" (see Ps 46:11).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

“A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible”

A man's nature runs either to herbs, or to weeds; therefore let him seasonably water the one, and destroy the other. ~Francis Bacon

(Matthew 13:24-30)
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”

In reading this Gospel passage, I think we would like God to be “somewhat” more powerful, more “here and now”, that He would be more demanding and would not let these distressing forces in: «Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?» (Mt 13:28). In his last book Memory and Identity, John Paul II wrote this: «We patiently suffer God's mercy», that waits until the last moment to offer salvation to all souls, especially those more in need of His mercy («Let them grow together until harvest»: Mt 13:30). And, as He is the Lord of our lives and of all mankind, He pulls the threads of our existence, while respecting our freedom. And along with our afflictions we are supplied with overabundant grace to overcome them, to sanctify ourselves, to head towards Him, to be a permanent offertory, to make his Kingdom grow in the here and now.

Through each encounter, each event, Christ introduces us to His school of life. He comes to meet us and says: —But take heart! I have overcome the world. I am with you always, until the end of the age» (cf. Jn 16:33; Mt 28:20). He also tells us: —Don't judge; but, rather, do as I do, wait, trust, and pray.

The mustard seed will grow, but not if we personally cultivate the weeds of harshness, judgmental attitudes, and severity in our dealings with ourselves and others.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

“Whosoever dies clothed in this Scapular shall not suffer
eternal fire.” - words of Our Lady to Saint Simon Stock

Mount Carmel is a mountain overlooking the plain of Galilee. It became famous when the prophet Elijah, who lived before Our Lord, was born. Elijah worked a miracle there. Chapter 18 of the Bible's First Book of Kings tells how Elijah stood up to the 450 prophets of the false god Baal. Through his prayers, Elijah obtained a miracle from God to prove that Elijah's God was the true God.

Centuries later, in the 1200s, a group of European monks began to live on Mount Carmel. They honored Mary the Mother of God as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For this reason the people began to call them friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. This was the way the Carmelite order began. Pope Honorius III approved the order's rule in 1226. Simon Stock, an Englishman, became the superior of all the Carmelites in 1247. He helped the order expand and adapt to the times. He patterned the order on the Dominicans and Franciscans.

On July 16, 1251, Mary appeared to St. Simon and gave him the brown scapular. She promised her protection to all those who would wear the blessed habit. Many miracles proved her words. St. Pius X was pope from 1903 until 1914. He said that people could have the same blessings if they would wear the scapular medal. This medal has a picture of Our Lady of the Scapular on one side and the Sacred Heart on the other. Simon Stock died in Bordeaux, France, in 1265.

Reflection: "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)

Friday, July 15, 2011

“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful."

”There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted-it increases. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I myself take care of it.” - St. Faustina’s Diary (1273)

Gospel text (Mt 12,1-8):
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Today’s readings present a familiar tension between the spirit and the letter of the law. But our God is a loving and forgiving God who cares about what’s in our hearts. We all make mistakes, sometimes serious ones. But God forgives if we let Him into our hearts.

«It is mercy I want, not sacrifice» (Mt 12:7). Let us repeat it many times to engrave it on our heart: God, who is rich in mercy, wants us to be merciful. «How close God is to those who confess his mercy! Yes; God is not far from those contrite at heart» (St. Augustine). And how far away from God are we when we let our heart turn into hard stone!

Jesus Christ accused the Pharisees of condemning the innocent. That is a serious accusation. But what about us? Are we seriously interested in other people's problems? Do we consider them with affection and sympathy, as if we were a friend or a brother?

We beg you, O Mother of God, to make us merciful and to show us how to forgive. Let us be benevolent and kind. And if we discover in our life some details that does not fit at the heart of this disposition, now is a good time to rectify them, by formulating some effective purpose.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

“If there were no tribulation, there would be no rest”

“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.” – St Boniface

Gospel text (Mt 11,28-30): Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

What are we lacking to feel actually well?

Today, in the light of the Gospel, we may review our conception of God. How do I live and feel God in my heart? What feelings uncover his presence in our lives? Jesus offers us his understanding when we feel weary and want to rest: «Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you» (Mt 11:28).

Realistically, we cannot be unburdened in this life on earth. We can only be re-burdened with Jesus' burden, the cross. Pretending that we can unburden ourselves makes life more burdensome. We make life harder by trying to make it easier. Paradoxically, the heaviest burden, that is, the cross, is the easiest to carry because Jesus carried it. It is in striving to carry the cross that we enter into His rest (see Heb 4:11). Take up your cross daily (Lk 9:23) and get the best rest you'll get on this earth.

Jesus' proposal —«Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...» (Mt 11:29)— implies following his benevolent style of life (to wish good to everybody) and his heart’s humility (virtue referring to keep our feet on the ground for only the divine grace can make us ascend). To be a disciple demands our accepting Jesus' yoke, while remembering his yoke is «good» and his burden is «light». I do not know, however, whether we are convinced this is really so. To live as a Christian in our present context is not such an easy thing, for we have to opt for values that go upstream. Not to get carried away by money, prestige or power demands a great effort. If we want to achieve it by ourselves, it may become an impossible task. But with Jesus everything is possible and good.

What is needed to accomplish this task is a kind of “supernatural strength” (i.e. grace). Look at the example of Mary traveling to Bethlehem while about to have a baby. Look at the wise men following the star and undergoing for many months the rigors of travel in ancient times. We receive the "supernatural strength" we need by hoping in the Lord (see 1 Mc 2:61). Paradoxically, we receive Jesus' strength by taking on our shoulders the yoke of the cross (see Mt 11:29). When we become like Simon of Cyrene and take up the cross, we become like Samson in that we receive supernatural strength from the Holy Spirit. We "have strength for everything through Him Who empowers" us (Phil 4:13).

"Look to the Lord in His strength" (Ps 105:4). Ask the Lord for supernatural strength. "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5). Be supernaturally strong.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It is better to be a child of God than king of the whole world

"Therefore anyone who humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Jesus to his disciples in the book of Matthew)

Gospel text (Mt 11,25-27): At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Who, amongst us, would not love to become acquainted with the unfathomable mysteries of life? There are enigmas the world's best team of investigators would not even dream of detecting. There is One however before which «there is nothing hidden, (...); nor is anything secret» (Mk 4:22). This is the mystery of the one who calls himself the “Son of man ”, inasmuch He says about himself: «All things have been handed over to me by my Father» (Mt 11:27). He is, in short, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, before which darkness does not exist and for which, night is more luminous than broad daylight.

An Arab proverb says: «If in a pitch black night, a black ant climbs over a black wall, God sees it». There are neither secrets nor mysteries for God. There are mysteries for us, but not for God, before whom, past, present and future are open and dug into, to the last comma.

Quite pleased, the Lord says today: «Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I praise you, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to simple people» (Mt 11:25). Indeed, because no one could pretend to know these or similar hidden secrets, not even by bringing them out of the darkness through exhaustive studies. A little old aged woman who is devout in her faith, without any school experience, will always be more aware about the deep secrets of life than the pretentious scientist that has spent an awful lot of money at reputed universities. Certain science can be achieved only through inner faith, humility and purity of heart. Clement of Alexandria very well wrote: «Night is favourable for mysteries; it is then when our soul —attentive and humble— turns on itself while pondering over its condition; it is then when it finds God».

Naturally, we may wonder, what does it take to “get small” so we can respond appropriately to Jesus today? How do I avoid the danger of being so “wise” or “learned” that I fail to hear Jesus properly? I can only think that it means slowing down, paying attention, recognizing my actual smallness and my de facto dependence on lots of others, especially God the Father. That means spending time alone, in silence, and speaking to my Father who sees in secret. Then and only then will I hear what the Lord is saying.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

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

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, 1380-1471)

Gospel text (Mt 11,20-24): Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the nether world.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

We are no different than the people Jesus speaks to in the gospel today, because we have short memories too. Like them we forget the miracles we prayed for, that were answered as Jesus has performed wonders in our own lives. Many of us know someone who has beat the odds and are still with us today. Jesus speaks to the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum to remember the great works He has performed for them asking them to repent. Yes, we have choices on how to live, but life has come with instructions to help us make good ones.

When crossing the inhuman streets of our “dormitory towns”, I wonder: what can be done to help people whom I feel totally unable to establish a dialogue with, whom I cannot share my thoughts with, whom it seems impossible to transmit God's love to? And then, I remember the motto St. Francis de Sales chose when he was appointed bishop of Geneva: «Where God planted us, we must yearn to bloom». And if, with a stone in my hand at times I wonder about God's strict judgment that may befall, at other times —with a wild little flower, born amongst the weeds and the manure in high mountains— I see that I should not lose Hope. I must reciprocate the goodness shown to me by God, and thus, what meager generosity I may place in the heart of whoever I am greeting, or the interested and attentive glance towards whoever is asking me some information, or just my smile of thanks addressed to whoever yields to let me through, will flourish in the future. And Faith will not be lost in our world.

Remember, the Lord also went through our towns, our neighborhood, our homes, and... did we pay any attention to him?, did we take notice of him?

Monday, July 11, 2011

“God gave Himself to you: give yourself to God.”

Christ does not force our will, He only takes what we give Him. But He does not give Himself entirely until He sees that we yield ourselves entirely to Him. -- St Teresa of Avila

Gospel text (Mt 10,34--11,1): Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward."

When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.

To be true disciples of Jesus, we must love Jesus more then anything or anyone in this life, even our fathers, mothers, sons, or daughters (Mt 10:37). To some this seems impossible. However, to be disciples of Jesus, we must do something else which is almost unthinkable. We must deny our very selves (Lk 9:23), lose ourselves (Lk 9:24), bring ourselves "to nought" for Jesus (Mt 10:39). We all are naturally addicted to self. It is impossible for us to stop our chronic narcissism. Yet nothing is impossible with God (Lk 1:38).

God's ways and thoughts are very different than ours (Is 55:8-9). This means we don't understand what God does much of the time, and we are tempted to reject His will and His word. However, if we fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 3:1), we will be open to divine revelation, even though it is far beyond our understanding. Jesus is the only Way to understand and obey God's word.

Only Jesus can remove the veil that obstructs our understanding of and obedience to God's word (2 Cor 3:14). For example, God says: "He who seeks only himself brings himself to ruin, whereas he who brings himself to nought for Me discovers who he is" (Mt 10:39). Many people disagree with this and believe in self-realization, not self-denial. However, we should focus not only on self-denial, but on self-denial for Jesus.

Jesus said: "He who will not take up his cross and come after Me is not worthy of Me" (Mt 10:38). Many read this and automatically underline the words "cross" or "not worthy," but we should underline "after Me" and "of Me," that is, after Jesus and of Jesus. We should read every Scripture verse as if we were at the foot of Jesus' cross. Then we can see the most severe demands of the Bible not as impossible obligations, but as opportunities to love Jesus. We will understand the words of God only when we love the Word of God, Jesus.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

“You must give to get, You must sow the seed, before you can reap the harvest.”

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." - (Jesus to his disciples in the book of Matthew)

(Gospel Mt 13: 1-9)
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The message is quite clear: God is generous while sowing, but the very success of his sowing is also contingent —at the same time— on our free response. That the fruit depends upon the soil where the seeds fall is something that our daily experiences already tell us. For instance, amongst the pupils of the same school and the same class, some may end up with a religious calling while others may end as atheists. They heard the same messages, but the “soils” where the “seeds” fell were different.

The good soil is our heart. Partly, because of our own good nature; but, mostly, because of our own will. Some people prefer to enjoy themselves rather than trying to be better. With these persons it happens the same as in the parable: the thistles (that is, the worries of this life and the love of money) «choke [the Word]; and it does not bear fruit» (Mt 13:22).

But, those who, instead, treasure the being, they lovingly receive God's seeds and make them bear fruit. Although, doing it means considerable mortification. Jesus Christ said it too: «I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds» (Jn 12:24). The Lord also warned us that the road to salvation is narrow and steep (cf. Mt 7:14): the more valuable it is, the more difficult to get. Priceless things cannot be obtained without effort.

Those enthralled by their own penchants will have a heart like a wild jungle. On the contrary, the fruit trees that are pruned on time will bear the best fruits. Saints never had an easy life, but they were models for Mankind. «Indeed, not all of us have been called to martyrdom, but certainly to attain the perfection of Christian life. But the virtue demands such a strength that (...) all the same it requires a long and painstaking work, which we should never interrupt, until we die. Accordingly, this may be considered as a slow and continuous martyrdom» (Pius XII).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Love has no room for fear"

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.” - St Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Mt 10,24-33):
Jesus said to his Apostles:
“No disciple is above his teacher,
no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more those of his household!
“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

In the Gospel lesson for today, Jesus also tells us that we should not be afraid of anything that can kill our bodies but not our souls. He reminds us how much our heavenly Father values us and cares for us. But Jesus does tell us that we should be afraid of the evil one that can destroy both our bodies and our souls in hell.

How can we protect ourselves from this danger to our souls? Jesus tells us that we are to proclaim his teachings with great confidence. But if we deny Jesus, we are in grave danger. What does this mean for our daily lives?

I have come to believe that while God does take care of the lowly and God does take care of each of us, to fail to work with God by doing the work of Jesus to care for others is a form of denying Christ. I even feel that to dismiss the suffering of others with the statement that “God will take care of it” is to take the Lord’s name in vain. When we go to Mass on Sunday, not only are we fed on the very Body and Blood of Our Lord, we all are called to action. Remember what the deacon proclaims at the end of every Mass, “Go in peace to LOVE & SERVE the Lord.

I believe that God is all powerful. But I also have come to understand that I need to seek to serve him constantly by proclaiming Christ’s love for others in the midst of all life’s challenges. I am not afraid to say that. In fact, I am afraid for my soul if I don’t.

Today I pray for our souls and that we will all be given more confidence to proclaim Christ in the very real circumstances of our troubled world.

Friday, July 8, 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

Gospel text (Mt 10,16-23): Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”

Today, the Gospel emphasizes the troubles and contradictions we Christians have to suffer because of Christ and his Gospel, and how we must stand firm and persevere to the end. Jesus promised us: «I am with you always, until the end of the age» (Mt 28:20); but He did not promise his disciples an easy journey; on the contrary, He told them: «Everyone will hate you because of me» (Mt 10:22).

Who are the wolves?

They wear attractive masks, and they can become addictive. When the forces are victorious, their victims often become their agents, and they are the wolves -- like the officers at Enron, the smartest guys in the room; or the coaches cheating their way to championships; or the terrorists who called the shots for 9/11. They are the bullies of our lives. The pornographers and child abusers, the hucksters who become sensationalists in news and entertainment, the petty thieves and the men and women unfaithful to their spouses. All these agents are the greedy, selfishly ambitious, and arrogant ones.

Folly? To the world, certainly yes. But not to us, the members of Christ’s own Mystical Body. As faithful individuals and as communities of Faith – across the globe and in our personal lives – we are called to bear the Cross of Our Lord precisely in those places where the Cross is deemed a folly. When we do so, we do it to perform Christ’s own mission: to foster reconciliation among those who are divided and who neither relent nor forgive; to forgive the trespassers, even and especially the ones who trespass against us; to heal and represent the sick, the wounded, the poor, and the oppressed in the very environments and territory where the forces of evil are prevailing.

To do these things requires the virtues of humility, courage, trust in God, and generosity of spirit. It depends upon the nourishment of the sacraments and prayer and upon the graces of Faith, Hope and Love. With such virtue, nourishment and grace – and as long as we abide in the Redeeming Christ – we sheep will scatter the wolves. The forces of evil will fail, flee, and end up defeated.

When we confront them, we will surely pay the cost. Salvation costs. Anyone who has ever tried to actually save someone knows it costs. Salvation requires sacrifice. Dealing with evil and caring for those who suffer it will often lead us through humiliation, insult, and – for the martyrs among us – death.

The cross therefore seems a folly to the world. But it is part of our mission – a mission given to us by Our Lord who accompanies us as we pursue it. The witness of our lives in our pursuit demonstrates that the cross of Christ is by no means a folly. It is wisdom. We are wise to know that being innocent with Christ on the cross will lead us with Him to Resurrection and Easter Joy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chance has a nickname - Providence

My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings. -- St. Isaac Jogues

Gospel text (Mt 10,7-15):
Jesus said to his Apostles:
“As you go, make this proclamation:
‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts;
no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,
or sandals, or walking stick.
The laborer deserves his keep.
Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it,
and stay there until you leave.
As you enter a house, wish it peace.
If the house is worthy,
let your peace come upon it;
if not, let your peace return to you.
Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words
go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.
Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town.”

Today's Gospel, with its invitation to travel without any luggage («Do not carry any gold, silver or copper in your purses»), is inciting us to confidence, to availability. However, this does not mean to be careless! Living this reality is only possible through a life deeply rooted in what is truly fundamental: in the person of Christ. His Holiness John Paul II says: «We must respect an essential principle of the Christian vision of our life: the supremacy of Grace. We should not forget that without Christ, ‘we can do nothing’ (cf. Jn 15:5)».

In our society people have a tendency to do things "their own way”, to organize “their own life” by doing without others. Today, Jesus tells us «go»; go out. In other words, do bear in mind, those you have beside you. Let us, therefore, keep them in our mind, open to their needs.

What are the 21st century parallels of how each of us, as an apostle of Christ, practices these behaviors?

When I reflect on curing the sick, I think of the many ways that every person, in some way, has the opportunity to practice that. For those who are in some type of medical profession, the implication is obvious. However, I see other parallels, i.e., I reflect on all the family members who give time, energy and nurturance to their family members who are ill and in need of healing. I reflect on the daily encounters each of us has with a multitude of people; each of those encounters can be one of compassion or one of a negative character. Such a positive –or negative - encounter affects another at the cellular level. To me, curing the sick implies a spectrum of behavior on our part.

With the same thinking pattern, one can think more broadly, i.e., who are the lepers of 2011? What are the demons? What do I do to care for the marginalized in my environment (the lepers)? What do I do about the demons—which can range from addictions to a multitude of other sins that grip us and hold us in a form of slavery.

Finally, we as Christians must not only be recipients of peace but also givers of peace. As members of the Church gifted by Jesus with peace, we can bless people, homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces (Mt 10:12). If those to whom we offer peace are receptive, then peace will come to them (Mt 10:13). Otherwise, it will return to us (Mt 10:13).

Be men and women of peace in every way. Be disciples of Jesus, our Peace (Eph 2:14).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

“Nothing is really lost by a life of sacrifice; everything is lost by failure to obey God's call.”

“Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity ... is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men's lives.” --Soren Kierkegaard

Gospel text (Mt 10,1-7):
Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
The names of the Twelve Apostles are these:
first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew;
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
Philip and Bartholomew,
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus;
Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot
who betrayed Jesus.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

Today, the Gospel shows us Jesus sending his Apostles on a mission: «Jesus sent these twelve on mission with these instructions...» (Mt 10:5). The twelve make up the “Apostolic College”, that is “missionary”. The Church, in its earthly pilgrimage, is a Missionary Community, as its origin lies in the fulfillment of the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit, following God the Father's divine intentions. In the same way as Peter and the other Apostles, by institution of our Lord, constituted a single Apostolic College, the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, form a body, which has the duty to announce the Gospel everywhere.

Among the disciples sent on mission we find those with an outstanding position, given by Christ, and a greater responsibility, such as Peter; and others, as Thaddaeus, whom we practically know nothing about; however, the Gospels, which communicate Good News, were not intended to satisfy our curiosity. On our side, we are supposed to pray for all the bishops, for the famous and for the not so famous ones, while living in communion with them: «See that you all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father and the presbytery as you would the apostles...» (St. Ignatious of Antioch). Jesus was not looking for cultivated people, but simply for people who were available, willing and able to follow him to the end. This means that, as a Christian, I must also feel responsible of a part of Jesus' plan of salvation. Do I keep away from evil? Do I help my fellow-men?

The central question of this gospel is: What does God want to be my mission in life?

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to reflect upon your mission, smile at what you are doing well and give a step in the right direction if you feel your daily routine should be slightly more attuned to God’s intentions.

Be other Christ’s. Bring hope and life to the lost, suffering, and enslaved. Be His disciples.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

“Pray for a good harvest but continue to hoe.”

“The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others.” - Saint John Chrysostom

Gospel text (Mt 9,32-38):
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus,
and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke.
The crowds were amazed and said,
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said,
“He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Today, the Gospel speaks of the man who was dumb because he was possessed, and of how his healing provoked different reactions between the crowd and the Pharisees who, in the face of prodigious evidence, nobody could deny, they attributed it to devilish powers «He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons» (Mt 9:34). Instead, the crowd marvels: «Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel» (Mt 9:33). When referring to this passage St. John Chrysostom, says: «What the Pharisees truly resented was the crowds were considering Jesus superior, not only to those existing then, but to all that had ever existed».

However, the Pharisees' comments did not worry Jesus in the least; He faithfully went on with his mission. The crowd was grateful for a good leader and yearned for it. This can be compared to when we look at the pastoral visits of His Holiness Benedict XVI, to the different places in the world. How he manages to gather immense crowds around him! How they listen to him, particularly our youth! And this, despite the Pope does not make discounts, for he preaches the Gospel with all its requirements.

St. Josemaria Escriva says: «If we should be consequent with our faith, when we look around us and contemplate the scenery of history and our world, we could not but feel that, the same feelings that animated Jesus' heart, are also invading ours», which would take us to a very generous apostolic task. But the disproportion amongst the crowds waiting for the preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the scarcity of ready workers to preach it, is quite evident. At the end of the text of the Gospel, though, Jesus gives us the solution: to ask the master of the harvest to send workers to his fields (cf. Mt 9:38).

Believe it or not, you could be that "laborer" Jesus is referring to in today's gospel right where you are now. There is something to be done at every station of life (married, single, or religious). Remember, Jesus does not "call" the qualified, He qualifies the "called".

Its simply an act of will, a choice. Let us ask Our Lady to help us to say "Yes" and never look back.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What Does July 4th Mean in “Modern” America?

"Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” - a question asked by Thomas Jefferson (on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.)

"How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4:14) comes true.

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

It appears that many of the leaders of the secular, Western nations also want to do away with the natural law. The first paragraph of the Declaration specifically mentions the natural law. The natural law refers to rules of conduct or morality based on human nature. It also assumes that absolutes exist. This means that the order we see in the universe extends to human nature and behavior. Thus, it is universal and binding on all people and cultures throughout history. As such, we can know the difference between good and evil through the use of our reason, and we are responsible to seek out objective moral truth and submit ourselves to it. This makes us moral beings.

The 4th of July is the day when people gather all over the United States of America to celebrate their Independence. Fireworks light up the sky, families and friends will join to remember those who gave their lives so that the promises set forth in that Declaration of Independence could inform a new Nation.

The principles the Declaration communicates have informed our history as a free people and inspired our neighbors in other parts of the world to stand up against all forms of tyranny. As we reflect upon the text this weekend we need to remember that our forebears were not declaring their independence from Divine Providence. Rather, they were trusting in the primacy of the Governance of God over their own lives and their noble undertaking.

They sought independence from a monarchy which had become tyrannical precisely because it had forgotten the implications of the primacy of Divine Providence. The principles set forth in that Declaration were a rallying cry which called forth extraordinary sacrifice. They were rooted in something much greater than political expediency. That is why those principles became a measuring stick against which all governments of men would be measured in the future.

They believed there actually were truths - objective truths- to be held and that those truths are self evident. Those truths include the existence of unalienable rights which are given to all men and women by a Creator. They believed that those truths and those rights can be discerned by all men and women because they are revealed by the Natural Law which is written on all human hearts and is a participation in God's law.

At the core of the founders vision of a "good" society, one where all men and women could pursue "happiness", was a bedrock belief in the need for a common morality upon which this virtuous and free society could be built. After all the classical vision of happiness was a reference to the moral life wherein human persons flourished by becoming more human by living virtuously. While the founders embraced a freedom of religion, they did not ascribe to an enforced secularism, a freedom FROM religion, where the influence of religious principles or the leavening role of religious institutions was viewed as some kind of threat to true liberty.

Perhaps it is time for another revolution. I do not mean a violent revolution. Rather, the kind of revolution I am referring to is a revolution that begins with our own radical conversion and is followed by prayer, lots of prayer. We need to bathe this country in prayer. This will make it possible for Jesus to manifest himself to the world through us, and it will enable us to confront the evil in our country with a radical divine love. To begin a revolution in this country, we only need to live our faith. Jesus was the greatest revolutionary. While it is true that he did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it, he also brought about the end of a world and ushered in a new world. He is still doing it, and we are called to be united to him and his revolutionary work, that is, the work of redemption and a new creation."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

All that we call human history - money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery - [is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. - C.S. Lewis

Gospel text (Mt 11,25-30):
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Today, two realities define Jesus in this Gospel: no one knows the Father except him, and He is «gentle and humble of heart» (Mt 11:29). We can also discern in this Gospel two attitudes that we require to properly understand and enjoy what Jesus is offering us: simplicity and the desire to get close to Him.

What is a yoke? A yoke is a piece of wood or metal placed over the necks of two animals walking side-by-side. It keeps them in line when plowing a field. The yoke changes independence into dependence. The two animals must depend on each other to save their own neck. If one of the animals balks, or runs ahead or sideways, both get a stiff neck.

In the USA, we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow. We are culturally conditioned to desire independence rather than dependence. We want to do our own thing, not go where someone forces us to go. When we're in a yoke, we're not independent. In His mercy, Jesus does not relieve us of His yoke, but instead slips our yoke upon His own neck and plows the straight line with us (see Lk 9:62). No wonder Jesus' yoke is not heavy (Mt 11:29); Jesus our Strength (Phil 4:13) is bearing it with us.

When wearing Jesus' yoke, we can't just follow every whim and fancy, or we'll get a stiff neck. We'll be "stiff-necked people" like the Old Testament Israelites (Dt 9:6). We can't follow the ways of the flesh, for Jesus isn't walking that way (Rm 8:7-8). If we keep looking back, we can see why we're not fit for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62); we'd have such a sore neck that we'd be of little use to the Lord. So take Jesus' yoke, learn from Him, and follow His footsteps (Lk 9:23).

«Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you» (Mt 11:28). Jesus is humble and humility is the sister of simplicity. When we learn how to be happy through simplicity, many complications are dispelled, many needs disappear, and we can rest, at long last. Jesus invites us to follow him; and He is not deceiving us: to be with him is to take his yoke upon us, to assume the demands of his love. We shall not be spared any suffering, but his load will be light, and our suffering will not be a consequence of our own selfishness but, because of love and with the Spirit's help, we shall suffer only what we should and no more. Furthermore, let us not forget that, «the tribulations we suffer for God are softened by the hope» (St. Ephraem).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Immaculate Heart of Mary - Cause of Our Joy - Pray for Us

“Be not afraid; my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and your safe path to God.” –Our Lady of Fatima to Lucía dos Santos

Gospel text (Lc 2,41-51):
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Today, we celebrate the memory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A spotless Heart, full of God, totally willing to listen to him and obey him. In the Bible's language, the heart refers to a person's deepest essence, where all thoughts, words and deeds emanate from. What does emanate from the Virgin Mary's heart? Faith, obedience, tenderness, availability, spirit of service, fortitude, humility, simplicity, gratitude, and a countless rosary of virtues.

Why? We find the answer in Jesus' words: «For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also» (Mt 6:21). Mary's treasure is her Son, and in him she has set her heart; Mary's thoughts, words and deeds have their beginning and their end in the contemplation and satisfaction of the Lord.

Today's Gospel offers us a good sample. After narrating the scene of Jesus lost and found in the temple, it tells us: «As for his mother, she kept all these things in her heart» (Lk 2:51). St. Gregory of Nyssa comments: «God allows to be seen by those who have a pure heart». What does Mary keep in her heart? From the Incarnation to Jesus' Ascension to Heaven, through the bitter hours of Calvary, there are so very many meditated and profound remembrances: the joy of Angel Gabriel's visit announcing Mary God's designs for her, the first kiss and the first embrace to the newly born child, the first steps of her Son on earth, contemplating him growing in wisdom and grace, her “involvement” in the wedding of Cana, Jesus' teachings during his preaching, the savior pains of the Cross, her hopes in the triumph of Resurrection...

Let us beg God to give us the joy of loving him more perfectly every day, with all our heart, as the good sons of the Virgin Mary that we are.

Patriotism - Forget politics

During his presidential campaign in the summer of 1952, Adlai Stevenson II addressed the American Legion Convention in Madison Square Garden. What captured my attention was his description of patriotism:

"We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power-to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect to all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

Patriotism describes one who affirms the convictions expressed by our founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

As Catholics, our patriotism must be expressed in much broader and proactive terms.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts: "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution.... Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God." Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community. (2238)

"Invoking the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, let us pray today and everyday that we as Catholics, true to our faith and, therefore, patriotically devoted to our nation, may promote respect for all human life, safeguard the sanctity of marriage and the family, and, thereby, foster the good of all in the nation and in the world." - Archbishop Raymond Burke

Friday, July 1, 2011

Those who love the Sacred Heart rejoice

“The sacred heart of Christ is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to his good pleasure.” - Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque from a letter

Gospel text (Mt 11,25-30): At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Today when, at the end of the day, we feel weary and exhausted —for, at times, we all have heavy burdens difficult to bear— we may recall these words of Jesus, «Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you» (Mt 11:28). Let us find all our rest in Him, who is the only one that can make our burden light and take our worries away, so that we can find all the peace and all the love the world denies us.

Human relief needs, to be authentic, a dose of “contemplation”. If we turn our eyes to heaven and pray with all our heart, if we are humble, we can be sure we shall find and see God, because He is there («Father, Lord of heaven, I praise you»: Mt 11:25). But He is not only there, we can also find him in the “easy yoke” of our everyday's small things: let us find him in that child's smile, full of innocence; in the grateful stare, from that ailing person we have visited; in that poor man's eyes beseeching our help, our compassion...

Let us rest in our loving Savior, and let us fully trust in Him, who is our sole salvation and the salvation of humanity. As John Paul II recommended, to properly rest, we must cast «a gaze full of joyous delight [for the very good work]: . This is a “contemplative” gaze which does not look to new accomplishments but enjoys the beauty of what has already been achieved» in God's presence. Furthermore, we must also thank Him, for everything comes from the Almighty and, without Him, nothing could be done.

One of the current great dangers is, precisely, that «Ours is a time of continual movement which often leads to restlessness, with the risk of “doing for the sake of doing”. We must resist this temptation by trying “to be” before trying “to do”» (John Paul II). Because, actually, as Jesus tells us, only one thing is needed (cf. Lk 10:42): «Take my yoke upon you (…) and you will find rest for your souls» (Mt 11:29).