Friday, September 30, 2011

“Grace does not destroy nature, it perfects it.” -Saint Thomas Aquinas

“The law detects, grace alone conquers sin.” - Saint Augustine of Hippo

Gospel text (Lk 10,13-16):
Jesus said to them,
"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,
sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
at the judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum, "Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld."
Whoever listens to you listens to me.
Whoever rejects you rejects me.
And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

Our responsibility for our sins and our responsibility to repent are related to the graces the Lord has given us, for example, the miracles He has done in our midst. "When much has been given a man, much will be required of him. More will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted" (Lk 12:48).

Most of us reading this have been given the very greatest graces. Almost all of us are baptized. We have become new creations (Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:17). We are royal, priestly, and holy (1 Pt 2:9). God even lives in us, and we in Him (Jn 17:23; 6:56). Most of us are awesomely privileged to receive the body and blood of God as Catholics. Under these circumstances, it is obvious that we have a very great responsibility to respond to God's graces and to repent.

Nevertheless, as we are about to accept God's call to repentance, we are tempted to compare ourselves with others. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum could have compared themselves with Nazareth. They seemed to have greater faith than did Nazareth, because Jesus did more miracles in them (Mk 6:5-6). Satan can so confuse us that we use our blessings as an excuse not to repent rather than an indication of a greater responsibility to repent.

Don't compare yourself with others, but compare your life to the graces God has given you. Then repent.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Angels don't worry about you... They believe in you."

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” - Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Jn 1,47-51):
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
"Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him."
Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?"
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree."
Nathanael answered him,
"Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this."
And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Today's feast day honors the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the only angels mentioned by name in the Bible. We thank God for these three archangels. We need them now more than ever.

Angels are those beings who want to work for us and do jobs which must be done, although we can't do them or find anyone else to do them. It's just what we need — and for free! There are "thousands upon thousands" of them (Dn 7:10). One has been assigned to guard each of us.

The archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, will also help us. Michael's specialty is spiritual warfare — something we're engaged in daily, especially if we're living the life in the Spirit. "Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven" (Rv 12:7-8). That war Michael finished in heaven is continuing on earth, and we're in it. St. Michael, pray for us. We need you.

Gabriel specializes in annunciations and revelations. He helped Daniel to understand Jeremiah's prophecy (see Dn 9:21-27) and carried to Mary the greatest message ever: God was to become man in her womb and His name would be Jesus (Lk 1:31-32).

Raphael works in the areas of guidance and healing (Tb 12:7). Goodness knows we need that. Remember, angels are "ministering spirits, sent to serve those who are to inherit salvation" (Heb 1:14).

Let's keep them employed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"God isn't looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him"

Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves with out wondering. -Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Lk 9,57-62):
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
"I will follow you wherever you go."
Jesus answered him,
"Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."
And to another he said, "Follow me."
But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God."
And another said, "I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home."
Jesus answered him, "No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God."

If God called you to leave everything right now, like he did in today’s Gospel, could you truly drop everything and go? I know that the right response is, “Oh yes! Of course!” but have you ever really, truly thought about it? I know that I would ask God, " Can my family come with me, or at least can I go say goodbye to them " ? or "Can we postpone this until next week "? Why is it so hard for us to drop everything and follow the Lord?

Jesus flat out tells us about the personal costs that it would require to follow him. It requires sacrifice to follow the Lord, the sacrifice of all of our material possessions and creature comforts. Jesus knows this, but he appeals to our heart to detach from material goods and to not hold back. This is necessary to follow the Lord. We can’t be tied down to multiple things when our full attention should be on following his will. But, in today’s society, we are all not necessarily called to give up everything to spiritually follow Jesus. However, we need to give up anything that may hold us back from doing God's will. We have to look forward, and not look back at everything we leave behind.

Today, let us examine ourselves in terms of the challenges we face and our relationship with God. How is Jesus inviting us to respond? Let's ask for the graces to respond freely - with hope and confident trust - each day, in the concrete situations in which we find ourselves. Sometimes the call will be in terms of how quickly and lovingly we respond to the people closest to us. Sometimes we will be asked to participate, pitch in, contribute in some way to building a community of people positively responding to those in need.

We are all called to think about what we would do if God called us to drop everything and follow him. Would we sit in suffering thinking about all that we may lose and all the sacrifices we would have to make? Or would we full heartedly follow him? Today is all about putting trust in the Lord even during the most difficult times. We are called to ask 'can I put my full trust in him?'

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Go to the poor: you will find God. - St Vincent de Paul

The net result of my experience on the matter is the judgment I have formed, that true religion - true religion, Gentlemen, true religion is to be found amongst the poor. - St Vincent de Paul

Gospel text (Lk 9,51-56):
When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
"Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?"
Jesus turned and rebuked them,
and they journeyed to another village.

Today's Gospel reminds me of one of the best homilies that I ever heard. The priest read from a short story by a Catholic writer, and it was about a woman who was very devout and proper, but had a bit of a superiority complex about her holiness, and looked down upon those who were not able to be as fervent in their pursuit of heaven as was she.

Then she has a vision of every ragged, motley and deranged person she had passed on the street being transported joyfully up to heaven, singing out of tune, weeping for joy and otherwise engaged in a sort of lunatic-like celebration of their salvation. And she wondered: How are those people going to heaven? And how are they getting there before me?

The disciples in the Gospel today remind me a bit of that woman, asking Jesus to rain down terror on the Samaritans. God loves the ragged people, and Jesus was friends with many of them, which caused Jesus to be looked down upon by the Pharisees and others.

The secret, I think, is recognizing our own raggedness. We have all sinned and we will all sin again. But if we recognized our own raggedness, instead of pretending that it doesn't exist, then perhaps we can engage in that lunatic-like celebration as we are taken up to heaven.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God”

If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” - St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Gospel text (Lk 9,46-50): One day the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he took a little child and stood him by his side. Then He said to them, «Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. And listen: the one who is found to be the least among you all, is the one who is the greatest».

Then John spoke up, «Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon your name, and we tried to forbid him because he doesn't follow you with us». But Jesus said, «Don't forbid him. He who is not against you is for you».

In the world, we don't welcome people because we don't welcome competition. We see other people as a threat. If they take their cut, there's less for us. We tend to be jealous, possessive, and contentious. We compare ourselves with others to see who is greatest (Lk 9:46).

In Jesus' kingdom, it should be the opposite. We welcome people with open arms. Other people are not "them"; they're "us." We're all members of the same body. "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). We owe encouragement (Phil 2:1) and love (Rm 13:8) to one another. When we welcome our brothers and sisters in Christ, we welcome Christ and the Father (Lk 9:48). When we welcome one part of Christ's body, we must welcome all. "If then you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me" (Phlm 17).

At our death or at the end of the world, we will be welcomed as we welcome.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pope Benedict’s visit to Germany: He calls the German Youth to be Saints who Light up the world

The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church's history. -- Pope John Paul II

Dear young friends,

Throughout today I have been looking forward to this evening, and to this opportunity to be together with you and to join you in prayer. No doubt some of you were present at World Youth Day, where we were able to experience the special atmosphere of peace, deep fellowship and inner joy that characterizes an evening prayer vigil. It is my wish that we may experience the same thing now: that the Lord may touch our hearts and make us joyful witnesses who pray together and support one another, not just this evening but throughout our lives.

In all churches, in cathedrals and religious houses, wherever the faithful gather to celebrate the Easter Vigil, that holiest of all nights begins with the lighting of the Paschal candle, whose light is then passed on to all who are present. One tiny flame spreads out to become many lights and fills the darkness of God's house with its brightness. This wonderful liturgical rite, which we have imitated in our prayer vigil tonight, reveals to us in signs more eloquent than words the mystery of our Christian faith. Jesus who says of himself: "I am the light of the world" (Jn 8:12), causes our lives to shine brightly, so that what we have just heard in the Gospel comes true: "You are the light of the world" (Mt 5:14).

It is not our human efforts or the technical progress of our era that brings light into this world. Again and again we have to experience how our striving to bring about a better and more just world hits against its limits. Innocent suffering and the ultimate fact of death awaiting every single person are an impenetrable darkness which may perhaps, through fresh experiences, be lit up for a moment, as if through a flash of lightning at night. In the end, though, a frightening darkness remains.

While all around us there may be darkness and gloom, yet we see a light: a small, tiny flame that is stronger than the seemingly powerful and invincible darkness. Christ, risen from the dead, shines in this world and he does so most brightly in those places where, in human terms, everything is sombre and hopeless. He has conquered death - he is alive - and faith in him, like a small light, cuts through all that is dark and threatening. To be sure, those who believe in Jesus do not lead lives of perpetual sunshine, as though they could be spared suffering and hardship, but there is always a bright glimmer there, lighting up the path that leads to fullness of life (cf. Jn 10:10). The eyes of those who believe in Christ see light even amid the darkest night and they already see the dawning of a new day.

Light does not remain alone. All around, other lights are flaring up. In their gleam, space acquires contours, so that we can find our bearings. We do not live alone in this world. And it is for the important things of life that we have to rely on other people. Particularly in our faith, then, we do not stand alone, we are links in the great chain of believers. Nobody can believe unless he is supported by the faith of others, and conversely, through my faith, I help to strengthen others in their faith. We help one another to set an example, we give others a share in what is ours: our thoughts, our deeds, our affections. And we help one another to find our bearings, to work out where we stand in society.

Dear friends, the Lord says: "I am the light of the world - you are the light of the world." It is mysterious and wonderful that Jesus applies the same predicate to himself and to each one of us, namely "light". If we believe that he is the Son of God, who healed the sick and raised the dead, who rose from the grave himself and is truly alive, then we can understand that he is the light, the source of all the lights of this world. On the other hand, we experience more and more the failure of our efforts and our personal shortcomings, despite our best intentions.

In the final analysis, the world in which we live, in spite of its technical progress, does not seem to be getting any better. There is still war and terror, hunger and disease, bitter poverty and merciless oppression. And even those figures in our history who saw themselves as "bringers of light", but without being fired by Christ, the one true light, did not manage to create an earthly paradise, but set up dictatorships and totalitarian systems, in which even the smallest spark of true humanity is choked.

At this point we cannot remain silent about the existence of evil. We see it in so many places in this world; but we also see it - and this scares us - in our own lives. Truly, within our hearts there is a tendency towards evil, there is selfishness, envy, aggression. Perhaps with a certain self-discipline all this can to some degree be controlled. But it becomes more difficult with faults that are somewhat hidden, that can engulf us like a thick fog, such as sloth, or laziness in willing and doing good. Again and again in history, keen observers have pointed out that damage to the Church comes not from her opponents, but from uncommitted Christians.

So how can Christ say that Christians, presumably including these weak and often lukewarm Christians, are the light of the world? Perhaps we could understand if he were to call out to us: Repent! Be the light of the world! Change your life, make it bright and radiant! Should we not be surprised that the Lord directs no such appeal to us, but tells us that we are the light of the world, that we shine, that we light up the darkness?

Dear friends, Saint Paul in many of his letters does not shrink from calling his contemporaries, members of the local community, "saints". Here it becomes clear that every baptized person - even before accomplishing good works or special achievements - is sanctified by God. In baptism the Lord, as it were, sets our life alight with what the Catechism calls sanctifying grace. Those who watch over this light, who live by grace, are indeed holy.

Dear friends, again and again the very notion of saints has been caricatured and distorted, as if to be holy meant to be remote from the world, naive and joyless. Often it is thought that a saint has to be someone with great ascetic and moral achievements, who might well be revered, but could never be imitated in our own lives. How false and discouraging this opinion is! There is no saint, apart from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has not also known sin, who has never fallen.

Dear friends, Christ is not so much interested in how often in your lives you stumble and fall, as in how often you pick yourselves up again. He does not demand glittering achievements, but he wants his light to shine in you. He does not call you because you are good and perfect, but because he is good and he wants to make you his friends. Yes, you are the light of the world because Jesus is your light. You are Christians - not because you do special and extraordinary things, but because Christ is your life. You are holy because his grace is at work in you.

Dear friends, this evening as we gather in prayer around the one Lord, we sense the truth of Christ's saying that the city built on a hilltop cannot remain hidden. This gathering shines in more ways than one - in the glow of innumerable lights, in the radiance of so many young people who believe in Christ. A candle can only give light if it lets itself be consumed by the flame. It would remain useless if its wax failed to nourish the fire.

Allow Christ to burn in you, even at the cost of sacrifice and renunciation. Do not be afraid that you might lose something and, so to speak, emerge empty-handed at the end. Have the courage to apply your talents and gifts for God's kingdom and to give yourselves - like candlewax - so that the Lord can light up the darkness through you. Dare to be glowing saints, in whose eyes and hearts the love of Christ beams and who thus bring light to the world. I am confident that you and many other young people here in Germany are lamps of hope that do not remain hidden. "You are the light of the world". Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Prayer is the oxygen of the soul. ~Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Who can assure us that we will be alive tomorrow? Let us listen to the voice of our conscience, to the voice of the royal prophet: “Today, if you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.” Let us not put off from one moment to another (what we should do) because the (next moment) is not yet ours. ~Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Gospel text (Lk 9,18-22):
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"
They said in reply, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, "One of the ancient prophets has arisen.""
Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Peter said in reply, "The Christ of God."
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

He said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised."

The gospel today is a fairly simple message, one that ought to make sense to us. But I would like to emphasize a word that I, at least, tend to just skip over: must.

Must is an interesting word with an interesting context. “I must go to work in order to make the money to pay the bills.” “You must always treat others with dignity and respect.” “One must first be an adult before they are allowed to vote.” From the sounds of things, “must” seems like a trap: a series of shackles that inhibits your freedom and keeps you from doing as you wish. So, was Jesus forced, obliged, coerced to be beaten by strips of leather, stabbed by a crown of piercing thorns, and then above all, to be crucified upon a cross?


The choice was made in an act of freedom; more importantly, by an act of nothing but pure love. Being fully human and fully God, Christ had every means to get himself down from the tree, or hide from Pilate’s army. Then again, he had every means to turn stone into bread, to worship Satan, or tempt his Father by thrusting himself from a mountain. But he chose not to do such, just as he chose to be crucified for you and I. That makes things personal; conscience and morals become involved. Christ did not have to die to for us; he rather knew that his actions would bring a greater good.

We are therefore left to better appreciate this act above all other acts. We must come to recognize that our own freedom is a gift that we are called to share with each and every one of our own brothers and sisters. I have come to learn that what “I” believe is not nearly as important as what “we” believe. And it is in this fashion that we strive to take something personal and make it something even more personal with each other.

That my friends….is simply a must.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self." – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them. – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

(Ps 149: 1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a, and 9b)
R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

The Lord is delighted by you. It does not say “vaguely amused” or “kind of joyful.” It says delight. There is so much more strength and sincerity behind the word 'delight'. This is not some kind of puppy love that ends when we make a mistake or fail to be perfect. This is not a relationship where we need to put on any mask or face of false perfection. This is the real, true “love ya til it hurts” kind of love.

“For the Lord LOVES his people…” The responsorial psalm today is joyful and reassuring, but I also look at it as a challenge. He thinks we’re pretty darn neat, and now we have to try and live up to it. We do not have to wear masks or pretend to be perfect, but we want to be perfect. We want to love the Lord back. It is so important to realize how much the Lord loves every person, how much they delight him. Our journey toward perfection starts with this. Growth and understanding happen with his love and delight.

He loves you so much.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Conversion is the heart of the Christian experience

“God never alters the robe of righteousness to fit the man. Rather He alters the man to fit the robe.”

Gospel text (Mt 9,9-13): As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
He heard this and said,
"Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."

This assignment for the Pharisees is our assignment today. How do we react to this message? This verse stands out to me anytime I’m around this part of the gospel, probably because I need this lesson so much. I feel more comfortable thinking about sacrifice. Sacrifice is concrete doing--doing something that you know to do. Mercy seems fuzzy.

Some interpretations say go and learn the meaning of this verse or this saying. Jesus would know that the Pharisees knew the origin of the words. The words come from Hosea 6:6. God tells the people in Hosea that they are getting it all wrong by focusing on animal sacrifice and ritual instead of taking care of people. Hosea goes on to remind the people of how many times they have gone off track.

So, we see how much the people of God need mercy. We can see in our own lives the ways we often go off track and how much we need mercy. Thankfully we have a God of mercy. We need mercy from one another too. Praise God for all those who show us mercy. Isn’t it a wonderful gift? When we show mercy to others in healthy ways we feel healing too. Consider how Jesus stresses this message in His teachings. The parable of the debtor and the king and the way He taught the disciples to pray are just two examples of teachings that stress a message of forgiveness and mercy.

As we honor Saint Matthew today it is fitting that we see how mercy plays out in his calling. The details are sparse, but Jesus appears to invite him with little notice and Matthew appears to accept the invitation and the mercy joyfully. So joyfully, in fact, that he wants to share this calling and this Jesus with his friends. He does not insist that his friends “clean up their act” first, just as Jesus did not appear to require that of Matthew before his calling. Yet, Matthew does walk away from the position that allowed him to take advantage of others and the gospel of Matthew emphasizes teachings of Jesus that set very high standards for caring for others and serving those who are disadvantaged.

I can be like the Pharisees. I am easily pulled into being skeptical of mercy. I can miss the awesome and ironic power of mercy to help people (including me) live up to a higher standard. This is particularly the case when the standard that matters most is authentic love. Receiving mercy helps us get back up again and helps us to do what is required to love others well, not out of a sense of righteousness and powerfulness, but with humility and compassion.

Isn’t love with humility and compassion what we so often see in Jesus?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned

Love cannot remain by itself -- it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Lk 8,19-21):
The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him
but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
He was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and they wish to see you."He said to them in reply,
"My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it."

If your mother came to visit you, would you leave her standing outside while you were talking with other people? That's what Jesus did. Was Jesus disobeying the fourth commandment by not honoring His mother? No, Jesus was not refusing to honor His mother. He was honoring her even more for her hearing God's word and acting on it, even to the point of the Word becoming flesh in her womb (Jn 1:14). Furthermore, Jesus extended His honor of Mary to include anyone willing to hear God's word and act on it. So Jesus was not dishonoring Mary but honoring her more, and even honoring those who choose to live honorably by hearing and obeying His word.

Will you let the Lord honor you with Mary?

Jesus tells us what we need to do to likewise pertain to his family: «those who hear...» (Lk 8:21) and to hear him we must get close to him, as his own relatives did, when they went where He was, but could not get to him because of the crowd. But, then, they tried to get closer. It might be convenient for us to ask ourselves if, to get closer to the Word of God, we do fight and try to overcome the obstacles we keep finding on the way. Do I devote, every day, a few minutes to reading, listening to or mulling over the Holy Scriptures? St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us «we must continuously meditate on the Word of God (...); this meditation is a powerful help in our fight against sin».

And, finally, to abide by the Word. It is not enough to hear the Word; we must put it into action if we want to become God's relatives. We must put into practice what we are told! This is why it would perhaps be good to ask ourselves whether we only behave obediently when what we are asked just suits us well or is rather easy to do, or if, on the contrary, when it means giving up our comfort, our own prestige, our material things or whatever leisure time we may have at our disposal..., we use to place the Word between parenthesis, until some better time may come.

Let us pray to the Virgin Mary that, as She did, we may hear and abide by the Word of God, so that we shall, thus, be able to follow the path leading to eternal happiness.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light?

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” - St Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Lk 8,16-18):
Jesus said to the crowd:
"No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear.
To anyone who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not,
even what he seems to have will be taken away."

Do you remember that song you used to sing as a child? The one that goes a little something like this:

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This is little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine. . .(etc.)
Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine, etc.”

The moment I read the words of Jesus in the Gospel today, that song popped into my head. Now I can’t get it out of my head. But, I think this little children’s song is a good reminder of the truths Jesus is trying to tell us in the Gospel.

In the Easter Vigil liturgy, as the newly blessed Paschal candle is brought into the sanctuary, the minister carrying the candle proclaims, “Christ our light!” We are a people who have been walking in darkness, and Christ is the light that banished that darkness. Just like putting a lamp under a bed or a bushel is a rather silly idea, hiding Christ from the world is detrimental. Hiding our faith in and love for Christ is as useful as concealing our lamps: no one can see the light.

Showing the light of Christ to the world can be difficult. We live in a secular society that can sometimes be very critical and even hateful to those who believe in something more than the material world around them. But, again, Christ gives us consolation. Again and again, he reminds us, “to anyone who has, more will be given.”

Christ is our light, and we can shine that light into the world in countless ways. The choice to do so is ours, we make it everyday.

Remember this, you either add to the darkness or shine Christ's light into it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Who, being loved, is poor?

There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone's house. That says enough. - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Mt 20,1-16):
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o'clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.'
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o'clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o'clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
'Why do you stand here idle all day?'
They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.'
He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
'Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.'
When those who had started about five o'clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
'These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day's burden and the heat.'
He said to one of them in reply,
'My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?'
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."

In this parable, the grumblings of the workers of the first hour are enhanced. They are the parallel image of the elder brother of the parable of the prodigal son. Those who see their task to win the Kingdom of God (the work in the vineyard) as a heavy affliction («we have endured the day's burden and heat»: Mt 20:12) and not as a privilege which God favors them with, are not working with filial joy but with the ill temper manner of the servants.

Faith, for them, is something that binds and enslaves, and, deep inside, they envy those that “live life”, inasmuch as they conceive the Christian conscience as a constraint rather than as the wings that provide our human life with a divine flight. They think it is better to remain spiritually idle, instead of living under the glow of God's word. They feel entitled to their salvation and, accordingly, they are jealous. Their miserable and mean spirit notably contrasts with the Father's generosity, who «who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth» (1Tim 2:4), and this is why He calls us to his vineyard, «The Lord is good to all, compassionate to every creature» (Ps 145:9).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A branch can’t bear fruit separated from the plant

“God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Lk 8,4-15):
When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another
journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable.
"A sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
and the birds of the sky ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew,
it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew,
it produced fruit a hundredfold."
After saying this, he called out,
"Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear."

Then his disciples asked him
what the meaning of this parable might be.
He answered,
"Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you;
but to the rest, they are made known through parables
so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

"This is the meaning of the parable.
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life,
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,
and bear fruit through perseverance."

In our faith, we have the tendency to take what we hear from Scripture and let it flow through our mind and then slowly let the words fade away. We will try to use the ideas and messages behind the Scripture in our lives for a little while, but eventually the concepts will pass through our minds as we move on in life. The key to keeping our faith is understanding that the words of the Scriptures are the words of God himself. When God speaks to us we need to open our hearts and let Him in. When we do that, we are able to persevere through life which allows us to lead successful and truly happy lives.

God’s words teach us the way we should lead our life. From the way we worship to the way we treat others, God’s words are the manual to helping us live life in a proper way. Sometimes we are tempted to take other’s advice on how to live, but we must remember to put no one in front of the Lord, our God. He is almighty and will show us the way to the gates of heaven. If we remember that, then our lives will be filled with joy and peace.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Well done, is better than well said."

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

Gospel text (Lc 8,1-3):
Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.

Today, in the Gospel, we can appreciate what a normal day in the three years of Jesus' public life would have been. St. Luke explains it in a few words: «Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the Kingdom of God» (Lk 8:1). This is what we contemplate in the third Mystery of Light of the Holy Rosary on Thursdays.

Jesus keeps on passing by close to us and offering us his supernatural goods: when we pray; when we read and ponder over the Gospel, to know and love him better and imitate his life; when we receive a sacrament, especially the Eucharist and the Penance; when we devote ourselves with effort and perseverance to our everyday's chores; when we have to deal with our family, our friends or our neighbors; when we help that person who is in need of material or spiritual help; when we have a rest or amuse ourselves... In all those circumstances we may find Jesus and follow him just as those Twelve and those saintly women also did.

But, above that, each one of us is called by God to also be “the passing Jesus”, that is, to speak to those we deal with —with our deeds and our words— about the faith that fills out of meaning our existence, about the hope that impels us to go on forward through the paths of life designed by God, and about the charity that should guide all our acts.

The first one to follow Jesus and “to be Jesus” is Mary. That with her example and mediation she may help us!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

'Behold, your mother'

"She is more Mother than Queen." - -Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church

Gospel text (Lc 2,33-35):
Jesus' father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
"Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

On this feast the Church invites us to ponder Mary’s strength as she stands with her son at the foot of the cross. In this mystery, God reveals through Mary what it means to follow Our Lord to the end – with love, fidelity, and endurance. She is also our patron as we attentively encounter the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters in the Mystical Body of Christ today. On this day we thank Mary for being a living sacrament of God's enduring compassion.

In Mary’s sorrow we discover what we don’t much want to acknowledge: that real love, as it matures, will inevitably take the form of sorrow when those we love must endure pain, suffering and death. In the larger view of God’s plan of salvation, she shows us how to be with those who suffer at the hands of the greedy, inordinately ambitious, and arrogant agents of injustice in our daily lives and in our world. She is the one by whom God reveals what real sorrow is, and how sacred it is.

Our Lady of Sorrows, then, reveals what sorrow is from God’s perspective. It is a fundamental openness to the suffering of another. Her sorrow shows us the sacred power we all have not only to acknowledge another person’s pain, but also to desire to share in it. In real sorrow we open up to allow the suffering of another to find a place in our hearts. This is precisely the disposition Simeon refers to in his words to Mary, “And you yourself a sword will pierce.” As sons and daughters of Mary, we are called and have the grace through her to open ourselves more and more to others of our time who are living out the Paschal Mystery. This is a fundamental disposition of Christian life.

As Mary shares in the sufferings of her Son, she is able only to accompany Him. She does not "do" anything. She can only be present to Him. But her presence includes knowing, understanding, accepting and loving. As one author puts it: “When ‘nothing can be done’ medically, socially, psycho-therapeutically, or whatever way, then the core needs of people emerge. They are being known, being understood, being accepted, being loved. These elements form the content of Mary's presence to her Son on Calvary.”

From Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, we learn to be men and women for others who stand with them in faith and love in times of darkness and suffering. She is a witness to us in her living faith and maternal love fulfiilling the most profound mysteries of the Redemption. She inspires us not only in her silent helplessness during Our Lord’s passion and death, but also as a young mother in her humble, hidden, and quiet activity in Nazareth, and as she lived out her later years mothering the Paschal Mystery into the life of the early Church.

Ave Maria!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Do you think about the cross of Christ?

“All God's plans have the mark of the cross on them, and all His plans have death to self in them”

(Philippians 2:6-11)
Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

We Christians believe that the meaning of life is to change. We're not interested in novelties, that is, superficial changes, but in the greatest changes. We focus on the change from the old, fallen nature to being born again as new creations (see Jn 3:3; Gal 6:15). We believe the Lord changes bread and wine into His body and blood. He changes hate into love, despair into hope, and death into life.

The center of God's miraculous work of changing us is the cross. The cross was originally a symbol of disgrace, of capital punishment. Because of Jesus' death on the cross, it has been changed into the symbol of grace, salvation, and love. At the cross "bad thieves" become "good thieves" (Lk 23:39ff), sinners repent, centurions believe (Mk 15:39), and through His death we receive eternal life. When we "lift high the cross," the church is restored, the lukewarm are set afire, and the culture of death becomes a civilization of love and life. At the cross, let the Lord do the greatest changes. "Lift high the cross. The love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore His sacred name."

Do you carry your cross in such a way that it proclaims to everyone that "Jesus Christ is Lord"? (Phil 2:11) You are blessed with the unspeakable privilege of sharing in the victorious cross of a King (Phil 1:29). Therefore, glory in the cross and carry your cross so as to triumph (1 Cor 9:24).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

“I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness than work miracles in unkindness”

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

Gospel text (LK 7,11-17):
Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
As he drew near to the gate of the city,
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
A large crowd from the city was with her.
When the Lord saw her,
he was moved with pity for her and said to her,
"Do not weep."
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, "Young man, I tell you, arise!"
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming,
"A great prophet has arisen in our midst,"
and "God has visited his people."
This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
and in all the surrounding region.

The mother of the dead child was literally all alone. She was widowed, and this boy was her only son. Here we have a combination of sudden, tragic events in the pattern of Job. Is there any hope under these dreadful circumstances?


In reading this fragment of the Gospel about the resurrection of that young man of Naim, we could emphasize Jesus' divinity and stand fast on it, by saying that only God could have brought back his life to this young man; but, today, I would rather stress Jesus Humanity as, here, we do not see Jesus as a remote being, or as someone very different to us, or even somebody so important that He could not arouse in us the confidence and trust a good friend would.

We, Christians, must learn to emulate Jesus. We must ask God for the grace to be like Christ for the sake of others. How wonderful if others could see us as Jesus' very image on this earth! Those who saw St. Francis of Assissi, for instance, were also seeing Jesus' image. Saints are those that carry Jesus in their words and deeds, and imitate his way of doing things and his goodness. Our society needs saints and you can be one in your environment.

Do not miss the opportunity!!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Faith is different from proof; the latter is human, the former is a gift from God

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

Gospel text (Lc 7,1-10):
When Jesus had finished all his words to the people,
he entered Capernaum.
A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die,
and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
"He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us."
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
"Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, Go, and he goes;
and to another, Come here, and he comes;
and to my slave, Do this, and he does it."
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
"I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.

Today, we are faced with an interesting question. Why did the captain in the Gospel not personally approach Jesus but rather, sent messengers ahead with the request to heal his servant? The captain answers this question for us in the Gospel passage. «You see I didn't approach you myself. Just give the order and my servant will be healed» (Lk 7:7).

The captain possessed the virtue of faith to believe that Jesus could work this miracle if it was in accord with his divine will. Faith allowed the captain to believe that no matter where Jesus was located He could heal the ill servant. The captain believed that no distance could prevent or stop the Christ from carrying out his work of salvation.

We are called to have that same faith in our own lives. There are times when we are tempted to think that Jesus is far away and not listening to our prayers. However, faith illumines our minds and hearts to believe that Jesus is always there to help us. In fact, the healing presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a reminder that Jesus is always with us. St. Augustine, with eyes of faith, believed this reality: «What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice is the Blood of Christ».

Faith illumines our minds to see that it is the very presence of Jesus in our midst. We like the captain say, «I am not worthy to welcome you under my roof» (Lk 7:6). Yet, we humble ourselves before our Lord and Savior and He still draws near to heal us. May we allow Jesus to enter our soul, under our roof, to heal and strengthen our faith so we may press on towards Eternal Life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a Crucifix

I am innocent and I die innocent. I forgive with all my heart those responsible for my death, and I ask God that the shedding of my blood serves toward the peace of our divided Mexico. --Saint Cristobal just before his executioners fired

Gospel text (Mt 18,21-35):
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."

A few months ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said something along the lines of, “It is God’s job to forgive Osama Bin Laden. It is our job to set up the meeting.” Funny, that isn’t exactly the message I took home from today’s readings.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, and four months after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. How has our country progressed since his death? Is there more peace in the world because of the steps taken in the last few months? What about the last ten years? I recently heard on the news that Americans abroad are advised to be cautious because violent attacks against them have escalated since Bin Laden was killed. When does it end? Killing leads to more killing. Vengeance to more vengeance. We become lost in a spiral of hate and violence. The only end that can be reached is pain. With that attitude, death has the final word.

But the promise we are given from Jesus is one of life. And this begins with forgiveness, not just God’s forgiveness, but our forgiveness of others here today. Only if we get over ourselves and our vengeful nature can we actually live. Jesus tells us that death is what we bring upon ourselves “unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Maybe our inability to forgive stems from not comprehending how much we are loved. God meets us where we are and loves us without having to change a thing. This is countercultural to us. We can love once someone fits our desires of who we think they should be. If they don’t fit our mold, we experience disappointment. But that’s not how God loves. God loves us where we are. If God can love and forgive all of us in whatever state we are in, we can do our best to forgive and love all those around us.

Forgive. Not once or twice, but forever. With forgiveness we can have peace. With forgiveness we can have life.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

One is wise to cultivate the tree that bears fruit in our soul

The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Lk 6,43-49):
Jesus said to his disciples:
"A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

"Why do you call me, "Lord, Lord," but not do what I command?
I will show you what someone is like who comes to me,
listens to my words, and acts on them.
That one is like a man building a house,
who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock;
when the flood came, the river burst against that house
but could not shake it because it had been well built.
But the one who listens and does not act
is like a person who built a house on the ground
without a foundation.
When the river burst against it,
it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed."

What if a structural engineer advised you to have the foundation of your house checked just in case you may have a problem? You probably would have it checked if there was even the slightest chance of your house collapsing. Today, Jesus is suggesting that you check the foundation of your life.

Are you founded on Jesus? (1 Cor 3:11) Have you lost your life for love of Jesus? (Lk 9:24) Are you, as a member of the Church, founded on the apostles and the prophets (Eph 2:20; Rv 21:14), on the bishops who are the successors of the apostles, and on the Pope, the successor of St. Peter? (see Mt 16:18) Do you devote yourself to the apostles' instructions? (Acts 2:42) Is your life founded on hearing and doing God's word? (Lk 6:47) Is your faith founded on Jesus crucified (1 Cor 2:2) and the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:4), or is it founded only on human eloquence or intelligence? (1 Cor 2:1, 4)

Your foundation will be tested by the circumstances of life (see Lk 6:48). Make sure you are ready for the test. Love Jesus with all your heart (Mt 22:37). Love the Church and give your life for her, as Jesus did (Eph 5:25). Hear and do God's word. Take up the cross each day in docility to the Holy Spirit.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Seeing within changes one's outer vision

"Love is not blind -- it simply enables one to see things others fail to see." - Anonymous

Gospel text (Lc 6,39-42):
Jesus told his disciples a parable:
"Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
"Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,"
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother's eye."

St. Paul is a living example of Jesus' parable of a person failing to see the beam in their own eye. Paul describes his pre-conversion years as follows: "I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance" (1 Tm 1:13). "I went to extremes in persecuting the Church of God and tried to destroy it" (Gal 1:13). Paul thought he saw a speck in the eyes of Christians and tried to remove both speck and Christian (see Acts 26:10). However, Paul had a beam in his own eye (Lk 6:42), because he couldn't see that Jesus was God.

Jesus appeared to Paul in "a light more brilliant than the sun shining in the sky at midday" (Acts 26:13). The plank in Paul's eye melted in the light of Christ. Paul's physical eyes were blinded by the light, but Jesus came "to make the sightless see" (Jn 9:39), and so Paul's "innermost vision" (Eph 1:18) beheld the truth that Jesus is Lord and Head of the Church. When Ananias prayed over Paul, "something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his" physical sight as well (Acts 9:18). Paul may have struggled with physical eyesight in later years (see Gal 4:13-15; 6:11), but his spiritual sight was always a perfect 20-20.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Before, by yourself, you couldn't. Now, you've turned to our Lady, and with her, how easy!" --St. Josemaria Escriva

"Mary, give me your Heart: so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate; your Heart so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life and love Him as you love Him and serve Him in the distressing guise of the poor."--Blessed Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Mt 1,1-16.18-23):
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,which means "God is with us."

Today, Jesus' genealogy, the Saviour that had to come and be born of Mary, shows us how the work of God is interwoven into human history, and how God acts in the secret and silence of every single day. At the same time, we can see his reliability to accomplish his promises. Even Ruth and Rahab (cf. Mt 1:5), foreigners, converted to the faith of the only God (and Rahab was a harlot!), were our Saviour's ancestors.

The Holy Spirit, that mysteriously had to incarnate the Son in Mary, entered, therefore, in our history since a long time before, and traced a path leading to the Virgin Mary of Nazareth and, through her, to her Son Jesus. «The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and He will be called Emmanuel» (Mt 1:23). How spiritually delicate Mary's entrails, her heart and her will, must have been, to engage the attention of the Father and make her become the mother of “God-with-mankind”, He, who had to bring us the supernatural light and grace for the redemption of all of us. In this work, everything bring us to contemplate, admire and worship, through prayer, the greatness, the generosity and the simplicity of the divine action, that will extol and rescue our human lineage through our Lord’s personal involvement.

Further away, in Today's Gospel, we see how Mary was advised she would conceive God, the Saviour of his People. And let us realize that this girl, virgin and Jesus' mother, had to be also our mother. The special election of Mary, «Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!» (Lk 1:42), makes us to admire God's tenderness in his way of proceeding; because He did not redeem us —so to speak— “by remote control”, but by closely binding himself with our family and our history. Who could ever imagine God to be so great and so simple as to so intimately bind himself to us?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.

Give me ten truly detached men. and I will convert the world with them.- St. Philip Neri

Gospel text (Lk 6,20-26):
Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets
in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way."

Blessed are the poor. At first glance, this sounds contradictory. How can someone be poor, hungry and hated and blessed?

This beatitude is the basis of all the others, because who is poor will be able to get the Kingdom of God as a gift. He who is poor will realize he must be hungry and thirsty: not of material things, but of the Word of God; not of power, but of love and justice. Who is poor will be able to cry over the world's sufferings. Who is poor, will know that God is all his wealth and, because of that, the world will not understand him and will harass him.

The world says happiness is wealth, personal satisfaction, maximum pleasure, and popularity. Too many Christians follow the world's idea of happiness and tacitly reject Jesus' beatitudes. However, Jesus is the Way to happiness, tells the Truth, and knows the meaning of Life (Jn 14:6).

We must "incarnate" our service to God's poor; it must become flesh. "The equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities. It gives urgency to the elimination of sinful inequalities. Solidarity...practices the sharing of spiritual goods even more than material ones" (Catechism, 1947-1948).

We must identify with the poor as does Jesus (see 2 Cor 8:9).

Blest are you who love Jesus enough to take up the daily cross. Blest are you who love Jesus more than pleasure. Blest are you who are weeping for your sins. Blest are you who are so on fire for Christ as to be persecuted.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

“My secret is simple. I pray.” – Mother Teresa

See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls. – Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lk 6,12-19):
Jesus departed to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground.
A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;
and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.
Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him
because power came forth from him and healed them all.

Today‘s Gospel tells us that “Jesus went out to the mountain to pray and spent the night in prayer to God”. Today we think of “pray” as any type of communication with or meditating about God – thanking, praising, imploring, and so forth. The word “pray” in the New Testament almost always means ask, or implore, or plead. When Jesus went off by Himself to “pray”, He went off to ask His Father something.

What was the Lord's prayer? What we can deduce from his life, it must have been a prayer full of confidence in the Father, of complete surrendering to his will —«for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me» (Jn 5:30)—, of clear union to God's work of salvation. Only through this profound, long and constant prayer —supported always by the action of the Holy Spirit that, at the moment of Jesus' Incarnation, had already fallen over him in his Baptism— could the Lord receive the necessary strength and light to go on with his mission of abiding by the Father to accomplish his work of salvation for mankind. The subsequent election of the Apostles —that as St. Cyril of Alexandria says, «the same Christ affirms having given them the same mission He received from the Father»—, shows us how the rising Church was the fruit of Jesus' prayer to the Father in the Holy Spirit and, therefore, the work of the Holy Trinity. «When day came, He called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them whom He called apostles» (Lk 6:13).

If only all our life as Christians, we could always be immersed in prayer and led by it. Do you imagine what God could accomplish through us if we did that?

Monday, September 5, 2011

“One cannot desire freedom from the Cross when one is especially chosen for the Cross.” - St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“The wisdom of the saints may seem dark and forbidding. But all saints learn that the one and only path to complete freedom and joy comes in a total surrender of self to the will of God, so that we might become all He created us to be.”

Gospel text (Lk 6,6-11):
On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught,
and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely
to see if he would cure on the sabbath
so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.
But he realized their intentions
and said to the man with the withered hand,
"Come up and stand before us."
And he rose and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them,
"I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?"
Looking around at them all, he then said to him,
"Stretch out your hand."
He did so and his hand was restored.
But they became enraged
and discussed together what they might do to Jesus

Today, Jesus provides us with an example of the freedom, which we speak so much about. But, contrary to what most claim or consider as “freedom”, Jesus' freedom, is totally associated and adhered to the Father's actions. He will say: «I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; He can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does» (Jn 5:19). And the Father only does and acts out of love.

Love cannot be imposed but forces us to act, pulls us together and largely reverts to life. Jesus' command: «Get up and stand in the middle» (Lk 6:8) has the vivifying strength of he who loves and responds to the Word. And, the last part of his order: «Stretch out your hand» (Lk 6:10), that concludes the miracle, definitely restores life and strength to what was powerless and dead. “To save” is to draw from death, and this same word translates as “healing”. By healing, Jesus is saving whatever that poor ailing man had dead, and this is a clear sign of God's fatherly love for his creatures. Thus, in the new creation, where the Son does only what He sees his Father doing, the new law that will prevail will be the law of the acting love rather than that of a “dormant” relaxation, including doing good to the brother in need.

Jesus is courageous, fearless, and confrontational. He did not compromise His principles, even if He had to suffer severely. Jesus is courageous and crucified because He loves those with withered hands and withered spirits. Jesus, Who is Love (1 Jn 4:8, 16), wants the healing and salvation of all people (1 Tm 2:4)

Therefore, a conjugated freedom and love is the key for today. Freedom and love conjugated Jesus' way.

Friday, September 2, 2011

“Are you fasting, show me the fast with your works - Saint John Chrysostom

“By fasting, the body learns to obey the soul; by praying the soul learns to command the body.”

Gospel text (Lc 5,33-39):
The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
"The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers,
and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same;
but yours eat and drink."
Jesus answered them, "Can you make the wedding guests fast
while the bridegroom is with them"
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
then they will fast in those days.
And he also told them a parable.
"No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.
Otherwise, he will tear the new
and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,
and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.
Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, "The old is good."

Jesus' disciples were accused of being soft on prayer and fasting (Lk 5:33). The Pharisees made a judgment based only on what they could outwardly observe, and misunderstood the underlying context for the disciples' actions.

Have you ever been misunderstood in your Christian walk? Have you ever served someone out of love and then had that person or group completely misinterpret your motives? Perhaps they shunned you or even accused you of wrongdoing (see Jn 16:2-3).

In Isaiah's time, people were confused about fasting. The Israelites cried out to the Lord: "Why do we fast, and You do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and You take no note of it?" (Is 58:3) Isaiah prophesied: "Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?" (Is 58:5)

In Zechariah's time, people were also confused about fasting. Bethelsarezer asked the priests and the prophets: "Must I mourn and abstain in the fifth month as I have been doing these many years?" (Zec 7:3) The Lord answered: "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month these seventy years, was it really for Me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, was it not for yourselves that you ate, and for yourselves that you drank?" (Zec 7:5-6)

When Jesus walked the earth, some of the religious leaders said to Jesus: "John's disciples fast frequently and offer prayers; the disciples of the Pharisees do the same. Yours, on the contrary, eat and drink freely" (Lk 5:33). Jesus dispelled their confusion by stating that His disciples would fast in a radically new way after His Ascension (Lk 5:35).

Before Vatican II, the Church told us to abstain from meat on Fridays and to fast for the forty days of Lent. After Vatican II, the Church's laws regarding Friday abstinence and fasting were significantly lessened. Some people thought that the Church was de-emphasizing fasting. However, Pope John Paul II has made it very clear that fasting with prayer is extremely important. He stated: "Prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil" (The Gospel of Life, 100).

Don't be confused, selfish, or defeated. Fast!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions

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 (Lc 5,1-11):
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret .
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
"Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch."
Simon said in reply,
"Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets."
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
"Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men."
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.

If you are like me, you are tempted daily to stay in the shallows, to stick to the familiar and the comfortable, to resist deep diving. Isn’t that why our efforts are so fruitless, even frivolous, like the apostles: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing!” Could it be the reason our apostolic labors are often so fruitless? Both in the spiritual life and in our ministerial labors, thirst is everything, depth is essential, wholeheartedness is crucial. It is true that we cannot, by ourselves, take one step up. God has to lift us up. But we can always go closer to the earth, lower, deeper, to the roots (radical) of our humanity (in suffering, compassion, solidarity, down deep into the ocean of our humanity.) There we will find not only our divine DNA, but also that of everyone else. Only there will we be true “fishers of men (and women and children).”

It is so clear: we have to “come after Him,” even as He has come after us. It’s not enough for any one of us to be the fish only, we have to also be the fisherperson. It’s not enough for us to be lost sheep found only by Him, we have to be shepherds too. Every single one of us! Isn’t that why our beloved Church is going through such a crisis right now? She is still trying to keep most of us sheep when God’s Spirit is impelling us to be shepherds!

Paul says it so very well to his sisters and brothers in Colossae, praying for those “God delivered from the power of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son,” praying with such relentless longing and tender care, praying for us as well as for them: “that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding … in every good work bearing fruit … strengthened with every power .. . with joy giving thanks to God, Who has made us fit to share in the inheritance of the Holy ones in light.” (Colossians 1:9-14)

Let us join our prayers with his, remembering always that we have to be willing to go down into the depths, if we want to share the deep wisdom of God’s Spirit working always in all of creation!