Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It’s in our blind trust that love will find us

"For me to believe is to fling myself into the darkness of the night, following a star I once saw though I do not know where it will take me... to believe is to trust God and place my hope in him."

Gospel text (Mt 4,18-22):
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.

If someone that you have never met or even seen came up to you and told you to follow them, would you listen? Would you trust the stranger or would you simply ignore them and move on with your daily routine? Today’s popular Gospel reading from Matthew looks at the trusting relationship that Jesus has with his followers, his people who put all of their faith in the stranger, the unknown. Why is it that these fishermen decide to drop their nets and follow Jesus?

This Gospel revolves upon the value of trust. Trusting in someone can often be hard to do. For some, trusting comes easy. In today’s Gospel, Peter and Andrew, and then later James and John decide to immediately drop their nets and follow Jesus after he says, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men”. They trusted in him and had no second thoughts about following Jesus.

I would have a difficult time trusting someone that I have never met. Trusting in strangers is something that I continue to struggle with and believe I will always struggle with because I was brought up to not trust in people I don't know. However, the fishermen did not say ‘no’ or ‘I do not trust you’; rather, their actions reflected their trust in this man.

Trust. How do you trust the stranger? Are you able to put your faith in Jesus just as the fishermen did in today’s Gospel? Are you willing to drop your nets or whatever you are doing to follow and put your trust in Jesus?

Today, let us reflect on our trust in God, who loves us personally.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Miss no single opportunity in performing small acts – a simple smile given away can change everything!

There was no need for me to grow bigger, on the contrary, I must be as small as ever, smaller than ever. – St. Therese of Lisieux

Gospel text (Lk 10,21-24):
Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
"I give you praise, 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 who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
"Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it."

«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). Very rightly, this fragment of the Gospel has been called the “Magnificat of Jesus” by some authors, as the underlying idea is the same as in Mary's Canticle (cf. Lc 1:46-55).

Joy is an attitude which goes together with hope. It has to be difficult for a person who has no hope, to be happy. And, what is it that we Christians put our hope in? The coming of the Messiah and of his Kingdom, in which justice and peace will bloom; a new reality where «the wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will lead them» (Is 11:6). The kingdom we are waiting for is making its way day by day, and we have to know how to discover its presence amongst us. For the world we live in, so lacking in peace and harmony, in justice and love, how necessary the hope of us Christians is! A hope that does not come from natural optimism nor false illusion, but from God himself.

However, Christian hope, which is light and heat for the world, will only be had by that ones who are simple and humble of heart, because God has hidden knowledge and the mystery of his kingdom's love from the wise and expert, that is to say, from the ones who are blinded by pride in their erudition.

A good way to prepare the paths of the Lord in this Advent would precisely be to grow in humility and in simplicity, to open our hearts to the gifts of God, to live with hope and become better witnesses of Jesus' kingdom every day by our very lives.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"The will of God — nothing less, nothing more, nothing else."

I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same. - C.S. Lewis

(Isaiah 2:1-5)
This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD's house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
"Come, let us climb the LORD's mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths."
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.

O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!

“Let us climb the Lord’s mountain” is what we strive to do each and every day of our lives. At the beginning of every day we make a choice to climb God’s mountain. Some days the mountain is Pike’s Peak while other days the mountain is more like a gently rolling slope.

The house of the Lord will be on the top of the mountain and all will stream toward it, from all directions, each on their own path. Who is in this human stream seeking the Lord? The rich, the poor, the strong, the weak, the sick and lame, the morally upright and the morally corrupt, the victims and the perpetrators – in short, all of us, all 7 billion of us now wandering around on this planet.

Are we close to changing swords into plowshares? Well, there was a recent report that we live in one of the least violent times of human history. How can that be? I think it was based on the number of people in conflicts as a percentage of the total population, so the growth in numbers actually has made all of us a little safer. We still train for war, and still spend a lot of our resources on it (especially the US). But we also have increased agricultural yields to un-dreamed of levels, we have eradicated many diseases, we have provided educational and cultural and societal opportunities around the world that could not have been anticipated a century ago.

So where is the Lord’s house? Is it on top of a mountain, or is it in each of us as we strive to move forward on the path that calls us to the Lord? Don’t we really build the house of the Lord one small act at a time by our reverence for each person, by our willingness to stop and help, by our civility, by our recognition that the Lord is in each of us, and therefore we all are in the house of the Lord in our every moment? And don’t we chip away at the house of the Lord when our anger, our frustration, our selfishness, our greed, causes us to think only of ourselves and not of the other 7 billion pilgrims on their path to the house of the Lord?

And so my prayer today is for the grace to recognize the needs of our fellow pilgrims and act toward them in a way that adds a small piece to the house of the Lord as we journey together.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent - Prepare the way!

"Rejoice and be glad that so great and good a Lord, on coming into the Virgin's womb, willed to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that men who were in dire poverty and suffering great need of heavenly food might be made rich in him." -- St. Clare of Assisi

Gospel text (Mk 13,33-37):
Jesus said to his disciples: «Be alert and watch, for you don't know when the time will come. When a man goes abroad and leaves his home, he puts his servants in charge, giving to each one some responsibility; and he orders the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, for you don't know when the Lord of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight, when the cock crows or before dawn. If He comes suddenly, do not let him catch you asleep. And what I say to you, I say to all: watch».

The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart…The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens.

Advent is the name of that moment.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

“The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.”

Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.” - St Teresa of Avila

Gospel text (Lk 21,34-36):
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man."

One wonders why the dire warnings at this particular time. Shouldn’t the readings be more hopeful to prepare us for the beginning of Advent?

But, if we can get beyond these dire warnings, we see that there is hope. There is the promise that God will be a just judge. He will be there during the anxieties of our days and any sufferings that we encounter. He does not expect that we do it on our own; it is our faith and trust in God that saves us. He is honored by our trust not by our fear.

As we finish this church year, may we put the anxieties of our lives in the loving hands of Jesus so that we can focus on preparing for his coming and bask in the warmth of his love.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Forever is composed of “nows”

"People were not created merely to live here on earth like animals that disappear after their death, but to live with God and in God, and to live not for a hundred or a thousand years, but to live eternally." -- Bishop Innocent of Alaska

Gospel text (Lk 21,29-33):
Jesus told his disciples a parable.
"Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.
When their buds burst open,
you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near;
in the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away."

Imagine you thought today was Thanksgiving Day and you wondered where the turkey was. Did anyone ever call you at 3AM and ask if they woke you? These are situations where people have no sense of time.

This time warp is even worse in spiritual reality. Some people think they have years to go but really they have only minutes. Others expect our civilization and lifestyle to last forever, although history indicates just the opposite. Some think the "thousand year" millennium mentioned in Revelation hasn't started; others think it's about to end (Rv 20:3, 6). Some believe there's no chance of Jesus' final coming today; others say "soon and very soon." Jesus says: "Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. You observe them when they are budding, and know for yourselves that summer is near. Likewise when you see all the things happening of which I speak, know that the reign of God is near" (Lk 21:29-31).

What time is it? "Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!" (2 Cor 6:2) "It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near" (Rm 13:11-12). "You are not in the dark, brothers, that the day should catch you off guard, like a thief" (1 Thes 5:4).

"Therefore let us not be asleep like the rest, but awake and sober!" (1 Thes 5:6) God is signaling for a time-out. Time will be out and eternity will be in.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy “Thanks”---“Giving”

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”

Gospel text (Lk 21,20-28):
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
"Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
And when he saw them, he said,
"Go show yourselves to the priests."
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
"Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you."

Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world?

It is not he who prays most or fasts most, it is not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for temperance, chastity or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God's goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fall seven times, stand up eight!

Pray! Pray, but with faith – with living faith! Courage! Onward, ever onward!" - (The words of St John Bosco as he was dying)

Gospel text (Lk 21,12-19):
Jesus said to the crowd:
"They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives."

What is today’s Gospel calling us to do? It is an invitation to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who to this very day are facing persecution. Regrettably, some will face death. They are indeed the martyrs of this era. Their faith in Jesus provides an enormous witness value to all of us. The question is, of course, do we let it become a witness value for us?

Hence, we need to reflect about how willing we are to live our lives more fully as Christians. Certainly in the first world and in the developing nations there is such a growing secularism that forces so many Christians and other religious people to privatize their faith lives. That is, to make their faith more of a private matter in the home or at Church and to never let their beliefs lead them to act at work or in the larger community. That has led people, perhaps including you, to be so reluctant to address communal issues from a Christian perspective. For an example, do you have the courage to speak out against injustices and immoral actions? We are being called to be more assertive in living out our faith.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers to give us the wisdom to speak and to address our adversaries or those who may reject us due to our faith. We should be consoled by that promise! In fact, the real message is this: that God will always be there for us. Now on our part, we need to decide if we can place such trust in God where ever we are in the world!

Each one of us has experienced unspeakable moments’ of pain, betrayal and sadness in this life. Moments when it seems that all is lost. Jesus has promised not to leave us, not to forget us, not to turn away from us. He hasn’t left me out there to wade through the muck and mire of each painful moment by myself. On the contrary, he’s made a promise to be there.

While this promise doesn’t mean we won’t experience hardship and pain in this life (we will) what it does promise is something greater, something that supersedes the pain of this life and something that can never be taken away from us. Not only does Jesus promise to be with us always, providing us with wisdom and grace for every situation, he assures us that in the end no part of us will be destroyed but rather that our lives will be secured through our perseverance in this world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg

Only the man who has faith and is inspired by charity can rise above the miseries, the meannesses, and the malice of this world; instead, the man who lets himself be overcome by the spirit of illicit gain, of overweening hatred, and of impurity, is doomed to suffer, first here below, because he can never be entirely satisfied, and later in the other world. - Pope John XXIII, Daily Papal Messages

Gospel text (Lk 21,5-11):
While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, "All that you see here?
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down."

Then they asked him,
"Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?"
He answered,
"See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
"I am he," and "The time has come."
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end."
Then he said to them,
"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky."

It seems easy for us to believe that we have control over these things. We go on our merry way thinking that we will be here forever -- we accumulate possessions as though we are going to take them with us. I still occasionally see the bumper sticker that says, 'He who dies with the most toys wins.' What exactly does he win? Eternal life? Happiness? Our precious lives are short and we need to live them in Faith and to reject the pressures that amassing things is a way to win.

Today’s gospel addresses the fragility and finiteness of our earthly structures both literally and figuratively. We can build and build, making bigger and taller structures yet none will be permanent, and all will eventually fall. This finite nature is not limited to physical structures, nations, societies; political realms are all just as fragile. There is only one eternal aspect of life -- our Faith. Life on this earth will challenge us in a variety of ways and will pass, but it is our Faith that will sustain us and save us. Everything, except the love of God, is transient.

How can we live fearlessly, die fearlessly, and even face the end of the world fearlessly? We conquer fear by love. "Love has no room for fear" (1 Jn 4:18). "Perfect love" is not necessarily sinlessness but complete commitment. If we love the Lord with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength (Lk 10:27), we will be so filled with love that our love will crowd out all fears.

Lesson of the day: Give it up. We should not give up in our endeavors, but give our stresses up to the Lord. Pray. Trust. Ask for peace and guidance. If we always do this, then we should have nothing to fear.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Self-sacrifice is the real miracle out of which all the reported miracles grow."

“The Christian faith is meant to be lived moment by moment. It isn't some broad, general outline--it's a long walk with a real Person. Details count: passing thoughts, small sacrifices, a few encouraging words, little acts of kindness, brief victories over nagging sins.”

Gospel text (Lk 21,1-4):
When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, "I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."

Money is a power in our world that takes many forms. We meet budgets, send aid, search for jobs, collect dividends, and confront the growing gap between rich and poor. My credit score sits next to my bank account as a measure of my worth in the eyes of the world. Entering into my heart, I find expectations shaped by a capitalist world that I sometimes mistake for the only way the world could be. The financial crisis stirs up fear. What future will our children face? Our spirit shrinks with our retirement funds. Gravity gets the upper hand and grace retreats.

The widow was alone and vulnerable. She had very little to grasp. Yet she realizes how many blessings fill her life. Set free by gratitude, she digs into her meager rations to share her wealth with others. Her generosity was not designed to win favors from God or temple leaders. It was not simply adherence to the law. The widow knew a fullness missing from the grasping hands of those who never have enough. She knew abundance and her response was to share with others.

The widow's generosity is a good lesson for us, Christ's disciples. We can be extremely generous, as the wealthy people that were «putting their gifts into the treasure box» (Lk 21:1). But, none of this will be worth while if we only give “from our plenty”, without a loving or generous spirit, without offering ourselves along. St. Augustine says: «They looked at the great offerings from the wealthy and they praised them for that. And, even if they could see the widow later on, how many did notice those two coins...? She gave whatever she had, for she had God in her heart. But she had plenty, for she had God in her heart. It is better to have God in our soul than gold in the safe». Quite true!

Let us be generous with God and He will be much more so with us.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Remember the Small Things - There lies the key to heaven

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. - Mother Teresa

(Matthew 25:31-46)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."

Reflection by Mother Teresa: Some of my sisters work in Australia. On a reservation, among the Aborigines, there was an elderly man. I can assure you that you have never seen a situation as difficult as that poor old man's. He was completely ignored by everyone. His home was disordered and dirty. I told him, "Please, let me clean your house, wash your clothes, and make your bed." He answered, "I'm okay like this. Let it be."

I said again, "You will be still better if you allow me to do it."
He finally agreed. So I was able to clean his house and wash his clothes. I discovered a beautiful lamp, covered with dust. Only God knows how many years had passed since he last lit it.

I said to him, "Don't you light your lamp? Don't you ever use it?"
He answered, "No. No one comes to see me. I have no need to light it. Who would I light it for?"

I asked, "Would you light it every night if the sisters came?"
He replied, "Of course."

From that day on the sisters committed themselves to visiting him every evening. We cleaned the lamp, and the sisters would light it every evening.

Two years passed. I had completely forgotten that man. He sent this message: "Tell my friend that the light she lit in my life continues to shine still."

I thought it was a very small thing. We often neglect small things.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"In failing to confess, Lord, I would only hide You from myself, not myself from You."--Saint Augustine

In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.--St. Thomas Aquinas

Gospel text (Lk 19,45-48):
Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
"It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves."
And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.

Physically, we need to wash and take a shower or a bath every day. Likewise, we need Jesus to cleanse the temple of our body each day (1 Cor 6:19).

As temples of God, we must remain fit and always become more holy. From time to time, we need to make changes in our lives – sometimes small, sometimes radical. It may be that all we need is the grace to be aware of the need for change, or we may need our tables overturned. We need not fear in either case, for Christ is committed to remain at our side to help us make whatever change of habit or heart that is needed.

It is well to remember that the effort itself is formative. That is what God is asking from us.

Our job will always be to keep our minds and hearts attentive to why God makes us a temple in the first place: to receive God’s love and to return it by sharing it with others: our families and close circles of friends, our collaborators at work, the needy on the street, in the hospitals, soup kitchens, classrooms, or at any cross-roads we come to. God made us because God loves us. With that love comes a call: to be holy, prayerful, and ready to love others, even to the point of sacrificing ourselves for their sake. This call enables God to reach out, through us, with love for them and to help them become Holy. This is how the Kingdom of God grows.

Let Jesus cleanse your temple each day, so He will not have to cleanse you when the garbage has piled up. Let Him take out the garbage today. Be clean and pure as He is (1 Jn 3:3).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If thou art willing to suffer no adversity, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ? --Thomas à Kempis

“No one can sum up all God is able to accomplish through one solitary life, wholly yielded, adjusted, and obedient to Him”

Gospel text (LK 19,41-44):
As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept over it, saying,
"If this day you only knew what makes for peace?
but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.
They will smash you to the ground and your children within you,
and they will not leave one stone upon another within you
because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."

The Gospel reading is brief; it follows Jesus’ entering Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey. He's received the praise and recognition worthy of his Kingship. But, today he knows not all the people have heard his word, and instead he will be put to death in this great city. So he weeps when he sees Jerusalem because the people “did not recognize the time of your visitation.” He weeps because even though they have seen, they do not believe, and he says they do not know what makes for peace. A lesson for those of us who do believe in Him and have read His teachings but still do not choose to follow them.

The thought of Jesus weeping is very moving to me. I think about how little His coming means to people today.

However, we Christians cannot just be stuck with our mourning, nor can we be misfortune foretellers, but rather, men of hope. We know the end of the story, we know Christ has tumbled down the walls and broken the chains: the tears He is shedding in this Gospel anticipate the blood, which He has saved us with.

This is why, we must thank God and discover amid us He who visits and redeems. Even when Christ “seems” to be “hidden from your / (our) eyes.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The way of the world is, to praise dead saints, and persecute living ones

“If you succeed there is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after.”

(2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31):
It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law.

Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother,
who saw her seven sons perish in a single day,
yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.
Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage,
she exhorted each of them
in the language of their ancestors with these words:
"I do not know how you came into existence in my womb;
it was not I who gave you the breath of life,
nor was it I who set in order
the elements of which each of you is composed.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe
who shapes each man's beginning,
as he brings about the origin of everything,
he, in his mercy,
will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law."

Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words,
thought he was being ridiculed.
As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him,
not with mere words, but with promises on oath,
to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs:
he would make him his Friend
and entrust him with high office.
When the youth paid no attention to him at all,
the king appealed to the mother,
urging her to advise her boy to save his life.
After he had urged her for a long time,
she went through the motions of persuading her son.
In derision of the cruel tyrant,
she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language:
"Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months,
nursed you for three years, brought you up,
educated and supported you to your present age.
I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth
and see all that is in them;
then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things;
and in the same way the human race came into existence.
Do not be afraid of this executioner,
but be worthy of your brothers and accept death,
so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them."

She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said:
"What are you waiting for?
I will not obey the king's command.
I obey the command of the law given to our fathers through Moses.
But you, who have contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews,
will not escape the hands of God."

This week marks the 22nd anniversary of the execution of six Salvadoran Jesuits, their community worker, and her young daughter.

What does it mean to lay down my life; to disregard my own interests for the sake of God’s work through my being? The martyred Jesuits knew the dangers they faced due to the previous killings of Catholic priests in the country. But they continued to denounce war, poverty and violence as “social sin.” They knew the tragedies around them were unjust, immoral and impractical, but they went further and named systemic injustice as a violation of God’s will, as blasphemy and idolatry. Their deaths remain one of the greatest tragedies of Catholic priests in a lifetime, but every year we “represent” their memories and mission by joyfully walking towards Christ while the violent and unforgiving world attempts to harden our hearts. The Jesuit martyrs remind us that life is short. Their blood calls us to wake up, practice a mature Christianity, use our talents wisely, and spend our days working on behalf of the world’s poor. Their deaths warn us not to waste the precious time we have been given. They cry out: Seek God! Love one another! Serve the least, hunger and thirst for justice, and make peace while there is still time.

Finally, the Jesuit martyrs invite us to be people of true hope; the essence of our Christian identity. They avoided the cheap hope so common in our comfortable, apathetic culture. Instead, the martyrs point us to the hope of Jesus on the cross, the hope that comes close to despair, the hope that pursues justice and peace even though it seems so futile. The martyrs teach us to place our hope in God, and so to know that the outcome, the results of our work, are in God’s hands. As we learn this hard lesson, we find the strength to give our lives too for a new world without war, poverty, and everyday violence; whether or not we live to see the fruit of our work. We go forward in hope, even joy, when we represent and celebrate their lives this week because we know that their earthly words and actions have been given new breath and life by our Creator.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Climb a tree. See Jesus. Be a tree

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion; it is like a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ. – Billy Graham

Gospel text (Lk 19,1-10):
At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
"Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house."
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
"He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner."
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
"Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over."
And Jesus said to him,
"Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost."

The world is full of Zacchaeuses and like Zacchaeus, we need a “tree” to climb so we can see Jesus.

Zacchaeus was short. He seemed to be always standing on his tiptoes to look taller. He had taken the job of tax collector to make "big money," possibly to compensate for his small size. Zacchaeus was another Napoleon, a short man trying to make a big impression. But it didn't work. The more Zacchaeus tried to be big, the shorter he got — not physically but spiritually. He was short on justice, love, mercy, peace, happiness, and hope.

Finally, Zacchaeus tried one more time to be tall. He climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Jesus looked up at the man who had climbed the ladder of success in business, and told him to "hurry down" (Lk 19:5) — not just down the tree but down the power tower of his life. Zacchaeus gave up a life of focusing on himself and comparing himself with others and chose a life of denying his very self and following Jesus (Lk 9:23). Then Zacchaeus no longer needed to be tall, for the life he lived was not his own but a life of faith in Jesus (Gal 2:20).

Like Zacchaeus, we are all “short”. We can spend our lives on tiptoe, up trees, and climbing ladders, or we can live for Jesus and others.

Christianity is the most radical decision possible for a human being. To follow the crucified Savior is to lose our lives (Lk 9:24) and be "delivered from the futile way of life" handed on to us by our materialistic culture (1 Pt 1:18). Let us be converted as Zacchaeus was converted. Let us be crucified with Christ (Gal 2:19).

Let us love as Jesus loves.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My blindness is my sight

The more perfectly and purely we see, the more perfectly and purely we love – Blessed Angela of Foligno

Gospel text (Lk 18,35-43):
As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
"Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
He shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!"
The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
"Son of David, have pity on me!"
Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
"What do you want me to do for you?"
He replied, "Lord, please let me see."
Jesus told him, "Have sight; your faith has saved you."
He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God.
When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

Spiritual blindness may be more common in our Western culture than spiritual sight. So many have been blinded by secular humanism, "the god of the present age" (2 Cor 4:4). Quite often, our society, the culture of the “politically correct”, will try to shut us up: with the blind man in today’s gospel they were not able to. He did not shrink back. Despite «people (…) scolded him, ‘Be quiet!’, he cried out all the more, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’» (Lk 18:39). What a wonderful thing!

Today’s Gospel gives us another example of persistent cries from one who needs help. While others attempted to silence him, he persisted in crying out. Remarkably, Jesus does not ignore or marginalize him, but instead engages with him in a beautiful way. Jesus’ question is a powerful one: “What do you want me to do for you?” All of us could sit for a while with that question. We are often tempted to turn it around so that we get to ask the question. It is more comfortable that way, and of course it is good to want to do something for Him with our lives. But perhaps today it would be good to sit with the possibility that God is asking us that question. How will we answer?

Jesus healing the sight of the blind man – a well-known parable from Luke – is the problem most nations have with the homeless and the “untouchables”. Jesus served those in need, and lived with the impoverished, while we segregate them out of our society and into their own shelters and onto the street. We have let this happen right under our noses without a second glance, however it is also the responsibility of our society and of our hearts to see these problems and take steps in the right direction, standing up for what we believe.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God

Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.

(Mt 25:14-30): Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master's money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
'Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.'
His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"

When Jesus asks for an account of your service, you tell Him: "Lord, I've given everything I have to serve You for years. I've gone without sleep, had more children in obedience to You, completed spiritual projects no one but You cared about, been persecuted and ridiculed for You. I've fed Your sheep spiritually and physically for years (see Jn 21:15). It's all because I love You."

If we aren't good stewards and don't administer the mysteries the Lord has entrusted to us, Jesus said he would take away His graces from us and give them to others (see Mt 25:29). We see this happening as Christians in Europe and the USA lose their faith while new Christians in the third-world are showered with faith, joy, enthusiasm, power, boldness, healings, miracles, and religious vocations. When most first-world Christians failed in good stewardship, they lost their faith and God poured out His graces on others. However, if we repent, we will see God's graces return.

Rather than bury our talents in the ground, let’s consciously recognize the gifts God has given us and make a concerted effort to utilize them for God’s greater glory.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How often I failed in my duty to God, because I was not leaning on the strong pillar of prayer. --St. Teresa of Avila

“If we really understand the Eucharist, if we really centre our lives on Jesus' Body and Blood, if we nourish our lives with the Bread of the Eucharist, it will be easy for us to see Christ in that hungry one next door, the one lying in the gutter, the alcoholic man we shun, our husband or our wife, or our restless child. For in them, we will recognize the distressing disguises of the poor: Jesus in our midst.” - Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lk 18,1-8):
Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, "There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
"Render a just decision for me against my adversary."
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
"While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.""
The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

A necessity is something that we must have or do. Otherwise, we will suffer dire consequences. For example, food is a necessity. If we don't have it, we die. Jesus teaches that it is a necessity not only to pray but to pray always (Lk 18:1). Otherwise, we will suffer dire consequences.

How can we pray always? The Spirit "helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rm 8:26). The Spirit changes the necessity of praying always from an impossible burden to a privilege and a constant miracle. To pray always is to do God's will always because we are always aware of His presence. To pray always is to abide in love and abide in God (1 Jn 4:16). To pray always is to share in heaven.

Ask Jesus to teach you to pray always (see Lk 11:1). In answer to your prayer, God the Father through Jesus will send the Holy Spirit to help you pray always. You will enter into the mystery of Trinitarian love. Pray always.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today." - Fra Giovanni

We all long for heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with him right now--to be happy with him at this very moment. But being happy with him now means: loving as he loves, helping as he helps, giving as he gives, serving as he serves, rescuing as he rescues, being with him for all the twenty-four hours, touching him in his distressing disguise. -MOTHER TERESA

Gospel text (Lk 17,20-25):
Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
"The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, "Look, here it is," or, "There it is."
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you."

Then he said to his disciples,
"The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
"Look, there he is," or "Look, here he is."
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation."

Paraphrasing Charles Dickens, we can say, “these are the best of times, these are the worst of times.” To one day be living in a country apparently so secure, so wealthy, so advanced, so strong, so gifted, and so blessed, and the next day to be living in the same country now so threatened, so fearful, so sorrowful, and so struggling is a mystery and a challenge. Many are asking: How can this be? What happened? Where is our God who has been with us for so long? Where do we turn, who do we trust, and what do we do? What do we tell our children and our young adults?

As I reflected on today’s Gospel, this was the verse that really grabbed my attention. If someone told me that Heaven was all around me, I do not know what I would think. When we ponder the many problems in the world, from abortion and hunger to poverty and disease, we may ask ourselves how this could reflect Heaven, a place of perfection. But perhaps it is because we merely see with our eyes. God, however, does not see with eyes like us. He sees with the eyes of the heart. What would we see if we saw life through God’s eyes rather than through our own?

Most perfectly, however, the Kingdom of God is found in the Mass. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is present every day to us in the Eucharist, yet how many times do we actually take advantage of that wonderful opportunity? The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the pinnacle of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, for God himself is truly present to us. We cannot see the great gift of the Mass through human eyes. With the eyes of humanity, we merely see neighbors and friends eating bread and wine, but with the eyes of the heart, with the eyes of Faith, we see our brothers and sisters in Christ partaking in the feast of Heaven and earth, physically holding and becoming one with Christ Jesus. He is the greatest gift we could ever receive. Yet how many times are we bored with the Mass? How many times do we wish we were making better use of our time? The Kingdom of God is literally there with us, but we never seem to notice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.--Saint Francis of Assisi

God’s invitation to become saints is for all, not just a few. Sanctity therefore must be accessible to all. In what does it consist? In a lot of activity? No. In doing extraordinary things? No, this could not be for everybody and at all times. Therefore, sanctity consists in doing good, and in doing this good in whatever condition and place God has placed us. Nothing more, nothing outside of this.--Blessed Louis Tezza

(1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17);
Brothers and sisters:
You are God's building.
According to the grace of God given to me,
like a wise master builder I laid a foundation,
and another is building upon it.
But each one must be careful how he builds upon it,
for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there,
namely, Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God's temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

On a daily basis I don’t think about myself being the temple of God. It’s easy to associate God’s dwelling place as the church, but in fact, every single Christian is a temple of God. The Bible says that the temple of God is holy. If we are the temples and we are holy, why do we mindlessly do so many things to dishonor and displease God? The answer is simple. We are humans and we are naturally prone to mistakes and sin. God was gracious enough to send Jesus to save us from those sins. We can’t have the mindset that we can do whatever we want today because we will be forgiven tomorrow. Because we are the place where God dwells, we need to live a life that is pleasing and honoring to him.

God is with us always no matter what. Imagine yourself handcuffed to Jesus. He is with you and he’s not going anywhere. Now wouldn’t you be a little more cautious if you could see him standing next to you watching your every move every day? The fact of the matter is that it shouldn’t take an extreme like that to make us want to do things that are pleasing to God. As Christians it shouldn’t be a burden to do things, say things, or even think things that honor him. It should be our desire to honor God in all things.

Everyone struggles with this. When I’m struggling to make the right decisions or do the right thing, I ask myself what I would do if Jesus were standing right next to me. Next time we are struggling let us ask ourselves: Would I use that kind of language around Jesus? What if Jesus could hear what I’m thinking?' Whether we ask these questions or not, as Christians God resides within us and is with us every step of the way. Let us honor him not just by our words but by our life.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit

Having chosen our course, without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and with manly hearts. - Abraham Lincoln

(Wisdom 2:23—3:9)
God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made them.
But by the envy of the Devil, death entered the world,
and they who are in his possession experience it.

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
They shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it.

Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand.

Monday, November 7, 2011

If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive. – Mother Teresa

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” ~Thomas à Kempis

Gospel text (Lk 17,1-6): Jesus said to his disciples,
"Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the one through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Be on your guard!
If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, "I am sorry,"
you should forgive him."

And the Apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
The Lord replied, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."

While studying the readings for today at Mass, I noticed a common theme: God’s presence in our lives. Not just when we pray or go to church, but in the smallest, most seemingly insignificant of moments. Not just when we’re on our best behavior and doing everything as we ought, but when we disobey and ignore him.

I’m afraid we often see God as disconnected, separate from us in his Kingdom in the sky, if you will. Being reminded of his constant presence thus initially gave me pause; I did not like the idea that God was watching my every stumble and failure, knowing “when I sit and when I stand” and aware of every thought and word before it even enters my mind. To have all my shortcomings laid out, completely bare, before the one that I desire to please the most, sounds awful. I found myself wondering how I could hide, much like in Psalms 139:7, “Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence where can I flee?” My options, it appears are limited, for “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.”

But the more I read, the more I found to comfort my agitation. God may be there to see every fault and mistake, but he is also steadfastly there to pick us up again and set us on the right path. In the Responsorial Psalm, the response says, “guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.” It is a plea for God’s assistance but also a guarantee that he will always be there to help. “If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast.” In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us that as many times as another sins against us but then asks for forgiveness, we are to forgive him. This is an illustration of what God does for us; he is always there to guide and forgive us. All we have to do is ask in the Sacrament of Reconciliation!

And that is a comforting thought indeed.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

He who doesn't fear death dies only once

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. ~Mark Twain

Gospel text (Mt 25,1-13):
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
'Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.'
But the wise ones replied,
'No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.'
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!'
But he said in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.'
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour."

Today people seek wisdom but in a different way and with different intentions. People desire power and money and one way to get there is through wisdom and knowledge. However it’s a different kind of wisdom, a worldly and self-centered wisdom rather than the divine clarity we hear about in the readings today at Mass. Our soul should be thirsting for God and his perfect truths as the response echoes today. God is the ultimate wisdom through whom we acquire any wisdom, through whom we are blessed with our minds to think with in the first place. One valuable lesson my father taught me is that we become what we think about. If we ponder God and his infinite wisdom we shall transcend our human nature and see clearly with the eyes of Christ.

This parable in the Gospel of Matthew today continues to reinforce this great wisdom we are all called to have. The distinguishing factor between the five virgins that are able to attend the wedding feast of the Lord and the five who are left behind is wisdom. The five that are wise enough to bring the extra oil along to wait for the bridegroom are prepared and waiting when he finally arrives. This may seem like an obvious foresight and a minor example of wisdom, but Jesus is pointing to so much more in this parable today. He is showing us that we must seek the wisdom of God in order to be prepared for his coming. Through our regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist God is able to pour his almighty wisdom into our hearts. He will reveal his truths to us as his wisdom “makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her...”

So today let us be found worthy and awake when the Lord comes. We know not the day or the hour; today God calls us to urgently seek him at all times.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Like a person still remaining poor, close to a great treasure — he need only stretch out his hand.

"There are always two choices, two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it's easy." - anonymous

Gospel text (Lk 16,9-15):
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon."

The Pharisees, who loved money,
heard all these things and sneered at him.
And he said to them,
"You justify yourselves in the sight of others,
but God knows your hearts;
for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God."

Faithfulness to small things falls within our reach. Our days are usually formed by what we call as “very normal things”: the same job, the same people, some pious practices, our family... And it is in these ordinary realities where we must fulfill ourselves as persons and grow in holiness. «Whoever can be trusted in little things can also be trusted in great ones; whoever is dishonest in slight matters will also be dishonest in greater ones» (Lk 16:10). We must do all things well, with upright intention and a sincere desire to please God, our Father; when we do if for love, it has a greater value and prepare us for the “true goods”. How well did St. Josemaria express it!: «Have you seen how that imposing building was built? One brick upon another. Thousands. But, one by one. And bags of cement, one by one. And blocks of stone, each of them insignificant compared with the massive whole. And beams of steel. And men working, the same hours, day after day... Have you seen how that imposing building was built?... By dint of little things!».

One of the challenging characteristics of our time is the desire to have it all. We can tend to want to be people of faith and, at the same time, to be part of the values of our culture. It is easy to not even recognize the desire to want to try to serve God and to also serve our earthly desires. Jesus tells us so clearly in the parable of the dishonest steward, which we had yesterday, and in these sayings which follow it, that we can't serve both. We can't have it both ways. There is an incompatibility between these two types of service. Serving God is irreconcilable with worldly wealth. We can't have two masters.

Today, each of us can ask ourselves if the Lord is the center of our lives. What possession, possessions, honors, status, future security, dream is standing in the way of my choice to completely live as he has taught us? What things, what ways of living, what dependencies, what desires have some mastery over my life? What freedom can I ask for today? Who around me is in greater need than I am? What changes do all of us need to make - what cultural change is necessary - for us all to make this world the place that Jesus desires for us, for everyone?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Who is rich? He that rejoices in his portion

"Better to have fewer wants than greater riches to supply increasing wants." - Saint Augustine.

Gospel text (Lk 16,1-8):
Jesus said to his disciples, "A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
"What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward."
The steward said to himself, "What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes."
He called in his master's debtors one by one.
To the first he said, "How much do you owe my master?"
He replied, "One hundred measures of olive oil."
He said to him, "Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty."
Then to another he said, "And you, how much do you owe?"
He replied, "One hundred measures of wheat."
He said to him, "Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty."
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than the children of light."

The Parable of the Dishonest Steward intrigues me. As I reflected on it today, I wondered what it has to say to us in our times. We are frustrated by story after story of dishonest money managers in the banking and investment systems of our economy. What does Jesus have to say about this? Is he saying that a shrewd money manager is a good example for us to follow even it means being dishonest and putting our self interests before those of others? No, according to the bible commentaries I read, Jesus used an example of a dishonest person to make a point about our stewardship of God’s gifts to us. While the dishonest steward sought to ingratiate himself to the debtors to serve his own interests, he cheated the master. In this story, God is the master and it’s not money that is the problem here, it is the way we use money to gain influence and power that God doesn’t like. We can use money righteously or unjustly and God wants us to know the difference.

When I read this passage, I am reminded of the important distinction I must make in my own life: am I child of this world, or am I child of the light? The children of this world watch out for their gains here on earth, while the children of the light keep their gaze fixed on their heavenly reward. The dishonest steward, as a child of the world, knew that he was going to lose his current job because of his mistreatment of his master’s property. He was “not strong enough to dig and…ashamed to beg” (Lk. 16:3) and so he took the necessary steps to ensure that he would be able to live the life he wanted.

The dishonest steward took steps to secure a good place in the world. However, as we know, the world and all its riches will pass away. God, on the other hand, calls us to secure a good place for ourselves not in this world, but in eternity. Each day is a new opportunity to share Christ’s love with others. In sharing our gifts, we help ensure that we, along with our family, friends, and coworkers can all make heavenly gains, and truly be the children of the light we are called to be.

This whole system of stewardship to God is very different from the shrewdness of this world. There are those who place all of their confidence in the system of this world. They trust it because they can make it work for them. Christians need to put their trust in God and gain wisdom and confidence from doing God’s will through generosity. And we need to trust that this does work for us through God’s grace. I am the first to say that it is difficult. But unfortunately, when we give into fear and hold back from helping others because the economy threatens us, we are being dishonest to God.

So I am praying that I will gain the kind of wisdom that will give me the confidence to be more generous.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The things that we love tell us what we are. --Saint Thomas Aquinas

The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist. -- Pope St. Gregory the Great

Gospel text (Lk 15,1-10):
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
So Jesus addressed this parable to them.
"What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
"Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep."
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.

"Or what woman having ten coins and losing one
would not light a lamp and sweep the house,
searching carefully until she finds it?
And when she does find it,
she calls together her friends and neighbors
and says to them,
"Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost."
In just the same way, I tell you,
there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents."

Why were the tax collectors and the sinners so attracted to Jesus? Isn’t it strange that the so called ¨bad¨ were so attracted to the good? What was he saying that was so inviting to this demographic? What is it about this message of Christ’s that is so intriguing to stormy hearts?

One thing, I’m sure, was his story of the lost sheep in today’s Gospel. The clear message in the story was not: if you mess up I will leave you and never come back, but the exact opposite: if you make a mistake or fall behind, I will stop and search for you at potentially a great personal cost. We all have ways in which we’re just a little bit lost, but Jesus will leave the other 99 in an instant to search for each of us.

I think the attraction of Jesus´ message was the beauty of his love and calling of each person. Each soul yearns for this love, but sometimes we just don’t know how to find it. We try all of the wrong things, all of the sins, but we really are searching for Christ’s love. However, we learn today that if we ask him, Christ will come find us like his lost sheep.

Let us further add that the lesson Jesus gives to the Pharisees is also an example for all of us; we cannot throw sinners away from us. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved» (Jn 3:17). While the Pharisees believed they were so righteous and felt they needed no doctor, it is actually for them —the evangelist says— that Jesus proposes the parables we read today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eternal rest, grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them

Purgatory shows God’s great mercy and washes away the defects of those who long to become one with Him. - Saint Josemaria Escriva

(John 6:37-40): Jesus said to the crowds:
"Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day."

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated: "In a word, you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). We must be "perfect in holiness...irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thes 5:23). The Lord commands us: "Become holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, after the likeness of the Holy One Who called you" (1 Pt 1:15). Without perfect holiness, we cannot "see the Lord" and be with Him forever in heaven (Heb 12:14).

After we have been baptized and have given our lives to Jesus as our Lord, Savior, and God, we begin walking "the road to holiness" (2 Pt 2:21). This is a long road, and sometimes we do not fully accept God's grace to become perfectly holy. If we die without complete holiness, the Lord will have mercy on us whom He has saved. He will give us time after death to complete our purification and growth in holiness. Although it is much better to do our purgatory of reparation, purification, and transformation before our deaths, the Lord gives hope and mercy to those not completely sanctified before death.

This feast day (All Souls Day) is one of the most loving celebrations in all the Church's liturgy. It is the day that we especially remember all the faithful departed-those who have passed from this life into the next. We don't know how long a particular individual who dies spends in purgatory. However, we do know that purgatory is real.

Purgatory shows that the Lord insists on our holiness, graces us to become holy, has mercy on us, and gives us hope.

Today we stop to remember all who have died. We especially pray for those who were related to us. We pray for those who taught us good things. We pray for those who made sacrifices for us. We pray for those who prayed for us while they were on this earth. We pray for the most forgotten souls. We pray for those who had great responsibilities while they were on earth.

We think of those holy souls in purgatory and we realize that they are saved. Now they wait, being purified, until the moment when they can be with God, face to face. We can pray for the souls in purgatory and hasten their journey to God.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

“The saints are the sinners who keep on going”

"People who are born even-tempered, placid and untroubled -- secure from violent passions or temptations to evil -- those who have never needed to struggle all night with the Angel to emerge lame but victorious at dawn, never become great saints."

Gospel text (Mt 5,1-12a):
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven."

Some of the most important questions in life are: "Will I go to heaven, and see Jesus face to face?" (see 1 Jn 3:2) "Will I be at the everlasting family reunion in heaven?" "How do I become holy and go to heaven with all the holy ones?"

The Church teaches that we become holy by living the Beatitudes. This comes as quite a shock because it is humanly impossible to live the Beatitudes. However, the Holy Spirit will show us how to do the impossible. The Holy Spirit has taught us through Pope John Paul II that to live the Beatitudes we must make a sincere reappraisal of our lifestyle with a view to living more austerely and in solidarity with the poor of the world (Mission of the Redeemer, 59-60). Pope John Paul II taught: "In a word, we can say that the cultural change which we are calling for demands from everyone the courage to adopt a new lifestyle, consisting in making practical choices — at the personal, social, and international level" (The Gospel of Life, 98).

The Pope also taught and prophesied in the Holy Spirit that we can begin to reappraise our lifestyle and adopt a new one by praying and fasting (The Gospel of Life, 100). Through the Pope, the Holy Spirit has given us a detailed process by which we can accept God's grace to live the Beatitudes, grow in holiness, and become the saints God created us to be.

Yet, the call to become saints is not limited to the extraordinary individuals cannonized by the Catholic Church . You and I are called to be saints; we, too, are saints in the making. The secret of our movement toward that goal is the secret of the saints—union with Jesus. To what degree can I say everything about me and my life is for him, with him and from him? We ask the intercession of the saints today to give us the desire to live and walk more and more each day in union with Jesus, the Lamb of God.