Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"It is not what is poured into a student that counts but what is planted."

"Believe me... nobody can be truly happy in this world unless he is at peace with God." - St. John Bosco

(Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6)
R. (1a) Listen, Lord, and answer me.
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Listen, Lord, and answer me.

January 31: The Feast of St. John Bosco
John Bosco was born in Turin, Italy, on August 16, 1815. His parents were poor farmers. When John was two, his father died. John's mother struggled to keep the family together. As soon as he was old enough, John, too, worked as hard as he could to help his mother. He was intelligent and full of life. John started to think about becoming a priest. He didn't say anything to his mother because he knew they couldn't afford the seminary education. Besides, his mother needed help at home. So John waited and prayed and hoped. Finally, a holy priest, St. Joseph Cafasso, became aware of John's desire to be a priest. Father Cafasso helped him enter the seminary. John had to work his way through school. He learned to do all kinds of trades. He was a carpenter, a shoemaker, a cook, a pastry maker and a farmer. He did many other jobs as well. He could never have guessed how much this practical experience would help others later. John became a priest in 1841. As a priest, Don Bosco, which means Father Bosco, began his great ministry. He gathered together homeless boys and taught them trades. This way they would not have to steal or get into trouble. By 1850, there were 150 boys living at his home for boys. Don Bosco's mother was the housekeeper. At first, people did not understand what Don Bosco was trying to do. They were afraid that the boys would never really turn out well. But Don Bosco proved that they would.

Every night he wanted his boys to say three Hail Mary's, so that the Blessed Mother would help them keep away from sin. He also recommended that they receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion often and with love. One of Don Bosco's boys became a saint, St. Dominic Savio.

Don Bosco started his own religious order of priests and brothers. They were called the Salesians, after St. Francis de Sales. An order of Salesian sisters was started, too, with the help of St. Mary Mazzarello. Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888. The entire city of Turin lined the streets to pay him tribute. His funeral became a joyous proclamation of thanksgiving to God for the life of this wonderful man. A young parish priest who had once met Don Bosco later became Pope Pius XI. He had the joy of declaring Don Bosco a saint in 1934.

Reflection: "Education is something from the heart, and God alone is its master; we cannot succeed in anything unless God gives us the key to the hearts of these children."—St. John Bosco

Monday, January 30, 2012

There is one and only one possible road to joy: selfless love

“Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. ”

Gospel text (Mk 5,1-20):
Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea,
to the territory of the Gerasenes.
When he got out of the boat,
at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before him,
crying out in a loud voice,
"What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I adjure you by God, do not torment me!"
(He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!")
He asked him, "What is your name?"
He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us."
And he pleaded earnestly with him
not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.
And they pleaded with him,
"Send us into the swine. Let us enter them."
And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned.
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town
and throughout the countryside.
And people came out to see what had happened.
As they approached Jesus,
they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.
And they were seized with fear.
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg him to leave their district.
As he was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
"Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in his pity has done for you."
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Have you ever thrown Jesus out of town?

After Jesus drove the unclean spirits out of the demoniac and into the swine, the townfolk begged Jesus to go away (Mk 5:17). The people preferred to live with a legion of demons rather than with the Lord. Hard to believe, but true. Unfortunately, we as a society as well as personally frequently repeat this scene in the present day.

We have many places, businesses, cities, nations, families, and even churches where Jesus has been told to go away. As requested, Jesus left. However, He also has left us behind.

Quite often we run the risk to cling to what we own and get infuriated when we lose whatever material possessions we may have. Thus, we have the farmer despairing when he loses his crop, even if fully insured or the stock market investor who angers if his shares go down. On the other hand, few are those who actually anguish when they see millions of human beings, many of which may live next to us, living in extreme poverty or dying of hunger.

Jesus always placed persons before anything else, even before the law and the powerful people of his time. Humanity refuses to learn the fact that selfishness never has brought any happiness to anyone. As the Brazilian Bishop Dom Helder Cámara would say: «Selfishness is the deepest root of all unhappiness. Your own and that of the whole world».

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence

“Modern intelligence won't accept anything on authority. But it will accept anything without authority.” ― G.K. Chesterton,

Gospel text (Mk 1,21-28):
Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are?the Holy One of God!"
Jesus rebuked him and said,
"Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
"What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Today, Christ addresses us his resolute command, without question, with authority: «Be silent and come out of this man!» (Mk 1:25). He speaks to the evil spirits living within us that curtail the freedom God has given us and wants us to enjoy.

Perhaps you have noticed that silence is the first rule the founders of religious orders establish when they set up the rules for their community life: on a house where prayer is compulsory, silence and contemplation must reign. There is a Spanish adage that could more or less be translated as: «Virtue is silent; evil is noisy». This is why Christ commands that evil spirit to be silent, because its obligation is to surrender before Him, who is the Word, who «became flesh and made his dwelling among us» (Jn 1:14).

It is true, however, that the awe we feel before our Lord, may stimulate some mixed feelings of sufficiency leading us to think, as in his confessions St. Augustine says: «Give me chastity and continence, O Lord, but do not give it yet». Because the temptation is to leave our own conversion for later on, right now not coinciding perhaps with our own personal plans.

But the call to radically follow Jesus Christ is for right now and right here, so that His Kingdom may allow us in without difficulty. He is well aware of our tepidity, and He knows that we will not probably immediately follow his will for us to choose the Gospel, but we will rather struggle along, and just keep on living, without moving forward and without hurry.

But good and evil cannot coexist. A saintly life cannot allow sin. «No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon» (Mt 6:24), says Christ. Let us find shelter in the holy tree of the Cross and let its shadow project itself over our life, and let Him comfort us, help us understand the reason of our life and give us a life worthy of the name of sons of God.

Friday, January 27, 2012

While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about

"We can do no great things; only small things with great love." - St. Therese of Lisieux

Gospel text (Mk 4,26-34):
Jesus said to the crowds:
"This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come."

He said,
"To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade."
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

As educated men and women, we all experienced the wonder of learning about the world around us. Knowledge is valued in and of itself. We can tell how a seed grows into a tree and why the galaxies are shaped the way they are. This information is undoubtedly good and leads us to important discoveries and insights, but sometimes I long for that child-like wonder that comes from not knowing anything. Walt Whitman puts it nicely:

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts, the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the learned astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

During the winter, I love the look of freshly fallen snow, to just sit and enjoy the silence and serenity of it all. When I was a kid, snow days were spent outside until my fingers were numb (I always snuck a few mouthfuls of snow even though my mom told me not to).

Today let us be challenged to take some time to appreciate something very small and recognize God in that thing. Like the mustard seed, there is more to the little things in life than we can possibly imagine at first glance.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Light is good from whatever lamp it shines

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

Gospel text (Mk 4,21-25):
Jesus said to his disciples,
"Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket
or under a bed,
and not to be placed on a lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear."
He also told them, "Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has, more will be given;
from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

In this Gospel passage I am struck by the image of light. We all have a light within us and this light is a gift from God. Let me try to illustrate this point with an allegory.

Often you see the small and big wires, new and old, cheap and expensive, lined up. Unless and until the current passes through them there will be no light. The wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, and produce the Light of the World - Jesus; or refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread. Our Lady was the most wonderful wire. She allowed God to fill her to the brim, so by her surrender - 'Be it done to me according to thy word' - she became full of grace; and naturally the moment she was filled by this current, the grace of God, she went in haste to Elizabeth's house to connect the wire, John, to the current, Jesus.

Can you imagine someone placing a lit candle under the bed? Of course you can’t! Let us be challenged then to let our lights shine for all to see and help all those we encounter find their light.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Make your life a mission – not an intermission

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gospel text (Mk 16,15-18):
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
"Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

So how are those New Year’s Resolutions coming? What’s that? You don’t eat healthier, weigh less, exercise more, and rise earlier to pray (or some variation of self-improvement)? Well, take heart. All conversions are not quick and complete the way that we think of St. Paul’s.

Paul lived at the time of Jesus but as far as we know they never met. Paul was first called Saul. As a young man, he was a very bright student of the Hebrew religion. When he grew older, he persecuted the early Christians.

In the Bible's Acts of the Apostles, we read about Saul's amazing conversion (chapters 9, 22, 26). What happened? One day, Paul was on his way to the city of Damascus to hunt down more Christians. Suddenly, a great light shone all around him. As he fell to the ground blind, he heard a voice say, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Saul answered, "Who are you, Sir?" And the voice said, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting." Saul was shocked and confused. After a few seconds, he asked, "What do you want me to do?" Jesus told him to continue on to Damascus and there he would be told what to do.

Today the world knows Saul by his Roman name of Paul. He is called "the apostle." He traveled all over the world, preaching the Good News. He led countless people to Jesus. He worked and suffered. His enemies tried to kill him several times. Yet nothing could stop him. When he was old and tired, he was once again put in prison and sentenced to die. Still St. Paul was happy to suffer and even die for Christ.

I am grateful for Paul’s model of a 180 degree but unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen to be many people’s primary experience of how God works in their lives.
With that being said, read the wisdom of a wonderful Jesuit, who died in 1955, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability--and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually--let them grow,
Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on, as though you could be today
what time will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
-Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. from The Making of the Mind

Let this year be a year of conversions. Have the courage

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

“My heart is restless, O God, until it rests in Thee” -Saint Augustine

The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will.--Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Gospel text (Mk 3,31-35):
The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
"Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you."
But he said to them in reply,
"Who are my mother and my brothers?"
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
"Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother."

In today’s Gospel, on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, we see Jesus remind the people around him that they truly are his brothers, sisters, and mothers, if they are willing to follow the will of God. Although it seems like Jesus is speaking only to the people around him, it is so important for us to remember that Jesus is also speaking to us in this passage. If we listen to him and figure out what his plan is for us, then we also can be his brothers and sisters. To be able to do this, we have to learn how to look past our earthly commitments and focus on what God has in store for us. We need to remember that God is loving, caring, and infinitely merciful, and so he always has only our best interests in mind. All we have to do is look past our own earthly desires and instead listen to God’s wonderful plan for our lives. It is fitting that today is the feast of St. Francis de Sales, because he is a great example of how to do exactly that.

St. Francis de Sales was born in France in 1567 into a noble family. He was very privileged throughout his life and attended the best schools with the best teachers to get the best education. After many years of studying and living this affluent life, he felt a emptiness inside himself that seemed to never go away. After much despair and even physical afflictions, he decided to turn around and dedicate his life to God. He rediscovered that God is love, and so he knew that anything God had in store for him would be good. After living a very holy life, he died, was canonized as a saint 42 years later, and then declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877. St. Francis de Sales can serve as a great reminder to us about the importance of focusing on what is truly important in our lives. It would have been very easy for St. Francis to just think about succeeding monetarily or prestigiously in this life. However, he chose to dedicate his life to God and focus on the heavenly reward.

Let us pray today that, with the intercession of St. Francis de Sales, we may be able to center our lives on what is truly important. Let us remember that Christ wants us to be in communion with him, because we are his brothers, sisters, and mothers if we just follow the will of God.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Do you prefer that you be right or happy? - Learn to Forgive

Everyone says that forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something
to forgive - C.S. Lewis

(Jon 3:1-5, 10)
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
"Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you."
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD'S bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day's walk announcing,
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, "
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

The bloody, brutal Ninevites repented but Jonah, who preached the
message of repentance to them, did not. Jonah initially fled from God's
call, refusing to forgive and preach to his enemies, the Ninevites.
After Jonah spent three days in a whale and was spit out on the shore,
he changed his mind but not his heart. He did preach the message of
repentance to the Ninevites, but his heart wasn't in it. In his heart,
Jonah didn't want the Ninevites to repent. He wanted them punished (Jon
4:1ff). The only reason Jonah did what God wanted was to avoid doing
any more time in a whale's belly.

Many Christians are like Jonah. Eventually, they do the right thing and
are even used by the Lord to lead people to Him. However, their hearts
aren't in it. They serve the Lord begrudgingly. Mass is their Sunday
obligation, not their Sunday privilege. They think they are doing God a
favor when they pray. They really don't care that much if unbelievers
are brought to belief but simply don't want to go to hell themselves.

Why did everyone listen to Jonah's message of repentance except Jonah?
Why are many Christians like Jonah? Jonah's problem and sin was
unforgiveness. He refused to forgive the hateful Ninevites. Many
Christians have more in common with Jonah than with Jesus. We must
forgive our enemies and those who have hurt us. Then we will have a
heart for evangelization and with it, Christ's peace.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

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

"All past persecutors of the Church are now no more, but the Church still lives on. The same fate awaits modern persecutors; they, too, will pass on, but the Church of Jesus Christ will always remain, for God has pledged His Word to protect Her and be with Her forever, until the end of time." - St. John Bosco

Gospel text (Mk 3,20-21):
Jesus came with his disciples into the house.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, "He is out of his mind."

Today, we see how Jesus' own relatives react «He is out of his mind» (Mk 3:21). Once again, the old proverb «only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor» (Mt 13:57), is seen to be true. Jesus was and is a sign of contradiction (Lk 2:34). As the Prophet, He did and said things which were challenging, confrontational, even shocking.

Why did the religious leaders make these contradictory charges? Were they concerned about Jesus' pastoral practice or His theology of demons? Or were they jealous?
Jealousy often masquerades as concern for others' physical, pastoral, or theological well-being. What's behind your criticism of the more popular members of your family, more prominent parishioners, or more successful co-workers? Are you truly concerned about others? Or are your motives selfishness and jealousy?

If we valiantly identify ourselves with Christ, our presence will not be neutral for those interacting with us for reasons of kinship, work, etc. What is more, for some, our presence will be a pain in the neck, because we shall be like a reminder for their conscience. We can be certain: «If they persecuted Me they will persecute you...» (Jn 15:20). With their mockery they will try to conceal their fears; with their disqualifications they will perform a poor defense of their “laziness”.

How many times we Catholics are being accused of “exaggerating”? We have to reply we are not. For it is impossible to exaggerate in matters of love. Instead, it is quite true we are “radical”, because love is just so “absorbent”: «it has to be either all or nothing»; «or love kills the I or the I kills love».

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20 - The Feast Day of St. Sebastian

I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible. - Teresa of Avila

Gospel text (Mc 3,13-19):
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach
and to have authority to drive out demons:
He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges,
that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Sebastian became widely known from the early centuries of the Church. As a Roman captain, he became known for his goodness and bravery. During the persecution by Diocletian, Sebastian would not renounce his Christian faith. Archers shot arrows into his body and left him for dead. When a holy widow came to bury him, she was shocked to find him still alive. She took him to her home and nursed his wounds. When Sebastian was well enough, the widow tried to persuade him to escape the dangers of Rome. But Sebastian was a brave soldier. He would not run away. He even approached Diocletian and urged him to stop persecuting the Christians.
The emperor was shocked to see Sebastian alive. He refused to listen to what the soldier had to say. Diocletian ordered that Sebastian be immediately clubbed to death. He died in 288.

Reflection: How often do we act in fear instead of trusting Jesus? Again and again, Jesus invites us to come to him. His love casts out all our fear. All he asks is our trust in him.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Our hearts hold our treasure and our happiness

"If we could comprehend all the good things contained in Holy Communion, nothing more would be wanting to content the heart of man. The miser would run no more after his treasures, or the ambitious after glory; each would shake off the dust of the earth, leave the world, and fly away towards heaven." - Saint John Marie Vianney

Gospel text (Mk 3,7-12):
Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.
A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.
Hearing what he was doing,
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd,
so that they would not crush him.
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases
were pressing upon him to touch him.
And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him
and shout, "You are the Son of God."
He warned them sternly not to make him known.

In today's Gospel we see that «A large crowd from Galilee followed him» and also «a great number of people» coming from other places (cf. Mk 3:7-8) are surrounding the Lord. And He paid heed to all procuring, without exception, their good. We have to keep this in mind during the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Something about Jesus makes us feel like mobbing Him. "A great crowd followed Him from Galilee, and an equally great multitude came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon" (Mk 3:7-8). "In view of their numbers, He told His disciples to have a fishing boat ready for Him so that He could avoid the press of the crowd against Him. Because He had cured many, all who had afflictions kept pushing toward Him to touch Him" (Mk 3:9-10), and unclean spirits would "fling themselves down at His feet" (Mk 3:11).

St. Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. When we become aware that Jesus is near us, we sense that we should run up to Him (see Mk 10:17) and hold on to Him for dear life (see Mt 28:9; Jn 20:17). We sense that He is not only our only Hope but Hope itself! Without Jesus Christ and the teachings he gave to us through his Church, the world is lost, a prisoner to sin and death.

Every human person (without exception) has an “emptiness“, which only Jesus can fill. There is a “Christ sized hole” in every human heart. The problem is, humanity tries to “fit” worldly things into that hole (money; prestige; power; drugs; alcohol; sex, etc) , which ultimately leave us empty and alone in the end. Life’s greatest secret is to discover this universal truth.

Therefore, throw yourself at the feet of Christ and hold on to Him forever.In doing so, we will find true peace and joy. I guess the question to reflect upon today is:

Why does humanity settle for second best?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

As the arteries grow hard, the heart grows soft

Hardness of heart basically refers to the one barrier that separates us from God

Gospel text (Mk 3,1-6):
Jesus entered the synagogue.
There was a man there who had a withered hand.
They watched Jesus closely
to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath
so that they might accuse him.
He said to the man with the withered hand,
"Come up here before us."
Then he said to the Pharisees,
"Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?"
But they remained silent.
Looking around at them with anger
and grieved at their hardness of heart,
Jesus said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."
He stretched it out and his hand was restored.
The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel
with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

Today, Jesus tells us we must always do good: there is no such thing as a time to do good and a time to overlook our love for others. «Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another» (Jn 13:34). Jesus neither repeals nor criticizes Moses' Law, inasmuch as He is the first one to comply with its precepts and go to the synagogue on the Sabbath; what Jesus criticizes is the narrow minded version of the Law by its masters and the Pharisees, an interpretation leaving little room for mercy.

Upon reflecting deeply on today’s reading, the central question we must all ask ourselves is: Is any part of our life shriveled, withered, atrophied? Do we use the power given by our Baptism to evangelize, heal, free, and feed the broken, starving masses? Are we exercising our spiritual muscles, or are they atrophied because of non-use? Jesus wants to heal us ALL and we ALL have parts of our life that need healing. He wants every part of His body and of our bodies and spirits to work.

By faith, when Christ tells you daily to "stretch out your hand" (Mk 3:5). Will you?

If your whole life, including the shriveled parts of your life are in Jesus' hands. Then it will be said of us as it was said of the man in today’s gospel: "The man did so and his hand was perfectly restored" (Mk 3:5).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Ten Commandments (not 10 Suggestions...)

"Law is twofold -- natural and written. The natural law is in the heart, the written law on tables. All men are under the natural law." - St Ambrose

Gospel text (Mk 2,23-28):
As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath,
his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain.
At this the Pharisees said to him,
"Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?"
He said to them,
"Have you never read what David did
when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry?
How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest
and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat,
and shared it with his companions?"
Then he said to them,
"The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.
That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."

Today, as yesterday, Jesus has to contend with the Pharisees, who are distorting Moses' Law, by highlighting the letter of the law while ignoring the actual spirit of the Law. To work, forgive, correct, attend Mass on Sundays, take care of sick people, abide by the commandments..., do we do it because we have to or because of our love for God?

Several times in the Gospels Jesus asks those who had spent years studying the Scriptures if they've never read a certain passage (see e.g. Mk 2:25; Mt 21:16, 42; 22:31). Jesus, of course, knew His hearers had indeed read those passages before. However, He also knew they had not grasped the full meaning of the passage, despite having possibly read it many times.

What about us? Like the Pharisees in today's passage, some of us have devoted years of our lives studying the Scriptures. Yet there are always deeper levels of meaning in the Word of God not yet open to us. Are we content with our current understanding of the Bible? Jesus longs to open our minds to the understanding of the Scriptures (see Lk 24:45), but we must desire understanding and wisdom. It's hard for Jesus to open if we don't bother to knock. Jesus says: "Knock, and it will be opened to you" (Mt 7:7).

Stay rooted in God's Word. Read and study it daily (Acts 17:11). Beg the Lord for an ever deeper desire to sit with Him and listen to His word (Lk 10:39). Whenever possible, read the daily Scriptures at Mass and at Eucharistic Adoration in the presence of Jesus, the Living Word (Heb 4:12), Who will unlock His word for you.

God knows that we are flawed, that we make mistakes, that we sometimes have unholy intentions — but Jesus waits there to save us nonetheless. Salvation lies there as a gift for us to accept. None of us is truly worthy (even the great king David was a deeply flawed human being, and many of the Psalms are surely anthems to his regrets for his sins), but Jesus waits for us patiently.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."~Martin Luther King Jr

Gospel text (Mk 2,18-22):
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.
People came to Jesus and objected,
"Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them,
"Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.
If he does, its fullness pulls away,
the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and both the wine and the skins are ruined.
Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins."

Our lives are sometimes pictured as a fabric. This fabric consists of family, marriage, children, friends, work, finances, social life, habits, entertainment, service, etc. When we give our lives to Jesus and take our faith seriously, He sews into our lives "a patch of unshrunken cloth" (Mk 2:21). As this patch shrinks, it stretches all the other parts of the fabric of our lives.

The people in today's Gospel reading thought it was time to fast, although it was time to feast. They had the right idea but the wrong time. Fasting can be used as preparation; it strengthens prayer and contemplation. But that was not the message that Jesus focused on in today’s teaching. He reminds us all that they have to receive his message with a new spirit, one that breaks with conformity and the routines of jaded souls; Jesus proposes something entirely different, not another version of the Law, but a new life altogether.

If we decide to be clothed with Christ (Gal 3:27; Rm 13:14; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10), we are then clothed with humility (1 Pt 5:5), power (Lk 24:49), mercy, kindness, meekness, and patience (Col 3:12). Let the patch of Jesus that covers one tear in your life become your entire life.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Men do not decide their future. They decide their habits and their habits decide their future

Whatsoever one would understand what he hears must hasten to put into practice what he has heard. --Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Gospel text (Jn 1,35-42): As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus walked by, John looked at him and said, «There is the Lamb of God». On hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. He turned and saw them following, and He said to them, «What are you looking for?». They answered, «Rabbi (which means Master), where are you staying?». Jesus said, «Come and see». So they went and saw where he stayed and spent the rest of that day with him. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard what John had said and followed Jesus. Early the next morning he found his brother Simon and said to him, «We have found the Messiah» (which means the Christ), and he brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, «You are Simon, son of John, but you shall be called Cephas» (which means Rock).

We also are following Jesus, but… what do we want? what are we seeking? Christ then asks us: «Truly, what do you want?». O! if we would only be courageous enough to tell him: «I am seeking you, Jesus», most surely we would have already found him, «For the one who seeks, finds» (Mt 7:8). But if we are honest with ourselves, we will discover that we lack courage and always reply with words: «Where are you staying?». But Jesus does not simply put up with our answer; He knows all too well that we do not just need a lot of words, but a friend, The Friend is Him!

This is why He tells us: «Come and see», «come and you will see it».

Saturday, January 14, 2012

We can decide to let our trials crush us, or we can convert them to new

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

Gospel text (Mk 2,13-17):
Jesus went out along the sea.
All the crowd came to him and he taught them.
As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus,
sitting at the customs post.
Jesus said to him, "Follow me."
And he got up and followed Jesus.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples;
for there were many who followed him.
Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners
and tax collectors and said to his disciples,
"Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus heard this and said to them,
"Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."

“Follow me!” the Lord said to Levi the tax collector (Mt. 2: 13-17).
The call was specific, and Levi heard it clearly. He had just
experienced his vocation: to follow Christ. What sort of thing was this
call? All of us have a vocation. Each has his or her own. The widow.
The grandfather. The spouse, the mother and dad. And certainly, yes,
the religious and the priest. Each has its own grace. A vocation always
occurs in the particular circumstances of one’s life, regardless of
what those circumstances may be.

Levi, also called Matthew, was one of the apostles, an evangelist who
compiled the first book of the New Testament, a missionary, and a
martyr. Matthew was also a great sinner. Jesus implied that Matthew was
spiritually sick (Mk 2:17). Even after Jesus had transformed Matthew's
life, Matthew abandoned Jesus on the cross. But Matthew repented,
received the Holy Spirit at the first Christian Pentecost, and became a
great saint.

Each of us are called to greatness. We are called and privileged to do
our unique part in God's plan of salvation. But how do we respond to
our vocation? It will always at least involve being ready to speak out
of Faith on matters of right and wrong, matters of justice, matters of
forgiveness, truth, and God’s love. It will always involve reverencing
and helping the others God places into our lives – by caring for the
ones, for example, who are hurting and truly needy, or by speaking up
to those who are in a position to live in service of others. Finally,
we can test the authenticity of a vocation by prayer and serious
discernment. Take the time and create the circumstances to be attentive
to God’s presence, to enter into “silence” with Our Lord about the
direction of your future, to let the Holy Spirit work His wonders in
you personally for committing yourself in that direction, and to
welcome the graces He so much wants to give you to help you along the

Nonetheless, like Matthew, we have sinned before and even after our
conversions. By our sins, we have done our part in contributing to
Jesus' sufferings on the cross (Catechism, 598). Yet the Lord is
calling us to repentance. He wants to give us a new Pentecost in which
He will restore us to greatness and lead us to even greater things

Like Matthew, let us rise from the ruins of sin to the glorious
greatness of the sons and daughters of God.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave - St. John Chrysostom

Gospel text (Mk 2,1-12):
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
"Child, your sins are forgiven."
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
"Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?"
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what
they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
'Your sins are forgiven,'
or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth"
-he said to the paralytic,
"I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home."
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

Usually today's Gospel reading is entitled "The Paralyzed Man." It should be entitled "The Paralyzed Men." The man on the stretcher wasn't the only paralyzed person in the room. The scribes were spiritually paralyzed, a much more serious condition than physical paralysis. Because of it, the scribes wouldn't believe. They even refused to rejoice in the paralytic's healing. Furthermore, the scribes were so paralyzed they could not recognize their paralysis.

In contrast, those who carried the paralytic on a stretcher, broke up the roof, and lowered him down were certainly not paralyzed but truly free (Mk 2:4). They didn't let themselves be paralyzed by fear of failure, rejection, or ridicule. They acted in faith (Mk 2:5), even if they might be embarrassed.

One of the natural effects of sin is denial. We deny that our sins are serious, that we are guilty, and eventually even that there is any such thing as sin. But when we deny sin, we deny the need for Jesus. In effect, we deny Jesus' divinity, because the taking away of the sins of the world could have been done only by God Himself.

We can revive this miracle quite often through Confession. With the words of forgiveness said by a Catholic Priest («I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit») Jesus —discreetly— accords us once more the external guarantee of remission of our sins, a guarantee that is tantamount to the spectacular cure of the paralytic of Capernaum.

Only sinners need a Savior. Let us ask the Lord for the miracle of admitting our sins rather than denying them. Then we will be eternally grateful to Jesus, Savior, Lord, and God, Who alone frees us from our sins.

Pick up your mat and go home (Mk 2:5, 11).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig"

"When I stand before thee at the day's end,thou shalt see my scars and
know that I had my wounds and also my healing." - Rabindranath Tagore

Gospel text (Mk 1,40-45):
A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
"If you wish, you can make me clean."
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
"I do will it. Be made clean."
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, "See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them."
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

They sat smiling on their cots lining both sides of the large room,
their mangled hands folded and heads slightly bowing with the traditional “Namaste” greeting. The sordid Calcutta air was inescapable as I slowly followed the Missionary of Charity brother as he guided a group of us through Titagarh, Mother Teresa’s Leprosy Center. A great percentage of the patients were staring blankly off into space, their leprosy having robbed their vision, were simply joyful to hear
our voices greeting them. Of the many emotions my visit elicited, a desire to alleviate their suffering came through most clearly but in reality there was really not much I could offer except a simple smile.

The story of Jesus and the leper is a tender love story.

Modern and ancient leprosy have a common thread: dread, stigma,
alienation. People with AIDS carry a similar stigma. Mother Teresa
called AIDS "the leprosy of the west". Anyone with disabilities will
tell you they are ostracized, especially if that disability can be seen.

I try to envision what it must be like to be a leper, suffering
disfigurement, loss of feeling, being shunned, living on the fringe of
society. But I cannot. I am mercifully blessed with good health, and I
live in a time of understanding contagion and various other aspects of
previously untreatable disease. But I can imagine the desire to be made
clean. Who of us has not asked at one time or another for healing?

I am quite sure the news of Jesus’ compassion caused as big a stir as
the miracle itself. We have so many opportunities in this day and time
to be radical in our compassion.

Jesus came to preach and to heal. How am I called to do the same?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life

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 (Mc 1,29-39): As soon as Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. As Simon's mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told Him about her. Jesus went to her and taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits: the whole town was pressing around the door. Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but he did not let them speak, for they knew who he was.

Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where He prayed. Simon and the others went out, too, searching for him; and when they found him they said, «Everyone is looking for you». Then Jesus answered, «Let's go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came». So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues throughout Galilee; he also cast out demons.

Today, we are clearly shown how Jesus split his working hours. On one hand He prayed and, on the other, He consecrated time to his mission of praying with words and deeds. Contemplation and Action. Prayer and Work. Being with God while amongst men.

We often say: —I have no time! We are so busy with our housework, our professional activity, the countless tasks in our agenda... So, quite often, we believe we should be relieved from our daily prayers. We do a lot of important things, but often run the risk of forgetting the absolutely necessary one: prayer. We have to establish a balance to be able to do the former without neglecting the latter.

Saint Francis brings up this point: «We must be faithful and devoted at work, without extinguishing the spirit of the holy prayer and devotion which the worldly things must be submitted to».

Maybe we should organize ourselves a little bit better. Certainly, what is important must be done. But what is necessary should be an absolute must.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Gospel text (Mk 1,21-28):
Jesus and his disciples went into the town of Capernaum and began to teach in the synagogue during the Sabbath assemblies. The people were astonished at the way he taught, for he spoke as one having authority and not like the teachers of the Law. It happened that a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue and he shouted, «What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: You are the Holy One of God». Then Jesus faced him and said with authority, «Be silent and come out of this man!». The evil spirit shook the man violently and, with a loud shriek, came out of him.

All the people were astonished and they wondered, «What is this? With what authority he preaches! He even orders evil spirits and they obey Him!». And Jesus' fame spread throughout all the country of Galilee.

Saint Mark presents Jesus while teaching in the synagogue and, immediately, he comments: «The people were astonished at the way he taught, for he spoke as one having authority and not like the teachers of the Law» (Mk 1:21).

So how does this apply to us?

Our ordinary lives are both a challenge and an opportunity to live zealously for Christ. He does not leave us orphan to his mission. He has given us a Church to constantly remind us that the supernatural should be part of our lives. Within the Church, he gives us the Sacraments, in particular the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to infuse us with the grace needed to live with zeal for him. He gives us his Word, to teach us his ways. He asks us to spend quality time with him in prayer, to commit every day to him.

Are we frequenting his grace in the Sacraments, in his Word, and in prayer? Are we frequenting the extraordinary? If not, how will our ordinary ways prepare us to courageously say yes to him? May this “Ordinary Time” find us redefining ordinary by the way we live for Christ extraordinarily.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Have you ever wondered why Jesus was baptized?

The Lord was Baptized, not to be cleansed Himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism.-St. Ambrose of Milan

(Is 42:1-4, 6-7)
Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness

Sunday, January 8, 2012

And they “departed for their country by another way.”

"Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”- Pope Benedict XVI

(Gospel: Mt 2:1-12)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage."
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel."
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
"Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage."
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

Today’s Gospel is unique to Matthew who presents Jesus as both the One Who is to come and the One who has come for all. The Magi represent the “beyond” or distant lands and peoples to whom the Christ will offer His universal wisdom. These “Wise Men” also represent the former ways of thinking, wondering, and philosophizing. They come in a sign of surrender to this new “epiphany” or display of this “One God” Who is for all and is now known as the God Who does the seeking and the finding.

We would like to think of God, arrive at our own logical, reasonable concept of God. We would love to say that we have found God. If we determine Who and What God is, then we would seem to control God. God would have to act accordingly. In prostrating themselves, the Magi admit their former human arrogance and surrender to the truth that until then, they had not been satisfied with the conclusions of their personal ponderings.

In their homeland, the Magi saw a great star at its rising. Greatly impressed, they set out on their journey to follow the star to greet the newborn King at Whom they believed the star pointed. After they had traveled for a time, they could no longer see the star. They were past the point of no return, and were not sure where God was now leading them. But the Magi did not give up on God's leading; they did not quit and return back home.

Have you ever started on a journey of faith in response to the clear prompting of God? You commit yourself to the journey, burn your bridges behind you (see 1 Kgs 19:19-21), and then it seems like God's divine guidance completely vanishes. This is a pattern that many have experienced in their lives of faith. This might be a test from God, "the Tester of our Hearts" (1 Thes 2:4).

If you're in this situation, the Magi are a model for you. Persevere in trust, as they did, and believe that God will guide you in the proper time. "Walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor 5:7). "Commit to the Lord your way; trust in Him, and He will act" (Ps 37:5).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature

"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: Jn 2:1-11)
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
"They have no wine."
And Jesus said to her,
"Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servers,
"Do whatever he tells you."
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them,
"Fill the jars with water."
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
"Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter."
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
(although the servers who had drawn the water knew),
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
"Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now."
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

A wedding is a joyous occasion. Not only the bride and groom, but also their families and all the invited guests enjoy and celebrate a wedding. The celebration usually goes on for hours after the wedding ceremony. In some cultures the celebration lasts for some days.

It seems to me that there is non-verbal communication here between Mary and Jesus. In spite of what they say aloud, they agree that Jesus will help. Even though she does not say so aloud, Mary clearly wants Jesus to help. And in spite of his reply to Mary, Jesus does help and eliminates the problem. This is a fascinating glimpse of the relationship between mother and son.

Like the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Jesus here works a miracle to remedy a temporary problem. The gospel of St. John lists this as the first miracle of Jesus. His public life here on earth is just beginning, and he is not yet attracting great crowds to hear his words and witness his miracles. It seems fitting then, that this miracle takes place in a setting where Jesus is with those who know and love him best. He is with his mother and with other friends from the years of his growing up. Amongst them he begins the work of preaching and teaching that he came to do. Amongst them his public life begins.

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 6: St. Andre Bassette - "May you be content knowing you are a child of God."

“St. Andre Bessette believed not in himself but in the power of God’s love for him. In him we can see that God reveals his power shining through our human weakness.”

(Gospel Mk 1:7-11)
This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
"One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
"You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

Reflection: “We might not be as smart, strong, or active as we would like to be. But that doesn't stop God from loving us and from using us to do wonderful things.”

Alfred Bessette was born on August 9, 1845, not far from Montreal, Canada. He was the eighth of twelve children. When Alfred was nine, his father, a wood cutter, died in an accident at work. Three years later, Alfred's mother died of tuberculosis, leaving the children orphans. They were split up and placed in different homes. Alfred went to live with his aunt and uncle.

Because his family had been so poor and he was often sick, Alfred had very little education. So for the next thirteen years he tried learning different trades like farming, shoemaking and baking. He even worked in a factory in Connecticut. But his health always failed him.

When Alfred was twenty-five, he joined the order of Holy Cross and chose the name Brother Andre. He spent the next forty years as a general maintenance man and messenger. The remaining years of his life were spent as the doorkeeper for the order's college. Here, Brother Andre's healing power became known. When people came to ask him for a cure, he would tell them to first thank God for their suffering because it was so valuable. Then he would pray with them. Most of them were cured. Brother Andre always refused credit for the healing. He insisted it had been the person's faith and the power of St. Joseph.

Brother Andre had a great love for the Eucharist and for St. Joseph. When he was young, he dreamt he saw a big church, but he couldn't tell where it was. Gradually, he came to realize that God wanted a church in honor of St. Joseph. That church was to be built on top of Mount Royale in Montreal, Canada. Prayer and the sacrifices of Brother Andre and many other people made the dream come true. The magnificent church honoring St. Joseph was built. It is a testimony to Brother Andre's tremendous faith. Pilgrims come to Mount Royale all year and from distant places. They want to honor St. Joseph. They want to show their trust in his loving care, as Brother Andre did.

Brother Andre died peacefully on January 6, 1937. Nearly a million people climbed Mount Royale to St. Joseph's Oratory for his funeral.

They came in spite of sleet and snow to say good-bye to their dear friend. He was proclaimed "blessed" on May 23, 1982, by Pope John Paul II and a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 17, 2010.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The things that we love tell us what we are

One must see God in everyone. - --St. Catherine Laboure

(1 John 3:11-21) Beloved:
This is the message you have heard from the beginning:
we should love one another,
unlike Cain who belonged to the Evil One
and slaughtered his brother.
Why did he slaughter him?
Because his own works were evil,
and those of his brother righteous.
Do not be amazed, then, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life
because we love our brothers.
Whoever does not love remains in death.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer,
and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.
The way we came to know love
was that he laid down his life for us;
so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If someone who has worldly means
sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion,
how can the love of God remain in him?
Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.

Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God.

It is not enough to talk the talk; you must also walk the walk. Yes - that means you, everyone around the world who calls himself or herself a Christian. Our "love in action" defines who we are, not our words.

John points out the obvious connection between love and need. If we love someone, we will want to provide for that person's needs. Otherwise, our talk about love is mere lip service (Mt 15:8; Is 29:13) and not authentic (1 Jn 3:18).

So with that said, I will say no more……………………..St John said it all!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much

“If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.” - St. Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Jn 1,35-42):
John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God."
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
"What are you looking for?"
They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher),
"where are you staying?"
He said to them, "Come, and you will see."
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
"We have found the Messiah," which is translated Christ.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
"You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas," which is translated Peter.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks John’s disciples.

It is the beginning of a new year; we are making our New Year’s resolutions. Jesus asks us, “What are you looking for?” The Gospel invites us to reflect on the most important resolution we will make for 2012: How we want our relationship with Jesus to grow.

When we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that there are certain very personal and often complex areas of our lives that still await integration with following Jesus. We hesitate to bring these areas to Jesus because we are afraid that he will not fully understand our struggle.

I suspect that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews dealt with similar fears until he finally realized that Jesus did understand human weakness and complexity, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who is tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned.”

The deepest yearning of the human heart is the yearning to live in communion with God — yes, to live in communion even in the awkward and complex and often overlooked areas of our lives: careers, relationships, failures, unemployment, sexuality, loneliness, health, aging.
Jesus is inviting us -- as he invited his first disciples — to walk more closely with him in the complexity of our lives.

“Rabbi, where are you staying?” “Come and you will see.”

He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much

“If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.” - St. Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Jn 1,35-42):
John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God."
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
"What are you looking for?"
They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher),
"where are you staying?"
He said to them, "Come, and you will see."
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
"We have found the Messiah," which is translated Christ.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
"You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas," which is translated Peter.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks John’s disciples.

It is the beginning of a new year; we are making our New Year’s resolutions. Jesus asks us, “What are you looking for?” The Gospel invites us to reflect on the most important resolution we will make for 2012: How we want our relationship with Jesus to grow.

When we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that there are certain very personal and often complex areas of our lives that still await integration with following Jesus. We hesitate to bring these areas to Jesus because we are afraid that he will not fully understand our struggle.

I suspect that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews dealt with similar fears until he finally realized that Jesus did understand human weakness and complexity, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who is tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned.”

The deepest yearning of the human heart is the yearning to live in communion with God — yes, to live in communion even in the awkward and complex and often overlooked areas of our lives: careers, relationships, failures, unemployment, sexuality, loneliness, health, aging.
Jesus is inviting us -- as he invited his first disciples — to walk more closely with him in the complexity of our lives.

“Rabbi, where are you staying?” “Come and you will see.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It is only with the heart that you can see fully: what is essential is invisible to the eyes

Faith is not an escape from life, but rather fully embracing life, seeing and knowing the perfection in things exactly as they are.

Gospel text (Jn 1,29-34):
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.'
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel."
John testified further, saying,
"I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."

Many people think Christmas is over. In fact, Christmas continues for nine more days and culminates in the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit rested upon Him (Jn 1:32). Then Jesus baptized us in that same Holy Spirit (Jn 1:33). The Church teaches us in her liturgy that the ultimate Christmas gift is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Through our Baptisms and Confirmations, we already have the Spirit living within us, but through sin and selfishness the Spirit may be quenched (1 Thes 5:19). The gift of Christmas Spirit is sent "to stir into flame the gift bestowed when" hands were laid on us (2 Tm 1:6).

The Christmas you've had so far is only a beginning, a stepping stone to full life in the Spirit. During these next ten days, repent (Acts 2:38), go to Confession, humble yourself (see Lk 1:38), and cry out: "Come, Holy Spirit!" (see Lk 11:13) You will have the best Christmas ever by receiving the Christmas Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, God Himself.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolve to be thyself; and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights 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 motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering. ~St. Augustine

(Gospel: Jn 1:19-28)
This is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him
to ask him, "Who are you?"
He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,
"I am not the Christ."
So they asked him,
"What are you then? Are you Elijah?"
And he said, "I am not."
"Are you the Prophet?"
He answered, "No."
So they said to him,
"Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?"
He said:
"I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
'Make straight the way of the Lord,'
as Isaiah the prophet said."
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
"Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?"
John answered them,
"I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

We begin this new year with the question: "Who are you?" (Jn 1:19). This is a good question. How can we be what the Lord wants us to be this year unless we know who we are? However, the question of our identity is most difficult. One voice says we are God's children (see Mt 3:17; Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:2). We are called "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people He claims for His own" (1 Pt 2:9). But we don't feel like God's children or look very royal, priestly, or holy. Another voice says we are merely human, in fact, just sophisticated animals. If we accept this, we can "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die" (see Wis 2:6ff; 1 Cor 15:32). Although this second voice puts us down and degrades us, we feel like believing it and leading a self-indulgent life.

To answer the question, "Who are you?", we must first answer these two questions: "Who are the voices in my life?" and "Who is the liar?" (1 Jn 2:22). The first voice is the united voice of God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The second voice is the voice of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The second voice is the liar. The first voice is the Truth (Jn 14:6).

Know yourself. Know God.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

"Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle."

"So your strength is failing you? Why don't you tell your mother about it? . . . Mother! Call her with a loud voice. She is listening to you; she sees you in danger, perhaps, and she—your holy mother Mary—offers you, along with the grace of her son, the refuge of her arms, the tenderness of her embrace . . . and you will find yourself with added strength for the new battle."--St. Josemaria Escriva

(Numbers 6:22-27)
The LORD said to Moses:
"Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them."

On the first day of the New Year we celebrate the Feast of the Mother of God. This is no liturgical accident. She who beheld the face of the Savior invites us to hear the words of Jesus Christ, "Behold I make all things new!" She is the Mother of the New Creation because the One whom she held in her womb and birthed for the whole world is the only One who can make all things new!

Every New Year we read numerous articles about the efficacy of New Year's Resolutions. However, the fact remains, we all make them. The experience is nearly universal. The question is why? I suggest that they reveal something of our universal longing. So too do our calendars. Some Nations use different calendars, but the passing of one year to another is marked by a deliberate period of reflection over the past year and a pledge to begin anew, to change, in the year to come. This is because we all hunger to be made new!

We all want to change, to be better, to live our lives more fully and love one another more selflessly. As we end one year and look to a new one, we pause and take inventory. In a rare moment of near universal reflection and honest self assessment, we admit our failures. We pledge to learn from them and move toward a better future.

When I was a young man, I would write my New Years goal list before a period of protracted prayer. I use to make the list and then, in a fit of self generated enthusiasm, ask the Lord to bless it! I know better now. I need the light of the Holy Spirit to even comprehend what is needed if I ever hope to change. I pray first and then, my list has become so simple. Mary's Fiat has become my prayer, "be it done unto me according to your word."