Saturday, March 31, 2012

'In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.' – St Augustine

We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are. – Thomas Merton (Trappist Monk and author)

John 11:45-56
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
"What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation."
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
"You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish."
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, "What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?"

If Jesus came in His physical, glorified body to your church for Easter, would He be accepted? What if He decided to cleanse the sanctuary? Would the ushers apprehend Him? (Jn 11:59)

As I was reading today’s gospel, the first thing that stood out to me was the fact that the members of the Sanhedrin never say anything bad about Jesus; they merely say that he is performing many miracles and that the people will soon all believe in him. I find it interesting that none of them are questioning his validity or by whose authority he is doing his work. One would like to think that, if they have no concerns about his actual ministry, he would be left to carry it out. But that is not what happens. These men are so concerned about their positions of power being threatened that they are willing to cut down anyone who stands in their way. They fear the Romans, who will think that the Sanhedrin has lost control, and will come in and “take away our power and our nation.” Does this scenario sound similar to our own work places, our government, and yes even some of our churches where the truth is sidestepped for subjective agendas?

A week from today will be the Easter Vigil, the greatest celebration of the year. We are about to step into the life of Christ and walk with Him the path of Calvary and Resurrection. If we are to be free, we must be one. Jesus died to make us one (Jn 11:51-52). "It is He Who is our Peace, and Who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart"

During this upcoming week, try to keep this thought in mind. Jesus died on the cross "to gather into one all the dispersed children of God" (Jn 11:52). He is praying that we be one as He and the Father are one (Jn 17:21).

"United we stand, divided we fall."

Friday, March 30, 2012

No answer is also an answer

It is within my power either to serve God or not to serve Him. Serving Him, I add to my own good and the good of the whole world. Not serving Him, I forfeit my own good and deprive the world of that good, which was in my power to create.- Leo Tolstoy

Gospel text (Jn 10,31-42):
The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?"
The Jews answered him,
"We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.
You, a man, are making yourself God."
Jesus answered them,
"Is it not written in your law, 'I said, 'You are gods?'"
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world
blasphemes because I said, 'I am the Son of God?'
If I do not perform my Father's works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power.

He went back across the Jordan
to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.
Many came to him and said,
"John performed no sign,
but everything John said about this man was true."
And many there began to believe in him.

On one side of the Jordan, the people accused Jesus of blaspheming and "reached for rocks to stone Him" (Jn 10:31). Later, they "tried to arrest Him" (Jn 10:39). On the other side of the Jordan, "many people came to" Jesus and believed in Him (Jn 10:41-42).

Why was Jesus not accepted in the holy place, the temple, but believed in "down by the riverside"? It was because John had been administering his baptism of repentance "down by the riverside." Wherever there is repentance, there is faith. Where there is no repentance, Jesus is rejected and His Church persecuted.

What side are you on? Before you answer with your mouth, look at what your life is saying about your love for Jesus. If someone saw a videotape of your everyday life without the sound, would it be abundantly clear that you have decided to be crucified with Jesus (Gal 2:19) instead of crucifying Him? If you're on Jesus side, you're on the cross. If you're on the other side, you are the cross.

We will eventually love or hate Him, be attentive to Him or despise Him (Mt 6:24). Our ambivalence will end. We will kiss the wounds or drive the nails. We will choose life or death, heaven or hell.

Settle it now before the end of Lent. Settle it now while you can.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Obstinacy is the result of the will forcing itself into the place of the intellect

Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life...If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing. —St Teresa of Avila

Gospel text (Jn 8,51-59):
Jesus said to the Jews:
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death."
So the Jews said to him,
"Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
'Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.'
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?"
Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, 'He is our God.'
You do not know him, but I know him.
And if I should say that I do not know him,
I would be like you a liar.
But I do know him and I keep his word.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad."
So the Jews said to him,
"You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?"
Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM."
So they picked up stones to throw at him;
but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.

Have you ever known someone who disagreed with your thinking, when you knew fully well they were stuck in their position? I think Jesus must have been so frustrated with the society in which He lived in. Can you imagine that some had actually witnessed Jesus as a twelve year old, exhibiting extraordinary wisdom in the Temple? And even now, after many miracles He performed right in front of their eyes, they were ready to stone him for heresy! The question for each of us and the society in which we live in today is: Are we being thick-headed in our lack of faith... are we relying on God as opposed to ourselves or creature comforts?

Christianity is much more than a collection of high moral norms, as can be perfect love, or even, forgiveness. Christianity is faith in one person. Jesus Christ, True God and True Man. To put it simply, it is a loving relationship.

In ten days, you will be asked whether you believe Jesus is God. On Easter Sunday, at every Mass in every Catholic Church in the world, Catholics will be invited to renew their baptismal promises. In the fifth baptismal promise, you will be asked whether you believe Jesus is God. If you answer "Yes," that means you submit your life to Him. If you believe that Jesus is God, you will desire to receive Him in Holy Communion as frequently as possible, do His will, and tell others about Him most especially by the way you live your life. If you believe that Jesus is God, you will center your life on Him and make Him first in your life (see Mt 6:33).

Say "Yes" to I AM by saying "No" to I.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. - Pope John Paul II

Gospel text (Jn 8,31-42):
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
"If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, 'You will become free'?"
Jesus answered them, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father's presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father."

They answered and said to him, "Our father is Abraham."
Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!"
So they said to him, "We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God."
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me."

To say we are a “slave“ to certain behaviors is an extreme example, but if we are honest, we can all say there are definitely many things people have a hard time saying no to. Specific activities, clothing, gadgets or even foods can prove to be a challenge to turn down. This little example leads me to ask myself again: Am I a slave of sin?

Our Lord assures us that, if we persist in his word, we shall know the truth, and the truth will make us free (cf. Jn 8:32). To be truthful is not always easy. How often do we tell small lies, how often do we pretend, how often do “we act dumb”? We cannot deceive God. He sees us, He contemplates us. He loves us and follows us, in our day-to-day routine.

All of us cry for freedom, but if our society was truly wise, it would first cry for obedience and truth. We try to free ourselves, but freedom is something that must be done for us by God. We try to control circumstances or even manipulate people to be free, but freedom has nothing to do with circumstances. Freedom is not independence, but dependence on God and interdependence on others. Freedom is not selfishly doing “our own thing“, but unselfishly doing God's thing. This is not attained by believing the lies of the world, but by believing in Jesus, the Truth (see Jn 14:6).

Because God is Love (1 Jn 4:8, 16) and love must be freely given, it is up to us personally to accept that love. The choice is ours to truly be free! "It was for liberty that Christ freed us. So stand firm, and do not take on yourselves the yoke of slavery a second time!" (Gal 5:1)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

God is the friend of silence

It is best to learn to silence the faculties and to cause them to be still, so that God may speak.--St John of the Cross

Gospel text (Jn 8,21-30):
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come."
So the Jews said,
"He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, 'Where I am going you cannot come'?"
He said to them, "You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins."
So they said to him, "Who are you?"
Jesus said to them, "What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world."
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them,
"When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him."
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus only said what the Father taught Him (Jn 8:28). Jesus spent a lot of time being taught by His Father. He arose early to listen to His Father (Mk 1:35), stayed up very late to be with Him (Lk 6:12), and spent forty days in the desert to hear His Father's plans for His public ministry (Mt 4:1ff). In fact, Jesus mentioned that the Father "has commanded Me what to say and how to speak" (Jn 12:49).

God often speaks in a quiet voice (1 Kgs 19:12ff). We live in a world where too many voices drown out the voice of God. Turn off the TV. Turn off the radio. Get up early, stay up late, and listen attentively to the Father.

In silence ask Him: «Who are you?» (Jn 8:25). And He will answer «the way, the truth, and the life» (Jn 14:6).

Monday, March 26, 2012

“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”

"We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek - Jesus, her Son."--Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Gospel text (Lk 1,26-38):
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin's name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end."
But Mary said to the angel,
"How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?"
And the angel said to her in reply,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God."
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her.

Imagine you are young and in love and just living your life, when suddenly an angel appears to you with the message that you are going to become pregnant with the Savior of the world. Would you agree to do this?

Today we remember the astonishing fact that God became a baby — a tiny human being. The almighty, infinite God became human flesh smaller than your fingernail. Why would He do such a thing? The only response we can make to the mystery of the Incarnation is: "God is Love" (1 Jn 4:16). He does the unimaginable because He is Love. He became a man because He is Love. He let Himself be crucified and put to death because He is Love. He gives us His body and blood in Holy Communion because He is Love.

What exactly is God calling us to do? What does it mean for us to surrender ourselves to God’s will? Do we understand that responding as did Mary with “yes” is a commitment to a life-long journey?

We must not be close-minded, and instead should be open to the call of God. While it can be easy to try and plan our lives, that is not how it is supposed to be done. We are supposed to live our lives according to God’s path and be ready to change if God throws a curve ball in our way.

Robert Frost wrote a poem entitled The Road Not Taken. It is a very popular poem, and describes how hard it can be to make choices. But when you make a hard choice that may go against the norm it can really make a big difference.

What's your decision? "Let it be done" to you according to God's word (Lk 1:38).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you

Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said, Bob, why are you resisting me? I said, I'm not resisting you! He said, You gonna follow me? I said, I've never thought about that before! He said, When you're not following me, you're resisting me. --Bob Dylan

Gospel text (Jn 12,20-33):
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour?'
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven,
"I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
Jesus answered and said,
"This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself."
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

There are two more weeks until Easter. Do we expect to meet the risen Christ this Easter?

The Greek word translated "die" in John 12:24 literally means to "die away." Each day, we must die away from our selfishness. Jesus tells the Apostles: «Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit» (Jn 12:24). When we think of Jesus' cross and our daily crosses (Lk 9:23), our souls are troubled (Jn 12:27). Like Jesus, we are tempted to pray that we will be saved from the cross rather than saved by the cross (Jn 12:27). Yet it is for the cross that we have come to this hour (Jn 12:27). Therefore, let us embrace our cross.

There is an old song which states: "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die." We might paraphrase it: "Everybody wants the resurrection without the crucifixion, the glory without the cross, Easter without Lent."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stand for something or you will fall for anything

"I do not fear at all what men can do to me for speaking the truth. I only fear what God would do if I were to lie. - St John Bosco

Gospel text (Jn 7,40-53):
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said
"This is truly the Prophet."
Others said, "This is the Christ."
But others said, "The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David's family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, "Why did you not bring him?"
The guards answered, "Never before has anyone spoken like this man."
So the Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed."
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
"Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?"
They answered and said to him,
"You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee."

Then each went to his own house.

How was Jesus condemned to death by crucifixion with so many people on His side? Cowardice and apathy were two main factors which put Jesus on the cross. It's the same today. Few people want the evils of abortion, pornography, same-sex marriage, racism, and starvation, yet thousands of lives are destroyed and warped daily.

How can so much evil exist with so many good people? It's because of cowardice and apathy.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Divine Providence, in its own good time, will defend the innocent."

"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 (Jn 7,1-
Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
"Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
"You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me."
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

If we want to live a godly life, we will be persecuted (2 Tm 3:12). We don't know the severity of this persecution, but we do know the certainty of it.

Although many non-Christians pride themselves on being tolerant, they will probably not tolerate Christians, for we are obnoxious to them (Wis 2:12). They think we are setting ourselves against their doings, reproaching them "for transgressions of the law," charging them with violations of their training, and censuring their thoughts (Wis 2:12, 14). Merely to see us is a hardship for many in today’s society (Wis 2:14) because our lives are different.

Because we all naturally want to be accepted and even popular, and because we naturally want to avoid pain and suffering, we have reason to not want to be just, godly, and holy. Although in our heart of hearts we want to be like the just and holy Jesus, at the same time we don't want the persecution and rejection resulting from life in Christ. Thus, we have a war of contradictions raging inside us.

We can end this war by capitulating to our fallen nature and the enemies of the Church. We can let our faith grow lukewarm and join the "popular". Or we can choose love rather than self. By love, we can remain just and take the painful flak that goes with love.

Will you fold under pressure or be free? Will you persecute or be persecuted? Do you nail just people to crosses or take up crosses? Are you another enemy of the cross (Phil 3:18) or another Christ?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A measure of honest introspection is worth more than an immeasurable pile of pontification

Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. - C.G. Jung

Gospel text (Jn 5,31-47):
Jesus said to the Jews:
"If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John's.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

"I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?"

In today’s gospel passage Jesus Christ reproaches those who listen to him, focusing on four impediments they possess which prohibits them from accepting Jesus as the Messiah: First, they do not accept him as the Son of God; Second, the lack of love for God in their heart; Third, the lack of honest intentions —they only seek human glory. Fourth, having their own interests at heart when interpreting the Scriptures.

Now think about the culture that we live in 2000 years after this gospel was written. Do you see any similarities?

In a little over two weeks, we will be asked six questions at the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday at every Mass in every Catholic Church in the world. We will be invited to renew our baptismal promises.

The key to the baptismal promises is the fifth promise and question: "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord?" Jesus is the only Way to the Father (Jn 14:6), and He is the One Who baptizes us in the Spirit (Mk 1:8). Therefore, only by making the fifth baptismal promise will we then be able to make the fourth and the sixth promises. And only by making these last three promises can we make the first three promises and reject Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises.

In this time of Lent, by increasing the deeds of penance that facilitate our interior renovation, we shall improve our disposition to contemplate Christ's true face. This is why, Saint Josemaría, says: «That Christ you see, is not Jesus. —It will be, in any case, the sad image your blurred eyes may form... —Purify yourself. Clarify your look with humility and penance. Afterwards... you won't be lacking the clear lights of Love. And you will have a perfect vision. Your image will really be: Him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born." - Ronald Reagan

Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child - what is left for me to kill you and you kill me -- there is nothing between. - MOTHER TERESA, Nobel Lecture, Dec 11, 1979

(Isaiah 49:8-15) Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.

But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me."
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Isaiah prophesied the above message from the Lord God over 2,500 years ago. At that time, abortion was unheard of. Children were considered blessings from the Lord. The strongest possible human bond was that which existed between mother and child. Yet even then, some mothers "forgot" their children and allowed them to be sacrificed to pagan gods (e.g. Lam 4:10).

At present, surgical and chemical abortions occur in staggering numbers. In some countries, women abort more than twice as many babies as they keep, whether voluntarily or by coercion. Often men pressure women to "eliminate" the "mistake" by having an abortion. Entire generations of children have grown up knowing that mothers forget and abort their children. Is it any wonder masses of people don't realize God loves them? (Is 49:14)

Isaiah's stirring prophecy rings even more true today. God "will never forget you" (Is 49:15). "God has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you' " (Heb 13:5). Yet how many of these confused souls will never pick up a Bible, much less find these consoling prophecies?

Help hurting people to know God will never forget them.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Even if you stumble, you’re still moving forward

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

Gospel text: (John 5:1-16)
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
"Do you want to be well?"
The sick man answered him,
"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me."
Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a Sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
"It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat."
He answered them, "The man who made me well told me,
'Take up your mat and walk.'"
They asked him,
"Who is the man who told you, 'Take it up and walk?'"
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
"Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you."
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a Sabbath.

Jesus' question to the man at the pool can be re-phrased from "Do you want to be well?" to "Do you want to live your Baptism?"

The sick man changed the subject to avoid answering Jesus' question. He talked about no one helping him and about being a victim of circumstances. When we are asked on Easter to renew our baptismal promises at Holy Mass, will we also change the subject? We will if we haven't let God change our hearts. Will we try to evade Jesus' question by talking about the weaknesses and hypocrisy of other Christians who should be supporting us? Will we blame our parents and families so as to portray ourselves as victims of circumstances? Or will we honestly admit that we want many things much more than we want to live our Baptism?

Don't change the subject like the man in our gospel passage today.

Jesus stands at your door (see Rv 3:20) and asks you: "Do you want to be healed?

Shout out your "Yes"!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Solemnity of St. Joseph - “It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.”

”He that is truly obedient does not wait for a command, but as soon as he knows what his superior wishes to have done immediately sets himself to work, without expecting an order.”-Saint Albert Doctor of the Church

Gospel text (Mt 1,16.18-21.24a):
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

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

Our modern culture enjoys reading about the personal struggles, emotions, doubts, and triumphs in people's lives. It's as if our culture gives people the right to make ungodly choices if their struggles are intense enough. The Scriptures differ from modern culture. They didn't concentrate on St. Joseph's feelings or his struggles. They simply concentrate on what Joseph did. They reflect Joseph as a man of "obedient faith" (Rm 1:5). Because of his great example, Holy Mother Church has recognized the holiness and trustworthiness of St. Joseph over the years (see Ps 89:29). Blessed Pope Pius IX named St. Joseph as patron saint of the universal church.

St. Joseph was one of the greatest men of faith in history because he heard and believed God. Because Joseph had great spiritual hearing, he was a great man of faith. We too can choose to hear God. We can develop this capacity given to us at our Baptisms. We do this by repenting, giving our lives to the Lord (see Jn 8:47; 18:37), hearing God's word daily, being quiet daily, developing a strong prayer life, receiving the sacraments frequently (Eucharist and Confession), and simplifying our lifestyles. Jesus said: "Let him who has ears to hear Me, hear!" (Mk 4:9)

We need St. Joseph more than ever, for, if we had his virtues, we would start a quiet revolution which would prepare the world for Christ's final coming. St. Joseph, pray for us.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Intense love does not measure . . . it just gives."

Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.--Saint Catherine of Siena

Gospel text (Jn 3,14-21):
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

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

God wants us to be happy. The most elementary psychology tells us that a person who does not enjoy life ends up sick, both in body and spirit. However, our joy must be well founded; it must be the expression of serenity given by a full meaningful life. Otherwise, it would degenerate into superficiality and silliness. St. Teresa, most accurately, distinguished between "holy joy" and a "foolish joy". The latter is only external; it lasts a short time and leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Because God is love, He gave us freedom. He will not force a person to love Him. Because we are free, we can decide to accept or reject God, to be with Him forever in heaven or without Him forever in hell. The greatness of God's love implies the magnitude of our freedom. God's love implies the existence of heaven and hell.

God has loved you with a perfect, infinite, crucified love. This is an unchangeable fact. What are you going to do about it? Will you love Him in return?

We are free to ignore Jesus' Incarnation, crucifixion, and repeated knocks on our door.

Friday, March 16, 2012

“The things that we love tell us what we are”

Pure love ... knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love - love, and always love. --Divine Mercy in My Soul by St. Faustina

Gospel text (Mk 12,28b-34):
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
"Which is the first of all the commandments?"
Jesus replied, "The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these."
The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
"You are not far from the Kingdom of God."
And no one dared to ask him any more questions

Think about your relationship with the person you love the most. It's one thing to say: "I love you." It's quite another thing to put everything aside and demonstrate your love for them by devoting your full attention to them for a long period of time.

Modern society is obsessed with the pursuit of love. Sadly, the path of mankind is scattered with the artifacts of failed love: divorces, shattered families, brokenhearted people turning their backs on God who is their only Hope of finding love (1 Jn 4:16). People are hungry for love, but not only can't they find it, they don't truly understand what love means or what they seek. Sadly, many teach a counterfeit "love" that is self-centered and leads ultimately to emptiness and shattered hopes. What the human heart wants , many times without even realizing it, is to be taught to experience true Christ-like "agape," self-giving love, but how many are never taught the truth about love?

Pope Benedict XVI recognized this void. Therefore, he wrote the first encyclical of his papacy to teach people about God's love for them. He stated: "I wish in my first encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others...I wanted here — at the beginning of my pontificate — to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between that Love and the reality of human love" (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, 1).

Those who experience the burning love of God (Eph 3:19) must constantly teach others (2 Tm 2:15) to "come to know...the love God has for" them (1 Jn 4:16). Most Christians are drawn to Jesus through love. Therefore, teach the truth in love; teach the truth about love; teach them "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wealth and want equally harden the human heart

First let a little love find entrance into their hearts, and the rest will follow. - St. Philip Neri

Gospel text (Lk 11,14-23):
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,
and when the demon had gone out,
the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, "By the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons."
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
"Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself,
how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebub that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebub,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters."

Jesus heals the deaf man. The first sounds the man heard were the cries of those demanding reasons. Who has the authority to drive out demons? Surely Jesus must be a demon too. Faced with doubts, Jesus did not slip into silence. Use your senses, he told his critics. What do you see? Would a friend of demons heal a damaged body? Jesus reached out to his accusers. But twisted thinking can be hard to mend.

We are a vulnerable and resilient people; there is much we do not grasp and often the only voice we hear is our own.

Perhaps demons of a sort still move among us. Certainly we come up against powers that invade and possess us. There are spirits of mistrust that splinter our communities. There is arrogance that leaves those in power unmoved by human cries. There is the emptiness that spreads outward from our dedication to making ever more money. There is forgetting the poor, so we forget where true beauty lies.

Throughout all this, God is always faithful. We are not abandoned to emptiness and divisions. God doesn’t forget us. When our house grows quiet, healing words are spoken still. It is our job to listen to them and respond.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

“Laws are not masters but servants, and he rules them who obeys them”

"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." - Saint Ambrose

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
Moses spoke to the people and said:
"Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees
as the LORD, my God, has commanded me,
that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy.
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.'
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?

"However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children's children."

We often view God's laws in an adolescent way. We see them as mere prohibitions or burdens. However, His laws are lifesaving insights into life. How many people have proven the truth of God's law by not following it, and thereby turned their lives into experiments that have failed miserably?

Jesus said: "Of this much I assure you: until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter of the law, not the smallest part of a letter, shall be done away with until it all comes true" (Mt 5:18). We also live by the spirit of the law (see 2 Cor 3:6).

If you are a "do-it-yourselfer," Jesus' extreme demands are very disturbing. How can you do it? But if you are like Mary and know that life is "letting it be done" (see Lk 1:38) rather than "doing it yourself," then you are excited to be taken by Jesus into a new dimension of grace, miracles, and mystery. The most important aspects of life, including death, are beyond our merely human capacities. We need Jesus to take us into the realm of the supernatural. Why not start now in living the miraculous grace of our Baptism?

Observe God's law "carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, 'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people' " (Dt 4:6).

Let Jesus do the impossible in you!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend”

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” - Abraham Lincoln

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

Today, Matthew's Gospel invites us to ponder over the mystery of forgiveness by proposing a parallel between God's ways and our own human behavior when it comes to forgiving others.

We often don’t deserve wrongs or injustices that come our way. But when they do come, harboring unforgiveness can become a serious barrier to receiving the good in our lives. Surely today’s Gospel shows us this point. When we focus too much on the wrongs of others, we can lose sight of the good that we have received, just like the debtor in the story. Conversely, when we do wrong to another, the wound we have caused may be greater than we realize.

Are you fulfilling your ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18) in your family, church, neighborhood, and workplace? Are you forgiving seventy times seven times? (Mt 18:22) Are you forgiving from your heart? (Mt 18:35) Are you breaking new ground in forgiveness and reconciliation?

"To err is human, to forgive divine." This saying of Alexander Pope expresses the heart of the Gospel. We must forgive, but only God has the power to forgive. Therefore, we are desperately in need of God's grace to forgive.

Look at a crucifix. See the love, pain, blood, and death of Jesus. Look at what Jesus did in our place. "He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by His stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon Him the guilt of us all" (Is 53:5-6).

We love and express love by forgiving others because Jesus first loved us (see 1 Jn 4:19). Accept the grace to forgive by recalling how much you have been loved and forgiven.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday

"The chief thing is to take the burden on one’s shoulders. As you press forward, it soon shakes down and the load is evenly distributed." - St John Bosco

Gospel text (Lk 4,24-30):
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth:
"Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel
in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away

No prophet is honored in his own country! We have the perfect excuse, the very best of justifications, for not aspiring to live a Christ-like life. These words —uttered by Jesus— have been for many of us —more than once— justification and excuse not to complicate our lives.

Knowing the status-quo would be resistant to the message of God’s truth, Saint Paul gives a wonderful example of perseverance: «And going into the synagogue, he spoke freely about three months, disputing and persuading concerning the kingdom of God» (Acts 19:8).

Are you sure this is not what Jesus meant for us to do as well?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Those who have much are often greedy, those who have little always share

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life. - Theodore Roosevelt

Gospel text (Jn 2,13-25):
Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
"Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
"What sign can you show us for doing this?"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."
The Jews said,
"This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?"
But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
many began to believe in his name
when they saw the signs he was doing.
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,
and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.
He himself understood it well.

As disciples of Jesus, do we have Jesus' attitude toward His Church? Is the Church our passion, our love, and our joy? Do we do the minimum or the maximum for His Church? Do we relate to the Church as consumers or as those being consumed? Do we look at the Church for value, convenience, and service? Do we "go to the Church of our choice"? Or do we let ourselves be consumed by the Church and her Head, Jesus?

I am a temple of God, too. If I do not watch, pride, sloth, gluttony, envy, avarice, and selfishness will sneak in and damage everything. This is why the Lord warns us: «What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch’!» (Mk 13:37).

Jesus, you know me well, you know quite well what each man's mind is like, so make me realize my own faults, give me strength and a little bit of that zeal of yours so that I can also drive out from the temple all that might appear to separate me from you.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"If we really want to love - we must learn how to forgive"

Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession. - St. Isidore of Seville

Gospel text (Lk 15,1-3.11-32):
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 to them Jesus addressed this parable.
"A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.'
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
'How many of my father's hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."'
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.'
But his father ordered his servants,
'Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.'
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
'Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.'
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
'Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.'
He said to him,
'My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.'"

Many Christians today are like the older son. We appear to never disobey one of God the Father's orders (Lk 15:29). We are church-goers, good citizens, and hard workers. Our vices are socially acceptable. We look good, but aren't in a good relationship with our heavenly Father. We're not cheerfully serving God but begrudgingly slaving for Him out of fear, habit, or social pressures.

Our Father has come out and is pleading with us to accept a personal relationship with Him.

Father, I have sinned» (Lk 15:21), we wish to say it too, and feel God’s embrace in the Sacrament of Confession, while participating in the Eucharistic feast: «We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is found» (Lk 15:23-24).

Thus, «God is waiting for us —each and every day!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Intense love does not measure, it just gives

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gospel text (Mt 21,33-43.45-46):
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
"Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, 'They will respect my son.'
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
'This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.'
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"
They answered him,
He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times."
Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit."
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.

What does Jesus do after and in the midst of all this abuse?

Jesus loves us unconditionally. He opens His heart to us. He turns the other cheek (Mt 5:39). Jesus hates sin because He loves sinners so much. Jesus, the most rejected One, never rejects us (Jn 6:37). Jesus forgives us and loves us infinitely forever. Let us love as He loves and enter into the mystery of God, Who is Love (see 1 Jn 4:8, 16).

Rejection is one of the most important experiences of our lives. We can respond to rejection by hating and rejecting others or we can spend our lives trying to show those who have rejected us how big a mistake they've made.

Jesus Christ was and is the most rejected Person ever, but He will in no way reject us (Jn 6:37). He doesn't get caught up in reacting to rejection. He is caught up in loving everyone, even enemies who reject Him. If we take our rejection to Jesus, we'll be caught up in love. This will lead to a life of true greatness.

What we do with rejection will make or break us. Let's fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2), not rejection. Let Jesus be the Lord of your rejection. He will turn rejection to the good for those who love Him (Rm 8:28).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when? - Rabbi Hillel

Gospel text (Lk 16,19-31):
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man's table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
Abraham replied, 'My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.'
He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father's house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.'
He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
Then Abraham said,
'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.'"

We might ponder, where would I be if I was one of the two main characters of the parable?

Who is the Lazarus in our lives? Who, in our estimation, exists for the purpose of serving us, but doesn't deserve any credit or reward for refreshing us? (Because, after all, it's their duty.) Is it the employees who work for us? The janitor at work? Our spouse? Our children? Our aging relatives? Our pastor?

In our gospel story today, the rich man's dogs were more sensitive to the beggar Lazarus than the rich man. The rich man's family was so out of touch even someone raised from the dead would not have fazed them (Lk 16:31). They were "blinded by the god of this present age," the god of lifestyle (2 Cor 4:4).

Through a self-centered, pleasure-seeking life, we can make ourselves numb and insanely oblivious to what's right before our very eyes. Today, we are presented with the need to listen to God in this life, to convert ourselves and take advantage of the time He offers us. God will eventually call us to account. We all will have to face the moment of death. And we better be always ready because one day we shall be judged.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Service is the rent we pay for living

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

Gospel text (Mt 20,17-28):
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day."

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

This Lent, Jesus is asking us: "Can you drink of the cup?" (Mt 20:22) Jesus tries to change us from being self- seeking to cross-carrying.

We all have a natural tendency towards a desire to dominate or subjugate things and people, to command and to order, to have things done as per our wishes, to have others accept our status, our position. But, now, Jesus is proposing to us just the opposite: «Whoever wants to be more important in your group shall make himself your servant» (Mt 20:26-27). We cannot just take these words at their face value!; we have heard them hundreds of times, sure, but now we must be able to assimilate the reality of what they actually mean, and confront it with our attitude and most importantly our behavior.

The II Vatican Council asserts «that man achieves his prime of life through dedication and commitment to others». We may be under the impression we are giving away life, but, in fact, we are retrieving it. He who does not live to serve does not serve to live. And, in this attitude Christ should be our perfect model —Jesus is fully man—, inasmuch as «the Son of man has come, not to be served but to serve and to give his life to redeem many» (Mt 20:28).

To become a servant, a slave, as Jesus calls us upon, is something almost impossible for us. It falls short of our weak will: so we are to implore, to hope for and to profoundly wish these gifts are granted to us. Lent and its Lenten practices —fasting, charity and prayer— remind us that to receive these gifts we have to prepare ourselves adequately.

Yet will we decide and are we deciding to drink of the cup? (Mt 20:22).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

“There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart.”

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. --Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Mt 23,1-12):
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
"The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people's shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'
As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called 'Master';
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Today, Jesus exhorts us to bear witness of our Christian life through our example, the consistency of our life and the honesty of our intentions.

While the term hypocrisy usually means a more conscious and active “not practicing what you preach,” I think its important to note the huge difference between hypocrisy and growth in faith. Remember, none of us is perfect but the standard we strive for is perfection. That is why our Lord gives us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to “level the playing field” so to speak when we fall.

For our behavior to fit with that of our Lord Jesus, a gesture of humility is fundamental, as our Pope Benedict says: «I recognize myself for what I am, a frail creature, made of earth and destined to the earth, but also made in the image of God and destined to him».

Our American society is "fond of places of honor." We have honor rolls, radio and TV interviews, Halls of Fame, autograph sessions, awards banquets, and numerous other ways to honor others. While the Lord does call us to honor our parents (Dt 5:16; Sir 3:2ff) and all people (1 Pt 2:17), He is adamant that we do not seek honor for ourselves.

In our gospel passage noted above today, the scribes were revered for their standing in religious circles in society. This indicates that in their time they were among the most intelligent and best educated people in the world. They were professionals and experts in the Holy Scripture. Yet, despite the greatness of the scribes and the Pharisees, most of them rejected Jesus, the Messiah, and thus prepared the way for their own downfall. Their problem was pride. They exalted themselves, so God humbled them (Mt 23:12).

Therefore, "be humbled in the sight of the Lord" (Jas 4:10). Learn from Jesus, Who is gentle and humble of heart (Mt 11:29). "In your relations with one another, clothe yourselves with humility, because God 'is stern with the arrogant but to the humble He shows kindness.' Bow humbly under God's mighty hand" (1 Pt 5:5-6). Humble yourself (Mt 23:12; Lk 14:11; 18:14).

Monday, March 5, 2012

It is much harder to judge yourself than to judge others

This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people. - C. S. Lewis

Gospel text (Lk 6:36-38):
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

"Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you."

“Be merciful as your Father is merciful,” captures the essence of our relationship with others and with God. The “measuring stick” of our mercy is how we treat each other.

The Lord commands us not to judge or condemn others. However, that does not mean we should not recognize sins in our society and not address sinful behavior, which opposes the Natural Law and the Ten Commandments. The Catholic Church addresses such behavior so it will cease in our society and in those we love who are in our lives. Then we should leave the judging and sentencing up to God.

For example, if you know a person is committing the sin of adultery, you should love the person enough to talk to them about repenting of it (see Ez 3:17ff; 33:7ff). If this doesn't help free the person, you should talk to anyone with authority over the person, such as a parent or priest. Hopefully, this will stop the person from further sinful, self-destructive acts. Then we should leave it in God's hands. He alone is the Judge and the One with the authority to sentence unrepentant sinners. Our task as good Catholics is simply to warn, intercede for, teach, and serve all those we come in contact with.

Not judging or condemning does not mean doing nothing, being passive, or being permissive. Rather, we must bring back those straying from the Truth (Jas 5:19-20).

Do you love people enough to give them only the best, that is, the truth and light of God's word? If you truly want to understand much more of God's word, you can. Receive God's word "not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God at work within you who believe" (1 Thes 2:13).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

“Spend time every day listening to what your muse is trying to tell you”

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Mc 9,2-10):
Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
"Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.

I remember not listening seriously to my father when I was a young boy, but then I saw him at his place of employment. My Dad was a barber in Belleville New Jersey for 37 years. I had never seen him in these circumstances. He was clearly a man of God, of faith, and of courage. He was transfigured in my eyes. I had never seen my dad in that way. From that point on, I listened to him as I had never done before.

Today the status quo in the United States of America does not take Jesus seriously. We seem unaware of His divinity. We don't listen to Him, His Word, and His Church. To listen to Him, we must see Jesus new and transfigured to break out of the rut of disobedience. We need to experience Jesus in a completely new way so we will listen to Him in a completely new way.

"Listen to Him" (Mk 9:7).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

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

"Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor... Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting."--Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Mt 5,43-48):
Jesus said to his disciples:
"You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Today's Gospel exhorts us to the most perfect love. Love is wanting to do good to others, and here lies our personal fulfillment.

Life in our world has many sorts of enmity. Enmities between a husband and wife on the brink of divorce, bullies and their victims, a person betrayed by a friend, or a child abused by a parent. Enmities between nations at war or adversaries in civil war. Between cheaters and cheated, criminals and victims. Among the wealthy and among the poor, and between rich and poor. Whatever the sort, only two options occur to me as possible for those embroiled in enmity. Let it be, or deal with it. There really isn't any "in between."

Letting an enmity be will likely make it worse. Recrimination will increase. Old hurts will get bruised and new ones will be perpetrated. Grudges and resentments will fester. Violence and bloodshed may even happen. And all this will occur for the enemies on both sides of a divide.

Dealing with the enmity requires both parties to turn their faces to one another and listen. Each needs to acknowledge to the other their own responsibility for the division, and to forgive the hurt and misunderstanding the other has caused -- more or less in that order. When all this takes root -- on both sides -- genuine reconciliation, which consists of deep down mutual forgiveness, becomes a real possibility. But sometimes it will occur only with the grace of God. If that is the case, then both sides will benefit from praying for the grace to reconcile.

For reconciliation to stick, the process needs to grow towards mutual love. This is more than mutual tolerance or respect. Love, in a situation where reconciliation has begun and is maturing will consist of not just words but especially in deeds: public acknowledgement of the dignity and goodness of the other (praise), revering the other in their dignity and goodness, and supporting the other by helping them to heal, reconstruct damaged relationships, and otherwise serving them.

Loving enemies is shocking, prophetic, and evangelistic. When we truly love our enemies, Jesus' death on the cross becomes luminous. When we love our enemies, countless knees bend and tongues proclaim: "Jesus Christ is Lord!" (Phil 2:10-11) By God's grace, love your enemies!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Its not how you start that counts - its how you finish - Let us begin!

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

Ezekiel 18:21-28
Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way
that he may live?

And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because he has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, he shall die.
You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!"
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

"All's well that ends well."

Because our ending is all-important, some people wait until the end to convert to Christ and live in His ways. This is a serious mistake.

The Lord wants to forget your sins through the sacrament of reconciliation, and He wants you to forget them too. Your memories will no longer sadden, confuse, or torture you. The memory of His forgiveness will wipe away the memory of your sins.

Reconciliation begins with experiencing sorrow and asking for forgiveness. Saying, "I'm sorry, please forgive me," is a wonderful breakthrough moment. However, there is much deep, rich reflection and personal conversion that can, and perhaps must, accompany this level of reconciliation. Why did I do what I did? What was I choosing, reacting to, or making a point about? In what part of this conflict was I being selfish, stubborn, wanting it my way? What part involved a call to surrender, let go, or compromise? Is some part of this fight a "cover-up" for some real sin on my part? Am I being dishonest in this relationship, in some way? Was my anger really about something else? Did it come out of an insecurity, a tender spot, a vulnerable place because of past hurts? Is some part of this fight revealing a need for healing in me, a need for me to turn to the Lord for forgiveness and mercy?

Always remember, the "good thief" lived a miserable life, but ended well and was in paradise with Jesus on the day they both died (Lk 23:43).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties

We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.--St. Ignatius of Loyola

Gospel text (Mt 7:7-12):
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets."

Today, Jesus reminds us of the need and power of prayer. We cannot understand our Christian life without being related to God, and in this relation, prayer takes a central place. While we live in this world, we Christians find ourselves on a pilgrimage road, but our prayer gets us closer to God and opens up the door of His immense love.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that "ask and it will be given to you." To my youthful ears this made it seem as though God were the ultimate giver of presents. New bike? Just ask. Those really cool tennis shoes? Right there on request.

Of course, this happy view bumps up against the messy realities of life. For when our prayers seemingly go unanswered we sometimes fail to see God's concern for us, or may even feel God does not love us. About two years ago my aunt was ill with cancer. To say that I "asked" God to heal her would be a monumental understatement. I prayed, begged and lit candles, but God decided to take her. Any believer who has undergone a family tragedy has certainly had a similar experience.

So how do we reconcile this reality with the Gospel?

I think a lot of it has to do with what is really meant by "ask." In an important way, we don't really know what we are asking for. Really about all we have the capacity to ask for is to be accepted as children of God. And God does accept us as His own despite our sins, failings and shortcomings.

All we have to do is ask