Sunday, April 29, 2012

A careless shepherd makes an excellent dinner for the wolf

If you took the love of all the best mothers and fathers who ever lived (think about that for a moment)--all the goodness, kindness, patience, fidelity, wisdom, tenderness, strength and love--and united all those virtues in one person, that person would only be a faint shadow of the love and mercy in the heart of God for you and me.

Gospel text (Jn 10,11-18): Jesus said:
"I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father."

Today, let us take time to remember that God ultimately loves us, no matter what happens in our lives. We may feel like we don’t deserve it but God promises us that he is always watching over us, and he is always there guiding us throughout the good and the bad.

But how do we know?

Well it’s a promise, and it’s a promise that Christ does not break. He calls us his “sheep” and he is our “shepherd.” And just as a shepherd provides shelter and comfort to his flock, the flock knows the shepherd by his call, his voice and his presence. We are his children, his beloved family, and we have forever received his grace and love by no means of our own. We were created in his image, so today let us remember that God loves us, no matter what.

Friday, April 27, 2012

You change your life by changing your heart.”

“Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.”

(Scripture Text Acts 9:1-20)
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
He said, "Who are you, sir?"
The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do."
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias."
He answered, "Here I am, Lord."
The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight."
But Ananias replied,
"Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name."
But the Lord said to him,
"Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name."
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
"Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.

Have you ever felt that any individual or group is beyond God's power to change? Do you feel trapped in a situation that appears to have no way out? Is your hope fading?

"Fix your eyes on Jesus" (Heb 3:1) and renew your hope in Him. The Lord is a God of wonders. "Nothing is more apt to confirm our faith and hope than holding it fixed in our minds that nothing is impossible with God" (Catechism, 274). Today's reading proclaim that His ways are incredibly far above our ways (Is 55:8-9). There is always hope, and "this hope will not leave us disappointed" (Rm 5:5). "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor 2:9).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you?

"From the Eucharist comes strength to live the Christian life and zeal to share that life with others," - Pope John Paul II

Gospel text (Jn 6,44-51):
Jesus said to the crowds:
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world."

Do you really believe you receive Jesus' body and blood, soul and divinity, when you receive Communion? If so, Holy Communion should be the center of your life. The question then remains, “Is it“?

"All expressions of love, even the highest and the most profound, are verified in the Eucharist. Thus, it is a Love that is crucified, a Love that unites, a Love that adores, a Love that contemplates, a Love that prays, a Love that delightfully satisfies,"

Open your eyes to recognize the risen Christ (Lk 24:30-31). Receive Communion!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”

God walks with sincere men, reveals Himself to humble men, enlightens the understanding of pure minds, and hides His grace from the curious and the proud. - Thomas À Kempis

Scripture text (1 Peter 5:5-14):
Clothe yourselves with humility
in your dealings with one another, for:

God opposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble.

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that he may exalt you in due time.
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

Be sober and vigilant.
Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith,
knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world
undergo the same sufferings.
The God of all grace
who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you
after you have suffered a little.
To him be dominion forever. Amen.

I write you this briefly through Silvanus,
whom I consider a faithful brother,
exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God.
Remain firm in it.
The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.
Greet one another with a loving kiss.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

What words or phrases stand out to you? Here is what stood out for me: Humility

“The proud person is like a grain of wheat thrown into water: it swells, it gets big. Expose that grain to the fire: it dries up, it burns. The humble soul is like a grain of wheat thrown into the earth: it descends, it hides itself, it disappears, it dies; but to revive in heaven.

Be Humble.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The body has its bread. Shall not the soul have its food too?

When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now," - Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Jn 6,30-35):
The crowd said to Jesus:
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat."

So Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world."

So they said to Jesus,
"Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

"This is the wonderful truth, my dear friends: the Word, which became flesh two thousand years ago, is present today in the Eucharist,"

Not by bread alone does man live.

Monday, April 23, 2012

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 (Jn 6,22-29):
[After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea.]
The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea
saw that there had been only one boat there,
and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat,
but only his disciples had left.
Other boats came from Tiberias
near the place where they had eaten the bread
when the Lord gave thanks.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
"Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Jesus answered them and said,
"Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal."
So they said to him,
"What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

On a good day we usually watch out for our physical health. We wash our hands and take out the garbage. We try not to eat bad food. For those very reasons I really love the reminder which Jesus offers us today: "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." (Jn 6:27)

Have we been working for, looking for, trying to get by on, food that perishes? Is the stuff we as a society been trying to survive with actually not what we need to live? Might it be starving us? Even toxic?

Jesus is certainly the Bread of life. Those who come to Him will never be hungry, and those who believe in Him shall not thirst again (Jn 6:35). Jesus loves to provide for us (see 1 Tm 6:6). Paradoxically, in the Christian life, we are filled when we focus on emptying ourselves (see Phil 2:7). We are fulfilled when we deny ourselves (Lk 9:23). We are fed when we forget about ourselves and feed others.

Jesus asked His first disciples this question: "What are you looking for?" (Jn 1:38) By your life, how are you answering Jesus' question?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

“Nowhere on earth are we more welcomed or loved than by Jesus in Eucharist”

"The longer you stay away from Communion, the more your soul will become weak, and in the end you will become dangerously indifferent." - St. John Bosco

Gospel text (Lk 24,35-48):
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things."

In today’s Gospel, when Jesus comes in his glorified body to where the Apostles are gathered, they think he is a ghost. However, after they realize that this truly is Jesus, they are “incredulous with joy.” Incredulous. Why is it that, so often, we are not incredulous with joy every time we encounter Jesus in the Eucharist?

Without the Resurrection, our faith is invalid. Without the Resurrection, Jesus was simply someone, perhaps a great prophet, who preached very well and worked miracles, but then just died. He was simply a man who had 12 followers who were also martyred for a lie.

The Resurrection is the pinnacle of our faith, where we see why Jesus was born and why he died: to bring life. The fact that Jesus intends to raise us from the dead has mammoth ramifications for us — not only after our deaths, but also in our daily lives. We need no longer be slaves through the fear of death (Heb 2:15). We can live radically free and unselfish lives of love.

Let us pray today that we can see the risen Jesus in everyone we encounter and we may become “incredulous with joy” every time we receive the Eucharist.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out ...

An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded.  – Pope John Paul 2

Gospel text (Jn 6,16-21):
When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea,
embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum.
It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.
When they had rowed about three or four miles,
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat,
and they began to be afraid.
But he said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid."
They wanted to take him into the boat,
but the boat immediately arrived at the shore
to which they were heading.

It can be easy to be fearful – to close oneself off from others and differences. I believe change cannot occur by doing the ordinary, comfortable tasks of daily life. We only grow in our personal lives, social lives, and faith if we venture beyond what is comfortable. God has given each one of us a passion in life: there is some task that we excel at – some task, which we must complete to leave the world a better place than we found it. To discover our passion, and act upon it, we must continually step into the frightening unknown.
The disciples’ purpose was to welcome the Risen Lord into their “boat”. Fear got in their way and they arrived at the shore before being able to welcome him.  We cannot let fear be an excuse. We must take a step outside of our comfort zone. Windows of opportunity are only open for a short period of time. If we let our fear intimidate us and keep us from trying something new, we may never ignite the passion we have been given. True growth requires work. We must step into our fear to learn our purpose.
A secular quote illustrates the pointlessness of fear of new experiences:
“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.” – George E. Woodbury
Life is a sea voyage in a storm. Of ourselves, we will struggle, become frustrated, and at times be afraid.. With Christ in us and we in Him, our burdens are light (Mt 11:30), our peace is beyond understanding (Phil 4:7; see also Jn 14:27), and we are secure and free forever.

We can never reach the top if we don’t try. Be not afraid.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Miracles are natural. When they do not occur something has gone wrong

“Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.” Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Jn 6,1-15):
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
"Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little."
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?"
Jesus said, "Have the people recline."
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
"Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted."
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
"This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Today’s gospel is one of the several “multiplication” stories found in the four accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Each one of them reminds us of the abundance of God’s love for us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus invited one of the disciples, Philip, to consider the whole event, “where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” It can’t be done, Philip answers! Then Jesus moves into action.

In miracle stories like this and in our everyday life, Jesus plans to test us. He will present us with humanly impossible situations (see Jn 6:5) to see whether we will walk by faith or by sight (2 Cor 5:7). He will test us to see whether we will judge by God's standards or by men's (1 Sm 16:7; Mt 16:23). We may even be tested by persecution.

Let us meditate for a moment on and pray about the following quotation from the Roman Catechism: "Nothing is more apt to confirm our faith and hope than holding it fixed in our minds that nothing is impossible with God. Once our reason has grasped the idea of God's almighty power, it will easily and without any hesitation admit everything that [the Creed] will afterwards propose for us to believe — even if they be great and marvelous things, far above the ordinary laws of nature" (Catechism, 274).

Our temptation is, like Phillip, to be jostled around by the problem and not to move towards its solution. We pass our “tests” not only by God's grace at the moment of testing, but also by God's graces, received hours, days, and years before the tests. Let us not wait. He can give us more than we could ever imagine; all we need to do is trust.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

“God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please - you can never have both“

We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. - Pope Benedict 16

(Acts 5:27-33)
When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
"We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man's blood upon us."
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
"We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."

When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

Where in your life are there situations where you must obey God rather than men? Are we nullifying God's Word in favor of man's laws? (see Mk 7:13) Peter and John told the Sanhedrin: "Better for us to obey God than men!" (Acts 5:29) This meant: "Better for us to teach about Jesus' name than be intimidated by your threats" (see Acts 5:28).

Does our current society, which is overwhelming Christian feel the same way?

Our decision to pursue God’s will for our lives will likely lead to two temporary consequences: criticism and self-doubt. Just as the Apostles in our reading today infuriated the Sanhedrin, so too our standing up for God will probably incite mockery and condescension. The key is to remember how little other peoples’ opinions matter. Our life choices are not an attempt to please them, rather to be pleasing in God’s eyes. Secondly, most of us doubt to some degree that we have the eloquence to talk about our faith. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. Have no fear, for the Gospel assures us that God “does not ration his gift of the Spirit” (John 3:34).

In our society, church, businesses, schools, and families, we are being defeated because we have too many people who are silent and afraid. To stand up for life, stop injustices, proclaim the truth, restore families, and bring down the culture of death, we need "chickens" to be changed into "lions."

The secular world gives each of us a set of norms and expectations. It’s what we do with those “instructions” that matters. So many of these ideas are starkly contrary to what Jesus and our Church teach. This presents us with the challenge of deciding, on a daily basis, whose values we will espouse.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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

“An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out?”

Gospel text (Jn 3,16-21):
Jesus said to Nicodemus, «Yes, God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God. This is how the Judgment is made: Light has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For whoever does wrong hates the light and doesn't come to the light for fear that his deeds will be shown as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God».

Darkness is the absence of light. You can make a dark room light by turning on a flashlight. However, you can't make a light room dark by turning on a "flashdark." By definition, no one can invent a machine that shines darkness which overpowers light. You can only make a room dark by extinguishing the source of the light.

“God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” – John 3:16

This is arguably the most famous sentence in the Bible. I’ve seen thousands of bumper stickers and even signs in certain store windows that read “John 3:16.” But why is this specific quote so popular? I think this verse gives us a summary of the absolute perfect and greatest gift we as believers have received –the gift of Jesus. God sent his only Son to suffer and die. Whether we’ve seen this in our own lives or have watched it from a distance, a parent watching his or her child die or go through suffering is heartbreaking and painful. Jesus did not die for a certain group of people, but for all of humanity, for all of us sinners. God deemed that we were important enough to him that he was willing to lose his son to save our lives. The gift of Jesus is truly a remarkable gift.

Today’s Gospel also reflects on the symbols of light and darkness; the light stands for good while darkness stands for evil. Jesus is the light of world and the Gospel calls us to “come to the light” so that our “works may be clearly seen as done in God.”

Although God is there to guide us to live and love with him, it is certainly difficult to remain in a place of light especially since the world around us is oftentimes a place of darkness. It is our challenge as people of faith to let God help us live in the light and to remove obstacles of darkness from our lives so that we may remain in that light. We do that by our active participation in the spiritual life (frequent reception of the sacraments and a strong prayer life). Our “yes” makes a difference both in our lives and in the lives of others. Our “no” to God, not letting him work in our lives, whether we realize it or not helps spread the darkness in our world of today.

Be a light, plug into the source, God our loving Father!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

“There is no delight in owning anything unshared.”

You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me... - Mother Teresa

Acts 4:32-37
The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the Apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the Apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

Thus Joseph, also named by the Apostles Barnabas
(which is translated Ason of encouragement"),
a Levite, a Cypriot by birth,
sold a piece of property that he owned,
then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles.

Go back and re-read the above verse. Then close your eyes for a moment and picture the lifestyle of the early Christians. Our ancestors in faith "were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common" (Acts 4:32). "Nor was there anyone needy among them, for all who owned property or houses sold them and donated the proceeds. They used to lay them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to everyone according to his need" (Acts 4:34-35). This is the lifestyle in faith we inherited from the early Christians.

You might say it's impossible to live a lifestyle like that in today's world. You would be correct. To live like the early Christians, you'd need to "be begotten from above" (Jn 3:7). You'd have to daily live the "radical newness of the Christian life that comes from Baptism" (Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People, 10). You would need to have a moment by moment, unfailing trust in the constant providence of your heavenly Father to provide everything you need (Mt 6:8, 11).

Does this lifestyle of faith resemble yours?

If we listed each of our possessions, we could probably manage to justify to ourselves a reason for owning each item. However, could we justify it to the poor, who need our help now? Could we justify ourselves to the early Christians?

Can we justify our lifestyle to Jesus?

Monday, April 16, 2012

How do we know if we have a servant’s heart? By how we act when we are treated like one!

Responsorial Psalm Ps 2:1-3, 4-7a, 7b-9
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples utter folly?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the princes conspire together
against the LORD and against his anointed:
"Let us break their fetters
and cast their bonds from us!"

R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
He who is throned in heaven laughs;
the LORD derides them.
Then in anger he speaks to them;
he terrifies them in his wrath:
"I myself have set up my king
on Zion, my holy mountain."
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD.

R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
The LORD said to me, "You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations for an inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
You shall rule them with an iron rod;
you shall shatter them like an earthen dish."
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.

April 16th - Feast Day of St. Benedict Joseph Labre:
This French saint, born in 1748, led a most unusual life. He was the son of a store owner and was taught by his uncle, a priest. When the good priest died, Benedict tried to enter a monastery. However, he was told he was too young. Then he contacted another order of monks. He loved the life of prayer and penance. But when he joined them, Benedict became thin and frail. It was suggested that he return home to lead a good Christian life. He went home and slowly gained back his health. He prayed for God's help. Then he felt he was given an answer. He would become a pilgrim, a person on a holy journey of prayer and penance. As a pilgrim, he would travel to the famous shrines of Europe.

Benedict began his journey on foot. He visited one church after another. He wore a plain cloth robe, a crucifix over his heart and a rosary around his neck. He slept on the bare ground. The only food he had was what kind people gave him. If they gave him money, he passed it on to the poor. His "suitcase" was a sack. In it he carried the Gospel, as well as medals and holy books to give to others. St. Benedict paid no attention to the beautiful sights in the cities he visited. His only interest was in the churches where Jesus dwelt in the Blessed Sacrament.

As the years passed, St. Benedict looked more and more like a beggar. He was ragged and dirty. He ate crusts of bread and potato peels. He never asked for anything that would make his life more comfortable. In some places, children threw stones at him and called him names. People who didn't know him tended to avoid him. But when St. Benedict knelt in front of the tabernacle, he became as still as a statue. His pale, tired face glowed.

He died in 1783 at the age of thirty-five. The fame of this poor holy man spread far and wide. His journey had ended. The pilgrimage was over and he would be with Jesus and Mary forever. A century after his death, St. Benedict Joseph Labre was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.

Reflection: “The smallest things become great when God requires them of us; they are small only in themselves; they are always great when they are done for God.”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mercy is a good thing, for it leads men to perfection

"Divine Mercy is the light for the way forward for the people of the third millennium."- Pope John Paul 2

Gospel text (Jn 20,19-31):
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."
But he said to them,
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

If we are honest with ourselves, we may admit that we're like doubting Thomas. Most of us also doubt. We must admit it and be delivered from doubt because it ruins everything. For example, if you have the slightest doubt your spouse is not faithful to you, that doubt can ruin your marriage. If doubt casts its shadow over your prayer, even Mass and Holy Communion will be something "to get over with." Doubt is a killer. We must deal with it before it ruins us.

In our world today, beliefs are expected to be based on proof. If one can’t prove something beyond a doubt to be true, then we cannot accept it as fact. We can seem ignorant or stupid if we believe something to be true through blind faith. So what Thomas does in the Gospel today doesn’t seem unfamiliar to us; to want to see something with our own eyes before we believe it to be true has been engrained in us.

And yet, to have faith in God and in other people is what God is calling us to do. We aren’t going to be able to reach out and put our hand into Jesus’ side to know he is truly alive again. We are going to have to rely on what others tell us and what God reveals to us. We may not feel that he’s always there, but he never leaves our side. He watches out for us and cares for us, and his love never ceases. This fact is hard to believe sometimes in a world where anything not based on scientific fact is thought to be fiction. I need to remember that deep in my heart lies something more powerful than anything that can be proven in this life. Sometimes, we don’t need all the answers.

All we need is our faith in God.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

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

Gospel text (Mk 16,9-15):
When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, "Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."

In the Gospel today, Jesus’ apostles struggle to believe that Jesus has truly risen. In fact, throughout all Gospel stories of Jesus’ resurrection and the events directly following, the apostles express disbelief and a lack of faith. They are not alone. Many people doubt God, His Church, and His Word, while believing the fiction, fantasy, and manipulation in the media. Many are so naive that they believe what a politician or TV commercial says, while not even bothering to know the everlasting, time-tested truth of God's Word.

If we only would lose our trust in our own self-sufficiency! If we were only more stubborn against and disbelieving of what should be rejected and resisted! If we were only like putty in God's hand (Is 64:7) and like "a pillar of iron, a wall of brass" (Jer 1:18) against the strongholds, proud pretensions, and sophistries of the world! (2 Cor 10:4-5)

The world and the culture we live in will try to force us to comply. We'll have to obey someone. Will it be God or the pressures of the world?

Jesus could have easily given up on the apostles, but he didn’t. He expresses frustration at their disbelief, but gives them another try.

Likewise, Jesus never gives up on us but just like any opportunity offered us here on earth, God’s invitation calls for a response. How we respond to that invitation will not only define who we are in the here and now but where we will spend eternity. Answer Jesus’ call today, do not put it off. You don’t know if there will be another tomorrow, but we do know for sure that we have today. Let us begin.

Friday, April 13, 2012

“No man commands safely unless he has learned well how to obey.”

Don't give in to discouragement....... If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people's opinions. Be obedient to truth. For with humble obedience, you will never be disturbed.-- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Jn 21,1-14):
Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee's sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing."
They said to him, "We also will come with you."
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?"
They answered him, "No."
So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something."
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you just caught."
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast."
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?"
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

That night they caught nothing!

When the disciples tell Jesus they have no fish, He just points out where they are to throw their nets. And, even though fishermen seem to know all the answers and they had spent the night to no avail, they obey him. «O the power of the obedience.

The lake of Tiberias was refusing its fish to Peter's nets. An entire night in vain. — But now, obedient, he returns the net to the water and they caught a full load of fish. — Believe me, the miracle repeats itself daily (Saint Josemaria).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

“Doubt is an incentive to truth, and patient inquiry leadeth the way”

It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey. --Soren Kierkegaard

Gospel text (Lk 24,35-48):
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things."

When the apostles saw the risen Christ on the evening of His Resurrection, "they thought they were seeing a ghost" (Lk 24:37). Jesus tried to prove He was real by showing them His hands and feet, inviting them to touch Him, and eating a piece of fish (Lk 24:39-43). Nonetheless, the risen Christ didn't seem real enough to cause them to overcome their fears and change their lives.

We too have difficulties getting in touch with the reality of the risen Christ because in many ways our society does not like to face reality. For instance, millions deny the reality that pregnant women have babies in their wombs. They choose to pretend the baby is not a human being. Our current culture seems to be one long series of attempts to escape from reality by using excessive alcohol, drugs, TV, i-pods, pornography, promiscuity, video games, computer games, mind-games, etc. We even have entertainment called "virtual reality," whereby one can create their own "reality." Denial, in the psychological sense of the word, permeates our society. We deny the existence of objective truth, sin, and responsibility for our actions. Many pretend that they'll live forever and never face God, who will hold us accountable for all of our words and actions.

In a world so out of touch with reality, it's understandable that the risen Christ may seem a ghost. The risen Jesus is definitely real, but are we? Have we consigned ourselves to a ghostly existence of selfishness, self-deception, and sin? When our culture "gets real," then maybe the status quo will find out that Jesus has always been real.

Our faith is "the substance of things hoped for" (Heb 11:1); it does not believe in ghosts. Keep your eyes open! Jesus' resurrection must not be for us a ghostly abstraction from the past, but the very flesh and bones of our everyday life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion."

If I can give you any advice, I beg you to get closer to the Eucharist and to Jesus... We must pray to Jesus to give us that tenderness of the Eucharist.-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Lk 24,13-35):
That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus' disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
"What are you discussing as you walk along?"
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
"Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?"
And he replied to them, "What sort of things?"
They said to him,
"The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see."
And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?"
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, "Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over."
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
"Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?"
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
"The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus appears to two disciples walking along on the road to Emmaus. These two men, filled with grief, did not recognize “that stranger”, who was in fact Jesus now resurrected. The question one must ask themselves is, “Why did they not recognize him?”

Jesus certainly appears to us today in mysterious ways, and he does so both outside and inside of ourselves. When he appears outside of ourselves, one of the places we find him is in other people. Jesus appears subtly, sometimes in the form of a smile or a kind word or action. When Jesus appears inside of us, there is an immediate comfort, deep peace, a sensation of love, a feeling of exuberant joy, from which we can finally become one of those through whom others recognize Christ. Do you aspire to be that kind of person daily?

In our gospel story today, the disciples at Emmaus "recognized Him" in the breaking of the bread, that is, in the Eucharist (Lk 24:31, 35). In the Eucharist, "their eyes were opened and they recognized Him" (Lk 24:31). By their open eyes of faith, they knew He was always with them (Mt 28:20).

Scripture tells us, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). This passage is a useful guide to all of us, in the long personal journey of continuous “searching for God” in all things. Just as we can not see when something is in our “physical eyes“, the same is true for our “spiritual eyes”. When we do not strive to have a clean heart, we will never be able to see God in our every day life and in those around us.

Allow God to purify your heart through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Then you will recognize the risen Christ (see Lk 24:31).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you."

Prayer is to our soul what rain is to the soil. Fertilize the soil ever so richly, it will remain barren unless fed by frequent rains." - Saint John Marie Vianney

Gospel text (Jn 20,11-18):
Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
She said to them, "They have taken my Lord,
and I don't know where they laid him."
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?"
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
"Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary!"
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni,"
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
'I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'"
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
"I have seen the Lord,"
and then reported what he had told her.

I find it very easy to identify with Mary because she is so human. She is very emotional and she vigorously reacts to events that stir her emotions. This Gospel passage from John is one that clearly demonstrates how prayers can be answered. Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus, the man she had seen crucified. We can assume that she had been praying that he would return to be with the disciples and continue his teaching. However, when she arrived at the tomb his body was gone. She initially thought that somebody had stolen his body. When the risen Jesus initially revealed himself to her, she did not recognize him. This is because she, like most of us, was unable to see the world through the eyes of God. She was only looking at Christ from her worldly eyes, and therefore was unable to recognize the beauty of God that stood before her. Not until Christ unveiled her eyes did she recognize that her prayers had indeed been answered. This is a common experience with us when we receive the answers to our prayers.

Often when I pray and it does not come to pass exactly as I had asked, I believe that my prayers were not heard. Looking back at some of the prayers that I thought God had ignored, I am thankful they were answered as they were. At the time I thought I knew the best answer, but if I were able to look at my life as Christ does, I would be able to see that he truly does have a plan for my life. Just as when Mary looked directly at Jesus, but did not recognize him, sometimes we are looking at the answer to our prayers, but we do not recognize it because it comes in a different vehicle than we were expecting. If we are able to change our perspective and view the world from God’s eyes, we would see that God answers our prayers in the best manner possible. I have found that my plan can interfere with God’s plan, and when I recognize that Christ knows best, I have found that my prayers are answered more often than I originally anticipated.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A holy life has a voice

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

Gospel text (Mt 28,8-15):
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me."

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, "You are to say,
'His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.'
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble."
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.

In Matthew's Gospel, the first commands Jesus gives to the first people who saw Him after His resurrection are: "Do not be afraid! Go and carry the news" of My resurrection (Mt 28:10).

Satan purchased at a bargain price Judas' lying kiss by which Judas handed God over for crucifixion (Mt 26:14-15). Satan also bought a whole pack of lies from the soldiers at Jesus' tomb. They pocketed the money and then lied about Jesus' resurrection (Mt 28:15). Throughout history, Satan keeps buying lies and marching out his legions to deny Jesus' resurrection. Isn't that what we see in our "culture of death"?

However, there have always been a few people who won't be bought — people who will witness for the risen Christ at any cost.

What's your price? Can you be bought?

Jesus tells us: "You are to be My witnesses" (Acts 1:8). "Do not be afraid. Go on speaking and do not be silenced" (Acts 18:9).

Live your Confirmation and live Easter!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there.”

The great gift of Easter is hope - Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake. - Basil C. Hume

(Gospel Text John 20:1-9)
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
"They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don't know where they put him."
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead

Happy Easter! The stone is rolled away! The tomb is empty! "Jesus Christ is risen. Sound the trumpet of salvation" (the Exultet).

The Gospel says that «finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed» (Jn 20:8). While John was waiting at Jesus' tomb for Peter to arrive, the Bible says he "bent down to peer in" (Jn 20:5). This is not a trivial detail; it indicates the spiritual posture of those who believe in the risen Jesus. If we are truly to believe in Him, we must bend down, humble ourselves, and embrace the feet of the risen Jesus (Mt 28:9; see also Jn 20:17). Only those who humble themselves will be exalted by faith in the risen Christ (see Mt 23:12; Phil 2:8-9). No one goes up with the risen Lord except the one who has gone down and "bent down" in humility (see Jn 3:13).

It can be intimidating to walk in and encounter the reality of the risen Christ in an empty tomb, or a homeless shelter. If nothing else, it goes against everything we have been taught. But the fact is that Jesus has risen and walks in our midst, and fear, anxiety, jealousy, and material desire will only make us cling to the safety of the things we know.

In order to live, to truly live, we have to be willing to encounter the living, loving God in every place and be prepared to be surprised by what God leads to.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Silence is medication for sorrow

Do not, I beseech you be troubled by the increase of forces already in dissolution. You have mistake the hour of the night: it is already morning. --G.K. Chesterson

Yesterday, there was no Mass anywhere in the world; however, we were able to receive Holy Communion. During the day today, there is no Mass or Communion on this planet earth. We are identifying with the burial of Jesus by being deprived of His Eucharistic presence. The primary presence of Jesus in the world on Holy Saturday is not the Word-made-Flesh in Communion (see Jn 1:14), but simply the Word.

This day, more than any other during our year, is the forefront of the clash of belief and unbelief. Today, modern day atheism writes books claiming “God is not great” and “God is a delusion;” it claims “God is dead.” Such claims are centered around the age-old argument: how can an all-loving, all-powerful God allow such evil and despair in our world? It is on this sorrowful day where this question is ultimately resolved with utter awe and glory.

Today is also the day to be by Mary, his mother. We have to stay by her to be able to understand a little of the significance of this tomb we are watching over. She, who with loving tenderness was keeping in her motherly heart those mysteries she did not quite understand is now sad and hurt: «He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him» (Jn 1:11). It is also the sadness of the other mother, the Holy Church, that suffers the rejection of so many men and women that have not sheltered Him, who was Light and Life for them.

Today, while praying together with these two mothers, Christ followers ponder and repeat the antiphon of the prayer of Laudes: «He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name» (cf. Phil 2:8-9).

We mourn today with great hope.

“This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave. Tonight, be not unbelieving, but believe. Allow the gift of his life, death, and resurrection to be your purpose and endurance.

"O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Rejoice! He is risen! Alleluia!

Friday, April 6, 2012

"It has been the cross which has revealed to good men that their goodness has not been good enough."

“The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift, and, if necessary, at the greatest cost, 
to the least deserving. That’s what God did.”

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

In the days when Christ was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Most of the people who participated in Jesus' crucifixion did not hate Him but more importantly, they just didn't love Him. A decision not to love Christ with all our hearts becomes in effect a decision to continue His crucifixion. Each of us has been given the power to crucify Jesus by our sins and our contempt (Catechism, 598; Heb 6:6). We can block Jesus from using our lives for God's glory and defeat God's plan for our lives (Lk 7:30). Or we can allow Him to have full control. We can let Jesus go free and use us in a mighty, earth-shaking way to help build His kingdom on earth.

How will we use the power Jesus Christ gives us?

Because of a fallen human nature, human beings naturally and frequently deceive themselves. The Lord makes clear: "More deceitful than all else is the human heart, who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9) We tend to deceive ourselves about our lukewarmness.

This combination of lukewarmness and self-deception is so dangerous. God became a human being, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and gave His disciples a new nature through baptism to save us from being doomed in our old, selfish nature. We on the other hand must actively nourish this new nature given to us through the Sacrament of Baptism by receiving the Eucharist frequently, going to Confession frequently, and maintaining an active daily prayer life. Without those actions on our part, we will most assuredly fall into a lukewarm state. Remember what our Blessed Lord said about being lukewarm, “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Rev 3:16).

The crowd of the culture of death stands before you, howling for you to "crucify Him" (Jn 19:6) today as it did 2000 years ago. Jesus stands before you too, staring at you with love in each and every decision you make daily. We all know what happened in the year 33AD, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified" (Jn 19:16).

What will you decide?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

“He stands erect by bending over the fallen. He rises by lifting others.”

Humility is the mother of all virtues…It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. - Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: Jn 13:1-15
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples' feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
"Master, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered and said to him,
"What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later."
Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet."
Jesus answered him,
"Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me."
Simon Peter said to him,
"Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well."
Jesus said to him,
"Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all."
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, "Not all of you are clean."

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another's feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

Where are we in relation to this event?

Before we reflect on the act of Jesus washing his disciples feet, we must first examine his motivation behind this humble gesture – love. Jesus’s love for us has no limit of time or circumstances and no intermission (verse 1). “To the end” means more than “’til death do us part.” There is no limit to the love of Christ for His disciples. It began before the world was created and will continue throughout eternity. There is no circumstance that prevents Him from loving us. He loves us to the uttermost. His love is not on/off or up/down. It is constant, consistent, and continuous. Plainly spoken, He loved us all the way to the cross where He showed His love to us in that while we were still sinners against His holiness, He died for us.

I can remember back in 2007, while I was serving the poor in Calcutta, a man was brought into the home for the Dying and Destitute (Kalighat) that was emaciated and filthy. His skin, most especially on his limbs, was completely chapped from living on the street. The sisters asked me to rub oil on these limbs to give him comfort. When I approached the man, he indicated to me that he wanted me to rub the oil on his feet. For me to say that his feet were just “dirty” would be an understatement. Because of that, I was hesitant and the man could tell. He persisted to ask me to rub oil on his feet. So, finally I did. Once I placed my hands on his feet and massaged in the oil, the man started to weep in thanksgiving for my act of kindness. At that, I felt so guilty for not wanting to help this man, that I then wanted to weep myself.

Perhaps we all need to wash the filth of selfishness off of our own feet before we look around and find someone else whose feet we can wash. Christ, by His actions, made it very clear that He would not expect anything from us that He was not willing to do Himself.

When you receive Jesus' Eucharistic body and blood at Mass today, ask to receive His humility. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord (1 Pt 5:6). After all, Jesus has washed your feet.