Saturday, June 30, 2012

“Feed your faith and starve your doubts.”

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  - CS Lewis

(Gospel text: Mt 8:5-17)
When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
"Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully."
He said to him, "I will come and cure him."
The centurion said in reply,
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes;
and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes;
and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
"Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven,
but the children of the Kingdom
will be driven out into the outer darkness,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
And Jesus said to the centurion,
"You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you."
And at that very hour his servant was healed.

Jesus entered the house of Peter,
and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
He touched her hand, the fever left her,
and she rose and waited on him.

When it was evening, they brought him many
who were possessed by demons,
and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick,
to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:

He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.

We may wonder what impels Jesus to make this miracle. We so very often ask God to no avail, though we know He is always listening! So, what happens, then? We may think we ask properly, but are we sure we do it like the centurion did? His prayer is not selfish, but full of love, humility and confidence. St. Peter Crysologus says: «The power of love does not consider possibilities (...). Love does not discern nor ponders; love does not understand reasons. Love is not resignation before impossibility, nor does it get intimidated before difficulties». Is it like that, my prayer?

«I am not worthy to have you under my roof...» (Mt 8:8). It is the centurion's answer. Do you feel this way? Is your faith like this? «Only faith can explain this mystery. Faith is true knowledge, the principles of which are beyond rational demonstration; for faith makes real for us things beyond intellect and reason» (St. Maximus, confessor).

If your faith is such, then you are bound to hear too: «‘Go home now. As you believed, so let it be (...)’ And at that moment his servant was healed» (Mt 8:13).

Friday, June 29, 2012

"We have learned that suffering is not the worst thing in the world ... disobedience to God is the worst."

"Now I begin to be a disciple. Come fire and cross and grapplings with wild beasts, the rending of my bones and body ... only let it be mine to attain Jesus Christ."-- St Ignatius of Antioch

(Gospel Text: Mt 16:13-19)
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Today is the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.  Neither of them really got it initially.

St Peter fell asleep while Jesus was suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and then denied his knowledge and following of Christ three times; not exactly the most faithful friend.  St. Paul was so busy persecuting Christians, God had to knock him off his horse to get his attention.  Neither was a likely candidate for sainthood, but once they got it, they really got it.

The big lesson from today’s readings at the Mass is not so much what we “don’t get;” it is God’s willingness to rescue us in spite of our foul-ups.  Just like God rescued St. Peter and St. Paul, he is always looking out for us and willing to rescue us so that we also may take refuge in Him.

We can do more than we have ever asked or imagined (Eph 3:20). Jesus is the Gate (Jn 10:7). Turn the keys.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We usually know what we can do, but temptation shows us who we are

When tempted, invoke your Angel. he is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him: He trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel.--St. John Bosco

(Gospel Text Mt 7:21-29)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?'
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.'

"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined."

When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.

When I read today’s Gospel I immediately thought of the children’s story, “The Three Little Pigs.” I know it sounds crazy, comparing the bible to a children’s book, but stick with me!

Once upon a time there were three little pigs. One pig built his house out of straw and when the wolf blew on it, the home fell over. The next pig built his house out of sticks. It was stronger than the straw house, but it was still blown over by the wolf. The final pig built his house out of bricks. His house was strong and even though the wolf blew and blew, the house was not ruined.

We can draw an analogy where we are the little pig, the house is our faith and the wolf is sin. The first pig has weak faith and is easily tempted into sin – it didn’t take much for the house to collapse under the wolf’s breath. The second pig has a moderate faith. He could withstand some temptations but not others and his home ultimately collapsed. The final pig had a strong faith. No matter how much he was tempted, he did not given in. His faith was stronger than the temptations and therefore his house was not ruined.

Jesus calls for us to have a strong faith so that we can enter the kingdom of heaven. He tells us to build our houses on rock instead of sand because rock houses can survive winds and floods – just like what is shown in the story of the three little pigs where the rock house survived. A straw house doesn’t see any trouble in sunny days but life isn’t always sunny. We all encounter loss, struggles and temptation on a daily basis – things that would ruin straw homes/faiths. That’s why we need to build our house of faith out of strong materials so that when we encounter hard times our faith can withstand.

Today I think we are called to evaluate our faith. Is our faith made out of sand or straw or is it built of rocks? In a storm of temptation or struggle could our house of faith withstand?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

“If you wish to astonish the whole world, tell the simple truth.”

They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.- Plato

(Gospel text Mt 7:15-20)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them."

When I think of evil, images of Hitler or Joseph Stalin usually come to mind, and, indeed, both committed terrible crimes against humanity. I believe, though, there is an even greater evil among us, and that evil is the absence of God. We become attracted to many things that appear good at face value, but underneath are the ravenous wolves Christ warned us to be looking for. There is no greater evil in the modern world than moral relativism and desensitivity to the Truth. As John Paul II said, “We live in a culture of death.” Everywhere we turn, it seems, we find immorality, abominations against the human person, and violations of human dignity. Abortion and contraception are at the heart of some of the greatest problems facing our society, and the average age which children are being exposed to pornography is eleven. And yet so few seem to care.

We have become so desensitized to immorality that most people barely notice it. It seems that countless television commercials use immoral sexual references or examples to sell their products. It has become a part of our daily lives, yet it is, perhaps, the greatest sin of the modern world. We must stay on guard and look for the wolves, who prowl about in sheep’s clothing. We must be willing to stand up against such injustices and abominations and live for the Truth. We must strive to create a culture of life in which we will see the goodness of God reflected in the human body, not the degradation of humans to mere beasts.

The desire to love and to be loved has been written upon the hearts of all mankind, and it is a far deeper and more intimate desire than any similar one we possess. The world needs true, authentic love. We are called to bring this love to the world; to love our spouses, children, and families as Christ loves the Church, and like Christ, some today are called to literally lay their lives down out of love for the Church as priests and religious. We are called to embrace life, to love it, and to live fully in a common union with Christ. If we take this stand against the culture of death now, we will one day live to see life become victorious.