Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"The difficulty in life is the choice.”

“People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.”  - William Faulkner

 (Gospel text: Lk 13:22-30)
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
"Lord, will only a few people be saved?"
He answered them,
"Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
'Lord, open the door for us.'
He will say to you in reply,
'I do not know where you are from.'
And you will say,
'We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.'
Then he will say to you,
'I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!'
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last."


Rather than get overly anxious about these images, I choose to accept the message as a wakeup call: “Don’t become complacent. You have a lot of work to do. The race isn’t over.” I need this message sometimes. I want to believe I’ve done enough to merit heaven. But then I have to remember I cannot merit heaven. I can never do or pray enough to deserve heaven.

Ultimately we are talking about God’s grace, gift, unconditional love and forgiveness. I must not get complacent or feel entitled to salvation, but neither can I do enough to earn it. Some who might be last right now may end up in heaven long before me.

How do we do this?

Be that one who wakes up a few minutes early to begin your day with the Lord, amidst a crowd be courageous, and pray before your meal; take some time during the day to be in silence with the Lord, smile at whomever you meet along your path, pray for someone going through a hard time, spend time talking with a friend, call a family member and remind them how much you love them, thank God for the blessings in your life, go to confession regularly, received the Blessed Sacrament at the minimum weekly, do whatever it is God is calling YOU to do that day to serve God, and strive to be holy.

Face reality. Walk in the truth. Let Jesus forgive and save you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

“A few people of integrity can go a long way.”

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” - Mother Teresa
(Gospel Text: Lk 13:18-21)
Jesus said, "What is the Kingdom of God like?
To what can I compare it?
It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden.
When it was fully grown, it became a large bush
and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches."

Again he said, "To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?
It is like yeast that a woman took
and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch of dough was leavened."

In the gospel today, Jesus is revealing to us what the kingdom of God is like. It is something that begins rather small, it spreads and grows, infecting every part of the whole, and in the end draws others towards it.

The power to effect redemptive change in the world comes from the life of God within us. It is amazing how little leaven it takes to raise a loaf of bread. That is because within those little particles of yeast is found the power to ferment, to change the lump of wet dough into a loaf of aromatic, tasty, nourishing bread. However, the power contained within that yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the dough.

Once you work the leaven in, it is still hidden to the eye but how it transforms that loaf! So it is with Christians within human culture!

The power within us is the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead (See Romans 8:11)! All we are asked to do is to mix it up. We have to get in the loaf. We must be in the world - where Jesus is - in order to be used to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption.

We all must remember that leaven that is not used in time spoils and loses its capacity to ferment that dough; it must be active or it becomes useless.
That leaven must be in the dough to effect its extraordinary change. So it is with all of us. We must be "in the world" to effect its transformation. Once hidden in the loaf, leaven always raises the dough. It also takes human effort - it must be kneaded and worked into the loaf.

One person that truly lived this out was Mother Teresa. She was nothing special, but by allowing God’s love to take hold of her life, she was transformed and changed the lives of all those that met her. She said once, “We can do no great, things, only small things with great love.”
Like Mother Teresa and many other Catholics that came before her, we are called to live at the crossroads of the world, which the Church is a seed and sign. 

How can you share this small seed of love with others today?

Monday, October 29, 2012

“Miracles are what happens when you get out of the way of yourself.”

“In all the miracles of healing performed by Our Divine Savior, we must admire the remarkable goodness which caused Him to heal first the sickness of the soul, then that of the body. He teaches us the great lesson that we must first purify our consciences before turning to God for help in our earthly needs.” – St John Bosco

(Gospel Text: Lk 13:10-17)
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
"Woman, you are set free of your infirmity."
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the Sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
"There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the Sabbath day."
The Lord said to him in reply, "Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the Sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the Sabbath day
from this bondage?"
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

Our world is full of people like this bent woman. Some are struggling silently with a long-term illness or disability that has isolated them. Some are bowed down by grief or hopelessness. For others, it’s fear, a past hurt, or an unrepented sin that keeps them down. Perhaps you know someone like this, someone who needs to hear Jesus call to them as he called to that hunched, overlooked woman in the synagogue. Listen prayerfully for a moment, and if anyone comes to mind, ask the Holy Spirit if there is something you can do. Is there a practical service, a gentle prayer, or a word of encouragement you can offer?

Can you be a messenger of hope and healing to that person?

While you’re at it, know that Jesus wants to raise you up, too! Because even the holiest and healthiest among us are works in progress. We all have issues in our lives that still need healing and liberation. If you can identify any areas that need a little more work, bring them to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If not, just come into his presence, knowing that he is fully able to search out and straighten whatever needs to be unbent.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

Don’t get upset with your imperfections. Surrender to the Power of God’s Love, which is greater than our weakness. ~St. Francis De Sales

 (Gospel Text: Mk 10:46-52)
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
"Jesus, son of David, have pity on me."
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
"Son of David, have pity on me."
Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
"Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you."
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?"
The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see."
Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you."
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.

In Mark’s gospel today, Jesus restores sight to a blind man named Bartimaeus. On hearing that Jesus is coming, Bartimaeus drops his cloak, probably his only possession, and springs up off the ground to meet him.

We must always be conscious of the fact that Jesus has come to rescue all his people. He will leave no one behind, not even this blind man and not even us!

As their paths converge, Jesus asks Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51). Likewise, Jesus asks you: “What do you want of me?” He longs to see you throw aside anything that limits your vision and your expectations. Jesus has marvelous plans for your life. He wants to heal your heart and fill it with the fire of his love.

Are your aspirations limited, or are they worthy of a royal destiny?

If not, toss them aside and cry out, Son of David, have pity on me like Bartimaeus did in our Gospel story today! Don’t give up because of obstacles and difficulties. Persist. Jesus will remove what needs to be removed, strengthen what needs to be strengthened, and give you the grace to get up and follow.

It’s not where you’ve come from but where you are heading that counts! If you only knew how much he loves you! So take courage and get up. He is calling you!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"There are no crown wearers in heaven that were not cross bearers on earth."

"The suffering of this life not only can make our temperament more like the Divine Personality of Jesus, but it detaches us from this world. This Divine preparation opens our souls to the working and pruning of the Father." -Mother Angelica

(Gospel Text: Lk 13:1-9)
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply,
"Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them?
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!"

And he told them this parable:
"There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?'
He said to him in reply,
'Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.'"

As children we learn very quickly that if we misbehave, we are going to suffer the consequences of our choices. We grow up knowing, then, that bad things happen, that we suffer, when we’ve done something to deserve it. Eventually, we believe that the only possible reason we suffer is because we’ve done something wrong. But is suffering really a punishment? Do we really deserve it? Again, Jesus strongly tells us, “By no means!”

Using the example of the Galileans Pilate has killed, Jesus explains that while they did suffer greatly, they did not suffer because of something they did wrong. Their sins weren’t any worse than anyone else’s. Notice that Jesus doesn’t explain why they suffered; only that it wasn’t punishment.

I can’t give you an easy answer, but I do know that the One who has a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, holds our lives in His hands and whispers patiently to our hearts that our suffering is not punishment.

I firmly believe that God does not will for us to suffer; He doesn’t plan for bad things to happen to us. But He can use them to bring about beauty and joy, hope and strength, in ways that would not have been possible if we didn’t experience suffering. Suffering can teach us discipline in our faith, reveal to us who we truly are, and bring us closer to God, if only because we are clinging to Him for dear life.