Thursday, January 31, 2013

Light is good from whatever lamp it shines.

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

Today’s reading reminds us of a lesson of critical importance. We are not called to be solitary ships upon the sea, but rather beacons of Christ’s love to others. When we see others in struggles, even when they are not struggles that we have shared or can immediately relate to, we must remember that God calls on us to be his messengers. We must not only rise to the occasion in our own daily struggles, but we must help others in theirs as well. Oftentimes, doing so benefits ourselves as much as those being helped.

“God is in all actions done from love.”

As we forge on through the rest of this year, I ask that we all remember to show Christ’s love through our own love, through compassion, patience, and forgiveness.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort.

"Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him." - ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

(Gospel Text: MK 4:1-20)
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that

they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it
and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

We all know that God’s ways are not our ways. But did you know that also means that his farming methods are not our farming methods?

God is also a very optimistic farmer. St. John Chrysostom tells us that even when planting conditions are unpromising, “it is his way never to stop sowing the seed.” This doesn’t work for actual farming, Chrysostom admits. But when the terrain is human beings with free will and willingness to change, “there is such a thing as the rock becoming rich land, the trampled wayside becoming a fertile field, and the thorns being destroyed.”

And so whether you think you are good soil or bad, God is at work in your plot—in you. His kingdom is near! How is it coming to you? Through a conversation; a Scripture verse; a prodding to help a neighbor, to go to Confession, to pray with a friend, to mend a relationship, to kick a habit?

Whatever word God is sending you today, welcome it, act on it, and let it change you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The national anthem of hell is "I Did It My Way."

A man makes the most progress and merits the most grace precisely in those matters wherein he gains the greatest victories over self and most mortifies his will. --St. Francis de Sales

(Scripture text: HEB 10:1-10)
Brothers and sisters:
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come,
and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect
those who come to worship by the same sacrifices
that they offer continually each year.
Otherwise, would not the sacrifices have ceased to be offered,
since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer
have had any consciousness of sins?
But in those sacrifices there is only a yearly remembrance of sins,
for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats
take away sins.
For this reason, when he came into the world, he said:

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, As is written of me in the scroll,
Behold, I come to do your will, O God.

First he says, Sacrifices and offerings,
burnt offerings and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, Behold, I come to do your will.
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

When we trust someone, we believe in what he says, even if we might not totally understand what he tells us to do.  When we trust a doctor, we will take the prescription she writes. When we trust a coach, we will do things the way he trains us. When we trust a teacher, we will study as truth what she teaches.

If that's true at a purely human level, it's so much more important at the level of our interaction with God. To have faith in God means that we trust Him and, because of our trust in Him, we believe what he says and does.

Sometimes the greatest difficulty for us is in the discernment between what we want God’s will to be for us versus what it really is.  We still have a very human nature that seeks what is easy or comfortable and wants admiration, power and self-sufficiency.  We can fool ourselves about God’s will if we fail to develop self-awareness and trust in God’s love for us. This can lead to confusion about what is real and what is self-deception.

Obedience has almost become a bad word in our culture that has made autonomy a god. We believe that obedience to anyone, including God, is against our free nature rather than its genuine foundation, a form of slavery that shackles rather than liberates.

The real test of our faith is seen in our loving obedience to Him.

Monday, January 28, 2013

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

"You can fly to Heaven on the wings of confession and Communion." – St John Bosco

(Scripture text: HEB 9:15, 24-28)
Christ is mediator of a new covenant:
since a death has taken place
for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant,
those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands,
a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,
that he might now appear before God on our behalf.
Not that he might offer himself repeatedly,
as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary
with blood that is not his own;
if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly
from the foundation of the world.
But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages
to take away sin by his sacrifice.
Just as it is appointed that human beings die once,
and after this the judgment, so also Christ,
offered once to take away the sins of many,
will appear a second time, not to take away sin
but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

What is your image of heaven?

If Jesus is perfect love, there could be nothing better than to be in his presence. No matter what happens here and now, that is what we are guaranteed if we pick up our cross and follow him (LK 9:23).

What many Baptized Catholics do not realize is, we can experience a foretaste of Jesus’ promises every time we receive Communion or turn to him in prayer. Why do many of us not experience this reality in the here and now?

I will answer my question with a question: When was the last time you went to a Sacramental Confession with a priest?

St. Paul stretches our imagination when he writes, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). What awaits us is so amazing that words will never be able to describe it! But just knowing that God will wipe every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more death, sorrow, or pain, can go a long way in encouraging and strengthening us.

So keep your eyes on the prize!