Wednesday, July 31, 2013

“What we spend, we lose. - What we give away will be ours forever.”

I kept on digging the hole deeper and deeper looking for the treasure chest until I finally lifted my head, looked up and realized that I had dug my own grave." - St Dominic

Gospel Text: (MT 13:44-46)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

On the outside, there was nothing extraordinary about Jesus. He dressed simply and never tried to draw undue attention to himself. The son of a carpenter, he probably had callouses and dirty fingernails. What’s more, he had a habit of making friends with lepers, prostitutes, and other undesirables. Why would so many people be attracted to him?

It isn’t his outer appearance that makes Jesus so attractive. It’s his inner life: the love, the compassion, the mercy. Even in his sacramental presence, there’s not much that is appealing. The Host is made up only of wheat and water, and is often just an unadorned wafer. And yet people could spend hours lost in contemplation of the One who is present through this plain, everyday sign of unleavened bread.

Spending our life seeking Jesus’ inner beauty has the potential to bring us more joy and delight than any treasure on earth could ever give. Jesus is the most captivating, most magnificent, the most desirable treasure that we could ever dedicate our lives to.

The Kingdom, which God created for us is peace, justice and liberty in both this life and the next. To reach it is, at the same time, a gift from God and a human responsibility. In front of the greatness of this divine gift we realize the imperfection and instability of our own efforts, quite often destroyed by our sins, our wars and our malice that at times look insurmountable. Nevertheless, we must have confidence, because what looks impossible for man is more than possible for God.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

“Forgiveness is our command. Judgment is not.”

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

Gospel Text: (MT 13:36-43)
Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the Evil One,
and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his Kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the Kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

If you’ve seen Westerns, you know that it’s pretty easy to spot the bad guys. They’re the ones who talk nasty, do really mean things, and always wear black hats. You also know that they’re going to get in a gunfight with the good guys, and lose. Kind of predictable, right?

Unfortunately, we may have the tendency to view this parable in the same way. We know how the story ends, after all: the good get rewarded, and the bad get punished. And we may be fairly certain that we are the good guys. But maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps we are so busy focusing on ourselves that we don’t see the whole picture.

We only need to reflect on Jesus’ love to see that salvation is not an “us-versus-them” proposition. It’s for everyone! God wants all of us to spend eternity with him. And for that to happen, he wants us to share that mercy with everyone around us. Our job is not to separate the sheep from the goats; it’s to shine the light of Christ wherever we go.

It's also true that we never know whether those who seem to be weeds may, in the final analysis, turn out to be wheat. We need only to think of St. Paul who as Saul opposed the kingdom but after his conversion became one of that kingdom's greatest apostles of all time. We can also think of great St. Augustine, who when he was young fathered a child out of wedlock, cohabitated with his girlfriend, lived in a morally dissolute way, but then, after the prayers of his mother for so long, converted and became one of the greatest teachers of the faith. Even someone we know who is passionately living contrary to the kingdom may be given the grace of conversion and become one of the great saints.

So go ahead and scatter the seeds of the gospel in the “field”! God has placed you into situations that no one else is in; He has “sown” you in a field that is unique to you alone.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The saints do not contemplate to know, but to love.

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” - Fr Thomas Merton

Gospel text: (JN 11:19-27)
Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

Mary and Martha traditionally represent the contemplative and the active lives of faith. Martha is a woman of action. She may not stay still, but that doesn’t keep her from a deep relationship with Jesus. The same Holy Spirit who worked in Mary also worked in Martha, developing holiness in both of them according to their own personalities. In order to love God, Martha didn’t have to become a “Mary.” She just had to use her gifts for his glory.

Sometimes we can think that one path of holiness is better than another. But the beauty of the communion of the saints is that we see countless unique personalities bearing fruit for the kingdom of God! In fact, it’s the beauty of parish life as well: each of us in our own way witnessing to the power of the Risen Lord.

So if you feel compelled to go out and feed the poor—great! But don’t write off the quiet person spending hours in Eucharistic adoration. Or if you’re committed to defending the right to life, keep on working! But don’t look down on others who use their energy to lead the children’s liturgy or clean the church. We are all essential parts in the body of Christ!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

“Prayer makes your heart bigger, until it is capable of containing the gift of God himself.”

"Prayer gives us strength for great ideals, for keeping up our faith, charity, purity, generosity; prayer gives us strength to rise up from indifference and guilt, if we have had the misfortune to give in to temptation and weakness. Prayer gives us light by which to see and to judge from God's perspective and from eternity. That is why you must not give up on praying!"  - Pope John Paul II

(Gospel text: LK 11:1-13)
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” 
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed. 
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish? 
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Human beings are big on “how to.” Search on the Internet, and you will soon learn how to tie a tie, boil an egg, or even train your dog. The disciples were no different. They had seen Jesus pray. They had heard him praise Mary for sitting quietly at his feet and listening to his teaching. And they wanted to know how to do that, too.

So Jesus gave them what we call the “Our Father.” Though it looks like a five-step instruction, it is so much more. This prayer reveals much about who Jesus is, because it gives us a glimpse into his own prayer life. It also shows who we are, and God’s vision of how we should live. And it explains how Jesus wants us to relate to our heavenly Father, with the same mind and heart that he had as he walked the earth.

Who is your Father? He is perfect, holy, and worthy of adoration. But Jesus doesn’t tell you to say, “Holy Father.” Just “Father.” He makes it clear that your Father is not far away, untouchable, enthroned beyond your reach. He is close to you, eager to breathe his life into you. He hears your voice. He listens when you call, and promises to answer. He gives you “daily bread” generously—all that you need for life and holiness.

The Father loves you. Always and without exception. 

He sees your worst sins, and still he wants to hold you close. He offers forgiveness lavishly, reconciliation unreservedly, intimacy wholeheartedly. He gives you all the tools and grace you need to become as merciful as he is. And he protects you from the evil one so that you can spread that mercy far and wide.

Jesus gave the disciples so much more than a list of tips for effective prayer. He assured them that they could approach their Father confidently, knowing he will always listen, always forgive, always provide, always protect. 

And he, who is holy, will do no less for you.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself."

“Let nothing disturb thee, nothing affright thee; all things are passing; God never changes.” - Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church

Gospel Text: (MT 13:24-30)
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

It's very easy to notice the weeds in the Church. The doubt, hypocrisy, confusion, and gossip of the weeds make life hard for the Church. Our work as Catholics is also hindered because the world is turned off to Jesus by the sinful behavior of the “weeds”. It seems best for everybody to pull the weeds. But the Lord knows that once they're pulled, they're dead. So He lets the weeds live and the wheat suffer for a while so that the weeds will have the maximum opportunity to repent and become wheat.

Rejoice when you suffer redemptively, for this means that there's time for the weeds to change and for the harvest to double.

Friday, July 26, 2013

If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire. ...

“Léon Bloy wrote: 'Life holds only one tragedy: not to have been a saint” ― Peter Kreeft, Philosophy professor at Boston College

Gospel Text: (MT 13:18-23)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Hear the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom
without understanding it,
and the Evil One comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

To respond to this parable adequately, I think we must be very honest with ourselves, both as individuals and as a nation that is comprised of roughly 23.9% baptized Catholics and 78.4% who classify themselves as Christian.

Many who hear the gospel never seem to “get it.” The message is stolen before it ever takes root. There are the 50% of Catholic kids in America who receive the sacraments but disappear somewhere between age 18 and 35. Shallow roots fail to equip them to take the heat of our current culture. Then there are the 89% of lifelong, regular churchgoers who, according to George Gallup, have values and lifestyles identical to those of their pagan neighbors. Their faith has been neutralized by bad theology and worldliness so though they look like “wheat plants”, their religion is “fruitless”. Finally, we come to those who are not satisfied with just getting by. They sink their roots deep into Scripture, Tradition, prayer and the sacraments, and produce a bumper crop. We call these people saints. Remember, saints are simply people who get to heaven.

In speaking to us as seed, Jesus is saying: “be careful”. If you don’t make the effort to get thoroughly rooted in your Catholic faith, you just might not make it.

We were not put on this earth to “just get by”. Each and every one of us is called to “bear much fruit” (John 15), to yield 100 fold, to be a saint, to leave a mark on the lives of many that will last forever.

Don’t settle for anything less!”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” – Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (MT 20:20-28)
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In today’s gospel Jesus reverses the conventional definitions of “great” and “slave.” He reminds us that genuine greatness stems from serving others not from power and social status. Ironically, many people that the world considers “great” are actually “slaves” to their own insatiable drives for money, power, glory etc. that will never be satisfied because they are misdirected.

Today’s gospel invites us to accept a gift of “greatness” that we can all achieve by serving others wherever we are. Best of all in accepting this gift, we will lead rewarding lives. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer said: ‘I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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

One day St. Teresa of Avila heard someone say: "If only I had lived at the time of Jesus... If only I had seen Jesus... If only I had talked with Jesus..." To this she responded: "But do we not have in the Eucharist the living, true and real Jesus present before us? Why look for more?"

Scripture Text: (EX 16:1-5, 9-15)
The children of Israel set out from Elim,
and came into the desert of Sin,
which is between Elim and Sinai,
on the fifteenth day of the second month
after their departure from the land of Egypt.
Here in the desert the whole assembly of the children of Israel
grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The children of Israel said to them,
“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt,
as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!”

Then the LORD said to Moses,
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.
On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in,
let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole congregation
of the children of Israel:
Present yourselves before the LORD,
for he has heard your grumbling.”
When Aaron announced this to the whole assembly of the children of Israel,
they turned toward the desert, and lo,
the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!
The LORD spoke to Moses and said,
“I have heard the grumbling of the children of Israel.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert
were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the children of Israel asked one another, “What is this?”
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
“This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”

Although our faith may fill us, sustain us and guide us, we are not immune to human basic needs. God’s commitment to the dignity and flourishing of all humans was not only through saving this group from Egypt but also providing for them along the way. Our God desires us not only freedom but health as well.

How much can we relate to the grumbling of this group?

It is hard to ignore the pangs of hunger. Once an entire group is grumbling, it can be unbearable. This group was sent out, saved from one kind of oppression only to find them weakened and limited by their humanness. God had promised something to them, but now hot, tired, lonely and hungry in the desert, doubt starts to creep in.

Who are the people in our time who are lost in their own desert journeys who need us to respond to provide spiritual and physical food for the journey?

Imagine that you grew up very poor, and always had to hustle for your next meal. But now you’ve been flown to a wealthy country, and have been taken to a lavish all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner. When you arrive, the host welcomes you in with open arms and a warm smile.

He walks you to the buffet and invites you to eat and drink freely. You’re overwhelmed by the spread—it’s so foreign to you! As you move down the line, you see so many dishes filled with all kinds of new foods. You don’t dare take too much, because you’ve spent your whole life rationing every bite. But your host encourages you not to worry. There will be plenty for tomorrow and the next day as well.

As you help yourself to the first serving, you break into a smile and start laughing heartily. The anxieties that have burdened your heart for so long begin to diminish. As you take up another serving from another plate, you begin to feel peace and contentment.

Where will we find this food? In the Eucharist, of course! Just as the manna seemed to drop from the sky, so the presence of Christ comes down from heaven every time the Mass is celebrated.

“Come without payment or cost (Isaiah 55:1). Come and receive all the good things God has ready for you. There’s always plenty of “food” to keep you satisfied!”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

“Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”

To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others. - Pope John Paul II

Gospel text: ( MT 12:46-50)
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside,
asking to speak with you.”
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

We today tend to think of membership in the Church like membership in a political party or a professional association. That’s quite wrong. You can opt out of those memberships, change your affiliation. But you can’t opt out of your membership in family. It’s a fundamentally different kind of thing. We’re all vivified by the same Holy Spirit. Once baptized, while we can be a poor Christian in practice, we can never again be a non-Christian – just as we can never be a non-member of our blood families.

There’s opportunity here for dozens of Reflections, and each of us needs to ponder what that expanded kinship means for us. Here is one example to get you thinking: When we gather for the Mass and receive the Eucharist, do we see ourselves as family members coming together for a family celebration (birthday, anniversary, Thanksgiving . . .), or are we more like customers entering a restaurant to satisfy our individual hunger needs. Do we sit apart from the others in a kind of chicken pox model of church, or do we gather around the table of the Lord as a family would? It is true that sometimes we need private time with God – need it desperately in fact. But we’re all still family – Jesus’ brothers and sisters. We have kinship obligations to one another. This begins with a warm smile directed at the person sitting next to you in the pew on Sunday. As Mother Teresa once said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” So smile at your brother and know that you both have the same Father in heaven. Because God is not just “my” Father, he is “Our Father”…………………

Monday, July 22, 2013

“Conversion is a daily thing.”

Conversion is not implanting eyes, for they exist already; but giving them a right direction, which they have not. - Plato

Gospel Text: (JN 20:1-2, 11-18)
On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene 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.”

Mary 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 Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her

Today, we celebrate with joy Saint Mary Magdalene because her journey to God could very well be similar to our own.

In Mary Magdala’s story, we discover some important aspects of our faith. In the first place, we admire her courage. Though a gift from God, faith requires courage from the believer. Generally, we tend towards what we can see, what can be seized with our hand. God being essentially invisible, faith “represents the risky enterprise of accepting what plainly cannot be seen as the truly real and fundamental. It involves a leap out of the tangible world” (Benedict XVI).

On the other hand, the "leap to faith" «is reached through what the Bible calls conversion or repentance: only he who changes receives it "(Benedict XVI). Was not this Mary’s first step? Should not this also be a reiterated step in our lives?

In the conversion of Magdalene, there was much love: she did not spare anything. Here is another "vehicle" of faith - love. In John’s Gospel it clearly appears «believing is to listen and, at the same time, to see (...)». In that dawn, Mary Magdalena takes risks for her Love, she listens to her Love (to hear Him saying "Mary" is enough for her to recognize Him) and she meets the Father. «On the morning of Easter (...), Mary Magdalena, is asked to contemplate Him as He ascends to the Father, and finally to her full confession "I have seen the Lord" (Jn 20:18)» (Pope Francis).

Once again, Jesus did something unexpected. He chose someone unexpected, someone many would have disregarded, for one of the greatest honors of history. Whatever kind of bondage Mary had suffered, it didn’t disqualify her in Jesus’ eyes. And neither are we disqualified, whether by past sins or current disabilities. Jesus came for just this reason, to deliver us from all that binds us and to fill us with dignity, calling us children of God.  He calls us, each by name, to share in eternal life with him and transforms us through the power of his Holy Spirit so that we, too, can be witnesses to his resurrection.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

“We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks.”

"Adoration will heal our Church and thus our nation and thus our world... Adoration touches everyone and everything... [because it touches the Creator, Who touches everything and everyone]... When we adore, we plug into infinite dynamism and power. Adoration is more powerful for construction than nuclear bombs are for destruction,"- Peter Kreeft, philosopher at Boston College

Gospel Text: (LK 10:38-42)
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

A rip current is a strong channel of water that flows out to sea and can drag swimmers away from the shore with alarming speed and strength. But you don’t have to swim in the ocean to feel that kind of pull. Ideas, obligations, and desires tug powerfully at us every day. And the only way to avoid disaster is to swim out of their current—to do what Mary did and take time to sit in God’s presence.

Sit with him and let him speak to you: about your life, about his life in you, about his love for you. Open your heart to him without fear of what will follow. Whatever your shortcomings, failings and weaknesses, he loves, loves, loves you! He delights in giving himself to everyone who is ready to receive it. You can sit, as Mary did, unashamed and truthful about your life, and soak up the Father’s love for you. This is the better part!

This story of Martha and Mary shows us that experiencing God’s love is the most healing, empowering, inspiring thing we can do. Better than any good work, and more desirable to the Lord, is the flow of love and affection, of knowing and being known, between him and you. Yes, he sees your deepest sins, but he looks deeper still. He knows your desires for holiness, purity, and innocence. He knows the “real you” that longs to please him, to help people, and to build his kingdom. He knows the “you” that is willing to swim out of the current of anything that pulls you away from him.

Nothing is more motivating, encouraging, or inspiring than tasting God’s love. This is no passive acceptance of sin and weakness. Knowing the Father’s love, and being intimately known by him, can move you to part with sin and to overcome failure. It can build strength where you are weak. Knowing his love can release his life in you more fully and allow you to become exactly the person he created you to be.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"After confession," says St. Chrysostom, ”a crown is given to penitents."

Go to your confessor; open your heart to him; display to him all the recesses of your soul; take the advice that he will give you with the utmost humility and simplicity. For God, Who has an infinite love for obedience, frequently renders profitable the counsels we take from others, but especially from those who are the guides of our souls.--St. Francis de Sales

Gospel Text: (MT 12:14-21)
The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus
to put him to death.

When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place.
Many people followed him, and he cured them all,
but he warned them not to make him known.
This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

At one time or another you may have had the misfortune to work for an unreasonable boss, someone who found fault with everything you did. You had to resubmit entire reports because of just one mistake. He or she was always criticizing you for the smallest things, and you spent most of your day fearing what kind of trouble you would find yourself in. Because of that fear, you really didn’t respect his or her authority.

That’s not Jesus! He is more like a servant than a master. He came to lift us up to God, not force us into submission.

This is how God still works with us. It may be hard to believe, especially when it comes to our faults. If we focus too much on them, we may start to view God like that ruthless boss. We fear that he’s always unhappy with our performance. And yet the fact is that he loves us as we are right now even with our sins—bruises and all! As one spiritual writer puts it, “When God loves me, I must accept myself as well. I cannot be more demanding than God, can I?” An understanding of that love has to be the foundation for our walk with him.

No doubt, there is some imperfection or sin in your life that you would like to be rid of. It may be gossip, anger, impatience, gluttony—you name it! But instead of thinking about your inclination to do these things, try thinking about Jesus. Imagine him looking at you with unconditional mercy. Go ahead and receive that mercy and let it transform you. In him, you can patient, kind, and loving. In him, you can look on others with that same mercy. Just let him love you, and he will take care of the rest!

Friday, July 19, 2013

"He who demands mercy and shows none burns the bridges over which he himself must later pass."

For there are three ways of performing an act of mercy: the merciful word, by forgiving and by comforting; secondly, if you can offer no word, then pray - that too is mercy; and thirdly, deeds of mercy. And when the Last Day comes, we shall be judged from this, and on this basis we shall receive the eternal verdict. –St. Faustina

Gospel Text: (MT 12:1-8)
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

«It is mercy I want, not sacrifice» (Mt 12:7). Let us repeat it many times to engrave it on our heart: God, who is rich in mercy, wants us to be merciful. «How close God is to the one who proclaims his mercy! Yes; God is not far from those who are contrite at heart» (St. Augustine). And how far away from God are we when we let our heart turn into hard stone!

Jesus Christ accused the Pharisees of condemning the innocent. That is a serious accusation. But what about us? Are we seriously interested in other people's problems? Do we consider them with affection and sympathy, as if we were relating to a friend or a brother?

Let us try not to lose our way, after all.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

“Thou has made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in Thee.”

"You should not worry too much about adversities. The world is not as powerful as it seems to be; its strength is strictly limited.. Know, my daughter, that if your soul is filled with the fire of My pure love, then all difficulties dissipate like fog before the sun's rays and dare not touch the soul. All adversaries are afraid to start a quarrel with such a soul, because they sense that it is stronger than the whole world..."~ Jesus to St. Faustina, 1643 ~

Gospel Text: (MT 11:28-30)
Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Life can certainly become burdensome at times. We all know this is true. However, those of us who bear the name Christian know the One to whom we can always turn, the Lord Jesus. He says to each of us every morning, "Come to Me".

Today, Jesus' words resound intimate and close. We are conscious that contemporary men and women suffer from considerable pressure(s). Quite often we move away from evangelic simplicity by loading ourselves up with commitments, planning and objectives. We feel overwhelmed and tired of continuously struggling without our effort being worth its while. Recent investigations affirm that nervous breakdowns are on their way up all the time. In fact, in the last two days there were two suicides in the town next to my own.

What are we lacking to feel actually well?

Today, in the light of the Gospel, we may review our conception of God. How do I live and feel God in my heart? What feelings uncover his presence in my life? Jesus offers us his understanding when we feel weary and want to rest: «Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you» (Mt 11:28). Maybe we have fought for perfection while, deep inside, the only thing we wanted was to feel loved. In Jesus' words we find a response to our crisis of meaning.

Jesus' proposal —«Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...» (Mt 11:29)— implies following his benevolent style of life (to wish good to everybody) and his heart’s humility (virtue referring to keeping our feet on the ground for only divine grace can make us ascend).

To be a disciple demands our accepting Jesus' yoke, while remembering his yoke is «good» and his burden is «light». I do not know, however, whether we are convinced this is really so.

To live as a Christian in our present world is not such an easy thing, for we have to opt for values that go upstream. Not to get carried away by money, prestige or power demands a great effort, I will go so far to say a super-natural effort. If we want to achieve it by ourselves, it may become an impossible task. But with Jesus everything is possible and good. That is why we need the sacraments my friends, Communion and Confession, the one-two punch!

Jesus gave us the Catholic Church not to “burden” us down with “rules” but to help us live a life that transcends our broken human nature, to be truly free, to feel joy in our heart and to be an instrument of peace in the world.

The alternative to that lifestyle is the true burden.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

“Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”

Night is favorable for mysteries; it is then when our soul —attentive and humble— turns on itself while pondering over its condition; it is then when it finds God. – St. Clement of Alexandria

Gospel Text: (MT 11:25-27)
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

If you’ve ever helped a child learn to ride a bike, you probably remember one important lesson: keep your eyes focused on where you’re going. If you start looking down at the road, nervous about potential obstacles, it will be a very short trip. But if you keep your eyes on the road ahead, you’ll be able to steer safely and go a lot farther.

When God told Moses that he had heard the cries of the Israelites and was prepared to deliver them, Moses didn’t celebrate. He probably wasn’t feeling very confident. He was living as a shepherd for his father-in-law in the wilderness. He had lost his status as a prince in Egypt after committing murder. And the Israelites might not trust him because he was raised as an Egyptian. So when he heard God’s call to lead Israel, he immediately thought of obstacles.

But God didn’t answer his objection. He simply said “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). Like a father running behind his child wobbling down the road on his new bike, God would be with Moses. Moses just had to keep looking forward, at the goal of his people’s liberation, instead of the obstacles. Real though they were, these obstacles couldn’t erase God’s call, because God himself would accompany Moses on the journey.

Each of us has been called by God. Each of us has a God-given path to follow. And certainly, each of us has obstacles in that path! But rather than focus on the obstacles, God wants us to lift up our eyes and focus on him and his calling.

Do you have a dream? Some vision of wonderful things to accomplish for the Lord and his Church? It’s quite possible that those dreams come from the Lord—just as Moses’ dreams of a liberated Israel came from God. So don’t give up on them just because you see potential pitfalls. Keep on dreaming! Keep your eyes on the Lord and your dreams, not on the obstacles. Just as he told Moses, God is telling you, “I am with you. So let’s get going, you and me, together!”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"When... stubbornness takes hold of one’s mind, how can sanctity ever flourish?

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: (MT 11:20-24)
Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Nobody enjoys a good scolding. It must however be especially painful to be upbraided by Christ, who loves us with his most merciful heart. There is simply no excuse, no immunity when one is reprimanded by Truth itself.

We also notice today in the gospel reading at Mass that Christ did not mince his words. He placed his audience face to face with truth. We too have to take stock of the manner we speak to others about Christ. Often, we too have to fight against our human respect to put our friends before eternal truths such as death and judgment. Pope Francis wittingly described St. Paul as a “trouble-maker”, he said: «May we not take refuge in an easy-going life or in an ephemeral structure (…). Paul, preaching the Lord, caused trouble. But he persisted, because he was a zealous Christian. He had apostolic zeal. He was not a man of compromise».

This came to my mind when I was reflecting over today’s readings, which are about missed opportunities of major significance. Christ preached in several towns, cured their sick, and directed them to a deeper understanding of God’s plan and the significance of life. However, the people living in Chorazin, Tyre, Sidon, and Capernaum were not open to his powerful message of the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. They missed the opportunity to understand his mission, to change their lives and be part of the evolving Kingdom of God. Christ’s harsh words are an attempt to alert them of the importance of recognizing and joining his mission.

Let us not shun from our duty of charity. Let us receive humbly and responsibly God's call to conversion each day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Self-preservation is the first law of nature, but self-sacrifice is the highest rule of grace.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.  - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Gospel Text: (Mt 10:34—11:1)

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.

Yes, it's true.  How we live the Gospel has consequences for eternal life.  That is why Jesus goes on to say,

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:37-39).

Far from displacing our families and friends, discipleship in Christ re-orders our lives so that we can love others more precisely because we love God the most.  "The first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2232).

This spirit of authentic discipleship is at once demanding and energizing.  Jesus requires a great deal of his followers - of us.  But that is so that he can give us more than we expect or deserve: a share in his divine life and, one day, eternal happiness with him.