Thursday, October 31, 2013

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

If we only knew the precious treasure hidden in infirmities, we would receive them with the same joy with which we receive the greatest benefits, and we would bear them without ever complaining or showing signs of weariness.--St. Vincent de Paul

Scripture text: (ROM 8:31B-39)
Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.
Who will condemn?
It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised,
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
As it is written:

For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord

In today’s gospel at Mass we all can admire Jesus' resolve to accomplish the mission his Father in Heaven had entrusted him with.

“Some Pharisees came to Jesus and gave him this warning, «Leave this place and go on your way, for Herod wants to kill you». Jesus said to them, «Go and give that fox my answer: ‘I drive out demons and heal today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my course!’. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and for a little longer, for it would not be fitting for a prophet to be killed outside Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:31-35)

Nothing would stop him!

With this attitude, the Lord set out giving guidance on how the messengers of the Gospel should react when they confront persecutions of all kinds, both now and through the centuries to come: not to be afraid of any temporal power. St. Augustine says that, in troubled times, the shepherds are not to abandon their flock: neither those who will suffer martyrdom nor those who will survive.

In this broken world, we can be so shaken by the events, the words, and hurt that we can sometimes feel. Some of it directed towards us, some of it directed from us. The moment that Adam and Eve took a bite out of the forbidden fruit, their action became the symbolic marking that we will never be perfect, that we will never live in a perfect world. It is very easy to look at the darkness and see what is lacking, but I want to encourage every one of you who is reading this and offer you one take away idea:

God is bigger than all of this!

More importantly, God wants to remind us that it is going to be all right because He is the one who is ultimately in charge. Jesus did not die on the cross for the perfect world; He died for a broken one.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

“A humble and contrite heart is the key that opens the narrow gate”

'All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, I am the way. - St. Catherine of Siena

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.”

The readings at Mass today balance challenge and mercy. Jesus tells us to go through the narrow gate. Our call to love and to bring healing and justice requires sacrifice. Making selfless choices is tough. Sometimes even figuring out what a selfless and loving choice would be in a situation puts us in a bind. We get confused. We fall to temptation. We choose anger, frustration, resentment, or selfishness.

Thankfully, we have the hope that comes from knowing that we serve a merciful God. God’s mercy gives us confidence to take the step we think is the right step, knowing that mercy abounds to bring us back on track if we misstep.

We are not slogging through a narrow gate on our own. We are not aiming for the narrow gate to claim a short-term win for self-discipline or glory. When we journey with Jesus through the narrow gate, we work with him to open the world around us to the present reality of God’s Kingdom. He also provides an advocate to pray with us and for us, Our Blessed Mother. Always turn to Our Lady, she will take you by the hand and lead you to her beloved son.

We don’t have to have all the answers or even know the right questions when we pray. God knows we are often confused and don’t know what to pray for ourselves and for others. Can we make time and space for the Holy Spirit groaning within us to pray on our behalf and on the behalf of others? Can we take a few moments to listen after that prayer for wisdom and encouragement to take the next steps through the narrow gate? Can we praise God for his hope and mercy and for the joy of fellow travelers in our communities?

Let's stop making so many calculations. Let's hurry up to enter by the narrow gate, restarting as many times as needed, and trusting in His mercy. St. Josemaria Escriva sums it up very well «All that which worries you for the moment, is of relative importance. What is of absolute importance is that you be happy, that you be saved».

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

“The kingdom of God is a kingdom of love; and love is never a stagnant pool”

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. - C.S. Lewis

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.”

If seeds and yeast remain in their packages, they remain inert. Nothing happens until the package is ripped open and the contents are hidden in something else and given time to work. Then the results can be spectacular.

In a similar way, God’s kingdom has been hidden in our hearts through Baptism. That kingdom is so dynamic and powerful that it can overcome every obstacle.

We can remain unaware of this seed’s awesome potential. Or we may keep God in a package marked “Sunday” or “rule keeping” or “Church.” But when we do, we miss out on the full extent of the gift we have received.

When Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a "mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden" that eventually becomes "a large bush" where the birds of the sky can dwell in his branches, he's forming us all in the confidence we need to have for the coming of his kingdom. Even if at present, the kingdom seems to be one of the tiniest of seeds, we know that that tiny seed - the grain of wheat that fell to the ground and died so that it could bear fruit, Christ himself (Jn 12:24) - already contains within the fullness of the kingdom, just as a mustard seed already contains in "fertilized embryo" the full identity of the future mustard tree.

This process going from "seed" to "tree" is not an easy one. It's in fact arduous. St. Paul describes the sufferings as "labor pains" (ROM 8:18-25) leading to the fulfillment of our divine sonship when we will not only be called children of God but truly be children of God seeing God as he is.

Slow, natural, reliable, inevitable, awesome. That's what the Kingdom of God is like. So let the seeds of the kingdom take root!

Monday, October 28, 2013

“A Christian community should do as Jesus did: propose and not impose. Its attraction must lie in the radiance cast by the love of brothers.”

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don't need a lot of money to be happy--in fact, the opposite.” ― Jean Vanier (Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian, and humanitarian)

Scripture Text: (EPH 2:19-22)
Brothers and sisters:
You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

In Ephesians we are told that we are a part of the Christian family. Then in the Gospel today at Mass (Luke 6:12-16) Jesus calls his disciples, including Simon and Jude whose feast we celebrate today. We must come to realize that we are part of this family too, the communion of saints in heaven. We are all called with them. We are called to join our voices with the rest who declare the glory of God in the psalms. We are all part of the big family of creation, and we are part of the smaller Christian family called by Jesus.

An interesting legend is told about St. Jude, the well-known saint of the impossible. The story is that a king in ancient Turkey suffered from a terrible disease. He heard about Jesus and wrote him a letter, asking for a cure. Along with his letter, he sent an artist to paint Jesus’ face. Since Jesus couldn’t go to the king, he sent Jude, along with the artist’s painting. Through this image and through Jude’s prayers, the king was healed. That’s why images of Jude depict him holding a painting of the face of Christ.

This legend tells us something important about Jude and about all the saints. They really don’t heal anybody. In the story, the image of Jesus was key to this man’s healing. All the power that the saints have ever had to heal comes from the Lord: “It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured… . By his stripes we were healed” (Isaiah 53:4, 5). Jesus is our healer, our comforter, our Savior.

But this legend illustrates another important point: Jesus needs saints. Jude was just a man like us, a sinner who was redeemed by the Lord. But God used him to bring healing and hope to thousands of people—and he still does today, centuries after his death! Jude shows us that we carry in our hearts the treasure of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power to transform the world in God’s image. He shows us that we can become saints, just as he did.

We have been called. This is our dwelling place. This is our home, and we are part of creation. In fact, we are creation. And this Christian family is created by our connection and our faith. We are participants. We are citizens. We are part of this family, members of the household. We are not strangers. We belong here. I like this image of a household, a family. We are all in this together and all share responsibility in the household. We are not strangers; this is our dwelling place, where we live. But we also can’t depend on someone else to do everything for us; we have to take responsibility for our part of the smooth running of the household. We are not guests, we live here. This is our home and our responsibility.

Like the disciples, we are called to follow. Like the rest of creation, we are called to declare the glory of God. And through our faith and praise and our connection with each other, we create a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, October 25, 2013

“The law detects, grace alone conquers sin.”

“Trusting in God's grace means trusting in God's love for us rather than our love for God. […] Therefore our prayers should consist mainly of rousing our awareness of God's love for us rather than trying to rouse God's awareness of our love for him.” – Peter Kreeft (Philosophy professor at Boston College)

Scripture Text: (PS 119:66, 68, 76, 77, 93, 94)
R. (68b) Lord, teach me your statutes.
Teach me wisdom and knowledge,
for in your commands I trust.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
You are good and bountiful;
teach me your statutes.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Never will I forget your precepts,
for through them you give me life.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

Sometimes it’s hard to be honest with ourselves. There are some truths about us that we really don’t want to face. And one of those truths is that our good intentions are not always enough when it comes to following God’s laws. Part of us doesn’t like facing the fact that we need Jesus and his grace. We’d rather forget that our ability to be righteous or holy comes through the cross and not through our efforts or good intentions alone.

Paul provides a good dose of honesty in today’s reading from Mass (Romans 7:18-25a). In no uncertain terms, he tells us that even though we may want to do good, we can’t if we rely only on ourselves. In fact, we find ourselves at times doing the very things we don’t want to do—the things we know aren’t right. And so we end up crying out with Paul, “What’s wrong with me?”

Of course, we know what is wrong. Sin is a very powerful force, and the simple fact of our baptism isn’t enough for us to be completely free of its grasp. Yes, God has freed us from slavery to sin. We are all a new creation in Christ, and his life in us has changed everything. But that change won’t take root and flourish in us unless we choose to yield to him and the new life he has given us. It’s only as we practice leaning on Christ and drawing our strength from his love and grace that we will find true freedom from sin, not just good intentions.

What sinful areas in your life are the most stubborn? What do you do when you become frustrated by your failures to follow God? Are you tempted to grit your teeth and try harder to fix it yourself? Don’t do it! Rather, confess the truth about yourself, and turn to Christ. Thank him in the midst of your powerlessness, and surrender to him as Paul did. Come to him, and trust him to bring this good work in you to completion.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

“You're looking at me as though I'm weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It's in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.” - Antonin Gregory Scalia (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States)

Scripture Text: (ROM 6:19-23)
Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature.
For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity
and to lawlessness for lawlessness,
so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness.
But what profit did you get then
from the things of which you are now ashamed?
For the end of those things is death.
But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Imagine that. In the middle of a discussion about the fight against sin and temptation, St Paul counseled his readers to look at themselves as slaves, ready to yield to a new master. What about fighting? What about aggressively taking up the battle against sin? Isn’t St. Paul missing the point?

Not at all. St. Paul is showing us the way to true victory. Rather than rushing headlong into conflicts and trying to overcome temptation on our own, we would be wiser to step back and submit ourselves to some of the truths that St. Paul considered central to the Christian life.

First, we should submit to God’s judgment against sin. In Jesus’ death, our Father has condemned our fallen nature and put it to death. If we step back from temptation, we can align ourselves with God’s judgment and claim in faith that sin’s mastery is ended, and we are set free.

Second, we should submit to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. He is in us. He never abandons us. He is always watching over us, ever ready to help us and do battle for us whenever we call upon him. Submitting to his power can fill us with great confidence and courage.

Finally, we should submit to the new creation God has made us to be. We were made new in Baptism. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are children of God, with all the rights and privileges of a firstborn son and daughter.

Submitting to these truths is like leaning back into your Father’s arms. It’s true that you can’t see him yet, and you may not always feel his arms around you. But that’s why faith is so important. It convinces you that your Father is good. It assures you that he loves you enough to have given his only Son for your salvation. The next time you find yourself battling with sin, take a deep breath, and lean back into your Father’s love and redemption.

That’s the way to freedom.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Before Jesus comes as the just judge, He comes daily as the King of Mercy.”

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. – St. John

Gospel Text: (LK 12:39-48)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, he will put him
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

As a child I loved to play hide and seek. I loved it no matter if I was the one hiding who was trying not to get caught, or if I was the one seeking. Although I haven’t played in a while, I remember the seeker, or "it" as we always called him would close his eyes and count to 100 so that all the others could hide. Now sometimes the seeker would cheat a little bit as he would peep around and then you could hear him count, "One, two, three, fourteen fifteen, sixty one and so on." Then you would hear him scream out, “Ready or not here I come."

Three things were always certain when we played this game:

1- He was surely coming

2- He was coming when he got ready

3- He was coming whether you were ready or not

Little did I realize as a child how much this fun game paralleled the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The question is not "if Jesus will return?" but "when will he return?" St. Paul answered this question by basically saying, "No one knows." He explained this by describing the time of Jesus return as a thief in the night. Just as a thief plans his entry at an uncertain time when least expected, so will be the coming of the Son of God. Jesus Himself said in (Matt. 24:35) "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only." And later He said in (Matt 24:44) Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him."

How can I be ready?

• Schedule your prayer. Put it in your book, create a phone reminder, write a sticky note, whatever, just make it real and be accountable to it.

• Go to Mass as frequently and devoutly as you are permitted.

• Confess regularly with a confessor who can keep you accountable.

• Carve out times in your week for silent reflection. If you can, do it before the Blessed Sacrament.

• Be grateful. Be armed and shielded by gratitude

• Walk in friendship with the Holy Mother of God. Pray the Rosary daily! Our Lady’s zeal will suffocate the stench of sin and the snares of the enemy who cannot breathe when the love of her Immaculate Heart consumes a soul in worship of God.

Do not say, “I am only a mom.” Do not say, “I am only an office worker or a student or a retiree.” You are exactly where God needs you to be today. You are strategically placed on the battlefield, so be alert! Have your spiritual eyes, ears, hands, and heart wide open. Allow the Lord to use you to bring His light to those around you.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

“Blessed the man and woman who is able to serve cheerfully in the second rank... a big test.”

The Lord ate from a common bowl, and asked the disciples to sit on the grass. He washed their feet, with a towel wrapped around His waist - He, who is the Lord of the universe! He drank water from a jug of earthenware, with the Samaritan woman. Christ made use His aim, not extravagance... We are not to throw away those things which can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good: they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly. - St. Clement of Alexandria

Gospel Text: (LK 12:35-38)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.”

Are you ready?

The question arises at every important transition. Are you ready? To go to college? To start a new job? To welcome a baby? To retire? Facing this question, we may list all the preparations we’ve made and in the hope that we’ll be able to handle the future that lies before us.

But there are always surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant

A similar thing happens to the servants in today’s Gospel reading. They gird their loins. They light their lamps and listen for their master’s knock. They keep dinner warm, and they’re ready to hang up his cloak and wash his feet when he does arrive. They’re expecting the expected, all set to serve their master as they have always done.

Then comes the surprise. When they hear that knock and hurry to open the door, the master commends them for being ready. Then he tells them to sit down at the table. “Tonight I’m going to wait on you!”

So how will the Master surprise you today?

Yes, do all you can to be ready to carry out your responsibilities today. Do everything possible to make sure you are obeying God’s commands and loving other people as he has loved you. But at the same time, be sure to hold your heart in readiness. God is full of surprises! He may give you an unexpected token of his love. He may fill you with the inspiration to do something you don’t usually do, like share your faith. He may call your attention to one of his children who needs your comfort, your correction, or your prayer.

Don’t limit what God can do for you, in you, and through you. Life with him is full of surprises!

Monday, October 21, 2013

“I do not have what I own, nor do I have what I do. I only have what I am.”

'Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man loves the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.' – St John

Gospel Text: (LK 12:13-21)
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Note how many times the rich man uses the word “I” in this reading. The rich man is completely focused on himself alone. He gives no thought to how he could share his wealth or even takes the time to acknowledge this great gift from God. What about sharing his abundance to help others? The rich man is living only for himself and his worldly gain. What he has truly gained? Nothing. Although his barn may appear full, his heart is empty.

The rich man blindly believes that he has secured his future by storing away his wealth. He has fallen prey to the seduction of wealth and the false promise it brings. While the rich man may think his future is set, you and I both know that life is full of surprises and uncertainty. The one thing we know for certain is that God will provide. Just as crops are dependent on water and sunlight, we are dependent on God. Having faith in God and trusting in His will are the only ways to find security in our lives – not in the worldly goods that the rich man falls prey to.

What is wealth? Rather than thinking of wealth as money and materials, what if wealth consisted of God-given gifts that add real value to our lives? Instead of storing materials in houses that can be torn down or replaced, what if we stored love, generosity, joy, peace, forgiveness, compassion, and empathy in our hearts and shared this with our brothers and sisters? This is the true treasure God seeks for us. We only need to see past the temptation and illusion of worldly possessions to find this truth.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Satan laughs at our toiling, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray

Silence is the root of our union with God and with one another. In silence we are filled with the energy of God Himself that makes us do all things in joy. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel Text: (LK 18:1-8)
Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, "There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.'
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.'"
The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

In an age of fast food, fast cars and fast internet, we seem to be running all the time. Yet, even with our digital calendars, we risk missing the most important meeting of all, our appointment with the Lord. We place our very selves at risk when we do so.

Jesus persevered in prayer. In His Sacred humanity in that Garden called Gethsemane, we witness the greatest example of perseverance. We also witness the perfect fruit of surrendered love which embraces the Father's Will out of loving trust. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that he offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. (Hebrews 5:7)

We are all called to persevering prayer, no matter what our state in life or vocation. Preparing ourselves for such prayer means learning to silence the clamor of the age, stop the ever accelerating pace of the futile quests that so often occupy our hearts, and live in the eternal now by surrendering ourselves.

It is there, in the emptied place, in the stillness of the eternal now, where we prepare a room for the King of all hearts. And, in that encounter, we will find the longing of our heart fulfilled.

We tend to believe that the contemplative life is reserved for those who, by special vocation, can "leave" the world, such as contemplative monks and nuns. They are a true treasure and a prophetic sign of the life to come. However, all who are baptized into Christ are called to the same encounter with a different response.

Let us learn to pray at all times - and not grow weary.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

“Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe.”

It is not the actual physical exertion that counts towards one's progress, nor the nature of the task, but by the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken. --Saint Francis Xavier

Scripture Text: (PS 105:6-7, 8-9, 42-43)
R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations –
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
For he remembered his holy word
to his servant Abraham.
And he led forth his people with joy;
with shouts of joy, his chosen ones.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Why is trust so difficult?

I think it is because trust means sacrificing our pride. By trusting in something outside our self (and in this case something that we have no empirical evidence for) we are making a bold statement that we don’t have all the answers or skills that we need to do this. We are being challenged to recognize how limited we are, and that we can’t do all these things on our own.  We must have the humility to see our own limited scope and knowledge. 

We must put aside our pride that we have got it all figured out and allow the space for God to work in us and through us.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A godly life is the strongest argument you can offer the skeptic

Sometimes we don't need another chance to express how we feel or to ask someone to understand our situation. Sometimes we just need a firm kick in the pants. An unsmiling expectation that if we mean all these wonderful things we talk about and sing about, then lets see something to prove it. --Dietrich Bonhoeffer (theologian, martyr, a spiritual writer)

Gospel Text: (LK 10:1-9)
The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter,
first say, ‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”

The key to everything, as Jesus pointed out, is to remember that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is right here, right now. It is not about something that will happen in the future, but something available now to everyone and we have the opportunity of bringing them that message. This is the heart of the new evangelization.

Pope Francis, toward the end of his encyclical Lumen Fidei, the Light of Faith, stated: “Modern man sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure.”

The Pope also includes a caution: Yet in speaking of the light of faith, we can almost hear the objections of many of our contemporaries. In modernity, that light might have been considered sufficient for societies of old, but was felt to be of no use for new times, for a humanity come of age, proud of its rationality and anxious to explore the future in novel ways.

To many people in the world, our faith seems out of fashion and out of date. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Now more than ever people need a savior!

As Pope Francis points out, this objection does not stop us, but merely provides a context - where our culture is - as we continue to declare our faith in deed and in word.

In our gospel passage, Jesus gives us some wonderful insights on how we commit ourselves to this appointed task.

May we truly be bearers of that light!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love."

“If we only knew the precious treasure hidden in infirmities, we would receive them with the same joy with which we receive the greatest benefits, and we would bear them without ever complaining or showing signs of weariness.” --St. Vincent de Paul

Gospel Text: (LK 11:47-54)
The Lord said:
“Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets
whom your fathers killed.
Consequently, you bear witness and give consent
to the deeds of your ancestors,
for they killed them and you do the building.
Therefore, the wisdom of God said,
‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles;
some of them they will kill and persecute’
in order that this generation might be charged
with the blood of all the prophets
shed since the foundation of the world,
from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah
who died between the altar and the temple building.
Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!
Woe to you, scholars of the law!
You have taken away the key of knowledge.
You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”
When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees
began to act with hostility toward him
and to interrogate him about many things,
for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

Who are prophets of our time?

A prophetic voice is one that points us to radical grace of the true life in Jesus Christ. A prophet today urges us to reestablish a relationship with God in which we no longer treat others with fear, suspicion, and judgment but where we show willingness to listen, dialogue, and thereby accomplish the works of peace, humility, healing, and hope.

It is truly a difficulty to identify the prophets of our own time—even more those of our own community—but nevertheless they are among us. In all likelihood we may not recognize them: our hearts may be turned against their words. We may have an agenda of our own that takes precedence over other things. It may be that we prefer to be guided by the political voices of our times or by the morality and standards of a world that refuses to consider that a word from God is possible at all.

When we sit down to read the news, and when we read of the woes—of wars, poverty, immorality, disease, and death—we must ask what voice speaks to us today of this world, and what voice of a prophet there is to direct us to a new world, a new life, based on a reality formed in the image of He who came to give us hope for tomorrow.

While the prophets of today may not be easy to identify, and those who are identified are surely to encounter opposition as such, we can nevertheless know that prophetic situations exist among us now as much as, perhaps even more than, at any other time in human history. In a way that we may not have yet considered, the Holy Spirit has given the role of prophet to the Church. Each of us shares by virtue of Baptism in Christ's role as priest, prophet, and king.

While prophets will come and go, and some are surely to be great, we do well to bear in mind that each of us is to share in the voice of the prophet by standing up and acting for what is good, righteous, decent, just, and true. Each of us is to be a defender of the faith in everything it means to live faith by building a world of lasting peace, hope, healing, and restoration.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

“If we must judge, let us first use the mirror on our own wall for practice.”

Those things that one cannot improve in himself or in others, he ought to endure patiently, until God arranges things otherwise. Nevertheless when you have such impediments, you ought to pray that God would help you, and that you may bear them kindly. Endeavour to be patient in bearing with the defects of others, whatever they are; for you also have many failings which must be borne by others. If you cannot make yourself be as you would like to be, how can you expect to have another person be to your liking in every way? We desire to have others perfect, and yet we do not correct our own faults. We would allow others to be severely corrected, and will not be corrected ourselves. We will have others kept under by strict laws, but in no case do we want to be restrained. And so it appears that we seldom weigh our neighbour in the same balance with ourselves. - Thomas a Kempis

Gospel Text: (LK 11:42-46)
The Lord said:
“Woe to you Pharisees!
You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb,
but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.
These you should have done, without overlooking the others.
Woe to you Pharisees!
You love the seat of honor in synagogues
and greetings in marketplaces.
Woe to you!
You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”

Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply,
“Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”
And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law!
You impose on people burdens hard to carry,
but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”

Charity ain't easy. Loving souls with the Heart of Christ demands our all. It demands that we not get hung up on what is not important but that we never forget to try to bring every last person around us to be with God eternally.

Look at Our Lady. She was given every grace, merit, blessing, and honor by God, but one thing she was never given - she wasn't ever appointed anyone's judge. She is “Advocata Nostra”, Our Advocate. She is the one who excuses rather than accuses. The devil is the accuser. He is the rash judge. Those who step into the shoes of trying to condemn as many as possible, end up condemning themselves along with the evil one.

But wait, you say? Does justice, does holiness not demand us to be exact and correct in our estimation of things? Are we to turn a blind eye to the horrible and gross moral indifference of our times? By saying, "Do not judge," aren't we also saying that we will contribute to the moral indifference by not resisting evil and pointing it out when others seem to apathetically let it suffocate the rightly developed sense of good and evil?

No. Actually, being forgiving, excusing our brother's fault, does not numb our sense of sin, it sharpens it.

By being aware of evil around us, especially the mystery of sin working in my brothers and sisters, we become more capable not of pushing them back down into it, but trying to work in intimate union with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in pulling as many souls out of the muck as we can. Being acutely aware of my brother's sin doesn't mean that we must condemn him, but makes us all the more alive to the need to help rid him of evil.

When a parent sees a child full of mud, love demands the parent to clean their little one. A little soul tarnished in its original pristine beauty, should arouse in the hearts of disciples, the desire to work with the Eternal Father, to cleanse them and free them so that they may stand shameless before His glorious Face, and thus find salvation.

May the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the forgiving, excusing Hearts, form disciples to be the lifeboats of salvation in the midst of an ocean of iniquity of our time, to pull people out of the muck rather than push them down.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Are we ashamed of the Gospel?

“The modern habit of saying "This is my opinion, but I may be wrong" is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying "Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me" – the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.” - G.K Chesterton

Scripture Text: (LK 11:37-41)
Brothers and sisters:
I am not ashamed of the Gospel.
It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:
for Jew first, and then Greek.
For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith;
as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.”

The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven
against every impiety and wickedness
of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
For what can be known about God is evident to them,
because God made it evident to them.
Ever since the creation of the world,
his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity
have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.
As a result, they have no excuse;
for although they knew God
they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks.
Instead, they became vain in their reasoning,
and their senseless minds were darkened.
While claiming to be wise, they became fools
and exchanged the glory of the immortal God
for the likeness of an image of mortal man
or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.

Therefore, God handed them over to impurity
through the lusts of their hearts
for the mutual degradation of their bodies.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie
and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator,
who is blessed forever. Amen

The atmosphere of “political correctness,” “tolerance,” and moral relativism that has infected this country has cowed Christians into a corner, making us so fearful to speak out against the wrongs we see that we begin to doubt our own convictions to Christ and the Truth.

Ask yourselves this question: If something is not true, is it worth believing? The answer is obviously no. Why would we believe something that we know is false? So for us to rationally believe the Gospel, it has to be true.

Either Jesus is God who came to earth as man, died for our salvation, rose from the dead, the Gospel is true, and there is a definitive Right and Wrong, or Jesus was just a guy who talked a lot of nonsense, the Gospel is a cool story but nothing more, and Right and Wrong are whatever society says they are. It can’t be both true and false based on what one believes. Belief in something does not make it true. Truth can either validate or invalidate belief.

St. Paul tells us in today’s first reading at Mass, “It (the Gospel) is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” then this reading is a call for us today to stand up for the Truth. Stand up for Christ using the power of the Gospel. Stand up against the wrongs of this world. We all have ways we are called to do this in our own lives and in our own unique way with the gifts we have been given. But however we are called, right now is the time to take courage, to be bold, and to stop being ashamed of the Gospel. We must be willing to speak up and to bring the Truth through words and deeds to the world around us.

We are Christians, soldiers of Christ, and it is time to act as witnesses, not as bystanders.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Prayer gives us a pure heart and a pure heart can do much."

"Keep your heart pure. A pure heart is necessary to see God in each other. If you see God in each other, there is love for each other, then there is peace." – Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (LK 11:29-32)
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
We hear, but we don’t listen. Our eyes are open, but we don’t see.

In the Gospel today, Jesus talks about Jonah and the Ninevites. Jonah went to Nineveh and preached a message of repentance. Everyone listened, from the lowliest to the king. They put on sackcloth and fasted and prayed for God’s compassion. They heard the message. They listened. They were saved. Jesus says he is bringing that message to our generation. But do we listen? Do we see?

We as Catholics have the best message of love, of understanding, of compassion that we could ever ask for, but we sometimes don’t listen. Or we don’t want to hear, so we cover our ears and hum so the words don’t come through. Or we let the noise of our lives drown out what we really should be listening to – our hearts. I think oftentimes that’s our biggest hurdle: We know what we should do, but don’t do it. We don’t take time for prayer but watch TV or go on the computer. We avoid a sad co-worker because we are not in the mood. We laugh at someone else’s expense. We gossip and criticize others as opposed to examining our own shortcomings.

We are so accustomed to being over-stimulated by the ready access to data and information that our technology gives us, that reflection and contemplation can easily be pushed to the margin of our existence. The need for constant novelty is a sign of an unsettled mind and heart.

If we neglect to ponder our life and its circumstances, we will be unlikely to discover the subtleties of God's activity in our souls.

Just as the generation that Jesus was referring to today in the gospel, we to want signs to verify our convictions. However, the signs that God sends may not be what we expect. Perhaps what we really need is the capacity to ponder our life in the presence of God - to pray - in order to discover how the Lord wants to lead us.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Each one of them is Jesus in disguise

"We can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by the society -- completely forgotten, completely left alone. That is the greatest poverty of the rich countries.”-- Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (LK 17:11-19)
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
"Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
And when he saw them, he said,
"Go show yourselves to the priests."
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
"Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you."

Until recently, a diagnosis of leprosy was a death sentence—a long, slow sentence marked by physical deformity, social isolation, poverty, and despair. Until recently, lepers were shunned by their families and communities for fear of contamination. It was assumed that their disease was a mark of spiritual impurity.

Before his conversion, when Francis of Assisi would pass the house of a leper, he would hold his nose in disgust. But one day upon seeing a leper, he dismounted his horse and ran to embrace the man. “What had previously nauseated me,” he wrote, “was turned into sweetness of soul and body.” According to Pope Benedict XVI, “Jesus healed Francis of his leprosy, that is, his pride,” on that day.”

While leprosy is now treatable, there are so many “conditions” today—illnesses, lifestyles, habits, or addictions—that can leave people isolated. And like Francis, our pride can keep us at a safe distance from them. Perhaps we fear that by getting too close, we’ll be seen as accepting their stigma, or we will be associated with “those kind of people.” But very often it’s “those kind of people” who reveal the kind of people we are.

Jesus reached out not only to lepers but to every other person who lived on the margins. He saw them as treasures, as people created in God’s own image. Despite the customs and norms of the day, he sought out such people and treated them with dignity and kindness. And he did this as an example to all of us.

Look around today. No doubt at least one opportunity will arise for you to do likewise: to welcome the foreigner, to feed the poor, to visit the sick, or to show kindness to the outcast. As you do, you too will see your own version of “leprosy” turned into sweetness of soul.