Saturday, November 30, 2013

“An animal will conquer others. A Spirit-filled man conquers himself – self-discipline, self-control.”

“The choice we face is not, as many imagine, between heaven and hell. Rather, the choice is between heaven and this world. Even a fool would exchange hell for heaven; but only the wise will exchange this world for heaven.”

Gospel Text: (MT 4:18-22)
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.

What can we learn from these simple fisherman who were called out to be a fulcrum to change the world? Can we accept that Jesus gives gifts to us; puts treasure into earthen vessels to carry out his work in the Kingdom?

On the surface, it may be easy to see ourselves heeding Christ’s call. Yet we must understand that this call costs our comfort and can challenge our priorities, even the priority of family. “He called them, and immediately they left their father and followed him” (MT 4:22). As parents, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers our initial reaction may be one of conflict with the example of James and John leaving their father. And while we have critical responsibilities to our families, we must come to terms that God calls us to be his servants and we are not our own. Whether our calling is urgent and immediate, or the slow work of the spirit over years in faith we are called to be faithful to his call and in faith trust even this potential conflict with our familial instincts. Comforting and inspiring are Paul’s words to the Romans: “No one who believes in Him will be put to shame” (ROM 10:11).

There are a million reasons why we should not abandon our day to day lives.  This is the life we know.  This is where we are safe.  I could see myself saying, “Oh Jesus, can it wait until after I retire? I’ll be there soon.”  But soon is not good enough for Christ.  The disciples left immediately

Friday, November 29, 2013

“God gave the day, God gave the strength.”

“In all your course, walk with God and follow Christ as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ’s hand, keeping your eye on the mark of the wounds on his hands and side, whence came the blood that cleanses you from sin and hiding your nakedness under the skirt of the white shining robe of his righteousness.” ― Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions: And Advice to Young Converts

Gospel Text: (LK 21:29-33)
Jesus told his disciples a parable.
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.
When their buds burst open,
you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near;
in the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.”

In today’s Gospel reading, after Jesus himself described the end times, he makes a simple but crucial point. When the tree buds, summer is coming. It is something we can see for ourselves. It’s the same with the signs of the times. We don’t need complicated tools to dissect scary prophesies. Jesus is coming again. We know how the story ends.

Will we confront turbulence? Yes. Will natural disasters occur? Yes. Will people try to deceive the faithful? Yes. But don’t forget: all of this has gone on since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and it will continue until Jesus comes again.

As Pope Francis proclaimed at the inaugural Mass for this year’s World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro , “The ‘dragon,’ evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The One with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope!”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

“A thankful heart has a continual feast.”

“You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Scripture Text: (PS 145:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11)
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
They discourse of the power of your terrible deeds
and declare your greatness.
They publish the fame of your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your justice.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

The first time Thanksgiving Day was celebrated as a national holiday was in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln gave it official recognition. During his proclamation address Lincoln said, "It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of the Most High God] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

So much has changed since then. Today, some people want to suppress the religious significance associated with Thanksgiving Day, and the role of religion in our society. In addition, some people want to suppress the truth about America's goodness.

This unique system was "cemented" in the Constitution of the United States. Although not perfect, I believe that our Constitution is the greatest political document ever written. But even greater than our system of government is the American understanding that the rights of the people are of divine origin, that is, from God not man. We read in the Declaration of Independence ". . .  that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Thanks to people like our founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and yes - my mother and father, I believe the America I was born into is worth fighting for. But how do we do that? There is no one answer, but as Catholics we believe where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20), and this is where we can start.

This is God's country.  Let us give Him the thanks He is due this day, and everyday, by living as His true children. May God bless America!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

“Learn to labor and to wait.”

They attack the one man with their hate and their shower of weapons. But he is like some rock which stretches into the vast sea and which, exposed to the fury of the winds and beaten against by the waves, endures all the violence. - Virgil (70 - 19 BC)

Gospel Text: (LK 21:12-19)
Jesus said to the crowd:
“They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

All roses have thorns, and the way to Heaven is not without difficulties and obstacles. This is why, without the cardinal virtue of fortitude, our good intentions would turn out unfruitful. And perseverance is part of fortitude. Perseverance, concretely, drives us to the strength we need to carry our hardships with joy.

I have observed in my life that age and good educations do not guarantee that wisdom will follow. More years on earth may mean more clutter in the soul. We have seen plenty of things rise and fall. We have heard the calls for change before. We call our cynicism wise: there is nothing new in history.

Yet, seen more closely, this world is a surprising place. Pope Francis disrupts our complacency with his striking moves towards those at the margins. In many places, the cry for justice persists despite crushing obstacles in the way. The powerful stumble toward peace talks as a last resort. Like Daniel (Daniel: 5), people draw strength from what is more real and true than the fraud that surrounds them.

A society that does not listen to God and draw strength from the grace offered to us through prayer and the Sacraments, too, may find its days are numbered.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

“Human life is in some way a constant returning to our Father’s house. - We return through contrition.”

"We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep, who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered." - Pope Francis

Scripture text: (DN 3:57, 58, 59, 60, 61)
R. (59b) Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“You heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“All you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

I've often heard the saying: "When you think God is farthest away from you, that is the moment when He is closest". I've spent some time thinking about this, trying to make some sense of it, and it speaks to me in many ways. The key is that we "think" God is farthest away from us, when it is us that have walked away from Him. We are the ones that have turned away from him to go off on our own "path" much like the prodigal son did. We know better what we want, what's best for us - the constraint of "God" is keeping us from it.

Little do we know that God is just a few steps away, keeping us in his sight, just a slight distance from us, following and waiting for the right moment to make His presence known. That is what I tell people; someday God will make his presence known to you in such a way, you will absolutely know it's Him - follow Him. I know this, because I've seen it happen too many times. It's happened to me.

So in the end it isn't how far God is away from us, but how close God really is. Nothing is as it seems, because we make it so in our minds. Reality occurs when we remove all those things that cloud our vision so we can see clearly. We are only as far away from God as our mind has taken us. He is the Good Shepherd, and He does leave the 99 to go out and look for the 1 lost sheep.

Monday, November 25, 2013

“The most truly generous persons are those who give silently without hope of praise or reward.”

"I was once young and now I am old, but not once have I been witness to God's failure to supply my need when first I had given for the furtherance of His work. He has never failed in His promise, so I cannot fail in my service to Him." — William Carey, Baptist missionary to India

Gospel Text: (LK 21:1-4)
When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

Today, as it happens so often, small things go by unnoticed: small alms, small sacrifices, small prayers; but what, at times, may look small and unimportant frequently represent the culmination of master works: be it great works of art, be it the maximum goods deeds of personal everyday saintliness.

Because these small things are mostly unnoticed, their bona fide intention is out of question: we are not to seek in them neither recognition nor human glory. Only God will discover them in our heart, in the same way as only Jesus could see the poor widow's generosity. It is more than certain that the poor woman did not play trumpets to announce what she was doing, and it is even possible she was ashamed and felt ridiculous before the eyes of the wealthy, who, while offering splendid gifts into the treasure box, were making others feel admiration at their charity. Yet, that woman's unselfishness, that caused her to drop the two small coins despite her poverty, deserved the Lord's praise: «Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all gave an offering from their plenty, but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on» (Lk 21:3-4).

The widow's generosity is a good lesson for us, Christ's disciples. We can be extremely generous, as the wealthy people that were «putting their gifts into the treasure box» (Lk 21:1). But, none of this will be worth the while if we only give “from our plenty”, without a loving or generous spirit, without offering ourselves along with the “gift”.

St. Augustine says: «They looked at the great offerings from the wealthy and they praised them for that. And, even if they could see the widow later on, how many did notice those two coins...? She gave whatever she had, for she had God in her heart. But she had plenty, for she had God in her heart. It is better to have God in our soul than gold in the safe».

Quite true: Let us be generous with God and He will be much more so with us.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Death may be the King of terrors... but Jesus is the King of kings!

“He is our king. He desires ardently to rule our hearts, because we are children of God. But we should not try to imagine a human sort of rule — Christ does not dominate or seek to impose himself, because he “has not come to be served but to serve.” His kingdom is one of peace, of joy, of justice. Christ our king does not expect us to spend our time in abstract reasoning; he expects deeds.” – St Josemaria Escriva

Gospel Text: (LK 23:35-43)
The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
"He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God."
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
"If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."
Above him there was an inscription that read,
"This is the King of the Jews."

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
"Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us."
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
"Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal."
Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise."

The solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. This feast was the Holy Father’s response to the atheistic and totalitarian regimes of his era.

Today’s feast tells us that the kingdom of God is ruled by a desire for every human being to enjoy life fully and in freedom. How did Jesus express these designs of his Father? He did it through parables like the prodigal son, which illustrate the limitless mercy that God has for his children. He did it through parables like the good Samaritan, which calls us to love and serve each other. And he did it by teaching us how to pray and how to live a life of beatitude.

Jesus knew that the best way to teach us the principles and rules of his kingdom was to act them out in person so that he could show us the way and not just tell us about it. His heart was set on seeking and obeying his Father’s wishes—just as ours should be. He was determined to love everyone, even those who opposed him—just as he calls us to do. He prioritized mercy and forgiveness over justice and punishment, and he wants us to do the same.

Pope Pius XI initiated the feast of Christ the King because he wanted every person to know that Jesus is superior to all the other would-be kings of his day: Mussolini’s Fascism, Hitler’s Nazism, Stalin’s Communism, Freud’s psychological determinism, and American materialism. The Holy Father wanted to tell the Church then, and us today, that only Jesus can fill our deepest desires for love, peace, and happiness.

May we all gather under the banner of Jesus Christ, our King. May we live today as true citizens of His kingdom.