Friday, January 31, 2014

Little things? Who cares!? Apparently, God does!

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. - St.Luke

Gospel Text: (MK 4:26-34)
Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Today we hear the parable of the mustard seed. I couldn’t tell you what a mustard seed is, so reflecting on this passage, I decided to do some research about the mustard seed. A mustard seed is like a weed; once you plant one, it grows and grows until it overtakes any living vegetable or flower in a garden. In Jesus’ time, it was against Jewish law to plant a mustard seed because it would kill anything and everything that prevented it from growing.

In every Christian's soul Jesus Christ has sown —by virtue of their Baptism— grace, sanctity, and the Truth. It is necessary that these seeds sprout, grow and bear a multitude of good fruits, our deeds: deeds of service and charity, of kindness and generosity, of sacrifice to properly comply with our daily duty and to give happiness to those around us; deeds of constant prayer, of forgiveness and understanding, of effort to grow in virtue, and of joy.

This Kingdom of God must begin within each one of us first, only then will it extend to our family, to our community, to our society, and to our world. Because, he who lives like that, «what does he do but prepare the path of God (...), so that the strength of grace fills him and the light of truth lights him up; so that his ways to God are always straight» (Saint Gregory the Great).

We must always remember, we can not give what we do not have. God is “the fountain of all holiness” (Eucharistic Prayers I-IV), He is the source and we are not! A concept to never forget!!! We must go to him first, empty ourselves, in order to make room in our soul for HIS grace, which is then OURS to give to OTHERS. Here is an analogy to illustrate that point. Not even God can fill a cup with milk, which has water already in it all the way up to the brim. First the water must be poured out, then the milk has room to be poured in. The same is true with us, we have to “make room” for God within our heart. If we are “full of ourselves” God cannot find room to work within us.

The seed of faith begins very small, «It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden» (Mk 4:31-32). The parable of the mustard seed helps us see that with God, small things can become an epidemic and thus make a huge impact.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

We have to put an end to the “mathematics of measure”: In the measure you give, so shall you receive

“Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.” – Mother Teresa

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

«Pay attention to what you hear» (Mk 4:23-24). But, what does it mean “to hear”?; what are we to hear? This is the great question we have to ask ourselves. It is an attitude of sincerity towards God that demands to know what we really want to do. And to find it out we must hear: we must pay attention to the hints of God. We have to enter into a dialogue with him and only in the silence of our heart can we hear God.

I have used this quote by Mother Teresa many times but it deserves to be repeated: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Some of us may not realize the awesome potential we have for building the kingdom of God. Or we may wonder if we are using our gifts to the fullest. If you need a little inspiration, think of those whose service to God has made a big difference in your life—not necessarily Mother Teresa, but your neighbors and friends who do so much with the skills they have. Your parish, small group, or Bible study wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t making their own unique contributions. God has called each of us to shine in different ways, and each light does something to scatter the darkness in the world. Joined together in Christ, there is nothing we can not do!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There is a difference between being busy and being fruitful

“He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. – St John

Gospel text (Mk 4,1-20): 
Jesus began to teach by the lake, but such a large crowd gathered about him that He got into a boat and sat in it on the lake while the crowd stood on the shore. He taught them many things through stories or parables. In his teaching he said, «Listen! The sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some of the seed fell along a path and the birds came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil; it sprang up immediately because it had no depth; but when the sun rose and burned it, it withered because it had no roots. Other seed fell among thornbushes and the thorns grew and choked it, so it didn't produce any grain. But some seed fell on good soil, grew and increased and yielded grain; some produced thirty times as much, others sixty and others one hundred times as much». And Jesus added, «Listen then, if you have ears».

When the crowd went away, some who were around him with the Twelve asked about the parables. He answered them, «The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But for those outside, everything comes in parables, so that the more they see, they don't perceive; the more they hear, they don't understand; otherwise they would be converted and pardoned».

Jesus said to them, «Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those along the path where the seed fell are people who hear the word, but as soon as they do, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Other people receive the word like rocky ground. As soon as they hear the word, they accept it with joy, but they have no roots so it lasts only a little while. No sooner does trouble or persecution come because of the word, than they fall. Others receive the seed as among thorns. After they hear the word, they are caught up in the worries of this life, false hopes of riches and other desires. All these come in and choke the word so that finally it produces nothing. And there are others who receive the word as good soil. They hear the word, take it to heart and produce: some thirty, some sixty and some one hundred times as much».

Today’s gospel reading at Mass focuses on the soil rather than on the sower. This parable points out that a person’s heart, like soil, is capable of improvement and capable of bearing a good harvest.

We can relate the soil of our hearts to this parable and know that change can begin to take place in spite of the

1. hardness of our heart

2. the shallowness of our experience

3. the many thorns that choke out the God's message in our lives

Many people are glad to hear a good homily at Mass, they sincerely “hear” it and don’t turn their backs on it. Yet they don’t profit from it. Their lives are not changed by it. They are pleased but not changed. Why?

You can’t stay away from Church, daily prayer, and the Sacrements weeks or months at a time and expect to see the harvest spoken of here; 30, 60, 100 times as much as was sown. The soil of your heart can’t just be neglected and expected to automatically produce a good crop.

What is interesting if you look closing at the reading above is that the soil that produces only a small crop, Jesus still called good. The 30 fold small crop is OK as well as the 60 fold or 100 fold bumper crop.

Let us remember that the kingdom of God advances slowly with varied responses depending on the individual. What kind of soil are you today? Remember that soil can be cultivated, a bit of “Miracle- Grow” added, proper watering and with patience and change a crop can be produced. Most importantly, we must get rid of the things that choke off the fullness of life.

The Holy Spirit helps us but not without our personal cooperation, diligence is needed. If we half react, that is, if we halt at the “border” of the road without fully going in, we shall be easy prey and our “seed” will not bear any fruit.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden”

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart ... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. – Carl Jung (Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology)

Scripture Text: (PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10)
R. (8) Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

The psalmist’s imagery is simple: gate, an opening in a wall or a fence, for going in or out. Portal, a door. Lintel, the crosspiece above the door that carries the weight above the doorway. It is to all of these that the psalmist cries, “Open! Let the King of Glory come in!” Lift up the lintel. Make the doorway wider and taller. Reach up, higher, bigger. Make way for the Lord!

Opening the gate to your heart can be scary, especially if it’s been closed a long time. So many things can be hidden in there: guilty secrets and shameful acts, wounds that still hurt, fears and memories that embarrass, obscure motivations stuffed so far back that you can scarcely name them. Everyone has them, these obstacles that clutter up the place where the Lord wants to dwell. But you have it in your power to open them up to him and let him clear them out!

Sit somewhere quiet today, and welcome the Lord. If you need to, ask him to excuse the mess. “There’s a lot of stuff lying here between you and me, Lord.” Think about what in your life might shut him out. You have only to sit with him and let him do the work. He is “the Lord, mighty in battle,” and he will fight for you (Psalm 24:8).

Monday, January 27, 2014

“Individuality or Unity? I say there's room for both.”

In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity. - St. Augustine

Gospel Text: (MK 3:22-30)
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and
“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided,
he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder his house.
Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies
that people utter will be forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

“A house divided against itself . . . will not be able to stand.”

Many Americans recognize this not as a quote from the Bible, but from a famous speech given by Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln made this speech in his famous debates against Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln was running in 1858 for the U.S. Senate against the incumbent Douglas. It was two years before Lincoln was elected President and three years before the beginning of the United States’ bloody civil war.

Douglas and Lincoln disagreed about slavery. Though Lincoln was not yet an outright abolitionist (he eventually became one), he desired no further expansion of the wretched and unholy institution. Douglas was playing to both sides advocating “popular sovereignty,” by which he meant that new states should be able to decide for themselves whether to be slave or free.

Lincoln said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. . . . It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Douglas won the Senate election. Lincoln won history.

So anyway, what does all of this have to do with us ordinary folks living 150 years later?

In a sense, we are all houses divided. We cannot be Catholic by compartmentalizing our lives and deciding to give ourselves to God for an hour on Sunday and devoting our minds and spirits entirely to material things the rest of the week.

Please don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with working hard and providing for your family. I try to do this. There’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation. But we have to see those things in the context of living the Gospel, not as something that gives a “rest” from the Gospel.

Believe me, I don’t have a 100% score in living out what I’ve written above. But Jesus is calling on us to do our best. Little by little, with God’s grace given to us through the Sacraments and Daily Prayer we will get to where we need to be. Eventually, as penned by Lincoln, we’ll become all one thing or all the other. Let’s choose wisely.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

“The bigger the darkness, the easier it is to spot your little light.”

“Mankind is often seduced by bright lights, and seeks after the light that makes you arrogant or brings you to look on others from on high. The light that Jesus brings is something other than the light of the world, it is a mild light, it is a quiet light, it is a light of peace.”
- Pope Francis

Scripture Text: (IS 8:23-9:3)
First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali;
but in the end he has glorified the seaward road,
the land west of the Jordan,
the District of the Gentiles.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

Today’s first reading at Mass challenges us all. We are called to be the light of the world. We are not told to stand in judgment of what others do or don't do, we are told to be a reflection of God’s love for others by the way we live our lives. “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16)… and the word we use to describe this job is "hope."

A Hindu trader in India once asked a missionary, "What do you put on your face to make it shine?" With surprise the woman answered, "I don’t put anything on it!" Her questioner began to lose patience and said emphatically, "Yes, you do! All of you who believe in Jesus seem to have it. I’ve seen it in the towns of Agra and Kolkata, and even in the city of Goa." Suddenly the Catholic girl understood, and her face glowed even more as she said, "Now I know what you mean, and I will tell you the secret. It’s not something we put on from the outside but something that comes from within. It’s the reflection of the light of God in our hearts.”   But, when He isn’t in our hearts, you will have no trouble hiding your own light under any bushel you may choose.

Pope Francis encourages the faithful to pray for “the wisdom and discernment to understand when it is Jesus who gives us the light, and when it is the devil, disguised as an angel of light.” He suggested: “Wherever Jesus is, there is always humility, meekness, love, and the Cross.”

We can decide to “light a candle” or better yet be “a candle” rather than curse the darkness. Even the smallest candle helps in a world of darkness. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

“Tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.”

“Neither fear nor self-interest can convert the soul. They may change the appearance, perhaps even the conduct, but never the object of supreme desire... Fear is the motive which constrains the slave; greed binds the selfish man, by which he is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (James 1:14). But neither fear nor self-interest is undefiled, nor can they convert the soul. Only charity can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives.” ― St Bernard of Clairvaux

Scripture Text: (ACTS 22:3-16)
Paul addressed the people in these words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’
And he said to me,
‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’
The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.’
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.’”

Saul had it all!  He knew the Law back and front.  He had zeal.  He had works - big ones!  He loved Judaism and hated her enemies. It was Saul who sat at the stoning of the young deacon named Stephen. Why was the young man martyred?  St. Stephen dared to preach Jesus and so he had to be silenced. Then... The impossible.  The Lord reached a loving hand to a man who participated in a murder – Yes a murder!  He knocked Him off his high horse - literally.  He called Him to repentance.  Blinded him.  

So what is conversion?

First and foremost, it is a grace from God. People experience conversion because the Holy Spirit reveals God’s love, his mercy, and his holiness to their hearts. But there is a human dimension to conversion as well. Conversion happens as a person decides to turn away from sin and turn to the Lord.

Paul’s conversion came when he realized that what he thought was a good thing—persecuting believers in Christ—was really a sin. God made it clear that he had been persecuting Jesus as well as innocent Christians. And that revelation moved him to devote his whole life to spreading the good news that he had just experienced. Saul was them transformed into Paul – St Paul to be exact!

So friends, I ask all of you, what is it we are wrong about today? What have we misrecognized, where are we misdirected?

Like St. Paul, we might be “pious”, we might be educated, we might be trustworthy, and we might be “good”, but that doesn’t mean that we are holy! Jesus himself warns us, trying to live a Christian life will never bring security: things are going to get messy. Pope Francis, our Holy Father constantly stresses this message.

This is why we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul: because St. Paul’s conversion gives us hope for our own conversions. For if a man as certain as St. Paul can be knocked off his high horse, can be forced to confront his misrecognitions, can be called to conversion, then the same must also be true of us.

Friday, January 24, 2014

“Holiness consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be.”

“Holiness is only revealed to us by degrees, as we journey on, and it is often something very different from what we imagine, so much so that the greatest obstacle on the path to holiness may be to cling too closely to the image we have of our own perfection.” – Fr. Jacques Philippe (In the School of Holy Spirit)

Gospel Text: (MK 3:13-19)
Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted
and they came to him.
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach
and to have authority to drive out demons:
He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges,
that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

And what does God require of those He calls?

He asks us to live close to him as we serve him, and in return, He promises to stay close to us. Yet, God speaks to each one of us individually and specifically. This is a blessing, but it is a blessing that can only be fully realized when we become holy through our willingness to serve, through prayer, and through the blessed sacraments. The second Vatican council speaks to this idea «All faithful Christians, of any kind and condition, are called to the plenitude of Christian life and to the perfection of charity; a sanctity that, also in our earthly society, contributes to humanize our way of life»

But what is holiness? Holiness means to be “set apart” – to be set apart from worldly things for spiritual things. In other words, to be set apart for God. Holiness should remind us that we are destined to eternal life, the kingdom of heaven, and should not set our hearts on the passing things of this world.

We need to remember that personal holiness is not only good for us; it is good for those around us. Holiness is like a sweet-smelling perfume that fills a room. Mother Teresa had a simple definition: "True holiness consists in doing God's will with a smile."

In our Catholic tradition holiness is faith in action, rolling up one’s sleeves, wading right into the muck of our world, not only to make one’s own life more abundant, but making the whole world a more blessed place.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Satan whispers his promise in each person's ear: "You will drink the cup of this world's best!"

“Do not confuse the truth. Jesus fights the devil: first criterion. Second criterion: he who is not with Jesus is against Jesus. There are no attitudes in the middle. Third criterion: vigilance over our hearts because the devil is astute. He is never cast out forever. It will only be so on the last day." – Pope Francis

Gospel Text: (MK 3:7-12)
Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.
A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.
Hearing what he was doing,
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd,
so that they would not crush him.
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases
were pressing upon him to touch him.
And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him
and shout, “You are the Son of God.”
He warned them sternly not to make him known

Millions of people think that the Devil is a figment of human imagination; a non-existent being akin to hobgoblins and elves. They are mistaken. Let us now consider this evil spirit: for, believe it or not, of all the enemies the human race has, he is the most dangerous.

The Devil was originally a holy arch angel of light called Lucifer. He was a being of astonishing beauty, intelligence and power. He stood in the very presence of the Creator. The Devil was in Eden at the creation of the world. The Devil was symbolized by a 'serpent' who tempted our first parents to mistrust the Almighty and break His commandment. Scripture tells us that Lucifer was “cast out” of heaven. Why? Because he “would not serve”. In essence he was the number two man and wanted to be number one. God was having none of it, so he was “cast out”.

Pope Francis tells us, “Some may say, but, Father, you're too old fashioned. You're frightening us with these things.’ No, it's not me! It is the Gospel! And these are not lies: it is the Word of the Lord. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to take these things seriously. He came to fight for our salvation. He won against the Devil. Please, let's not do business with the Devil. He wants to come back home, to take possession … Don't accept relativism, be vigilant. And always with Jesus!”

Do we love God above all things? Do we want to be served rather than serve?

The devils greatest lie is to convince mankind that he does not exist. Don’t be deceived and don’t be naïve.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

“Giants are not what we think they are. - The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”

"You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be, so long as my trust in God gives me strength. We must always be cheerful. Sadness should be banished from all Christian souls. For suffering is a far different thing from sadness, which is the worst disease of all. It is almost always caused by lack of Faith. But the purpose for which we have been created shows us the path along which we should go, perhaps strewn with many thorns, but not a sad path. Even in the midst of intense suffering it is one of joy."- Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Scripture Text: (1 SM 17:32-33, 37, 40-51)
David spoke to Saul:
“Let your majesty not lose courage.
I am at your service to go and fight this Philistine.”
But Saul answered David,
“You cannot go up against this Philistine and fight with him,
for you are only a youth, while he has been a warrior from his youth.”

David continued:
“The LORD, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear,
will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine.”
Saul answered David, “Go! the LORD will be with you.”

Then, staff in hand, David selected five smooth stones from the wadi
and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag.
With his sling also ready to hand, he approached the Philistine.

With his shield bearer marching before him,
the Philistine also advanced closer and closer to David.
When he had sized David up,
and seen that he was youthful, and ruddy, and handsome in appearance,
the Philistine held David in contempt.
The Philistine said to David,
“Am I a dog that you come against me with a staff?”
Then the Philistine cursed David by his gods
and said to him, “Come here to me,
and I will leave your flesh for the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field.”
David answered him:
“You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar,
but I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts,
the God of the armies of Israel that you have insulted.
Today the LORD shall deliver you into my hand;
I will strike you down and cut off your head.
This very day I will leave your corpse
and the corpses of the Philistine army for the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field;
thus the whole land shall learn that Israel has a God.
All this multitude, too,
shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves.
For the battle is the LORD’s and he shall deliver you into our hands.”

The Philistine then moved to meet David at close quarters,
while David ran quickly toward the battle line
in the direction of the Philistine.
David put his hand into the bag and took out a stone,
hurled it with the sling,
and struck the Philistine on the forehead.
The stone embedded itself in his brow,
and he fell prostrate on the ground.
Thus David overcame the Philistine with sling and stone;
he struck the Philistine mortally, and did it without a sword.
Then David ran and stood over him;
with the Philistine’s own sword which he drew from its sheath
he dispatched him and cut off his head.

The Philistines proposed a way to end the conflict: the greatest warrior from each army would do battle.  The side that loses this contest would surrender.  With sword and spear, the massive Goliath filled the Israelites with fear.  Only one volunteered for the fight.  The desperate king piled armor on the youth, but David was a shepherd, not a soldier.  His weapon was the slingshot that he used against the bears and lions that preyed on his family’s flock.  Goliath was surprised and insulted by the young man who raced toward him.  Later David would sing of the God who delivered the Israelites from the enemy’s sword. 

Today we pray for the legal protection of human life.  In this struggle, the odds often seem daunting.  In our time, troubling moral questions are called matters of opinion, best left to the individual. 

“But what can I do? What difference could I possibly make? Abortion is such a polarizing issue. How can I turn the tide?”

Jesus told a man in the Gospel, “Stretch out your hand” (Mark 3:5). But the man’s hand was useless. He couldn’t do what Jesus commanded, but he obeyed anyway. And in that obedience, he found healing.

Faced with profound political and ideological opposition, we can easily become discouraged. But let’s remember today’s first reading at Mass. David slew a mighty warrior with a few stones and deep faith. We can overcome the culture of death by “stretching out our hands” and witnessing to the preciousness of life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Law - an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community.

“Small men command the letter of the law. Great men serve its spirit. For the spirit of the law is justice... and justice is the spirit of God.”

Scripture Text: (MK 2:23-28)
As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath,
his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain.
At this the Pharisees said to him,
“Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”
He said to them,
“Have you never read what David did
when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry?
How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest
and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat,
and shared it with his companions?”
Then he said to them,
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.
That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

The less important precepts of the Law have to give way before the most important ones; a ceremonial precept has to give way to a precept of the natural law; the precept of resting on the Sabbath should not, therefore, prevail over the basic needs of subsistence. The II Vatican Council, was inspired by the previous example, and to underline that people have to prevail over economic and social questions, says: «Social order and its progressive development have to be subordinate always to persons' welfare, because things are made for man and not the other way round. The Lord pointed that concept out in Scripture when He said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (cf. Mk 2:27).

As a Catholic, have you grasped this concept or are you still under the obsession that secondary things overrule the love we have to place on whatever we do? To work, forgive, correct, attend Mass on Sundays, take care of sick people, abide by the commandments..., do we do it because we have to or because of our love for God? If only these considerations may help us to revitalize all our deeds with the love our Lord has instilled in our hearts, precisely so that we can also love Him.

Monday, January 20, 2014

“Obedience is, without doubt, more meritorious than any austerity”

”God is more pleased to behold the lowest degree of obedience, for His sake, than all other good works which you can possibly offer to Him.”--Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church

Scripture Text: (1 SM 15:16-23)
Samuel said to Saul:
“Stop! Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.”
Saul replied, “Speak!”
Samuel then said: “Though little in your own esteem,
are you not leader of the tribes of Israel?
The LORD anointed you king of Israel and sent you on a mission, saying,
‘Go and put the sinful Amalekites under a ban of destruction.
Fight against them until you have exterminated them.’
Why then have you disobeyed the LORD?
You have pounced on the spoil, thus displeasing the LORD.”
Saul answered Samuel: “I did indeed obey the LORD
and fulfill the mission on which the LORD sent me.
I have brought back Agag, and I have destroyed Amalek under the ban.
But from the spoil the men took sheep and oxen,
the best of what had been banned,
to sacrifice to the LORD their God in Gilgal.”
But Samuel said:
“Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the LORD?
Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission than the fat of rams.
For a sin like divination is rebellion,
and presumption is the crime of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the command of the LORD,
he, too, has rejected you as ruler.”

There may be times for us all, in the cold of winter or as we face the aches that come with age, when getting to Mass is a challenge. But we push ourselves out the door and into the pew, and we feel good that we are doing what God wants us to do.

That’s getting into Mass. But have you ever walked out of Mass unable to remember the Gospel or a single point from the homily? Or maybe you hear the message but don’t act on it? Sometimes even the closing command to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” is just too hard. You can’t even be peaceful and loving in the chaotic parking lot after Mass!

Sometimes we, too, find ourselves in the position of obeying only partway. We may have sincere intentions, but we draw a line with the Lord. Then we make excuses and hope to get away with it. But God wants our hearts. He wants to show us how rewarding it is to obey him fully—even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Today, examine yourself to see if there is an area of your life in which you are holding back. Ask the Lord to help you change. Decide to act on the plans God has for you. Don’t stop at 90 percent!