Monday, June 30, 2014

True leaders walk in obedience and fulfill the work of the Father to reach the world.

“On each occasion I say: ‘Lord, thy will be done! It’s not what this or that one wants, but what You want me to do.’ This is my fortress, this is my firm rock, this is my sure support.” –-St. John Chrysostom

Gospel text: (MT 8:18-22)
When Jesus saw a crowd around him,
he gave orders to cross to the other shore.
A scribe approached and said to him,
“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
Another of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But Jesus answered him, “Follow me,
and let the dead bury their dead.”

“Lord, I will follow you….when I’m ready.”

We start with good intentions to please the Lord; our genuine heart wants to follow and obey. It sounds easy to do, but when we’re put to the test, it never seems to be convenient. There are things we want to do first, or the timing isn’t right and a myriad of other excuses start to pile up.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us a perfect example of a man who wants to follow Jesus, but only after he takes care of burying his father. Jesus basically tells him, “It’s now or never!” He doesn’t ask us to obey tomorrow, in two weeks or five years from now—it’s today! Obedience is not easy, especially when it’s not on our terms. Matthew 26:41 says “…the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” and that is the truth. Living this life is about battling our flesh every day. We are called to pick up our cross and follow him. What is more important than that?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

“Far better it is for you to say: "I am a sinner," than to say: "I have no need of religion."

“The egocentric is always frustrated, simply because the condition of self-perfection is self-surrender. There must be a willingness to die to the lower part of self, before there can be a birth to the nobler.” ― Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary: Lessons from Cana and Calvary

Gospel Text: (MT 16:13-19)
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Peter the Apostle denied Christ THREE times, even after being forewarned that one among the Apostles would do so. Peter was a man who loved our Lord so much. He gave up his life to follow Christ. Yet, he was so human and fell just like we do... continually.

You can't deny the message Jesus sends to us by choosing Peter. No matter how many times we fall (and fall, we will), our lives still carry so much value and purpose. No matter what we've done, there is still so much room for Jesus to fill us with His grace and enter our hearts. Because Christ died for us, we are redeemed and forgiven time and time again, whether we feel deserving or not.

I imagine Peter felt unworthy to be forgiven after he repeatedly denied the man who was sent to save him. Still Jesus teaches us what it really means to love and forgive. He changed Peter's heart and life and made him the first Pope, the first grand caretaker of the Church.

Do you ever have those moments in life where you know you've just failed? You know what you've said or done was not pleasing to God, but you couldn't take back what was already said or done? So you tell yourself it won't happen again, but then before you know it you're right back in your old ways? That was Peter. Once. Twice. Three times.

The truth is, we are all Peter. We've all fallen and will fall again; however, you need to know that your life has a beautiful future in store. You have a saving, redeeming God who loves you and with Him all things are possible. God gives us grace to overcome our very self. This grace comes to us through prayer, meditation on the scripture, reception of the Eucharist in the state of grace, and in the confessional with a priest. It is there that God “elevates” our  human nature in ways we CANNOT do on our own. The biggest mistake of mankind is trying to “fix itself”. That is why Jesus came, to help us, to heal us and ultimately to save us. Why does humanity still resist His saving hand?

So when you feel like the betraying Peter, just remember the Peter God turned him into. The Peter he was meant to become.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

If the eyes of your heavenly mother favors you, how could the eyes of her Son not favor you?

"Mary, give me your Heart: so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate; your Heart so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life and love Him as you love Him and serve Him in the distressing guise of the poor." -- Blessed Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (LK 2:41-51)
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Today we celebration at Holy Mass the Marian Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary." On this special Feast, we are reminded of the flawless nature of Mary, the Mother of God. As the New Eve, Mary was created flawless, remained flawless throughout her life and was elevated to Heaven in her flawless state at the end of her earthly life. Consequently, the Holy Catholic Church proclaimed the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary in support of these truths. 

If we give ourselves to Mary, she will also lead us most perfectly to her Son. We could not choose a better mother to form us and to lead us, to teach us the way we are supposed to live and the way we are supposed to act. She is the model for us, but she is more than just a model: She is our mother. Each one of us [needs] to know that we can turn to her and there we will find a maternal heart which is completely open to each one to be able to bear our sorrows, to be able to hear our concerns, to listen to us, and to ponder all of these things in her heart.

Next to Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the Heavenly Father's greatest fountain of grace. From her heart flows countless physical and spiritual blessings and healings. Indeed there is truth to the word, "To Jesus, through Mary."

Surely, recognizing the Spirit filled wisdom of His Mother, the Lord will welcome you as a member of His family.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

You have to learn from the Heart of Jesus – That is why Jesus said, “Learn from me” not from books.

A Christian who lives united to Christ's heart can have no goals but these: peace in society, peace in the Church, peace in his soul, the peace of God which will reach its climax when his kingdom comes.  -  St. Josemaria Escriva

Gospel Text: (MT 11:25-30)
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Know that you can’t be too clumsy, absentminded, or stubborn to become God’s instrument. He can work with those things! Consider Margaret Mary Alacoque, a seventeenth-century nun considered to be no practical good in her convent. She found it difficult to pray according to the order’s established format, and she inspired only scorn and contempt among her fellow nuns. But it was to her that Jesus entrusted the message of the Sacred Heart. He told “useless” Sr. Margaret Mary that three streams flow eternally from his heart: mercy for sinners, help for all in need, and love and light to enable people to shine forth the glory of the Lord.

He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. (Psalm 103:3) His stream of mercy flows without end to forgive and to restore whatever is wrong in you. Invite him to touch whatever is weak, or painful, or shameful, or just plain annoying. He will forgive. He will transform and heal.

He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion. (Psalm 103:4) That second stream, help for all in need, flows also without ceasing. Set your heart on serving him, despite the things that you believe disqualify you. You are not too weak, inept, or useless. He understands you and will help you!

Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. (Psalm 103:8) Love and light flow from Jesus’ Sacred Heart. Love, full of grace and mercy, streams towards you daily. That love is ever patient, not easily riled, and infinitely gentle.

God cares about you. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do

Closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God. Whenever our eyes are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith and knowledge of God. If we want to advance in the spiritual life, then, we must constantly be missionaries. – Pope Benedict XVI

Gospel Text: (MT 7:21-29)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.

How do we speak and behave like a Christian in our daily life? How do we define our testimony? How do we undertake the commandment of love in our life, whether personal, family, professional, etc.? Words and prayers without any commitment do not count, but only our desire to live in accordance with God's Will. Our prayer should always be an expression of our craving for doing good deeds along with a request for help, because we recognize our own failings.

The following well known words of Jesus apply today:
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

I liken this to the weather warnings we hear over and over again, particularly this time of the year in the middle of the United States. We know what to do. We have advanced warnings provided by extremely sophisticated technology. Many times we choose to ignore those warnings because we don’t want to be inconvenienced. How often do we actually take inventory, prepare and make sure we have everything we may need in the event of disaster? How often do we live as the fool who built on sand? The fool may have had his head buried in the proverbial sand.

We can take time daily at least to listen to the words of God, and to act on them. We can take time to LIVE the gospel, for this is the will of the father. By doing so, our house will be a strong, safe refuge. The rains may fall, the winds may blow, but in times of trouble, our home will not collapse. We will have refuge in the Lord.

It may take a bit of work, but we can remember these words when listening to the “weather reports” of our day and planning our activities accordingly. We can do it daily and if we do it, our foundation will be like rock. We will have strength, and refuge in the storm.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

You must give to get, You must sow the seed, before you can reap the harvest.

"But because many endeavor to get knowledge rather than to live well, they are often deceived and reap little or no benefit from their labor." - Thomas a Kempis (Priest, Monk and Writer)

Gospel Text: (MT 7:15-20)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”

I think to understand this gospel we first have to define what fruit is. St. Paul tells us in Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So another way to ask that question is, “Do the choices we make in our lives produce those things in us, or keep them from growing? Do the things we do to keep busy give us more joy or less? Do they make us more patient? More gentle? More faithful to God and the Church? More loving?”

The Church is not an exclusive community but an inclusive one, so we have to turn that question out. Bearing good fruit not only means what’s happening inside of us, but how that growth affects those outside of us. In other words, to bear good fruit means to live lives that help other people see that they are also branches of the True Vine. Bearing fruit means helping other people come to know the love of Christ through our behaviors and actions toward them. We are the channels, the conduits, the seeds that give life to their faith. And the more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and in control we are around them, the more they will see the fruits of Christ in us.

Remember this - People watch us to see what kind of fruit we’re producing!

But that’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it? It’s easy for me to stand here and say, “Go be more patient…right now! But you’ll be glad to know that it’s not all up to you. We have God’s grace given to us through the Sacraments (Eucharist and Reconciliation) to strengthen and help us. Do you rely on it or do you solely rely on your self?

Faith is an ever-changing thing. If yours is anything like mine, it doesn’t grow in the same way all the time. Sometimes it grows straight, but sometimes it gets a little loopy and crooked. Every so often we need to prune out old habits or thoughts or attitudes or behaviors so that, through the power of the True Vine, even more fruit will be produced in our lives for the greater glory of God.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“...don't kid yourself. Keep the baby - I have no other advice for you. Children are the best thing in the world.”

You knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made. - Psalm 139:13-14

Gospel Text: (LK 1:57-66, 80)
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.

We are never too old or young to be surprised by God. Zechariah and Elizabeth were resigned to their situation, when the child first settled into his mother’s womb. Sputtering with doubt, Zechariah learned through months of silence to trust in God’s sly ways. When their son arrived, his parents insisted on calling him John, one beloved of God from the start.

God finds us in many ways. Some, like Paul and Augustine, wander for years before falling to the ground at God’s touch. Moved by a roguish spirit, the child John already is drawn into the desert to prepare the way of the Lord. The young David left his flock when the prophet called him to serve his people. Some paths seem direct while others are winding. I might wish to be knocked to the ground and blinded, but it is up to God how I receive my “name”.

Some seek God by running from the self. In their view, the self is inevitably selfish and must be abandoned if we are ever to become free. True, I can fall into a pit where nothing crosses the horizon except my own needs. But I am more than the pit; we are the wondrous work of God. If we are not astonished by our own being, something is wrong. There is no damaged part that cannot catch the light when I hold tight to the one who never stops forming me.

We cannot separate love of God, love of self, love of others, and love of the world. Like rising waters in spring, one flows into the next. This call extends to the ends of the earth. No one is alien to God. Everyone has a place at the table.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"No accurate thinker will judge another person by that which the other person's enemies say about him."

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” – St Matthew

Gospel text: (MT 7:1-5)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Do not judge, that you may not be judged. Is the Lord telling us to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, to be naive and undiscerning? Part of the prophetic role of the baptized is precisely that: to be prophetic, not to abstain from taking positions. Part of our being sent is to call evil what is evil and good what is good. But this does not necessarily mean that we have to set ourselves up as judges of others.

In the English language, a pertinent distinction is offered in the use of two different words, namely, critiquing and criticizing. They both have the same etymological root, but they have different meanings. We critique products: books, poetry, paintings, music... We critique actions, strategies, principles... The moment we pass from products to persons, from actions to agents, we are no longer critiquing, we are criticizing. And in criticizing we are setting ourselves up as judges of our brothers and sisters, we become “personal” in our passing judgment. We are able to critique products, because, at least to some extent, we can “measure” their quality. But we do not have any sure gauge to measure the intention and heart of the agent, as distinct from the action itself, and so to criticize the person.

I believe this is the context of the Lord’s injunction do not judge: do not condemn (the person), that you may not be condemned. Whether we judge/criticize or not, we are all going to be judged one day by the One, who is entitled to do so: The Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son [Jn. 5:22].

So yes, we are asked [Mt. 16:16] to be simple as doves, but shrewd as serpents. Simple toward people, but prophetically shrewd toward actions, policies, products.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

When you eat Christ, you eat life.

"Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration."--Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (JN 6:51-58)
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever."

“Do this in memory of me………………………..”

“Do this” continues the saving work of Jesus Christ 2000 years after he walked this earth. It literally is a “pouring out” of Christ’s life for us.  Our invitation is to live our lives like Jesus, “pouring ourselves” out for others, especially our family and those most in need in our communities.

When a priest holds out the consecrated bread (now the body/blood of Christ) to the one receiving the sacrament.  He says, “The Body of Christ.”  To what or to whom is the priest referring? 

What is being said ("The Body of Christ) is something like this: “You who with faith, hope and love are receiving this sacrament ARE the body of Christ; therefore live out your everyday life AS THE BODY OF CHRIST. 

So each person presenting him/herself to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is taking on the imitation of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  Each of us is challenged to pour ourselves out for others as Jesus did; and the entire community is equally challenged to BE CHRIST for others.

Think about it, and more importantly strive, with the help of God’s grace to do it!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

“Tomorrow is tomorrow…..Future cares have future cures….And we must mind today.”

“What day is it?" It's today," squeaked Piglet. My favorite day," said Pooh.”

Gospel Text: (MT 6:24-34)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

«Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.» (Mt 6:34). What does that mean? Try, today, to live equitably, according to the logic of the Kingdom, with trust, simplicity, seeking God, with reckless abandon. And God will take care of the rest...

Day by day. It is very important!

If tomorrow we must cope with more difficult situations, God will increase His grace. God's grace is given every moment, day by day. To live in the present moment means to accept weakness: to give up redoing the past or to dominate the future, to be contented by the present.