Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jesus never concealed the fact that his religion included a demand as well as an offer

“But if he had come down from the Cross, he would have made it impossible for them to believe in him, for he would have substituted sight for faith. That is why he does not take us down from our crosses: so that we do not substitute feelings and experiences for faith. He wants the very best for us, the strongest and most precious gift, and that is faith.― Peter Kreeft (Professor of philosophy at Boston College)

Gospel Text: (MT 16:21-27)
Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Taking up the cross means that I am willing to let God change me. To change whatever is keeping me from a loving relationship with Him, and eliminating whatever obstacles are keeping me from really knowing His love for me, so that He can continue to build me up into the person I was created to be.  The decision to deny self and to take the cross needs to be made before true discipleship can really begin.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Talent is only the starting point.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race – Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the United States 1923–1929 ).

Gospel Text: (MT 25:14-30)
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.
After a long time
the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents
came forward bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

At the end we will be asked, as the men in the parable were, “How did you use the gifts I gave you and how productive were they in furthering the growth of the Kingdom?”  Today then is a day for us to identify what those gifts actually are. Some people have never given it much thought. They see their Christian life in rather passive terms, just looking after themselves, living in conformity to the commandments of God and the Church, fulfilling their “religious duties,” making sure to die “in the state of grace”. To do only this, in effect, is to bury one’s talents.

So we are here and now called to continue to spread God’s love in word and deed, as best we can, wherever  we can, no matter what the circumstances:  To make sacrifices, to share our wealth, to be kind and patient, to be humble and poor in spirit, to be merciful and truthful, to be peace makers and one another’s servants.   Let God be the judge as we confront injustice, greed, self-centered ambition and arrogant pride.  To love others not just by what we say but by what we do.  That is how we manifest and disclose that the Reign of God is at hand.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The only thing you have to do in this life is die……..everything else is a choice.

“God gives us not only the truth but also the ability to believe it; not only the new thing to see but also the new eye to see it with.”― Peter Kreeft  (professor of philosophy at Boston College)

Gospel text (Mk 6,17-29): Herod had sent to have John arrested, and had him chained up in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife whom he had married. For John had told him, «It is not right for you to live with your brother's wife». So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him, but she could not because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod's birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, «Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you». And he went so far as to say with many oaths, «I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom». She went out to consult her mother, «What shall I ask for?». The mother replied, «The head of John the Baptist». The girl hurried to the king and made her request: «I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish». The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John's disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Today we remember the beheading of John the Baptist, who died as a martyr for the truth he preached to those around him.  With the horrific events occurring now in the world around us, I find it difficult to think about John the Baptist so many years ago.  Yet the common thread over the years is that martyrs still die making choices every day.  At the heart of our lives, in the midst of the signs of our times, we all make choices in every present moment which impact our lives and the lives of others.

The choices we have before us are not mysterious or complex.  The choices in the present moment are simple and clearly flow from the river of God's love and compassion within our hearts, preached by Jesus in the gospels and affirmed in creation and in the world's religious approaches to God.

We choose:
Love over hate.

Inclusion over exclusion.

Friendship over enmity.

Compassion over cruelty.

Sharing over selfishness.

Love over all.

John the Baptist made his choice and suffered the consequences.  Jesus made his choice and suffered the consequences.  What consequences am I suffering for what choices?

The question is clear.  I must reflect and pray today over the answer.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Death does not wait to see if things are done or not done

"Don’t fancy that your age can make you look forward to a long life. It is too uncertain, my dear boys. Rather, it is quite certain that some day you shall die and that a bad death brings eternal misery. Therefore, be more concerned with keeping yourselves in the state of grace in order to meet death than with anything else."- St John Bosco

Gospel Text: (MT 24:42-51)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

A teacher asked the children in her Sunday school class, "If I sold my house
and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would I get into Heaven?" "NO!" The children all answered. "If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I get into Heaven?" Again, the answer was "NO!" "Well," the teacher continued, "then how can I get to Heaven?" In the back of the room, a 5 yr. old boy shouted out, "You gotta be dead!!!"

We all have an appointment at sometime in our life (unless Jesus returns first) with death. My question for you today is, “Are you ready?”

What are we doing to prepare for our eternal future? Jesus gives us the freedom to do what we want with our time, but all He asks is that we use it wisely.

Think about that one for a while.

A FAITHFUL person will come to church, they will want to come. They will give, they will read the word and pray, they will love other people. They will do it all because they love Jesus! WE all do what is important in our life. I find time to do what I want to do. If you love Jesus and He is a priority in your life, you will find a way to do what He wants you to do!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Do you pray together as a family?

Rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! - Pope Benedict XVI

Scripture text: (Ecclesiasticus 26:1-4,13-16)
Blessed the husband of a good wife,
twice-lengthened are his days;
A worthy wife brings joy to her husband,
peaceful and full is his life.
A good wife is a generous gift
bestowed upon him who fears the Lord;
Be he rich or poor, his heart is content,
and a smile is ever on his face.
A gracious wife delights her husband,
her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones;
A gift from the Lord is her governed speech,
and her firm virtue is of surpassing worth.
Choicest of blessings is a modest wife,
priceless her chaste soul.
A holy and decent woman adds grace upon grace;
indeed, no price is worthy of her temperate soul.
Like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens,
the beauty of a virtuous wife is the radiance of her home.

You know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well. True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life's journey.

But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God's love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centeredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world; it is the leaven of society.

Always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth! Then, the joy and peace of the Lord will be always with you!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.”

“Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending - performing. You get to love your pretense. It's true, we're locked in an image, an act - and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you're trying to steal their most precious possession.” - Jim Morrison (American singer, poet, & songwriter)

Gospel Text: (MT 23:23-26)
Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

Many homes have a junk drawer or catch-all closet that the owners don’t really want other people to know about. When company approaches, stray papers and miscellaneous objects with no clear category are deposited into these hiding places. When these things are out of sight, the house at least appears orderly, and guests get a good impression. Unfortunately, just out of view is evidence of a persistent and perhaps growing clutter.

This kind of superficial remedy can give us an image of what our spiritual life can be like. It can be tempting to clean the outside of the cup while not tending to the inside (Matthew 23:25-26). At a restaurant we may be careful to say grace before eating but think nothing of snapping at a waiter who seems less than perfectly polite. We may try hard not to miss Mass, but just before the service, we cut someone off trying to get a parking space.

Why don’t our outward observances more closely match what’s inside us? Oftentimes, it’s because we find it easier to manage our appearance than to deal with our flaws. We want to hide them away and occupy ourselves with what we can control. It’s as if we were a parent whose teenager is always fighting, and all we do is keep reminding him to comb his hair! But like a wise parent, Jesus insists that we come to him and tell him what the real problem is. He is anxious to listen to us and to offer us his healing remedy.

This is exactly what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is for! It should be anything but a cosmetic approach. It’s meant to set us free from the inside out. As we examine our consciences through the light of the Holy Spirit, we can get to the root of the shortcomings that dog us. Whatever we’re dealing with, if we acknowledge it, confess it, and seek God’s grace to part with it, he will forgive us and restore us to his presence. We never have to live chained to our sins. Today is the “acceptable time” when you can receive his love and mercy (2 Corinthians 6:2)!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Our lives say much more about how we think than our books do

He rightly reads scripture who turns words into deeds. ~St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Gospel Text: (MT 23:13-22)
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

Hypocrite. We all know the word, “hypocrite.” What is a hypocrite? A phony. A two-faced person, pretending to be a friend but is really an enemy in disguise. A hypocrite is a pretender, pretending to have love for you but does not. Saying the pretty words of love. Making the motions of love. Putting on a good face of love. Being totally charming and loving. But that person does not really love you. Pretending to have strong feelings for you but it is all a farce.

Hypocrisy is a cynical pretense of being a good person while disregarding the morality, which is claimed to be followed. The difference between that person and the person who strives but fails to live up to their beliefs while repenting is vast. Some people claim there are too many hypocrites in the Church. I say there aren’t as many as they claim. It is just an excuse they use for not coming to church. When you hear that kind of talk just say, “Oh come on, one more won’t make any difference”.

The older I get the more convinced I am that Christianity is not so much about being good as it is being true with the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Truth. It is Jesus who makes us good, not our goodness that makes us Christians.

Another thing to remember about hypocrisy is that hypocrisy does not consist in failing to practice what we preach, we all fall short. Hypocrisy consists in not believing what we preach.

We must listen to our consciences and allow Jesus to form them through His Church. This requires a docile spirit and heart, one in which God the “potter” can mold us the “clay”. Only He can make us holy. If we maintain our intimacy and closeness to Jesus, He will change our hearts and the rest will take care of itself.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

“It is not wisdom but Authority that makes a law”

"Teach nothing new, but implant in the hearts of everyone those things which the fathers of venerable memory taught with a uniform preaching ... Whence, we preach nothing except what we have received from our forefathers. In all things, therefore, both in the rule of faith in the observance of discipline, let the pattern of antiquity be observed." – Pope St. Leo the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

Gospel Text: (MT 16:13-20)
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
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.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

When Jesus goes on to describe the keys he is giving Peter as “keys to the kingdom of heaven,” the phrase easily triggers the memory of those many cartoons that portray St. Peter monitoring the pearly gates, allowing some people in, and others not. While that association provides the setting for some wonderful humor, it distracts us from the context of the biblical meaning of “keys to the kingdom of heaven”.

This is what Jesus teaches us to pray for when we say “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”

Entering that kingdom on earth does eventually lead to entering the divine realm we call Heaven, but the authority given Simon Peter is a power that he exercises on earth. 

But this earthly authority is divinely authorized and don’t just take my word for it either, its right there before your eyes in today’s gospel noted above. That is what Jesus means when he says, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Many people say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” That statement usually means, “I try to take seriously God and my spiritual nature and destiny, but I have trouble relating to official church structures and external practices.” It can also mean that some people are looking for religion without any personal accountability or sacrifice. That kind of “religion” has nothing to do with what Jesus Christ taught or was all about.

Today’s Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus established a concrete community of followers who were to understand themselves as heirs to the covenant life of Israel. That means working out our collective salvation in the context of divinely established earthly authority. That also means believing that the authority of God works through human frailty.

Jesus Christ came on earth to establish a Church, not just to pardon people’s sins — and the disciples were destined to become that Church’s pillars. As we are taught by his word and nourished by his Body and Blood up until this very day, we can keep moving forward, becoming the holy people he longs for us to be.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Do not wait for leaders, do it alone, person to person.

God’s invitation to become saints is for all, not just a few. Sanctity therefore must be accessible to all. In what does it consist? In a lot of activity? No. In doing extraordinary things? No, this could not be for everybody and at all times. Therefore, sanctity consists in doing good, and in doing this good in whatever condition and place God has placed us. Nothing more, nothing outside of this.  - Blessed Louis Tezza

Gospel Text: (MT 23:1-12)
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to give ourselves unconditionally to the service of our brothers and sisters.  No matter what our state in life may be, we are called to give of ourselves with detachment from all worldly glory.  We experience true evangelical freedom when we serve with a spirit of total detachment.

The egotist is saddened when he does not receive recognition for the good that he has done for others.  When applause is not heard, when awards are not given, and when attention is not received, the egotist retreats from his good work and fades away in self-pity.  Let us remember the words of Jesus: "When you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'" (Luke 17: 10).

We all know that people can be very ungrateful for the service that is given to them.  How many people thank those who give of themselves unconditionally?  Parents, teachers, clergy, police, firefighters, doctors and nurses many times live thankless lives.  Nevertheless, the Gospel calls us to give of ourselves unconditionally and seek as our only reward eternal life in heaven.  This is true Christianity.  Any other posture is simply rooted in egotism.

"Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" (Mark 10: 38). Jesus asks James and John if they can live the Cross?  Can you be neglected, forgotten, die to yourself, and never seek praise from others?  Can you be submerged in hatred, pain, and even death?    The standard of greatness for Christianity is not earthly glory, but the Cross of Jesus Christ.  

"Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all.  For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10: 44-45).