Friday, October 31, 2014

"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."

“We must love God’s mercy as much as His justice, as both are attributes of the same infinite God”

Gospel Text: (LK 14:1-6)
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.
Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking,
“Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?”
But they kept silent; so he took the man and,
after he had healed him, dismissed him.
Then he said to them
“Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern,
would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”
But they were unable to answer his question.

I love this story and the way that Jesus, once again, renders the Pharisees speechless. It is awesome the way He always has a quick "Win-Win" response to a "Lose-Lose" encounter with the Scribes and Pharisees!

The "Sabbath " was meant to be a time to remember and celebrate God's goodness and the goodness of his works, both in creation and redemption. It was intended to bring everyday work to a halt and to provide needed rest and refreshment. It was not, however, intended to put a stop to love of God and love of neighbor.

We are never exempt from loving and helping our neighbors. Sometimes it's easy to come up with lots of reasons why we can't help out and sometimes it may be hard to love someone who has done wrong to us. But Jesus didn't tell us, "help others unless you're too busy" or "only help the people who have been kind to you". We are called to always make a positive difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters.

We honor the Sabbath by doing what Jesus asked us to do...BY LOVING GOD AND BY LOVING GOD'S all our thoughts, in all our words and especially in all of our actions.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

“Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependent upon popular opinion?”

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. - Gandhi

Scripture Text: (EPH 6:10-20 )
Brothers and sisters:
Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm
against the tactics of the Devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers,
with the world rulers of this present darkness,
with the evil spirits in the heavens.
Therefore, put on the armor of God,
that you may be able to resist on the evil day
and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
So stand fast with your loins girded in truth,
clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace.
In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield,
to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.

With all prayer and supplication,
pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.
To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication
for all the holy ones and also for me,
that speech may be given me to open my mouth,
to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel
for which I am an ambassador in chains,
so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.

“Life would be so much easier if………and that annoying co-worker! If she would just shape up, I wouldn’t get so mad. While we’re at it, I wish my neighbor would stop showing off his new car. You know, I would be so much happier if I had one too.”

How often we blame our issues on someone else! But St. Paul reminds us not to lose sight of the real battle. It’s not with the other person but with the devil himself, who wants to separate us from each other and from Jesus.

Pope Francis has spoken repeatedly about how the devil works to cut us off like this. In a homily last April, he asked, “What does Satan do to distance us from the path of Jesus? First, his temptation begins gradually but grows and is always growing. Second, it grows and infects another person; it spreads to another and seeks to be part of the community. And in the end, in order to calm the soul, it justifies itself. It grows, it spreads, and it justifies itself.”

What an insidious strategy!

It’s easy to feel justified in our complaints, in sharing them with other people, and in presenting a case for why we’re right. But we don’t have to go along with the temptation. Pope Francis continued, “Our Christian life is a struggle. That’s because the Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness.

We mustn’t be naïve, right?”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

“What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation.”

There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy. – Henry Miller (American writer)

Gospel Text: (LK 13:22-30)
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.’
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

"What is the narrow gate and who will have the strength? What do I need to do to pass through safely? If it is not enough that we know you and follow your teachings, what else is required? Who are the last, who are the first, and where am I?"

The "narrow gate can be a metaphor for many things, all challenging. Perhaps a reminder that we can never be complacent in our faith. We may have made a commitment to follow Jesus but that means we are on "the way”; we can never say "I have arrived; I'm done.

Or, it may refer to the responsibility we each have for the life we have been given. "Going along with the masses" will not enable me to pass through the "narrow gate".

Or, a reminder for continual alertness to the “narrow gate” that is the result of discernment for the many decisions of life or the many ways we avoid the sometimes tough work of listening for God.

Today’s gospel with its reference to the narrow gate reminds me of the inscription over the entrance to Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery in Bardstown, Kentucky, which simply states, "God Alone". Today is a good day to reflect on "God Alone". As children of God, we are called to enter the Kingdom with our hearts open, with everything else left behind. Jesus led the way on the Cross, stripped of everything, alone and full of love for us and God. May we all follow Him into the Kingdom of God!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

“In prayer, more is accomplished by listening than by talking. Let us leave to God the decisions as to what shall be said”

He who does not meditate acts as one who never looks into the mirror and so does not bother to put himself in order, since he can be dirty without knowing it. The person who meditates and turns his thoughts to God who is the mirror of the soul, seeks to know his defects and tries to correct them, moderates himself in his impulses and puts his conscience in order. - St.Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Gospel Text: (LK 6:12-16)
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew,
Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Did Jesus need these lengthy hours of lonely prayer, when everybody else was asleep?

Today we contemplate a full day in the life of Jesus. A life with two clear sides: prayer and action. If, as Christians we are to imitate Jesus' life we cannot exclude either of these two activities. All Christians that wish to imitate Jesus must realize that the fruit of all their good works begin and end with their prayer life. Know this, when we stop praying that’s when things begin to go wrong. You and I were created for prayer and life is about learning how to pray:

Here are some fruits of a disciplined daily prayer life:

The more we pray the happier we become.

The more we pray, the less anxious we become and the greater peace of mind and heart we will acquire.

The more we pray, the more we understand ourselves, for we come to know God more intimately, by experience and we really only know ourselves to the degree that we know God personally.

The more we pray, we begin to see the hand of God in our day to day life, that is, we see Him acting in our life. We begin to see that He loves us, personally. That makes life so much more meaningful.

The most important thing is to acquire the habit of prayer. It has to become a habit. Without that, we don't have an interior life; we just have an exterior life. And when all we have is an exterior life, we become anxious, restless, and that leads to greed, the inordinate love of possessing. For we end up trying to secure our own happiness and to reduce our own anxiety, and when things do not go our way in life, we become angry, impatient, irritated, we lose the peace that we long for. And when we are at that point, it means we've taken our life into our own hands. But life is not meant to be lived out of our own hands. We are meant to be carried along by God, like a baby is carried in a car seat. We are meant to be carried along by divine providence. God is in control, not us, and we have to surrender to his control. When we do so, life becomes so much more exhilarating.

If we do not pray, we open ourselves up to deception. This is such an important point. Diabolical deception is so subtle, and we're just not intelligent enough to defend ourselves against the subtle deception of the Evil One. The devil is inconceivably superior, intellectually, to human beings, and the person who does not have the habit of prayer is open to all sorts of deceptions. And the goal of the devil in sowing lies and deception in the minds of human beings is to divide them, to create division and animosity. That leads to divorce, or broken friendships, mutual distrust, animosity in the family, or in a religious community.

If you haven't really begun to pray regularly and wish to know how to start, just begin by setting aside a certain period of time every day, and read one psalm a day from the Old Testament it will take 5 months to get through all 150 of them. If you persevere in this discipline eventually you will acquire a profound sense of God in the interior of your souls. After years of that, you will be ready to leave this world, and you won't fear death, you will look forward to the day when you will see God's face directly. That's eternal life, and that's what this life is a preparation for. But all this begins in the decision to pray regularly.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”

"Compassion is not just feeling with someone, but seeking to change the situation. Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action!" - Desmond Tutu

Scripture text: (EPH 4:32-5:8)
Brothers and sisters:
Be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you,
as is fitting among holy ones,
no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place,
but instead, thanksgiving.
Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person,
that is, an idolater,
has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments,
for because of these things
the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.
So do not be associated with them.
For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light.

Some years ago Hollywood gave us a movie entitled, Patch Adams. It is the story of a troubled man who voluntarily commits himself into a mental hospital. There he finds that helping his fellow patients gives him a purpose in life, and he realizes that he is healed more by his interaction with the other patients than the professionals. Thus inspired, he is determined to become a medical doctor, but the philosophy at the medical school he attends is similar to the asylum...advocating an arms-length attitude to the patients that does not address their emotional needs or the quality of their lives.

Perhaps that is why Pope Francis keeps inviting all of us to clothe ourselves in compassion, or, as today's Responsorial Psalm from Mass states, "Behave like God as his very dear children."

Death is not the enemy my friends. If we're going to fight the ills that plague our society today, let's fight one of the most terrible problems of all, indifference.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

We become what we love

"We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others.  --St. Clare of Assisi

Gospel Text: (MT 22:34-40)
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

"You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

It sounds easier than it is.  For some reason, human beings seem to work very hard to exclude rather than include. We fight wars.  We discriminate based on skin color.  We close our borders to those fleeing poverty and violence. 

So the question really becomes, "Who is my neighbor," as the scholar goes on to ask in the version of this story in the Gospel of Luke.  Throughout the Bible, God is the defender of the poor, the outcast, the shunned widow, and the sinner.  It really is not a question of who our neighbor is or who we have to be nice to. Rather the question is how we can be a good neighbor to others in need.  When we welcome the migrant family, ensure parents can feed their children, and provide safe housing for the homeless; when we say a kind word to the cashier at the grocery store, prepare a meal for a family grieving the death of a loved one, and stop to let another driver turn into busy traffic...these are the real embodiment of the Word of God within us.

We intuitively know when things are out of whack in our world, when we are not in right relationship with God and God's plan for us.  And I think we also intuitively know what we need to do to bring us back into right relationship with God.  We need only ask ourselves, "How is God calling me to be the good neighbor today?"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Every Catholic must make a personal decision

“It is not for me to judge another man's life. I must judge, I must choose, I must spurn, purely for myself. For myself, alone.” ― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Gospel Text: (LK 12:54-59)
Jesus said to the crowds,
“When you see a cloud rising in the west
you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does;
and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south
you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is.
You hypocrites!
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
make an effort to settle the matter on the way;
otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge,
and the judge hand you over to the constable,
and the constable throw you into prison.
I say to you, you will not be released
until you have paid the last penny.”

Psychologists tell us that we make as many as two hundred conscious decisions every day. Some are small, and others carry profound consequences. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make the right decision all the time? In a sense, Jesus’ words on discerning the signs of the times in today’s gospel stand behind this concern.

God’s will isn’t meant to be mysterious and unapproachable. In fact, Scripture is filled with the conviction that it is possible to understand spiritual realities. In his book What Does God Want? Fr. Michael Scanlan proposes five basic questions to ask when facing an important decision.

First: Does it conform to God’s law as revealed through Scripture, tradition, and the teaching of the Church? If it doesn’t, we can’t do it.

Second: Does it foster growth in holiness? As we make decisions that deepen our union with God, the life of Christ will become more evident in our lives.

Third: Is it consistent? Many of our decisions will flow directly from previous decisions—providing, of course, that our previous decisions have borne good fruit! God may give us new challenges and take us in new directions, but he tends to reveal them in a manner consistent with how he has spoken to us in the past.

Fourth: What confirms it? After we make a decision, God usually sends some confirmation, maybe by opening doors that were once closed, by revealing needed resources, or by affirming words spoken by a trusted friend. Of course, there are times when we just have to decide on something and then examine its fruit. Experience isn’t the best teacher; evaluated experience is!

Fifth: What does your heart say? We should cautiously consider the difference between the peace of the heart and the conclusion of the mind. The head may say yes, but until the heart is convinced, we may experience “decision gridlock.” This doesn’t mean that we will like everything God asks us to do. But deep down, we will want to do it.

God is not playing hide-and-seek. When we seek his help in making key decisions, he will guide us.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (The Cost of Discipleship)

Gospel Text: (LK 12:49-53)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Did I hear that right? Jesus, the Prince of Peace said, “"Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." When it comes to Jesus, we often do have to make a choice and that choice may not be readily accepted by others. In fact, it may even cause secular segments of society to persecute us. When this happens and IT WILL HAPPEN remember these words:

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you (MT 5:11-12).

When we choose to follow Jesus, there is no escaping the fact that discipleship, in many ways, is a radical choice. To turn the other cheek; To forgive seventy-seven times; To love our enemies; To love one another as He has loved us; To deny ourselves and carry our cross. Are not these radical demands? And often, they will put us in conflict with the ways of the world. And so there can be division. I am sure that in the time of the early church, people who chose Christ did indeed come into conflict with members of their own families. It was not an easy choice.

When you come right down to it, it shouldn't be an easy choice for us, either. To choose Christ has all kinds of implications for how we should live and work, and relate to the world. But even though Jesus uses this strong language, I don't believe He is advocating violence and destruction. Divisions can be reconciled and healed. Such is the "breadth and length and height and depth" of Christ's love for us and for all.

May we seek true peace which comes out of justice, and put ourselves at the disposal of the One "who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

“We may be born equal but unfortunately we all do not prepare equally...”

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

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

As we can see from today's gospel, anxiety over the end of the world (or in New Testament language, the Second Coming of Christ) dates right back to the first century and has been a recurring theme ever since. The remedy for that concern which Jesus provides in today's gospel remains the same now as it was when Luke recorded Jesus' solution to the wonderings. Jesus suggests to us that we ought not to take a chance on salvation. We should avoid gambling on the timing of His Second Coming. How do we do this? How do we make sure we are ready and waiting when the end time arrives? Jesus makes it quite clear and it is not terribly complicated. Focus our attention and our energies on today, i.e. on the life and responsibilities which present themselves to us as we wake up each morning. Looking ahead to tomorrow, or next month, or five years from now and wondering, 'Will it be then?' can only create an anxiety which leaves us absent from today's living and graces. Such a preoccupation with what might be leads us to neglect and miss what is present to us today in our relationship with God and with one another. It weighs down the faith life and dampens our appreciation of God's choice to journey with us through this life each and every day in the person of Jesus Himself.

We are encouraged today to follow the suggestion of Jesus to live each day focused on our life with Him. Concentrate on making His teachings, His values, His choices our own here and now - today, in these very real circumstances of life. We are called today to live with an abiding awareness that living a compassionate, caring and virtuous life today will make us ready for anything at any time. If we are focused on living our faith life well each day, then should someone yell out to us , "It's the end of the world !!!", we will be able to yell back with confidence, "It's Okay - we're ready !!!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“Truth is patient. It can afford to be for eventually it will have its way.”

“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.” - St Teresa of Ávila

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

Today we hear about waiting, something we don’t often hear or like to hear in our fast-paced, twenty-first century lives. We are so used to instant gratification today in our communication with family and friends, in the news we read, and in finding the answer to any question we might have. Most of the time, we want answers and we want them now!

But Luke’s Gospel today tells us we have to adopt an attitude of waiting and patience instead, for we know not when the master will return. We are asked to be ready and vigilant; in other words, to have patience and to be aware.

Ask your self a few simple questions:

Where have I experienced God recently? What have been moments of joy and consolation in my life, moments that provide light and inspiration despite the unknown and unanswerable that lies ahead? When have I felt the care and support of others, even if it comes in some of life’s most challenging moments? If we ask these questions and look for the answers, then we just might hear the echo of the master’s footsteps, in the here and now.

Monday, October 20, 2014

“Share your life with others…………… then you will have a joyful life.”

You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me. – Mother Teresa

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

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

What are the things that matter to God?

First, that we would know his love for us personally. He created us out of love, and he loves us always. Second that we matter to him so much so that we can trust him always to take care of us. Third, that Jesus died and rose so that we could experience God’s transforming grace in our lives. And finally, that confident in his love for us, we would dedicate ourselves to loving and serving the people around us, especially those in need.

At the end of the day, we have no ultimate security in this world; none of us gets out of here alive. In turn, our efforts to carefully choreograph our lives can give us false illusions of autonomy and control that exclude our fundamental dependency on God and each other. As the Psalmist (100) sings, "the Lord made us, we belong to him."

Following the logic of today’s gospel, how can our life have any meaning at all if it is a life turned in upon itself? Today, if we do not close our eyes and our ears, the Gospel will strike us through its clarity and directness: «Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.» (Lk 12:15).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

“Our deeds will not cause God to love us more; our sins will not cause God to love us less.”

“Trusting God's grace means trusting God's love for us rather than our love for God. […] Therefore our prayers should consist mainly of rousing our awareness of God's love for us rather than trying to rouse God's awareness of our love for him, like the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:26-29).”― Peter Kreeft – Philosophy Professor at Boston College

Scripture Text: (IS 45:1, 4-6)
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
subduing nations before him,
and making kings run in his service,
opening doors before him
and leaving the gates unbarred:
For the sake of Jacob, my servant,
of Israel, my chosen one,
I have called you by your name,
giving you a title, though you knew me not.
I am the LORD and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
people may know that there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, there is no other.

Growing up is never easy. For us boys, it was always a contest for recognition and acceptance. You were either well known or you were not. You were nameless until someone important called you by name. Anyway, that's the way it seemed back then.

Once, the P.E. teacher gathered the grade school classes together for a baseball game. The two biggest 8th graders were chosen to choose teammates. The biggest boys were the first ones taken, of course. Then, there were a handful of us left to be chosen, the ones who were practically invisible and nameless. I was among that group. Finally, I got a "hey you" and put in right field. And all during the game, I kept praying, "don't hit it my way, don't hit it my way."

Ninth inning, one out, and we were winning by one run, two men on, first and second base. Plenty of balls hit to center and left field, and only a couple of grounders to right. Then it happened. A line drive came my way. Instinct took over. I caught it on the run, and threw to first base and caught the runner on his way to second. Double play, inning over, game over and suddenly, everyone knew my name!

God knows us by name. And God calls us by name.

When you become aware that God knows you personally and calls you by name, not only will you begin to feel differently, you will also begin to act differently. You will begin to feel important, valued. You will begin to get the sense that you are worthwhile. Having a sense of self-worth, a sense of dignity, you will begin to act as if life is truly meaningful, that your life counts. Why because you are a child of God. The world gives you value by what you can do, but God gives value for what you are - A very big difference. Once you realize that, the tug of war is over! You have true and lasting peace and you do not compare yourself to others. What your neighbor has or can do is of no concern to you.

You then know who you really are!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Your religion is what you do when the sermon is over.

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. - Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (LK 12:1-7)
At that time:
So many people were crowding together
that they were trampling one another underfoot.
Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples,
“Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
will be proclaimed on the housetops.
I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but after that can do no more.
I shall show you whom to fear.
Be afraid of the one who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?
Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.”

In a world where so many moral standards have broken down, still nobody wants to be a hypocrite. Some people use this accusation against Catholics in an attempt to silence them when they say uncomfortable things. But we should not be intimidated because there is a huge misunderstanding about the nature of hypocrisy.

I will say this and repeat it: Hypocrisy consists not in failing to practice what we preach, but in not believing what we preach.

I might fail to live up to my beliefs all day long, but still hold on to them as I strive to live up to them. That is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a cynical pretense of being a good person while disregarding the morality we claim to follow. The difference is being sorry, repenting, and striving forward. The hypocrite doesn’t care.

We must listen to our consciences, but we also must be careful of taking our own moral temperatures too much because that can take our eyes off Jesus and place them on ourselves. Only He can make us holy. If we worry too much about appearing to be a "Godly" person that can trip us up if we start thinking of our own image, or how we appear to others. If we maintain our intimacy and closeness to Jesus, He will change our hearts and the rest will take care of itself.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Who are we to close the doors to the Holy Spirit?

“Remain docile to the Spirit and grow in union with God – By doing so you will cultivate fraternal communion among yourselves and be ready to serve” – Pope Benedict XVI

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

Mother Teresa, John XXIII, Monsignor Romero... Do we remember what they said and expected from us? Do we carry out what they showed us?

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says it this way: “Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators.

Now, as in Jesus' time there are many who analyze phrases and study texts to discredit whoever may inconvenience them with their words: Do we also do the same? «There is nothing more dangerous than to judge the things of God with human discourses» (St. John Chrysostom).

Recently at a priests retreat, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo preached a very moving sermon to the clergy of the Galveston-Houston Diocese. He ended by pleading with the priests that there should be "No more harshness, No more harshness." This is what Jesus was telling the Pharisees today in the Gospel and this is what we need to hear as well. The truth of the gospel must be spoken clearly, it is immutable and we are not the authors of it just the instruments used to proclaim it with love. St. Paul summed this thought up the best I believe when he wrote in 1 Corinthians (13:1-2):

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

“Those who operate through the Holy Spirit are more equipped to resist temptation.”

“No matter how much individuals do through their own efforts, they cannot actively purify themselves enough to be disposed in the least degree for the divine union of the perfection of love. God must take over……..” ― John of the Cross, (Dark Night of the Soul)

Scripture Text: (GAL 5:18-25)
Brothers and sisters:
If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Against such there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul is very much aware that human beings are pulled in two directions. He often spoke of the struggle or warfare between the spirit and the flesh. These are two principles of action deep in the human psyche. Early in the twentieth century Freud described the Ego and Id in constant tension and how the Ego seeks to control and channel the impulses of the Id. Going back to the passage of scripture before us notice that the translator choose to capitalize "Spirit". That is because Paul uses the word spirit and Spirit interchangeably. Not all the sins listed are classic sins of the flesh, there are also actions in which others are hurt and excluded. Idolatry and sorcery are motifs of the pagan environment in which the Galatians lived. Those who live in such a manner will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If Paul was writing in 2014 he would probably come up with a somewhat different list. In his recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis has his own list: an economy of exclusion and inequality, the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose, unbridled consumerism, widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries and unjust social structures that foster inequality. For Pope Francis these are the institutional sins that impede the coming of the Kingdom of God.

If we allow the flesh to rule, this decision on our part will ultimately bring with it conflict and unhappiness. In contrast Paul then enumerates the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace. These come from acts of patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To reach this point is hard work. Paul notes that "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires." But then we don't do this on our own, we "follow the Spirit" and rely on God’s grace. This is the mistake of many today; they try to manufacture grace on their own. IMMPOSSIBLE!

We can not give what we do not have. God is the source of all grace and if we do not approach Him with humility, all those gifts that St Paul speaks about will not be apart of our lives. This is an inconvenient truth but a truth none-the-less.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." - This sentence alone would save mankind if all books and prophets were lost

“God bestows more consideration on the purity of the intention with which our actions are performed than on the actions themselves.” -- Saint Augustine

Gospel Text: (LK 11:37-41)
After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

The Gospel today shows us that the Lord was basically uninterested in what “people might say” or in what may be considered “politically correct” behavior. These are not criteria on which Christians should base their decisions. Jesus clearly condemns double morality, which seeks convenience or deception.

«So then, you Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside yourselves you are full of greed and evil. Fools!» (Lk 11:39).

God's word, as usual, questions us about customs and habits of our daily life. When we end up converting trivia things into “values” to disguise our sins of arrogance, selfishness and conceit, while attempting to “globalize” morals with political correction in order to avoid being out of tune or being marginalized a heavy price is to be paid in terms of the soiling of our own souls. If we are interested in being witnesses for Christ, we must know that the truth will always shine through. This is our mission amidst the men and women we share our lives with while trying to keep our souls clean after the model of man God has revealed to us in Christ. The cleanliness of spirit goes far beyond any social forms and if we ever have any doubts let us remember that blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see the face of God.

Monday, October 13, 2014

“Don’t tell me about your god with your words. Show me about your god with your actions.”

“One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between “the ought” and “the is”, represents the tragic theme of man's earthly pilgrimage.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., (Strength to Love)

Gospel Text: (LK 11:29-32)
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

The crowd kept asking for a sign and Jesus (the sign) was right there. Not being a scholar of the Old Testament, I had to go back and read about this part as well to fully understand. Jonah preached repentance to those in Ninevah (the capitol of Assyria and enemy of Israel) fully expecting them to ignore him and then be destroyed by God (thus preventing them from attacking Israel). Much to his chagrin and surprise, they did repent and were spared. Jonah’s concern was not imagined – the newly repented and now stronger Ninevites were able to conquer Israel. As I tried to make sense of this, it reminded me of a Sunday gospel a couple of weeks ago. Two sons were asked to work, one said no but actually did work, the other said yes but did not hold true to his commitment. I think that is what we are hearing in these readings. We are called and have the opportunity but if we pass it by, it will be provided to others. The Israelites said yes, but didn’t do what was expected. The Ninevites originally said no (in the way they lived and sinned) yet in the end they repented – so their actions were yes.

Actions do speak louder than words!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

“We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.”

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” ― Rabindranath Tagore

Gospel Text: (MT 22:1-14)
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?'
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen."

In the parable, the king does this because the invited guests refuse to come. In the parable there are three responses to the invitation. One response is to ignore the invitation. These people went instead to their farm or business. Another response is open hostility. These people mistreat and even kill the servants that the king sends. The third response is coming to the banquet but not being appropriately dressed. If we correspond the invitation to the wedding feast in the parable to the invitation by Jesus to follow Him to the kingdom of heaven, we see all three responses today.

Do we at times fall into one of these categories? That's the question this parable presents to us. The invitation is there. It doesn't matter whether we think we're too far gone, or we think we don't have the proper pedigree. God is still calling us and everyone to Himself! Listen to what God promises in our first reading for Sunday from Isaiah (25:6-10a): "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples ... On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, ... he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face." God is telling the Israelites that He will do this for "all peoples!"

So, what is our response? Are we willing to see the kingdom as more important than what the world tells us is important? Are we willing to respond to the love God gives us through Jesus Christ? Are we willing to be changed by our relationship with Jesus? If we worry about what kind and how much of a response we can make, listen to St. Paul in our second reading from Philippians (4:12-14, 19-20): "I can do all things in him who strengthens me." God, in His love not only invites us to the heavenly banquet, but He gives us what we need to respond to the invitation! RSVP today!