Saturday, February 28, 2015

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  - Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (MT 5:43-48)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So how do you grow into this perfection that the Lord speaks about in today's gospel? Self-improvement programs won’t produce the change, and neither will piling on Lenten disciplines and spiritual calisthenics. It comes as you try your best to use your talents and gifts in a way that glorifies the Lord and lifts up the people around you. It comes as you focus on one or two roadblocks in your life: an unresolved resentment, an unhealthy habit, or a skewed way of thinking about life. Look for the things that keep you from becoming the person you know you can become.

Today, ask the Lord how he wants you to grow and change. Let him shine the light of his love on your heart. Let him show you both the person you’re meant to be and the person you are right now. Then come up with one or two things you can do to help bridge the gap between these two visions.

Blessed John Henry Newman once said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” As you seek to hear and follow Jesus, may you change—and often—throughout this Lenten season!

Friday, February 27, 2015

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” ― Winston S. Churchill

Scripture Text: (EZ 18:21-28)
Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way
that he may live?

And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because he has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, he shall die.
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Winston Churchill seemed so dull as a youth that his father thought he might be incapable of earning a living in England. Charles Darwin did so poorly in school that his father once told him, "You will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.

G.K. Chesterton, the English writer, could not read until he was eight. One of his teachers told him, "If we could open your head we should not find any brain but only a lump of white fat."

Thomas Edison's first teacher described him as "addled," and his father almost convinced him he was a "dunce."

Albert Einstein's parents feared their child was dull, and he performed so badly in all high school courses except mathematics that a teacher asked him to drop out.

What do all these famous men have in common, they persevered against the odds. Remember this, its not how you start, its how you finish that counts… don’t quit!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”

“The world says: "You have needs -- satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don't hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more." This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (The Brothers Karamazov)

Gospel Text: (MT 7:7-12)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

This can be a hard gospel to read for those who don't think about it deeply enough: we ask God for something and don't receive it, so we draw the conclusion that the first lines of this passage are either incorrect or an outright lie. And if we read the rest of this passage in that same way, the text seems to go along with that: God will not always give us what we ask for.

What Jesus adds, however, about not giving a stone when our children ask for bread actually explains and justifies this seeming inconsistency. Too often we ask our Father for the wrong things --- stones, snakes, scorpions --- and are convinced that they are good for us. We think that when God doesn't give them to us it is because He doesn't really love us.

The problem here does not lie with God but with us, for if we believe that God only loves us when He is obedient to our immature understanding and misguided desires, we have a very childish view of God indeed.

Jesus calls us to look exclusively to the Father for all our needs and to trust that He will find ways to delight us --- even if it takes years for us to appreciate how apt and rich a gift He gives us in every circumstance. And Jesus asks us to trust in the Holy Spirit as well, praying as best we can that our desires match God's, that we seek only the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in all that we yearn for and do.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“Maturity is when you're able to say, 'It's not just them. It's me.”

“But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God's love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.” - Fr. Thomas Merton O.C.S.O. (1915 – 1968) was a Trappist monk and an American Catholic writer

Gospel text (Lk 11:29-32): As the crowd increased, Jesus began to speak in this way, «People of the present time are evil people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah's preaching made them turn from their sins, and here there is greater than Jonah».

Jesus has not come “to call the righteous to repentance but sinners” (Luke 5:32). That’s all of us! His invitation is wide and generous. Whether we have committed horrible sins or just told little white lies, he asks us to come clean—and to come to him. He wants to shower us with his mercy, but he needs us to take the first step toward him in repentance.

As we come to Jesus with humble honesty about how we have fallen short, he will take care of the rest. This simple, honest confession to a Catholic priest, “I have sinned,”..........................

That brief moment, when we are exposed before the Lord, is a moment of great joy for him. We have come back to him, and now he can embrace us, forgive us, and heal us!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency

“Just as at sea those who are carried away from the direction of the harbor bring themselves back on course by a clear sign, on seeing a tall beacon light or some mountain peak coming into view, so Scripture may guide those adrift on the sea of the life back into the harbor of the divine will.” - St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 330-c. 395)

Scripture Text: (IS 55:10-11)
Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

For thousands of years, politicians and merchants have made claims about what they or their products can do. And some of us have learned, to our chagrin, that more than a few of these claims are wildly exaggerated. Not so with God! He tells us that his word goes out and never fails to accomplish his will—and he’s absolutely right!

Think about the word that proceeds from God’s mouth……..

What the culture of today sadly forgets is the Word of God is near to each and every one of us. This creative word, which we can rely on and trust and which surpasses everything, is as near as our tongue, as close as our heart. We long for life or peace, joy or patience, and the word, which is close to us, can bring them about. Ask God for what you lack: healing, forgiveness, a new start, or a permanent break with old habits. He will speak the word you need, and as you take it up, it will accomplish his desires for you.

The Word is alive! Jesus, the Word of God, became flesh, dwelt among us, and overcame death.

Nothing can conquer the Word of God. So rejoice in that Word today! Read it. Seek its guidance. Invite it into your life, and watch it bear fruit!

Monday, February 23, 2015

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same -- with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead." - Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Mt 25: 31-46): Jesus said to his disciples, «When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels, He will sit on the throne of his Glory. All the nations will be brought before him, and as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, so will He do with them, placing the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. The King will say to those on his right: ‘Come, blessed of my Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you wel¬¬comed me into your house. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to see me’. Then the good people will ask him: ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food; thirsty and give you drink, or a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to see you?’. The King will answer, ‘Truly, I say to you: when¬ever you did this to these little ones who are my brothers and sisters, you did it to me’.

»Then he will say to those on his left: ‘Go, cursed peo¬ple, out of my sight into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you did not welcome me into your house; I was naked and you did not clothe me; I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me’. They, too, will ask: ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked or a stranger, sick or in prison, and did not help you?’. The King will answer them: ‘Truly, I say to you: whatever you did not do for one of these little ones, you did not do for me’. And these will go into eternal punishment, but the just to eternal life».

Jesus doesn’t want to turn us away. But he does ask us to show him that we love him—and not with our words but with our actions. Catholic activist Dorothy Day once said, “True love is delicate and kind, full of gentle perception and understanding, full of beauty and grace… . There should be some flavor of this in all our love for others. We are all one. We are one flesh, in the Mystical Body, as man and woman are said to be one flesh in marriage. With such a love one would see all things new; we would begin to see people as they really are, as God sees them.”

Seeing “all things new.” That’s the promise of life in Christ. It’s what happens when we try to imitate Jesus in our dealings with people. As we take steps to care for people who are different from us, we begin to see everything in a new light. The old categories of “us” and “them” dissolve. People we have long dismissed as enemies or inferior or alien lose their labels. We see them only as brothers and sisters, all equally loved by God and all equally deserving of dignity and support. That’s when we begin to love them—and to love the Lord.

Friday, February 20, 2015

In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy.

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you. ~Mother Teresa

Scripture Text: (IS 58:1-9A)
Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

As we begin our Lenten season and are urged to fast, pray and do penance in preparation for the great feast of Easter, we are invited to think about how we go about our fast over these next 40 days. If we take the Lenten fast seriously, our first impulse might be to cut down on food and drink. Then we might think about cutting down on entertainment. Then, if we get really serious, we might begin to think about curbing our temper, our quick judgment of others, or even our sharp criticisms. All ways of fasting from behaviors that we know are not of God.

All these efforts are admirable but, as our reading from Isaiah noted above insists so clearly, they only scratch the surface and are just a beginning!! Isaiah reminds us that the purpose of fasting, indeed all acts of penance, is to open our hearts to the needs of others.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:

releasing those bound unjustly,

untying the thongs of the yoke;

Setting free the oppressed,

breaking every yoke;

Sharing your bread with the hungry,

sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;

Clothing the naked when you see them,

and not turning your back on your own.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

“The key to faith is what we are willing to sacrifice to obtain it.”

"You will save more souls through sacrifice and prayer than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone." - Our Lord to Saint Faustina

Scripture Text: (DT 30:15-20)
Moses said to the people:
“Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Moses asked his followers to choose between "Life and Prosperity, Death and Doom." We would think that this should be an easy choice to make. Who would want to choose Death and Doom?

Yet, today, people all around us are choosing Death and Doom.

Our Scripture reading noted above reminds us of the power of our choices. Moses begins the passage in Deuteronomy with a stark and dramatic choice – a fork in the road in which one path leads to life and prosperity, the other to death and gloom – but the reality of making that choice is more subtle. Choosing the good path means doing things every day that may seem ordinary: obeying, loving, walking, and keeping. Yet these ordinary practices lead to living, growing, and even occupying a place of blessing and security.

Lent demands that we examine ourselves as individuals and as people. It invites us to explore what is present in the innermost recesses of our heart. Is it Hatred or Love? Is it Death and Doom or Life and Prosperity? Is it a commitment to choose Life and Prosperity despite of the culture of death that surrounds us? Or do we find that in the innermost depths of our hearts there is a conflict between hate and love, death and life?

Lent teaches us that we cannot live in both worlds.

Jesus says, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit him?"(Lk 9:22-25)

Who are we going to listen to?

During our Lenten Journey, let us choose Life and Prosperity with God's help!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy."

"As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus' thirst...'Repent and believe' Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor -- He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you." -- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel Text: (MT 6:1-6, 16-18)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

In the vision of Jesus Christ, in order to find our way to our true self (and thus our own intimate relatedness to God) we need to strive to make our outer actions mirror what God's own Spirit is already prompting within us.

Thus we give alms not to win praise or acclaim, but so that we can imitate the life of Jesus and mirror his option for the poor.

We pray not to be seen as holy, but so that we might be in communion with the God who created us and loves us always.

We fast, not to attract the attention of others, but so that we might bring higher values to bear on more basic or self-centered desires.

To me these seem to be the thoughts that underpin all that Jesus teaches and comments on in this gospel today - a gospel text which introduces us to the season of Lent and more so to the opportunity to put into place some practice or discipline that stands as an outward sign of our inner desire to grow and to become more of the person that God sees.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

“An argument in apologetics, when actually used in dialogue, is an extension of the arguer. The arguer's tone, sincerity, care, concern, listening, and respect matter as much as his or her logic - probably more. The world was won for Christ not by arguments but by sanctity: "What you are speaks so loud, I can hardly hear what you say.” - Peter Kreeft (Catholic apologist & professor of philosophy at Boston College)

Gospel text (Mk 8:14-21):
The disciples had forgotten to bring more bread and had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, «Keep your eyes open and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod». And they said to one another, «He saw that we have no bread». Aware of this, Jesus asked them, «Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or under¬stand? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that don't see and ears that don't hear? And do you not remem¬ber when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of leftovers did you collect?». They answered, «Twelve». «And having seven loaves for the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?». They answered, «Seven». Then Jesus said to them, «Do you still not understand?».

Listening is hard. There are lots of obstacles: people don’t always communicate clearly, or we might react emotionally to what we’re hearing. But perhaps the most common obstacle to listening is when we think we already know what someone is trying to say, and we don’t pay close enough attention to his or her words. Our minds are already full of our own thoughts.

It appears that the disciples are guilty of this in today’s Gospel reading. After a busy time of ministry and travel, they have their minds on their next meal. When Jesus tries to give them a spiritual warning, they assume he is talking about food. Jesus spends some time trying to show them that he’s not worried about the next meal. He has already shown that he can provide food! No, he wants to talk about some much larger issues.

This story highlights the fact that as hard as it can be to listen to other people, it can be even harder to listen to God. It takes work to begin to see things from his perspective, to be able to hear what he wants to say to us.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody.” – Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (MK 1:40-45)
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning the him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

In today’s Gospel, we see the healing of a leper (this means you and me). Leprosy in Scripture is more than just a physical illness, it is also a metaphor for sin. Leprosy itself is not sin, but it resembles sin and what sin does to us spiritually. For sin, like leprosy, disfigures us; it deteriorates us; it distances us (for lepers had to live apart from the community) and brings death if it is not checked. Yes, sin is a lot like leprosy.

How are we to lose our leprosy and find healing?

Step One – Admit the Reality - The text says, A leper came to Jesus, and kneeling down, begged him and said, “If you wish you can make me clean.” Notice that he knows he is a leper; he knows he needs healing. He humbles himself, kneeling, and pleads for cleansing. Like the leper in the Gospel, we must start with step one: admitting the reality of our sin and humbly asking the Lord for help.

Step Two –Accept the Relationship – Notice two things.
First, the leper calls on the Lord Jesus. In effect he seeks a relationship with Jesus, knowing that it can heal him. Second, note how the Lord responds. The text says that Jesus is moved with pity and touches him.

Step Three – Apply the Remedy - Having healed the leper, Jesus instructs him to follow through in the following manner: See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them. To us “spiritual lepers”, the Lord gives the same instruction: “Go show yourself to the priest.” In other words, “Go to confession!” And the Lord adds, “Offer for your cleansing what is prescribed.” That is to say, “Offer your penance.”

Step Four – Announce the Result – When God heals you, you have to tell somebody. There’s just something about joy. It can’t be hidden. And people notice when you’ve been changed.

Yes, tell somebody what the Lord has done. If the healing is real, you can’t keep silent.

Friday, February 13, 2015

“Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.”

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855: Danish philosopher, theologian, & poet)

Scripture Text: (GN 3:1-8)
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
“Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?”
The woman answered the serpent:
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman:
“You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.

When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden
at the breezy time of the day,
the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.

This isn't just a story about Adam and Eve acting on their desire for more than God had given them; more than they needed; more that could hurt them-for life!

Even in Eden they wanted more!

Today, we act this story out every time we deliberately choose to sin. Things certainty can be turned upside down when our eyes are opened to the emptiness of what looked good”, “pleasing” and “desirable”. We too, are tempted to cover up our shame and disobedience by hiding from God, just like Adam and Eve did.

In this culture of ours we are growing harder and harder of hearing to what is really good for us. We ask for the touch of Jesus to free us to listen to our hearts, our better selves, and the heart-needs of others. This “touch of Jesus” can be found simply by going to confession with a Catholic priest, where we feel God’s mercy and love in a tangible way. In doing so, we leave all the bad stuff behind and God gives us His grace to overcome our human weaknesses.

Its really that simple!

"Lord, probe me and know my heart...then lead me in the ancient paths." (Ps 139:23-24)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.

The way to plan the family is Natural Family Planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so destroys the gift of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other. Once that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily. – Mother Teresa

Scripture Text: (GN 2:18-25)
The LORD God said:
“It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him.”
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs
and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman
the rib that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.

The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame

Aren’t weddings beautiful? One thing everyone can see at a wedding is the joy on the face of the groom as he sees his bride walking toward him down the aisle of the church. Together, both husband and wife learn that they were created with a unique purpose—and to be a unique and exclusive gift to each other.

At retreats and youth conferences around the world, young women are learning about the dignity they have as daughters of God. Their hearts lighten at the message that the men in their lives are called to treasure and honor them. They are relieved to learn that they don’t have to settle for a lesser way of relating, one based primarily on physical attractiveness or sexual performance. For their part, young men are learning of the high calling they have to honor, protect, and cherish women. They are learning that they are created to give of themselves, not to use people for their own pleasure.

So it’s all about self-gift, not self-gratification. It’s about treasuring the gift that we are to each other. The question is, “How can I become more self-giving?”

We must pray for one another, pray with each other – drag the other to Mass, to confession when they are lazy or procrastinating or distracted. Set a good example for each other. Remind each other of the Gospel, commandments. Correct one another with gentleness and humility. Encourage each other to strive farther in overcoming selfishness, and living our life in love for others.

In preparing for marriage I imagine that you have heard many times “This is your special day.” Or if we are really honest we would say it is the brides’ special day. She decides everything – what color dress her friends have to wear, what songs are sung, what flowers decorate the church… For one day in your life, the world will revolve around you. But I disagree! “Today is not your day.” Today you come to stop thinking about yourselves and to start thinking of others. The gospel teaches us that “it is in losing ones life that one finds it” By giving yourself generously in the task the Church gives us in the Sacrament of Marriage, we will find abundant happiness – today, tomorrow and for eternity.

It is your mission to help your spouse get to heaven. And isn’t that the purpose of life itself, to get to heaven?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A clean heart is a free heart

The means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. – Martin Luther King, Jr., (1929 – 1968 American Civil Rights Leader)

Gospel Text: (Mark 7:14-23)
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.

In the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets, a popular New York City author of romance novels named Marvin Udall, played so well by actor Jack Nicholson, has an obsession with cleanliness, with a compulsive daily hand washing ritual. His medicine cabinet is jam-packed with bars of soap. During his daily hand-washing, he goes through several bars of soap, and then rinses his hands in blistering hot water. He is now clean. He touches no one, and no one touches him.

There's something else about Mr. Udall. He takes pleasure in insulting everyone with whom he comes in contact. What's more, he is the worst of listeners. He tunes out to anyone or anything that may contaminate his world. From his typewriter, Mr. Udall writes passionately about love. Yet sadly, from his heart he spews garbage. A powerful parable, this movie.

This parable, however, has been told before - by Jesus. Some Pharisees, who carefully, even obsessively, observed the purification rituals of washing of hands and avoiding ritually unclean foods, criticized the disciples of Jesus. Could Jesus not see that there were violating traditions of cleanliness mandated by the Torah? The purpose of these rituals, spelled out in the Book of Leviticus, was to instill an awareness of God's holiness and love for his people. Yet sadly, from their hearts, these Pharisees spewed legalism and barriers to fellowship with God.

Jesus knew that even the best intentions can become corrupted. Sometimes rituals can become substitutes for faithfulness to God while our hearts remain filthy by sin. "There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile," Jesus declares. To whom does he speak? He speaks to the Pharisees, to Mr. Udall, but most of all, to us.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

“Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes are worn out.”

It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbor. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God, and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. – Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (MK 7:1-13)
One day the Pharisees gathered around Jesus and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of his dis¬ciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. Now the Pharisees, and in fact, all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands for they fol¬low the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything when they come from the market without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe, for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates.

So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked him, «Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but eat with unclean hands?». Jesus answered, «You, shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote: ‘This peo¬ple honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules’. You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition». And Jesus commented, «You have a fine way of dis¬regarding the commandment of God in order to implant your own tradition. For example, Moses said: ‘Do your duty to your father and your mother’, and: ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death’. But according to you someone could say to his father or mother: ‘I already declared Corban, which means "offered to God," what you could have expected from me’. In this case, you no longer let him do anything for a father or mother. So you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that».

One Sunday a man sat through a church service and then on the way home he fussed about the sermon, he griped about the traffic, he complained about the heat, and he made a big fuss about how late the lunch meal was served. Then he bowed and prayed, giving God thanks for the food.

His son was watching him all the way through this post-church experience. Just as they were beginning to pass the food he said, “Daddy, did God hear you when we left the church and you started fussin’ about the sermon and about the traffic and about the heat?”

The father blushed and said, “Well, yes, son, He heard me.”

“Well, Daddy, did God hear you when you just prayed for this food right now?”

And he says, “Well, yes, son, He … He … He heard me.”

“Well, Daddy, which one did God believe?”

That little story showcases a problem that afflicts far too many church people. Too often what we claim to be and what we really are is miles apart. We call this condition “hypocrisy”.

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”.

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus has an encounter with a whole group of hypocrites. They have come from Jerusalem, which was like the Vatican of its day. They came to watch Jesus in order to find fault with Him and His ministry. When they arrive and begin to watch Jesus, it does not take them long to find something to complain about.

These men see the disciples of Jesus eating food without washing their hands and they are offended. They attack Jesus over this issue, but He turns the tables on them. They think the issue is one of clean hands, but Jesus shows them that the issue is really about clean hearts.

This text has something to say to us today. We still have those people who are more concerned about clean hands than they are about clean hearts. Jesus is going to teach us that the inside of a person should match the outside of that person. He is going to teach us that what we are in our heart is what we really are! He is going to teach us that hypocrisy and legalism have no place in our lives. He is going to teach us that true defilement comes from the inside not from the outside!

Monday, February 9, 2015

“Go often to Holy Communion. Go very often! This is your one remedy.”

“Someone once told the Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor that it is more open-minded to think that the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is a great, wonderful, powerful symbol. Her response was, “If it’s only a symbol, to hell with it.” ― Flannery O’Connor (1925 – 1964 American writer and essayist)

Gospel Text: (MK 6:53-56)
After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.

Today gospel’s passage can help us reflect on how we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Do we do so with faith that this contact with Christ can work miracles our lives? More than merely touching the «fringe of his cloak», we receive Christ’s very Body into our bodies. More than merely healing our physical infirmities, Communion heals our souls and grants them a share in God’s own life. St. Ignatius of Antioch thus calls the Eucharist, «the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, that we should live forever in Jesus Christ».

Taking advantage of this “medicine of immortality” consists in being healed of whatever separates us from God and others. Being cured by Christ in the Eucharist thus entails overcoming our self-absorption. As Benedict XVI teaches, «Nourishing ourselves with Christ is the way to avoid becoming extraneous or indifferent to the fate of the brothers (…). A Eucharistic spirituality is the true antidote to the individualism and selfishness that often characterize daily life, and leads to the rediscovery of gratuity, of the centrality of relationships —starting with the family— with particular attention to healing the wounds of disrupted ones».

Just as those who were cured of their infirmities by touching his garments, we too can be cured of our egoism and our isolation from others by receiving Our Lord with faith.