Tuesday, March 31, 2015

“Love is inaudible—until you hear it. And once you do, you’ll never forget the sound”

'What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.' - C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963: Novelist & Lay Theologian)

Gospel Text: (JN 13:21-33, 36-38)
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
“Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
“Buy what we need for the feast,”
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.”
Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”

Jesus Himself invited Judas into his select inner circle, and surely he saw the rich potential for who Judas might have been. Perhaps, then, Jesus is deeply troubled because the Judas he sees before him is but a shadow of the man he might have been.

Perhaps Jesus is deeply troubled largely because Judas is so frustratingly blind and deaf to everything Jesus has been trying to tell and show him. Judas has the privilege of intimate friendship with the very best friend on earth, and yet he doesn’t seem to recognize that at all and is willing to sell Jesus out for almost nothing and to men who are not his friends.

Perhaps Jesus is deeply troubled because Judas can only think in terms of power and authority and does not understand that the very best things in life are often the most common and ordinary and there are alternative ways to be greater than anything Judas has yet known.

Perhaps Jesus is deeply troubled because he knows Judas so well and he could easily guess how hard Judas would take his misjudgment when he realizes his mistake.

All great leaders know that it doesn’t matter what you say; it only matters what people hear, and for Judas the message fell on deaf ears.

How about for you?

Monday, March 30, 2015

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” - Brother Lawrence (1614 – 1691 Carmelite Lay Brother)

Gospel Text: (JN 12:1-11)
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.

In his short lifetime on earth Jesus could not do everything but he did do something. None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something. Jesus spelled out the course. Jesus set the pace. Now we, by our words, our actions and our enthusiasm are to be Christ in action today. We are to give light to those living in ignorance and fear. We are to help free those shackled by selfishness and sin. We are to wipe out oppression with the power of love.

If the task seems intimidating, we find our strength in today’s Psalm response from Mass, “The Lord is my hope and my salvation; whom should I fear.” (Psalm 27:1)

Let’s do it!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

“Remember a week before he was crucified like a criminal, he rode into the city a king.”

“Who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. – St Paul (Letter to the Philippians)

Scripture Text: (MK 11:1-10)
When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem,
to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately on entering it,
you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone should say to you,
‘Why are you doing this?’ reply,
‘The Master has need of it
and will send it back here at once.’”
So they went off
and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street,
and they untied it.
Some of the bystanders said to them,
“What are you doing, untying the colt?”
They answered them just as Jesus had told them to,
and they permitted them to do it.
So they brought the colt to Jesus
and put their cloaks over it.
And he sat on it.
Many people spread their cloaks on the road,
and others spread leafy branches
that they had cut from the fields.
Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!”

When artists talk about contrast, they’re referring to the arrangement of opposite elements—light versus dark, small versus large, rough versus smooth. It’s a technique they use to add a dramatic effect to their work. If we thought of God as an artist, we would definitely say that Palm Sunday is a study in contrasts. God created the universe out of nothing, fashioned the stars and planets, sustains every living thing, and knows every hair on our heads. Yet this same awesome, all-powerful God chose to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. You can’t have a more dramatic contrast than that.

Keep this in mind during Mass today. During the Holy, Holy, remember the citizens of Jerusalem who spread out their cloaks and waved palm branches at Jesus. Like you, they called out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” But just a few days later, they joined the Sanhedrin in calling out, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:14). And through it all, through all the contrasts and ups and downs that he faced, Jesus continued to love. He continued to forgive. He never forgot his mission to save us all.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.”

"You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish." - Archbishop Oscar Romero of  El Salvador (1917 – 1980 -  Speaking to a reporter, days before his murder)

Gospel Text: (JN 11:45-56)
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”

In today’s gospel the Sanhedrin acted out of fear. They were afraid that if all the people believed in Jesus that the Romans would intervene and take away everything. You could say that they embraced the death of Jesus instead of new life in Him, for fear of losing their old life as it was.

Are we hesitant to embrace fully new life in Christ out of fear of losing our old life in which we feel comfortable? That is not meant to be an easy question. To let Jesus into our hearts and live on a deeper level may bring a change we may not be ready to accept.

But if we believe in the One who lived, suffered and died, to set us free, and rose again to give us the promise of everlasting life, we can place our trust in Him that any change that may come from putting Him more and more at the center of our lives will be one that will be life-giving, instead of death-dealing. We can trust that embracing Jesus will not only bring us closer to Him, but even closer to the ones closest to us, and closer to the rest of the world.

Friday, March 27, 2015

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. - Keep in the sunlight.”

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”  - Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor from 161 to 180)

Scripture Text: (PS 18:2-3A, 3BC-4, 5-6, 7)
R. (see 7) In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
The breakers of death surged round about me,
the destroying floods overwhelmed me;
The cords of the nether world enmeshed me,
the snares of death overtook me.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
In my distress I called upon the LORD
and cried out to my God;
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

This psalm response comes at a good time for me. It is a reminder to let go of stress before it becomes distress. As we all know, stress from job, relationships, the larger community, life in general can weigh on us and cause us to worry and fret. Stress generally makes most of us uncomfortable, unhappy, and in cases physically and emotionally ill. If left unresolved, or if ignored, over time stress can lead to “distress” and manifest itself in feelings of pain and suffering.

So it is good for the psalmist to remind us that the Lord will hear our voices when we call out in distress. Does the Lord make the stress go away? Not really. If you are stressed because of a job, or financial issues, or a rocky relationship, or if you feel stressed because of poverty, or immigration, or the death penalty, or the threat of war or terror, the Lord doesn’t remove those stressors from your life.

So what does the psalmist mean by saying the Lord hears our voices? Is God a sounding board, absorbing all the prayers of humankind, cataloging them in an unimaginably large databank? We share our woes with the Lord – how does that help relieve stress?

One way, I think, is that knowing the Lord hears enables us to have perspective. Our stresses seem pretty large to us as individuals, but are not terribly significant in the grand creation of the universe. Knowing the Lord listens can provide us with a calming sense of the true insignificance of our current worries.

The Lord also listens by sending us examples of how to handle stresses. Jesus is perhaps the greatest example.

The Lord also listens by inviting us to let go of our stresses – to turn them over to the Lord, our rock of refuge.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

“The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God's love for us does not.”

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” - C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963 Novelist & Lay Theologian)

Gospel Text: (JN 8:51-59)
Jesus said to the Jews:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death.”
So the Jews said to him,
“Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
You do not know him, but I know him.
And if I should say that I do not know him,
I would be like you a liar.
But I do know him and I keep his word.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him,
“You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him;
but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.

By Jesus saying, “I am”— a statement which was reserved only for Yahweh to make — Jesus identified himself with Almighty God (Jn 8:58)! The claim so infuriated the Jewish people that they picked up stones to kill him.

We have quite a different dilemma today. Unlike first-century Jews, many people today don’t think too much about Jesus’ identity. They see him as little more than a noble man or a doer of good deeds. And as a result, their vision of life is sadly limited.

Christianity is much more than a collection of high moral norms, as can be perfect love or even forgiveness. Christianity is faith in one person, Jesus Christ, who is True God and True Man.

Hearing Jesus declare himself “I am” should stir our hearts with the assurance that God knows every moment of our lives and that He is with us in every situation. “He-who-is” never lets us out of his sight —and how wonderful that is! Even when we stumble in sin and disbelief, Jesus is ready to lead us back into his Father’s embrace.

What love God has for us!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Have confidence. Return. Invoke our Lady and you'll be faithful."

"In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal."--Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Father and Doctor of the Church

Gospel Text: (LK 1:26-38)
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the day Gabriel the Archangel announced to Mary she would bear a child and the child “will be called holy, the Son of God.” This day we celebrate the in-breaking of God into our world, of God becoming human.

Pope Benedict XVI once said in an interview: « [I would like] to reawake the courage to make definitive decisions: they are really the only ones that allow us to grow, to move ahead and to reach something great in life. They are the only decisions that do not destroy our freedom but offer to point us in the right direction. Risk making this leap, so to speak, towards the definitive and so embrace life fully: this is something I would be happy to communicate». Mary: behold an example!

When Mary proclaimed to the angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” I couldn’t help but think how her life was irrevocably and unpredictably changed at that moment. As I read today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38) I wondered about the wave of fear and emotion that must have overcome her as she grappled with the consequences of her answer. How would she explain this to Joseph, her family, friends and community? How could she measure up to the responsibility of raising the Son of God? Who did Mary turn to in the moments after Gabriel’s departure? What were Mary’s prayers after the “yes?” I wondered if her emotions and prayers were much like that of any other expectant mother. I couldn’t help but think they were.

Through the Annunciation Mary accepted – her call. A call that must have been accompanied by much prayer and devotion; and a courage that has been a great source of strength and unity to so many. I can’t help but believe that Mary’s actions influence us, as we accept – our call, and put our complete trust in the Lord.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

“It is to the Cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master: no path of redemption can make a detour around it.”

“The humble, simple souls, who are little enough to see the bigness of God in the littleness of a Babe, are therefore the only ones who will ever understand the reason of His visitation. He came to this poor earth of ours to carry on an exchange; to say to us, as only the Good God could say: ‘you give me your humanity, and I will give you my Divinity; you give me your time, and I will give you My eternity; you give me your broken heart, and I will give you Love; you give me your nothingness, and I will give you My all.” ― Venerable Fulton J. Sheen (1895 – 1979: American Archbishop)

Gospel Text: (JN 8:21-30)
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come.”
So the Jews said,
“He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?”
He said to them, “You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins.”
So they said to him, “Who are you?”
Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them,
“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

We must learn to look on Christ crucified to learn the depths of God’s care for us. So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am”(Jn 8:28). When we gaze on the uplifted Christ on the Cross we will begin to understand how passionately he cares about us. “God is love” and nowhere else can we see this better than the explosive figure on the Cross.

Think about this today, God, who created the universe was so anxious to prove His fondness for us that He asked His Son to die a horrifying death on the cross for each one of us personally. This fact should utterly boggle our minds and hearts!

I heard a story years ago of a priest who was visiting the Holy Land and bought a crucifix for his parish. The strict Israeli security told him that they must X-Ray the Crucifix for explosives. The priest thought to himself if only they knew how explosive the cross really is!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Without forgiveness life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” ― C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963 novelist & lay theologian)

Gospel Text : (JN 8:1-11)
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

Imagine you’re in a courtroom, listening to a case. You hear all the witnesses and observe the evidence. There’s no doubt in your mind that the accused is guilty—the criminal was even caught red-handed. How would you react if the judge decided to let the criminal go free? This is exactly what Jesus does in today’s Gospel.

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

These pointed words remind us that we all are sinners. Like the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospels, we too can forget this fundamental truth. But Jesus is clear: this woman is just as precious and valuable to God as we are.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

“The easiest thing in the world is to convince yourself that you are right. - As one grows older, this is easier still.”

“The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.”  - Voltaire (1694 – 1778: French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher)

Gospel Text: (JN 7:40-53)
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
“This is truly the Prophet.”
Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.”
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
“Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him,
“You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Then each went to his own house.

The reply of the officers who wanted to arrest the Lord centers the question and shows us the power of Christ's words: «No one ever spoke like this man» (Jn 7:46). It is like saying: His words are different; they are not empty boastful words, full of arrogance and falsehood.

He is “the Truth” and his way of speaking reflects this reality. 

His deeds provoked even more amazement and admiration amid his audience; but also, criticism, gossip, hate... Jesus Christ spoke “the language of charity”: his deeds and his words showed the deep love He felt towards all men, especially those more in need of assistance.

Today as then, we Christians are —must be— “a sign of contradiction”, because we do not speak and behave like others do. By imitating and following Jesus Christ, we likewise must use “the language of charity and love”, a necessary language that we can all understand.

Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, «Love will always prove necessary, even in the most just society (...). Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man».