Sunday, December 31, 2017

“There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and a woman in marriage.”

And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength!  And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other.  This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.  - Pope Francis:  Homily, October 27, 2013

Scripture Text: (SIR 3:2-6, 12-14)
God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother's authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

For many of us, the past week has presented opportunities to be with members of our families. No matter what difficulties might exist within our families, time spent together can help us realize one of the facts that is rejected by the world, but preached as Truth by the Church: that the family is the foundation of all social life. The family teaches us how “to be with others”, which in turn disposes us to carry out Jesus’ second great command: to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is why the Church calls the family “the domestic Church”.

The habits of the Holy Family must be the habits of our own families. If we truly care for the members of our family, we are willing to both pray for each other’s well-being, and willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to keep each other safe from the dangers of the world. Among the more important, if difficult, of these sacrifices is freely extending mercy to family members who have hurt one or more members of the family.

After the great sacrifices made during His infancy, Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth under the care of His foster-father, Saint Joseph, and His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This life was not spectacular. From the time He was a baby to the time He was thirty years old, we know of only one thing that happened to Jesus: Mary and Joseph finding him in the temple. By and large, the first thirty years of Jesus’ life were simple ones in which His mother and foster-father made ordinary sacrifices for Jesus’ well-being, day after day. The Holy Family prayed together as a devout Jewish family, and they took the steps necessary to care for one another. When Saint Joseph died, Mary and her son carried on alone. Yet no matter what God the Father asked of them, they prayed and acted together according to the Father’s Will.

Today God presents the Holy Family as a treasure. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were not only holy themselves: they help us to be holy. We all know that our world is troubled, and that our country is troubled. We don’t have to dwell on that. But the cure is right here before us: to strengthen the family, to build up the family, and to improve family life through God, which in turn will build up the life of our community, country, and world.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

“It is easy to want things from the Lord and yet not want the Lord Himself, as though the gift could ever be preferable to the Giver.”

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” ― St Augustine of Hippo: (354 –430: was an philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy

Scripture Text: (1 JN 2:12-17)
I am writing to you, children,
because your sins have been forgiven for his name's sake.

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,
because you have conquered the Evil One.

I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong and the word of God remains in you,
and you have conquered the Evil One.

Do not love the world or the things of the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life,
is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.
But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

Today’s first reading from Mass St. John is speaking simply and bluntly about priorities, and in the midst of his teaching he warns them about “the world”. If St. John speaks simply about God, he also speaks simply—if not as often—about “the world” as the alternative to God. We as children of God can live for God, or for the world, but not for both. In our modern world where we tell ourselves that it’s possible to “have it all”, we need St. John’s message of simplicity: we cannot have both God and the world.

Friday, December 29, 2017

“Great moves of God are usually preceded by simple acts of obedience.”

“When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them, there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the light of the world, Jesus, in us. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.” – Mother Teresa: (1910 – 1997: Founded the Missionaries of Charity)

Gospel text: (Luke 2:22-35)
When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

"Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel."

The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
"Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

The one phrase from the above passage that strikes me the most is “a light to reveal you . . .”

This phrase has been a reminder for me about being a light that reveals God to others. It calls me to reflect on how I am growing in my faith. Am I taking time to pray each day or reflect on the daily readings? Do I really listen to Father’s homily on Sunday and be open to how God is calling me to grow in my spiritual life? The winter time offers us an opportunity to sit in silence and the stillness. Just as the trees and plants rest over the winter to prepare for the coming of Spring so too for us it can be a time to relax and reflect on growing in our spiritual life.

We can’t be a light if we don’t have the light.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.”

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. - Martin Luther King, Jr. – (1929 – 1968: was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement)

Gospel Text: (MT 2:13-18)
When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
"Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

On a day when the gospel reading reverberates with darkness and sadness at the deaths of the holy innocents, all of those little boys, it is good to remember the words of the first reading from Mass today. God is light. There are dark places in the world. There are dark places within me. There is that darkness in the world that is beyond understanding. But God is light. 

The darkness can be overwhelming, but we have to remember that God is light. We can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that God loves us and will be faithful and just if we acknowledge our sins. We live in the world and it is up to us to try to banish the darkness from where we are. We have to try to walk in the light. We can do that in small ways every day. We all have moments in our day where we can choose to be the light. We can be kind instead of short-tempered. We can take time to listen to a colleague who seeks solace even when our own to-do list is miles long. We can be thankful. We can say we are sorry. We can pray, holding those who endure injustice and cruelty in our hearts. We can do something for someone else. 

We can find ways to challenge ourselves to be a light for justice. We can do what we can where we are. We can be the light.  Today, I pray for those who suffer and ask God to help me walk in the light.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

“We love others best when we love God most.”

"The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love; It signifies Love, It produces love. The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life."--Saint Thomas Aquinas: (1225 – 1274: was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church.)

Scripture Text: (1 JN 1:1-4)
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life —
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

“God is love.” There’s hardly a less controversial statement in modern Western culture than this one. But if you were to press people as to the implications of this simple statement, you’d quickly see a divergence from the scriptural witness to this belief that God is, in His very Three-Personed nature, self-giving love.

It is St. John the Evangelist, whose feast we celebrate on this third day of the Octave of Christmas, who tells us that “God is love.” But he also unpacks that simple statement throughout his three letters in the New Testament, and his Gospel account. We might say that these four books of the New Testament are a primer in both the nature of divine love, and its practice.

My favorite single verse of Sacred Scripture is from St. John’s first letter: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and offered His Son as an expiation for our sins.” The life of St. John the Evangelist bears witness to this truth. He was, of course, the only one of the twelve Apostles to remain with Jesus during His Passion and death. Perhaps owing to this fidelity, he was the only one of the Apostles (excepting Judas Iscariot, of course) who was not martyred. Perhaps also owing to his fidelity to the Crucifixion of Love in the Flesh, it was to John that Jesus entrusted His Blessed Mother. All this illustrates why St. John the Evangelist is called “the Beloved Disciple”.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

“Dying to self is never portrayed in Scripture as something “optional” in the Christian life.”

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” ― C.S. Lewis : (1898 – 1963: was a British novelist, poet, & academic)

Gospel Text: (MT 10:17-22)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved."

Today’s First Reading at Mass—relating to us the martyrdom of Stephen—is set not long after the birth of the Church at Pentecost. St. Stephen, we might say, is the “first fruits” of Pentecost.

“Jesus was born into this world only in order to teach us how to die to this world.” St. Stephen’s faith-filled martyrdom focuses our attention on this truth.

Each of us in our turn must accept a death to self, and the spiritual practice of mortification, as a way of life.