Tuesday, January 31, 2017

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”

“All the hungers we have for love, for union, for happiness are given by God to lead us to him. The difference between a saint and the greatest sinner is where they go to satisfy that hunger.” ― Christopher West: born 1969: is a Catholic author and speaker, best known for his work on Pope John Paul II’s series of audience addresses entitled Theology of the Body.)

Scripture Text: (HEB 12:1-4)
Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him
Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners,
in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

Even though at times we may feel alone in running the narrow road that Jesus has opened before us, the truth is that we have a “great” cloud of saints surrounding us—that means in front, behind, above, and on both sides of us. We are running a race in an arena that is packed with fans on every side, and each of these fans is pulling for us. We are not without cheerleaders; we do not run alone. Yes the “baton” is in our hands, and we are representing thousands who have carried it before we did…or who are running alongside of us even now.

Notice the two secrets of making the race a little easier to run. “Rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.” Did you ever see a race in which the runners wore snow boots, baggy pants, or heavy jackets? Runners know that they must strip down to the essentials so that they are not burdened by unnecessary clothing. What is the unnecessary baggage that I am lugging along as I try to run the race toward Jesus? Am I attached to something that keeps me from moving forward more quickly in the race?

The second secret is one that all athletes know well. Keep focused on the finish line. For us the finish line is one step in front of us—we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who signed us up for the race and who coaches us each step of the race. He is the recruiter, the coach, the encourager, and the finish line as well. My goal in life is to try to move toward Jesus each second of my life. He is ever before me; it is for me to keep my eyes fixed on him.

And if we are feeling ourselves growing weary, losing heart, or being tempted to give up, let’s take heart from the encouragement offered us today. Let us take time to pray our personal “litany of the saints” to remind us how many witnesses are in the stands cheering and praying us on. And if we’ve turned our eyes on ourselves, our problems, or even members of the opposition, let’s redirect our attention to the “leader and perfecter” of our faith.

Monday, January 30, 2017

“Very few people believe in the devil these days, which suits the devil very well.”

“The evil in the world must not make me doubt the existence of God. There could be no evil if there were no God. Before there can be a hole in a uniform, there must be a uniform; before there is death, there must be life; before there is error, there must be truth; before there is a crime, there must be liberty and law; before there is a war, there must be peace; before there is a devil, there must be a God, rebellion against whom made the devil.” ― Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: (1895 – 1979: American archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church known for his preaching and especially his work on television and radio)

Gospel Text: (MK 5:1-20)
Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea,
to the territory of the Gerasenes.
When he got out of the boat,
at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before him,
crying out in a loud voice,
"What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I adjure you by God, do not torment me!"
(He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!")
He asked him, "What is your name?"
He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us."
And he pleaded earnestly with him
not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.
And they pleaded with him,
"Send us into the swine. Let us enter them."
And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned.
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town
and throughout the countryside.
And people came out to see what had happened.
As they approached Jesus,
they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.
And they were seized with fear.
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg him to leave their district.
As he was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
"Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in his pity has done for you."
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

There seems to be a lot of curiosity about demons from popular culture, but it is important to remember that, "the power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 395).  I like to think of them as bugs - easily squashed by Jesus, however bacteria often attach themselves to us by an open wound or sore.  This explains why healing is always a part of exorcism in Christ's work, and also why it is the more important and long term work.  It is easy to swipe a wound with antiseptic, but the more patient work is healing the actual wound.

This is exactly what Jesus does.  He heals.  This is good news.  This must be shared.

Here are a few practical ways we can do this:

Baptism - It is where we are freed from the demon and healed from sin.  Ignite the flame of your baptism by frequent and intense prayer and meditation on the Word of God, especially the Mass readings.  You are probably reading this article because you are already interested in doing this.  Well done.  Keep it up.  However because we need Christ's help returning to baptismal innocence we need to go to frequent

Confession - At least once a month and if your really mean business, like you actually want to become like Christ, once a week.  Find a stable confessor you can be accountable to on a consistent basis, who can help you in the long term. 

Eucharist - Why would you not have contact with Jesus Christ every day in daily Mass?  Ok maybe your state in life makes it hard for you to go every day, but there are usually many masses around in different churches at different times.  You are where you want to be.  Make time.  Do. It.

Rosary - Pray the Rosary. Daily.  Blessed Pope John Paul II called it his favorite "missionary prayer."  This is because in 15 minutes you allow Our Lady to preach the Gospel to you and to pray for the sending of the Holy Spirit upon you to share this good news with the poor.

Pope Francis - Stay plugged in to the Holy Father's words and works.  He is so clear and simple.  Perfect for our age.  The vatican youtube channel has his daily homilies in a few minutes.  He tweets ultra clear messages of 140 characters that can shape your whole mission for a day.

Courage - be encouraged, enthused, enlivened, and animated by God's choice in sending YOU.  He has chosen YOU.  He loves YOU.  Allow yourself to feel this choice and this love every day.  Give God permission to love and convert you that you may help bring this about in others.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

True Freedom is not about the fact that we can choose, it is about how and what we choose. Freedom will never be found in decisions that are made against God and against the Natural Law. The struggle of this age is between anarchic freedom and authentic freedom.

”We ought to be like lilies in the midst of thorns, which, however they be pricked and pierced, never lose their sweet and gentle fragrance.” - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: (1090 –1153: Father and Doctor of the Church)

Gospel Text: (MT 5:1-12A)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
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."

The beatitudes can seem sort of oxymoronic. How will the meek lead? Leadership usually comes to the bold. We see injustice around us every day. How are those who hunger for justice satisfied? Where is the comfort for the mourning?

In a perfect world, people would treat each other decently. A perfect world would be at peace, and justice would prevail. Unfortunately, this world is not perfect. God chose the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong, but not everyone understands that. Jesus was born poor, went against the standard norms of the time and the government. Did not seem to have the stuff to be a leader, but he was the greatest leader. And still people did not and do not understand him and his message.

The way to seek the Lord is to seek justice like he did, to seek righteousness like he did, to seek peace like he did. Unfortunately, even he did not get justice and righteousness and peace here on earth. He took the form of the lowly to shame the higher-ups, but they didn’t understand. Many still don’t understand.

We have to seek for justice and righteousness and peace, even if we don’t get it. We need to do the right thing, even if we don’t get what’s right in return.

Those are blessed who show mercy, who seek for justice, who are humble and helpful. Our blessings come from knowing we are acting appropriately and a deep inner peace and yes joy will follow. Even if we suffer for our actions here, our rewards will be great in heaven. And if our recompense is not in this imperfect world, it will be in the next perfect one. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Your strength will be found when you stop struggling with yourself - Every obstacle in life is a lesson that teaches us – if we let it

“Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will 'turn the necessity to glorious gain.” ― C.S. Lewis: (1898 –1963: was a British novelist, poet, and academic)

Gospel Text: (MK 4:35-41)
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
"Let us cross to the other side."
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!"
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?"
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
"Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"

Jesus chooses not to calm the disturbance in His disciples’ souls in the same manner that He calms the sea and wind. But He does challenge them: “Do you not yet have faith?” His rebuke of the elements and of His disciples seems to have a meritorious effect on them. “They were filled with awe” at His power over the elements. But is this the faith He demanded of them?

It’s only natural to be impressed at the power of nature, and of God’s power over nature. It’s something supernatural, however, to allow God to have power over oneself. This is the sort of faith Jesus is asking for from His disciples.

Faith is a gift freely given, but it’s also a gift that must be freely accepted. Jesus will not calm our souls without our consent, or rather, our faith in His power to do so.

The disciples marvel at Jesus as one “whom even wind and sea obey”. Even more marvelous, however, is a disciple who obeys Jesus as His Lord.

Friday, January 27, 2017

“Plant your tiny seeds and keep watering them every day. Soon, they’ll grow.”

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson: (1850 – 1894: was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer.)

Gospel Text: (MK 4:26-34)
Jesus said to the crowds:
"This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come."

He said,
"To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade."
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

The smallest of faiths can impact our communities. If the smallest of faiths can move mountains, then it can certainly work to transform our communities. As we grow in our faith, we inspire others to live closer to God. Our faith impacts and transforms our families. It spreads the fruit of the spirit across the lines of our communities and proclaims the love of Christ in all places, in all communities, and at all times. The smallest of faiths can be inspirational and guide others to be transformative.

For this to happen, we cannot say that we do not have enough faith to walk this road, or this isn’t for me. The path of discipleship, of growth in Christ, is for all believers – big and small. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, the smallest of faiths in our hearts can grow into something beautiful.