Thursday, November 30, 2017

“For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. “

To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God's presence in the world. What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking. When we forgive our neighbors from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words. When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words, and when we are hopeful and joyful, we will speak hopeful and joyful words.  - Henri Nouwen: (1932 –1996: was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian.)

Gospel Text: (MT 4:18-22)
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.

Jesus called the apostles, “Come after me.” It was a call firstly to spend time with Jesus. Jesus called them not because they were better than others but because he loved them. The apostles responded because they loved Jesus, and because they loved Jesus obedience and suffering would not even seem like obedience and suffering.

“Come after me.” They left everything and followed Jesus.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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

What toil we must endure, what fatigue, while we are attempting to climb hills and the summits of mountains! What, that we may ascend to heaven! If you consider the promised reward, what you endure is less. Immortality is given to the one who perseveres; everlasting life is offered; the Lord promises His Kingdom. - St. Cyprian of Carthage: (200 –258 AD: was bishop of Carthage and a notable Early Christian writer)

Gospel Text: (LK 21:12-19)
Jesus said to the crowd:
"They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives."

it is not easy being a disciple. Being being a follower of Jesus Christ is the most difficult thing they will do throughout their entire life. It requires daily attention to what we are doing and why we are doing it. It requires us to daily feed our spiritual life. It requires of us tough decisions that may not always make our friends or family happy. And through it all Jesus Christ will be there with us, protecting us, guiding us and that perseverance does win the day.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus declares to His disciples, “By perseverance you will secure your lives.” What does this mean? Every day, God calls us to offer Him our lives in faith, and to live for others. That’s how we can reach the hour of our deaths in God’s sight. When all is said and done, there are two types of persons. There are those who say in the end, “Heavenly Father, thy will be done.” Then there are those to whom the Father says in the end, “My child, thy will be done.”

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

“I have read the last page of the Bible. It is all going to turn out all right.”

“The end will come with the return of Jesus Christ . . .That is why a Christian can be an optimist. That is why a Christian can smile in the midst of all that is happening . . .We know what the end will be: the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ!” ― Billy Graham:  (born November 7, 1918: is an American evangelical Christian)

Gospel Text:( LK 21:5-11)
While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, "All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down."

Then they asked him,
"Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?"
He answered,
"See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
'I am he,' and 'The time has come.'
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end."
Then he said to them,
"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky."

Everything that’s built by human beings can be destroyed. That’s why something like the Great Pyramids of Egypt are so awesome: not simply because they are colossal, but because they have—to an amazing extent—survived the ravages of time. You can think of one of the large cities on the West Coast of our own country: from the air, as you fly into the area, you can be filled with awe. Yet an earthquake could destroy everything in the area in a matter of minutes.

However,  the Church: not church buildings (even Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome will some day fall), but the Church herself, is made up of “living stones”.

Those who place their faith in Christ the King, and live in Him as members of His Mystical Body, will have eternal life.

Monday, November 27, 2017

“Riches, both material and spiritual, can choke you if you do not use them fairly. For not even God can put anything in a heart that is already full.”

"Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one's self. We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart that goes out of itself, gets large and full of joy. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others." Horace Mann: (1796 – 1859: was an American educational reformer)

Gospel Text: (LK 21:1-4)
When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, "I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."

We live in a society in which values that are contrary to the Gospel are canonized. A person’s value is measured in economic terms. The poor are shunned as worthless.

God has a different set of values from those of our society. When Jesus saw the wealthy putting large amounts of money into the collection box of the Temple, He was not impressed. It was not as if the wealthy should not have given large sums, but Jesus was looking for something else. He saw that something else in the poor widow who donated only two small coins. He explains to us what He saw: “[The wealthy] have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

It was the generosity of the widow that mattered, not the money she gave. We are called to be generous people, unselfish in all our relationships with others. God does not value us for giving our money; or, for that matter, for giving our time and talent. God values us for the generosity from which our giving flows. Generosity flows from the love that we receive in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Could it be that Jesus wants to reign above all in men’s hearts, in your heart?

If we let Christ reign in our soul, we will not become authoritarian. Rather we will serve everyone. How I like that word: service! To serve my king and, through him, all those who have been redeemed by his blood. I really wish we Christians knew how to serve, for only by serving can we know and love Christ and make him known and loved.  – St Josemaría Escrivá: (1902 –1975: was a Roman Catholic priest from Spain who initiated Opus Dei, an organization of laypeople and priests dedicated to the teaching that everyone is called to holiness by God and that ordinary life can result in sanctity)

Gospel Text: (MT 25:31-46)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."

Today is the last Sunday in the Liturgical Year. We start all again next week with the First Sunday of Advent. Today, though, we celebrate the Solemn Feast of Christ the King.

Monarchs are not all that familiar to us who live in the United States. We can read about the historic reign of Queen Elizabeth II, just last week celebrating 70 years of marriage to Prince Phillip. We may be real fans of the television series The Crown. The longest serving monarch died last year. The King of Thailand began his reign in 1950.

So how do we make sense of today’s feast? We do not live in an age where we rally around a king and vow allegiance. No, the call we need to listen for is not feudal allegiance but the call to join together to do something wonderful.

An authentic “king” is someone who inspires us to see what is possible in our lives and our world. This person does not demand our fealty but invites us on a mission, a journey. Today’s feast is the call to join Jesus in his mission:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.”

Jesus does not point and say, do what I say. He says, come with me and together let us work to bring about a new world of peace, compassion and justice. That is an authentic king.

Friday, November 24, 2017

“If lips and life do not agree, the testimony will not amount to much.”

Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.  - Leo Tolstoy: (1828-1910: Russian writer.

Gospel Text: (LK 19:45-48)
Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
"It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.
And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.

We can let Jesus “cleanse our temple”. We can let Jesus help us examine what has become a "disease" to the genuine spirit of our faith and commitment. We can ask for new graces, as we ask that we might be more of a "house of prayer" - in communion with him in our everyday lives. And, we can ask for the grace to allow us to be kind and merciful more and more, especially with those closest to us. Then, with his grace, we might more clearly hear and be open to the cry of the poor and be in the deepest communion with Jesus in that solidarity with the poor, the sick, with sinners, that allows our hearts to be like his.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you'll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you'll find that you have more of it."

“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” - G.K. Chesterton: (1874 –1936: was an English writer, poet, & philosopher)

Gospel Text: (LK 17:11-19)
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
"Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
And when he saw them, he said,
"Go show yourselves to the priests."
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
"Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you."

Gratitude doesn’t always come easily. We all know that generosity – the giving of a gift – means thinking more about others than about yourself. It represents an act of love. But so does being thankful. To give thanks is to extend yourself. It is to remember where the gift came from.

It is to go out of your way to acknowledge that — like the one cured leper in the gospel, who changed the direction he was headed, and walked back to Jesus, all the way back from the temple, to thank him.

There is love in that. A love for the gift – and for the one who gave it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

“I’m convinced we have each been endowed with a beautiful heart. We may not always see it. We may not even believe it. But it’s a gift that came with birth and, every time we act selflessly, it grows a little.”

There is one and only one possible road to joy: selfless love. -
Peter Kreeft: (Born: March 16, 1937: is a professor of philosophy at Boston College)

Scripture Text: (2 MC 7:1, 20-31)
It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law.

Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother,
who saw her seven sons perish in a single day,
yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.
Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage,
she exhorted each of them
in the language of their ancestors with these words:
"I do not know how you came into existence in my womb;
it was not I who gave you the breath of life,
nor was it I who set in order
the elements of which each of you is composed.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe
who shapes each man's beginning,
as he brings about the origin of everything,
he, in his mercy,
will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law."

Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words,
thought he was being ridiculed.
As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him,
not with mere words, but with promises on oath,
to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs:
he would make him his Friend
and entrust him with high office.
When the youth paid no attention to him at all,
the king appealed to the mother,
urging her to advise her boy to save his life.
After he had urged her for a long time,
she went through the motions of persuading her son.
In derision of the cruel tyrant,
she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language:
"Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months,
nursed you for three years, brought you up,
educated and supported you to your present age.
I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth
and see all that is in them;
then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things;
and in the same way the human race came into existence.
Do not be afraid of this executioner,
but be worthy of your brothers and accept death,
so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them."

She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said:
"What are you waiting for?
I will not obey the king's command.
I obey the command of the law given to our fathers through Moses.
But you, who have contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews,
will not escape the hands of God."

Aren’t we all called to be martyrs, to accept the death of our old lives of selfishness instead of giving up on the call from God to selflessly love of our sisters and brothers?  Are we not faced regularly with challenges to our faith to live as God calls us to do, and to surrender our lives to the will of God?  Isn’t it ironic that it is easy for us to celebrate the martyrs who give up their physical lives rather than denounce their faith, but so difficult for us to accept the death of our selfishness that keeps us from fully living as Christ calls us to do?  

And so my prayer today is for the grace to strengthen my faith so it can withstand the temptations to hold onto my life of selfishness instead of living the generous life that God calls me to enjoy.