Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thirsting for Living Water


 
Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." ~ Jn 4:7
 
God loves us so much that He came to us as a human being, subject to the same pain and difficulties we all face, including hunger and thirst, sorrow and loneliness. This is beautifully illustrated in today’s Gospel story of the woman at the well. This woman has everything stacked against her. As a woman, she is regarded as unworthy of notice by men. She is a Samaritan, a race rejected by the Jews. She comes alone to the well at noon, although most women would have gathered in the cool morning to draw water. Yet Jesus - God himself - comes to her, lonely, tired, dusty, and thirsty, asking for water. At first, she doesn’t understand why He is asking her. We never do understand how much God thirsts for our friendship, our help, and our love. If only we knew, we would ask Him for Living Water and all our own lonely, tired, dusty, thirsty days would be washed clean and renewed. 

Jesus knows all about her broken relationships with five husbands. This woman has spent most of her life seeking love in all the wrong places, yet Jesus chooses to offer her the Living Water of eternal life. Jesus reveals that He is the Messiah and that she, lonely and rejected, is invited to be part of the Divine Plan. She believes Him, and rushes to bring the good news to her people, no longer fearful of condemnation, but boldly declaring that she has met the Christ. By her witness, the villagers come to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the World.

God has a plan and purpose for each of us. He knows your deepest secrets and biggest mistakes and loves you still. He will fill up your loneliness and invite you to discover what true love is. What can you do to comfort God, who suffered thirst, loneliness, and death for you? He is asking for your help and He longs for your love. Listen for His voice and do not fear: Jesus is calling you. Will you take His message to your world?

 
 
 
 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mountaintop Highs Bring Strength for the Valleys



By Andrey Ivanovich Ivanov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." ~ Mt 17:5

One thing I love about today’s Gospel account of the Transfiguration is Peter’s reaction. I can always count on Peter to react in a very human manner, just as I might react myself. Witnessing this glimpse of the true glory of Jesus Christ leaves Peter overwhelmed with joy, and he doesn’t want it to end. He wants to set up some tents and stay there on the mountaintop with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, dwelling in the presence of the living God.

But the time has not yet come for entering into God’s glory eternally. There is work that must still be done. Strengthened by what they have seen, Peter, James and John are called to listen to the voice of God and follow His will. Again, Jesus reminds them not to fear, no matter what might come. They must go down from the mountaintop, ready to “bear their share of the hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Tm 1:8).

If you have ever experienced a sublime moment when you become deeply aware of God’s presence, you can easily sympathize with Peter’s desire. Those moments are precious and don’t come often or remain long. But when the Lord sees that we are in need of strength, He may give us the gift of a mountaintop experience of our own. The heightened awareness of God’s presence in those rare moments will bring us the strength we need to face whatever trials we must encounter.

Trust in God, who will never fail to let us know He is with us in times of difficulty and trials. Fear not, but listen closely for the voice of Jesus and seek to do the will of the Father.
 
March 12th, 2017 - Second Sunday of Lent


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Lord of the Rings and the Lord of Life


"Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." Mt 4:1 
 
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien is known and loved by generations of fans. Some are not aware that Tolkien, a devout Catholic, once stated, “The Lord of the Rings is… a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.”

In Tolkien’s mythical Middle Earth, hobbits are guileless creatures, devoted to family and home. Few among them harbor great ambitions or suffer temptations for power or riches. From them, Frodo Baggins is chosen to carry an evil ring of power to its destruction. If returned to its evil creator, this ring will empower him to rule the world. Many noble kings, elves, and wizards support Frodo in his task, but they cannot do it for him. Each of them has ambitions which, while good in themselves, can be corrupted by the evil ring and used to tempt them.

Frodo’s heavy burden nearly overcomes him as the ring works its evil. But Frodo’s friend Sam, a pure and simple hobbit, supports him throughout the journey. Sam briefly takes up the ring when Frodo has fallen, even carrying Frodo himself at a critical point in the journey. Sam’s devotion and his complete detachment from temptation help Frodo succeed in his quest.

Today’s readings show how good desires can be corrupted by evil, if our focus is on the good thing itself and not on the One who is good. Eve falls to temptation, desiring wisdom over the Giver of wisdom. But Jesus resists Satan’s temptation, steadfastly focusing on God alone: bread for the hungry is good, but the Word of God is the bread that gives life; trust in God is good, but testing God is not trust; worship belongs to God alone, even if all the riches of the world are offered in exchange for worshipping evil.  

As Lent begins, we also must detach from good things that can become a temptation. Let us fix our eyes on God alone as we fast from rich food, detach from wealth by giving alms, and live chastely, humbly, and prayerfully in preparation for the real Return of the King. 
 
 
First Sunday of Lent, March 5th, 2017

 

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled


"Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them."

Today’s readings reassure our worried, anxious minds. Trust in God, don’t be disturbed by anything, pour out your hearts before Him. He knows what you need even before you ask. Seek Him, and He will care for you.

These words are comforting and yet so difficult to take to heart, especially in hard times. The sudden loss of a job or a shattering divorce shakes us to the core. We may not know where the money will come from to pay the rent, buy groceries, or pay the bills. Knowing how hard it is not to give in to worry and fear during such difficult times, Jesus reassures us that the Father will never cease to care for us.

Mother Angelica, the foundress of the EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, did not have an easy life. Her father abandoned her and her mother when she was only six, and she grew up in extreme poverty with an emotionally fragile mother. After she entered the Poor Clares, she started her television venture on a prayer. Her first studio was in a converted garage. To raise funds, the sisters sold peanuts and fishing lures. Never knowing ahead of time where the money would come from for each new piece of television equipment, each necessary license, or the people, land, and resources she needed to build a television network – and to build the beautiful Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament – she trusted in God to know and provide all that was needed.

Mother Angelica often said, “Faith is having one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.” She did the work God gave her, trusting in Him to provide, and He provided more than anyone could have imagined. He gave her the airwaves to evangelize the world. Last year on Easter Sunday, Mother Angelica finally reached the end of her long journey on earth, entering into the Kingdom of God she’d been seeking all her life. Along the way, always trusting in God, she founded the largest religious media network in the world.
 
Mother Angelica photos via olamnuns.com / ChurchPOP
 

Feb. 26th, 2017 - Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 49:14-15 ~ Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 ~ 1 Cor 4:1-5 ~ Mt 6:24
 
 
 
 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Reflecting God's Image: Everyday Holiness


“Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” Lv 19:12

In today’s readings, the Father commands us to be holy; Paul states that we are the dwelling place of the Spirit of God; and Jesus calls us to “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Seems like a tall order in a world filled with every kind of sin and suffering. But God does not give us commandments that we’re incapable of keeping.  Through Jesus Christ, we have the power to choose holiness and reject sin. God fills us with His own Spirit to make us capable of great holiness.

This call to perfect holiness doesn’t mean that we’re all meant to spend our lives in a monastery. Most of us live and work in the world, which sometimes seems to be enveloped in darkness. We are to bring the holiness of God to our world by our love and compassion for one another. And we are to witness to God’s presence in our lives by preserving our holiness and purity in a world that claims we are incapable of it.

Don’t listen to the whisper of the serpent, saying that we are just like the animals. God created us in His image, for holiness, for greatness, that we might someday be united with Him in eternity. We have the ability to recognize and reject the evil that swirls around us in so many forms: human trafficking; the ugly, dark images abounding in our media that masquerade as “shades of grey”; the temptation to blot out reality with drugs and alcohol; the destruction of innocent lives in abortion; and the false claim of the evil one that it is “safe” for our young people to fill their bodies with contraceptives, to use and be used by others, instead of teaching them what love truly means.

Jesus commands us to love and pray for our enemies in this sinful world, while at the same time reaching for perfection. It is a tall order. But He empowers us with the gift of redemption, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill it. If we are to image God in the world, we can do no less.

Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feb. 19th, 2017
Lv 19:1-2, 17-18 ~ Ps 103 ~ 1 Cor 3:16-23 ~ Mt 5:38-48
 




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Treasuring The Gift of Life


“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.” Mt 5:21

From St. John Paul II’s Gospel of Life

“Man's life comes from God; it is his gift… God therefore is the sole Lord of this life: man cannot do with it as he wills… Human life and death are thus in the hands of God, in his power… But God does not exercise this power in an arbitrary and threatening way, but rather as part of his care and loving concern for his creatures. If it is true that human life is in the hands of God, it is no less true that these are loving hands, like those of a mother who accepts, nurtures and takes care of her child… (39)

The sacredness of life gives rise to its inviolability, written from the beginning in man's heart… in the depths of his conscience, man is always reminded of the inviolability of life - his own life and that of others - as something which does not belong to him, because it is the property and gift of God the Creator and Father (40).

…In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands from his disciples a righteousness which surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, also with regard to respect for life: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment'. But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment…" (Mt 5:21-22).

…Jesus further unveils the positive requirements of the commandment regarding the inviolability of life… already present in the Old Testament, where legislation dealt with protecting and defending life when it was weak and threatened… including children in the womb… (41)

“Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves ‘the creative action of God', and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being" (53).
 
 
Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feb. 12th, 2017
Sir 15:15-20 Psalm Ps 119 1 Cor 2:6-10  Mt 5:17-37
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Light of the World

Juan Rubiano [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons


“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” Mt. 5:14

I talked with a man recently who used to be a Catholic until someone persuaded him that the Church had it all wrong. Someone had used scripture to convince him that it was idolatrous to pray the rosary and that the Eucharist was a mere symbol. He thought Jesus’s claim to be the bread of life (John 6:48-55) was symbolic, yet he interpreted other biblical passages literally and out of context. He questioned the depiction of Jesus crucified, saying He should only be shown as glorified. While he seemed to have much knowledge of scripture and even of Church teaching, he lacked understanding of its meaning.

In contrast, in today’s readings, Paul speaks “not with sublimity of words or of wisdom” but with fear and trembling, depending solely on the power of God. Paul teaches nothing but “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul is one of Christ’s humble disciples, called to spread the Gospel from the very beginning of Christianity. Their words and deeds, letters and writings, became the scripture of the New Testament that this man relies on. Their firm teaching about the Eucharist and their proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ was controversial in the beginning, too, and led to much persecution and suffering for the early Christians. But they persevered and did not sway from the hard truth about Christianity.

The Catholic Church has stood for over 2000 years, from the time it was founded by Jesus Christ and His Apostles were commissioned to teach the nations. It is the city set on the mountain; the shining light in the darkness of history, never hidden from sight; the salt that has never lost its savor. The Church waits with open arms for all her children to return, as a mother waits for her wayward children. May our prayers, conversations, and outreach hasten the day when Christians are again truly united in faith and understanding as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

 
Readings for Feb. 5th, 2017 - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 58:7-10 - Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 - 1 Cor 2:1-5 - Mt 5:13-16
 
 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Saint for Those Who Suffer From Loneliness, Abandonment and Despair

  My article for the National Catholic Register, September 4th, 2016, on the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta,   A Light Am...