Sunday, August 20, 2017

Adopted into God's Family



“The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD… loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants… I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.” Is 56:6-7
Today’s readings show how the blessings originally meant for Israel, the chosen people of God, are now showered on the foreigner and the alien, because of the generosity of God and the faith shown by these outsiders. We Catholics, once foreigners and Gentiles ourselves, have become the new chosen people. The Church has been entrusted with the great gift of the New Covenant. Within her, God is present in the Eucharist; Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. She possesses the infinite treasure of God’s Word in the Scripture, and has been given the authority to forgive sin.
Our response to God’s generosity must be one of faith and gratitude, never forgetting the great mercy He has shown us. If we take God’s gifts for granted, forgetting to keep the commandments and to honor the Lord in all we do, we also could lose the graces and gifts meant for us. Do we respond with gratitude, offering God praise and worship, expressing love for Him in all we do? Do we recognize His presence with us at every Mass, spend time with Him in Adoration, meditate on His Word, ask His forgiveness for our sins, pray to Him when we rise in the morning, and remember His mercy every evening at the setting of the sun?
Every day is a new opportunity for renewing our faith, loving God and neighbor, remembering to show our gratitude for every blessing we receive, and our willingness to take up every cross, appreciating the great mercy and love God our Father has for us. Remain close to Jesus, ask every day for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and always remember to thank God for inviting us, the stranger and the alien, into His house of prayer.

 

 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Faith Amid the Storms



"I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen."
Romans 9:1-5

In today’s second reading, Paul expresses great sorrow that many of his beloved Jewish brothers and sisters have failed to recognize the coming of their long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. Paul, once a persecutor of the Christians himself, mourns for those who are still in the darkness of unbelief. He is even willing to suffer the loss of his own salvation for their sake.
Later in this letter, Paul also recognizes God’s mercy working through Israel’s unfaithfulness, which has opened the way for the Gentiles to be saved. Paul trusts that the time will come when the Jews, the chosen people, will be grafted back into the tree of life, becoming stronger than ever, if only they come to believe.
Most of us have loved ones who have left the faith for one reason or another, and we can relate to Paul’s heartfelt anguish. We pray for our loved ones, we hope for their return and suffer because of their absence. We would give anything to help them find their way back.  While we await the return of our loved ones, we, like Paul, must patiently trust in God’s plan, placing our hope His merciful love.
Today’s Gospel story shows us that even the Apostles experienced the doubts and fears that caused their faith to falter. As their ship is tossed about in the storm, they don’t recognize Jesus when He approaches them, walking on water. Jesus reassures them, telling them not to fear. Only Peter steps out of the boat, but even he quickly loses faith and begins to sink. Jesus reaches out to save Peter and calm the storm. In doing so, He strengthens the faith of all the Apostles, who praise Him as the Son of God.
Our loved ones may be facing their own storms of unbelief, doubt, and fear. But trust in God to use even these trials to draw them, and many others with them, back to Him, strengthening their faith and finally grafting them back into the tree of life.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Transfiguration


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From a homily by St. Leo the Great on the meaning of the Transfiguration:


“The Lord reveals his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses. His body is like that of the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such splendor that his face becomes like the sun in glory, and his garments as white as snow.

The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed…he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.

The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Saint Paul bore witness to this same truth when he said: I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the future glory that is to be revealed in us. In another place he says: When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory…

The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under the veils of mystery. As Saint John says: The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ…

When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’”

 
 
 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

From Suffering to Grace


Photo: Catholic Vote

 “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort-
you were made for greatness.” -Pope Benedict
 

At times, it can be very hard to believe that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” as Paul claims in today’s second reading. When we face the most difficult moments in our lives, times of sickness, bad fortune, or sorrow, we often question why we must suffer. Although I know, as a Christian, that I am called to follow Christ in the path of suffering and sacrificial love, my natural desire is for the blessings of good health and happiness.

It truly takes God’s supernatural grace and strength, and the gifts of understanding, wisdom, and the light of the Holy Spirit, to find the treasure hidden away in our suffering. If we accept our crosses in union with the suffering of Christ, seeking God’s will even in times of distress, then we will find true joy, the pearl of great price, and the way to the kingdom of heaven will be revealed.

We, as Christians, have been called, chosen, and predestined for Christ. This is not an easy road, but it is the narrow road that leads to eternal glory with the Lord. The cross, the instrument of death and torture, has been transformed by Christ into the tree of life. When you are facing suffering and hard times, and find yourself questioning, “Why me, why this, why now?” remember that Jesus is with you always: Jesus, who suffered to show us the way. Fear not, because God, who overcomes death and gives eternal life, will transform every drop of our suffering in this world into good in the end, to bring us all together with Him in eternity, in the kingdom of heaven, our final destiny.

 
 




 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Our Lady of Mount Carmel


"The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest." Lk 8:8

 
Both of "my" two parishes, St. Joseph’s and Christ the King, are blessed with faithful and growing groups of Secular Carmelites, whose contemplative way of life and dedication to prayer brings hidden blessings to us all. The contemplative path of Lectio Divina, meditating and praying with scripture in the Carmelite tradition, has brought forth the great fruit of many Carmelite saints, including several doctors of the Church. Even St. John Paul II, as a young priest, wanted to become a Carmelite monastic but his bishop fatefully sent him to Rome. He did privately become a Third Order Carmelite. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel's intercession and the prayers and writings of the Carmelite saints continue to draw many souls closer to God.

This year, the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time falls on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as it did in 2006 when Pope Benedict gave this Angelus message:

“Through a happy coincidence, this Sunday falls on 16 July, the day when the liturgy commemorates Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The slopes of Carmel, a high ridge that runs down the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea at the altitude of Galilee, are dotted with numerous natural caves, beloved by hermits.

The most famous of these men of God was the great Prophet Elijah, who in the ninth century before Christ strenuously defended the purity of faith in the one true God from contamination by idolatrous cults. Inspired by the figure of Elijah, the contemplative order of Carmelites arose. It is a religious family that counts among its members great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in the world: Edith Stein).

The Carmelites have spread among the Christian people devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding her up as a model of prayer, contemplation and dedication to God.

Indeed, Mary was the first, in a way which can never be equaled, to believe and experience that Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is the summit, the peak of man’s encounter with God. By fully accepting the Word, she “was blessedly brought to the holy Mountain”… and lives forever with the Lord in body and soul.

Today, I would like to entrust to the Queen of Mount Carmel all contemplative life communities scattered throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order… May Mary help every Christian to find God in the silence of prayer.”


 
“All of us who wear this holy Carmelite habit are called to prayer and contemplation. This is what we were founded for. We are descended from those holy fathers of ours on Mount Carmel, those who went in search of that treasure – the priceless pearl we are talking about – in such solitude and with such contempt for the world” – St. Teresa of Jesus
 

 
 
 
 

 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

True Wisdom



"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones." Mt 11:25

In today's Gospel, Jesus continues to turn the world's logic upside down, telling us that true wisdom is hidden from the wise but revealed to the littlest souls. This passage makes me think of my college philosophy classes. We studied the teachings of renowned philosophers: Nietzsche, Sartre, Hume, Mills, etc. These brilliant men presented elaborate systems of belief that, in the end, only succeeded in leading their disciples further from God.

At the same time, I was reading the works of the Carmelite saints on my own, including St. Therese of Lisieux's "The Story of a Soul." Little Therese outdid the celebrated philosophers with her "Little Way" of spiritual childhood. She wrote:
 
"I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately... there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand... Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible, and so... I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new. We live in an age of inventions... in well-to-do houses there are lifts [elevators]. And I was determined to find a lift to carry me to Jesus, for I was far too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection. So I sought in Holy Scripture... and I read... "Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me." I drew nearer to God, fully realizing that... It is your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less."

Like Therese, we should also seek to become smaller and lighter, depending not on our own power but trusting fully in Jesus to lift us up and bring us ever closer to Him. When we surrender to Jesus and take up His yoke, our burdens are truly lifted and we find rest for our souls.
 
 
 

 

 

 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Gifts from Heaven


"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Matthew 10:40

Jesus once again presents a challenging demand in the Gospel today. His disciples must love Him above all else, even above their own families. They must be willing to take up the cross and even lay down their lives for His sake. Yet on the other hand, He makes promises that are just as phenomenal. Something as simple as offering a glass of cold water, a welcome, to one who comes in His name is enough to earn a righteous man’s reward.

The woman in today’s Old Testament reading offers a spare room to the prophet Elisha, a generous act that is repaid with a miracle: the promise and gift of a baby son. The woman and her husband have opened their hearts and home to Elisha because he is a man of God, and they are rewarded with the fulfillment of their desires for a child. Who but the Lord could give such a gift? Can the Lord ever be outdone in generosity?

Jesus demands a lot from us, but He sees and honors even our smallest acts of love and kindness, especially those done in His name for His disciples. These days, we may not see itinerant preachers in dusty sandals entering the town in need of lodging. But remember that whatever we do for the least of His disciples we do for Him. A welcoming smile, a hand extended in friendship, an invitation to coffee and conversation, or taking time to listen to someone who may be suffering from sorrow, loneliness, or isolation, could be that refreshing drink of cold water we offer in His name. When we give generously to the littlest disciples of Christ, we may be surprised in turn by God’s generous gift of the fulfillment of our own heart’s desires.
 


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