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 (],
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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Upside Down Blessings - The Beatitudes

“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” ~Matt 5:3

A commentary on the Beatitudes from the Sisters of Life
“As consecrated Religious, we profess the vow of poverty, and yet Jesus tells all of His followers, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”  … the natural and human response is to recoil and step back from the Blessedness that Jesus teaches us.  At every point in our life we tend to seek comfort and riches, and not poverty, mourning, hunger, thirst, persecution.  The Beatitudes leave us uncomfortable!”

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

The greatness of man lies in his conformity to the likeness of God. We have been made to look like Jesus Christ.  He is the blueprint. The Beatitudes are the road map that sets us on the right path… Beatitudes are paradoxes – when we begin to see through the eyes of God – the values of the world are turned on their heads…

This is what it means to be poor in spirit; to have a radical trust in God for everything; to trust that God will meet all of our very real needs and desires, and so not to worry about anything for ourselves…

Our God longs to be with us, to give us His life, peace, joy, strength, freedom, healing, forgiveness and mercy.  He constantly desires to draw us deeper into His Sacred Heart to show us His Divine Love for us...

Why is it ‘blessed’ to be poor?  Our God came to us as the poor one and He remains with us in the Eucharist, longing to give us the Kingdom of Heaven- the gift of Himself… When we let go of all the attachments of this world and participate in Christ’s poverty, nothing can compare to the joy and interior freedom of living wholly for God in service to vulnerable human life.”

Jan. 29th, 2017 - Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13 ~ Psalm Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 ~ 1 Cor 1:26-31 ~ Mt 5:1-12a

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Light of the World - Overcoming Darkness

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen”
Today’s readings speak about the Light of the World being extended to all peoples, not just those of Jewish heritage but also to the pagan Gentiles dwelling in “the shadow of death.” Most of us would be among this group - the non-Jewish peoples to whom the Light of Christ was made manifest. What a wonderful grace and gift to us all - no one is excluded but all are invited to live in the light. For over 2000 years, this Christian message has survived and spread throughout the world. Although Christians have faced death and persecution from the beginning, first under Rome’s pagan rulers right up until our own times when anti-Christian ideologies from atheistic Communism to radical Islam have again made Christianity the world’s most persecuted religion, the Light of Christ has never been extinguished.

But there is something destructive and dark upon our nation, a new attack against Christianity, a great evil that has often succeeded in masquerading as good. This is what John Paul II termed “The Culture of Death.” We live in a society that has accepted abortion as “health care” for 44 years and now in many places accepts physician-assisted suicide as “compassion”; a society that accepts relative truth and denies objective truth about good and evil, life and death; the society in which Christians are silenced or accused of bigotry by many loud voices in our neo-pagan culture of death and darkness. Will this dark shadow eventually succeed in extinguishing the light of Christ, where death and open persecution has failed? What can we do to bring Christ’s light to those who are now living in the shadow of death?

Let us, as Catholics, be not afraid to speak the truth with mercy and love in all the places and to all the people in our lives, and to allow the Light of Christ shine out into the world, despite the consequences. Will we be persecuted? Perhaps. Is it worth it? Completely. It’s a matter of life and death.
Readings for Jan. 22, 2017 - Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 8:23-9:3 ~ Ps 27 ~ 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 ~ Mt 4:12-23

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Becoming Children of God - The Blessing of Baptism

My daughter & her Godparents on her baptism day. 
“The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
To those who accepted Him, He gave power to become children of God.”
 The Baptism of Jesus opened the way for all of us to be adopted as God’s own beloved children. What a blessing and a gift baptism is! This is not something I always understood, especially during my years away from the Catholic Church. But even while I was still far off, I felt there was something special and necessary about baptism.
When my daughter was born, I wanted her to be baptized but was still away from the Church. My mother-in-law invited us to her Protestant Church, and we met with the pastor to make arrangements. He asked why we wanted our child baptized, and in reply, I mentioned the cleansing of original sin. I was surprised when he responded that baptism was simply a sign of the child being welcomed into the Christian community. After a somewhat uncomfortable conversation, we did go forward with the baptism. Despite the misunderstandings, God accepted His new little daughter with joy. After her baptism, we returned home to see a huge double rainbow arched over our house.
Since then, I’ve learned that, although my daughter’s baptism was valid, the pastor’s view of baptism was mistaken. Baptism indelibly changes our very being, sanctifies us, and washes away original sin. By our baptism, we are filled with the Holy Spirit and we become the beloved children of God. The beautiful thing about infant baptism is that from the very beginning we are adopted into God’s family. Our parents and Godparents promise to guide us and teach us the Catholic faith. As we grow up, the graces and gifts of baptism remain with us, helping us to grow in our faith and eventually take responsibility for our baptismal promises.
What an incredible gift to give to your child! Parents, don’t delay; if you have questions, ask, and the Church will help you understand this beautiful Sacrament. Praise God for His mercy in becoming man, so that we, too, have the power to become children of God. 
My son and his Godparents on his baptism day.

Readings for Jan. 15th, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 49:3, 5-6 - Psalm Ps 40 - 1 Cor 1:1-3 - Jn 1:29-34


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Wise Men and Holy Innocents - The Epiphany

We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. Mt 2:2

Today’s Gospel tells of the visit of the magi, who follow a star to find the newborn king of the Jews. These men stop in Jerusalem seeking direction from King Herod and his scribes and high priests. Herod is “greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him,” at the news of the birth of the prophesied king of the Jews. Herod’s reaction is not one of joy and amazement to realize that the ancient prophecies of his people are being fulfilled in his time. Instead, he immediately begins scheming to find and destroy this child who he sees as a threat to his power.

It is interesting to note that the whole city is troubled at this news. Does the city represent worldly power and its opposition to the radical message of Christianity? The citizens, even the chief priests and the scribes are perhaps too comfortable in their roles as leaders to be open to the message of the prophets, that one day, a little child will lead them. Do they somehow sense that such a King will ultimately ask them to discard earthly honor, power, and wealth? They cling to the power structures that they are familiar with, unable or unwilling to recognize God’s will in the events that are about to unfold.

The magi, “having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,” protect the little king they have come to worship, and “depart for their country by another way.” Joseph will also heed the voice of God whispered in the night, fleeing to safety with Mary and Jesus. Sadly, Herod’s rage will soon be vented by the murder of the holy innocents.

In cities and nations of the world today, Herod’s attack on the child - God’s own image - is starkly played out in the battle between pro-life and pro-abortion forces. Our challenge is to listen to the small, still voice of God in the night: Rise up, protect the child! Let us say “yes” to life as Mary did, and protect the lives of the innocent as Joseph and the wise men did, even if it means facing the wrath of “kings” who are set on their destruction.

Readings for the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 8th, 2017
Is 60:1-6 ~ Ps 72 ~ Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 ~ Mt 2:1-12