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.
 


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Safe In The Palm of His Hand



“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Mt 26:29-31
 

Jesus hears the prayers of the heart and never fails to reassure us. He knows how easily we give in to doubt and fear. He promises that He and the Father know and share our littlest concerns and our greatest pains. Especially during life’s most difficult times, entrust your cause to the Lord with faith. 

When my mother became seriously ill, I prayed fervently for her. I asked God to hold her in the palm of His hand, to protect her and keep her safe. But over the next few years, she went from bad to worse, ending up in a nursing home after suffering several small strokes and multiple health problems. As she got worse, I continued to pray but sometimes wondered why my prayer – as I envisioned it – was not granted and why she had to suffer so much.

Good things happened during that time, too.  The nursing home staff was wonderful, and their professional care relieved my father of being her “nurse,” allowing the two to rekindle their relationship. My father spent a lot of time visiting. And, although my father was not a practicing Catholic during that time, he made sure she received the Sacrament of Anointing near the end of her life. When she died, he was beside her, holding her hand.


For her funeral, we chose some traditional songs, including a favorite of mine, “On Eagle’s Wings.” Although I’d heard it many times, I guess I hadn’t really paid attention to all the words, which are based on Psalm 91. As it played at the funeral, the words of the chorus broke through my sadness: “And He will raise you up, on eagle’s wings… and hold you in the palm of His hand…” and I knew that God really had heard my prayer and had always been there, holding her gently in His hand, until the moment He lifted her up to Himself. 

 
And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
You need not fear the terror of the night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day,
Though thousands fall about you,
Near you it shall not come.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Living Bread From Heaven




"I am the living bread that came down from heaven…" John 6:51

In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the remarkable claim that His flesh and blood are real food and real drink: the life-giving food that brings eternal life. Moments later, John’s Gospel will also testify that this teaching caused many of His disciples to walk away and leave Jesus. How could such outrageous claims be believed? Even his chosen twelve are confused. But when Jesus asks if the twelve will abandon Him also, Peter says, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

This teaching about the Eucharist is the pearl of great price; the treasure above all treasures of the Church that I long to share with those I love, many of whom are far from the Church. I long to share this treasure with my faithful friends of other Christians churches who love Jesus so much, yet fail to see Him present in the Eucharist, nourishing us, loving us, and as He promised, remaining with us always until the end of time. I long to share this truth with the many Catholics who have left the Church, because if they knew Jesus in the Eucharist, they would, with Peter, know there was no place else to go.

Perhaps no one this side of eternity can fully comprehend the infinite treasure we hold in the Catholic Church: the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. But if we truly believe that Jesus speaks the words of eternal life, we must accept this beautiful but difficult teaching, and with Peter, proclaim that there is no other Church, no other place to go to find Jesus Christ, truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist.

 The Angel's Prayer
 
O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly.
I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and
indifferences by which He is offended.
 
By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
I beg the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.

 
 
 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

We Believe in One God, Three Divine Persons


Andrei Rublev [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that
everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16

On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate our belief in the mystery of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: One God, three Divine Persons. This belief is what sets Christianity apart from other religions. We believe that Jesus Christ is both God and man, fully human and fully divine. This is folly to those who do not believe, and blasphemy to those who insist on a God who would never condescend to the level of humanity or submit to death on a cross.

There are many people of great faith, Jews and Muslims among them, who reject the idea that Jesus Christ is God. There are even some religions that take the name “Christian” but do not believe that Jesus Christ is God. Yet this is exactly what Christianity is all about.

The martyrs of yesterday died rather than deny Jesus, witnessing to their faith despite violent persecution. The unlikely Christian martyrs of modern times are still dying today, all over the world. Construction workers in Libya, schoolchildren in Pakistan, shoppers in Nigeria, and churchgoers in Egypt are standing strong for their faith in the face of death at the hands of Islamic persecutors, witnessing to their unfailing belief in Christ until the very end. They are very literally asked, with a blade to their throat, to deny Jesus Christ and they refuse.

Who would have thought, living in our free country, that we would see such times as these? We may never be challenged at the threat of death to stand up for Jesus. But we must stand with and for our persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide. We must be willing to defend the Name and the Divinity of Jesus Christ and to demand the protection of the Christians under siege, who in many countries are facing genocide. Because our God is “a merciful and gracious God,” we must act and speak with love and mercy, but also with strength, courage, and boldness to defend our faith against this violent and growing persecution.

 
 

 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Come Holy Spirit! Heal Our Wounds, Our Strength Renew


“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.”

The Gospel for today takes us back to the Resurrection of the Lord. Jesus appears to His disciples, who are hidden away behind locked doors, in fear for their lives after witnessing the crucifixion of the Lord. Jesus shows them His wounds, still visible in His resurrected and glorified body, so they will know this is no mere vision but the Lord himself; Jesus has conquered death itself.
Jesus gives them a simple, powerful message. He gives them the gift of peace; they will no longer have to live in fear, but peace will reign in the hearts of all who believe, even in the face of persecution and death. Death has no more power over those who believe and follow Jesus.
Jesus sends them to bring this good news to the world, empowering them to accomplish this mission with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as God created the heavens and the earth with the breath of His mouth, Jesus creates the world anew by breathing the Holy Spirit upon His Church. This gift remains with the Church throughout all time, guiding and leading her, for the benefit of all the faithful.
There is yet another gift bestowed on the Church in this short scene from John’s Gospel. In the excitement of hearing about flames, wind, and speaking in tongues, we sometimes forget about the gravity of this simple yet miraculous gift. The Church is empowered to forgive sin. And this is, after all, the very reason that Jesus died – to take away the sin of the world. The Church is also given the ability to discern which sins should be forgiven, and which should be retained. When we confess our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation and receive absolution from the priest, the very breath of life reaches us and we are recreated, renewed, and brought back from death to life.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew… Wash the stains of guilt away
Give them your salvation, Lord; Give them joys that never end.
 
 
 

 

Nicholas Kristof's Birth Control Advice Hurts Women and Demeans the Poor

Photo from theFederalist.com     My response to a New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof promoting birth control for teens was ...