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.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thoughts on the Ascension and the New Evangelization from Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Excerpt from “The Ascension of Christ and the New Evangelization”
by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

The Solemnity of the Ascension celebrates many things, among them the Great Commission to preach the gospel to all nations. Thus, it is a fitting time to ponder the call of Pope John Paul II to a “new evangelization.”

…the Ascension… is about sharing in Jesus’ joy… rejoicing that his crown of thorns has been replaced with the kingly crown, that the mocking crowd at Calvary has been replaced with myriads of adoring angels. The Ascension is about Jesus’ triumph and glorification… It is also a feast of hope.  Yes, there is something in it for us.  He goes to prepare a place for us (John 14:2).  We will also one day wear crowns made of gold instead of thorns… For us to endure until that blessed moment, we need divine power.

…As he ascends, he tells the disciples to wait for this power. But notice that he does not tell them to wait passively for the rapture. He does not instruct them to pour over Bible prophecies, debating about how and when he will return… The waiting is not to be a squandering of precious time. It is waiting for a purpose, nine days of prayer (the first novena!) leading to empowerment. Why empowerment?  Because they have challenging work to do.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”

We used to think that evangelization was something that happened… far away, carried out by priests and religious. But… every single Catholic is called to be an evangelist. Pope John Paul II proclaimed this as the “New Evangelization” because the place is new–right next door–and the missionaries are new since they include all us all.

…You may not called to preach on street corners, but… we all must be ready to articulate what Jesus has done for us, what he means to us, and why he is the answer to the world’s problems…. pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to move in and through you, and… keep learning more about your faith so that you can share it with ever greater confidence.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Four Steps on the Path to Divine Intimacy

Four Steps on the Path to Divine Intimacy

Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him and we will come to him. –Jn 14:23
There is much talk these days about meditation, mindfulness, and such things. These sound like wonderful pathways to lead you to closeness with the Lord, and are sometimes practiced even in Catholic settings. But we should always be careful to practice only Christian meditation as it has been handed down through the centuries in the Catholic tradition. Eastern meditation is quite different, because its primary focus is on “Nirvana,” which is nothingness. Mantras are repeated and the mind emptied. Christian meditation, on the other hand, is focused on communion with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the prayer of Christian contemplation known as Lectio Divina, the focus is on the Word and the Person of God. The goal is not to empty the mind, but to fill both mind and heart with God’s holy presence.

Catholics are blessed with the gifts of scripture, tradition, and Jesus Christ, truly present in the Eucharist, and our prayers and meditations should always lead us to closer intimacy with our Lord. It is worth taking time, each day if you can, to enter into the presence of God in prayer. If you find time this week, find a peaceful corner at home or church, in a park or your own backyard, and meditate on the beautiful words we’re given in scripture, using the ancient prayer of Lectio Divina. This Latin phrase means “Divine Reading” and it consists of reading scripture (lectio), praying (oratio), meditating (meditatio), and contemplating God (contemplatio). This prayer of the heart helps lead you into God’s presence.

Begin with the Creed, or your favorite prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy, act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work too may be holy, draw my heart O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy, strengthen me O Holy Spirit to defend all that is holy, guard me then O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.  Amen

“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”; your face, LORD, do I seek! Psalm 27:8


Get comfortable in a quiet, peaceful place. Choose a biblical passage and, if possible, read it aloud slowly. Allow the Holy Spirit to quiet your mind and bring you to a place of peace. Read it again, or continue to read further until you come to a word or line that stands out as meaningful to you. 

When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart,
I will let you find me.. Jer 29:14


Meditate on what this verse means for you personally. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and allow God’s word enter your heart. Let your imagination take you into the scripture, as if the Lord was speaking directly to you. Listen for the voice of the Lord to reply spiritually to the prayers you have lifted up to Him with all your heart. Jesus is with you, He hears you, and loves you more than you can imagine.

Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer,
believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. Mk 11:24


Reflect on the passage you’ve read, especially on the line, word, or idea that speaks to you most deeply. Using those words and ideas, pray with that scripture. What is it about that verse that relates to your own life? Pour out your thoughts, prayers, needs, and desires, whatever is brought to mind by that verse. Do you wish to draw closer to God, to follow Him more faithfully? Do you worry for straying children or parents nearing the end of life? Don’t hesitate to bring all your concerns to God in prayer.
My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope. Ps 62:6


Finally, just remain quiet and listen. God speaks in the silence of our hearts. What does He want to tell you? Be at peace in His presence, and listen for His voice. His Holy Spirit dwells within you; Jesus and the Father love you and promise to remain with you. Gaze into His eyes, contemplate His glory, and remain in His presence for a little while.

Jesus said to his disciples: "… whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Jn 14:15,21

At the end of your meditation, pray the Lord ’s Prayer slowly, paying attention to each word.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

May the time you spend in prayer bring refreshment to your soul and strength to face life’s many trials. And may God bless you with His peace.

Psalm 63
O God, you are my God— forever will I seek you!
For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless, and without water.
I gaze upon you in the sanctuary, to see your power and glory.
For your love is better than life; my lips shall ever praise you!
I will bless you as long as I live; In your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my lips shall praise you with joy!
I think of you upon my bed, I remember you through the watches of the night
You indeed are my savior, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you; your right hand holds me fast.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Seeking the Truth and Finding the Way to Life

"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father's house there are many dwelling places." Jn 14:1

Jesus fills us with hope with every word of today’s Gospel. He knows how often our hearts are troubled; He knows our doubts and fears. The troubles of life can sometimes lead us to take the wrong way, but God’s mercy is endless.

I often pray for those who have died far from the Church, some seemingly far from the Lord. But I believe we can entrust these souls to the mercy of God, remembering Jesus’s beautiful image of His Father’s house with its many dwelling places. Even those who did not know Jesus in this life may, in their last moments, come face to face with our merciful Lord, who will lead them home.

There is a beautiful scene near the end of C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia.” As the world ends, a soldier, a loyal servant of the evil “god” Tash, meets Aslan, the glorious lion who symbolizes Jesus. Realizing he has always served a false master, the young man says sadly, “Alas, Lord, I am no son of Thine but the servant of Tash.”

But Aslan answers, “Child, all the service thou has done to Tash I account as service done to me… For… no service which is vile can be done to me, and none that is not vile can be done to him…”

Does this mean it doesn’t matter which “god” we follow? No, says Aslan, it matters very much. But as our Church teaches, “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try… to do His will… through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation” (Catechism §847).

Aslan reassures the young soldier with similar words, saying, “Unless thy desire had been for me, thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”
Trust in God to lead all who sincerely seek the way, the truth, and eternal life, to Jesus. Pray, hope, and believe that even those who seemed lost may be saved.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Message of Fátima for Today

Image result for jacinta marto wiki commons
L-R Lucia Dos Santos, Francisco Marto, Jacinta Marto
Attributed to Joshua Benoliel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A few years ago, the story of little Colton Burpo and his visit to heaven was told in the book and movie, “Heaven is For Real.” Many people were inspired by this astonishing story, but also wondered whether to believe it.
In Catholic history and tradition, many such stories have been reported over the centuries. The Church teaches that “public revelation” (scripture) ended with Jesus Christ and the death of the last Apostle. However, recognizing that God can speak to His people in many ways, major reports of visions and private messages are studied by the church. Messages found to be fully in keeping with scripture and church teachings are approved, and Catholics are free (but not required) to believe in the visions.
One of the most well-known of these heavenly visits occurred in Fátima, Portugal a century ago to three shepherd children, Jacinta, age 6, her brother Francisco, age 8, and their cousin Lucia, age 9.
It began in 1916, when the children, while watching over their family’s flocks in the mountains near Fátima, encountered a beautiful angel who said he was the guardian of Portugal. He taught the children this prayer, “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.” The angel visited twice more, teaching them to adore Jesus in the Eucharist and to pray for sinners.
On May 13th, 1917 the children saw a “lady dressed in white, shining brighter than the sun.” She was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She appeared each month, giving the children a series of messages for the world over the next six months. This was during the First World War, and she warned that if people did not repent, another terrible war would follow, and the “errors of Russia” (communism) would spread to many nations, causing much suffering. The children saw visions of both heaven and hell. She asked them to pray for the conversion of sinners, to save souls from hell.
Soon, people learned of the visions and the children suffered much opposition from those who did not believe them. Crowds began to gather for the apparitions. On October 13th, 1917, a crowd of 70,000 people was present when Jesus, Mary, and Joseph appeared to the children, blessing the people. Suddenly, the sun began to twirl, emitting a rainbow of colors, and then seeming to fall towards the earth. The miracle of the sun was seen for miles around, and reported in secular newspapers by eyewitnesses. But the world did not listen. Tragically, the predicted wars and suffering came upon the world in the century that followed.
Jacinta and Francisco died from influenza soon after that final vision. Lucia became a Carmelite nun and lived until 2005. Recently, Pope Francis announced that on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition, May 13th, 2017, Jacinta and Francisco will become the youngest saints (other than the martyrs) ever to be canonized.
The messages of Fátima still inspire prayer and conversion a century later, all because God sent His Mother to warn us of danger, point us to Him, and tell us how much He loves us. Colton Burpo, now 18 years old, said much the same about his vision: “I hope that my story continues to point people to Jesus. He really, really loves you.” That’s what messages from heaven should always teach us. And remember, anytime the Lord is concerned enough about the world to send His Mother to admonish us to pray, we should listen to her!
Originally published in the Tri-City Herald Spiritual Life Column, May 6, 2017

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

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