Saturday, December 31, 2016

Pondering Heaven's Mysteries and Responding in Faith




“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” ~ Lk 2:19

 As the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, the Gospel reading brings us back to the humble stable where, attended by shepherds, oxen, and angels, Jesus was born. Through Mary’s acceptance of God’s holy will, she brings forth God’s blessing for the whole human family.

Can you imagine being in a stable, delivering your first child alongside farm animals, visited first by a procession of rough and ragged shepherds, and later by wise men bearing gifts fit for a king? Can you imagine this young couple, Mary and Joseph, after having experienced angelic visitations and heard mysterious promises of great blessing, now finding themselves without a comfortable place for this promised child to be born? What would they have thought of it all? We know from the Gospel stories that Mary, not quite sure what it all meant, often pondered on the meaning of the divine mysteries and miracles she experienced as the Mother of God. In today’s reading, Luke tells us that Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary and Joseph may not have known what it all meant, but they responded unfailingly with faithful hearts and trust in God.

Let us also respond in faith to God’s will in our lives, and take time this New Year to reflect ever more deeply on the birth of Jesus, pondering the mystery of God becoming man in our hearts and prayers, and asking God to reveal its meaning to us more and more each day.
 
 
Nm 6:22-27 ~ Ps 67 ~ Gal 4:4-7 ~ Lk 2:16-21

 

 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Small and Fragile Sign, a Humble and Quiet Sign: A Child is Born


PrayerGraphics.com
 
A Child is Born

“And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
~ Lk 2:7 
 
"A small and fragile sign, a humble and quiet sign,
but one filled with the power of God who out of love became man."
~ John Paul II

“On this Holy Night the ancient promise is fulfilled: the time of waiting has ended... Jesus is born for a humanity searching for freedom and peace; he is born for everyone burdened by sin, in need of salvation, and yearning for hope…

On this night God answers the ceaseless cry of the peoples: Come, Lord, save us! His eternal Word of love has taken on our mortal flesh… Emmanuel, God-with-us, is born…
Mary "gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.” This is the icon of Christmas: a tiny newborn child, whom the hands of a woman wrap in poor cloths and lay in a manger. Who could imagine that this little human being is the "Son of the Most High" (Lk 1:32)? Only she, his Mother, knows the truth and guards its mystery. On this night we too can recognize in this Child the human face of God. We too… are able to encounter Christ and to gaze upon him through the eyes of Mary.
The Child… is God's sign… a sign of hope for the whole human family; a sign of peace for those suffering from conflicts of every kind; a sign of freedom for the poor and oppressed; a sign of mercy for those caught up in the vicious circle of sin; a sign of love and consolation for those who feel lonely and abandoned.
A small and fragile sign, a humble and quiet sign, but one filled with the power of God who out of love became man. 

Lord Jesus, together with the shepherds we draw near to your Crib.
We contemplate you, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.
 
O Babe of Bethlehem, we adore you in silence with Mary, your ever-Virgin Mother.
To you be glory and praise for ever, Divine Savior of the World! Amen.

From the homily of St. John Paul II, Midnight Mass, Dec. 24th, 2002
 
 
 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Traditions



Some Little Known Facts about Christmas

While many people assume that the dating of Christmas was based on the pagan celebration of Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun), the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25th predates that celebration by over a century. The Birth of Christ has been celebrated by the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church since the early days of Christianity. The tradition may date back to the Virgin Mary, who remained with the Apostles after her Son’s death. His mother would have remembered when Jesus was born and surely shared the story of His birth, which would later be included in Luke and Matthew’s Gospels. The dating of the Christmas celebration is also confirmed by written evidence as far back as 204 AD, as Jon Sorensen writes in his article Why December 25th? on Catholic.com:
“Although the date of Christ’s birth is not given to us in Scripture, there is documented evidence that December 25 was already of some significance to Christians prior to A.D. 354 [this is when the celebration of Sol Invictus began]. One example can be found in the writings of Hyppolytus of Rome, who explains in his Commentary on the book of Daniel (c. A.D. 204) that the Lord’s birth was believed to have occurred on that day:

For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam, five thousand and five hundred years. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls.

The reference to Adam can be understood in light of another of Hyppolytus’ writings, the Chronicon, where he explains that Jesus was born nine months after the anniversary of Creation. According to his calculations, the world was created on the vernal equinox, March 25, which would mean Jesus was born nine months later, on December 25.

Nineteenth-century liturgical scholar Louis Duchesne explains that “towards the end of the third century the custom of celebrating the birthday of Christ had spread throughout the whole Church, but that it was not observed everywhere on the same day” (Christian Worship, Its Origin and Evolution: a study of the Latin liturgy up to the time of Charlemagne, p. 260). ”

The Date of Christmas, East and West

Because some of the Eastern Churches continued to follow the Julian calendar after the rest of the Catholic Church adopted the more accurate Gregorian calendar, Christmas is celebrated on different dates in the East and the West. Some Eastern Orthodox Christians still celebrate Christmas on January 6th or 7th.

In the west, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. In several countries, gifts are given on the Feast of Epiphany, which is the commemoration of the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child – the “three kings” who came from afar, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts are symbolic of the role of Christ: the gold for His kingship; the frankincense for His priesthood; and the myrrh for His burial.
The Real Santa Claus

The name Santa Claus comes from the Norwegian “Sinter Claus” which means St. Nicholas. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra (now Turkey) in the 4th Century. One story told about Nicholas is that, upon learning that a poor family was about to sell its three daughters into slavery for lack of a marriage dowry, he secretly placed bags of gold through a window for the family to discover and use for a dowry. He has been named the patron saint of children. His feast is celebrated on December 6th. The tradition of secret gift-giving by St. Nicholas was later incorporated into the celebration of Christmas.
 
 




 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

St. Joseph - The Heart of Fatherhood

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent Reflection - Jesus the Healer


Advent Reflection, Third Sunday, Dec. 11th, 2016
 
“I once was lost but now I’m found… was blind but now I see.”
~ Amazing Grace

Each week of Advent the readings reveal another aspect of the long-awaited Messiah. He is depicted as the Just Judge, the King of Peace, the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire.

Today, Jesus is described as the Healer. Isaiah promises that “the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag… the tongue of the mute will sing.” Jesus echoes those prophesies in His reply to the disciples of John the Baptist, who approach Him to ask if He is the promised Messiah: “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

This dimension of our Savior is the one I have encountered. He is my help and salvation. So many times I have been blind to the truth, and He gently opened my eyes. I have been deaf to the needs of my brother, and His quiet whisper stirred my heart to action. How often I have stumbled along, unable to find the path to Him, and He took my hand and led me; I have been silent when I should speak out against injustice, and His Holy Spirit inspired me to begin speaking. And every day in our wonderful Church, we, the poorest of the poor, have the Good News proclaimed to us. In our Church, where Christ is present to us until the end of time, we are cleansed of sin and raised up to new life.

Jesus, the Merciful Healer, remains with us in the Sacraments, in Scripture, and in the healing hands and forgiving hearts of our brothers and sisters. Do you need healing? Turn to Him, trust in His mighty power and His merciful heart, and you will find peace, joy, and new life – even – perhaps especially – in times of suffering and hardship.

Readings, Third Sunday of Advent, December 11th, 2016
Is 35:1-6a, 10 ~ Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 ~ Jas 5:7-10 ~ Mt 11:2-11




Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent Reflection - King of Peace, King of Fire

 
 
Advent Reflection, Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 4th, 2016

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Mt. 3: 11

As the Church enters the second week of Advent, the readings are full of both promises and warnings about the coming of the long-awaited King. In the prophecy of Isaiah, we hear that this promised King will bring wisdom, understanding, justice, and peace, “and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” These gifts of the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all, “and the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord.” In the second reading, Paul confirms that although Christ came first to the chosen people of Israel, even the Gentiles will seek out the King of all nations, praising and glorifying His mercy.

Finally, in the Gospel reading we hear John the Baptist warning of the wrath of the expected King, saying, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

These seem like two very different images: the King of peace contrasts sharply with the image of the King of justice with His winnowing fan in His hand. But just as both wisdom and fear are numbered among the gifts of the Holy Spirit, both are necessary. Wisdom serves to remind us of the fearful magnificence and glory of God, lest we forget that the loving and merciful Father is the King whose justice never fails. He generously gives us every help and every tender mercy, but ultimately, He calls us to respond in obedience, to grow in holiness, and to bear the fruit of our repentance in our lives.

Let us prepare our hearts for the coming of the King during this Advent season by accepting God’s loving invitation to true repentance.
 
Readings, Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 4th, 2016
Is 11:1-10 ~ Rom 15:4-9 ~ Mt 3:1-12
 
 
 

 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Advent Reflection - Building the Ark While the Sun is Shining

Edward Hicks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


First Sunday of Advent

Reflections on the Readings


The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s joyful anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child. As we await this blessed celebration, our readings remind us that the little Child in the manger is destined to be Lord and King. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Most High Lord who will come to judge between the nations, while the Evangelists urge us to “awake from sleep… For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also warns His disciples to be prepared for “the coming of the Son of Man” in a passage which is often misunderstood. The idea of a “Rapture” in which true believers are whisked away to heaven while the rest are left behind to face a time of tribulation has taken root in modern culture, leading to the popularity of the “Left Behind” stories and movies. But this popular interpretation does not reflect a Catholic understanding of the Gospel message.

In the Biblical flood, Noah and his family were the ones “left behind” to build a new world in harmony with God’s laws, while those who rejected God’s commandments were swept away. Jesus is telling His disciples that now is the time to start building the ark of obedience. Knowing that many will ignore His warning but desiring all to be saved, Jesus warns His followers to be prepared even though they do not know the day He will come, just as Noah started building the ark in dry weather.

Jesus does not want us to fearful, but to be faithful. Be prepared to listen to His voice, following His commandments which will keep us safe even from the flood waters, so that we might enter into His Kingdom of peace. Let us prepare our hearts for the coming of the little Child who is also the King of heaven and earth.
 
Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, November 27th, 2016:
Is 2:1-5 - Rom 13:11-14 - Mt 24:37-44

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Jesus, Remember Me When You Come Into Your Kingdom - Mercy Meditation for Nov. 20th, 2016

Titian [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” ~ Lk 23:42

How fitting that the Year of Mercy ends on Thanksgiving week, a time when our nation gives thanks to God for His abundant blessings. Even more fitting is our celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, as we praise and thank God for the gift of this Holy Year of Mercy. Our merciful King “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Unlike any other king, Jesus reigns from the cross, making peace with His own blood, to open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.

Today’s Gospel describes a scene much like the drama seen in our world in these faithless times. Jesus, suffering on the cross for love of us, is mocked and jeered by the very people He is giving His life to save. I myself have stood in the midst of that crowd; my own sins crucified my King. But while I was yet a sinner, Jesus looked out into that crowd, gazed directly at me, and asked His Father for my forgiveness. He never stopped loving me, even when I was far from Him. By some miracle, over the din of voices mocking God, my ears were opened just enough to hear Him call me back to Him. He did not force me to turn to Him but He invited me. The sound of His voice penetrated my darkness, shattered my blindness, and like the “good thief” I turned to Him and asked His mercy and He washed away my sins.

If you ever think your sins are too terrible to be forgiven, remember the words on every Divine Mercy image, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Never despair or lose hope. Turn to His mercy and say, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Our merciful King will never abandon you. The Year of Mercy may be ending, but the mercy of our Lord endures forever.
 
November 20, 2016  The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Readings: 2 Sm 5:1-3;  Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43;
 
 

 

 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Speak to the World About My Mercy - Sunday, Nov. 13th, 2016



“The day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble…”
Mal 3:19

The final Sunday of the Year of Mercy is drawing near. The Holy Doors close today, and the Holy Year ends next Sunday on the Feast of Christ the King. Praise God for His gift of Divine Mercy! Whatever happens in these turbulent times, we can be sure that TODAY is not too soon to turn to God’s mercy. In ancient times, our Lord sent His prophets to call His people to repentance but to us, God sent His Son to bring mercy and love. But Jesus also warns us that if we fail to turn to His mercy, we will someday face His justice.

In His messages of Divine Mercy to St. Faustina, Jesus urged, “Speak to the world about My mercy... It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. ... You will prepare the world for My final coming” (848, 429). He asks St. Faustina to “tell all souls about this great mercy of mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice is near” (965). Now is the time of Mercy. The Lord is with us as the Merciful Savior. He dwells with us in the Eucharist, the healing Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in the teachings of the Church and in Scripture. Jesus so loves us and desires our salvation that He also gave us the extraordinary gift of the Divine Mercy messages. Listen to Him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the strife and persecution that His followers will face. He tells us not to fear but to trust in Him and He will give us wisdom and fearlessness in the face of death. Although these persecutors “will put some of you to death,” Jesus promises, “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” Death has no power over those who turn to the mercy of God. They need not fear His terrible Justice. Instead, for them, “there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” Do not hesitate; turn to His Mercy. Now is the time.

 
November 13, 2016 - Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Readings
~ Mal 3:19-20a; 2 Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19
 
 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Stand Up for Freedom!


 

Freedom of Conscience Must Be Defended

As we countdown to Election Day on Tuesday, I’m rerunning an article that I wrote in 2013 after attending a community conversation at the Tri-City Herald. The concerns we had at that time about freedom of conscience have since become even more pressing in Washington State and nationwide.
Make your voice and your vote count! Defend freedom of conscience and uphold laws that protect the right to life from conception to natural death!  

State is Trying to Silence Moral Authority


Just before I attended a community conversation at the Tri-City Herald on freedom of conscience, I read this statement in an editorial on the history of the Herald’s community conversations, “In our 20-plus events, we have only had one raised voice,” I remembered, with some consternation, that this raised voice had been directed toward — me! I do seem to possess a talent for annoying people. Whether it’s a liberal relative, a nonbelieving friend — or participants at a community conversation — you name ’em, I’ve irritated ’em.

My opinion here may also annoy someone. But the wonderful thing about our constitutionally protected freedom of speech is that we’re free to be annoying! We’re also guaranteed the free exercise of religion — the right to put our beliefs into practice, not only in our churches but in public life. But recent attempts to redefine the free exercise clause as “freedom of worship” or “freedom from religion” should have us all worried, whether we are liberal or conservative, Christian or atheist, homosexual or heterosexual, because it puts us on a trajectory toward the loss of all freedom.
An examination of 20th century history reveals that governments wishing to replace God-given rights with state-granted rights must first silence the churches. The state “god” will countenance no other God and recognize no human rights except those that it arbitrarily grants — and just as arbitrarily revokes. State-sponsored ideologies, from Nazism to atheistic communism to the Taliban, have proved to be harsh “gods,” subjecting their citizenry to genocide, mass murder and oppression.

In contrast, the Judeo-Christian ethic dominant in America has fostered a free nation that has honored God and safeguarded human rights — while never succumbing to theocracy.

Now, using subtle but effective methods, our government has begun working to silence the moral authority of the church at home. Guised as new “rights,” many laws are being enacted by mandate, ballot or judicial action, backed by all the government’s considerable power, that cripple the free exercise of religion and freedom of conscience, placing Christian businesses, hospitals, schools, charities, and individuals on a collision course with the state.
When physicians are asked to assist a patient’s suicide; when insurers are required by federal mandate to provide contraception, including the abortion drug Ella, in their health care plans; when “reproductive rights” mean that Washington parents need not be notified of a minor child’s abortion; when the “right” to same-sex marriage means that Christian businesses must participate in celebrating same-sex weddings or face lawsuits; when our governor prioritizes passage of the Reproductive Parity Act to mandate that all employers/insurers offering prenatal care must cover surgical abortion, we are already living in Aldous Huxley’s anti-utopian Brave New World.

How should Christians respond to such laws? Pope Pius XII once advised, “When state laws attack divine law, the church is morally obliged to oppose them.” Christians must defend true human dignity and rights. We may annoy some people; voices may be raised; but we must speak out. If our religious freedom is lost, we will certainly face persecutions. The world may hate us — but take courage: Christ has overcome the world.

 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Lord of the Living - Mercy Meditation for Sunday, Nov. 6th, 2016


 

“It is my choice to die at the hands of men

with the hope God gives of being raised up by him;

but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.” 

~2 Mc 7:14

Today’s readings include the horrific story of seven brothers and their mother, brutally tortured and maimed one by one and finally put to death for refusing to disobey the Law of God. Each had to watch the deaths of their beloved family members before them. How is it possible that they did not renounce their faith to save themselves? Such courage in the face of death can only come from God. These young men and their mother knew this world with its cruelty would not have the last word. They trusted and believed that God in His mercy would raise them up eternally.

We Christians have even more reason to believe in the Resurrection than these brothers did. We have the full revelation of Jesus Christ, who suffered and died and rose from the dead to show us the way and give us hope. But are we, who live in this peaceful place and time ready to stand the test? We may think it couldn’t happen here, but it can; in fact, it already has.  It was reported that the victims of the school shooting in Roseburg, Oregon last year were asked by the shooter, one by one, if they were Christian. And somehow, these young people had the courage to say “yes” to Christ even with a gun to their head, even as they saw their classmates executed one by one. These martyrs for their faith surely live eternally with Christ.

Christians are the most persecuted religion in the world today. Worldwide, countless men, women, and children are suffering martyrdom even today for their faith Jesus Christ. Are we prepared to stand with them even in the face of death? Remember that Jesus said “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Mt 10:28)  Our hope is in Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Death with Dignity



True Dignity in Life and Death
 
You’ve probably heard of Brittany Maynard, who made national news with her quest to end her life by means of physician-assisted suicide rather than suffer with brain cancer. In November 2014, after moving from California to Oregon where assisted suicide is legal, she succeeded in ending her life. The emotional appeal of her story is evident in the legacy she left, with her home state of California legalizing physician-assisted suicide soon after.
 
But you may not have heard of Lizz Lovett, another young woman from Oregon with a parallel story. Lizz was diagnosed with inoperable stage 4 kidney cancer in 2014, the same year Brittany learned of her diagnosis. But instead of hurrying death, Lizz has lived each moment since then with grace and courage. Chris Stefanik of Real Life Catholic produced the beautiful YouTube video above, telling her story.
 
In the video, Lizz tells us, “The moment we label suicide an act of dignity, we imply that people like me are undignified for not ending our lives, or worse, a costly burden for society. What a lonely, uncharitable, and fake world we live in if we think it’s somehow undignified to let people see us suffer; to love us and care for us until the end... Cancer might take my life, but I’m going to live until I die, and I’m going to fight until I die… you see, God has the final word in my life and death, not cancer.”
 
Journalist Carrie Gress, writing for the National Catholic Register last April, gave this update on Lizz’s journey, saying, “Lizz … often reminds her husband (Ryan) that there is no shame in suffering and that it too is a gift. The last two years have taught her how to make sense of her suffering by uniting it with Christ’s Cross daily. Every ache, struggle, setback, heartbreak, she offers up for others, especially for priests. In this, she has found great joy in the midst of great suffering. Ryan told me that as odd as it sounds, they have come to love the very thing they wish the most had not happened.” (Carrie's full article is linked here)
 
Lizz’s fight ended on July 2nd, 2016 as her family prayed the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at her bedside. With the last line of the prayer, her heart ceased to beat and her suffering came to an end. But her story didn’t end, becoming instead part of the eternal Christian mystery of the cross. Her willingness to suffer with dignity and die in God’s time lifted the entire Church, the Body of Christ, closer to heaven. St. Paul spoke of this great mystery in a letter to the Colossians, writing, “Brothers and sisters: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, the Church…” (2 Col 1:24).
 
The cross, so often rejected and avoided, is the path to life. Every sacrifice we accept for love of Christ has eternal value. Do not fear: take up your cross and follow Jesus. He will walk with you every step of the way. The very thing that seems to be the instrument of death, the cross of Christ, is truly the gateway to eternal life.
 
 

Seeking what was Lost... Mercy Meditation for Oct. 30, 2016


“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” ~ Lk 19:10


In his 2002 Letter to Priests, St. John Paul II speaks of the parable of Zacchaeus as an icon of God’s gift of mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

“The story… presents the meeting between Jesus and Zacchaeus as if it happened by chance. Jesus enters Jericho and moves through the city accompanied by the crowd. In climbing the sycamore tree, Zacchaeus seems prompted by curiosity alone. At times, God's meetings with man do appear to be merely fortuitous. But nothing that God does happens by chance… This is precisely the case of Zacchaeus. Everything that happens to him is amazing. If there had not been, at a certain point, the “surprise” of Christ looking up at him, perhaps… Jesus would have passed by, not into, his life. Zacchaeus had no idea that the curiosity which had prompted him to do such an unusual thing was already the fruit of a mercy which… was about to change him in the depths of his heart. 

…For Zacchaeus, it must have been a stunning experience to hear himself called by his name… spoken in a tone of tenderness… Yes, Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus like an old friend… He says: “I must stay at your house”… the home of this sinner is about to become a place of revelation, the scene of a miracle of mercy...

This is what happens in every sacramental encounter… the forgiveness granted in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is… a real encounter of the penitent with God, who restores the bond of friendship shattered by sin… because the Father wants to do the impossible to save the son who is lost.

…Here the Good Shepherd, the priest, approaches each man and woman, entering into a personal dialogue which involves listening, counsel, comfort and forgiveness. They should be able to hear that warm and friendly voice that spoke to the tax collector Zacchaeus, calling him by name to new life.”



 
 
 





Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Lord is Close to the Brokenhearted - Mercy Meditation for Oct. 23, 2016



“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds…"

Sir 35:21

 We all experience times when we feel unworthy, alone, or hopeless, but the comforting words of today’s Scripture assure us that our humble cry for God’s help pierces the clouds of heaven. The Lord is close to the lowly, the brokenhearted; so close that He hears every beat of our heart and every whispered prayer.

The message of Divine Mercy is enfolded in the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee. God sees our hearts, none of us perfect, and desires our repentance. God surely loves the Pharisee as much as he loves the repentant tax collector, but as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his book Jesus of Nazareth:

“The Pharisee does not really look at God at all, but only at himself; he does not really need God, because he does everything right by himself.  He has no real relation to God, who is ultimately superfluous – what he does himself is enough. Man makes himself righteous.”

“The tax collector, by contrast,” Pope Benedict continues, “sees himself in the light of God. He has looked toward God, and in the process his eyes have been opened to see himself… He knows that he needs mercy and so he will learn from God’s mercy to become merciful himself, and thereby to become like God… he will always need the gift of goodness, of forgiveness, but in receiving it he will always learn to pass the gift on to others. The grace for which he prays does not dispense him from ethics. It is what makes him truly good in the first place. He needs God, and because he recognizes that, he begins through God’s goodness to become good himself.”

When we repent of our sins from the heart, God’s mercy knows no limits. Trust in God, humbly ask for His mercy, and pass the precious gift of forgiveness on to others.

 
 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pray Without Ceasing - Mercy Meditation for Oct. 16, 2016



“…when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”


Today’s readings teach us the importance of persistent prayer and faithful trust. Moses trusted in God’s help on the day of battle, yet he knew he had a part to play as well. He kept his arms raised in constant prayer. Even when he became tired, Moses did not give up but continued with the help of his faithful friends. God heard their prayers and came to their aid with great power, in accordance with their efforts and their faith in Him.

The parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow also points to the need for our constant efforts and perseverance in prayer. The widow’s persistence wore down even the unjust judge; if we believe that our appeals are heard by the Merciful God, we should pray even more tirelessly than this widow did, trusting the Just Judge, to hear and answer our prayers. Like a good parent, God may not give us exactly what we ask for, but He will always care for us, often surprising us with much more than we expected.

Jesus’s parable, like all Scripture, is meant to teach us something. As Jesus tells us again and again, God can act without our efforts, but He allows us to decide, invite, ask, seek, and trust in Him. Our actions, our prayers, and our faith make all the difference.

Trust in God’s plan for your ultimate good. Pray without ceasing, entrusting all the desires of your heart to the Merciful Lord with great faith and without hesitation.
 
 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Grace and Gratitude - Mercy Meditation for Oct. 9th, 2016



“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” 


Today’s readings include two stories about healing. Namaan, a foreigner from Aram, an enemy of Israel, comes to Israel to find healing for his leprosy, and is cured by washing in the Jordan according to the instructions of the prophet Elijah. Namaan expresses his great gratitude, pledging to worship only the God of Israel from that moment on.

In the Gospel reading, ten lepers call out to Jesus, begging him to have mercy on them. These men are desperate, isolated and alone, outcast because of their disease. He sends them to the priest, the one who must certify their healing and readmit them to the community. Once on their way, they discover they are healed. But only the Samaritan, a foreigner, returns to offer his gratitude to Jesus.

Our prayers are often most fervent when we are in desperate situations. When in need, we cry out to God for His mercy day and night, begging as the lepers did, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Yet when we receive an answer to prayer - when our illness subsides, our needs are fulfilled, our emergencies end - do we continue to pray with the same dedication and fervor, expressing our gratitude, love, and faith to the God who came to our aid in our great need?

I’m afraid I am often guilty of being one of “the nine” that failed to return. In times of need, I spend hours offering prayers and petitions, while in better times, I often hurry through my day with hardly a thought of the Lord’s gracious mercy, taking this tremendous gift for granted. Perhaps this is why these two stories focus on the gratitude offered by foreigners. For these foreigners, who have newly discovered the merciful love of our God who heals, amazement and appreciation overflows.

Let us, who are blessed to be members of God’s own family, always remember to return and give thanks for His gracious mercy and love.
 
 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jesus, I Trust in You - Mercy Meditation for Oct. 2, 2016


“Jesus, I trust in You.”

 

The message proclaimed at Mass today is one of total trust in God. God has given us the gifts of the Holy Spirit and has provided us with a spirit of courage, power, love, and self-control. Jesus promises that with even the smallest amount of faith – the size of a mustard seed – all things are possible.

We, His servants, must trust fully in God, knowing that He Himself will empower us to accomplish whatever work He has called us to do. Depend fully on His strength to “stir into flame the gift of God that you have” been given. Are you the parent of a difficult child? Trust that God chose this child for you, and will provide you with the ability to guide him with love. Are you suffering from illness? Trust Him to help you to “bear this hardship with the strength that comes from God.” Is there conflict in your family or at your workplace? Turn to God in faith to provide you with the “power and love and self-control” to bring peace to your difficult situation.

Jesus knew that His disciples, often weak in their faith, would allow their fears to overwhelm them. He wanted to be sure they knew – and that we still know – about His infinite mercy. It isn’t all up to us. We just have to do our little tasks with great love, trusting in Him to provide the courage and strength we need. Whenever the work before you seems too heavy and difficult, turn to Him and entrust all your cares to Him, saying, “Jesus, I trust in You.”

Let us have faith in His infinite mercy, and always “guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.”  

 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jesus's Distressing Disguise - Mercy Meditation, Sept. 25th, 2016


via Wikipedia Commons
 

At the hour of death when we come face-to-face with God, we are going to be judged on love; not how much we have done, but how much love we put into the doing.
― Mother Teresa

Today’s Gospel reading reminds me of our newest Catholic saint, St. Teresa of Calcutta. She spent her life lifting “Lazarus” out of the gutter, providing tender care for the poor, the sick and the dying. She was motivated always by her great love for Jesus, “in His distressing disguise,” saying, “When we touch the sick and needy, we touch the suffering Body of Christ.”

Yet this little saint of the poor spoke often of another kind of poverty. She knew that the greatest gift she could give to the abandoned and the poor was the gift of love. She reminded us that the lack of love was the greatest poverty, and she recognized that this poverty afflicted even the rich, saying, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for... There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

The place to begin to serve the poor is in our own homes and families; wherever God has placed us. The poverty we encounter there may not be physical but spiritual. For many of us in affluent America, this is where we must reach out with the love of God: to the lonely, the lost, the addict, the young woman facing a crisis pregnancy, our elderly neighbor living alone. Mother Teresa reminds us, “There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.”

 

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 ...