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.”  


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

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