Thursday, September 21, 2017

40 Days of Prayer and Praise




“Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Mt 20:16

The 40 Days for Life first began in Texas in 2004, when four people came together and prayed for a way to end abortion in their community. They decided to pray, fast, and keep vigil at the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic for 40 days and nights. They also began doing outreach to get other people involved, spreading the word door to door and by word of mouth. By the end of that first 40 days, hundreds of people were involved in this prayerful, peaceful movement that has since grown to encompass over 700 cities in 44 nations worldwide.

The 40 Days for Life first came to the Tri-Cities in 2008, its leaders drawn from our local Catholic parishes. I was part of that first team; it was also the first pro-life action I had ever been involved with. That year's Kick-off Rally was the first time I spoke publicly about the grief and regret I silently suffered for many years after my own abortion losses. Before that time, I remained silent on abortion, thinking it more compassionate not to call attention to women who turned to that awful and desperate solution. But I came to realize that silence only worsened the problem. I had gotten to know many people in the pro-life movement , and finally understood that they were not offering condemnation but real, loving assistance, healing, help, and mercy. So I joined them and began to pray, speak, write, and work for life.

Although I was a latecomer to the prolife movement, many of my 40 Days for Life teammates had long been fighting to end the injustice and tragedy of abortion. I remember one elderly man, a St. Joseph’s Knight, who had been working to end abortion for at least 33 years before 40 Days for Life began. His name was Dick Gilmore. He had been organizing weekly rosaries and prayers at the local Planned Parenthood ever since they first opened their abortion center in the Tri-Cities. Suddenly, he found himself surrounded by novice prayer volunteers from all over the community. Dick did not resent the presence of the newcomers at the “frontlines,” but welcomed us. That first campaign was a 24/7 vigil for 40 cold days and nights in the Fall of 2008. Although he was in his eighties, Dick showed up at all hours, even the middle of the night, bringing prayer cards, rosaries, crosses and ideas.
 
At the end of that first campaign, we gathered to celebrate and praise God for the mercies He had shown during the 40 days. I was watching as Dick looked around at over 200 prayer volunteers, and broke down in tears of joy. I felt grateful and honored to be counted in his company, the last joining with the first, working together to defend human life. 
 
 
 

 Requiem en Pacem, 
Richard Francis Gilmore
Nov. 11, 1924 - Sept 16, 2016

"You, too, go into my Vineyard." 

Link to the Complete Text of the Readings for Sunday, Sept. 24th, 2017

It’s not too late to join us in God’s vineyard if you haven’t already.
 

Visit 40 Days for Life Tri Cities

Come to our Fall 2017 Kick-off Rally
at John Dam Plaza in Richland, WA

Sunday, Sept. 24th, 2-4 PM

Speakers, prayer, music, fellowship, information,

& COOKIES!

 
 
 
 



 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Forgiving the Unforgivable


Photo from www.immaculee.com
 
"Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? – Mt. 18:21
 
One of the most amazing stories of forgiveness I’ve ever heard was told by Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in her book, “Left to Tell.” She spent three months hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other starving women, as her family members and fellow Tutsi tribe members were slaughtered in the genocide that killed a million people. She survived by praying the rosary continually, saying, “Prayer became my armor, and I wrapped it tightly around my heart."
Yet she encountered difficulty with the words of the Lord ’s Prayer, finding herself unable to say “forgive us as we forgive others.” She remembers, "It was no use - my prayers felt hollow. A war had started in my soul, and I could no longer pray to a God of love with a heart full of hatred…. I tried again, praying for Him to forgive the killers, but deep down I couldn't believe that they deserved it at all. It tormented me... I tried to pray for them myself, but I felt like I was praying for the devil… I asked God to help me, and again I heard his voice: Forgive them; they know not what they do…
I took a crucial step toward forgiving the killers that day. My anger was draining from me - I'd opened my heart to God, and He'd touched it with His infinite love. For the first time, I pitied the killers. I asked God to forgive their sins and turn their souls toward His beautiful light… That night I prayed with a clear conscience and a clean heart. For the first time since I entered the bathroom, I slept in peace."
May each of us also find the grace and peace that comes from forgiving those who have sinned against us.
 

Speak the Truth in Love and Mercy


 
"Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.” - St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

We hear a wonderful promise from Jesus in today’s Gospel: our prayers call down God’s presence with us; even if just two of us agree about anything for which we are to pray, it will be granted. But today’s readings also remind us that we bear responsibility for one another. We are linked, morally and spiritually. If we see another person engaging in sinful behavior, we have a moral obligation to speak out in truth and mercy to help guide that person back into communion with God and the Church.
And that’s difficult. It’s especially hard to speak out against many of the socially acceptable sins of this generation. We risk being called judgmental, hypocritical, even hateful. But just as the Lord warns the prophet Ezekiel and Jesus warns the disciples, we are also warned that keeping silent risks both the soul of the person committing the sin and our own soul as well.
Is there something we’ve witnessed in our own circle of family and friends that we have failed to speak out about? Do we know someone whose marriage needs to be convalidated, or someone who is involved in an adulterous or immoral relationship? Are we aware of an incident of serious sin that is unconfessed? We all have someone in our lives that may need gentle guidance back to God. Jesus tells us to first speak to that person privately. Let them know the doors of mercy are wide open for their reconciliation. If they do not respond, ask a priest for his advice and intervention.
Doing everything you can to save the lives of those you love is not being judgmental or hateful, but is true mercy. And it is our obligation as Catholics. Do not be afraid to speak the truth in love and mercy, always and everywhere.
 
 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Shadow of the Cross


Bill on his birthday last year, 9/10/16
 
Can you imagine how Peter felt to hear Jesus predict the suffering, passion, and death He would soon face? He protests, saying, “God forbid… such a thing shall ever happen to you.” I think most of us would react the same way to hear someone we love making such terrible predictions. Yet Jesus very strongly reprimands Peter, reminding him that there is so much he has yet to understand about the ways of God.

Recently, my husband Bill was diagnosed with cancer. When I heard the doctor describe the pain that his treatment would cause, I also wanted to say, “God forbid that he should have to go through such suffering!” Yet the promised cure for his cancer will only come through the pain of surgery, the burns of radiation, and the sickness caused by the chemo drugs. But despite the suffering, this treatment will ultimately be life-giving, and I would not want him to refuse it.

In the same way, Jesus tells Peter that there is no other path to life but the cross. Jesus shows us the way, willingly suffering the pain of the scourging, the feeling of abandonment, the piercing thorns and the nails, the unquenchable thirst, and finally death on the cross, all so that our healing could be won, and our lives saved.

Anytime you are facing a difficult path; pain, illness, grief, troubles of any kind, turn to God. He is with you and He knows what you’re going through. He does not want you to suffer, yet because sin and death have entered into the world, there is suffering in this life. By passing through it Himself, Jesus opened the path to life. Do not be afraid, because God is with you. Take up your cross and follow Him. Together, you can get through anything. Trust in Him.

 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Keys to the Kingdom

By Peter Paul Rubens

Scripture scholar Steve Ray of www.catholicconvert.com explains the meaning of today’s Gospel:

“From the obscure fishing village of Capernaum on the shores of Galilee, Simon son of John rose to great prominence in the early Church… Jesus bestowed special prerogatives on Peter, recounted in Matthew 16:13-20. Peter is given a new name, which in Scripture denotes a change in status or position (e.g., Gen 17:4-5). Jesus spoke Aramaic and gave Simon the Aramaic name Kepha (Rock) which is is “Petra” in Greek and “Peter” in English… Jesus is the builder and Peter is the rock foundation.

Jesus chose Caesarea Philippi as the backdrop for the Petrine appointment. Here Herod had built a temple to Caesar Augustus atop the massive rock, a center of pagan worship and a source of the Jordan River. At the rock base was a gaping cavern referred to by the pagans as the “gates of hell”. Standing before the “temple” built to the “divine Caesar”, Jesus revealed God’s plan to build his new “temple”, the Church, to the true God with Peter as the solid rock.

… Jesus promises to give Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”-a reference to the steward’s keys in Isaiah 22… Keys represent exclusive dominion and this authority was granted to Peter alone. The office of royal steward was successive in Israel… the Jews certainly understand that the office of Peter would be filled by successors as was the royal steward’s office in Judah. The steward may die, but the office continues.

As the steward of Christ’s kingdom, Peter is given the authority to bind and loose… scholar M. Vincent explains, “No other terms were in more constant use in Rabbinic canon-law than those of binding and loosing. They represented the legislative and judicial powers of the Rabbinic office. These powers Christ now transferred . . . in their reality, to his apostles; the first, here to Peter.”

 
 
 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Adopted into God's Family



“The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD… loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants… I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.” Is 56:6-7
Today’s readings show how the blessings originally meant for Israel, the chosen people of God, are now showered on the foreigner and the alien, because of the generosity of God and the faith shown by these outsiders. We Catholics, once foreigners and Gentiles ourselves, have become the new chosen people. The Church has been entrusted with the great gift of the New Covenant. Within her, God is present in the Eucharist; Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. She possesses the infinite treasure of God’s Word in the Scripture, and has been given the authority to forgive sin.
Our response to God’s generosity must be one of faith and gratitude, never forgetting the great mercy He has shown us. If we take God’s gifts for granted, forgetting to keep the commandments and to honor the Lord in all we do, we also could lose the graces and gifts meant for us. Do we respond with gratitude, offering God praise and worship, expressing love for Him in all we do? Do we recognize His presence with us at every Mass, spend time with Him in Adoration, meditate on His Word, ask His forgiveness for our sins, pray to Him when we rise in the morning, and remember His mercy every evening at the setting of the sun?
Every day is a new opportunity for renewing our faith, loving God and neighbor, remembering to show our gratitude for every blessing we receive, and our willingness to take up every cross, appreciating the great mercy and love God our Father has for us. Remain close to Jesus, ask every day for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and always remember to thank God for inviting us, the stranger and the alien, into His house of prayer.

 

 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Faith Amid the Storms



"I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen."
Romans 9:1-5

In today’s second reading, Paul expresses great sorrow that many of his beloved Jewish brothers and sisters have failed to recognize the coming of their long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. Paul, once a persecutor of the Christians himself, mourns for those who are still in the darkness of unbelief. He is even willing to suffer the loss of his own salvation for their sake.
Later in this letter, Paul also recognizes God’s mercy working through Israel’s unfaithfulness, which has opened the way for the Gentiles to be saved. Paul trusts that the time will come when the Jews, the chosen people, will be grafted back into the tree of life, becoming stronger than ever, if only they come to believe.
Most of us have loved ones who have left the faith for one reason or another, and we can relate to Paul’s heartfelt anguish. We pray for our loved ones, we hope for their return and suffer because of their absence. We would give anything to help them find their way back.  While we await the return of our loved ones, we, like Paul, must patiently trust in God’s plan, placing our hope His merciful love.
Today’s Gospel story shows us that even the Apostles experienced the doubts and fears that caused their faith to falter. As their ship is tossed about in the storm, they don’t recognize Jesus when He approaches them, walking on water. Jesus reassures them, telling them not to fear. Only Peter steps out of the boat, but even he quickly loses faith and begins to sink. Jesus reaches out to save Peter and calm the storm. In doing so, He strengthens the faith of all the Apostles, who praise Him as the Son of God.
Our loved ones may be facing their own storms of unbelief, doubt, and fear. But trust in God to use even these trials to draw them, and many others with them, back to Him, strengthening their faith and finally grafting them back into the tree of life.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Transfiguration


PrayerGraphics.com

From a homily by St. Leo the Great on the meaning of the Transfiguration:


“The Lord reveals his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses. His body is like that of the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such splendor that his face becomes like the sun in glory, and his garments as white as snow.

The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed…he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.

The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Saint Paul bore witness to this same truth when he said: I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the future glory that is to be revealed in us. In another place he says: When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory…

The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under the veils of mystery. As Saint John says: The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ…

When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’”

 
 
 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

From Suffering to Grace


Photo: Catholic Vote

 “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort-
you were made for greatness.” -Pope Benedict
 

At times, it can be very hard to believe that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” as Paul claims in today’s second reading. When we face the most difficult moments in our lives, times of sickness, bad fortune, or sorrow, we often question why we must suffer. Although I know, as a Christian, that I am called to follow Christ in the path of suffering and sacrificial love, my natural desire is for the blessings of good health and happiness.

It truly takes God’s supernatural grace and strength, and the gifts of understanding, wisdom, and the light of the Holy Spirit, to find the treasure hidden away in our suffering. If we accept our crosses in union with the suffering of Christ, seeking God’s will even in times of distress, then we will find true joy, the pearl of great price, and the way to the kingdom of heaven will be revealed.

We, as Christians, have been called, chosen, and predestined for Christ. This is not an easy road, but it is the narrow road that leads to eternal glory with the Lord. The cross, the instrument of death and torture, has been transformed by Christ into the tree of life. When you are facing suffering and hard times, and find yourself questioning, “Why me, why this, why now?” remember that Jesus is with you always: Jesus, who suffered to show us the way. Fear not, because God, who overcomes death and gives eternal life, will transform every drop of our suffering in this world into good in the end, to bring us all together with Him in eternity, in the kingdom of heaven, our final destiny.

 
 




 

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.
 
 
 

 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thoughts on the Ascension and the New Evangelization from Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio


prayergraphics.com
 
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

Lectio

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

Meditatio 

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

Oratio

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

Contemplatio

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.
 
 

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 ...