Sunday, November 19, 2017

God's Little Gifts Become Our Eternal Treasures


 But yes! Invent my life. Light a passionate fire, a thing of blazing gold, and let me laugh in your joy, my laughing God, and leap in your rising, my Dancer! 
Katherine De Vinck, A Book of Uncommon Prayer
 
The Lord has entrusted each of us with certain gifts. Each gift is specially intended for the recipient, just as the Master in today’s Gospel entrusts each servant with a different amount. Some of us, not trusting ourselves to use the gifts God chose for us, may be tempted to hide our “talents” instead of using them.
Several years ago, I returned to the Church after a long absence. There I found the infinite mercy of God waiting for me, and I soon began to desire to share the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith with others who had left the Church. I began teaching as a volunteer catechist, but wanted to learn more. It took ten years attending community college and a distance university part time to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Theology. I then set out to put my “gifts” to use in Catholic education or parish work, but my shiny new credentials failed to win me the job I envisioned. So I continued with family responsibilities and odd jobs that ranged from caregiving for an elderly priest to flower arranging, while volunteering in various ministries, writing articles, and teaching an occasional class. The Lord’s plans for me seemed different than my own, and I often had to remind myself to trust in His will.
But I don’t worry too much about my failures, because our Lord is not a demanding Lord, but a generous and merciful Father. Like the Master in today’s parable, God desires our love and trust more than our success. So, when the day comes for me to account for the use of my gifts, I will offer the Lord my empty hands, a heart full of love and gratitude, and maybe just a few pennies of “interest,” trusting it will be enough.
Don’t hesitate to trust in God to receive the offering of your life, lived in faith and love, as an acceptable return on His investment.  
 

 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Standing Against Evil in the Name of Jesus


CatholicEthics.Blogspot.com
“We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” -1 Thes 4:13-14
Another day, another news report, another attack on Christians. This time, at a sleepy little backroad Baptist Church in Texas, defenseless families - women, children and elderly - were mercilessly shot down in cold blood by a self-proclaimed atheist. Yesterday, the day before, and for more days and years now than we care to remember, Christians in Iraq, in Africa, and where ever ISIS has spread have suffered the satanic attacks of those who hate Christians. Whether at a parish church in France, a Christmas Mass in Egypt, or a children's school in Pakistan, these violent and vile attacks on Christians occur because they are Christians. The perpetrators often demand, at the point of a gun, that the victims renounce their faith, and when they refuse, they are executed. Yet somehow, Christians, and especially Catholics, are told so often by the news media and the world that they are the “haters”, the bigots, the guilty ones, that many have come to believe it themselves. Somehow, the media narrative is more concerned with gun control, Islamophobia, racism, or anything but the true cause: demonic hatred of Jesus Christ and His followers.
As followers of the crucified Lord, Catholics can expect persecution and even martyrdom, but we should also stand ready to defend our Christian faith to the very end. We should know our own history, not the convoluted stuff of black legends, but the whole truth. We should be aware that the Catholic Church founded the first hospitals, universities, and orphanages, and is one of the world’s largest charitable organizations. We should study the teachings of the Church, which are based in love and truth, always recognizing the dignity of the human person, while standing against behaviors that cause harm to the soul. We should be proud that Catholics have historically withstood persecution by atheist, pagan, communist, secularist, and even Protestant-led governments, and have responded with love and faith, giving witness to their persecuted Lord, and in the end, perhaps even converting the hearts of their persecutors.
So do not be discouraged when you see persecution, but keep the light of Christ burning in your heart. Fill your lamps with the oil of faith, wisdom, understanding, knowledge, courage, and love. Speak the truth in love, even when it’s unpopular, and never hesitate to defend the Name of Jesus. Stay awake. Be ready.
 
 
 
 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

True Reformation


Our Lady of Guadalupe

“The greatest among you must be your servant.” Mt 23:11

In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs His followers to observe all that the scribes and Pharisees teach, because they have been given the authority of the “chair of Moses” even though many of these religious leaders do not practice what they preach.
In the Catholic Church, the pope and the Magisterium hold the “seat” of authority, and even at the darkest times in history - even when popes may not have practiced what they preached - that divine gift of authority has never been revoked by the Lord. Those in authority who have been unfaithful will have to answer to God, but we can trust that the teachings of Jesus have been preserved in the Church from the very beginning of Christianity.
This past week, Protestant Christians celebrated Martin Luther’s break from the Catholic Church 500 years ago. Yet Luther’s path of protest and separation led to the division of Christianity, and the eventual shattering of Protestants into countless denominations, all dictating their own conflicting versions of scriptural authority. At the same time, the Catholic Church was working to reform herself, while remaining under the authority of the pope. New religious orders like the Jesuits sprang up, while the Franciscans, the Carmelites and many others launched reforms, all evangelizing in Europe and beyond with new fervor, drawing converts and reinvigorating Catholicism. While the Protestant Church quickly began to divide and fragment, the Catholic Church grew, reaching across the ocean to the millions of native people in the Americas who became fervent Catholics within that same century.
Praise God for His gift of authority, given to the Church and the Holy Father! As Paul says in today’s second reading, “… For this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe” (1 Thes 2:13).

 
 
 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Written on Our Hearts



"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your mind.” Mt. 22:37

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is challenged by yet another group of doubting Pharisees to identify the “greatest commandment.” Jesus replies with an Old Testament passage which is well known to the Hebrews as the Shema prayer: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Dt 6:4-5) The Jews recited this prayer morning and night, wrote it on their doorposts, wore it on their foreheads, and taught it to their children.

Jesus continues His answer with the second great commandment, showing us the way to make our love for God into a reality. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This commandment also appears in many places in the Old Testament, one of which is heard in today’s first reading from the book of Exodus (22:20-26). In this passage, the Lord commands His people to offer kindness and help to the stranger, the orphan and widow, the poor and the most vulnerable.

By following God’s commandments with love and generosity, we touch the hand and heart of God. Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to respond to God’s call to love our neighbor. Is there someone in your life that needs your love, help, and acceptance? Do you know someone who is poor, alone, abandoned, or suffering? In what way can you reach out to that person, for love of Christ?

We no longer wear the words of the Shema on our foreheads, but Jesus has written these commandments on our hearts. Christians know that Jesus is present in every encounter with our neighbor. As Mother Teresa once said, we must seek “… the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening… Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”





Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Splendor of Truth


 
"Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man” - Mt. 22:16

In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees use charm in their attempt to trick Jesus with their question about the payment of taxes, but they are unsuccessful. They have unknowingly spoken the truth about Him in saying He is a truthful man, yet they fail to see that He is even more. He is the Truth, and all who follow Him must abide in truth and love. But we all know how difficult that can be. Discerning the truth can be tricky, especially when confronted with complex moral questions.

A good place to begin the search for truth is in the Gospels, guided by Church teachings. Today, Oct. 22nd, is the Feast Day of St. John Paul II. This holy man undertook an examination of moral truth in his encyclical letter The Splendor of Truth. In it, John Paul states, “The Church knows that the issue of morality is one which deeply touches every person; it involves all people, even those who do not know Christ and his Gospel or God himself. She knows that it is precisely on the path of the moral life that the way of salvation is open to all” (VS 3).

John Paul recognizes that in the human heart “there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it. This is eloquently proved by man's tireless search for knowledge… It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life… it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience” (VS 1).

Empowered by the great gifts of the grace and truth of the Holy Spirit, the guidance of the Church, and “the wisdom and power of Christ Crucified,” (VS 117) we are able to discern “the splendor of truth shining forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord."



 
 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Clothed in Grace for the Wedding Feast

Little Hannah getting her wedding garment.
 

“My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?
In one of His many parables about the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells of a king who invites chosen guests to His Son’s wedding banquet. When those chosen people reject or ignore His invitation, some even killing his messengers, the king became angry, destroyed the murderers, and extended His invitation to others, good and bad, bringing all into the banquet.
This parable echoes the story of God’s invitation to His chosen people through His prophets, many of whom were ignored, rejected, and even killed. Because of the unfaithfulness of those chosen guests, the invitation went out to the whole world. Yet, the guests must show the respect due to the King’s Son: when a man is found to have entered without a wedding garment, he is cast out.
We are those guests, the good and the bad, given the chance of a lifetime to come to the wedding feast of the King’s Son. Can you imagine showing up at such an event covered in mud, without making any attempt to wash up and be presentable? Would any of us even consider going to a friend’s wedding banquet in such a condition? But how often have we entered the Eucharistic feast neglecting to first clothe ourselves in love, charity, kindness, and purity?
Although God’s invitation is offered freely, we have a responsibility to prepare ourselves to enter into the banquet. The Lord provides the wedding garment Himself, clothing us in Christ at the moment of baptism but He gives us the free will to accept or reject that garment. Even when we fall into the mud again and again, He gives us the chance to cleanse that garment throughout our lives in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are required to respond to the infinite generosity of the King by accepting His invitation and preparing our hearts to be in His presence.
Be prepared for the great event. Don’t miss the chance to enter into the joy of the heavenly wedding feast, clothed in the pure garments of love.
 
 
 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Seeking the Face of God

Photo by David J. Phillip/AP

“…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious… think about these things.”  - Phil 4:8
Every day the news is filled with terror, death, tragedy, and injustice.  When I signed on to my computer to look up a story I planned to mention in this article, I was greeted with headlines reporting the mass murder of 59 innocent people in Las Vegas. Hurricanes, earthquakes, war, and terror seem to be everywhere. But St. Paul encourages us to think about that which is true, pure, and lovely. Such things seem elusive, but they are there, even in the midst of the storms.
God’s grace and beauty can shine through the darkest events, and God’s image is most often reflected on the faces of the people involved. In the aftermath of the storms, in the chaos and violence of a terrorist attack, in the rubble of an earthquake, the honorable, the just, and the lovely are glimpsed.
A photo taken after Hurricane Harvey shows a young officer carrying a mother and child through the storm waters. The mother cradles her son in her arms protectively, while both are enveloped in the arms of their rescuer. A mother in labor, evacuated from a Mexico City hospital during the earthquake, gave birth to her baby on the street. Her husband said, “The world was falling around us and he came to save ours. It’s the greatest message of love and example of strength and bravery for the world.” A young man gives his life for his beloved wife, shielding her from the bullets of the Vegas killer with his own body.
The true, the honorable, the lovely and gracious are most clearly visible in the people that reflect God’s image in our world: in the face of the rescuer; the embrace of a mother protecting her child; the birth of a child; the sacrificial love of a husband who gives his life for his bride. God has made us in His image, placed us in His vineyard, and sent His Son to show us the way, so that we may become, like Him, sons and daughters of God, empowered to be light in the darkness, hope in the storm, filled with a love that gives without counting the cost.
 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Humility of St. Thérèse


Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way. Psalm 25:8-9

In today’s readings, St. Paul speaks of the great humility of our Lord Jesus, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This is the example we are to follow: not to exalt ourselves but to humbly submit to God’s will.
This reading is especially fitting for today, October 1st, the Feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Thérèse lived a humble and obscure life in late 19th century France, entered a convent at the age of 15, and died when she was just 24; not someone you would expect to make an impact on the world. However, her “Little Way” of spiritual childhood has become widely known in the century since her death. St. Thérèse summarizes the Little Way in her book, Story of a Soul:
“…I have always found that 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 trodden underfoot by passersby. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger... But 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…  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.”
Although she remained both little and obscure during her short life, God exalted this humble daughter of the Church: St. Thérèse was canonized 28 years after her death and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
St. Thérèse, pray for us!
 

 

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.

 
 
 

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