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.
 
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Seeking the Truth and Finding the Way to Life


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Message of Fátima for Today


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

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Lord is My Shepherd


Bernhard Plockhorst [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The Shepherd calls His own sheep by name…
and the sheep follow Him because they recognize His voice.”

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a comforting one. In today’s readings, Jesus tells His disciples that He is both the shepherd and the gate; He is both the way to life and the source of all nourishment and protection. He calls each of us by name, and leads His little flock to verdant pastures, to rest beside tranquil waters that bring refreshment to our souls. 

Because of His great love for us, Jesus desires to be the “shepherd and guardian of your souls.”  The Good Shepherd protects us from harm and gives us courage; He spreads the banquet table of the Eucharist before us and anoints us with the oil of blessing, so that we “might have life and have it more abundantly.”

What does it mean to be part of Jesus’s flock? To know that He loves us so much He will even lay down His life in our defense? Sheep possess no natural means of defense. They are simple creatures who must depend completely upon their shepherd, the one whose voice they recognize, the one they trust.

Let us also listen for the voice of Jesus calling our names; let us follow Him faithfully, depend on Him completely, and trust in Him always. He will provide all that we need.
 
 
 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Walking with Jesus


“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”
 
In becoming man, Jesus gave us an image of God that we can perceive: God’s face, once too awesome to behold, is now made visible: eyes that are merciful, a wounded hand raised in blessing, a heart pierced for our sins, and a countenance that fills us with joy. But sometimes still, we have a hard time seeing Him; we question, we doubt, and we give in to fear and unbelief.
 
Jesus knows our hearts and understands our human failings. He reassures us not to fear, but trust in Him. In today’s Gospel, Jesus joins two of His disciples as they walk home from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They are confused, unsure of the meaning of all the mysterious events surrounding Jesus’ death and the reports of His Resurrection. They don’t know what to make of all that has happened.
 
Jesus’ identity is not immediately revealed to them as He explains the meaning of the scriptures and the events they have witnessed. They find comfort in His presence and urge Him to stay with them when they arrive in Emmaus. Finally, at table, their eyes are opened to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Rejoicing, they immediately return to Jerusalem proclaiming, “The Lord has truly been raised!
 
Today, we might envy the disciples the experience of walking with Jesus and talking with Him. But even now, Jesus walks with His disciples on the journey. Even now, our hearts burn within us as we listen intently to His word. Even now, our eyes are opened to gaze upon the Risen Lord at the table of the Eucharist.
 
If you ever feel afraid or alone, if your faith ever falters, take a few minutes to open the Bible, read the Word of God, and listen for His voice. Come to Mass or Adoration, and look for Jesus there, where He reveals Himself in the breaking of the bread. Spend time in His presence, and He will fill your heart with joy.

 
 

 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wisdom from two Popes on Divine Mercy Sunday


Divine Mercy Sunday

“In today's Gospel… the Lord breathes upon his disciples. He grants them his Spirit — the Holy Spirit: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven...".

The Spirit of Jesus Christ is the power of forgiveness. He is the power of Divine Mercy. He makes it possible to start all over again — ever anew. The friendship of Jesus Christ is the friendship of the One who makes us people who forgive, the One who also forgives us, raises us ceaselessly from our weakness and in this very way educates us, instils in us an awareness of the inner duty of love, of the duty to respond with our faithfulness to his trust.

In the Gospel passage for today we also heard the story of the Apostle Thomas' encounter with the Risen Lord: the Apostle is permitted to touch his wounds and thereby recognizes him — over and above the human identity of Jesus of Nazareth, Thomas recognizes him in his true and deepest identity: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28).

The Lord took his wounds with him to eternity. He is a wounded God; he let himself be injured through his love for us. His wounds are a sign for us that he understands and allows himself to be wounded out of love for us.

These wounds of his: how tangible they are to us in the history of our time! Indeed, time and again he allows himself to be wounded for our sake. What certainty of his mercy, what consolation do his wounds mean for us! And what security they give us regarding his identity: "My Lord and my God!". And what a duty they are for us, the duty to allow ourselves in turn to be wounded for him!”

From the homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Easter Sunday, April 15, 2007


Divine Mercy Sunday

"... Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you!” and he showed them his hands and his side… he showed them his wounds.  And in this way they realized that it was not an apparition: it was truly him, the Lord, and they were filled with joy.

On the eighth day Jesus came once again… and showed his wounds to Thomas, so that he could touch them… in order to believe and thus become himself a witness to the Resurrection.

To us also, on this Sunday which Saint John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, the Lord shows us, through the Gospel, his wounds. They are wounds of mercy.  It is true: the wounds of Jesus are wounds of mercy.

Jesus invites us to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief.  Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds… the mystery of his merciful love.

Through these wounds, as in a light-filled opening, we can see the entire mystery of Christ and of God… the whole history of salvation… All of this we can see in the wounds of Jesus, crucified and risen…

Faced with the tragic events of human history we can feel crushed at times, asking ourselves, “Why?”.  Humanity’s evil can appear in the world like an abyss, a great void: empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life… how can we fill this abyss?  For us it is impossible; only God can fill this emptiness that evil brings to our hearts and to human history.  It is Jesus, God made man, who died on the Cross and who fills the abyss of sin with the depth of his mercy…

Keeping our gaze on the wounds of the Risen Jesus, we can sing with the Church: “His love endures forever” (Ps 117:2); eternal is his mercy.  And with these words… let us go forth along the paths of history, led by the hand of our Lord and Saviour, our life and our hope. 


From the Homily of Pope Francis, April 12, 2015

 
 

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