Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 25, 2017 Thursday: 6th Week of Easter

May 25, 2017 Thursday: 6th Week of Easter

The light shining in darkness, part 2

Satan’s ploy with humanity, which has not changed from the Garden until today, is to bring us to question God’s intentions. He suggests that in dealing with us, God acts as self–interestedly as we do; that his commandments exist only to keep us under the divine thumb, subdued and servile. If he tells Adam not to eat of the tree, it is for the basest of reasons: God is afraid that you “will be like God …” (Gen 3:5). The God of Satan’s packaging is a miserly giver, changeable and untrustworthy, a master who gives only in order to get, only looking to exact our worship and servitude.

Once we start to question God’s intentions, though, once we doubt that he cares for our needs or listens to our prayer, what source of provision and protection is left to us beyond our own self-reliance? We are left with no other option than taking for ourselves whatever we lack, since God, or so we are convinced, is not looking out for anyone but himself.

Satan persuades us that we have no other choice but to take whatever we want, and by whatever means, regardless of the moral implications. The enemy leads us to sin, not so much because he enjoys its perversion, but in order to distance us from the Almighty. By separating Creator from creature, he keeps God’s love for us at bay, impeded from reaching us in the only way possible through our own free choice, and by our own hand. Satan’s appeal plays to the basest of our ego-drives. By stimulating our selfish and superficial desires, he hopes to drown out our deepest God-given and God-fulfilled longing. He offers us, in exchange for the deeper gifts God has promised, only excitation and distraction: fool’s gold, pacifiers, surrogates dangled before us like baubles. These are poor substitutes for the gift of divine love, impostors that deprive us of our true and lasting happiness in God.

By making an idol of the self, and by ego run amok through sin, we pay a steep price in loss of relationship with God, with others, and ultimately with ourselves. Rather than climbing the heights to rival the Creator, to “be like God” (Gen 3:5), as we have attempted from Eden to Babel and down through history, we end up not only not like God, but unlike ourselves living more basely than the animals beneath us. These are the new lows humanity has reached; this is the new poverty; these are the depths we have carved out for ourselves alone.

- Fr. Joseph Langford, MC
Mother Teresa’s SECRET FIRE
The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own

May 24, 2017 Wednesday: 6th Week of Easter

The light shining in darkness, Part 1

By shining with God’s light before the world, Mother Teresa has indirectly pointed out the darkness that is its opposite; she has helped us to name the darkness , to unmask the great lie.

Each time she spoke in public, after making the Sign of the Cross over her lips, Mother Teresa would repeat this line from St. John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world …” (Jn 3:16). She would remind her audience that each of us is precious to God, chosen out of countless others who could have existed in our place. She would go on to say that each of us is cherished, prized as “the apple of his eye” (Dt 32:10), and that as long as we have breath, this love will never leave us. This was the light she held up before the world, reflected in her words and works. This is the truth that frees us to get up when we fall, to hope in a love we cannot earn, and to become what we were made to be.

While those who heard Mother Teresa speak might have forgotten or ignored this truth, or even doubted it, Satan knows it all too well, “and trembles” before its implications (cf. Jas 2:19). God’s faithful love, his undying thirst for us, represents the undoing of Satan’s kingdom. It buckles the very foundations and shakes the underpinnings of Satan’s empire. Since Satan cannot bring God to stop loving us though he tries, accusing us “day and night before our God” (Rev 12:10) he resorts to the next best thing. Since this “enemy of our human nature” 126 cannot change the heart of God, he does all in his power to change the heart of man the focus of his strategy since the Garden. Because he cannot stop God from loving, he tries to stop man from believing. In the end, the result is the same. As far as we are concerned, by our unbelief in his love, it becomes as if God did not love us and either way, we are equally lost.

Using every twist of logic, every un-redressed injustice unearthed from our past, every broken dream and unhealed wound in a pantheon of hurt, Satan gnaws away at our belief in God’s love and care. While there is a “blessed night,” a sacred darkness that hides a light too bright to behold, there is also an unholy night, a darkness that is the absence of all light and worse, the opposite of all light, a kind of demonic anti-light. If all true light is the breath of the Holy Spirit, there is, on the other hand, a toxic darkness that is the breath of the evil one. His one desire is to nullify the light and power of God’s love, to distance us from that love, to neutralize its impact on our conscious lives. He knows that the less we are aware of God’s love, the less we are in touch with it, the more likely it is that we will forget or doubt it and all the easier it will be to entice us to sin, to live instead for ego.

- Fr. Joseph Langford, MC
Mother Teresa’s SECRET FIRE The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 21, 2017: 6th Sunday Easter A

May 21, 2017: 6th Sunday Easter A

Click to hear Audio Homily
On one Sunday morning, Kirk, a 10-yr. old boy woke up with a bad attitude. His mother was urging him to wash up and dress for church, but Kirk was not being cooperative. He was disgruntled because he couldn’t stay home and watch TV with Dad. Hearing all the commotion, his dad got up from the couch and intervened. “Son, you need to go to mass. I went every Sunday when I was your age.” Little Kirk turned around with his shoulder slumped and headed to the car but not before his dad heard him grumble, “Yeah, and I’ll bet it won’t do me any good either.” When Kirk returned to his pew from receiving communion, he was surprised to see his dad in the communion line.

What prompted that dad to go to mass? Was it simply guilt? Was he feeling the emptiness of not having been nourished by Jesus in the Eucharist for a long while? Or was he prompted by the Holy Spirit? St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading, “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” As the spiritual leader of the house, that dad recalled his baptismal promise to witness his faith. He felt convicted in someway, like most of us at times, the lack of our fervor in our love for God.

Our Lord stated plainly to his disciples, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus wasn’t trying to twist our arms to get us to comply to do certain things. Knowing our human weakness, Jesus asked his Father to send the Holy Spirit, our Divine Advocate, to dwell in us so that we are not left as orphans and left to our devices. This Spirit of truth is within each one of us, defending us from all that can separate us from Jesus.

This Spirit of truth invites us to live in the truth of Jesus in the midst of a culture where all too often selfish motives and double-speak masquerade as the truth. Have you noticed how these days a lie is justified as strategy, exploitation is called business, irresponsibility is called tolerance, injustice is called status quo, arbitrariness is called freedom, lack of respect is called sincerity?

Holy Spirit led Our Lord to unveil the hypocrisy in the lives of the people and call them to conversion while seeking the loveless, the unloving, and the unloveable. Are we going to allow this Spirit of truth to be diminished by our inaction? Or are we going to announce the Good New of Jesus through our daily reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit in a culture that is so in need of encouragement and hope? The Holy Spirit gathers our scattered desires and re-focus them on God. Desire for God integrates us, as our life becomes focused on the only One who can fill us. This Spirit is encouragement, power, light, love… that reaches us from God’s ultimate mystery. As the father of the little boy responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit with humility, we must welcome this Spirit with a trusting heart and humbly respond with generosity.

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19, 2017 Friday: 5th Week of Easter A

May 19, 2017 Friday: 5th Week of Easter A

Friendship with God

Jesus calls his disciples his personal friends. Jesus not only showed his disciples that he personally cared for them and sought their welfare. He personally enjoyed their company and wanted to be with them in a close and intimate relationship. He ate with them, shared everything he had with them - even his innermost heart and thoughts. And he spent himself in doing as much good for them as he could. To know Jesus personally is to know God and the love and friendship he offers to each one of us.
One of the special marks of favor shown in the Scriptures is to be called the friend of God. Abraham is called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). God spoke with Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Jesus, the Lord and Master, calls the disciples his friends rather than his servants.

What does it mean to be a friend of God? Friendship with God who is our everlasting Father and with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ entails a personal, close, and loving relationship and a union of heart, mind, and spirit with the One who created us in love for love. Such a relationship with our Father, Creator, and Redeemer involves loyalty, respect, and obedience. But it is even more than these because God has chosen to love us in the same way in which the Father and the Son love and serve each other - a total giving of oneself to the other in a bond of affection, esteem, and joy in each others company.
Jesus' discourse on friendship and brotherly love echoes the words of Proverbs: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). The distinctive feature of Jesus' relationship with his disciples was his personal, loyal, and sacrificial love for each one of them. He loved his own to the end (John 13:1). His love was unconditional and wholly directed to the good of others. His love was costly and sacrificial. He gave the best he had and all that he had. He gave his very own life for those he loved in order to secure for them an everlasting life of union and love with the Father in heaven.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 14, 2017: 5th Sunday of Easter A

May 14, 2017: 5th Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Around this time of the year many of us receive invitations to high school or college graduations, and we are challenged to find a meaningful graduation gift. Cash, gift cards, a laptop, or a travel voucher come to mind as typical gifts. However, I venture to say there is one gift that you could give that the graduate may not appreciate initially, but will appreciate later. My mom gave such a gift to me when I graduated from high school. Her gift to me was a rosary. The rosary was not just any rosary; the rosary was not even a brand new one. The rosary that she gave me was one that she had prayed with for at least a year. She picked the rosary up early each morning when she woke up and again late at night before she went to bed. Through the contemplative prayer of the rosary she encountered Our Lord through the gentle guiding hands of Blessed Mother. My mother wanted me to experience the deep abiding peace that came with encountering Jesus, the Prince of Peace, in prayer. She knew that I was going to face uncertainties and trying times as I embarked on a new beginning as a college student. One thing she knew in her own experience was that praying the rosary helped her imitate Blessed Mother who trusted in God even when the future was uncertain.

The Gospel we heard today is a discourse from the Last Supper, right before Jesus’ arrest, Passion, and crucifixion. The atmosphere was one of gloom and anxiety as the enemies of Jesus closed in around him. Our Lord said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” He spoke those words to assure his disciples during such time of anxiety. Jesus called his disciples to trust in His Father and to trust in Him. These words were not only for the disciples but are so necessary for our graduates and for each of us. There comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove, and to accept where we cannot understand. If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that the purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light. Trusting in Jesus means that even in the worst-case scenarios in our lives, God will not allow us to be crushed and lost. In those times we try our best and trust that God will take care of the rest.

Jesus also said, speaking to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Ever since Adam and Eve fled the Garden of Eden after their fall, we too struggle with conflicting desires within us--a part of us desires to be close to God, while the other part of us desires to flee from him. There is a sacred space that God created deep within our soul, what spiritual writers call “the heart,” that we are called to journey to every moment. However, original sin pulls us away from making that journey, leaving us to feel empty and unsatisfied. We restlessly seek for something or someone else to fill this empty feeling, but are never satisfied because only our communion with Heavenly Father fully satisfies us.

Jesus said that only through him, with him, and in him, we find our way back to the Heavenly Father, the One who awaits in that sacred space within us to heal and fill our deepest desires. How do we accomplish this daily, to find our way back to the Father? The way back to the Father is to turn our hearts and minds to Him through prayer. A very effective prayer is Blessed Mother’s rosary, which allows us a way to have an intimate encounter with Her Son who is the merciful face of the Father. Most of us have difficulty praying because the distractions within and outside of our soul pull us away from encountering Him. We are frequently on the surface of our soul, like a styrofoam cup tossed about on the surface of an ocean. The commotion of our selfishness, jealousy, anger, lust, and greed pulls us toward the surface and the superficial. We need a way to go deeper into the sacred space within our soul where God and his love can be found and experienced.

When we thumb through the beads of a rosary in our hands and recite the words of the Our Father and Hail Mary, our conscious attention begins to dive deeper into the depths of our soul. We achieve interior silence as our body and mind are quieted down. Our often busy imagination then focuses on the mystery of Our Lord’s life, and we are transported beyond time and space to the very presence of Our Lord who is the way, the truth, and the life. A storm of thoughts and distractions may go on above us, but as we provide a minimal inner movement of our fingers, our lips, and our imagination, we remain in the depths of our soul in union with God who loves us.

What a gift it is give to someone who is experiencing uncertainty or turbulence in their lives when we give them the gift of prayer--for example, to hand them a rosary that we prayed with personally! It’s like giving someone scuba gear to help them dive deep to harvest pearls of their soul. My own mother wanted to share with me the grace of encountering Jesus in the depths of her soul by giving me her personal rosary. Sometimes we don’t realize how powerful the gift of prayer is for someone. Do you have a rosary that’s been gathering dust? I encourage you to begin to pray with that rosary and make it a gift for someone in your life. Heavenly Father awaits patiently within us, calling for us to be with Him. We sense this as a longing, hunger, or thirst. Are we prepared to make that choice to leave the distraction behind and begin our daily pilgrimage to Him?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The 6 Fatima apparitions of 1917

The 6 Fatima apparitions of 1917

There were six Marian apparitions to the shepherd children from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917. All of these apparitions took place on the 13th of the month except for the August apparition.

May 13, 1917
The children were tending their sheep near the Cova da Iria in Fatima, a few miles from their home. A beautiful young woman dressed in white appeared to them over the holm oak. The Lady said she was from heaven and wanted the children to return to the same place at the same hour on the 13th of each month for six months. She asked the children to pray the Rosary every day.

June 13, 1917

Our Lady again asked the children to pray the Rosary every day, and she asked Lucia to learn to read and write. She revealed that Jacinta and Francisco would die soon, but Lucia would live longer. She then revealed that God wished to establish in the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart, and her heart would be a refuge and a way to lead people to God.

July 13, 1917

The Lady disclosed a three-part secret to the children. (See “The secrets of Fatima” on Page 12.)

Aug. 19, 1917
The children missed their scheduled meeting with the Lady at the Cova da Iria on Aug. 13 because they were detained by the anti-clerical civil authorities. The children resisted efforts to have them deny the apparitions. They were put in prison and released on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption. The Lady then appeared to the children a few days later, on Aug. 19 at Valinhos near their home in Aljustrel. The Lady asked the children to continue to come to the Cova da Iria on the 13th of each month and to pray the Rosary every day. She told them that she would perform a miracle the last month (October).

Sept. 13, 1917
The Lady asked the children to continue to pray the Rosary for the end of the war. She told them that Jesus as well as St. Joseph would appear in October.

Oct. 13, 1917
The most dramatic of the apparitions. Some 55,000 people gathered on a rainy day near Cova da Iria in Fatima and witnessed the “miracle of the sun.” Some 20,000 other people witnessed the miracle from as far away as 25 miles. The sun started spinning and grew larger. It looked like it was going to fall on the earth. People fell to their knees in fear. The people then noticed that their clothes were completely dry even though they had been standing in the rain for some time. Even unbelievers and skeptics witnessed the phenomenon. The secular newspaper, O S├ęculo, had a front page story on “How the sun danced at midday in Fatima.”

While the people were looking at the miracle of the sun, the three children saw a sequence of apparitions. St. Joseph was seen with the Christ Child, and they appeared to bless the world. The Blessed Mother was seen robed in white with a blue mantel; then she appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows and then as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The Lady revealed her identity to the children as “Our Lady of the Rosary.” She asked them to pray the Rosary every day and to have a chapel built at Cova da Iria, the site of the apparitions.

May 13, 2017: Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis in Fatima

May 13, 2017: Our Lady of Fatima

Homily of Pope Francis
Holy Mass, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima 13 May 2017

            “[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun”.  So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son.  Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27).  We have a Mother!  “So beautiful a Lady”, as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of 13 March a hundred years ago.  That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady”.  They had seen the Mother of Heaven.  Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her.  The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her.  We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.

            Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures.  Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell.  Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5).  In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady.  She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her.  According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth.  We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus”.

            Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus.  As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17).  When Jesus ascended to heaven, he brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake.  Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father (cf. Eph 2:6).  May this hope guide our lives!  It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.

            Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years.  All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope.  We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore him.  That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering.  God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

            In her Memoirs (III, 6), Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat?  And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary?  And all those people praying with him?”  Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me!  I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned.  Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.

            Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life.  In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfillment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia.  We do not want to be a stillborn hope!  Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).  The Lord, who always goes before us, said this and did this.  Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us.  We do not mount the cross to find Jesus.  Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.

            With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Saviour, resplendent at Easter.  Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.