Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mar. 26, 2017: 4th Sunday of Lent A

Mar. 26, 2017: 4th Sunday of Lent A

How well do you know Jesus? How can you tell if someone knows Jesus well? A man named Bill went through a life-changing religious conversion two years ago was eager to tell his friend Tom about his awesome experience of accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Tom was skeptical of Bill’s conversion, so he decided to test his friend’s newfound faith. “Tell me, Bill, what country was Jesus born in?” Bill replied, “Uhhh, I’m not sure.” Tom asked, “Tell me, how old was he when he died?” Bill replied, “I’m not sure.” “So you don’t know much about the man you claim to accept as your Lord and Savior?” Bill replied, “I’m ashamed to say that I know very little about him. But what I do know is that a couple of years ago, my family was falling apart with my alcoholism. My kids wouldn’t even look at me. But after finding Christ, I gave up drinking and tried everyday to be the best husband and father. Now my children eagerly await for me when I return from work. I don’t know Jesus too well, but that’s what the Lord has done for me.” What we can learn from the story is that knowing Jesus is not so much about learning facts and figures about him, as it is about being permeated by the love of Christ, allowing oneself to be led by the Holy Spirit, and grafting one’s own life onto the tree of life -- the Lord’s Cross.

The conversion that Jesus brought about in the man’s life is much like how he gave true vision to the man born blind in our Gospel today. The disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" But Jesus replied, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes with spittle and clay then asked him to wash himself in the pool of Siloam. Paradoxically, the man’s congenital blindness revealed Jesus as the true light of the world and showed the spiritual blindness of the world.

Just as our baptism removed the darkness of original sin in our souls and enfolded us in the eternal light of Christ, the blind man, was healed and given clear vision--not only physical vision but a spiritual vision with the gift of faith to recognize Christ before him. His newly gained vision was contrasted with blindness of the Pharisees. They claimed to know a lot about God, but sadly they could not see God in the flesh in front of them because of their pride and arrogance.

Whether we know it or not, all of us here have been given a miracle--a miraculous vision to be able to recognize God and to be in relationship with him through our baptism. In the second reading, Paul reminds us, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” We’ve been given a great privilege to be able to see the world through our faith. Yet, this privilege comes with a responsibility, to make a choice to live our lives differently than how people in the world live. Pope Francis reminds us:

“You have to come to know Jesus in the Catechism - but it is not enough to know Him with the mind: it is a step. However, it is necessary to get to know Jesus in dialogue with Him, talking with Him in prayer, kneeling. If you do not pray, if you do not talk with Jesus, you do not know Him. You know things about Jesus, but you do not go with that knowledge, which He gives your heart in prayer. There is a third way to know Jesus: it is by following Him. Go with Him, walk with Him. One cannot know Jesus without getting oneself involved with Him, without betting your life [on] Him. Everyone must make his choice.” (Pope Francis)

We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness. We all have blind-spots -- in our dealings with friends, in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. We need to ask him to remove from us the root causes of our blindness, especially, self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and hardness of heart. As we continue our Lenten journey, let us pray earnestly, “Heavenly Father, help us see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly.”

Mar. 25, 2017: Annunciation of Our Lord

Mar. 25, 2017: Annunciation of Our Lord

Reflection on Annunciation

May It Be Done to Me (Lk 1: 38)
Motherhood, probably more than anything else in life, teaches us to say yes. Indeed, there are a million and one yeses in motherhood, all of them held together in the tension of unspeakable love and piercing swords, both large and small: yes to carrying new life; yes to the physical discomfort of a rapidly changing body; yes to painful birth, tender scars, and sore breasts; yes to being unable to conceive; yes to miscarriage; yes to adoption; yes to a willful two-year-old, three-year-old, or teen; yes to indescribable love for a new baby; yes to caring for a sick child; yes to countless nights of praying for a reckless young adult; and yes to practicing repeatedly and then rejoicing over a first step and every first step thereafter.

I had always thought of motherhood as “doing” something, such as getting pregnant, bringing home a baby, loving and fashioning a little heart and soul, and forming and directing another’s life. I now understand that motherhood is meant to “do” something to us: form and fashion us, awaken and enrich us, strip and heal us, and teach us to become women of prudence, patience, and perseverance, as it trains us constantly in the art of consent. Much like the practice of prayer, motherhood holds the potential to mold us into beings who are receptive to God and to others, into persons who become ever more capable of living a life-giving, love-expanding yes.

Mary is the icon of humanity precisely because she reveals to us how to say yes to God. She shows us what a profound effect authentic human surrender can have—both on us and on the world around us, giving us a window through which to see how divine activity is supposed to play out in human affairs. Mary illustrates for us in living color the way in which all human beings are purposed to relate to God, teaching us what it looks like to open our hands, hearts, and bodies to him to allow the divine presence to penetrate and transform us and the entire created realm.

Mary’s life teaches us that we are meant to be actively receptive to God, to his grace and to his will. Active receptivity is the ability to at once surrender and receive. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. We must actively surrender to God in order to receive what he has for us. Why? We must do so because surrender involves the critical gesture of opening our hands. Hands clamped tight, holding on to our will and our ways, leave no room for God’s gifts.

The greatest gift ever given to mankind—the Redeemer, the God-man, Jesus Christ—came forth in response to the surrendered yes of a woman. Mary demonstrates just how pivotal our assent is and how imperative it is that we learn to hear and readily respond to the voice of God.

- By Judy Landrieu Klein, "Mary's Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God"

Friday, March 24, 2017

Mar. 24, 2017: Friday, 3rd Week of Lent

Mar. 24, 2017: Friday, 3rd Week of Lent

The love which conquers all
What makes our love for God and his commands grow in us? Faith in God and hope in his promises strengthen us in the love of God. They are essential for a good relationship with God, for being united with him. The more we know of God the more we love him and the more we love him the greater we believe and hope in his promises. The Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as he loves (Galatians 5:13). Do you allow anything to keep you from the love of God and the joy of serving others with a generous heart? Paul the Apostle says: hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5:5). Do you know the love which conquers all?
- Don Schwager,

Lord, when we feel rushed, overwhelmed by all the commitments, slow us down. Let your Spirit remind us to keep perspective. If we but take a few minutes to be in your presence, to speak from our heart and wait on you, we will be centered and fortified to better serve others. We thank you for those in our day who will refresh us and help us to be more content, more joyful, and more giving.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mar. 22, 2017: Wednesday, Third Week of Lent

Mar. 22, 2017: Wednesday, Third Week of Lent
Examining Our Reputation

Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5: 19

Whether we think of it or not, we are moral exemplars for others. People watch us, and some might even admire us. Children follow our example. While movie and rock stars understand that their lives are regularly observed, most of us tend to think of our lives as ordinary and private.

In the Middle Ages, one’s fama, or reputation in the public forum, was an important part of someone’s virtue. People diligently guarded their reputation. When the Church began the formal process of canonization, a person’s reputation was scrutinized, and this is still true today.

This is not to say that a good Christian is simply one whom everyone likes. We need only remember that not everyone liked Jesus! But how we live our Christianity is not a private matter. Others see how seriously we value our Christian faith by the way we behave.

Spiritual Practice:
Consider your public life. What do people think about you as a Christian believer? Do they see you swearing or belittling others? Do they see you gossiping? What small commandments do you break that undermine the public witness of your faith?

By Sr. Joan Mueller OSC, Journey to Joy

Mar. 21, 2017 Divine Mercy Week 5

Mar. 21, 2017 Divine Mercy Week 5
What does my neighbor have to forgive me for

Have you heard of the wise saying, “Curiosity killed the cat”? It means that being inquisitive about other people's affairs may get you into trouble or can lead one into dangerous situations.

In today’s Gospel passage, Peter asks Jesus, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?" How often do we find ourselves seeking forgiveness from God and neighbor for a repeat offense? If there is one sin that we commit more than a few times a day for which we need forgiveness from our neighbors, then it is the sin of curiosity. Let me be clear, there is a good side of curiosity, the inquisitiveness that leads us to explore and to discover truth. Yet there is also the dark side of curiosity -- the tendency for us to nose into our neighbor’s affairs to superficially gather information and then vying to be the first to pass on juicy rumors. Curiosity is often associated with other vices -- inordinate attachment to fads and fashions, wasting time. When we spread rumors, we are no better than those bright, colorful tabloid magazines at the grocery checkout counter that belies the pursuit of truth.

For her religious sisters, Mother Teresa often instructed them to keep their nose out of other’s affairs as a way of practicing humility. She said, “Avoid curiosity. Do not interfere in the affairs of others. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.” You’ve heard of the term, “custody of the eyes.” In this sense, avoiding curiosity is to practice “custody of the mind” in which we refrain from asking questions about matters that either we cannot resolve or are within the purview of others to resolve. Especially when our questions are not about our own welfare or the welfare of others whom we can truly help, we should remember that curiosity is sometimes damaging.

St. Paul had great advice for the Philippians. “Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Our soul will remain in peace and recollected to hear the voice of God when we keep the custody of the eyes and mind. As we continue our journey in the desert with Our Lord, we discern the temptation of the evil one from the true voice of God. Curiosity not only killed the cat but can also kill our soul.

Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20, 2017: Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the BlessedVirgin Mary

March 20, 2017: Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Would that I could persuade all men to be devoted to this glorious Saint [St. Joseph], for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God. I have never known anyone who was truly devoted to him and honored him by particular services who did not advance greatly in virtue: for he helps in a special way those souls who commend themselves to him. It is now very many years since I began asking him for something on his feast, and I have always received it. If the petition was in any way amiss, he rectified it for my greater good . . . I ask for the love of God that he who does not believe me will make the trial for himself—then he will find out by experience the great good that results from commending oneself to this glorious Patriarch and in being devoted to him .- St.Teresa of Avila

Since we all must die, we should cherish a special devotion to St. Joseph, that he may obtain for us a happy death. All Christians regard him as the advocate of the dying who had honored him during their life, and they do so for three reasons: First, because Jesus Christ loved him not only as a friend, but as a father, and on this account his mediation is far more efficacious than that of any other Saint. Second, because St. Joseph has obtained special power against the evil spirits, who tempt us with redoubled vigor at the hour of death. Third, the assistance given St. Joseph at his death by Jesus and Mary obtained for him the right to secure a holy and peaceful death for his servants. Hence, if they invoke him at the hour of death he will not only help them, but he will also obtain for them the assistance of Jesus and Mary. - St. Alphonsus Liguori

(Photos from St. Joseph Altar sponsored by St. Joseph Society of Donaldsonville, Mar. 19, 2017, St. Francis Catholic Church Hall, Donaldsonville, Louisiana)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 19, 2017: 3rd Sunday of Lent A

March 19, 2017: 3rd Sunday of Lent A

Has anyone asked you recently a soul-searching question such as “Do you know what you want out of life?” If we were to ask that question to a teen about to graduate from high school, perhaps the response would be, ‘I don’t know, but I know I need to go to college or get a job.’ If we were to ask that question to a married couple with children, perhaps the answer would be, ‘I don’t know, but I’m too busy to ponder that question at this moment.’ If we were to ask the question to a retired person whose spouse may or may not be alive, the answer might be, ‘I don’t know, but I’m busy going to my grandchild’s ballgames and events.’ As much as we all want certainties in life, there remains in all of us an uncertainty we cannot quite put our finger on.

When the Samaritan woman came to the well, she was searching for plain water, but she probably did not know that her heart longed for the water of eternal life. She thirsted, but did not know for what she was thirsting. Not only the Samaritan woman, but even the people of our age thirst, search, and long for something beyond our imagination. Today, so clouded is the mind and soul by the noise, the glamour and the empty promises of the world that we cannot know that we long for something more. There is, deep inside all of us who come into the world, that longing to know what we truly want out of life.

In some ways, we are like the Israelites in our First Reading wandering in the desert. We keep looking to quench the thirst of our deep longing with worldly solutions. The Israelites grumbled against Moses saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?" When what we long for is not satisfied with worldly solutions, we doubt God or blame God for not satisfying our thirst. Yet Jesus points out to us that if we are looking for worldly pursuits--represented by the stagnant water in the well--to satisfy our longing, we will not be satisfied. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;  the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  Imagine having a fountain of water rising up within us, keeping our spirit ever refreshed and alive. Would we not, like the Samaritan woman, leave our old water jar at the well?

Jesus points to himself as the answer to our deepest thirst and longing, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) But do we come to him? Do we set aside time to meet him each day in our prayer and reading of scriptures? Do we carry him inside us everywhere we go? When we come to Mass, we are like the woman coming thirsty to drink at the well. If, like the Samaritan woman, we truly encounter the Lord, we would never be the same again. We would want to share that experience with others. The Samaritan woman became the first evangelizer, telling her village about what Jesus had done for her.

A priest reflecting on the deeper questions about his life wrote:
“[My life] story is about returning...My life drifts away from God. I have to return. My heart moves away from my first love. I have to return. My mind wanders to strange images. I have to return. Returning is a lifelong struggle….God’s love does not require any explanations about why we are returning. God is glad to see us home and wants to give us all we desire, just for being home. . .so why delay? God is standing there with open arms, waiting to embrace me. He won’t ask any questions about my past. Just having me back is all he desires.”

The answer to the question for each of us, “do you know what you want out of life,” is quite simple: To know, to love, and to serve Our Lord in this earthly life. That’s our life’s mission statement and daily bread. We the disciples should feel compelled to point others to Jesus: ‘Look at him, look at the one who loves me unconditionally! Look at him who has forgiven
and restored me! Look at him who is with me always and who
never abandons me! Look at him!’ When we truly know, love, and serve him, then we will have quenched our deepest thirst.