Wednesday, April 23, 2008
These days one of the most common question that I’m asked is, “How much more time do you have left?” I look at my watch and say, “26 days, 12 hours, and 15 minutes.” Do you hear a hint of anxiousness? I’m sure many of us are anxiously waiting for the summer to arrive. But before we bolt out of the seminary door, Jesus has a message for us today. “Remain in my love.” He adds, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.”
Our response to Jesus may be like that of the Rich Young Man who responded, “But I have kept all of the commandments. What more do I need to do?” Just as the Rich Young Man overlooked his wealth, we do have one area that we always neglect. And this is true for us seminarians, the faculty and staff, and those of us who are trying to get a degree for our own enrichment. That one neglected area is gratitude.
One of the things that my spiritual director has asked me to do before I left the seminary is to look back and see how God has used variety of persons and events to nurture my growth into a candidate for priesthood. To begin to look back, I thought it was interesting that the word ‘seminary’ has a beautiful image. The origin of the word means seedbed or nursery. It reminded me of my 2nd grade biology class project where we placed dried pinto beans on a bed of moistened cotton. Each week something different happened. A small stalk came out of the bean and took root. As the stalk began to elongate, a small set of leaves came out. We were reminded to keep the bed of cotton moist but not too much to drown the bean. We also learned that the bean grew even at night when no one was watching.
Our experience at the seminary is like that. For some of us it takes 6 years and for some 8 for our seed of vocation to take root and to reveal the leaves so that it can grow on its own. There are joyous days and unpleasant, if not uncertain nights. But at the end of the process, you realize that you have grown much. And even through the painful nights of experience, we learn that even those strengthen our stalk and roots. How thankful we should be toward God to have chosen us as seeds!
And for those of us who are faculty and staff, how we have learned that the growth of these seeds takes long time and patience. There are days when you stare at these seeds, there is not much growth. Yet over the years, they have grown slowly but surely. How thankful we should be toward God to be able to witness these seeds grow to maturity!
This week as I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, Lord gave me an insight. Seeing how Jesus was present in the tabernacle 24/7 here at the Notre Dame Seminary, I realized that Jesus was earnestly praying to the Father 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that all the seeds planted here at this nursery and all the gardeners who look after them may persevere and bear fruit. How Jesus must be filled with joy as he watches all these seeds grow. And isn’t this his message for us today?
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
(given at Notre Dame Seminary)
Saturday, April 19, 2008
How many of us have heard the phrase, ‘honey attracts more flies than vinegar’? When we apply this to our ministry, it means much patience, gentleness, and graciousness when we deal with someone who is lacking or weak in faith. All of us here have experienced conversion—turning of our hearts to Jesus--and whether we experienced a gradual conversion or the microwave conversion of
What can we learn from Stephen’s bold approach? Is it, “A note self: Self, never insult and put-down the very people you want to convert”? Perhaps the helpful lesson is in the line, “But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit.” When we are about to criticize someone in order to correct a fault, we better be sure that we have asked the Lord in prayer whether this is Lord’s calling for us. Otherwise, we could be led by our own spirit, which is vulnerable to temptations of the evil one. Can you imagine what happens when we criticize someone out of our pride, self-righteousness, anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, or even for fun? Our words will only harm, causing further anger, resentment, and division.
I can assure you that this homily is directed to myself, as much as it is for all of us here. Too often we shoot from our hips, regretting shortly after that again we opened up our fat mouths. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. And I ask blessed Mary ever virgin, and all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord Our God. May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
(given at Notre Dame Seminary)
A few years ago, my family traveled to
It’s also mind-boggling to think about how infinite God’s mercy is. If we think that
Many of you may be familiar with the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The opening prayer to the chaplet is as follows:
"You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!" This chaplet highlights what dramatic change happened to the world between the Good Friday and Easter Sunday. As the prayer says, ocean of mercy was opened up for the whole world. Just like we cannot grasp how tremendous the quantity of water that flows from
Do you remember in 1981 when Mehmet Ali Ağca shot Pope John Paul II in the
“My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners. If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy. ... I desire to bestow My graces upon souls, but they do not want to accept them. (367)
Pray for souls that they be not afraid to approach the tribunal of My mercy. Do not grow weary of praying for sinners. You know what a burden their souls are to My heart. Relieve My deathly sorrow; dispense My mercy.” (975)
Ask for His Mercy. He is more generous than we can imagine. Then teach this message of mercy to our family, friends, and co-workers. And finally, live this message of mercy so people can see God’s mercy working in our lives.
(given at St. Stephens, New Orleans)
I told Fr. Jack the other day that I was getting forgetful. For the life of me, names don’t stick in my memory. Someone tells me their name, and I walk away for a moment and come back, I forget what their name was. I can’t claim these as senior moments because I’m only 35. And Fr. Jack had reassuring words for me, “Paul, it gets worse when you get older.”
However one of the things we don’t tend to forget is all the boo-boo’s that we’ve done. They may have happened years ago, yet at the right moment, they are conjured up like it just happened. We feel the flash of guilt and shame. Oh how we would love to have selective memory so that we can blot out from our memory all of our mistakes!
Apparently, God has a purpose for these bad memories. He uses them to put us back into our place. He humbles us, popping the balloon of our head before it gets too big. And in the Gospels during this Holy Week, God gives us St. Peter as a great showcase for this. If you remember prior to entering the Passion, Jesus tells Peter that he is the chosen rock on whom the Church will be built on. What a privilege! But that privilege comes with testing. At the Last Supper, Peter tells Jesus that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes and even lay down his life. Peter even brandished his sword to cut off the ear of a servant at the
In today’s Gospel, we find Mary Magdala telling the disciples fantastic news that Jesus’ body was not there at the tomb. Peter and John upon hearing this news runs to the tomb. John outruns Peter and arrives first at the tomb, but curiously does not enter it. Only after Peter arrives and enters, does John enter the tomb. Why does John let Peter enter first? Should it not be John? He was the only disciple who stayed faithfully with Jesus untill his last breath on the cross. So by justice, John should be in the tomb first. But, it was Peter who needed to experience forgiveness and mercy first. Peter needed to experience resurrection from being bound to his guilt and shame for denying Jesus three times. God is trying to teach us through Peter that God’s mercy transcends his justice.
When we experience forgiveness, we are grateful and we have renewed love. The one, who is forgiven much, loves much, as Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel. And Peter experienced this at the tomb. He believed that he could not possibly love Jesus anymore because he was unworthy. But Jesus’ forgiveness wiped away Peter’s guilt and shame. Peter experienced resurrection of his heart; before, his heart rejected Jesus’ love and died; now his heart lives again because he opened it up to receive Jesus’ mercy.
A while ago, I gave a short testimony here in a homily that I experienced conversion. I was involved with New Age in my high school days and rejected God, declaring myself as god instead. It still puzzles me to this day why God pursued me even when I rejected Him. He was willing to come down far into Satan’s camp to rescue me. Oh yes, Satan is real and as his other name, ‘Diablo’ implies, he is a divider—separating families from each other, separating friends, and separating us from God. And his favorite tool is to tempt us to sin. But Jesus’ mercy transcends his justice. Through Jesus’ mercy, Mary Magdala was exorcised of seven demons, St. Peter was restored of his love for Jesus, and
And all Jesus asks of us is to say ‘Yes, Lord, please forgive me. I want your mercy to resurrect my dying heart.’ Shortly, we will be renewing our baptismal promises. This is our way of responding gratefully to all the mercy and blessings that Jesus showers upon us. Let our ‘I do’ not be empty and superficial. If that is what we feel at this moment, ask the Lord today sincerely to let us experience what price He paid for us and experience gratefulness for His Passion and Resurrection.
(given at St. Louis King of France)
One of the few times when we connect heart to heart to another person is when someone is suffering. The other day when an 8-year old was killed in an auto accident from the neighboring parish, I heard that her classmate who sat next to her in class remarked a day later, “She’s not here anymore.”
When we encounter someone who is suffering, our natural response is to offer them our support and in someway alleviate their suffering. And sometimes we say things like, “I know what you are going through because I experienced that in the past.” At the seminary in our pastoral counseling class we are discouraged from saying this. Why? First of all, each person’s suffering is unique. We cannot honestly say that we have been in their shoes. And second, we are putting the focus not the person who is suffering but on ourselves. In that class we were taught to first and foremost, listen. Let the person express their feelings and tell their story. Often all that a suffering person wants is a person who is willing to listen.
Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me.” The skeptics standing beneath the cross—the Roman soldiers and religious leaders—all they heard was deafening silence from heaven. And for them, this was a sure sign that Jesus was a phoney. Was heaven being silent? Or was God the Father, listening intently to His Beloved Son’s plea on behalf of all the children who were suffering from their sin?
When we come to venerate the cross today, remind ourselves that from this cross Our Lord cried out to the Father on behalf of our deepest suffering and wounds. Hear the words Jesus spoke for us, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
(given at St. Louis King of France)