Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 30, 2013: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time C



Are you a good decision maker? All of us are confronted with various decisions to make on a daily basis. Some are small and of minor consequence, while others are huge and potentially life changing. How do you go about making your decision? Do you ever pray first and ask God for guidance before making a decision? Is that important for you?
Most of us try to make decisions with a hope that we are doing God’s will. Perhaps, we try to make decisions that align with the Ten Commandments. If we are going to make decisions that honor the Ten Commandments, we should know what they are. Jay Leno, the host of Late Night with Jay Leno did a segment called, “Jaywalking,” where he went out to the streets and asked  random persons to: “Name one of the Ten Commandments.” What do you think was the most popular response? The most popular response was, “God helps those who help themselves.” Well, as you know, that’s not a commandment and is not even in the Bible. It’s actually from a line in Greek mythology.
Many decisions we make are not about choosing between good from bad, but choosing from two apparent goods. What do you do when you feel God is asking you to do one thing while your heart is compelled to another? That’s what Prophet Elisha had to do in the First Reading. We can tell that Elisha was a very wealthy farmer for he owned 12-oxen plow, something that ordinary folks would not have. For us in Donaldsonville, that would be like owning a top of the line sugar cane harvester that cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars.  It is also likely that Elisha took care of his parents.



So it was a dilemma for Elisha when Elijah came to anoint him as a prophet. Should he ‘Honor his father and mother’ by staying or should he heed God’s call to leave everything and become a prophet. Had Elisha applied the rule, “God helps those who help themselves,” he would have settled with his preferences rather than God’s call. He had to choose between caring for his parents or embarking on a journey guided by God.  Elisha had to decide between his wealthy lifestyle and giving up his wealth to traverse lands without the benefit of the comforts he was used to having.

We have this dilemma of a divided heart and desire for perfect freedom. We struggle between trust and suspicion, between faith and doubt, between surrender and control. It’s hard to choose because we hate to say no to ourselves. Loss is painful, and because we dislike losing something and because we fear loss we make less-than-wholehearted decisions, hesitant decision, circumscribed decisions, or no decisions at all—anything to avoid that pang of hindsight regret. But letting go of something can mean gaining freedom. St. Paul said it beautifully in our Second Reading: Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom...But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.




 

 St. Ignatius of Loyola suggests a succinct rule: as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more toward the end for which we are created. What is the end for which we are created? We are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save our soul. If we were asked to take care of our elderly parents, and if this gives reverence and serve God, we should do it. If we were pronounced with cancer, and if all the suffering that is involved with treatments serves God in someway and saves our soul, we should do it. Rather than being a curse, our apparent loss of wealth, health, reputation can be an instrument to bring us to know and to love Jesus more. Think of the challenges you are facing now. How is the Lord asking you to use this challenge to serve Him? As you face your challenges this week, this prayer from Blessed John Cardinal Newman may assist you.

   God has created me to do Him some definite service.  He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.  I have my mission, I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
   I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
   Therefore I will trust Him.  Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
   He does nothing in vain.  He knows what He is about; He may take away my friends.  He may throw me among strangers.  He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me – still He knows what He is about!


June 29, 2013: Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis Homily

Your Eminences,My Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, principal patrons of the Church of Rome: a celebration made all the more joyful by the presence of bishops from throughout the world. A great wealth, which makes us in some sense relive the event of Pentecost. Today, as then, the faith of the Church speaks in every tongue and desire to unite all peoples in one family.

I offer a heartfelt and grateful greeting to the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, led by Metropolitan Ioannis. I thank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I for this renewed gesture of fraternity. I greet the distinguished ambassadors and civil authorities. And in a special way I thank the Thomanerchor, the Choir of the Thomaskirche of Leipzig – Bach’s own church – which is contributing to today’s liturgical celebration and represents an additional ecumenical presence.
I would like to offer three thoughts on the Petrine ministry, guided by the word “confirm”. What has the Bishop of Rome been called to confirm?

1. First, to confirm in faith. The Gospel speaks of the confession of Peter: “You are Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), a confession which does not come from him but from our Father in heaven. Because of this confession, Jesus replies: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (v. 18). The role, the ecclesial service of Peter, is founded upon his confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God, made possible by a grace granted from on high. In the second part of today’s Gospel we see the peril of thinking in worldly terms. When Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood re-emerge in Peter: “He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him ... This must never happen to you” (16:22). Jesus’ response is harsh: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (v. 23). Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks. Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!

2. To confirm in love. In the second reading we heard the moving words of Saint Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7). But what is this fight? It is not one of those fights fought with human weapons which sadly continue to cause bloodshed throughout the world; rather, it is the fight of martyrdom. Saint Paul has but one weapon: the message of Christ and the gift of his entire life for Christ and for others. It is precisely this readiness to lay himself open, personally, to be consumed for the sake of the Gospel, to make himself all things to all people, unstintingly, that gives him credibility and builds up the Church. The Bishop of Rome is called himself to live and to confirm his brothers and sisters in this love for Christ and for all others, without distinction, limits or barriers.

3. To confirm in unity. Here I would like to reflect for a moment on the rite which we have carried out. The pallium is a symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter, “the lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion” (Lumen Gentium, 18). And your presence today, dear brothers, is the sign that the Church’s communion does not mean uniformity. The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of the hierarchical structure of the Church, states that the Lord “established the apostles as college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number” (ibid., 19). And it continues, “this college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the people of God” (ibid., 22). In the Church, variety, which is itself a great treasure, is always grounded in the harmony of unity, like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God’s one great plan. This should inspire us to work always to overcome every conflict which wounds the body of the Church. United in our differences: this is the way of Jesus! The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal church, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.

To confess the Lord by letting oneself be taught by God; to be consumed by love for Christ and his Gospel; to be servants of unity. These, dear brother bishops, are the tasks which the holy apostles Peter and Paul entrust to each of us, so that they can be lived by every Christian. May the holy Mother of God guide us and accompany us always with her intercession. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28, 2013 Friday: St Ireneus

What might hold us back from approaching the Lord Jesus with expectant faith and confidence that he can change us and make us holy – perhaps fear, pride, and the risk of losing one's reputation or friends? Jesus did something which was both remarkable and unthinkable at the same time. He approached the unapproachables – he touched the untouchables. Lepers were outcasts of society. Their physical condition was terrible as they slowly lost the use of their limbs and withered away with open sores over their entire bodies. They were not only shunned but regarded as “already dead” even by their relatives. The Jewish law forbade anyone from touching or approaching a leper, lest ritual defilement occur.
The leper who came to Jesus did something quite remarkable. He approached Jesus confidently and humbly, expecting that Jesus could and would heal him. Normally a leper would be stoned or at least warded off if he tried to come near a rabbi. Jesus not only grants the man his request, but he demonstrates the personal love, compassion, and tenderness of God in his physical touch. The medical knowledge of his day would have regarded such contact as grave risk for incurring infection. Jesus met the man’s misery with compassion and tender kindness. He communicated the love and mercy of God in a sign that spoke more eloquently than words. He touched the man and made him clean – not only physically but spiritually as well.

Some twelve centuries later, a man named Francis (1181-1226 AD) met a leper on the road as he journeyed towards Assisi. A contemporary of Francis wrote, “Though the leper caused him no small disgust and horror, he nonetheless, got off the horse and prepared to kiss the leper. But when the leper put out his hand as though to receive something, he received money along with a kiss” (from the Life of St. Francis by Thomas of Celano). Francis did what seemed humanly impossible because he was filled with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit inflames our hearts with the fire of Christ's love that we may reach out to others with compassionate care and kindness, especially to those who have been rejected, mistreated, and left utterly alone. Do you allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with the love and compassion of Christ for others?

“May the power of your love, Lord Christ, fiery and sweet as honey, so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, as you died for love of our love." (Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226 AD)

Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

June 27, 2013 Thursday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass

Pope at Mass: Resting our faith on the rock of Christ

(Vatican Radio) There are people who "masquerade as Christians," and sin by being excessively superficial or overly rigid, forgetting that a true Christian is a person of joy who rests their faith on the rock of Christ. Some think they can be Christian without Christ; others think being Christian means being in a perpetual state mourning. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass on Thursday.
Rigid and sad. Or happy but with no idea of ​​Christian joy. These are two - in a sense opposite - "houses", in which two categories of believers live and which are both seriously flawed: they are grounded in a Christianity made of words and fail to rely on the "rock" of the Word of Christ. Pope Francis identified both groups in his comments on the Gospel of the day, the famous passage from Matthew of the houses built on sand and rock.
"In the history of the Church there have been two classes of Christians: Christians of words - those" Lord, Lord, Lord "- and Christians of action, in truth. There has always been the temptation to live our Christianity not on the rock that is Christ. The only one who gives us the freedom to say 'Father' to God is Christ, our rock. He is the only one who sustains us in difficult times, no? As Jesus said: the rain falls, rivers overflow, winds blow, but the rock is safe, words, the words take flight, they are not needed. But this is the temptation of these Christians of words, of a Christianity without Jesus, a Christianity without Christ. And this has happened and is happening today in the Church: being Christians without Christ. "
Pope Francis went on to analyze these "Christians of words," revealing their specific characteristics. There is a first type – which he defined as "gnostic -"who instead of loving the rock, loves beautiful words "and therefore lives floating on the surface of the Christian life. And then there's the other, who Pope Francis called "pelagian", who leads a staid and starched lifestyle. Christians, the Pope ironically added, who “stare at their feet” :
"And this temptation exists today. Superficial Christians who believe, yes, God, yes Christ, but not ‘everywhere’: Jesus Christ is not the one who gives them their foundation. They are the modern gnostics. The temptation of gnosticism. A 'liquid' Christianity. On the other hand, there are those who believe that the Christian life should be taken so seriously that they end up confusing solidity, firmness, with rigidity. They are rigid! This think that being Christian means being in perpetual mourning. "
Pope Francis continued that the fact is that there “are so many” of these Christians. But, he argued, "they are not Christians, they disguise themselves as Christians." "They do not know – he added - what the Lord is, they do not know what the rock is, do not have the freedom of Christians. To put it simply ‘they have no joy ":
"The former have a ‘superficial’ happiness. The others live in perpetual state of mourning, but do not know what Christian joy is. They do not know how to enjoy the life that Jesus gives us, for they know not to talk to Jesus. They do not feel that they rest on Jesus, with that firmness which the presence of Jesus gives. And they not only have no joy, they have no freedom either. They are the slaves of superficiality, of this life widespread, and the slaves of rigidity, they are not free. The Holy Spirit has no place in their lives,. It is the Spirit who gives us the freedom! Today, the Lord calls us to build our Christian life on Him, the rock, the One who gives us freedom, the One who sends us the Spirit, that keeps us going with joy, on His journey, following His proposals. "

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27, 2013 Thursday: 12th Week in Ordinary Time




If you could forsee a threat to your life and the lose of your home and goods, wouldn't you take the necessary precautions to avoid such a disaster? Jesus' story of being swept away by flood waters and wind storms must have caught the attention of his audience who knew that terrific storms did occasionally sweep through their dry arrid land without any warning signs. When Jesus described the builders who were unprepared for such a life-threatening storm, he likely had the following proverb in mind: When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm for ever (Proverbs 10:25).

What’s the significance of the story for us? The kind of foundation we build our lives upon will determine whether we can survive the storms and trials of life that are sure to come. Builders usually lay their foundations when the weather and soil conditions are at their best. It takes foresight to know how a foundation will stand up against adverse conditions. Building a house on a flood plain, such as a dry river-bed, is a sure bet for disaster! Jesus prefaced his story with a warning: We may fool one another with our words, but God cannot be deceived. He sees the heart as it truly is – with its motives, intentions, desires, and choices (Psalm 139:2). There is only one way in which a person’s sincerity can be proved, and that is by one’s practice. Fine words can never replace good deeds. Our character is revealed in the choices we make, especially when we must choose between what is true and false, good and evil. Do you cheat on an exam or on your income taxes, especially when it will cost you? Do you lie, or cover-up, when disclosing the truth will cause you pain or embarrassment? A true person is honest and reliable before God, neighbor, and oneself. Such a person's word can be taken as trustworthy.

What can keep us from falsehood and spiritual disaster? If we make the Lord and his word the rock and foundation of our lives, then nothing can shake us nor keep us from God's presence and protection. Is the Lord and his word the one sure foundation of your life?

"Lord Jesus, you are the only foundation that can hold us up when trials and disaster threaten us. Give me the wisdom, foresight, and strength of character I need to do what is right and good and to reject whatever is false and contrary to your will. May I be a doer of your word and not a hearer only."
Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26, 2013 Wednesday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass

Pope at Mass: The joy of fatherhood


(Vatican Radio) The desire to be a father is ingrained in all men, even priests, who are called to give life, care, protection to their spiritual children entrusted to them. This was the focus of Pope Francis homily at morning Mass Wednesday, in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta. Mass was concelebrated by the Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Palermo, Salvatore De Giorgi, who was celebrating the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

"When a man does not have this desire, something is missing in this man. Something is wrong. All of us, to exist, to become complete, in order to be mature, we need to feel the joy of fatherhood: even those of us who are celibate. Fatherhood is giving life to others, giving life, giving life… For us, it is pastoral paternity, spiritual fatherhood, but this is still giving life, this is still becoming fathers. "
Pope Francis was inspired by Wednesday's passage from Genesis, in which God promises Abram the old joy of a child, along with descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. To seal this covenant, Abram follows God's directions and prepares a sacrifice of animals which he then defends from attack by birds of prey. "It moves me - said the Pope – to picture this ninety year old man with a stick in his hand", defending his sacrifice. "It makes me think of a father defending his family, his children":

"A father who knows what it means to protect his children. And this is a grace that we priests must ask for ourselves: to be a father, to be a father. The grace of fatherhood, of pastoral paternity, of spiritual paternity. We may have many sins, but this is commune sanctorum: We all have sins. But not having children, never becoming a father, it like an incomplete life: a life that stops half way. And therefore we have to be fathers. But it is a grace that the Lord gives. People say to us: 'Father, Father, Father ...'. They want us to be this, fathers, by the grace of pastoral fatherhood. "

Pope Francis then turned to Cardinal De Giorgi, who is marking the 60 the anniversary of his priestly ordination. "I do not know what our dear Savlvatore did," but "I'm sure that he was a father." "And this is a sign," he says pointing to the many priests who accompanied the cardinal. “Now it's up to you” he said, adding: every tree "bears its own fruit, and if it is good, the fruit must be good, right?". So, the Pope concluded lightheartedly , "do not let him look bad ..."

"We thank God for this grace of fatherhood in the Church, which is passed from father to son, and so on ... And I think, finally, these two icons and one more: the icon of Abram who asks for a child, the icon of Abraham with a stick in his hand, defending his family, and the icon of the elderly Simeon in the Temple, when he receives the new life : this is a spontaneous liturgy, the liturgy of joy , in Him. And to you, the Lord today gifts great joy. "

June 25, 2013 Tuesday: 12th Week in Ordinary Time

What can pearls and narrow gates teach us about God's truth and holiness? In the ancient world pearls were of very great value and were even considered priceless. They were worn as prized jewels to make a person appear more beautiful and magnificent to behold. Holiness, likewise, is a very precious jewel that radiates the beauty of God's truth, goodness, and glory. God offers us the precious gift of his holiness so that we may radiate the splendor of his truth and goodness in the way we think, speak, act, and treat others. We can reject or ignore this great gift, or worse yet, we can drag it through the mud of sinful behavior or throw it away completely.

Pearls before dogs and swine
Why does Jesus contrast holiness and pearls with dogs and swine (Matthew 7:6)? Some things don't seem to mix or go together, like fire and water, heat and ice, sweat and perfume, pure air and poisonous vapors, freshly cleaned clothes and filthy waste. The Talmud, a rabbinic commentary on the Jewish Scriptures, uses a proverbial saying for something which appears inconguous or out of place: an ear-ring in a swine’s snout. Jesus' expression about "pearls before swine" and "not giving dogs what is holy" is very similar in thought (Matthew 7:6). Jewish law regarded swine as unclean. Wild dogs were also treated as unfit for close human contact, very likely because they were dirty, unkept, lice-infested, and prone to attack or cause trouble.

What is the point of avoiding what is considered unclean? Jesus’ concern here is not with exclusivity or the shunning of others (excluding people from our love, care, and concern for them). His concern is with keeping spiritual and moral purity – the purity of the faith and way of life which has been entrusted to us by an all-holy, all-loving, and all-wise God. The early church referenced this expression with the Eucharist or the Lord’s Table. In the liturgy of the early church, a proclamation was given shortly before communion: Holy things to the holy. The Didache, a first century church manual stated: Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptised into the name of the Lord; for, as regards this, the Lord has said, 'Do not give what is holy to dogs.' The Lord Jesus invites us to feast at his banquet table, but we must approach worthily.

Jesus summed up the teaching of the Old Testament law and prophets with the expression, So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them (Matthew 7:12) – and in the same breath he raised the moral law to a new level of fulfillment and perfection. God's law of love requires more than simply avoiding injury or harm to one's neighbor. Perfect love – a love which is unconditional and which reaches out to all – always seeks the good of others for their sake and gives the best we can offer for their welfare. When we love our neighbors and treat them in the same way we wish to be treated by God, then we fulfill the law and the prophets, namely what God requires of us – loving God with all that we have and are and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

How can we love our neighbor selflessly, with kindness, and genuine concern for their welfare? If we empty our hearts of all that is unkind, unloving, and unforgiving, then there will only be room for kindness, goodness, mercy, and charity. Paul the Apostle reminds us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). It is the love of God that fuels our unconditional love for others. Are you ready to let the Holy Spirit transform your life with the purifying fire of God's love?

The narrow gate and way
Jesus used a second illustration of a narrow gate which opens the way that leads to a life of security and happiness (Matthew 7:13-14) to reinforce his lesson about choosing the one true way which leads to peace with God rather than separation and destruction. The Book of Psalms begins with an image of a person who has chosen to follow the way of those who are wise and obedient to God's word and who refuse to follow the way of those who think and act contrary to God's law : Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2). When a path diverges, such as a fork in the road, each way leads to a different destination. This is especially true when we encounter life’s crossroads where we must make a choice that will affect how we will live our lives. Do the choices you make help you move towards the goal of loving God and obeying his will?

The Lord Jesus gives us freedom to choose which way we will go. Ask him for the wisdom to know which way will lead to life rather than to harm and destruction. See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. ...Therefore choose life that you and your descendants may live (Deuteronmy 3:15-20). Choose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15). Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death (Jeremiah 21:8). If we allow God's love and wisdom to rule our hearts, then we can trust in his guidance and help to follow his path of love, truth, and holiness.

"Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am – a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch, those in authority over me or those under my authority, my friends and my enemies. Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor. Help me to forget myself and reach out towards others." (Prayer attributed to Clement XI of Rome)
Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June, 24, 2013 Monday: Nativity of John the Baptist, Pope Francis

Pope at Mass: John the Baptist a model for the Church


(Vatican Radio) The church exists for courageously proclaiming -until martyrdom- Christ, to serve and "take nothing for herself". In his homily at morning Mass on Monday, Pope Francis pointed to St. John the Baptist as model for Church: he didn't claim the Truth, the Word as his own; he diminished himself so Christ could shine.

June 24th is the Solemnity of the Birth of the Saint, whom the Gospels indicate as the forerunner or precursor of Jesus. Dedicating his homily to him Pope Francis said the Church is called to proclaim the Word of God, even to martyrdom.
Pope Francis began his homily by addressing best wishes to all who bear the name John. The figure of John the Baptist, the Pope said, is not always easy to understand. "When we think of his life - he observed – we think of a prophet," a "man who was great and then ends up as a poor man." Who is John? The Pope said john himself explains: "I am a voice, a voice in the wilderness," but "it is a voice without the Word, because the Word is not him, it is an Other." Here then is the mystery of John: "He never takes over the Word," John "is the one who indicates, who marks". The "meaning of John's life - he added - is to indicate another." Pope Francis then spoke of being struck by the fact that the "Church chooses to mark John’s feast day” at a time when the days are at their longest in the year, when they "have more light." And John really "was the man of light, he brought light, but it was not his own light, it was a reflected light." John is "like a moon" and when Jesus began to preach, the light of John "began to decline, to set". "Voice not Word - the Pope said - light, but not his own"

"John seems to be nothing. That is John’s vocation: he negates himself. And when we contemplate the life of this man, so great, so powerful - all believed that he was the Messiah - when we contemplate this life, how it is nullified to the point of the darkness of a prison, we behold a great mystery. We do not know what John’s last days were like. We do not know. We only know that he was killed, his head was put on a platter, as a great gift from a dancer to an adulteress. I don’t think you can lower yourself much more than this, negate yourself much more. That was the end that John met".

Pope Francis noted that in prison John experienced doubts, anguish and he called on his disciples to go to Jesus and ask him, "Are you You, or should we expect someone else?". His life is one of “pain and darkness”. John “was not even spared this”, said the Pope, who added: "the figure of John makes me think so much about the Church":

"The Church exists to proclaim, to be the voice of a Word, her husband, who is the Word. The Church exists to proclaim this Word until martyrdom. Martyrdom precisely in the hands of the proud, the proudest of the Earth. John could have made himself important, he could have said something about himself. 'But I never think', only this: he indicated, he felt himself to be the voice, not the Word. This is John’s secret. Why is John holy and without sin? Because he never, never took a truth as his own. He would not be an ideologue. The man who negated himself so that the Word could come to the fore. And we, as a Church, we can now ask for the grace not to become an ideological Church ... "

The Church, he added, must hear the Word of Jesus and raise her voice, proclaim it boldly. "That - he said - is the Church without ideologies, without a life of its own: the Church which is the mysterium lunae which has light from her Bridegroom and diminish herself so that He may grow"

"This is the model that John offers us today, for us and for the Church. A Church that is always at the service of the Word. A Church that never takes anything for herself. Today in prayer we asked for the grace of joy, we asked the Lord to cheer this Church in her service to the Word, to be the voice of this Word, preach this Word. We ask for the grace, the dignity of John, with no ideas of their own, without a Gospel taken as property, only one Church that indicates the Word, and this even to martyrdom. So be it! "

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23, 2013: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time C




“Who is Jesus to me? Jesus is the Word made Flesh. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the cross. Jesus is the sacrifice offered at holy Mass for the sins of the world and for mine. Jesus is the Word - to be spoken. Jesus is the Truth - to be told. Jesus is the Way - to be walked. Jesus is the Light - to be lit. Jesus is the Life - to be lived. Jesus is the Love - to be loved,” - Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Who is Jesus for you – and what difference does he make in your life? Many in Israel recognized Jesus as a mighty man of God, even comparing him with the greatest of the prophets. Peter, always quick to respond whenever Jesus spoke, professed that Jesus was truly the "Christ of God". No mortal being could have revealed this to Peter, but only God. Through the "eyes of faith" Peter discovered who Jesus truly was. Peter recognized that Jesus was much more than a great teacher, prophet, and miracle worker. Peter was the first apostle to publicly declare that Jesus was the Anointed One consecrated by the Father and sent into the world to redeem a fallen human race enslaved to sin and cut off from eternal life with God (Luke 9:20, Acts 2:14-36). The word for "Christ" in Greek is a translation of the Hebrew word for "Messiah" – both words literally mean the Anointed One.


Jesus told his disciples that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and die in order that God's work of redemption might be accomplished. How startled the disciples were when they heard this word. How different are God's thoughts and ways from our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8). Through humiliation, suffering, and death on the cross Jesus broke the powers of sin and death and won for us eternal life and freedom from the slavery of sin and from the oppression of our enemy, Satan, the father of lies and the deceiver of humankind.

If we want to share in the victory of the Lord Jesus, then we must also take up our cross and follow where he leads us. What is the "cross" that you and I must take up each day? When my will crosses with God's will, then his will must be done. To know Jesus Christ is to know the power of his victory on the cross where he defeated sin and conquered death through his resurrection. The Holy Spirit gives each of us the gifts and strenth we need to live as sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit gives us faith to know the Lord Jesus personally as our Redeemer, and the power to live the gospel faithfully, and the courage to witness to others the joy, truth, and freedom of the gospel. Who do you say that Jesus is? (By Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net)

“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve becuase I love Jesus.” ― Mother Teresa



June 22, 2013 Saturday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass

Pope Francis: serve the Word of God, not the idolatry of riches and worldly cares


(Vatican Radio) The riches and the cares of the world “choke the Word of God,” said Pope Francis at Mass this morning at the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope pointed out that our life is set on three pillars: election, covenant, and promise, adding that we must trust the Father in living in the present without worrying about what will happen.

“No one can serve two masters.” Pope Francis began his homily with the words of Christ in today’s Gospel, where He focuses on the theme of riches and cares. Jesus, the Pope said, “has a clear idea on this subject”: they are “the riches and cares of the world” that choke the Word of God, they are the thorns spoken of in the Parable of the Sower, that choke the seed that has fallen on the ground:
“The riches and cares of the world choke the Word of God and do not allow it to grow. And the Word dies, because it is not cared for: it is choked. In that case you serve riches or you serve cares, but you don’t serve the Word of God. And this also has a temporal sense, because the Parable is somewhat constructed – the discourse of Jesus in the Parable – in time, is it not? Don’t worry about tomorrow, about what you will do tomorrow. . . . And also the Parable of the Sower is built on time: he sows, then the rain comes and it grows. Simply, we remove from time.”

The Pope emphasised that our life is founded on three pillars: the past, the present and the future. The pillar of the past, he explained, “is that of the election of the Lord.” Every one of us can say “the Lord has chosen me, has loved me,” “He has said to me ‘come’,” and with Baptism “he has chosen me to go along a road, the Christian road.” The future, on the other hand, concerns “walking towards a promise”, the Lord “has made us a promise.” Finally, the present “is our response to the God Who is so good that He has chosen me.” The Pope said, “He makes a promise, he proposes a covenant with me, and I make a covenant with Him.” So these are the three pillars: “election, covenant, and promise”:

“The three pillars of the whole story of the Salvation. But when our heart enters into what Jesus explains to us, it takes away time: it takes away the past, it takes away the future, and one is confused in the present. For one who is attached to riches, neither the past nor the future is important; he has everything here. Wealth is an idol. I don’t need a past, a promise, an election: nothing. He who is worried about what will happen, takes away his relation with the future – “but can one do this?” – and the future becomes futuristic, but no, it doesn’t direct you to any promise: you remain confused, you remain alone.”

This is why Jesus tells us we must either follow the Kingdom of God or the riches and cares of the world. The Pope said with Baptism “we are chosen in love” by Him, we have “a Father that has sent us along a road.” And so “even the future is joyful,” because “we are walking towards a promise.” The Lord “is faithful, He does not disappoint” and so we too are called to do “what we can” without disappointment, “without forgetting that we have a Father who chose us in the past.” Riches and cares, he warned, are the two things “that make us forget our past,” that make us live as if we didn’t have a Father. And even our present is a present that doesn’t work”:

“Forgetting the past, not accepting the present, disfiguring the future: that’s what riches and cares do. The Lord tells us: “But be calm! Seek the Kingdom of God, and everything else will come.’ Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to fool ourselves with worries, with the idolatry of riches, and to always remember that we have a Father Who has chosen us; to remember that this Father promises us a good thing, which is walking towards that promise; and having courage to take the present as it comes. Let us ask this grace from the Lord.”

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22, 2013 Friday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass

Pope Francis: treasures we can take with us


(Vatican Radio) Ask God for the grace of a heart that knows how to love; and do not let yourself be led away by useless treasures. That was Pope Francis’ message in his homily Friday morning at his daily Mass.

The search for the only treasure that you can take with you into the next life is the raison d'ĂȘtre of a Christian. It is the raison d'ĂȘtre that Jesus explains to His disciples, in the passage quoted in the Gospel of Matthew: “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” But, he says, we must be careful not to be confused about true richness. There are “risky treasures” that threaten to seduce us, but “must be left behind,” – treasures gathered in life that are destroyed by death. The Pope said, with a hint of irony: “I have never seen a moving van following a funeral procession.” But there is a treasure “we can take with us,” a treasure that no one can take away, – not “those things you’ve kept for yourself,” but “those you have given to others”:

“The treasures we have given to others, that we take with us. And that will be our merit – in quotation marks, but it is our ‘merit’ of Jesus Christ in us! And that we must bring with us. And that is what the Lord lets us bring. Love, charity, service, patience, goodness, tenderness are very beautiful treasures: these we bring with us. The other things, no.”

So, as the Gospel assures us, the treasure that has value in God’s sight is that which in this life is accumulated in heaven. But Jesus, Pope Francis says, goes a step further: He joins the treasure to the “heart,” He creates a relationship between the two terms. This, he adds, is because we have “a restless heart,” which the Lord made this way to seek Him out:

“The Lord has made us restless to seek Him, to find Him, to grow. But if the treasure is a treasure that is not close to the Lord, that is not from the Lord, our heart becomes restless for things that simply don’t work, for these treasures . . . So many people, even we ourselves, are restless . . . To have this, to arrive at this in the end, our heart is tired, it is never filled: it gets tired, it becomes sluggish, it becomes a heart without love. The weariness of the heart. Let’s think about that. What do I have: a tired heart, that only wants to settle itself, three, four things, a good bank account, this or that thing? This restlessness of the heart always has to be cured.”

At this point, Pope Francis continues, Jesus speaks about the “eye,” a symbol “of the intentions of the heart” that are reflected in the body: a “heart that loves” makes the body luminous; a “wicked heart” makes it dark. “Our ability to judge things,” the Pope says, depends on this contrast between light and darkness, as is shown also by the fact that from a “heart of stone . . . attached to worldly treasures, to “selfish treasure,” can also become a treasure “of hatred,” come wars . . . Instead – this was the final prayer of the Pope – through the intercession of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, whom the Church remembers today – let us ask for the grace of “a new heart . . . a heart of flesh”:

“All these pieces of the heart that are of stone, may the Lord make them human, with that restlessness, with that good anxiety to go forward, seeking Him and allowing ourselves to be sought by Him. That the Lord might change our hearts! And so He will save us. He will save us from the treasures that cannot help us in the encounter with Him, in service to others, and also will give us the light to understand and judge according to the true treasure: His truth. May the Lord change our heart in order to seek the true treasure and so become people of light, and not of darkness.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 19, 2013 Friday: St Aloysius Gonzaga




What kind of treasure are you seeking? Jesus offers a treasure of imcomparable value and worth, but we need healthy eyes – good spiritual vision – to recognize it. What Jesus said about seeking treasure made perfect sense to his audience: keep what lasts! Aren’t we all trying to find something we treasure in this life in the hope that it will bring us happiness, peace, and security? Jesus contrasts two very different kinds of wealth – material wealth and spiritual wealth. Jesus urges his disciples to get rich by investing in wealth and treasure which truly lasts, not just for a life-time, but for all eternity as well. Jesus offers heavenly treasures which cannot lose their value by changing circumstances, such as diminishing currency, material degradation, lose, or physical destruction. The treasure which Jesus offers is kept safe and uncorrupted by God himself.

What is this treasure which Jesus offers so freely and graciously? It is the treasure of God himself – the source and giver of every good gift and blessing in this life – and a kingdom that will endure forever. The treasure of God's kingdom produces unspeakable joy because it unites us with the source of all joy and blessings which is God himself. God offers us the treasure of unending joy and friendship with himself and with all who are united with him in his heavenly kingdom. In Jesus Christ we receive an inheritance which the Apostle Peter describes as imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4 ). Paul the Apostle describes it as a kingdom of everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

How realistic and attainable is this heavenly treasure? Can we enjoy it now, or must we wait for it in the after-life? The treasure of God’s kingdom is both a present and a future reality – like an investment which grows and matures, ever increasing, and multiplying in value.

Seekers of great treasure will go to any length to receive their reward. They direct all their energies and resources to obtain the treasure. We instinctively direct our energies and resources – an even our whole lives – towards that which we most value. To set one’s heart on heavenly treasure is to enter into a deeper and richer life with God himself. It is only by letting go of false treasure that one can eter into the joy of a heavenly treasure that is immeasurable and worth more than we can give in exchange. Do you seek the treasure which lasts for eternity?

Jesus also used the image of eyesight or human vision to convey an important principle of God's kingdom. Blurred vision and bad eyesight serve as a metaphor for moral stupidity and spiritual blindness. (For examples, see Matthew 15:14, 23:16 ff.; John 9:39-41; Romans 2:19; 2 Peter 1:9; and Revelations 3:17.) Jesus describes the human eye as the window of the “inner being” – the heart, mind, and soul of an individual person. How one views their life and reality reflects not only their personal vision – how they see themselves and the world around them, it also reflects their inner being and soul – the kind of moral person and character they choose for themselves. If the window through which we view life, truth, and reality is clouded, soiled, or marred in any way, then the light of God's truth will be deflected, diminished, and distorted. Only Jesus Christ can free us from the spiritual darkness of sin, unbelief, and ignorance. That is why Jesus called himself the light of the world – the one true source of light that can overcome the darkness of sin and the lies and deception of Satan.

What can blind or distort our “vision” of what is true, good, lovely, pure, and eternal (Philippians 4:8)? Certainly prejudice, jealousy, and self-conceit can distort our judgment of ourselves and others and lead to moral blindness. Prejudice and self-conceit also destroys good judgment and blinds us to the facts and to their significance for us. Jealousy and envy make us despise others and mistrust them as enemies rather than friends. We need to fearlessly examine ourselves to see if we are living according to right judgment and sound principles or if we might be misguided by blind prejudice or some other conceit. Love is not jealous ...but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). Do you live your life in the light of God’s truth?

“Lord Jesus, you have the words of everlasting life. May the light of your truth free me from the error of sin and deception. Take my heart and fill it with your love that I may desire you alone as my Treasure and my All."

Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

June 20, 2013 Thursday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass, "Our Father"


Pope at Mass: How to pray the Our Father

(Vatican Radio) To pray the Our Father we have to have a heart at peace with our brothers. We don't pray "my Father," but "our Father," because "we are not an only child, none of us are”. This was the focus of Pope Francis' homily at Mass Thursday morning in Casa Santa Marta. The Pope emphasized that we believe in a God who is a Father, who is "very close" to us, who is not anonymous, not "a cosmic God."

Prayer is not magic, rather it is entrusting ourselves to the Father’s embrace. Pope Francis centered his homily on the prayer of the "Our Father" taught by Jesus to His disciples, of which the Gospel speaks today. Jesus, he said, immediately gives us a piece of advice in prayer: "In praying, do not babble", do not make "worldly noises, vain noises”. And he warned that "prayer is not a magical thing, there is no magic with prayer." Someone once told me that when he went to a "witch doctor" they said a lot of words to heal him. But that "is pagan." Jesus teaches us, "we should not turn to Him with so many words," because "He knows everything." He adds, the first word is "Father," this "is the key of prayer." "Without saying, without feeling, that word – he warned - you cannot pray":

"To whom do I pray? To the Almighty God? He is too far off. Ah, I can’t hear Him. Neither did Jesus. To whom do I pray? To a cosmic God? That’s quite normal these days, is it not? ... praying to the cosmic God, right? This polytheistic model that comes from a rather light culture ... You must pray to the Father! It is a strong word, 'Father '. You must pray to Him who generated you, who gave you life. Not to everyone: everyone is too anonymous. To you. To me. To the person who accompanies you on your journey: He knows all about your life. Everything: what is good and what is not so good. He knows everything. If we do not start the prayer with this word, not just with our lips but with our hearts, we cannot pray in a Christian language".

"Father," he reiterated, "is a strong word" but "opens the door". At the time of sacrifice, the Pope said, Isaac realized that "something was wrong" because "he was missing a sheep," but he trusted his father and “confided his worries to his father’s heart" . "Father" is the word that "the son" who left with his legacy "and then wanted to return home" thought of. And that father "sees him come and goes running" to him, "he threw himself in his arms", "to cover him with love." "Father, I have sinned:" this is, the Pope said, "the key of every prayer, to feel loved by a father":

"We have a Father. Very close to us, eh! Who embraces us ... All these worries, concerns that we have, let's leave them to the Father, He knows what we need. But, Father, what? My father? No: Our Father! Because I am not an only child, none of us are, and if I cannot be a brother, I can hardly become a child of the Father, because He is a Father to all. Mine, sure, but also of others, of my brothers. And if I am not at peace with my brothers, I cannot say 'Father' to Him."
This, he added, explains the fact that Jesus, after having taught us the Our Father, stresses that if we do not forgive others, neither will the Father forgive us our sins. "It's so hard to forgive others – said the Pope - it is really difficult, because we always have that regret inside." We think, "You did this to me, you wait '... and I’ll repay him the favour ":

"No, you cannot pray with enemies in your heart, with brothers and enemies in your heart, you cannot pray. This is difficult, yes, it is difficult, not easy. 'Father, I cannot say Father, I cannot'. It’s true, I understand. 'I cannot say our, because he did this to me and this ...' I cannot! 'They must go to hell, right? I will have nothing to do with them'. It’s true, it is not easy. But Jesus has promised us the Holy Spirit: it is He who teaches us, from within, from the heart, how to say 'Father' and how to say 'our'. Today we ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to say 'Father' and to be able to say 'our', and thus make peace with all our enemies. "

June 20, 2013 Thursday: 11th Week in Ordinary Time C

Do you pray with joy and confidence? The Jews were noted for their devotion to prayer. Formal prayer was prescribed for three set times a day. And the rabbis had a prayer for every occasion. Jesus warns his disciples against formalism, making prayer something mechanical and devoid of meaning, with little thought for God. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he gave them the disciple’s prayer, what we call the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer. This prayer dares to call God “our Father” and boldly asks for the things we need to live as his sons and daughters.

It is through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we can know God personally and call him “Abba, Father”. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because Jesus Christ has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, he responds with grace and favor and mercy. It is his nature to love generously and to forgive mercifully. When he gives he gives more than we need so we will have something to share with others in their need as well.

God is kind and forgiving towards us and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. Do you treat others as they deserve, or do you treat them as the Lord would treat you with his grace and favor and mercy? Jesus’ prayer includes an injunction that we must ask God to forgive us in proportion as we forgive those who have wronged us. Ask the Lord to free your heart of any anger, bitterness, resentment, selfishness, indifference, or coldness towards others. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with the fire of his burning love and compassion and with the river of his overflowing mercy and kindness.

"Father in heaven, you have given me a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Give me today the grace and strength to embrace your holy will and fill my heart with your love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you. Give me the grace to be charitable in thought, kind in deed, and loving in speech towards all."

Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19, 2013 Wednesday: Pope Francis, Daily Homily

Pope Francis condemns hypocrisy


(Vatican Radio) Christianity is not simply the study of laws or commands: this is an impediment to understanding and living the truth that God is joy and generosity. This was the message of Pope Francis at Mass celebrated this morning in Casa Santa Marta.

The hypocrites who “lead the people of God down a dead-end street” Pope Francis said, are the subject of today’s Gospel. The Pope reflected on the famous passage of Matthew’s Gospel that contrasts the behaviour of the scribes and Pharisees – who make a show of praying, fasting, and almsgiving – with the path indicated by Jesus, Who points out to His disciples the proper attitude to assume in the same circumstances: giving alms and praying “in secret.” “And your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you.”

Pope Francis criticized not only the vanity of the scribes and Pharisees, but also those who impose “so many precepts on the faithful.” He called them “hypocrites of casuistry,” “intellectuals without talent” who “don’t have the intelligence to find God, to explain God with understanding,” and so prevent themselves and others from entering into the Kingdom of God:

“Jesus says: ‘You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to others.’ They are ethicists without goodness, they do not know what goodness is. But they are ethicists, aren’t they? ‘You have to do this, and this, and this . . .’ They fill you with precepts, but without goodness. And those are some of the phylacteries, of the tassels they lengthen, so many things, to make a pretence of being majestic, perfect, they have no sense of beauty. They have no sense of beauty. They achieve only the beauty of a museum. They are intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness, the bearers of museum beauty. These are the hypocrites that Jesus rebukes so strongly.

“But He doesn’t stop there,” Pope Francis continued. “In today’s Gospel, the Lord speaks about another class of hypocrites, ‘holy rollers’ [It: quelli che vanno sul sacro]:

“The Lord speaks about fasting, about prayer, about almsgiving: the three pillars of Christian piety, of interior conversion, that the Church proposes to us all in Lent. There are even hypocrites along this path, who make a show of fasting, of giving alms, of praying. I think that when hypocrisy reaches this point in the relation with God, we are coming very close to the sin against the Holy Spirit. These do not know beauty, they do not know love, these do not know the truth: they are small, cowardly.”

“We think about the hypocrisy in the Church: how bad it makes all of us,” Pope Francis said candidly. Instead he pointed out another “icon” for imitation, a person described in another passage of the Gospel: the publican who prayed with humble simplicity, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, a sinner.” This, the Pope said, “is the prayer we should say every day, knowing that we are sinners” but “with concrete sins, not theoretical [sin].” And this prayer, he concluded, “will help us to take the opposite road,” the road opposed to the hypocrisy that we are all tempted to:
“But all of us also have grace, the grace that comes from Jesus Christ: the grace of joy; the grace of magnanimity, of largesse. Hypocrites do not know what joy is, what largesse is, what magnanimity is.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 19, 2013 Wednesday: 11th Week in Ordinary Time C

Why did Jesus single out prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for his disciples? The Jews considered these three as the cardinal works of the religious life. These were seen as the key signs of a pious person, the three great pillars on which the good life was based. Jesus pointed to the heart of the matter. Why do you pray, fast, and give alms? To draw attention to yourself so that others may notice and think highly of you? Or to give glory to God? The Lord warns his disciples of self-seeking glory – the preoccupation with looking good and seeking praise from others. True piety is something more than feeling good or looking holy. True piety is loving devotion to God. It is an attitude of awe, reverence, worship and obedience. It is a gift and working of the Holy Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God with a holy desire to please him in all things (Isaiah 11:1-2).

What is the sure reward which Jesus points out to his disciples? It is communion with God our Father. In him alone we find the fulness of life and happiness, truth and beauty, love and joy. Saint Augustine, the great fourth century bishop of Hippo, wrote the following prayer in his Confessions: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete. The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts. He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Seek him expectantly in prayer, with fasting, and in generous giving to those in need.

“Lord Jesus, give me a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a great love for you. Take from me all lukewarmness in meditating on your word, and dullness in prayer. Give me fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace. Fill my heart with compassion for others, especially those in need, that I may respond with generosity.”

June 18, 2013 Tuesday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass

Pope at Mass: The hard lesson of loving our enemies

(Vatican Radio) It is hard to love our enemies, but that is exactly what God is asking us to do, said Pope Francis at Mass Tuesday morning. He said we must pray for those who hate us and have done us wrong, ‘that their heart of stone be turned to flesh, that they may feel relief and love’. God lets sun shine and rain fall on the good and the bad, on the just and the unjust and, the Pope added, we must do the same or else we are not being Christian.

Pope Francis began his homily, with a series of questions that encompassed some of the most pressing dramas of humanity. How can we love our enemies? The Pope asked, how can we love those who decide to “bomb and kill so many people?" And again, how can we "love those who out of their for love money prevent the elderly from accessing the necessary medicine and leave them to die"? Or those who only seek "their own best interests, power for themselves and do so much evil?" "It seems hard to love your enemy," he noted, but Jesus asks it of us. This current liturgy, he said, proposes "Jesus’ updating of the law", of the law of Mount Sinai with the Law of the Mount of Beatitudes. The Pope also pointed out that we all have enemies, but deep down we too we can become enemies of others:

"We too often we become enemies of others: we do not wish them well. And Jesus tells us to love our enemies! And this is not easy! It is not easy ... we even think that Jesus is asking too much of us! We leave this to the cloistered nuns, who are holy, we leave this for some holy soul, but this is not right for everyday life. But it must be right! Jesus says: 'No, we must do this! Because otherwise you will be like the tax collectors, like pagans. Not Christians. '"

So how can we love our enemies? Pope Francis noted that Jesus, "tells us two things": first look to the Father who "makes the sun rise on evil and good" and "rain fall on the just and unjust”. God "loves everyone." And then he continued, Jesus tells us to be "perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect", "imitate the Father with that perfection of love." He added Jesus "forgive his enemies", "does everything to forgive them”. He warned that taking revenge is not Christian. The Pope asks But how can we succeed in loving our enemies? By praying. "When we pray for what makes us suffer - the Pope said - it is as if the Lord comes with oil and prepares our hearts for peace":

"Pray! This is what Jesus advises us:' Pray for your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Pray! '. And say to God: 'Change their hearts. They have a heart of stone, but change it, give them a heart of flesh, so that they may feel relief and love '. Let me just ask this question and let each of us answer it in our own heart: 'Do I pray for my enemies? Do I pray for those who do not love me? 'If we say' yes', I will say, 'Go on, pray more, you are on the right path! If the answer is' no ', the Lord says:' Poor thing. You too are an enemy of others! '. Pray that the Lord may change the hearts of those. We could say: 'But this person really wronged me', or they have done bad things and this impoverishes people, impoverishes humanity. And following this libe of thought we want to take revenge or that eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".

Pope Francis reaffirmed, it’s true that love for our enemies "impoverishes us”, because it makes us poor "like Jesus", who, when he came to us, lowered himself and became poor" for us. The Pope noted that some could argue this was not a good deal "if the enemy makes me poorer" and of course, "according to the criteria of this world, it is not a good deal." But this, he said, is "the path Jesus travelled" who from rich became poor for us. In this poverty, "in this Jesus’ lowering of himself – he said - there is the grace that has justified us all, made us all rich." It is the "mystery of salvation":

"With forgiveness, with love for our enemy, we become poorer: love impoverishes us, but that poverty is the seed of fertility and love for others. Just as the poverty of Jesus became the grace of salvation for all of us, great wealth ... Let us think today at Mass, let us think of our enemies those who do not wish us well: it would be nice if we offered the Mass for them: Jesus, Jesus' sacrifice, for them, for those who do not love us. And for us too, so that the Lord teaches us this wisdom which is so hard, but so beautiful, because it makes us look like the Father, like our Father: it brings out the sun for everyone, good and bad. It makes us more like the Son, Jesus, who in his humiliation became poor to enrich us, with his poverty. "

June 18, 2013 Tuesday: 11th Week in Ordinary Time C




What makes the disciples of Jesus different from others and what makes Christianity distinct from any other religion? It is grace – treating others, not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated – with loving-kindness, forebearance, and mercy. God is good to the unjust as well as the just. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.

How can we possibly love those who cause us harm or ill-will? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and gives us the courage to return evil with good. Such love and grace has power to heal and to save from destruction. Do you know the power of Christ’s redeeming love and mercy?

Was Jesus exaggerating when he said we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? The original meaning of “perfect” in Aramaic is “completeness” or “wholeness – not lacking in what is essential.” God gives us every good gift in Jesus Christ so that we may not lack anything we need to do his will and to live as his sons and daughters (2 Peter 1:3). He knows our weakness and sinfulness better than we do. And he assures us of his love, mercy, and grace to follow in his ways. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Ask the Holy Spirit to change and transform you in the image of the Father that you may walk in the joy and freedom of the gospel.

“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart ablaze with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013 Monday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass

Pope Francis: Jesus is the secret of a Christian's benevolence

(Vatican Radio) For a Christian, Jesus is “all”, and this is the source of his or her benevolence. This was the focus of Pope Francis’s message during Mass on Monday morning at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The Pope also affirmed that the righteousness of Jesus exceeds the righteousness of the scribes, that it is superior to the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” kind of justice.

“If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also”. Pope Francis focused his homily on Jesus’ earth-shaking words to his disciples. The slap of the cheek – he said - has become a classic take used by some to laugh about Christians. In life, he explained, everyday logic teaches us to “fight to defend our place” and if we receive a slap “we react and return two slaps in order to defend ourselves”. On the other hand, the Pope said, when I advise parents to scold their children I always say: “never slap their cheek”, because “the cheek is dignity”. And Jesus, he continued, after the slap on the cheek goes further and invites us to hand over our coat as well, to undress ourselves completely.

The righteousness that He brings – the Pope affirmed – is another kind of justice that is totally different from “eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. It’s another justice. This is clear when St. Paul speaks of Christians as “people who have nothing in themselves but possess all things in Christ”. So, Christian security is exactly this “all” that is in Christ. “All” - he added – is Jesus Christ. Other things are “nothing” for a Christian. Instead, the Pope warned, “for the spirit of the world “all” means things: riches, vanities”, it means “to be well placed in society” where “Jesus is nothing”. Thus, if a Christian can walk 100 kilometres when he is asked to walk 10, “it’s because for him or for her this is “nothing”. And with serenity, “he or she can give his or her coat when asked for his or her tunic”. This is the secret of Christian benevolence that always goes together with meekness”: it is “all”, it is Jesus Christ:

“A Christian is a person who opens up his or her heart with this spirit of benevolence, because he or she has “all”: Jesus Christ. The other things are “nothing”. Some are good, they have a purpose, but in the moment of choice he or she always chooses “all”, with that meekness, that Christian meekness that is the sign of Jesus’ disciples: meekness and benevolence. To live like this is not easy, because you really do receive slaps! And on both cheeks! But a Christian is meek, a Christian is benevolent: he or she opens up his or her heart. Sometimes we come across these Christians with little hearts, with shrunken hearts…. This is not Christianity: this is selfishness, masked as Christianity”.

“A true Christian” – the Pope continued – “knows how to solve this bi-polar opposition, this tension that exists between “all” and “nothing”, just as Jesus has taught us: “First search for God’s Kingdom and its justice, the rest comes afterwards”.

“God’s Kingdom is “all”, the other is secondary. And all Christian errors, all the Church’s errors, all our errors stem from when we say “nothing” is “all”, and to “all” we say it does not count… Following Jesus is not easy, but it’s not difficult either, because on the path of love the Lord does things in such a way that we can go forward; it is the Lord himself who opens up our heart”.

This is what we must pray for – the Pope said – “when we are confronted with the choice of the slap, the coat, the 100 kilometres”, we must pray the Lord to “open up our heart” so that “we are benevolent and meek” . We must pray so that we do not “fight for small things, for the “nothings” of daily life”.

“When one takes on an option for “nothing”, it is from that option that conflicts arise in families, in friendships, between friends, in society. Conflicts that end in war: for “nothing”! “Nothing” is always the seed of wars. Because it is the seed of selfishness. “All” is Jesus. Let us ask the Lord to open up our heart, to make us humble, meek and benevolent because we have “all” in Him; and let’s ask him to help us avoid creating everyday problems stemming from “nothing”.



June 17, 2013 Monday: 11th Week in Ordinary Time C

If someone insults you or tries to take advantage of you, how do you respond? Do you repay in kind? Jesus approached the question of just retribution with a surprising revelation of God's intention for how we should treat others, especialy those who mistreat us. When Jesus spoke about Gods law, he did something no one had done before. He gave a new standard based not just on the requirements of justice giving each their due but based on the law of grace, love, and freedom. Jesus knew the moral law and its intention better than any jurist or legal expert could imagine. He quoted from the oldest recorded law in the world: If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (Exodus 21:23-25).

Such a law today seems cruel, but it was meant to limit vengeance as a first step towards mercy. This law was not normally taken literally but served as a guide for a judge in a law court for assessing punishment and penalty (see Deuteronomy 19:18). The Old Testament is full of references to the command that we must be merciful: You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:18). If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink (Proverbs 25:21). Do not say, "I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done" (Proverbs 24:29). Let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults (Lamentations 3:30).

Jesus does something quite remarkable and unheard of. He transforms the law of mercy with grace, forebearance, and loving-kindness. Jesus also makes clear that there is no room for retaliation. We must not only avoid returning evil for evil, but we must seek the good of those who wish us ill. Do you accept insults, as Jesus did, with no resentment or malice? When you are compelled by others to do more than you think you deserve, do you insist on your rights, or do you respond with grace and cheerfulness?

What makes a disciple of Jesus Christ different from everyone else? What makes Christianity distinct from any other religion? It is grace treating others, not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated with loving-kindness and mercy. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and gives us the courage to return evil with good. Such love and grace has power to heal and to save from destruction. The Lord Jesus suffered insult, abuse, injustice, and death on a cross for our sake. Scripture tells us that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin and guilt (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7, I John 1:7, Revelation 1:5). Since God has been merciful towards us through the offering of his Son, Jesus Christ, we in turn are called to be merciful towards our neighbor, even those who cause us grief and harm. Do you know the power and freedom of Christs redeeming love and mercy?

O merciful God, fill our hearts, we pray, with the graces of your Holy Spirit; with love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. Teach us to love those who hate us; to pray for those who despitefully use us; that we may be the children of your love, our Father, who makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. In adversity grant us grace to be patient; in prosperity keep us humble; may we guard the door of our lips; may we lightly esteem the pleasures of this world, and thirst after heavenly things; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Prayer of Anselm, 1033-1109 AD)

Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 16, 2013: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Last week, at all the masses Fr. Chuong spoke about missionary work that the Redemptorist order is doing in many parts of the world. What lesson did you learn from his talks? Here is an important lesson that I learned on one mission trip to Nicaragua that the seminary organized for us while I was in the seminary. Before we flew to Nicaragua, the priest who was leading us said, “Gentleman, we go on mission trips to find ourselves -- that truest part of ‘us’ that we wouldn't otherwise know or be able to tap into. We do not go on mission trips to save people, to help the "less-fortunate," or to feel good about ourselves. We go, because we are the less-fortunate. We are the weak and broken vessels, needing to be filled with the grace of God. When we go as humble servants, the poor and needy are served, the hungry are fed, and those who are wandering are found. We have to acknowledge our own spiritual poverty -- our utter inability to help anyone or do any good -- in order to be of any good.” With this frame of mind, we went to Nicaragua with a very different expectation. We went with our hearts open to the possibility that everything we know about God was incomplete; we were ready to have our world shaken.
That’s the framework of mind God desires for us when we approach another person. All of us make judgments about others through our own lenses. Because of our upbringing and our past experiences, we can’t help but see the other person through our own perspective. But how does God see us? Jesus surprised Simon the Pharisee in today’s gospel. Simon saw the woman who came to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, strictly through his lens--his disapproval of her character flaws, her failures, and her numerous sins. How many of us do this to our own in-laws, our friends, and even our own spouse, children, and  family members? At any given time, each of us can be like Simon.

Jesus then invites Simon and all of us to see the woman from Heavenly Father’s Heart. Since today is Father’s Day weekend, I’d like for all the fathers to recall when your child was little, especially when your child first learned to say ‘no’ to you. Did you forgive them? Of course! Your love for them was much greater than their failures. You did not take the attitude of, “You should know better.” Instead, fathers, you took the attitude of, “My little child does not understand what she is doing to others and to herself.” You had great patience and forgave your child. This is how God who is love, sees us.

Jesus reminds us that our understanding of Heavenly Father is incomplete,  until we begin to see how His Heart is patient, compassionate, and forgiving. Earlier, I mentioned about going to a Nicaragua mission with an open heart with the possibility of having my own preconceived beliefs shaken. That happened this Friday, when I sat down next to the poor who came into our office seeking  financial assistance. I knew there was lot of poverty in Donaldsonville, and to be honest, I looked away. I shared the same attitude that many Americans have: that poverty can be overcome by taking initiative and working hard. I believed that both of our parishes were doing enough to help the "less-fortunate." But on this occasion, Lord prompted me to listen to their lives, as Mother Teresa said, ‘to see Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.’ A mother of two who came for assistance shared that when she lived in California her children attended summer programs which gave them meaningful activities and provided breakfast and lunch for them. But here in Donaldsonville, there is nothing for them, so they stay home. And without a vehicle or disposable income to take them anywhere, there are no other options. Another person shared how her disintegrating marriage made her more vulnerable and feel trapped. Without supporting family members around,  meager income from work, and no vehicle, she felt there were no options. A single woman who works full-time at minimum wage without a vehicle shared how after paying rent and usual bills, there is nothing left at the end of the month. After listening to them, Lord prompted me, “Paul, do you see how my children are suffering?” It was a moment of epiphany for me.
Recently Pope Francis also urged all of us to see poverty from Heavenly Father’s Heart. “The first attention we pay to poverty is assistance: 'Are you hungry? Here, here is something to eat.' But our aid cannot end there. We cannot accept the underlying idea that 'We who are doing well give something to those who are doing badly, but they should stay that way, far from us.' That is not Christian. A poor man must not be looked at with disgust; he must be looked at in the eyes. Sometimes it may be uncomfortable but we have to be up to the task. Love always requires a person to go out from himself, to truly give oneself to others. The person I intend to love needs me to put myself at their service."

June 15, 2013 Saturday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass

Pope: The Christian life proclaims the road to reconcilation with God

(Vatican Radio) Christian life is not a spa therapy "to be at peace until Heaven," but it calls us to go out into the world to proclaim that Jesus "became the sinner" to reconcile men with the Father. These were Pope Francis’ words during his homily at Mass Saturday at the Casa Santa Martha.

The Christian life is not staying in a corner to carve a road which takes you into heaven, but it's a dynamic that encourages one to stay "on the road" to proclaim that Christ has reconciled us to God, by becoming sin for us. In his usual profound and direct way, Pope Francis focuses on a passage from the Letter to the Corinthians, from today's liturgy, in which St. Paul very insistent, almost "in a hurry", uses the term "reconciliation"five times.

"What is reconciliation? Taking one from this side, taking another one for that side and uniting them: no, that’s part of it but it's not it ... True reconciliation means that God in Christ took on our sins and He became the sinner for us. When we go to confession, for example, it isn’t that we say our sin and God forgives us. No, not that! We look for Jesus Christ and say: 'This is your sin, and I will sin again'. And Jesus likes that, because it was his mission: to become the sinner for us, to liberate us. "

It is the beauty and the "scandal" of the redemption brought by Jesus and it is also the "mystery, says Pope Francis, from which Paul draws" zeal "that spurs him to" move forward " telling everyone" something so wonderful "the love of a God" who gave up his Son to death for me. " Yet, explains Pope Francis, there is a risk of "never arriving at this truth" in the moment when "we 'devalue a little the Christian life", reducing it to a list of things to observe and thus losing the ardor, the force of the '"love that is inside" of it:

"But philosophers say that peace is a certain ordered tranquility: everything is tidy and quiet ... That is not the Christian peace! Christian peace is an uneasy peace, not a quiet peace: it is an uneasy peace, which goes on to carry this message of reconciliation. The Christian Peace pushes us to move forward. This is the beginning, the root of apostolic zeal. Apostolic zeal is not to go forward to persuade and make statistics: this year Christians in this country have grown, in this movement ... Statistics are good, they help, but that is not what God wants from us ,is to persuade... What the Lord wants from us is to announce this reconciliation, which is his own core message . "
Concluding his homily the Pope recalls the inner anxiety of Paul. Pope Francis underlines that which defines the "pillar" of Christian life, namely, that "Christ became sin for me! And my sins are there in his body, in his soul! This - says the Pope - it's crazy, but it's beautiful, it's true! This is the scandal of the Cross! "

"We ask the Lord to give us this concern to proclaim Jesus, to give us a bit of 'that Christian wisdom that was born from His pierced side of love. Just a little to convince us that the Christian life is not a spa therapy: to be at peace until Heaven ... No, the Christian life is the road in life with this concern of Paul. The love of Christ urges us on, it pushes us on, with this emotion that one feels when one sees that God loves us. We ask this grace. "

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Friday, June 14, 2013

June 14, 2013 Friday: Pope Francis, Daily Mass

Pope Francis: Friday Mass at Santa Marta


(Vatican Radio) The only way truly to receive the gift of salvation in Christ is with sincerity to recognize oneself as weak and sinful, and to avoid any form of self-justification. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks at Mass Friday morning in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence in the Vatican.

Aware of being a weak vessel of clay, yet the guardian of a great treasure that was given to him in a totally free way: this is the follower of Christ before the Lord. Pope Francis took the point of reflection from the day’s readings, specifically from the 2nd Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, which explains that the "extraordinary power" of faith is God's work, that it has been poured out upon sinful men, in "earthen vessels", in fact. Nevertheless, explained Pope Francis, it is precisely from the relationship "between the grace and power of Jesus Christ" and ourselves, poor sinners as we are, that "the dialogue of salvation" springs. This dialogue, moreover, must avoid any "self-justification", and be between God and “ourselves as we are.”:
“Paul has spoken many times - it's like a refrain, no? - of his sins. 'But I tell you this: I've been a persecutor of the Church, I pursued ...' it always comes back to his memory of sin. He feels sinful. – but even then he does not say: 'I was [a sinner], but now I am holy', no. Even now, a thorn of Satan in my flesh. He shows us his own weakness, his own sin. He is a sinner who accepts Jesus Christ, who dialogues with Jesus Christ.”

The key, says Pope Francis, is therefore humility. Paul himself proves it. He publicly acknowledges "his track record of service," i.e. all he had done as an Apostle of Jesus, but he does not hide or gloss over what the Pope calls "his handbook", i.e. his sins:

"This is the model of humility for us priests – for us priests, too. If we only pride ourselves on our [service record] and nothing more, we end up [going] wrong. We cannot proclaim Jesus Christ the Saviour because we do not feel Him [present and at work] deep down. We have to be humble, but with real humility, [from head to toe]: 'I am a sinner for this, for this, for this', as Paul did: 'I persecuted the Church, " - as he did, [recognizing ourselves] concrete sinners: not sinners with that [kind of ] humility, which seems more a put-on face, no? Oh no, strong humility. "
"The humility of the priest, the humility of a Christian is concrete," said Pope Francis, for which, therefore, if a Christian fails, "to make this confession to himself and to the Church, then something is wrong," and the first thing to fail will be our ability "understand the beauty of salvation that Jesus brings us."

"Brothers, we have a treasure: that of Jesus Christ the Saviour. The Cross of Jesus Christ, this treasure of which we pride ourselves - but we have it in a clay vessel. Let us vaunt also our ‘handbook’ of our sins. Thus is the dialogue Christian and Catholic: concrete, because the salvation of Jesus Christ is concrete. Jesus Christ has not saved us with an idea, an intellectual program, no. He saved with His flesh, with the concreteness of flesh. He is lowered, made man, made flesh until the end. This is a gift that we can only understand, only receive, in earthen vessels. "
The Samaritan woman, as well, who met Jesus and after speaking to him told her countrymen first of her sin and then about having met the Lord, behaved in a similar way to Paul. "I believe,” said Pope Francis, “that this woman is in heaven, sure," because, as [the Italian author Alessandro] Manzoni once said, 'I have never found that the Lord began a miracle without finishing it well' and this miracle that He began definitely ended well in heaven." The Pope concluded saying, let us ask her, "to help us to be vessels of clay in order to carry and understand the glorious mystery of Jesus Christ."
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