Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sept. 1, 2013: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Many of us have our own special routine for prayer. Perhaps you begin your prayer time with a nice cup of coffee as you sit in a comfy chair and read scriptures or a devotional book. Or perhaps, you like to go on a stroll with your rosary in your hands. Recently, I found a very refreshing prayer. It goes like this, “So far today, God, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped. I haven’t lost my temper. Haven’t been grumpy, nasty or selfish. I’m really glad of that. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot of help. Thank you! Amen.” It’s a very honest and humble prayer, isn’t it?

How many of us after a good prayer period or even attending mass, fall right back into doing the very thing we want to stop? That’s the story of our lives, isn’t it? We know that when we go to church, we expect to find holy and spotless people who look at each other with friendly eyes. We want to see people who look for the good in each other and who are willing to readily excuse the not so good. In church we don’t expect to encounter people who look at others with hostile eyes, who are looking for faults in others, and who get disappointed if they can’t find faults. In church we don’t expect people who look at another with indifferent eyes, who don’t care one way or the other when they see other’s efforts, sadness, and even tears.

In today’s gospel when Jesus entered the house of a leading Pharisee, he was greeted with cold, critical attitudes. Jesus could see that the people at supper were sizing each other up--who was up and who was down, who was in and who was out. I wonder what Jesus sees in us as we gather in this church at this Eucharistic supper. Does he see us falling into the trap of sizing each other up--who’s got it made, who’s pitiable, who’s despicable? Does he see us pretending or aspiring to be someone who we are not?

For Jesus, the Church is His Bride, and he knows her very well. His bride the Church is holy and sinful, spotless and tainted. It is Jesus who washed her in cleansing water and took her to himself  with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. The Church too is a group of sinful, confused, anguished people constantly tempted by the powers of lust and greed and always entangled in rivalry and competition. When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members. Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus.
For Jesus, spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others. It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be. True sanctity is precisely accepting our weakness and relying on Jesus every step of the way. Do not compare yourself with others, who seem to skip along their life-paths with ease. Their journeys have been different from yours. Jesus has one request for each of us when we begin to compare ourselves to others and become saddened. He reminds us that we become saddened and envious when we compare ourselves with others too long. He encourages us to look at him instead. There is an old spiritual hymn called, “Turn Yours Eyes Upon Jesus,” that brings us back to the right focus.
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

   Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
   Look full in His wonderful face,
   And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
   In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Aug. 30, 2013 Friday: 21st Week in Ordinary C

Almighty God, thank you for the job of this day.
May we find gladness in all its toil and difficulty,
its pleasure and success,
and even in its failure and sorrow.
We would look always away from ourselves,
and behold the glory and the need of the world
that we may have the will and the strength to bring
the gift of gladness to others;
that with them we stand to bear
the burden and heat of the day
and offer you the praise of work well done. Amen.
— Charles Lewis Slattery

Are you missing out on what's most important in life? Being unprepared can lead to unnecessary trouble and even disaster! What good is a life-jacket left on the shore when the boat is sinking? Jesusstory of ten single ladies waiting for a wedding procession in the middle of the night seems strange to most westerners today. But Jesus' audience knew all too well how easily this could happen to them. Wedding customs in ancient Palestine required extra vigilance and preparation for everyone involved. (Some near eastern villages still follow this custom.) The bride and groom did not go away for their honeymoon, but celebrated for a whole week with their family and friends. It was the custom for the groom, in company with his friends, to come at his discretion and get his bride and bring her to their new home. They would take the longest route possible so that many villagers along the way could join in the wedding procession. Once they arrived and closed the doors, no one else could be admitted. If the groom decided to come and bring his bride at night, then lights were required by necessity to guide the travelers through the dark and narrow streets. No one was allowed on the village streets at night without a lamp! To show up for a wedding party without proper attire and travel arrangements is like trying to get into a special event today that requires a prearranged permit or reservation. You just dont get in without the proper pass. Can you imagine the frustration travelers might experience when going abroad and finding out that they cant get into some country because they dont have the right visa or a valid passport.
Jesus warns us that there are consequences for being unprepared. There are certain things you cannot obtain at the last moment. For example, students cannot prepare for their exams when the day of testing is already upon them. A person cannot get the right kind of character, strength, and skill required for a task at hand unless they already possess it, such as a captain with courage and nautical skills who must steer a ship through a dangerous storm at sea. When the Lord Jesus comes to lead you to his heavenly banquet will you be ready to hear his voice and follow? Our eternal welfare depends on our hearing, and many have trained themselves to not hear. We will not be prepared to meet the Lord, face to face, when he calls us on the day of judgment, unless we listen to him today. The Lord invites us to feast at his heavenly banquet table. Are you ready?

Lord Jesus, make me vigilant and attentive to your voice that I may heed your call at all times. May I find joy in your presence and delight in doing your will.

Don Schwager,

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Aug. 29, 2013 Thursday: The Passion of St. John the Baptist

Are you prepared to be a witness, and if necessary, a martyr for Jesus Christ? John the Baptist bridged the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets who pointed the way to the Messiah. He is the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. Jesus equated the coming of his kingdom with violence. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force (Matthew 11:12). John suffered violence for announcing that the kingdom of God was near. He was thrown into prison and then beheaded. Why did Herod put John to death when he knew him to be a righteous and holy man? Herod was a weak ruler. He could take a strong stand on the wrong things when he knew the right. Such a stand, however, was a sign of weakness and cowardice. Unfortunately for Herod, he could not rid himself of sin by ridding himself of the man who confronted him with his sin.

Since John's martyrdom to the present times the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and persecution at the hands of violent people. The blood of Christian martyrs throughout the ages bear witness to this fact. Their testimony to the truth of the gospel and their willingness to suffer and die for their faith prove victory rather than defeat for the kingdom of God. Through Christ's victory on the cross they obtain the glorious crown of victory and everlasting life with Jesus Christ. What gives us the power, boldness, and courage to witness to Jesus Christ and to the truth of the gospel? The Holy Spirit fills us with courage, love, and boldness to make Jesus Christ known and loved. We do not need to fear those who oppose the gospel, because the love of Jesus Christ is stronger than fear and death itself. His love conquers all, even our fears and timidity in the face of opposition and persecution. We can trust in his grace and help at all times. Are you ready to make Christ known and loved, and if necessary to suffer for his sake and the sake of the gospel?

"Lord Jesus Christ, give me faith, boldness, and courage to stand firm in the truth of the gospel and to not waver in my testimony of your love and grace. Give me hope and joy in the promise of everlasting life with you in your kingdom."

Don Schwager,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Aug. 28, 2013 Wednesday: St. Augustine of Hippo

Here is my heart, O God,
here it is with all its secrets.
Look into my thoughts, O my hope,
and take away all my wrong feelings.
Let my eyes be ever on you
and release my feet from the snare.
I ask you to live with me,
to reign in me, to make this heart
of mine a holy temple,
a fit dwelling for your divine majesty. Amen.
— St. Augustine of Hippo

“No one knows what he himself is made of, except his own spirit within him, yet there is still some part of him which remains hidden even from his own spirit; but you, Lord, know everything about a human being because you have made him...Let me, then, confess what I know about myself, and confess too what I do not know, because what I know of myself I know only because you shed light on me, and what I do not know I shall remain ignorant about until my darkness becomes like bright noon before your face.”
― St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Aug. 27, 2013 Tuesday: St. Monica

St. Monica, troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine;
your prayers were answered.
Grant me that same courage, patience,
and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
that God may favorably hear my plea for
(Mention your intention here).
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
— Traditional

Our knowledge of Monica comes almost entirely from the writings of her much-loved son, the great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo. His relationship with his mother was a close one, especially during Monica's last years. In Book IX of St. Augustine's he gives us many details of her life, and expresses his gratitude for her devotion in moving terms. Monica was born about the year 332 in Tagaste, North Africa, of a Christian family of some substance. We are given one episode of her childhood which suggests a possible origin for her firmness of will. She was sometimes sent down to the cellar to draw wine for the family, and fell into the habit of taking secret sips. She developed such a passion for wine that before long she was drinking great draughts of it whenever opportunity offered. One day a family slave who had been spying on the little girl denounced her as a wine-bibber, and Monica, covered with shame, gave up the habit. Soon afterwards she was baptized, and thenceforth seems to have led a life of irreproachable virtue.
As soon as Monica had reached marriageable age, her parents found a husband for her, the pagan Patricius. He was a man of violent temper and their home could scarcely have been a happy one. Monica endured his outbursts with the utmost patience, although he was critical of Christians and their practices. The daily example of her gentleness and kindness finally had its rewards, and a year before his death, which occurred when Augustine was seventeen, Patricius accepted his wife's faith. Monica and Patricius had three children, Navigius, who seems to have been an exemplary son, Augustine, and Perpetua, a daughter, who became a religious. Augustine, the more brilliant of the sons, was sent to Carthage, so that he might develop his talents and become a man of culture. He took to learning naturally but he also spent time in youthful carousing. This caused his mother great anguish, and when he returned to Tagaste, she disapproved so strongly both of his loose living and of his espousal of the popular heresy of Manichaeism that she refused at first to allow him to live at home. She relented only after having seen a vision. One day as she was weeping over his behavior, a figure appeared and asked her the cause of her grief. She answered, and a voice issued from the mysterious figure, telling her to dry her tears; then she heard the words, "Your son is with you." Monica related this story to Augustine, and he replied that they might easily be together if she gave up her faith, for that was the main obstacle keeping them apart. Quickly she retorted, "He did not say I was with you: he said that you were with me." Augustine was impressed by the quick answer and never forgot it. Although his conversion was not to take place for nine long years, Monica did not lose faith. She continually fasted, prayed, and wept on his behalf. She implored the local bishop for help in winning him over, and he counseled her to be patient, saying, "God's time will come." Monica persisted in importuning him, and the bishop uttered the words which have often been quoted: "Go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish."

Augustine was twenty-nine and a successful teacher when he decided to go to Rome. Monica opposed the move, fearing that his conversion would be indefinitely postponed. Her son went on with his plan, and set off with his young mistress and little son Adeodatus for the seaport. His mother followed him there, and when he saw that she intended to accompany him, he outwitted her by a deception as to the time of sailing. He embarked while she was spending the night praying in a church. Although this grieved her deeply, Monica was still not discouraged about her wayward son, for she continued on to Rome. The ship on which she took passage was tossed about by a storm, and she cheered those on board by her serene confidence in God's mercy. On reaching Rome, Monica learned that her son had gone to Milan. There he had come under the influence of the great Bishop Ambrose. When his mother finally found him in the northern city, he had given up Manichaeism, although he was not yet a Christian. Monica's friendship with Ambrose is worth touching upon. She apparently made a friend of this eminent churchman and he entertained the highest opinion of her. Here in Milan, as at home in North Africa, Monica was foremost among the women in all charitable works, and also in her devotions. The bishop, however, persuaded her to give up some of the customs practiced by the Christians of her homeland, for they were derived from ancient pagan rites; carrying food and wine to the tombs of the martyrs was one of the customs which Monica now relinquished.

The joyous day of Augustine's conversion, which will be fully described in the life of that saint, came at last. For some time his mother had been trying to end her son's illicit relationship of so many years' standing. She hoped to find a suitable bride for him, but after his mistress went back to Africa Augustine informed her that he would now adopt a celibate life and devote himself to God's service. The give us glimpses of the period of preparation preceding his baptism. The time was passed in the house of a friend, where a close-knit group, consisting of his mother, brother, Adeodatus, and a few companions occupied themselves with discussions of religion and philosophy. At Easter, when Bishop Ambrose baptized Augustine, his mother's cup was full to overflowing.

Augustine and the members of his family now set out for their return to Tagaste. At the port of Ostia, Monica fell ill. She knew that her work had been accomplished and that life would soon be over. Her exaltation of spirit was such that her sons were unaware of the approach of death. As Monica's strength failed, she said to Augustine: "I do not know what there is left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. All I wished for was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven. God granted me even more than this in making you despise earthly felicity and consecrate yourself to His service." Shortly afterwards they asked her if she did not fear to die so far from home, for she had earlier expressed a desire to be buried beside her husband in Tagaste. Now, with beautiful simplicity, she replied, "Nothing is far from God," and indicated that she was content to be buried where she died. Monica's death plunged her children into the deepest grief, and Augustine, "the son of so many tears," in the implores his readers' prayers for his parents. It is the prayers of Monica herself that have been invoked by generations of the faithful who honor her as a special patroness of married women and as an example for Christian motherhood. Her relics are alleged to have been transferred from Ostia to Rome, to rest in the church of San Agostino. Her emblems are a girdle and tears.

Saint Monica, Widow. Celebration of Feast Day is May 4.

Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Aug. 26, 2013 Monday: 21st Week in Ordinary Time C

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
— Sir Francis Drake

"You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance." (Matthew 23:13)

When God knocks on your door are you ready to answer and receive him (Revelations 3:20)? God offers each of us an open door to his kingdom, but we can shut ourselves out if we reject his offer. What is the door to the kingdom of heaven? When Jacob fled from his brother Essau, who wanted to kill him for stealing his birthright (Genesis 27:41), Jacob sought refuge in the wilderness. There God pursued him and gave him a vision that both changed his life and the life of his people. As Jacob slept on a star-lit hillside God showed him a great ladder or stairway that extended from earth to heaven. This stairway was filled with a multitude of angels ascending and descending before the throne of God. God opened heaven to Jacob, not only to give him a place of refuge and peace, but to offer him the blessing of dwelling in intimate friendship with the living God. God spoke to Jacob and renewed the promises which he had made to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac, and now to Jacob and his posterity. God promised not only to bless and protect Jacob, but to make him and his descendants a blessing to all the nations as well. When Jacob awoke he exclaimed: "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven" (Genesis 28:17). God opened a door for Jacob that brought him and his people into a new relationship with the living God.

Jesus proclaimed to his disciples that he would fulfill the dream of Jacob in his very own person: "You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (John 1:51). Jesus proclaimed that he is the door (John 10:8-9) and the way (John 14:6) that makes it possible for us to access heaven and God's very throne. But Jesus woefully warned the religious leaders and successors of Jacob that they were shutting the door of God's kingdom not only on themselves but on others as well. The word woe expresses sorrowful pity and concern as well as grief and extreme sadness.

Why did Jesus lament and issue such a stern rebuke? Jesus was angry with the religious leaders because they failed to listen to God's word and they misled the people they were supposed to teach and lead in the ways of God. Jesus gave a series of examples to show how misguided they were. In their zeal to win converts, they required unnecessary and burdensome rules which obscured the more important matters of religion, such as love of God and love of neighbor. They were leading people to Pharisaism rather than to God. Jesus also chastised them for their evasion of binding oaths and solemn promises. Oaths made to God were considered binding, but the Pharisees found clever ways to evade the obligation of their oaths when convenience got in the way. They forgot that God hears every word we utter and he sees the intention of the heart even before we speak or act. The scribes and Pharisees preferred their idea of religion to God's idea. They failed as religious leaders to teach others the way of God's kingdom because they failed to listen and to understand the intention of God's word. Through their own pride and prejudice they blindly shut the door of their own hearts and minds to God's understanding of his kingdom.

How can we shut the door of God's kingdom in our lives? By closing our ears to Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelations 17:14; 19:16), who speaks words of life and love, truth and freedom, hope and pardon. The Lord Jesus wants to dwell with us and to bring us into his kingdom. He opens the way for each of us to "ascend to heaven" and to bring "heaven to earth" in the daily circumstances of our lives. God's kingdom is present in all who seek him and who do his will. Do you pray as Jesus taught, "May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10)?

"Lord Jesus, your word is life for me. May I never shut the door to your heavenly kingdom through my stubborn pride or disbelief. Help me to listen to your voice and to conform my life more fully to your word."

Don Schwager,

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Aug. 25, 2013: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Have you ever been late to an appointment? For example, have you ever arrived late to the airport and the plane left without you? Have you ever rushed to a store, only to find the doors locked? Although many of us think of heaven as an unimaginably beautiful place that is awaiting us, at times, we have a nagging thought that perhaps we don’t deserve or qualify to enter such a place. Our fear is that upon arrival in heaven, that the door will be closed on us. At other times, we feel overconfident that we have a guaranteed spot in heaven. Which of these attitudes should we take?

That was the question that someone asked Jesus in the Gospel today, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Upon which Jesus replied, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

A cute story was told to me about children at the children’s church. One Sunday, the children in children’s church were being taught the concept of getting to heaven. Teacher asked them, "If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?" "NO!" the children answered. Teacher asked them, "If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?" Again, the answer was, "NO!" Teacher smiled. "Well," she continued, "Then how can I get into Heaven?" A five-year-old girl shouted out, "YOU GOTTA BE DEAD."

From what Jesus says in the Gospel, you have to be more than just ‘dead’ to enter into heaven. Jesus urges us to actively strive toward heaven. It’s not some vague hope, wishful thinking, or something we take care of in our spare time. Striving to enter heaven should be the top priority in our lives. Whenever I prepare an engaged couple for marriage, I have to ask them the following question, “How often do you attend church?” Answer choices are frequently, occasionally, rarely, or never. Believe it or not, even among Catholic school graduates, many select ‘rarely’ as their choice. How about you? If I were to ask you, “How often do you strive to enter into Heaven,” what would you select: frequently, occasionally, rarely, or never? 

Heavenly Father wills that all people should be saved. And, Jesus refuses to get into the numbers game, or to speculate about matters that are best left to the wisdom and mercy of God. Yet, there is a real possibility that even though we knock on the gates of Heaven and say, ‘Lord, open the door for us,’ Lord will say to us, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  Hence, Jesus tells us to “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

What did Jesus mean by this expression? The door which Jesus had in mind was himself. I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved (John 10:9).  Jesus opens the way for us to enter into God's kingdom through the cross where he has laid down his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. If we want to enter and remain citizens of God's kingdom, then we must follow Jesus in the way of the cross. To enter the kingdom of God one must struggle against the forces of temptation to sin and whatever would hinder us from doing the will of God. Do you trust in God's grace and help, especially in times of testing and temptation? The good news is that we do not struggle alone. God is with us and his grace is sufficient! As we strive side by side  for the faith of the gospel, Jesus assures us of complete victory!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Aug. 23, 2013 Friday: St. Rose of Lima

If only we would learn
how great it is to possess divine grace,
how beautiful, how noble, how precious.
How many riches it hides within itself,
how many joys and delights!
We would not complain about our cross
or about troubles that may happen to us,
if we would come to know the scales
on which they are weighed
when they are distributed to people.
— St. Rose of Lima

The Story of Ruth and Naomi
Naomi knew grief. She was familiar with bitterness. Her husband, Elimelech, had moved her and her two sons from Bethlehem to Moab to escape a famine. After settling in the new land, Naomi's husband suddenly died and she was left a widow. But the sorrow didn't end there.

After the mourning period, Naomi's sons took Moabite women as wives, and all seemed normal over the next 10 years. But then, both of her sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law in a foreign land. Not only was Naomi a widow, but she no longer had sons to care for her well-being as tradition had called for. Naomi was sure God was dealing harshly with her, and she was unhappy.

Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem after hearing that the famine was over. So, loading up all of their belongings, Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, started on their journey. On the way, Naomi had a change of heart and instructed Orpah and Ruth to return to the homes of their biological mothers. The Bible doesn't say why Naomi encouraged the women to go home, but it's possible that she thought about where she was taking the girls, and felt the only thing she could offer was sadness and poverty. Naomi may also worried that God's dealings with her might negatively affect the lives of Orpah and Ruth.

Through her grief, Naomi couldn't see that God was guiding them to a more perfect fulfillment of His plan.

Through many tears and much conviction, Naomi convinced Orpah to return to her mother's home, but Ruth wasn't swayed. She had witnessed a deep-seeded faith in Naomi. The older woman had been such a loving and inspiring influence in her life that Ruth left her biological family behind to take shelter under Naomi's watchful care. Naomi was so moved by such an act of loyalty that she didn't speak another word about it.

Upon entering Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth were greeted with excitement. The entire city was overjoyed at Naomi's return. But Naomi did not share their enthusiasm. She had returned a saddened, empty-handed woman, both widowed and childless. She was broken, convinced that God had inflicted her out of anger and bitterness. She didn't want to be called Naomi, meaning "My delight," but rather Mara, meaning "bitterness." Naomi had not only experienced utter ruin, but found her identity in the tragic state of her existence. And yet, God used Naomi to graft Ruth into the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Through her patience, wisdom and insight, Naomi guided Ruth into prudent interaction with Boaz, a close relative of Naomi's dead husband. This relative was a kinsman redeemer, or one of the next in line to take Naomi's daughter-in-law as a wife in order to carry on the family line. Boaz was a wealthy landowner with many fields. Naomi told Ruth to glean the leftovers in one of his fields. In humility and submission, Ruth did as she was told. This eventually led to a marriage with Boaz.

Naomi was behind the scenes directing Ruth's conduct in relation to Boaz, but it came from a heart of compassion and love. She wanted Ruth to marry again and have a family. Naomi was not concerned for herself, but rather for the welfare of a young woman who had dedicated herself to caring for Naomi, even though she was not obligated to. Putting Ruth in the spotlight was Naomi's greatest act of love.

As a reward for her selfless acts, God brought Naomi great joy and restoration through the marriage of Ruth and Boaz. When Ruth conceived and had a son named Obed, Naomi became his nurse and took him as her own. Not only was Naomi cared for in her old age, but she had a direct hand in the upbringing of Obed, who became the grandfather of King David. Naomi directly imparted her faith and good character into the next generation. The women of Bethlehem spoke well when they blessed Naomi at the birth of Obed, declaring that God had not left her empty-handed.

By Amy Miller

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Aug. 22, 2013 Thursday: Queenship of Mary

Hail, holy lady, most holy queen,
Mary, mother of God, ever-virgin;
chosen by the most holy Father in heaven,
consecrated by God
with his most holy and beloved Son
and the Holy Spirit, the comforter.
On you descended
and in you still remains
all the fullness of grace and every good.
Hail, his palace.
Hail, his tabernacle.
Hail, his robe.
Hail, his handmaid.
Hail, his mother.
And hail, all holy virtues,
who by the grace
and inspiration of the Holy Spirit
are poured into the hearts
of the faithful so that,
faithless no longer,
they may be faithful servants of God
through you. Amen.
— St. Francis of Assisi

Your servants' call has invited me, even me!, to the divine wedding prepared for you, O beloved Son, by the Father, that I may rejoice in ineffable joy here below in the mystery of the altar, and may rejoice in the heavenly city (Rv 21,2f.) in days to come in eternal, inexpressible and unchanging rejoicing. But because I no longer wear the splendid garment worthy of the wedding hall; because I have soiled by the dark sins of my soul the garment given at baptism's sacred fount O impenetrable Master..., clothe me again anew with your own self (cf. Gal 3,27) and restore to its former splendor my sullied original robe.
Since I do not hear your voice, Lord, speak the word “friend” with accents worthy of compassion and may I never be thrown down, as was that one, into the pit for ever.

Saint Nerses Chnorhali, Jesus, the Father's beloved Son, §683-687 ; SC 203

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aug. 21, 2013 Wednesday: St. Pope Pius X

Most holy Virgin,
who pleased our Lord and became his mother,
Virgin Immaculate in your body and soul,
look kindly on us who implore your powerful protection.
Gather together our prayers
and present them before God’s throne,
that we may never allow ourselves
to be caught in the snares laid for us,
but that we may reach the portal of salvation,
and that the Church and Christian society
may once more chant the hymn of deliverance,
of victory and of peace. Amen.
— Pope St. Pius X

God is generous in opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter, both those who have labored a life-time for him and those who come at the last hour. While the reward is the same, the motive for one's labor can make all the difference. Some work only for reward. They will only put as much effort in as they think they will get back. Others labor out of love and joy for the opportunity to work and to serve others. The Lord calls his disciples to serve God and neighbor – his heavenly kingdom and our earthly community – with generosity and joy. Do you perform your work and responsibilities with cheerfulness and diligence for the Lord's sake? And do you give generously to others, especially to those in need of your care and support

"Lord Jesus, may I serve you and my neighbor with a glad and generous heart, not looking for how much I can get but rather looking for how much I can give."

Don Schwager,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Aug. 20, 2013 Tuesday: St. Bernard of Clairvaux

I will love you, O Lord my strength,
my stony rock and my defense,
my savior, my one desire and love.
I will love you
with all the power you have given me–
not as much as you deserve to be loved,
for that can never be,
but as much as I am able to.
The more power to love you give me,
the more I will love you;
yet never, never can I love you
as much as you should be loved. Amen.
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Why is Jesus so cautious about wealth? Wealth can make us falsely independent. The church at Laodicea was warned about their attitude towards wealth and a false sense of security: "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing" (Revelations 3:17). Wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness (see 1 Timothy 6:9-10). Look at the lesson Jesus gave about the rich man and his sons who refused to aid the poor man Lazarus (see Luke 16:19ff). They also neglected to serve God. The Scriptures give us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away. Generosity will be amply repaid, both in this life and in eternity (Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 6:38). Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no money can buy and no thief can steal. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. Material wealth will shackle us to this earth unless we guard our hearts and set our treasure in God and his everlasting kingdom. Where is your treasure?

"Lord Jesus, you have captured our hearts and opened to us the treasures of heaven. May you always be my treasure and delight and may nothing else keep me from giving you my all."

Don Schwager,

Monday, August 19, 2013

Aug. 19, 2013 Monday: 20th Week in Ordinary C

O Jesus, only Son of God, only Son of Mary,
I offer you the most loving heart
of your divine mother
which is more precious
and pleasing to you than all hearts.
O Mary, mother of Jesus,
I offer you the most adorable heart
of your well-beloved Son,
who is the life and love and joy of your heart.
Blessed be the most loving heart
and holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the most glorious Virgin Mary, his Mother,
in eternity and forever. Amen.
— St. John Eudes

“Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

We are told that the young man had many possessions and wanted to know what good he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus sensed the trouble the young man was experiencing in his heart and how possessions were keeping him from giving himself whole-heartedly to God. “Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

What do our possessions provide for us? Do they satisfy our desire for happiness and security? Do possessions prevent us from giving ourselves whole-heartedly to God? Do we serve our possessions [like the children of Israel serving the Baals] instead of serving the Lord? Possessions can’t give us the kind of peace and happiness that we find in God. Sometimes our hope for happiness gets misplaced in materialism. Jesus challenges our attachment to earthly possessions. Jesus challenges us to contemplate what our greatest treasure is truly. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord is accessible to all, the rich and the poor. Possessions cannot provide the lasting peace and happiness that the Lord can provide. No other treasure can compare with the Lord.

This story has been on social media for a few years. Whether or not authentic, I thought it spoke well to today’s readings:

An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that whoever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that, as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: “UBUNTU: how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

'UBUNTU' in the Xhosa culture means: “I am because we are.”

Jan Schnack

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Aug. 18, 2013: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Among the friends you have, do you have a friend who likes “to call a spade a spade?” Perhaps your friend is outspoken, blunt, even to the point of rudeness; to call things by their proper names without any "beating about the bush". You don’t necessarily have to be rude or unkind to be honest and direct about a topic, though. You can be calm and gentle, yet help bring clarity to the situation. And at times, you tell the truth straightforwardly, even when the truth is not pleasant. Perhaps because truth is unpleasant at times, we fall into the opposite tendency called “doublethink,” in which we simultaneously accepts two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct. An example of doublethink  is “don't be a phony; smile and people will like you.” Another example is, “take life easy; work hard for your success.”  

Jesus was known by his disciples to be kind, gentle, and compassionate. No wonder throngs of people were attracted to him and loved him.  At certain times though, he stirred up so much hatred that he ended up being crucified. Was he a troublemaker?

There is no greater disturber of peace than the person who preaches justice and truth. When Pope John Paul II went to Poland, his homeland, in 1979, the country was under a tight control of the Polish Communist government who tried to blot out the Catholic faith and identity of the Polish people. Can you imagine how we would feel here in Donaldsonville if our state government forbade Catholics to gather together on Sundays to celebrate mass? But the government could not stop the newly elected Pope from coming for a visit. At Victory Square with almost 2 million people gathered around a temporary altar, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass. During the homily, he spoke these powerful words, “To Poland the Church brought Christ, the key to understanding that great and fundamental reality that is man. For man cannot be fully understood without Christ. Or rather, man is incapable of understanding himself fully without Christ. He cannot understand who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is. He cannot understand any of this without Christ. Therefore Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man.” Upon that remark, the crowd spontaneously broke out into applause that lasted 15 minutes. Then the crowd chanted, “We want God...we want God...we want God.” The fire of faith was kindled in the people who lived under fear by a man who spoke the truth of Jesus Christ. This is the fire that Jesus spoke about in the Gospel where he said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” 

Recently, some parishioners and I were discussing why our younger people are not coming to church on the weekends. We talked about how the younger families have very busy weekends with commitments and children’s sports. A suggestion was made that we should have more masses, not fewer, to accommodate their schedule. Why not a Sunday evening mass, some suggested. Then a parishioner spoke up. “Adding masses will not bring out those that do not already attend. It’s all about relationship with Jesus. If they do not have a relationship Jesus, if they do not want Him, you can have five masses on Sundays yet they still would not come.” That person was calling a spade a spade.

Many of us may not be aware that all of the Catholic Dioceses in U.S. will be facing a severe priest shortage. In 5 to 10 years, over half of the priests in U.S. will be past their retirement age. This means that each Diocese will have to make tough decisions on how to minister to parishioners with less than half the number of priests. This means more clustering of parishes and perhaps even closing parishes. Although God is calling many young men and women to religious life, fewer and fewer are answering the call. What is the solution to this bleak, yet blunt truth? We need to rekindle the fire of love for Jesus, just as the Polish people in the Victory Square chanted, “We want God...we want God...” If we cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus, then our children will want that relationship too. If we put God first on Sunday, then our children will learn to put God first on Sunday. We can’t be lukewarm in our faith. Let us ask Blessed Mother to help us to have that same zeal and fire of love. She knows how to cultivate in us an intimate and fulfilling relationship with Her Son. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Aug. 16, 2013 Friday: 19th Week in Ordinary Time C

Eternal God,
who are the light of the minds that know you,
the joy of the hearts that love you,
and the strength of the wills that serve you;
grant us so to know you
that we may truly love you,
and so to love you
that we may fully serve you,
whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
— St Augustine of Hippo

What is God's intention for our state in life, whether married or single? Jesus deals with the issue of divorce by taking his hearers back to the beginning of creation and to God's plan for the human race. In Genesis 2:23-24 we see God's intention and ideal that two people who marry should become so indissolubly one that they are one flesh. That ideal is found in the unbreakable union of Adam and Eve. They were created for each other and for no one else. They are the pattern and symbol for all who were to come. Jesus explains that Moses permitted divorce as a concession in view of a lost ideal. Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands. Jesus, likewise sets the high ideal for those who freely renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Both marriage and the single life are calls from God to live a consecrated life, that is to live as married couples or as singles who belong not to themselves but to God. Our lives are not our own, but they belong to God. He gives strength, joy, and blessing to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life. Do you seek the Lord Jesus and his grace for your state of life?

"Lord Jesus Christ, your call to holiness extends to all in every state of life. Sanctify our lives – as married couples and as singles – that we may live as men and women who are consecrated to you. Make us leaven in a society that disdains life-long marriage fidelity, chastity, and living single for the Lord."

Don Schwager,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Aug. 15, 2013 Thursday: the Feast of Assumption of Our Lady

If you were to put a quote on your mother’s headstone, what would you put? For a very giving mother, how about this?
“Always willing to help others / When herself should be at rest / She was the kindest of all Mothers / Now amongst the Heavenly Blest.” How about this for a mother who suffered much, but who never showed it, “She concealed her tears but shared her smiles.” How about this for a mother who was strong yet kind? “She never took no for an answer and pushed ahead when others paused. But a kinder, gentler woman you will never meet again.” Which one fits your mother? Which one do you think fits the mother of Jesus? All of the above?

For those without faith, a grave and a headstone are a sad reminder of the absence of the once living presence in our lives. The grieving heart desperately reaches out wanting to touch the person one last time, but it feels like grasping for thin air. But for those with faith in Jesus, a grave and a headstone are a sign that our eternal home is not here on earth but with the Heavenly Father. Mary, our heavenly mother, shows us on her feast of Assumption that her motherhood never ceases even with the end of her earth. Her kind and gentle yet protective presence never leaves us. Just as her motherly instinct protected her son from the clutches of the dragon, she protects us from harm, especially from the the evil one, on our journey on this earth.

She is with us each day in our joys, our sorrows, our trials, successes, our rest and work. She wants to teach us by her life what it means to be a missionary disciple. Immediately after receiving the grace of becoming God's mother, Mary went in haste to help her cousin, Elizabeth. Her immediate response after receiving Jesus, the most precious gift from God, was to be of service and to bring Jesus to others. Today, let us ask Our Lady to help us to bring Christ’s joy to our families, our friends, and to everyone.

Holy mother Mary, 
we all rejoice with you today 
on the feast of your glorious Assumption into heaven. 
It is a great comfort to us 
to realize that your precious body, 
the tabernacle of the infant Christ, 
is now in heaven with him. 
Your being taken into heaven is also, 
like the resurrection of Christ’s body, 
a pledge to us of the resurrection of our own bodies. 
It is wonderful to think that these hands, 
with which we now earn our bread, 
will one day, with our bodies, 
be glorified forever in heaven. 
Help us to realize this 
as we go about our work from day to day. 
Help us to have great respect for these bodies of ours, 
and for those of others because we recognize in them 
the temple of the Holy Spirit, 
and because we look forward to seeing each other, 
body and soul, with you and your Son Jesus Christ 
forever in heaven. Amen. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Aug. 14, 2013 Wednesday: St Maximilian Kolbe

Immaculata, Queen of heaven and earth,
refuge of sinners and our most loving mother,
please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body,
of my whole life, death and eternity,
whatever most pleases you.
If it pleases you,
use all that I am and have without reserve,
Let me be a fit instrument
in your immaculate and merciful hands
for introducing and increasing your glory
in all the many strayed and indifferent souls,
and thus help extend as far as possible
the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
— St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe


O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to thee. I, N___, a repentant sinner, cast myself at thy feet humbly imploring thee to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to thyself as thy possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases thee. If it pleases thee, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of thee: "She will crush your head," and, "Thou alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world."

Let me be a fit instrument in thine Immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed Kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever thou enters, one obtains the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through thy hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

V. Allow me to praise thee O Sacred Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thy enemies.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Aug. 13, 2013 Tuesday: 19th Week in Ordinary C

Most high, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
all praise is yours, all glory,
all honor and all blessings.
To you alone, most High, do they belong,
and no mortal lips are worthy
to pronounce your name.
Praised be you my Lord with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom you give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
Of you most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be you, my Lord,
through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them
bright, precious and fair.
Praised be you, my Lord,
through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which you cherish all that you have made.
Praised be you my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be you my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
— St. Francis of Assisi

Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: "Adam, where are you?" (Gn 3,9) He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, he took upon himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by his wounds we have been healed(Is 53,5; 1P 2,24). Remember what Saint Paul says: "What shall I boast of, if not my weakness, my poverty?” (cf 2Co 11,30s)Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see and encounter God’s mercy, his love, and go to him to receive forgiveness. In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood (Rv 1,5). And I have always seen that God did just this – he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.

Pope Francis, Homily of 07/04/2013, mass for the possession of the chair of the Bishop of Rome

Monday, August 12, 2013

Aug. 12, 2013 Monday: Angelus message by Pope Francis

Addressing the pilgrims directly, Pope Francis asked them two questions, “do you have a heart with a wish or do you have a closed heart, a sleeping heart, a heart that is anesthetized." His second question for the pilgrims was: “Where is your treasure”, what for you is the most important and precious reality that attracts your heart like a magnet?" "Is it" he asked, "God’s love which is the desire to do good to others and live for the Lord?" Pope Francis went on to describe how God’s love keeps a family united and gives meaning to our daily tasks and also helps us to face up to the big challenges. This, he declared, is the true treasure for mankind. God’s love isn’t something vague and generic, "it has a name and a face, Jesus Christ." The Pope said "God’s love gives value and beauty to every human activity" and it gives meaning to negative experiences. That’s because God’s love allows us to move beyond those experiences and not remain prisoners of evil but also be open to hope and the final destination of our pilgrimage.
Before reciting the Angelus prayer the Pope recalled today’s feast of St. Clare of Assisi who left everything to consecrate herself to Christ in poverty, following in the footsteps of St. Francis.

He said this saint gives us a beautiful witness of today’s gospel and she helps us, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, to live it out, each one according to their own vocation.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Aug. 11, 2013: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

How many of you have heard the following important message? “Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the Fasten Seatbelt sign. If you haven’t already done so, please stow your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin.” Then the flight attendant says, “If you are seated next to an emergency exit, please read carefully the special instructions card located by your seat. If you do not wish to perform the functions described in the event of an emergency, please ask a flight attendant to reseat you.” Honestly, how many of you have dozed off by then? It’s not that we are careless, but we have faith that the crew and the plane are going to get us to our destination safely without any incident. But after recent fatal airplane landings, we may want to pay attention to what to do in case of an accident.

We live by faith all the time. How can we fly on an airplane, go under anesthesia for surgery, or drive 70 miles an hour on the Interstate everyday without confidence and trust that hope of a safe arrival will be fulfilled? A priest once said faith is a confidence that allows us to make our daily decisions about future hopes based on a certain amount of present evidence. St. Paul in our Second Reading puts it another way, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

If we are asked whether we have faith in Jesus, most of us will say yes. “Yes, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God...Yes, I believe that Jesus loves me.” What we may mean is that we agree to truths and doctrines. Jesus asks us in the Gospel today if indeed we have faith in him, are we willing to step out on faith. An image from scripture comes to mind where two blind men begged Jesus to perform a miracle to allow them to see again. “Do you believe that I can do this?” Jesus asked them.  “Yes, Lord,” they said. Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.”

We often talk about we having faith in Jesus, but have you ever thought about Jesus having faith in you? We may say to ourselves, “Lord, you know plainly my weakness and how easily I fall into temptations. I have already failed you in many things. And perhaps the lifestyle that I’m living right now is displeasing to you. Yet you still have faith in me? Do you really believe that I can do what you are asking me to do?” I wonder what Peter was thinking when Jesus reaffirmed his love for Peter by asking Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

When someone has faith in us, we can accomplish great things that we didn’t know we could. Last week a woman and her teen aged daughter came in for financial assistance. Their food stamps had been cut off, their electricity was about to be disconnected, and they live in a high risk neighborhood where a person was recently shot. Their environment was full of hopelessness. When we asked the daughter what she would like to be in the future, the daughter replied with confidence and determination, “a registered nurse.” I wondered where she received confidence and determination. She told me that she belonged to a JROTC program at her school. One teacher, who happens to be one of our parishioners, having faith in this student made all the difference.

Can you imagine then, how our lives will change when we realize that Jesus has so much faith in us? He has faith that all of us are capable of becoming saints. No matter where we are in our lives, whether we are living a less than saintly lives, whether we are distracted in going after worldly pursuits, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid any longer, my sons and daughters, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” What is our response to such great faith that Jesus has for us?  

Friday, August 9, 2013

Aug. 9, 2013 Friday: St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

O my God, fill my soul with holy joy,
courage and strength to serve you.
Enkindle your love in me and then walk with me
along the next stretch of road before me.
I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived
where the horizon now closes down,
a new prospect will open before me,
and I shall meet it with peace. Amen.
— St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

"Sacrifice, surrender, and suffering are not popular topics nowadays. Our culture makes us believe that we can have it all, that we should demand our rights, that with the right technology all pain and problems can be overcome. This is not my attitude toward sacrifice. I know that it is impossible to relieve the world’s suffering unless God’s people are willing to surrender to God, to make sacrifices, and to suffer along with the poor. Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.”
-Mother Teresa

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Aug. 8, 2013 Thursday: St Dominic

May God the Father who made us bless us.
May God the Son send his healing among us.
May God the Holy Spirit move within us
and give us eyes to see with, ears to hear with,
and hands that your work might be done.
May we walk and preach the word of God to all.
May the angel of peace watch over us and
lead us at last by God’s grace to the Kingdom. Amen.
— St. Dominic

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage - the courage - to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.
My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.

Pope Francis, Mar. 14, 2013
Mass with Cardinal Electors

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Aug. 7, 2013 Wednesday: 18th Week in Ordinary Time C

Do you ever feel "put-off" or ignored by the Lord? This passage describes the only occasion in which Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory. (Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.) A Gentile woman, a foreigner who was not a member of the Jewish people, puts Jesus on the spot by pleading for his help. She addressed Jesus as Lord and Son of David. She recognized that Jesus was God's annoined one who would bring healing and salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to the Gentiles as well. She asks Jesus to show mercy and compassion to her tormented daughter. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus does this to test the woman to awaken faith in her.

When she persisted in asking Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus answered by saying one shouldn't take food prepared for their children and throw it to the dogs. What did Jesus mean by this expression? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles as "unclean dogs" since they worshipped idols, offered sacrifices to demons, and rejected the true God. For the Greeks the "dog" was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew 7:6 records the expression: do not give dogs what is holy. Jesus was sent from the Father in heaven to first feed the children of Israel with the true bread of life that would bring healing, reconciliation, and lasting union with God. This humble Canaanite woman was not put-off by Jesus' refusal to give her what she asked for. In desparation and hope for her tormented child, she pleads with Jesus to give some of the "crumbs that fall from the table" to the "little dogs".

John Chrysostom (349-407 AD), in his sermon on this passage, remarks how this woman approached Jesus with great humility, wisdom, and faith:

"See her humility as well as her faith! For he had called the Jews 'children,' but she was not satisfied with this. She even called them 'masters,' so far was she from grieving at the praises of others. She said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table.' Behold the woman's wisdom! She did not venture so much as to say a word against anyone else. She was not stung to see others praised, nor was she indignant to be reproached. Behold her constancy. When he answered, 'It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs,' she said, 'Yes, Lord.' He called them 'children,' but she called them 'masters.' He used the name of a dog, but she described the action of a dog. Do you see the woman's humility? ...Do you see how this woman, too, contributed not a little to the healing of her daughter? For note that Christ did not say, 'Let your little daughter be made whole,' but 'Great is your faith, be it done for you as you desire.' These words were not uttered at random, nor were they flattering words, but great was the power of her faith, and for our learning. He left the certain test and demonstration, however, to the issue of events. Her daughter accordingly was immediately healed." [The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 52.3]

Jesus praised this woman for her faith and for her love because she made the misery of her child her own. She was willing to suffer rejection in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?

"Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase my faith in your saving power and deliver me for all evil and harm. "

Don Schwager,

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Aug. 6, 2013 Tuesday: Transfiguration of The Lord

Jesus, from all eternity
you were pleased to give yourself to us in love.
And you planted within us a deep spiritual desire
that can only be satisfied by yourself.
We are made to love you;
you created us as your lovers.
Knowledge of you kindles such a fire in our souls
that we have no energy left for worldly desires.
My Jesus, how good it is to love you.
Let us be like your disciples on Mount Tabor,
seeing nothing else but you.
— St. John Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars

Peter, John and James were heavy with sleep, but on waking they saw his glory! They slept again in Gethsemane. In the bible, such sleep signifies that the disciples do not understand Jesus and his relationship with his Father. Jesus is left to carry the work of salvation without their help.

Jesus, how often have our eyes been closed in sleep as we walk with you through life? How often are our ears closed too to the Word you speak to us through our daily conversations? May your word become awake, alive and active in us each day as we travel the road together with you.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Aug. 5, 2013 Monday: Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica, Rome

THERE are in Rome three patriarchal churches, in which the Pope officiates on different festivals. These are the Basilics of St. John Lateran, St. Peter's on the Vatican Hill, and St. Mary Major. This last is so called because it is, both in antiquity and dignity, the first church in Rome among those that are dedicated to God in honor of the Virgin Mary. The name of the Liberian Basilic was given it because it was founded in the time of Pope Liberius, in the fourth century; it was consecrated, under the title of the Virgin Mary, by Sixtus III., about the year 435. It is also called St. Mary ad Nives, or at the snow, from a popular tradition that the Mother of God chose this place for a church under her invocation by a miraculous snow that fell upon this spot in summer, and by a vision in which she appeared to a patrician named John, who munificently founded and endowed this church in the pontificate of Liberius. The same Basilic has sometimes been known by the name of St. Mary ad Præsepe, from the holy crib or manger of Bethlehem, in which Christ was laid at His birth. It resembles an ordinary manger, is kept in a case of massive silver, and in it lies an image of a little child, also of silver. On Christmas Day the holy Manger is taken out of the case, and exposed. It is kept in a sumptuous subterraneous chapel in this church.

(Taken from Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler)

Here is the translation of Pope Francis' meditation after the recitation of the rosary in the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on May 5, 2013

We have prayed under her maternal guidance that she might direct us to be ever more united with her Son Jesus; we have brought her our joys and our sufferings, our hopes and our problems; we have invoked her with the title “Salus Populi Romani,” asking for all of us, for Rome, for the world that she might give us health. Mary gives us health, she is our health.

Jesus Christ, with his passion, death, and resurrection, brings us salvation, gives us the grace and joy to be sons of God, truly to call him with the name “Father.” Mary is mother, and a mother concerns herself above all with the health of her children, she knows how to care for it with great and tender love. Our Lady protects our health. What does it mean to say that the Our Lady protects our health? I think above all of 3 aspects: she helps us to grow, face life, to be free.

A mother helps her children to grow and wants them to grow well; for this she educates them not to fall into laziness – which derives from a certain well-being – not to settle into a comfortable life that contents itself only with having things. The mother cares for the children so that they grow more, they grow strong, able to take responsibility, to commit themselves in life, to pursue grand ideals. In the Gospel St. Luke tells us that, in the family of Nazareth, Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Our Lady does the same thing in us, she helps us to grow as human beings and in the faith, to be strong and not to give in to the temptation to be human and Christian in a superficial way, but to live with responsibility, to aim ever higher.

A mother also thinks of her children’s health when she educates them to face the problem of life. She does not educate them, she does not care for their health by allowing them to avoid problems, as life were a highway without obstacles. The mother helps her children to look upon life’s problems with realism and to not get lost in them, but to face them with courage, not to be weak, and to know how to overcome them with a sane balance that a mother “senses” between areas of safety and those of risk. And a mother knows how to do this! She does not always let her child take the easy, safe way because in this way the child cannot grow, but neither does she leave the child on the road of risk since it is dangerous. A mother knows how to balance things. A life without challenges does not exist, and a boy or girl who does not know how to deal with them is a boy or girl without a spine! Let us recall the parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus does not recommend the conduct of the priest or the Levite, who avoid helping the man who ran into robbers. He points to the Samaritan, who saw the man’s situation and deals with it in a concrete way and takes risks. Mary experienced many difficult moments in her life, from the birth of Jesus when there was “no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), to Calvary (cf. 19:25). And like a good mother she is close to us so that we never lose courage in facing the adversity of life, in facing our weakness, our sins: she gives us strength, she indicates the path of her Son. From the cross Jesus says to Mary, referring to John: “Woman behold your son!” (Cf. John 19:26-27). That disciple represents all of us: the Lord entrusts us to the Mother’s hands, full of love and tenderness, so that we feel her support in dealing with and overcoming the problems along our human and Christian journey. Do not be afraid of difficulties, face them with the help of the mother.

A final aspect: a good mother does not only accompany her children as they grow, not avoiding the problems, the challenges of life; a good mother also helps us to make definitive decisions freely. This is not easy but a mother knows how to do it. But what is freedom? It is certainly not doing whatever you want, letting yourself be dominated by your passions, passing from one experience to the next without discernment, following the fashions of the time; freedom does not mean, so to speak, throwing everything you do not like out the window. No, that is not freedom! Freedom is given to us so that we know how to make good choices in life! Mary, like a good mother, teaches us to be, like her, capable of making definitive decisions, definitive decisions in this moment in which their reigns, so to say, the philosophy of the provisional. It is so difficult to commit oneself definitively in life. And she helps us to make definitive decisions with that complete freedom with which she answered “yes” to God’s plan for her life (cf. Luke 1:38).

Dear brothers and sisters, how hard it is in our time to make definitive decisions. The provisional seduces us. We are the victims of a tendency that drives us toward the temporary… as if we wished to remain adolescents. It is rather fashionable now to remain an adolescent, and to stay this way all one’s life! Let us not be afraid of definitive commitments, of commitments that involve and interest our whole life! In this way life will be fruitful! And this is freedom: to have the courage to make these decisions with greatness.

Mary’s entire existence is a hymn to life, a hymn of love to life: she gave birth to Jesus in the flesh and was there at the birth of the Church on Calvary and in the upper room. The “Salus Populi Romani” is the mother who gives us health as we grow, she gives us the health to face and overcome problems, she gives us the health that makes us free for definitive decisions; the mother who teaches us to be fruitful, to be open to life and always to be fruitful in the good, fruitful in joy, fruitful in hope, never to lose hope, to give life to others, physical and spiritual life.

This we ask of you this evening, O Mary, “Salus Populi Romani,” for the people of Rome, for all of us: grant us the health that alone can give us, to be always signs and instruments of life. Amen.

Pope Francis

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Aug. 4, 2013: 18th Sunday in Ordinary C

Have you ever done dumpster diving? When my parents first immigrated to Texas, they wanted to save as much money as they could because their future was uncertain, as they could not find work. Even in the triple digit Texas heat, we didn’t turn on the A/C in the apartment; we used box fans instead. We didn’t have beds or furniture, other than a small dining table that they bought for $200 at a flea market. One day, a friend of my parents told us that there was a decent dresser in a dumpster nearby their apartment. My dad and I went and retrieved it from the dumpster, and then we used it for at least five years. My sister and I fully understood what our parents had to do to survive. I’m sure others thought that we were miserable without the many material possessions of most households, but we were happy and didn’t feel deprived.

I know some of you shared with me that when you were growing up, that a family of six or more lived in a small, one bathroom house without air conditioning. Back then, you ate vegetables from the garden, meat from the animals raised in the backyard, wore hand-me-down clothes, and shared everything with your siblings. Did you ever feel sad and or deprived? Did you turn out okay?

How much “stuff” is enough in our lives? When do we finally say, ‘Okay, I have enough nice things, I don’t need to work overtime to acquire more. Let me enjoy what I have and enjoy my time with my family?’ Although all of us are capable of living simply, all of us struggle with the desire to chase after bigger, better, finer things in life. When I meet with newly-engaged couples for marriage preparation, I ask this question, “What is the number one reason why couples separate or divorce within five years of their marriage?” The answer is money. Two young adults with the desire for too big of a house, finer things in life, and costly vacations all lead to strain and stress in dealing with the aftermath of overspending. They work overtime to pay for their lifestyle and their marriage suffers; less communication, less affection, more bickering, nagging, and arguments lead the couple to conclude, ‘We are not in love anymore.’

The desire for possessions exercises a big hold on our hearts, even for us Christians. So many of us dream some day of being rich -- to be able to buy all the things we would love to have, to be able to travel, to have no worries. There is a belief that once we have financial security, all our problems will be solved: housing, children’s education, cars and other desirable luxuries, retirement and old age. Wealth, it is believed, is a sign of “success” though it is not quite clear where the “success” really lies. The result is that we forget the more important things in life. Jesus said in today’s Gospel that our main concern should be to ‘make ourselves rich in the sight of God’ and not of the world.

St. Paul explains it this way, “Brothers and sisters: seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” What is the purpose of our existence here on earth? “To know, to love, and to serve God and to attain our salvation - eternal happiness”. How often do we forget this? Plenty of time. Jesus tells us that to accomplish the purpose of our existence is to use all created things only as means and not to chase after them as goals.

We see each day in the news and in our family and friends that over achieving for financial security does not always result in happiness or the end of troubles and worries. I often tell couples or individuals who are struggling with financial issues or hurtful situations that they would benefit from giving up the quest for possessions and lifestyle beyond their means, and instead turn to deepening their spiritual life. We are ready to buy something that we can see, touch, and get hold of that gives us temporary satisfaction. But something intangible, such as spending quiet time talking to Jesus, we do not see or comprehend the immediate benefit. But what do we have to lose? Praying does not cost money. Reading scripture daily does not cost a cent.

This week I came across across a beautiful prayer by St. Alphonsus Liguori. I hope that all of us can pray this prayer to bring right priority in our lives.
O God, help me to remember that time is short, eternity is long.
What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death?
To love you, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary.
Without you, there is no peace, no joy. My God, I need fear nothing but sin.
For to lose you, my God, is to lose all. O God, help me to remember
that to gain all I must leave all, that in loving you I have all good things:
the infinite riches of Christ and his Church, the motherly protection of Mary,
peace beyond understanding, joy unspeakable! Amen.