Monday, September 30, 2013

Sept. 30, 2013 Monday: St Jerome

you have given us your word,
as a light to shine on our path.
Inspire us to meditate on that word,
and follow its teaching,
so that we may find in it
the light that shines more and more
until it is perfect day. Amen.
— St. Jerome

Who is the greatest in God's kingdom? The one who is humble and lowly of heart who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child.

Jesus, himself, is our model. He came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). Paul the Apostles states that Jesus "emptied himself and took the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). Jesus lowered himself (he whose place is at the right hand of God the Father) and took on our lowly nature that he might raise us up and clothe us in his divine nature. "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). If we want to be filled with God's life and power, then we need to empty ourselves of everything which stands in the way pride, envy, self-seeking glory, vanity, and possessiveness. God wants empty vessels so he can fill them with his own glory, power, and love (2 Corinthians 4:7). Are you ready to humble yourself and to serve as Jesus did?

"Lord Jesus, your grace knows no bounds. You give freely to the humble of heart and you grant us freedom to love and serve others selflessly. May my love for you express itself in an eagerness to do good for others."
Don Schwager,

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sept. 29, 2013: 26th Sunday in Ordinary C

Are you often forgetful? One day as I was driving, I noticed that  the low fuel light indicator was illuminated  and so I drove into a gas station and started pumping (this was before they required you to prepay). As I was pumping, a thought passed through my mind, 'Where is my wallet?' I left it at home! 'Where is my cell phone?' I left it at home! I stopped pumping the gas but the pump was already past the $3 mark. I frantically searched for quarters inside my car. I rummaged and found $1.25 but I needed more. Of course I was thinking, ‘What should I do? Should I beg?’ I hesitantly approached a person on the other side of the aisle and asked, "May I borrow $2? I live around the neighborhood. I'll pay you back!" I could see the wheels in his head turning. I was so relieved that the person decided to trust me, or more accurately, have pity on me.

Just last week in our steamy 96 degree weather when I was stopped at an intersection, a young woman in her twenties was holding up a cardboard sign pleading for help. All sorts of "Don't do it" passed through my mind, but I rummaged up four quarters and handed them to her. Although her world and mine were separated only by the width of the glass window, our two worlds could hardly have been more different. Yet, had I not had that experience of begging for gas money, I would not have known the differences. As I drove off from the intersection, I could not shake the thought that under different life circumstances I could have been the person standing on that corner holding a sign, begging for coins.

We can be within arm’s reach of someone, yet be living in a different world from that person, and we will never know the difference unless we leave our world and enter the world of the other person. The rich man and Lazarus in our Gospel lived in opposite worlds, even though the worlds existed side by side. The shocking part of this story is that the rich man knew the poor man’s name, yet he didn’t see Lazarus as a human being, much less as a brother with whom he shared a common humanity. He was indifferent to him, and indifference is a great evil.

Could this indifference happen to us too? One lady told me that the new subdivision she moved into is a cold neighborhood. Almost everyone has a gas generator and beautifully landscaped home. However, no one comes out to visit each other on evenings or weekends, not even to wave or say hello. Her experience is such a contrast with that in her previous neighborhood where neighbors walked around in the early evening, visited, and looked out for each other. During the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav, they had neighborhood cookout parties; they didn’t have generators, but they had each other’s company.  Comfort make a person self-preoccupied, blinds a person to the needs of others, and hardens the heart. That is the real tragedy. An individual or a country loses its soul as it accumulates ever greater riches and comforts.

Mother Teresa said:
Hungry for love, Jesus looks at you.
Thirsty for kindness, He begs from you.
Naked for loyalty, He hopes in you.
Sick and imprisoned for friendship, He wants from you.
Homeless for shelter in your heart, He asks of you.
Will you be that one to Him?

Jesus is challenging us to gospel living. Are we witnesses, true witnesses to his teachings or not? Every time that we see or hear of someone poorer than ourselves, whether materially or spiritually, whom we could help and don’t, Christ is present; He is in our midst! If we do not reach out our hand and pour out our heart of love, it is Christ who goes on his way hungry, and thirsty and naked.

So where is Jesus really present among us? Pre-eminently in the Eucharist; just as truly in the sacred scripture. But what about the no less real presence of Christ Jesus in all those Lazaruses we meet each day?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sept. 27, 2013 Friday: St. Vincent de Paul

Lord Jesus,
You who willed to become poor,
give us eyes and a heart directed toward the poor;
help us to recognize you in them-
in their thirst, their hunger, their lonliness, and their misfortune.
Enkindle within our Vincentian Family
unity, simplicity, humility,
and the fire of love
that burned in St. Vincent de Paul.
Strengthen us, so that, faithful to the practice of these virtues,
we may contemplate you and serve you in the person of the poor,
and may one day be united with you and them in your Kingdom.
-Official prayer of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Quotes of St. Vincent de Paul

Go to the poor: you will find God.

It is from your hands that Our Lord, in the person of the sick, seeks relief.

Lord, help me to make time today to serve you in those who are most in need of encouragement or assistance.

Outpourings of affection for God, of resting in his presence, of good feelings toward everyone and sentiments and prayers like these ... are suspect if they do not express themselves in practical love which has real effects.

The poor have much to teach you. You have much to learn from them. - St Vincent de Paul

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sept. 26, 2013 Thursday: 25th Week in Ordinary C

Helper of those who turn to you,
light of those in the dark,
creator of all that grows from seed,
promoter of all spiritual growth,
have mercy, Lord, on me
and make me a temple fit for yourself.
Do not scan my transgressions too closely,
for if you are quick to notice my offenses,
I shall not dare to appear before you.
In your great mercy,
in your boundless compassion,
wash away my sins, through Jesus Christ,
your only child, the truly holy,
the chief of our souls’ healers.
Through him may all glory be given you,
all power and honor and praise,
throughout the unending succession of ages. Amen.
— An early Christian prayer

Who do you most admire? People with power, influence, fame, or wealth? Scripture warns us of such danger (see Proverbs 23:1-2). King Herod had respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet and servant of God. John, however did not fear to rebuke Herod for his adulterous affair with his brother's wife. Herod, however, was more of a people pleaser than a God pleaser. Herod not only imprisoned John to silence him, but he also beheaded him simply to please his family and friends. Now when reports of Jesus' miracles and teaching reach Herod's court, Herod becomes very troubled in conscience. He thinks that John the Baptist has risen from the dead! Herod sought to meet Jesus more out of curiosity and fear than out of a sincere desire to know God's wisdom and truth.

Who is most influential in your life? And who do you most want to be like? We naturally look up to other people we want to imitate. If we truly want to be like God and to live as his sons and daughters, then it greatly helps us to have good models and examples of godly people who show us how to live in the power of God's love and holiness.God's grace frees us from the tyranny of fear and the pressure to please others rather than to please God. Do you allow God's grace to fill you with faith and courage to choose what is good and pleasing to him and to reject whatever would keep you from embracing his love and will for your daily life?

"Heavenly Father, form in me the likeness of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and deepen his life within me that I may be like him in word and in deed. Increase my eagerness to do your will and help me to grow in the knowledge of your love and truth."
Don Schwager,

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sept. 25, 2013 Wednesday: 25th Week in Ordinary C

O Jesus, living in Mary,
come and live in your servants,
in the spirit of your holiness,
in the fullness of your might,
in the truth of your virtues,
in the perfection of your ways,
in the communion of your mysteries.
Subdue every hostile power
in your spirit,
for the glory of the Father. Amen.
— St. Louis Mary de Montfort

What kind of power and authority does God want you to exercise in your personal life and in your service of others? God's word has power to change and transform our lives. Jesus gave his apostles both power and authority to speak and to act in his name to cast out evil spirits, to heal, and to speak the word of God. When Jesus spoke of power and authority he did something unheard of. He wedded power and authority with love and humility. The world and the sinful flesh seek power for selfish gain. Jesus teaches us to use it for the good of our neighbor.
Why does Jesus tell the apostles to travel light with little or no provision? Poverty of spirit frees us from greed and preoccupation with possessions and makes ample room for God's provision. The Lord wants his disciples to be dependent on him and not on themselves. He wills to work in and through each of us for his glory. Are you ready to handle the power and authority which God wishes you to exercise on his behalf? The Lord entrusts us with his gifts and talents. Are you eager to place yourself at his service, to do whatever he bids you, and to witness his truth and saving power to whomever he sends you?

"Lord Jesus, make me a channel of your grace and healing love that others may find life and freedom in you. Free me from all other attachments that I may joyfully pursue the things of heaven. May I witness to others the joy of the gospel both in word and deed."

Don Schwager,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sept. 24, 2013 Tuesday: 25th Week in a Ordinary C

Meditation: Who do you love and cherish the most? God did not intend for us to be alone, but to be with others. He gives us many opportunities for developing relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Why does Jesus seem to ignore his own relatives when they pressed to see him? His love and respect for his mother and his relatives is unquestionable. Jesus never lost an opportunity to teach his disciples a spiritual lesson and truth about the kingdom of God. On this occasion when many gathered to hear Jesus he pointed to another higher reality of relationships, namely our relationship with God and with those who belong to God.

What is the essence of being a Christian? It is certainly more than doctrine, precepts, and commandments. It is first and foremost a relationship – a relationship of trust, affection, commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, mercy, helpfulness, encouragement, support, strength, protection, and so many other qualities that bind people together in mutual love and unity. God offers us the greatest of relationships – union of heart, mind, and spirit with himself, the very author and source of love (1 John 4:8,16). God's love never fails, never forgets, never compromises, never lies, never lets us down nor disappoints us. His love is consistent, unwavering, unconditional, and unstopable. Nothing can deter him from ever leaving us, ignoring us, or treating us unkindly. He will love us no matter what. It is his nature to love. That is why he created us – to be united with him and to share in his love and unity of persons (1 John 3:1). God is a trinity of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and a community of love. That is why Jesus challenged his followers and even his own earthly relatives to recognize that God is the true source of all relationships. God wants all of our relationships to be rooted in his love.

Lucian of Antioch (240-312 AD), an early Christian martyr once said that "a Christian's only relatives are the saints" – namely those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and adopted as sons and daughters of God. Those who have been baptized into Jesus Christ and who live as his disciples enter into a new family, a family of "saints" here on earth and in heaven. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all of our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God first and to his kingdom of righteousness and peace. Do you want to grow in love and friendship? Allow God's Holy Spirit to transform your heart, mind, and will to enable you to love freely and generously as he loves.

"Heavenly Father, you are the source of all true friendship and love. In all my relationships, may your love be my constant guide for choosing what is good and for rejecting what is contrary to your will."
Don Schwager,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sept. 23, 2013 Monday: Padre Pio

“Do not anticipate the problems of this life with apprehension, but rather, with perfect hope that God, to whom you belong, will free you from them accordingly. He has defended you up to now. Simply hold on tightly to the hand of his divine providence, and he will help you in all events, and when you are unable to walk, he will lead you; don’t worry….Don’t think about tomorrow’s events because the same heavenly Father who takes care of you today will do the same tomorrow and forever.

Live Tranquilly. Remove from your imagination that which upsets you, and often say to the Lord, `Oh, God, you are my God, and I will trust in you. You will assist me and be my refuge, and I will fear nothing.’…”

St. Pio of Pietricina

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sept. 22, 2013: 25th Sunday in Ordinary C

Has this ever happened to you? The other day, I went to grocery shopping at Walmart. After checking out and in the process of loading the trunk of my car with groceries, I noticed in the back corner of my shopping cart, a small bottle of peanut butter not in the plastic bag. I double checked the receipt. The peanut butter was not on the receipt. I forgot to pay for it. I muttered to myself, ‘I’m not going to spend extra months in Purgatory over a jar of peanut butter.” Then I went to the checkout counter to pay for it. Ever since I learned from people who went through near-death-experience that after we die Jesus will show us the movie of our life from the beginning to the end, I’m conscientious about what I want to see in the movie of my life after I die.

All of us worry about the future. Young people worry about schools and jobs. Young parents worry about marriage, finances, and education for their children. Older people worry about their retirement and health. We all worry about the future, and we try to make some sort of preparation. The dishonest steward in today’s Gospel faced something similar. During Jesus’ time, the type of steward described in the Gospel passage often earned his wages from the commission he charged his master’s customers. The stewards would charge exorbitant interest as a way of creating a large profit for themselves for a comfortable future. By reducing the debtors’ bills, the steward was not cheating his master; he was reducing his own profit. Thus, with the debtors grateful to him for reducing their bills, the steward would have friends who could help him start a new life if he got fired by his master.

Jesus commends his listeners to be wise and prudent, like that dishonest steward. Jesus commends not just in the exercise of our material and financial resources, but more importantly in how we use these resources for advancing God's kingdom. What we invest our time, money, and material resources in shows what we treasure or value the most. Some invest solely for their own personal advancement, comfort, and security. Some invest for the future well-being of others, such as loved ones or individuals they want to support or help in some way. Jesus warns us to invest in, and not neglect, what is most important and crucial – that which lasts forever. 

We invest in God’s Kingdom each time we are forgiving, kind, honest, sincere and generous. We invest in God’s Kingdom when we give to others and do what's right when there is no tangible return--all for Jesus. On the wall of one of Mother Teresa’s convents hangs a saying that she didn’t write, but she hung it for the sisters to read and use for meditation.

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

When we invest in God's kingdom – by doing the right thing – we are not only securing our relationship with God for all eternity, we are also promoting the spread of the Gospel and the advancement of God's kingdom on earth.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sept. 20, 2013 Friday: St. Andrew Kim and Korean Martyrs

O Jesus! You are my true friend,
my only friend.
You take a part in all my misfortunes;
you take them on yourself;
you know how to change them into blessings.
You listen to me with the greatest kindness
when I relate my troubles to you,
and you always have balm
to pour on my wounds.
I find you at all times;
I find you everywhere;
you never go away;
if I have to change my dwelling,
I find you wherever I go.
You are never weary of listening to me;
you are never tired of doing me good.
I am certain of being beloved by you
if I love you;
my goods are nothing to you
and by bestowing yours on me,
you never grow poor.
However miserable I may be,
no one more noble or learned or even holier
can come between you and me,
and deprive me of your friendship;
and death which tears us away
from all other friends,
will unite me for ever to you.
— Bl. Claude de la Colombière

An Account of Korean Martyrs
“May 24, 1839, arrived. The events of that day are described by Cho Shin-ch'ol Charles as follows ‘On the appointed day ox carts, with crosses taller than the average person erected on them, were brought to the jail. When all was ready guards brought the condemned prisoners out and tied them to the crosses by the arms and hair. A foot rest was put under their feet and the signal given to depart.

When they arrived at the steep hill on which the Small West Gate is situated the guards suddenly pulled away the foot rests and the drivers urged the oxen to run headlong down. The rad is rough, with many stones. The carts lurched, causing extreme agony to the prisoners who were hung on the crosses by their arms and hair. The execution ground is a the foot of the hill. The guards took the prisoners from the crosses and tore off their clothes. The executioners tied their hair to the wooden beam and proceeded to cut off their heads."

The nine martyrs received their crown at three o'clock in the afternoon, the same time as Jesus breathed his last on the cross several tens of centuries. In accordance with the law the bodies were left at the execution site for three days.’”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sept. 19, 2013 Thursday: 24th week in Ordinary C

Jesus, I thank you for your love so strong.
May that love flow through me to others.
May I be patient when change comes slowly.
May I be kind when life seems harsh.
May I be gentle when others feel bruised.
May I be humble when things go well.
May I be peaceful when anger rises within.
May I forgive when wronged.
May I rejoice when the truth is discovered.
Love never fails, but I do.
May I hope when things seem hopeless.
May I persevere when the way is hard. Amen.
— Dr. Roger Hurding

Does Jesus know who is touching him? She tenderly anoints his feet. Tension fills the house, and right when you feel someone must say something, Jesus speaks. He’s not outraged, or even annoyed. Instead, he actually looks happy! Through the short parable he tells Simon, you begin to realize that Jesus is accepting this woman. He really is happy! You see that her tears are a mixture of sorrowful repentance and gratitude at being accepted by Jesus. Softly he tells her, “Your sins are forgiven. . . . Go in peace.” You wonder, If Jesus is happy to forgive her—is there anyone he won’t accept?

No, there isn’t! Jesus accepts you too, and with great joy. He knows exactly who you are. He has seen all of your sins. He knows that we all should be outcasts—no more deserving of heaven than this sinful woman. Yet if we just come to Jesus as she did, it is Jesus’ great pleasure to welcome us into his kingdom. It is his pleasure to tell us, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”

The Word Among Us

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sept. 18, 2013 Wednesday: 24th Week in Ordinary Time C

What do childrens' games have to do with the kingdom of God? Games are the favorite pastime of children who play until their energy is spent. The more interaction the merrier the game. The children in Jesus' parable react with disappointment because they cannot convince others to join in their musical play. They complain that when they make merry music such as played at weddings, no one dances or sings along; and when they play mournful tunes for sad occassions such as funerals, it is the same dead response. This refrain echoes the words of Ecclesiastes 3:4, there is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. Both joyful and sad occassions – such as the birth of a child and the homecoming of a hero or the loss of a loved one and the destruction of a community or nation – demand a response. To show indifference, lack of interest or support , or disdain, is unfitting and unkind.

Jesus' message of the kingdom of God is a proclamation of good news that produces great joy and hope for those who will listen; but it is also a warning of disaster for those who refuse to accept God's gracious offer. Why did the message of John the Baptist and the message of Jesus meet with resistance and deaf ears? It was out of jealously and spiritual blindness that the scribes and Pharisees attributed John the Baptist's austerities to the devil and they attributed Jesus' table fellowship as evidence for messianic pretense. They succeeded in frustrating God's plan for their lives because they had closed their hearts to the message of John the Baptist and now they close their ears to Jesus.

What can make us spiritually dull and slow to hear God's voice? Like the generation of Jesus' time, our age is marked by indifference and contempt, especially in regards to the things of God's kingdom. Indifference dulls our ears to God's voice and to the good news of the gospel. Only the humble of heart who are hungry for God can find true joy and happiness. Do you listen to God's word with expectant faith and the willingness to trust and obey?

"Lord Jesus, open my ears to hear the good news of your kingdom and set my heart free to love and serve you joyfully. May nothing keep me from following you wholeheartedly."

Don Schwager,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sept. 17, 2013 Tuesday: Pope Francis

The Church has the courage of a woman who defends her children, in order to bring them to encounter her Spouse. This was one of the main focal points of Pope Francis’ remarks following the readings at Mass on Tuesday morning in the chapel of the Domus sanctae Marthae in the Vatican. The Pope also reflected on the encounter between Jesus and the widow of Naim, saying that the Church herself is, in history, walking in search of her Lord.

Jesus has, “the capacity to suffer with us, to be close to our sufferings and make them His own,” said Pope Francis, who began his reflections with the encounter between Jesus and the widow of Naim, of which Tuesday’s Gospel reading tells. He pointed out that Jesus, “had great compassion” for this widow who had now lost her son. Jesus, he went on to say, “knew what it meant to be a widow at that time,” and noted that the Lord has a special love for widows, He cares for them.” Reading this passage of the Gospel, he then said, that the widow is, “an icon of the Church , because the Church is in a sense widow”:

“The Bridegroom is gone and she walks in history, hoping to find him, to meet with Him – and she will be His true bride. In the meantime she - the Church - is alone! The Lord is nowhere to be seen. She has a certain dimension of widowhood ... and that makes me makes me think of the widowhood of the Church. This courageous Church, which defends her children, like the widow who went to the corrupt judge to [press her rights] and eventually won. Our Mother Church is courageous! She has the courage of a woman who knows that her children are her own, and must defend them and bring them to the meeting with her Spouse.”
The Pope reflected on some figures of widows in the Bible, in particular the courageous Maccabean widow with seven sons who are martyred for not renouncing God. The Bible, he stressed, says this woman who spoke to her sons “in the local dialect, in their first language,” and, he noted, our Mother Church speaks to us in dialect, in “that language of true orthodoxy, which we all understand, the language of catechism,” that, “gives us the strength to go forward in the fight against evil”:

“This dimension of widowhood of the Church, who is journeying through history, hoping to meet, to find her Husband… Our Mother the Church is thus! She is a Church that, when she is faithful, knows how to cry. When the Church does not cry, something is not right. She weeps for her children, and prays! A Church that goes forward and does rear her children, gives them strength and accompanies them until the final farewell in order to leave them in the hands of her Spouse, who at the end will come to encounter her. This is our Mother Church! I see her in this weeping widow. And what does the Lord say to the Church? “Do not cry. I am with you, I’ll take you, I’ll wait for you there, in the wedding, the last nuptials, those of the Lamb. Stop [your tears]: this son of yours was dead, now he lives.”

And this , he continued, “is the dialogue of the Lord with the Church.” She, “defends the children, but when she sees that the children are dead, she crys, and the Lord says to her: ‘I am with you and your son is with me.’” As he told the boy at Naim to get up from his deathbed, the Pope added, many times Jesus also tells us to get up, “when we are dead because of sin and we are going to ask for forgiveness.” And then what does Jesus “when He forgives us, when He gives us back our life?” He Returns us to our mother:

“Our reconciliation with the Lord end in the dialogue ‘You, me and the priest who gives me pardon’; it ends when He restores us to our mother. There ends reconciliation, because there is no path of life, there is no forgiveness, there is no reconciliation outside of Mother Church. So, seeing this poor widow, all these things come to me somewhat randomly - But I see in this widow the icon of the widowhood of the Church who is on a journey to find her Bridegroom. I get the urge to ask the Lord for the grace to be always confident of this “mommy” who defends us, teaches us, helps us grow and [teaches] us to speak the dialect.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sept. 16, 2013 Monday: 24th Week in Ordinary C

The mercy of God was at the heart of Pope Francis’ Angelus address on a rainy Sunday in Rome. Speaking from the papal apartments above St Peter’s Square, the Pope, taking his inspiration from the Gospel of Luke said that Chapter 15 contains three parables of mercy, those of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the story of the prodigal son.

He said that all three parables speak of the joy of God, which is the joy of forgiving. The Holy Father went on to say that this Gospel shows Christianity at work, adding that mercy is the true force that can save man and the world from the "cancer" that is the sin, evil, moral, and spiritual. Continuing on the theme forgiveness, Pope Francis said that Jesus “is all mercy , all love is God made man.” Each of us, he said “ is the lost sheep, the lost coin , and each of us is the son who has wasted their freedom following false idols, the illusions of happiness, and lost everything.” But God, the Holy Father underlined, “does not forget us, the Father never abandons us. God respects our freedom, but remains faithful . And when we return to Him, he welcomes us as children, into his house, because he never stops, not even for a moment, to expect us, with love.”

But the Pope also warned against judging others and judging God because we think he should punish sinners. Instead, said Pope Francis we should forgive and show mercy. If we live according to the rule “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, he noted we will never overcome the spiral of evil.”

Pope Francis, Angelus message, Sept. 15, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sept. 15, 2013: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Recently, I was at a women’s prayer group breakfast in Baton Rouge to hear a mother give a testimony of her faith journey. She titled her talk, “Memoirs of a Monica.” Some of you may know that St. Monica was a wife who suffered much with a husband who was unfaithful and a son named Augustine who led a very pagan and sinful life. She earnestly prayed for the conversion of her prodigal son, Augustine, over 20 years before he was baptized and became a Catholic. It was due to his mother’s persistent prayer that St. Augustine became a saint and a Doctor of the Church.

At the beginning of the talk, the speaker asked us to close our eyes. She then asked, “With your eyes still closed, those of you who are a mother, a father, a grandmother, a grandfather, an uncle, or an aunt of a wayward child, please raise your hands. If you were a wayward child, please raise your hand. If you were affected in anyway by addiction by a family member or a friend, please raise your hands.” She explained that despite her and her husband’s best efforts their teenage son struggled with addiction. He became a prodigal son who was defiant and selfish to everyone. The son’s addiction tore the family apart. As much as the mother wanted to help pull her son out of the dungeon, he dug himself deeper and deeper into the hole. But she was a mother who did not give up on her son. For her, her son was the most precious gift from God, and she did not want to lose him.

In order to understand today’s parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son, we need a key. The key is knowing how Jesus feels about us, how Jesus values us. Mother Teresa explains it this way, “Jesus wants me to tell you again…how much is the love He has for each one of you—beyond all what you can imagine…. Not only He loves you, even more—He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy…”

Why would God go after His prodigal son who refuses to be saved? The same reason why a heartbroken mother would spend her life savings trying to rehabilitate her son from self-destruction. I don’t think we can begin to appreciate why Heavenly Father would go the extreme of sacrificing His own Son to save us. What does this say about how important we are to Heavenly Father? We are not just a number to Him. We are not just one among the billions. Nor does God want us to be tempted to treat others that way. Mother Teresa understood this. She said:

You are precious to Him. He loves you, and He loves you so tenderly that He carved you on the palm of His hand. When your heart feels restless, when your heart feels hurt, when your heart feels like breaking, remember, I am precious to Him, He loves me. He has called me by my name. I am His.
Near the end of the talk, the mother with the wayward son showed us a slideshow of his photos--his cute baby photos, his boy scout photos, and yes also photos from his social media uploads of himself under the influence. But the most recent photos show a young man who is a university student with a beaming smile and filled with joy. This young man, now filled with love, wrote his mother and told her that he was like Augustine who was transformed by his mother’s tears and sacrifice.

Do we know how many tears are being shed for us at this moment by Heavenly Father? Can we hear from the deepest part of our hearts, Jesus saying to us, “I thirst” for your love? God seeks persons who can be vessels and heralds of his peace. Let us pray that he will not find our hearts closed. Let us strive to be active heralds of his peace – in the world of today.

Sept. 14, 2013 Saturday: The Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross

Do you know the healing power of the cross of Christ? Jesus explained to Nicodemus the necessity of his impending crucifixion and resurrection by analogy with Moses and the bronze serpent in the desert.When the people of Israel were afflicted with serpents in the wilderness because of their rebellion and sin, God instructed Moses: "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8). The bronze serpent points to the cross of Christ which defeats sin and death and obtains everlasting life for those who believe in Jesus and in his victory on the cross. The result of Jesus "being lifted up on the cross" and his rising and exaltation to the Father's right hand in heaven, is our "new birth in the Spirit" and adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not only redeems us, but he fills us with his own divine life and power that we might share in his glory.
There is no greater proof of God's love for his fallen creatures. "To ransom a slave God gave his Son" (an ancient prayer from the Easter vigil liturgy). God sent his Son to free us from the worst of tyrannies slavery to sin and the curse of death. Jesus' sacrificial death was an act of total love in self-giving. Jesus gave himself completely out of love for his Father. And he willing layed down his life out of selfless love for our sake and for our salvation. His death on the cross was both a total offering to God and the perfect sacrifice of atonement for our sin and the sin of the world.

John tells us that God's love has no bounds or limits (John 3:16). His love is not limited to one people or a few chosen friends. His love is limitless because it embraces the whole world and every individual created in "his image and likeness". God is a persistent loving Father who cannot rest until all of his wandering children have returned home to him. Saint Augustine says, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. God gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love and not love. Jesus shows us the paradox of love and forgiveness and judgment and condemnation. We can love the darkness of sin and unbelief or we can love the light of God's truth, goodness, and mercy. If our love is guided by truth, goodness, and that which is truly beautiful, then we will choose for God and love him above all else. What we love shows what we prefer. Do you love God who is the supreme good above all else? And do you seek to put him first in all your thoughts, cares, choices, and actions?

God's love has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Do you allow God's love to purify your heart and the way your treat others? Do you allow God's love to transform your mind and the way you think of others? Do you allow God's love to conquer every unruly passion and addiction that would enslave you to sin and harmful behavior? The Holy Spirit gives us his seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence for God and his ways, and a holy fear in God's presence (see Isaiah 11) that we may live God's way of life and serve in the power and strength of his enduring love and mercy. Do you thirst for new life in the Spirit?

"Lord Jesus Christ, your death brought life for us. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may walk in freedom and joy as a child of God and as an heir with Christ of an eternal inheritance."

Don Schwager,

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sept. 13, 2013 Friday: St John Chrisostom

open the eyes of my heart,
that I may hear your word
and understand and do your will.
Open the eyes of my mind
to the understanding
of your Gospel teachings.
Speak to me the hidden
and secret things of your wisdom.
Enlighten my mind and understanding
with the light of your knowledge,
not only to cherish those things
that are written,
but to do them. Amen.
— St. John Chrysostom

Are you clear-sighted, especially in your perception of sin and the need for Gods grace? Jesus' two parables about poor vision allude to the proverb: Without vision the people perish! (Proverbs 29:18) What does the illustration of a blind guide and a bad eye (the log in the eye) say to us? A bad eye left untreated and a blind guide can cause a lot of trouble that will only end in sure disaster! We can only teach others what we have been taught ourselves. And how can we help others overcome their faults if we are blinded by our own faults? We are all in need of a physician who can give us vision, insight, and clarity for overcoming the blindspots of sin and ignorance in our own lives.
True disciples of Christ are those who listen to the voice of their Master and who submit to the skillful help of Jesus, the Divine Physician, who heals us and removes the cancer of sin from our lives. If we are to be guides and teachers for others, then we need good vision, both spiritual and moral vision, and a clear map that shows us the right path and destination for our life's journey. Jesus tells us that he is the way, the truth, and the life no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). If our destination is heaven our true home and union with God then there is only one way to get there and that way is through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the cross of Christ sin is pardoned and the sinner is made whole, darkness and corruption give way to light and truth, death is defeated and new life in Christ is restored. The cross of Christ frees us from condemnation and guilt and shows us the way of perfect love and unity with God and with our neighbor.

If Christ has truly freed us from guilt and condemnation, then why is judgmentalism and a critical spirit so rampant today, even among Christians? "Thinking the best of other people" is necessary if we wish to grow in love. And kindliness in judgment is nothing less that a sacred duty. The Rabbis warned people: "He who judges his neighbor favorably will be judged favorably by God." How easy it is to misjudge and how difficult it is to be impartial in judgment. Our judgment of others is usually "off the mark" because we can't see inside the other person, or we don't have access to all the facts, or we are swayed by instinct and unreasoning reactions to people. It is easier to find fault in others than in oneself. Jesus states a heavenly principle we can stake our lives on: what you give to others (and how you treat others) will return to you (Mark 4:24). The Lord knows our faults and he sees all, even the imperfections and sins of the heart which we cannot recognize in ourselves. Like a gentle father and a skillful doctor he patiently draws us to his seat of mercy and removes the cancer of sin which inhabits our hearts. Do you trust in God's mercy and grace? Ask the Lord to flood your heart with his loving-kindness and mercy that you may only have room for charity, forbearance, and kindness towards your neighbor.

"O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticize, to sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst. This we ask for thy name's sake." (Prayer of William Barclay, 20th century)

Don Schwager,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sept. 12, 2013 Thursday: Most Holy Name of Virgin Mary

Most chaste virgin Mary,
by the spotless purity
with which you prepared for the Son of God
a dwelling of delight in your virginal womb,
I beg of you to intercede for me
that I may be cleansed from every stain.
Most humble virgin
by that most profound humility
by which you deserved to be raised high
above all the choirs of angels and saints,
I beg of you to intercede for me
that all my sins may be forgiven.
Most amiable Mary,
by that indescribable love
that united you so closely
and inseparably to God,
I beg of you to intercede for me
that I may obtain
an abundance of all merits. Amen.
— St. Gertrude the Great

“Stay very close to Our Lady. If you do this, you can do great things for God and the good of people.” –Mother Teresa of Calcutta

As it was for Mother Teresa, so it can be for the rest of us. By standing close to Our Lady we can find the grace and courage to overcome our own personal trials and crosses. Summon the same powerful presence and aid of Our Lady by following the example of Mother Teresa. From dawn to dusk, decade to decade, Mother Teresa’s life had been spent, in every sense of the word, in the shadow of Our Lady. Our Lady helps us, as Mother Teresa found in her vision, to become contemplatives at the foot of the cross–to discover God’s presence and love, even in the midst of our trials and dark nights. Nothing was impossible for Mother Teresa while she clung to Our Lady, and as Mother Teresa tells us, “nothing is impossible for all who call Mary mother.”

“Sitting with Mother Teresa, watching her tend to the sick and the dying, feeling the aura of holiness around her person, seeing her bent in prayer, lost in God–how often I asked myself if I was notseeing something of Our Lady, experiencing a glimpse of the Virgin of Nazareth”
-Author and co-founder of Mother Teresa’s priests’ community, Joseph Langford, MC

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sept. 11, 2013 Wednesday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time C

Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say; and
Keep me out of your way.
— Fr. Mychal Judge, FDNY (died 9/11/01)

Meditation: When you encounter misfortune, grief, or tragic loss, how do you respond? With fear or faith? With passive resignation or with patient hope and trust in God? We know from experience that no one can escape all of the inevitable trials of life – pain, suffering, sickness, and death. When Jesus began to teach his disciples he gave them a "way of happiness" that transcends every difficulty and trouble that can weigh us down with grief and despair. Jesus began his sermon on the mount by addressing the issue of where true happiness can be found. The word beatitude literally means happiness or blessedness. Jesus' way of happiness, however, demands a transformation from within – a conversion of heart and mind which can only come about through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit.

How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves of all that would shut God out of our hearts. Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God alone as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God's word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and oppression. God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world. Thomas Aquinas said: "No person can live without joy. That is why someone deprived of spiritual joy goes after carnal pleasures." Do you know the joy and happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone?

"Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting happiness and peace. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will."

Don Schwager,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sept. 10, 2013 Tuesday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time C

Lord, our God,
we are in the shadow of your wings.
Protect us and bear us up.
You will care for us
as if we were little children,
even to our old age.
When you are our strength,
we are strong;
but when we are our own strength,
we are weak.
Our good always lives in your presence,
and we suffer when we turn our faces
away from you.
We now return to you, O Lord
that we may never turn away again. Amen.
— St. Augustine of Hippo

We cannot find God in noise or agitation.... In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice: Silence of our eyes. Silence of our ears. Silence of our mouths. Silence of our minds. In the silence of the heart God will speak.
Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere - in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. If we are careful of silence it will be easy to pray. There is so much talk, so much repetition, so much carrying on of tales in words and in writing. Our prayer life suffers so much because our hearts are not silent. I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater care, so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.

Mother Teresa,
No Greater Love, p. 10

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sept. 9, 2013: Pope Francis: War is Always a Defeat for Humanity

More than a hundred thousand people gathered in St- Peter's Square on the evening of September 7 in response to Pope Francis' appeal during last Sunday's Angelus in which he convoked for 7 September, a day of fasting and prayer for peace, in the light of the dramatic circumstances which have engulfed Syria. 

The Square was crowded with people since the morning; among them there were many who wished to confess, from 5.45 onwards, to one of the fifty priests in the Constantine Wing and below the colonnade; Francis wanted confessors to be present on this day as “true peace is born of the human heart reconciled with God and with one's brothers”. At 18.30, the words uttered by the Pope last Sunday were repeated as an introduction to the Vigil which began at 7 p.m. with a greeting from the Pope and the singing of the “Veni Creator”, followed by the enthroning of the image of the Virgin as “Salus Populi Romani”, carried by four Swiss Guards.
The Pope began by praying the Rosary; each mystery was accompanied by the reading of a poem by St. Therese of Lisieux about the child Jesus, and at the end he invoked Maria: “Queen of Peace, pray for us”. He then pronounced the following homily:

'And God saw that it was good'. The biblical account of the beginning of the history of the world and of humanity speaks to us of a God who looks at creation, in a sense contemplating it, and declares: 'it is good'. This, dear brothers and sisters, allows us to enter into God’s heart and, precisely from within him, to receive his message. We can ask ourselves: what does this message mean? What does it say to me, to you, to all of us?
It says to us simply that this, our world, in the heart and mind of God, is the 'house of harmony and peace', and that it is the space in which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel 'at home', because it is 'good'. All of creation forms a harmonious and good unity, but above all humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is one family, in which relationships are marked by a true fraternity not only in words: the other person is a brother or sister to love, and our relationship with God, who is love, fidelity and goodness, mirrors every human relationship and brings harmony to the whole of creation. God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting and prayer, each of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?
But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also 'violence, division, disagreement, war'. This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness.
When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the centre, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked and he hides himself because he is afraid, he is afraid of God’s glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh; he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to 'disharmony'? Can we say this: that from harmony he passes to 'disharmony'? No, there is no such thing as 'disharmony'; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear.
It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man’s conscience: “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain responds: 'I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?'. We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!
After the chaos of the Flood, when it stopped raining, a rainbow appeared and the dove returned with an olive branch. I think also of the olive tree which representatives of various religions planted in Plaza de Mayo, in Buenos Aires, in 2000, asking that there be no more chaos, asking that there be no more war, asking for peace.
And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of pace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow – I think of the children, look upon these - look upon your brother's sorrow, and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: 'No more one against the other, no more, never! ... war never again, never again war!'. 'Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love'. Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! Amen”.

Sept. 9, 2013 Monday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time C

Jesus, we commend to you
the sick, the unhappy, the poor
and all who beg for food and employment,
imploring for all and every one
the assistance of your providence.
We commend to you their families,
so that they may be fruitful centers of Christian life.
May the abundance of your grace
be poured out over all. Amen.
— Bl. Pope John XXIII

What is God's intention for the commandment, keep holy the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12)? The scribes and Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God's law. In a few penetrating words Luke records that Jesus knew their thoughts. They were filled with fury and contempt for Jesus because they put their own thoughts of right and wrong above God. They were ensnared in their own legalism because they did not understand or see the purpose of God. Jesus shows them their fallacy by pointing to God's intention for the Sabbath: to do good and to save life rather than to do evil or to destroy life.

What is the significance of Jesus' healing the man with the withered hand? Ambrose (337-397 AD), the 4th century bishop of Milan who was instrumental in bringing Augustine of Hippo to the Christian faith, comments on this miracle:

"Then you heard the words of the Lord, saying, 'Stretch forth your hand.' That is the common and universal remedy. You who think that you have a healthy hand beware lest it is withered by greed or by sacrilege. Hold it out often. Hold it out to the poor person who begs you. Hold it out to help your neighbor, to give protection to a widow, to snatch from harm one whom you see subjected to unjust insult. Hold it out to God for your sins. The hand is stretched forth; then it is healed. Jeroboam’s hand withered when he sacrificed to idols; then it stretched out when he entreated God (1 Kings 13:4-6)."

Why do Christians celebrate Sunday as the Lord's Day? Most importantly, we celebrate it to commemorate God's work of redemption in Jesus Christ and the new work of creation accomplished through Christ's death and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:17). God's action is a model for us. If God "rested and was refreshed" on the seventh day, we, too, ought to "rest" and let others, especially the poor, "be refreshed" (see Exodus 31:17; 23:12). Taking "our sabbath rest" is a way of expressing honor to God for all that he has done for us. Such "rest" however does not exempt us from our love for our neighbor. If we truly love the Lord above all else, then the love of God will overflow to love of neighbor as well. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) said: "The charity of truth seeks holy leisure; the necessity of charity accepts just work."

How can we make Sunday a day holy to the Lord? First, by refraining from unnecessary work and from activities that hinder the worship we owe to God. We can also perform works of mercy, such as humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. And we ought to seek appropriate relaxation of mind and body as well. The joy of the Lord's Day is a great gift to refresh and strengthen us in our love of God and of neighbor (Nehemiah 8:10). Do you know the joy of the Lord and do you find rest and refreshment in celebrating the Lord's Day?

"Lord Jesus, in your victory over sin and death on the cross and in your resurrection you give us the assurance of sharing in the eternal rest of heaven. Transform my heart with your love that I may freely serve my neighbor for his good and find joy and refreshment in the celebration of Sunday as the Lord's Day."

Don Schwager,

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sept. 8, 2013: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary C

How many of you received a job description before you began your current job? A Job description is a general statement of a job including duties, responsibilities, and designation of the supervisor. Some employers provide a thorough, written job description. Others are vague and the employee learns  the job description from on the job training. I’m going to read several short job descriptions, and I’d like for you to guess what job it’s describing.  My job is to: Spend most of the day looking out the window - (Pilot); Shoot couples on their wedding day - (Photographer); Run away and call the police - (Security guard); Copy and paste things on the Internet - (Student).

Listen to this lengthy job description: Long-term team players needed for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24-hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, but travel expenses are not reimbursed. The pay is far below federal minimum wage, but out of pocket expenses are frequent and expected. BENEFITS: While no health insurance, no pension, and no paid holidays are offered, job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life. Does this job appeal to you? Who would take such a job? But most of you do, as a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, or neighbor. Actually, it’s a job description for a disciple of Jesus. For a disciple, the work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world. For a disciple, on the job attitude all depends on how well you know for whom you are working.

In today’s Gospel we see that Jesus didn’t hide the reality from his disciples. He pointed out the difficulties, the hardships, and the sacrifices that would be required of those who would follow him. He told them in no uncertain terms that it wouldn’t be easy. So they could not complain later on, ‘Oh, we never thought it was going to be like this!’

It’s possible to be a follower of Christ without being a disciple. Once someone approached a well-known professor about a young man and asked, ‘So and so tells me that he was one of your students. Is that true?’ To which the professor replied, ‘That man did indeed attend my lectures, but believe me he was never a real student of mine.’ It is one of the great handicaps of the Church that in it there are many people who follow Christ at a safe distance, but very few real disciples, that is, people who actually do what he said. Some may be comfortable church-goers who give little heed to the misery of the needy and the groaning of the poor. Some melt away as soon as a demand is made on them, like snow before the sun. For some the flicker of enthusiasm is blown out by the first opposition and criticism.

A parishioner told me this week that when he first got his teaching position at our Catholic school in 1960’s, he wasn’t paid much. In those days, he got a paycheck every two weeks for $138. Raising 8 children in a 2 bedroom and 1 bath house was difficult, if not almost impossible on that pay. But he and his wife knew for whom they were working --Our Lord. They lived paycheck to paycheck, always anxious whether they could pay the bills. He said, “Father, my children didn’t know we were poor. Family vacations were always to Grand Isle with a tent. That’s all we could afford. We didn’t always have what we wanted, but we always had what we needed. He and his wife, both retired from teaching many years in Catholic schools, touched many people’s lives. Their life of simplicity and humility was a model of how disciples should follow Jesus.  

Jesus said in following him there is a place for common sense, for prudence, for counting up the cost, for discernment to see if one has what it takes. Self-knowledge is important. Yet we may underestimate or overestimate ourselves. We may need a challenge or suffering to bring the best out of us. The one for whom we work, Our Lord, does not write us off when we fail, just as he did not write off Peter and other apostles who failed to be at the Calvary. Repentance and second chance are always possible. Jesus is generous with his grace to those who strive to answer his call.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sept 6, 2013 Friday: 22nd Week in Ordinary C

I adore you, Lord and Creator,
hidden in the most Blessed Sacrament.
I adore you for all the works of your hands,
that reveal to me so much wisdom,
goodness and mercy, O Lord.
You have spread so much beauty over the earth
and it tells me about your beauty,
even though these beautiful things
are but a faint reflection of you,
incomprehensible beauty.
And although you have hidden yourself
and concealed your beauty,
my eye, enlightened by faith, reaches you
and my soul recognizes its creator,
its highest good,
and my heart is completely immersed
in prayer of adoration.
— St. Faustina Kowalska

“It is not always easy today to talk about fatherhood, especially in the Western world. Families are broken, the workplace is ever more absorbing, families worry and often struggle to make ends meet and the distracting invasion of the media invades our daily life. . . . At times communication becomes difficult, trust is lacking and the relationship with the father figure can become problematic; moreover, in this way even imagining God as a father becomes problematic. . . .

“Yet the revelation in the Bible helps us to overcome these difficulties by speaking to us of a God who shows us what it really means to be ‘father.’ . . . As Jesus revealed, he is the Father who feeds the birds of the air . . . who welcomes and embraces his lost but repentant son, who gives freely to those who ask him, and offers the bread of heaven and the living water. . . .

“It is in the Lord Jesus that the benevolent face of the Father, who is in heaven, is fully revealed. It is in knowing him that we may also know the Father. It is in seeing him that we can see the Father, because he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15).

“Consequently God’s fatherhood is infinite love, tenderness that bends over us, frail children, in need of everything. Psalm 103, the great hymn of divine mercy, proclaims: ‘As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust’ (Psalm 103:13-14). It is our smallness, our frail human nature that becomes an appeal to the Lord’s mercy, that he may show his greatness and tenderness as a Father, helping, forgiving us and saving us.
Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sept. 5, 2013 Thursday: Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

One day, Mother Teresa took in a woman off the streets of Calcutta. Her body was a mess of open sores infested with bugs. Mother Teresa patiently bathed her, cleaning and dressing her wounds. The woman never stopped shrieking insults and threats at her. Mother Teresa only smiled.

Finally, the woman snarled, “Sister, why are you doing this? Not everyone behaves like you. Who taught you?”

She replied simply, “My God taught me.” When the woman asked who this god was, Mother Teresa kissed her on the forehead and said: “You know my God. My God is called love.”

You are precious to Him. He loves you, and He loves you so tenderly that He carved you on the palm of His hand. When your heart feels restless, when your heart feels hurt, when your heart feels like breaking, remember, I am precious to Him, He loves me. He has called me by my name. I am His. (Mother Teresa)

Sept. 4, 2013 Wednesday: 22nd Week in Ordinary C

Who do you take your troubles to? Jesus' disciples freely brought their troubles to him because they found him ready and able to deal with any difficulty, affliction, or sickness which they encountered. When Simon Peter brought Jesus to his home for the Sabbath meal (right after Jesus preached in the synagogue in Capernaum), his mother-in-law was instantly healed because Jesus heard Simon's prayer. Jesus could not avoid drawing a crowd wherever he went. No one who asked Jesus for help was left disappointed. Jesus' numerous healings and exorcisims demonstrated the power and authority of his word, the "good news of the kingdom of God." When he rebuked the fever, it immediately left. When he rebuked the demons, they left as well. Why did the demons shudder at Jesus' presence? They recognized that he was the Christ, the Son of God and that he had power to destroy their kingdom by releasing those bound by it. Jesus came to set us free from bondage to sin and evil. Do you seek freedom in Christ and trust in his power to set you free?

When Jesus and the disciples sought a lonely place to regroup and rest, they found instead a crowd waiting for them! Did they resent this intrusion on their hard-earned need for privacy and refreshment? Jesus certainly didn't but welcomed them with open-arms. Jesus put human need ahead of everything else. His compassion showed the depths of God's love and concern for all who are truly needy. Jesus gave the people the word of God and he healed them physically as well as spiritually. We can never intrude upon God nor exhaust his generosity and kindness. He is ever ready to give to those who earnestly seek him out. Do you allow Jesus to be the Lord and Healer in your personal life, family, and community? Approach him with expectant faith. God's healing power restores us not only to health but to active service and care of others. There is no trouble he does not want to help us with and there is no bondage he can't set us free from. Do you take your troubles to him with expectant faith that he will help you?

"Lord Jesus Christ, you have all power to heal and to deliver. There is no trouble nor bondage you cannot overcome. Set me free to serve you joyfully and to love and serve others generously. May nothing hinder me from giving myself wholly to you and to your service."

Don Schwager,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sept. 3, 2013 Tuesday: St. Gregory the Great

O God, help us to bring
our worldly concerns under control,
so that they never
turn our minds from higher things.
Help us have earthly things for our use
but not as objects of our desires.
May there be nothing to hold back
the desire of our mind;
and do not let the delights
of this world ensnare us. Amen.
— Pope St. Gregory the Great

Encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Don’t underestimate the power of encouragement! Instead, try to become an encourager yourself. It may take a while to develop this gift. But you can start out by choosing to say at least one encouraging thing each day—especially to your spouse, a family member, or a close friend. Over time, it will become second nature, especially as you see the effects your words are having on everyone!

So be on the lookout for qualities in other people that reflect God’s attributes. Then when you see them expressing these qualities, point it out to them. At the least, most people will feel honored and maybe even surprised that someone noticed something exceptional about them! But sometimes your words can go much further than you expect, and they will minister God’s own presence!

Word Among Us,

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sept. 2, 2013 Monday: 22nd Week in Ordinary C

Come, Holy Spirit, divine Creator,
true source of light and fountain of wisdom!
Pour forth your brilliance
upon my dense intellect,
dissipate the darkness which covers me,
that of sin and of ignorance.
Grant me a penetrating mind to understand,
a retentive memory,
method and ease in learning,
the lucidity to comprehend,
and abundant grace in expressing myself.
Guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to successful completion.
This I ask through Jesus Christ,
truly divine and truly human,
living and reigning with you
and the Father, forever and ever. Amen.
— St. Thomas Aquinas

How would you react if Jesus spoke this message from the pulpit of your church? It was customary for Jesus to go weekly to the synagogue to worship and on occasion to read the Scriptures and comment on them to the people. His hometown folks listened with rapt attention on this occasion because they had heard about the miracles he had performed in other towns. What sign would he do in his hometown? Jesus startled them with a seeming rebuke that no prophet or servant of God can receive honor among his own people. He then angered them when he complimented the Gentiles who seemed to have shown more faith in God than the "chosen ones" of Israel. They regarded Gentiles as "fuel for the fires of hell." Jesus' praise for "outsiders" caused them offence because they were blind-sighted to God's mercy and plan of redemption for all nations.

The word "gospel" literally means "good news". Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would come in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring freedom to those oppressed by sin and evil (see Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus came to set people free from the worst tyranny possible – the tyranny of slavery to sin and the fear of death, and the destruction of both body and soul. God's power alone can save us from emptiness and poverty of spirit, from confusion and error, and from the fear of death and hopelessness. The gospel of salvation is "good news" for us today. Do you know the joy and freedom of the gospel?

"Lord Jesus, you are the fulfillment of all our hopes and desires. Your Spirit brings us grace, truth, life, and freedom. Fill me with the joy of the gospel and inflame my heart with love and zeal for you and for your will".

Don Schwager,