Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oct. 1, 2014 Wednesday: St. Therese of Lisieux

We asked ourselves the question “What does ‘becoming a little child again’ mean?” After referring to humility, we spoke of trust, the most fundamental characteristic of the “littleness” of the Gospel. Thérèse talks about it a lot. Her insistence on the importance of trust is based on her rediscovery of God as Father. At a time when people placed enormous stress on God’s severity and justice, when traces of Jansenism were still very evident in Catholic thinking, this rediscovery of the face of God as a merciful Father was badly needed. Obviously, it’s not possible to set God’s justice in opposition to his mercy or to get rid of the notion of justice, but Thérèse rediscovered a true understanding of these divine attributes. This is what she said about God’s justice in one of her letters, 1 quoting Psalm 103 (8– 14):
I know that the Lord is infinitely just and it is that justice, which terrifies so many souls, that is the reason for my joy and trust. Being just does not only mean exercising severity to punish the guilty, it also means recognizing upright intentions and rewarding virtue. I hope for as much from God’s justice as from his mercy. It is because he is just that “he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love … for he knows our weakness, he remembers that we are dust. … As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities us.” 

God is not scandalized by our weaknesses. Provided he finds in us good will and trust, we can be

certain of pleasing him. Many passages very beautifully illustrate how Thérèse saw God as Father—“ It is so sweet to call God our Father!” — and what a great light this was for her whole life. This rediscovery was greatly facilitated by her experience of family life. Her own father was an exceptional man, with whom she had a wonderful father-daughter relationship. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a father like Louis Martin. We may have had very difficult relationships with our fathers involving indifference, neglect, or excessive harshness. And it must be said that being a father and finding the right way to act in this difficult but marvelous vocation isn’t easy. Fathers are often weak, wounded people; as a result, their children are too. But in our relationship with God— in prayer , in the discovery of his fatherly love—we can little by little find deep healing. I think this privileged access to God as Father is one of the main fruits of prayer, particularly mental prayer, silent prayer.

This filial relationship with God, expressed and deepened especially in prayer, is not always easy to develop today. It is not obvious how to live as little children in such a pitiless, competitive world. We must be adult, able sometimes to fight, while still keeping a child’s heart which rests in God and abandons itself to him. He will certainly know how to defend us. He is our Father, and he is faithful. All too often we get agitated instead of relying trustingly on God. This work of restoring trust in our hearts is an essential aspect of the spiritual life. Wounded by original sin, our hearts are riddled with fears and doubts. It takes time to be cured of them. Maybe that will never happen completely in this life, but we can nevertheless make great strides in trusting more.

If we lack trust, it’s often because we do not nourish ourselves enough on God’s Word. Everyone who has frequent and assiduous recourse to Scripture has had the experience of one day being troubled or discouraged when a verse of Scripture touched her, restored her trust and brought peace to her heart once again. Holy Scripture is one of the richest, most beautiful, and most effective resources at our disposal. It possesses a power and authority no human words can have, and it can do much to nurture our trust in God. (That presupposes, of course, that we persevere in reading and praying about God’s Word.)

Another thing that increases our trust is to make acts of faith. Faith grows when it is exercised. What is an act of faith? It’s very simple. We are tempted to worry, for instance, because we’re going to have major surgery in two weeks, or one of our children is going through a difficult time. We say to our Lord, “I trust you. I leave this situation in your hands, and I know you’ll look after it.” There are thousands of examples like that. I am a great believer in the effectiveness of acts of faith. We’re not talking here about a magic wand that makes every problem disappear. But those little choices of trust and faith will bear fruit sooner or later. It may be only in ten or twenty years’ time; that doesn’t matter. I love the Gospel image of the grain of mustard seed. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when sown in the ground it grows up into almost a tree. All those acts of faith that may seem sterile, with no immediate results that we can see, are like seeds. Those seeds will unfailingly bear fruit in due course. It doesn’t matter whether in five minutes or ten years: let’s allow God’s wisdom to work.

- Fr. Philippe, Jacques. The Way of Trust and Love - A Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux, Scepter Publishers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sept. 30, 2014 Tuesday: St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Are you surprised to see two of Jesus' disciples praying for the destruction of a Samaritan village? The Jews and Samaritans had been divided for centuries. Jewish pilgrims who passed through Samaritan territory were often treated badly and even assaulted. Jesus did the unthinkable for a Jew. He not only decided to travel through Samaritan territory at personal risk, but he also asked for hospitality in one of their villages!

(Difficult People: Pray for Patience)

Jesus faced rejection and abuse in order to reconcile us with God and one another
Jesus' offer of friendship was rebuffed. Is there any wonder that the disciples were indignant and felt justified in wanting to see retribution done to this village? Wouldn't you respond the same way? Jesus, however, rebukes his disciples for their lack of toleration. Jesus had "set his face toward Jerusalem" to die on a cross that Jew, Samaritan and Gentile might be reconciled with God and be united as one people in Christ.

Jesus seeks our highest good - friend and enemy alike
Tolerance is a much needed virtue today. But aren't we often tolerant for the wrong thing or for the wrong motive? Christian love seeks the highest good of both one's neighbor and one's enemy. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for his courtesy and tolerance towards his enemies during the American Civil War, he responded: "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" How do you treat those who cross you and cause you trouble? Do you seek their good rather than their harm?

"Lord Jesus, you are gracious, merciful, and kind. Set me free from my prejudice and intolerance towards those I find disagreeable, and widen my heart to love and to do good even to those who wish me harm or evil."
-Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Sept. 29, 2014 Monday: Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

The angels battle Satan for the destiny of mankind and win.  They defend and custody  the greatest mystery of the Church, God-made-Man.  Even though in Satan often presents “humanistic explanations” for his attacks on mankind.  This was the focus of Pope Francis homily at Mass Monday morning (Sept. 29, 2014) at Casa Santa Marta, marking the Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Today’s readings present us with very strong images: the vision of the glory of God described by the prophet Daniel with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, before the Father: the archangel Michael and his angels fighting against "the great dragon, the ancient serpent, he who is called the devil" and "seduces all of inhabited earth," but who is defeated, as affirmed by the Book of Revelation; and the Gospel in which Jesus says to Nathanael: "You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man". Pope Francis speaks of "the struggle between God and the devil":

"This struggle takes place after Satan seeks to destroy the woman about to give birth to a child. Satan always tries to destroy man: the man that Daniel saw there, in glory, and whom Jesus told Nathanael would come in glory. From the very beginning, the Bible speaks to us of this: Satan’s [use of ] seduction to destroy. Maybe out of envy. We read in Psalm 8: 'Thou hast made ​​man superior to the angels,' and that angel of great intelligence could not bear this humiliation, that a lower creature was made superior to him; thus he tried to destroy it".

Satan, therefore, seeks to destroy humanity, all of us: "So many projects, except for one's own sins, but many, many projects for mankind’s dehumanization are his work, simply because he hates mankind. He is astute: the first page of Genesis tells us so, he is astute.  He presents things as if they were a good thing.  But his intention is destruction. And the angels defend us. They defend mankind and they defend the God-Man, the superior Man, Jesus Christ who is the perfection of humanity, the most perfect. This is why the Church honors the Angels, because they are the ones who will be in the glory of God – they are in the glory of God - because they defend the great hidden mystery of God, namely, that the Word was made flesh".

"The task of the people of God - the Pope said - is to safeguard man: the man Jesus” because "He is the man who gives life to all men". Instead, in his plans for destruction, Satan has invented "humanistic explanations that go against man, against humanity and against God":

"This struggle is a daily reality in Christian life, in our hearts, in our lives, in our families, in our people, in our churches ... If we do not struggle, we will be defeated. But the Lord has given this task mainly to the angels: to do battle and win. And the final song of Revelation , after this battle, is so beautiful: Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night”.

Pope Francis concluded urging those present to pray to the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and "recite the ancient but beautiful prayer to the archangel Michael, so he may continue to do battle and defend the greatest mystery of mankind: that the Word was made Man, died and rose again. This is our treasure. That he may battle on to safeguard it".

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sept. 28, 2014: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear audio homily
How many of you keep a to-do list or a honey-do list? We make many commitments throughout the day, and it’s hard to keep track of what we said ‘yes’ to in our head unless we write it down. But how successful are we in completing at least half of the items on the list? There are lots of things that we say we’ll do, and even write down on our lists, that we never do. Don’t we use phrases like, “I forgot,” “I’ll get around to it later,” or “I was too busy”? Some commitments left undone have little consequences; others have grave consequences that reflect back on us, on our reputation and our relationships. Do you ever wonder then, how many to-do items on our ‘never-got-done’ list was something that God asked us to do? Do those ‘never-got-done’ to-dos affect our relationship with God?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a simple story of two imperfect sons to illustrate the way of God's kingdom. The father probably provided for his sons food, lodging, and everything they needed. He probably expected them to show him gratitude, loyalty, and honor by doing their fair share of the daily work. The first son told his father to his face that he would not work for him, but afterwards he changed his mind and did what his father commanded him. The second son said he would work for his father, but didn't follow through. He sought his own pleasure, contrary to his father's will.  Now which was really the good son?  Both sons disobeyed their father - but one repented, changed his heart, and then did what the father told him.

This particular parable was addressed to the Jewish leaders who prided themselves on their righteousness and piety. The leaders even looked down upon those whose situations in life frequently prevented them from adhering to various prescriptions of the Law. They were like the second son in the parable who said he would obey God, but then did not. The tax-collectors and the prostitutes are those who said that they would go their own way and then later on took God’s way. This parable is not really praising either group. The parable is setting before us a picture of two very imperfect sets of people, of whom one set were nonetheless better than the other. Neither son in the parable was the kind of son to bring full joy to his father. Both were unsatisfactory; however, the one who in the end obeyed the father was better than the other. The ideal son would be the son who accepted the father’s orders with obedience and with respect and who unquestioningly and fully carried them out.

There is part of both of those sons in each of us. When we give our word but don’t keep it, we exhibit a similar non-committal attitude of the second son. When we say ‘no’ to God but later repent and follow through, we exhibit a similar rebelliousness of the first son. God wants to change our hearts so that we will show by our speech and by our actions that we respect his will and do it.  If I have committed myself to God’s kingdom, am I doing its work?

I keep a daily checklist which honestly, I often do not successfully accomplish. My list is titled Daily Questions to Myself and it helps me recognize the will of the Heavenly Father for each day.

  1. Among the persons whom I encountered today, who touched me with their gifts or generosity?
  2. Among the persons I encountered, did I help them understand their gifts, challenges, and call to action?
  3. Who did I talk or think negatively about today? What did I not like about the person? What does God say about that person? What can I do to change my point of view to God’s point of view?
  4. Am I willing to love the person, for where they are now? Am I humble enough to ask God to give me the grace to see the good and to see Jesus in that person?
  5. What is the beauty of God that is hidden in that person?
  6. Whom did I annoy or hurt through my words or actions. Whom do I need to ask forgiveness from?
So what’s the point of keeping this list even if I don’t accomplish the challenges each day? This list keeps me humble and with each failure, I realize that love demands sacrifice. Each time I overcome my selfish will and accomplish the Father’s will, I develop a habit of doing the Father’s will. Only then will I come to cherish the Father’s request as not a demand but an opportunity to transform my heart. Over time as I grow, I believe that I will never hesitate before a request of the Lord, but to always say yes and fulfill it with great haste.

Let’s come back to our to-do list. Is there one to-do item that we can add to our daily routine that can help us help recognize and respond to God’s requests? Certainly prayer comes to mind. I challenge each of you to ask God at the beginning of the day, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening. What can I do for you today?”

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sept. 26, 2014 Friday: Sts. Cosmas and Damian

So, a confession – I am a baby boomer, and thus came of age in the 60s. I cannot read this passage from Ecclesiastes without recalling the Pete Seeger song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” which became a top hit when covered by the "Byrds" in 1965. The melody runs through my head as I write this reflection.

“There is an appointed time for everything” – but what is “time?” There are so many phrases related to time and our obsessions with it:

“Timing is everything.”
“It’s not the right time.”
“What time is it?” “I’m going to be late!”
“Time to get up (or to go to bed).”
“Time to settle down.”
“All in good time.”
“Right on time.”
“In God’s good time.”
“Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care, about time? If so, I can’t imagine why, we’ve all got time enough to cry.” (so, "Chicago," another musical group, was a musical influence also!)
Many of these and other phrases and concerns about time relate to ordering our lives, being part of a structured society in which time is a key component. Other societies have different attitudes toward time (think nomadic first peoples wandering the plains of North America in the 18th century, or the Saudi Arabian peninsula, or the Australian outback), less concerned with the time right now and more concerned with the seasons that governed their survival.

We have probably all heard someone referring to an athlete or a performer as “being in the zone” or “letting the game come to her.” These athletes will say things “slow down” and they are more aware of all the forces that come to bear on their performance. I suspect most of us have had times in our lives when things seem to being going very well. We feel good because we feel in control, that all components in our lives are coming together in balance.

I think one lesson from Ecclesiastes, though, is that we don’t control time, God does. God has made everything “appropriate to its time.” The author in Ecclesiastes expressed a spirituality of time that transcends our daily concerns with the mundane. There isn’t just a time to plant, or seek, or build, or laugh – there is an appropriate time for all things. God has set in motion the seasons of our lives and “put the timeless into [our] hearts.”

It is our task to discern whether the timing of what we face is “appropriate” in God’s grand creation. WE may think the time is right - to build, or to embrace, or to be silent, or to love - but what is God suggesting to us when we reflect more fully on what we are about to do? WE may feel this is the right time, but what does the quiet whisper of God tell us? WE may want to do something, and may be able to do so, but is it the appropriate time in God’s timeless call to us? And when our life draws to a close, WE may want to hold onto the many gifts of this wonderful creation, when God tells us the time is right to let them go.

Jesus admonishes His disciples at several points that “it is not his time,” or that the time was not right. Spiritual people have the great gift of awareness, of being able to challenge whether what they are doing in every moment is connected with God’s call to them. Time becomes not a clock measurement, a calendar entry, but an elemental oneness with the Creator. It seems to me that the author of Ecclesiastes was able to put aside our human restlessness and anxiety about the future and received the gift of peace, of knowing the true meaning of time as God intended it to be. I think the author understood what the “timeless” was in our hearts – a yearning to connect with God the Creator, our great lover, the one with whom we belong for all future “time.” I suspect the author was able to accept the ebbs and flows of life as gifts from God, with hidden treasures of meaning and importance, that could only be fully understood in the timeless gift of God’s love.

And so my prayer today is for the gift to discern, during every moment of every day, whether my response is consistent with God’s timing, so I can be guided by the timelessness of God’s love and thus “really know what time it is.”
-Tom Purcell, http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/092614.html

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sept. 25, 2014 Thursday: 25th Week in Ordinary A

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Book ONE. Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul
1.Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth

He who follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord. (John 8:12) By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ. The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.

This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides.

Often recall the proverb: "The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing."(1) Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God.

- Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sept. 24, 2014 Wednesday: 25th Week in Ordinary Time A

"The secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake. From here comes the strength to 'sacrifice oneself joyfully', and thus the most demanding work is transformed into a source of a greater joy. In this way, there is no longer any fear of making important choices in life, but they are seen for what they are, namely, as the way to personal fulfilment in freedom."

"When love for Christ is placed above all else, even above our legitimate particular needs, then we are able to move outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness, and move towards Jesus who, in our brothers and sisters, comes to us. His wounds are still visible today on the bodies of so many men and women who are hungry and thirst; who are humiliated; who are in hospital or prison. By touching and caring for these wounds with tenderness, it is possible to fully live the Gospel and to adore God who lives in our midst."

"Allow me to outline two attitudes which can be especially helpful in the advancement of this fundamental freedom.

The first attitude is that of regarding every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters. When a person is secure of his or her own beliefs, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others: there is a conviction that truth has its own power of attraction. Deep down, we are all pilgrims on this earth, and on this pilgrim journey, as we yearn for truth and eternity, we do not live autonomous and self-sufficient individual lives; the same applies to religious, cultural and national communities. We need each other, and are entrusted to each other’s care. Each religious tradition, from within, must be able to take account of others.

"The second attitude which fosters the promotion of religious freedom is the work done in service of the common good. Whenever adherence to a specific religious tradition gives birth to service that shows conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature living out of religious freedom. This presents itself not only as a space in which to legitimately defend one’s autonomy, but also as a potential that enriches the human family as it advances. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom!"

- Pope Francis in Albania

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sept. 23, 2014 Tuesday: St. Pio of Pietrecina

Padre Pio - A Remarkable Confessor Padre Pio, in his lifetime, reconciled innumerable souls back to God through the confessional. He was always in great demand as a confessor. People were willing to wait many days and brave any inconvenience in order to make their confession to him. In the early days, before there were accommodations for the pilgrims, the men who waited to make their confession to Padre Pio would sometimes sleep at night in the fields near the monastery. Some would even pitch tents in the open areas. When the sun rose, they would resume their place in the confessional line.

One woman who made her confession to Padre Pio was plagued with a multitude of problems. Padre Pio said to her, “You must not be anxious or worried about anything because I am here with you.” To another who was undergoing severe trials he said, “Unite yourself to my prayers.” To the penitents, Padre Pio was a confidant, a friend, a counselor and above all a father. People could feel his concern and his loving care. He said to Monsignor Giancarlo Setti, whom he asked to oversee the Padre Pio prayer groups worldwide, “Monsignor, you look after the prayer groups and I will look after your soul.”

As a confessor, Padre Pio wanted people to understand the seriousness of sin. “We have a greater fear of mortal sin than of fire,” Padre Pio once said. On another occasion he said, “Beware of sin as of a poisonous viper.” When penitents put questions to him regarding moral issues, his answers left no doubt as to the difference between right and wrong and the proper course to follow. One man said, “Padre Pio’s words were firm, candid and pure.” A man once confessed to him that

he had thoughts against chastity. “How many times have you had those thoughts?” Padre Pio asked. “Six or seven times,” the man replied. “But seven is not the same as six because it means one more deadly sin,” Padre Pio answered.

One man who had initially been denied absolution by Padre Pio stated that Padre Pio was the only person who had been able to help him break away from his destructive lifestyle. “Thanks to Padre Pio, I was able to understand the gravity of my sins,” the man said. Previously, the man had always justified his immoral conduct and had no desire to change. People tried to show him the error of his ways but nothing that anyone said made a difference to him. The shock of being denied absolution by Padre Pio caused the man to reflect on his life. He made a good examination of conscience and later made a sincere confession and received absolution. When twelve-year-old Mariella Lotti of Cosenza approached Padre Pio’s confessional, his words startled her. “If I heard your confession right now, we would get nowhere. You are not prepared to make your confession at this time,” Padre Pio said. Mariella, as well as her parents, felt offended, but when Padre Pio gave a further explanation for his actions, they not only understood, they agreed with him. It proved to be a turning point in young Mariella’s life. Another young woman wanted to make her confession to Padre Pio but she was not willing to make the needed changes in her life. Padre Pio spoke of her and said, “She is just like coal. When exposed, it stains. When lit, it burns.” Padre Pio had a true understanding of human weakness and was willing to go to great lengths to help a person. However, if a person was not sorry for his sins, Padre Pio did not feel that he could do much for that individual. Padre Pio recommended to

some individuals that they go to one of the other Capuchins to make their confession, rather than to him, without explaining the reason why. When he sent people out of the confessional because they were not adequately prepared to make their confession, it weighed on him. “If you could only understand how I suffer when I have to refuse absolution,” Padre Pio said. “But it is better to be criticized by a man in this life than by God in the next life.” He never advocated that other priests adopt his unconventional methods. “What I do, you cannot do,” he once said to a fellow priest.

Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry True Stories of Padre Pio Book II (pp. 140-141). - by Diane Allen

Sept. 22, 2014 Monday: 25th Week in Ordinary A

God's light frees us from the blindness of sin so we can walk in truth and goodness
God's grace not only illumines the darkness in our lives, but it also fills us with spiritual light, joy, and peace. Jesus used the image of a lamp to describe how his disciples are to live in the light of his truth and love. Just as natural light illumines the darkness and enables one to see visually, so the light of Christ shines in the hearts of believers and enables us to see the heavenly reality of God's kingdom. In fact, our mission is to be light-bearers of Christ so that others may see the truth of the Gospel and be freed from the blindness of sin and deception.

Live in the light of God's truth, beauty, and goodness
Jesus remarks that nothing can remain hidden or secret. We can try to hide things from others, from ourselves, and from God. How tempting to shut our eyes from the consequences of our sinful ways and bad habits, even when we know what those consequences are. And how tempting to hide them from others and even from God. But, nonetheless, everything is known to God who sees all. There is great freedom and joy for those who live in God's light and who seek his truth. Those who listen to God and heed his voice will receive more from him - abundance of wisdom, guidance, peace, and blessing. Do you know the joy and freedom of living in God's light?
-Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sept. 21, 2014: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear audio homily
Boudreaux from Donaldsonville dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” Boudreaux says, “I attended church every Sunday.”
“That’s good,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth two points.”
“Two points?” he says. “Well, I gave 10% of all my earnings to the church.”
“Well, let’s see,” answers Peter, “that’s worth another 2 points. Did you do anything else?”
“Two points? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”
“Fantastic, that’s certainly worth a point, ” he says.
“Hmmm…” Boudreaux says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”
“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”
“THREE POINTS!!” Boudreaux cries. “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

St. Peter replied, “Come on in!”

Did you get the gist of the story? It’s an interesting way to explain how God will judge us at the end of our lives. We tend to think that the entry into Heaven is by a merit system. According to this thinking, we work hard on this earth earning merits, and at the Pearly Gates St. Peter will let us in depending on how many merit badges we have earned. This is the kind of thinking that Jesus was challenging in the Gospel today.

The parable of the workers in the vineyard presents a completely unlikely scenario. Just like an employer today will pay his workers for only the hours they worked,  it is very improbable that an first century owner of Galilean vineyards would have paid guys who had only worked one hour the same as those who had worked all day. The shocking part of the story--where the vineyard owner pays everyone the same wage--is what makes the story a parable. Why did he do that? Why was he so generous to the point of carelessness?

Clearly, this isn't a story about a vineyard down the road; rather, it is a parable about the  kingdom of God and about God's attitude toward God’s workforce. It is irrelevant how long they have worked for God; the issue is that they contributed to God's vineyard. The parable is about a vineyard owner, the point of comparison with God, who is generous to everybody and who gives to everybody abundantly and who then has to deal with the anger and the jealousy that gets created by those who believe they deserve more than anybody else.

The Pharisees and the Jews assumed that God worked on the merit system and that according to this system, we must earn our graces by hard work.
In the Gospel the vineyard owner asks a question that reveals the heart of our own struggle. “Are you envious because I am generous?” Our hearts are not always generous enough to rejoice in the mercy extended to others. Often we are small and petty in the way we think and act. Fortunately for us, as we read today from Isaiah, God’s ways are as high above our ways as the heavens are above the earth. As disciples of the kingdom of God we are called to announce the good news of God’s incomprehensible and generous divine mercy. Let us ask God for forgiveness for our smallness of heart, while at the same time ask the Lord for us to become more and more like Him.

Let me share with you today a portion of a great prayer by St. Faustina, a saint chosen to spread the message of Divine Mercy.

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors' souls and come to their rescue.  

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors' needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.  

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.  

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.   

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.   

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me (...).

O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself , for you can do all things.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sept. 19, 2014 Friday: St. Januarius

Are you ready to serve the Lord Jesus and to support the work of the Gospel with your personal resources? During his three years of public ministry Jesus traveled widely. The Gospel records that a band of women accompanied Jesus and the twelve apostles. This was a diverse group of women; some came from rich and prominent families; some had been prostitutes, and others had been afflicted with mental and physical infirmities.

The women who served Jesus out of their own resources
We know that Mary Magdalene had lived a very troubled life before Jesus freed her from seven demons. She was privileged to be the first to see Jesus as the risen Lord. As the wife of King Herod's chief financial officer, Joanna was a wealthy lady of the court. It's unlikely that these two would have ever met under other circumstances. What brought them together and united them in a bond of friendship, service, and loyalty to Jesus? Certainly Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God had transformed them. Unlike the apostles, who took great pride in being the chosen twelve, these women did not seek position or demand special privileges. Jesus had touched them so deeply that they were grateful to do anything for him, even menial service. They brought their gifts and resources to Jesus to use as he saw fit.

Whose concerns do you put first - yours or others?
Are you more like the status-conscious apostles who were concerned for their position, or like the women who were content to serve Jesus quietly and generously with their personal resources? In our fallen state, our natural tendency is to want to be served and placed first and to avoid giving too much of ourselves to the service of others. And besides, who really prefers to take the lowly place of a servant who puts the needs of others before their own needs? Jesus is our best example who "came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom" for us (Matthew 20:28). The Gospel honors these women who imitated Jesus in his selfless sacrificial love and humble service.

Our privilege and joy is to serve the Lord Jesus
Our privilege as children of God and disciples of Jesus is to serve as Jesus served with humility, selfless love, generosity, joy, and a willingness to do whatever God asks of us. God, in his turn, gives us every good gift and grace we need to carry out our task and mission. God in his infinite power needs no one, but in his wisdom and love, he chooses to entrust his work through each one of us. His Holy Spirit equips us with all that we need to love and serve others. No one is unimportant or unnecessary in God's economy. The least in his kingdom find a home and a mission at Jesus' side. Do you know the joy of serving Jesus in company with others who love and serve him willingly?
-Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sept. 18, 2014 Thursday: St. Joseph of Cupertino

Having the courage to acknowledge that we are sinners enables us to receive Christ’s caress, His forgiveness, said Pope Francis Thursday morning during Mass at Santa Marta.

The day's liturgy presents the Gospel of the sinful woman who washes Jesus' feet with her tears and anoints them with perfume drying them with her hair. Jesus is invited to the house of a Pharisee, "a person of a certain level of culture" - the Pope said – who "wanted to listen to Jesus", hear his doctrine, find out more. In his own mind, he judges both Jesus and the sinful woman, thinking if Jesus "truly were a prophet he would know want kind of woman is touching him”. The Pharisee “is not a bad man” he simply “cannot understand the woman’s actions”.

"He only says the word salvation - 'Your faith has saved you' – to the woman, who is a sinner. And he says it because she was able to weep for her sins, to confess her sins, to say 'I am a sinner', and admit it to herself. He doesn’t say the same to those people, who were not bad people: they simply did not believe themselves to be sinners. Other people were sinners: the tax collectors, prostitutes ... These were the sinners. Jesus says this word - 'You are saved, you are safe - only to those who open their hearts and acknowledge that they are sinners. Salvation only enters our hearts when we open them to the truth of our sins".

"The privileged place to encounter Jesus Christ is in our sins". Pope Francis observed that this may seem like "heresy” but St. Paul also said as much when he said he would boast of only two things: his sins and the Risen Christ who saved him.

"This is why the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness, to His Word 'Go in peace, your faith has saved you!', because you were brave, you were brave enough to open your heart to the only One who can save you".

Jesus said to the hypocrites, " Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you". These are strong words - concluded the Pope - because those who feel themselves sinners "open their hearts in the confession of their sins, to encounter Jesus, who gave His blood for us all".


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sept. 17, 2014 Wednesday: St. Robert Bellarmine

The Greatest is Love
Love, love, love!!! We have heard this reading at many a wedding as two young people start their life together. It can simply be a lot of “warm fuzzies” or it can really mean something. So let’s take a shot at the latter.

St. Ignatius is very clear in the fourth week of the Spiritual Exercises that love is not just “warm fuzzies.” First, he says love ought to show itself more in deeds than simply in words. Secondly, he says love consists in a mutual sharing of goods. In other words, love is very concrete.

The economics of love are unlike the economics of anything else we know. The more we give love away to others, the more love returns to us. Love is not a scarce commodity allocated by the laws of supply and demand. It is unlimited and we have the power to create as much love as we are willing.

Lastly, love is a force whose power we should never underestimate. In each of our lives, I am sure we have experienced how it can pick us up when we are down, how it can bring people together in the deepest of relationships, and heal the most serious wounds. Remember, there is no such thing as a small act of love!

—David McNulty, www.jesuitprayer.org

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sept. 16, 2014 Tuesday: Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor 12:12-14)

Hope and Love
I marvel sometimes when I visit families with a son or a daughter who has a severe handicap. The parents are living each day, and sometimes the whole day, with little help or times of rest. They are not admired or honoured for what they are doing; sometimes they are even criticised for not having aborted their child or put him or her into an institution, outside the general run of society. We in l'Arche have days off; we get help and encouragement from professionals and clergy. We even receive salaries. And often people see us as wonderful and generous people. And yet, isn't it those families who are living love and truth and humility and abandonment to God in a special way? Isn't it all those families in the ghettos of large cities struggling to feed their children who are radiating a truth bout our humanity? People who have chosen to live in community have much to learn from all those people throughout the world who are living love in a simple hidden way, and who are there welcoming and forgiving.

-Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 312

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sept. 15, 2014 Monday: Our Lady of Sorrows

The crucified Jesus commands his mother, “Behold, your son!” (Jn 19: 26). He means every one of
us. Behold us where? In the midst of our own daily crucifixions. Behold us how? Blessed John Paul II says that “Mary’s sharing in the drama of the cross makes this event more deeply human and helps the faithful to enter into the mystery…. Mary’s hope at the foot of the cross contains a light stronger than the darkness that reigns in many hearts.” The presence of Mary at Calvary inserts the full force of her immaculate, glorious humanity into an act of horrific inhumanity. The curse of loneliness lies at the root of all human misery and wretchedness, but that misery is worsened when we are alone in our suffering. God wants us never to be alone again when we experience the cross; the mystery of Our Lady of Sorrows is the way out of alienation, desolation, and despair.

“The divine Redeemer,” writes Pope John Paul II, “wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of his holy Mother.” It is a heart we can trust because it, too, has been pierced. Blessed Henry Suso prays, “My wounds are known to you, loving Mother…. When I completely despair of God and of myself, thinking of you, recalling you, my spirit comes alive again as if out of the deepest darkness.”

 - Fr. Peter John Cameron, O. P., Novenas for the Church Year

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sept. 14, 2014: Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

Click to hear audio homily
Do you wear a cross or crucifix? Perhaps you wear a ring, bracelet, or earrings with a cross on them. Some wear it to identify themselves as Christians while others wear it as jewelry. The other day when I was passing by a small jewelry shop, I saw a gaudy looking 5 inch cross encrusted with fake diamonds and on a thick and shiny chain. That’s what we would call ‘bling-bling.’ On an internet forum, someone posted the question: “Why do you wear a cross?” One person replied, “Personally, the cross I’ve been wearing has sentimental value;  it used to belong to my late granny. I find that my own heart beating underneath the cross reminds me that my time in this world is limited and that I should make good use of it.”

At the time of Jesus, the cross symbolized the most painful and disgraceful method of capital punishment. It was an instrument invented by Romans to intimidate and subdue people whom they had subjugated. We can’t imagine the fear that the sight of a cross evoked in people of that time. Perhaps something akin to it would be the gruesome and violent executions carried out recently by terrorists in Iraq; these executions are used as an intimidation tool by the terrorists. Yet today, we CELEBRATE the cross--the very instrument of torture and execution. But it’s not just any cross; we are celebrating the very cross on which Jesus was crucified and died.

When you pray in front of a crucifix, do you wonder what brought Jesus to the point of being crucified? Anger, mistrust, institutional corruption, scapegoating, fear, betrayal of a friend...in short, all of the human disfunction. The cross of Jesus reveals to us our ugliness, pettiness, and brutality. After Pentecost, Peter boldly told the people who gathered to listen to him, “You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death (Acts 3:14-15).” Even we are stung by Peter’s words; if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we struggled with anger, vengefulness, and pettiness this past week. Yet when we gaze at the cross is not an instrument to shame us. Instead, it is a sign of God’s outpouring love for us.

When we pray the Way of the Cross we begin with “We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.” We celebrate the exaltation or praising of the Holy Cross because unfathomable mercy and love have been poured out upon us from that Cross. Jesus put it simply this way, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

Pope Francis said, “Jesus, with His Cross, walks with us and takes upon Himself our fears, our problems, and our sufferings, even those which are deepest and most painful. The Cross of Christ bears the suffering and the sin of mankind, including our own. Jesus accepts all this with open arms, bearing on His shoulders our crosses and saying to us: 'Have courage! You do not carry your cross alone! I carry it with you. I have overcome death and I have come to give you hope, to give you life.’ With Him, evil, suffering, and death do not have the last word, because He gives us hope and life: He has transformed the Cross from being an instrument of hate, defeat, and death to being a sign of love, victory, triumph and life. There is no cross, big or small, in our life, which the Lord does not share with us.”

Personally, in high school and early college, I wore a little crystal around my neck as a good luck charm. However, after I had an encounter with Jesus and I truly understood what Jesus has done for me on that cross, I started wearing a cross around my neck.  Having celebrated mass right on the sight of the crucifixion where the Holy Cross stood, each mass I celebrate has so much realism of that day when Jesus died for all of us.

I challenge you this week to spend some time gazing at the crucifix and praising God for his great love and mercy.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sept. 12, 2014 Friday: The Holy Name of Mary

“The Blessed Virgin is like a good mother who, not content with looking after all her children in general, watches over each one separately.” -St. John Marie Vianney

Let us say a few words about this Name

which means “Star of the Sea”
and is so appropriate to the Virgin Mother.
She — I tell you — is that splendid and wondrous star
suspended as if by necessity over this great wide sea,
radiant with merit and brilliant in example.

O you, whoever you are,
who feel that in the tidal wave of this world
you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales
than treading on dry land:
if you do not want to founder in the tempest,
do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.
When the wind of temptation blows up within you,
when you strike upon the rock of tribulation,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.

Whether you are being tossed about
by the waves of pride or ambition,
or slander or jealousy,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.

When rage or greed or fleshly desires
are battering the skiff of your soul,
gaze up at Mary.

When the immensity of your sins weighs you down
and you are bewildered by the loathsomeness of your conscience,
when the terrifying thought of judgment appalls you
and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair,
think of Mary.

In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt,
think of Mary, call out to Mary.

Keep her in your mouth,
keep her in your heart.

Follow the example of her life,
and you will obtain the favour of her prayer.

Following her, you will never go astray.
Asking her help, you will never despair.
Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away.

With your hand in hers, you will never stumble.
With her protecting you, you will not be afraid.
With her leading you, you will never tire.
Her kindness will see you through to the end.

Then you will know by your own experience

how true it is that the Virgin’s Name was Mary.
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Sept. 11, 2014 Thursday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time A

Love Your Enemies
For most of us, today is not just September 11, 2014, but the memorial of 911 — a day of horror that we can never forget, a date when our lives changed forever.

So today of all days, this Gospel is just so hard. “Love your enemies. . . Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

“WHAT! Really, God? In a world filled with evil doers, you expect us to ignore our instinct, to not exact revenge? I want to seek “vengeance;” yet you call us to practice “mercy?” In a society that exacts punishment, you expect us to “do good?” To love even those who hate us and killed our families and friends?


“Because I am Mercy. You have not received what you deserve for your sins. So mirror the mercy you have received: return good for evil, grace for ungratefulness, love for hate.”

—Howard Craig, www.jesuitprayer.org

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sept. 10, 2014 Wednesday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time A

When you encounter misfortune, grief, or tragic loss, how do you respond? With fear or faith?

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.

Ambrose (339-397 A.D), an early church father and bishop of Milan, links the beatitudes with the four cardinal virtues which strengthen us in living a life of moral excellence. He writes: "Let us see how St. Luke encompassed the eight blessings in the four. We know that there are four cardinal virtues: temperance, justice, prudence and fortitude. One who is poor in spirit is not greedy. One who weeps is not proud but is submissive and tranquil. One who mourns is humble. One who is just does not deny what he knows is given jointly to all for us. One who is merciful gives away his own goods. One who bestows his own goods does not seek another's, nor does he contrive a trap for his neighbor. These virtues are interwoven and interlinked, so that one who has one may be seen to have several, and a single virtue befits the saints. Where virtue abounds, the reward too abounds... Thus temperance has purity of heart and spirit, justice has compassion, patience has peace, and endurance has gentleness." (EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 5.62–63, 68).

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?
- Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Sept. 9, 2014 Tuesday: St. Peter Claver

Now indeed then it is, in any case, a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another. Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers. (1 Corinthians 6:1-11)

A Compassionate Society
What sort of society do we want? There are, for me, a few principles. A society that encourages us to break open the shell of selfishness and self-centredness contains the seeds of a society where people are honest, truthful, and loving. A society can function well only if those within are concerned, not only with their own needs or the needs of those who immediately surround them, but by the needs of all, that is to say, by the common good and the family of nations. Each one of us, I believe, is on a journey towards this openness where we risk to love.

Growth toward openness means dialogue, trusting in others, listening to them, particularly to those who say things we don't like to hear, speaking together about our mutual needs and how we might grow to new things. The birth of a good society comes when people start to trust each other, to share with each other, and to feel concerned for each other.

Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 34

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sept. 8, 2014 Monday: Nativity of Blessed Mother

The nativity of Mary puts an end to the prolonged sorrow of her parents, Joachim and Anne, who waited many long and brokenhearted years for the birth of a child. As St. Gregory Palamas (+1359) explains: Why did Mary come from a barren womb? In order to put an end to her parents’ sorrow, transform their disgrace, and prefigure that deliverance from the grief and curse of the Forefathers of the human race, which was to come about through her. Let us strive to change our inner thoughts for the better, having as our helper, through invoking her name, the Virgin who was today bestowed upon her parents. She transformed their sorrow, annulled the ancestral curse, and brought our first mother’s pangs to an end painlessly bearing Christ as a Virgin. Mary’s is a birthday to remember because the answer to our sorrow, misery, malice, loneliness, inability, and strife is to be born of Mary. When Mary is born, says St. Andrew of Crete (+740), “we are led toward the truth, and we are led away from our condition of slavery.… How can this be? Darkness yields before the coming of the light.” St. John Vianney extols Mary: “Your birth, O Blessed Virgin Mary, fills the whole world with a sweet consolation and a holy joy, because of you was born our Jesus, our God, who has taken away from us the curse in which we were plunged by the sin of our first parents, and filled us with all kinds of blessings.” And that is why we are eager to know, and to return in the liturgy, to the moment of Mary’s birth: so that we can participate totally in the mystery whereby the possibility of our happiness and salvation is born of a woman.
- Fr. Peter Cameron O.P. Mysteries of the Virgin Mary: Living Our Lady's Graces

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sept. 7, 2014: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary A

Click to hear audio homily
How well do you take criticism? Criticism is an expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes. Imagine you’re on the bleachers at a Friday night Ascension Catholic High School football game. Your son, who is a wide receiver, is about to catch the ball that would score a touchdown. With anticipation you rise up from your bench to get a glimpse, hoping your son will see the ball and catch it. Your son reaches out for it, and has it on the tip of his fingers, but at the moment he is about to catch it, he gets distracted and drops the ball. You hear a collective sigh of disappointment from the home team bleachers. Then you hear a distinctive word from somewhere up in the bleachers, “Idiot!” That word hurt you more than the disappointment from the dropped ball.

Do you ever find yourself inadvertently or intentionally giving criticism that is not well received? Whether you are reviewing an employee or dealing with a family member or a friend, there is nothing pleasant about criticism. Even the best intentioned critique still stings. People like to be right, correct, and accomplished, and when they're not, it hurts to hear the truth, no matter how nice your critic tries to be. Constructive criticism is seldom received constructively. Still, those who strive to improve, value direct feedback no matter how painful.

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus talking about the duty of a Christian to correct an erring brother or sister. He lays out how to go about doing so. Every effort is to be made to bring the erring person to repentance: first in private, then before a few, finally before the whole community. Do we follow that order that Jesus suggests? Or do we sometimes go the reverse order?

Suppose we were hurt by a person. First we begin by keeping it to ourselves. Then we brood over the injury. Eventually, unable to contain it to ourselves, we begin to tell others about it—friends, neighbors, relatives. Sometimes total strangers are brought into it. We bring them in, not as advisers, but as people who will validate our feelings. The last person to hear about the hurt is often the person who is causing it.

Confronting the person directly takes courage and involves risk. Sometimes a little honest talking may clear the air. The person may not be aware of the extent of the hurt he is causing. After speaking with him, he may understand the pain he has caused you, but what if he doesn't?  What then? Do we keep silent?

There is a time for silence, initially. According to St. Faustina, “Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul. We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back, without taking any regard as to whether it is God’s will that we should speak. A silent soul is strong; no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence.” Yet we should not remain silent when silence can be taken to mean that we approve of what is happening. In that case we share responsibility for the evil. In the First Reading, Ezekiel was called to be a watcher for the house of Israel. He speaks to them, not out of arrogance, but out of genuine humility and care for them.

If we confront the offender in the right spirit, and he is genuine, he will want to put it right. If not, he won’t be able to plead ignorance, saying, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ Our responsorial psalm reminds us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” God is continually calling us from the error of our ways into a closer relationship with him and with one another. I’m sure there were times when you were hurt and had to speak up. Remember what St. Therese of Lisieux advised, "Whenever someone exasperates you, even to the point of making you angry, the way to regain peace of soul is to pray for that person and to ask God to reward her for giving you an opportunity to suffer."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sept. 5, 2014 Friday: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Under Our Lady's Mantle

From the Foreword of Mother Teresa: In The Shadow of Our Lady

"You are sitting with Mother Teresa, watching her smile as her loving eyes take in everything about you, feeling the comfort of her strong hand on yours, the aura of holiness around her person, the solace of her gentle words. You watch her tend to the sick and the dying, going out of her way to perform the smallest gestures of care and compassion: the caress on the brow, the squeeze of a hand. You see her in the back of the chapel in Calcutta, immobile and bent in prayer, lost in God. How often I asked myself if I were not seeing in such times something of the Blessed Mother herself, experiencing a glimpse of the Virgin of Nazareth.

When I was with her, I had the sense-one shared by many others, and not only Christians-of being before a living mirror of the one whom Mother Teresa simply called "Our Lady;" of encountering a representation in human flesh of her whom painters and poets had sought for centuries to capture by their art. But here was more than a painting or a poem, much more than a figure in oil or in words. Here was a living icon, genuine and deep, who gave freely of God's love no matter how high the cost, who radiated his presence even when she could no longer feel it. Mother Teresa did as Mary had done before her during Jesus' long years away from Nazareth, during his infinitely longer hours in the tomb. Even when the Lord seemed absent to her, she loved.

As those of us who have had the privilege of knowing her can attest, Mother Teresa was someone who loved God and neighbor joyfully through whatever came, who would not have changed her life, as she often avowed, for all the money in the world. Just as we celebrate the joyous fruitfulness of Our Lady's long night of faith that stretched from a crowded Cave to a barren Cross, so too can we celebrate the bright harvest of Mother Teresa's own long "Marian" night, turned endless day. Like the blackbird, she sang her song in the night, that night dwellers might mark the dawn.

She was not born this way; she did not begin by shining in the night, by reflecting the same Light as the "woman clothed with the sun" (Rev 12:1-RSV). It was over many years, through love and labor, that she was forged by a divine process into an "embodiment of Mary in our midst," as she was described by so many after her death. This process had a simplicity to it, as we shall see. It was this: From dawn to dusk and decade to decade, Mother Teresa's life had been spent, in every sense of the word, in the shadow of Our Lady. Day by day, intimacy became transformation.

During the thirty years that I knew her, Mother Teresa became for me the one book on Our Lady that I could never put down, the one that continues to teach me, to fascinate me, to draw me beyond myself into God. What you hold in your hands is the fruit of my reading of that book, the lights and lessons I have learned from the pages of her life."

-Joseph Langford, MC

Sept. 5, 2014 Friday: 22nd Week in Ordinary A

Am I Trustworthy?
Paul instructs the Christians of Corinth: “it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” I hear the word trustworthy quite often in my volunteering with Boy Scouts as every gathering begins with Scouts intoning: “A Scout is trustworthy.” So I ponder, “What does trustworthy mean in my life”?

Being known as trustworthy is one of the highest compliments one can receive. Being trustworthy supports loving marriages, nourishes family life, helps friendships thrive, and facilitates our daily business and personal lives.

I reflect: can I be found a trustworthy steward in my family life, in my friendships, in my work, and in reaching out to those in need? Am I someone who can be trusted, or are others wary of dealing with me? Am I trustworthy in my faith life, especially where my faith life intersects with daily life? In what ways today shall I be found a trustworthy steward?

―George Penman Sullivan, Jr.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sept. 4, 2014 Thursday: 22nd Week in Ordinary A

All this talk about the wise being foolish sort of has me down. Probably because I’m one of the wise guys they’re talking about in Corinthians. I am educated. I am smart. I’m a college professor. I’m in Mensa. And people like me tend to rely pretty heavily on our intelligence. We think we’re so smart. But what do we really know? I saw a t-shirt the other day that said, “I’m a college professor: to save time, let’s just assume I’m right” I know a lot of stuff. I’m well read. I’m a whiz at trivia. But what do I know, really? Seriously, I don’t know anything. I don’t know how we got here. I don’t know what all this means. I can’t see the big picture, because I’m human. I’m not God. And that’s the point. We humans are naturally restricted. We don’t know how everything happens. We don’t know how the earth got here. We don’t know what happens when we die. We are human. We live, then we die. We couldn’t do this. We couldn’t make a world or make people from scratch or understand how it happened or where it’s going. We have to have faith. And we have to accept that we don’t know everything. We call ourselves wise and think we know so much, and we think we have all the answers, but in fact, we know very little, and we do not have all the answers. Even those who know a lot, in the bigger scheme of things know very little. We think we have everything, but everything we have and our very selves belong to God. Nothing is really ours, not our possessions, not our environment, not our experiences. It is all from God, and it is all God’s.

When Peter is having a bad day fishing, Jesus tells him to put out his nets one last time. Peter says that they’ve been fishing all day and have nothing to show for it, but he puts out his nets on Jesus’ word. And the haul is so great he can’t get them all in the boat. And Peter says, in effect, I’m not worthy. He doesn’t know how this could happen. There were no fish, then there were so many fish he can’t contain them. That’s not possible. But it happened. Peter thinks he knows about fishing, but what does he know? He knows enough to put his faith and trust in Jesus and to follow him. Jesus says he will be a fisher of men now, able to share his faith and his experience.

We don’t know anything, but we should know enough to put our faith and trust in the Lord and follow him. We don’t know it all. We can’t know it all. But we can accept this and trust in God.
- Tami Whitney

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sept. 3, 2015 Wednesday: St. Gregory the Great

The Christian who does not feel that the Virgin Mary is his or her mother is an orphan. -Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catecheses, we have often noted that we do not become a Christian on our own, but by being born and nurtured in the faith in the midst of the People of God, that is the Church. She is a true mother who gives us life in Christ and, in the communion of the Holy Spirit, brings us into a common life with our brothers and sisters. The model of motherhood for the Church is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in the fullness of time conceived through the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the Son of God. Her motherhood continues through the Church, who brings forth sons and daughters through baptism, whom she nourishes through the Word of God. In fact, Jesus gave the Gospel to the Church to bring forth new life by generously proclaiming his word and winning other sons and daughters for God our Father. As a mother, the Church nurtures us throughout life by illuminating our path with the light of the Gospel and by sustaining us with the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. With this nourishment, we are able to choose the good and be vigilant against evil and deceit, and overcome the difficult moments of life with courage and hope. This is the Church: a mother who has at heart the good of her children. And since we are the Church, we are called to live this same spiritual, maternal attitude towards our brothers and sisters, by welcoming, forgiving and inspiring trust and hope.
- Pope Francis, Wednesday General Audience, Sept. 3, 2015

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sept. 2, 2014 Tuesday: 22nd Week in Ordinary A

God's Words have power to set us free
God's living and abiding Word is truth and life and it has power to set us free from every sin and oppression and bring us healing of body, mind, and spirit. If the demons, the fallen angels, were able to recognize the power and authority of Jesus, the Son of God, how much more should we recognize and believe in the power and authority of the Gospel - the good news of Jesus Christ, and entrust our lives to the Lord Jesus?

God's Word produces life and freedom for us
The Lord Jesus speaks his life-giving Word to us each and every day so that we may walk in the freedom of his love and truth. If we approach the Word of God with meekness and humility, and with an eagerness to do everything the Lord desires, we are in a much better position to learn what God wants to teach us through his word. Are you ready to follow the Lord Jesus and to conform your life according to his word?
"Lord Jesus, you have the words of everlasting life. May I never doubt your saving love and mercy, and the power of your word to bring healing, restoration, and freedom from every sin and oppression."
-Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net