Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 5: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Day 5: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Fifth Day: Trust Jesus Blindly

“Trust in the good God, who loves us, who cares for us, who sees all, knows all, can do all things for my good and the good of souls. Christ accepted to die because He trusted His Father. He knew that from that apparent failure God will work out His plan of salvation. For us, too, we must have that deep faith and trust that if we are doing God’s will, He will work out His plan of salvation in us and without consulting us. And I think that is the best way to show our love for Him, to accept Him as He comes. If He wants to come into our life in humiliation, in suffering, all right; if He wants in publicity, all right. Whatever it be, success, failure, it makes no difference to Him, and it should not make a difference to us either.
Mary, too, showed that complete trust in God by accepting to be used for His plan of salvation in spite of her nothingness, for she knew that He who is mighty could do great

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Day 4: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Day 4: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Fourth Day: Our Lady Will Help You
 “How much we need Mary to teach us what it means to satiate God’s Thirsting Love for us, which Jesus came to reveal to us. She did it so beautifully. Yes, Mary allowed God to take possession of her life by her purity, her humility, and her faithful love…. Let us seek to grow, under the guidance of our Heavenly Mother, in these three important interior attitudes of soul that delight the Heart of God and enable Him to unite Himself to us, in and through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in doing so that, like Mary our Mother, we will allow God to take full possession of our whole being—and through us God will be able to reach out His Thirsting Love to all we come in contact with, especially the poor.”

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Aug. 30, 2015: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Aug. 30, 2015: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
All of us live with rules, sometimes unsaid, but sometimes written down. In one house with young children, there was a piece of paper posted on the refrigerator door with the following rules.

  1. No hitting, pushing, kicking, shouting.
  2. No fighting before Mom has coffee.
  3. If you follow someone around asking for something over and over just to annoy her into giving it to you, she can tell you "NO" for 24 hours.
There are some adult versions of rules we should be familiar with.
  1. Personal Days: Each employee will receive 104 personal days a year. They are called Saturday and Sunday.
  2. Sick Days: We Will No Longer Accept A Doctor's Statement As Proof Of Sickness. If You Are Able To Go To The Doctor, You Are Able To Come To Work.

Our readings today are about rules, laws, and decrees. As parents, grandparents, business owners, employers or employees, we know that rules and laws are not bad. Some rules are there for our own safety and protection. The Jewish laws about being "clean" were meant to remind them that they were God's people - chosen, set apart. So, when they went into the marketplace and mixed with all sorts of people, and perhaps touched food that had been offered to pagan gods, they "purified" themselves when they came home. But some of them got so wrapped up in the detailed rituals of cleansing themselves that they forgot the purpose of it all.

In Today’s Gospel, Jesus cuts at the root tendency to give more importance to external gestures and rites than to the heart’s disposition – that is, the desire to appear better than one is. We clearly heard today, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

What is coming from our hearts today? Like Jesus' time, there is much preoccupation about the exterior--physical contamination from the atmosphere, the water, the hole in the ozone layer. Yet there is almost absolute silence about interior and moral defilement that leads to the breakup of relationships and families.  We become indignant on seeing marine birds emerging from contaminated waters covered with petroleum oil, yet we do not show the same concern for the unborn child in the womb or for our children soaked in muddy waters of impure images, songs and violent action games.

Much of our society prides itself on being all-knowing and greater than God. The modern world operates as if the world revolves around self. We no longer consult God in what I should do and want to do. If our self-centered world is so great, why do so many seek escape in illicit diversions, substances, pleasures?

What in our faith helps us keep our minds and hearts focused on God? We have the cross of Christ  - the cross that characterizes the Christian life. Jesus put it very clearly: "If anyone wishes to come after me they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me." The cross means that we respond to evil with goodness. We overcome evil by enveloping it with goodness. Do I really believe that? Am I up to that?

We also know that God is within us. Again, Jesus put it very clearly, especially in John's Gospel: "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our dwelling with them." (John 14:23)
-Fr. Paul Yi

Day 3: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Day 3: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Third Day: Hear Him Say to You: “I Thirst”

 “In His agony, in His pain, in His loneliness, He said very clearly, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ He was so terribly lonely and forsaken and suffering on the Cross…. At this most difficult time He proclaimed: ‘I thirst.’…And the people thought He was thirsty in an ordinary way and they gave Him vinegar straight-away; but it was not that He thirsted for—it was for our love, our affection, that intimate attachment to Him, and that sharing of His passion. And it is strange that He used such a word. He used ‘I thirst’ instead of ‘Give Me your love.’…The thirst of Jesus on the Cross is not imagination. It was a word: ‘I thirst.’ Let us hear Him saying it to me and saying it to you…. It is really a gift of God.”   “If you listen with your heart, you will hear, you will understand…. Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you, you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.”

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, you allowed the thirsting love of Jesus on the Cross to become a living flame within you, and so became the light of His love to all. Obtain from the Heart of Jesus (here make your request). Teach me to allow Jesus to penetrate and possess my whole being so completely that my life, too, may radiate His light and love to others. Amen.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Day 1: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Feast Day Sept. 5)

Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Feast Day Sept. 5)

Day 1: Know the Living Jesus 

“Deep down in every human heart there is a knowledge of God. And deep down in every human heart there is the desire to communicate with Him.”   “The more we know God, the more we will trust God.”   “We must know God, that God is love, that He loves us, and that He has created us—each one of us—for greater things. He has created us to love and to be loved.”   “Do you really know the living Jesus—not from books but from being with Him in your heart?”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Aug. 28, 2015 Friday: St. Augustine

Aug. 28, 2015 Friday: St. Augustine

"Addiction" might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates society. Our addiction make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love. These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. As long as we live within the world's delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in "the distant country," leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled. In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father's home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in "a distant country." It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.

For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming

Aug. 27, 2015 Thursday: St. Monica

Aug. 27, 2015 Thursday: St. Monica

A brilliant son with a promising future leaves home for advanced studies. His mother, a devout Christian, soon finds her son falling into the wrong crowd, which leads to vice and loose living. He abandons the faith of his youth, lives in sin with a woman, and even has an illegitimate child. Finally he joins a strange religious cult. The family is torn apart and the despondent mother is left in tears, fearful for her son's life, to pray for the safe return of her boy to his family and his faith.

Does this story sound familiar to you? Perhaps it sounds like a family you know? or worse yet, your own family?

But the this scenario isn't a story from the twenty-first century!!! The grieving mother lived in the fourth century A.D. in the Roman territories of northern Africa. Her brilliant son did eventually return to the Church to become a great bishop, founder of a religious order, Saint and Doctor of the Church. The figures are St. Augustine of Hippo and his long suffering mother, St. Monica, who prayed thirty-two years for her son's conversion. Their story reveals to us how unchanging is this human drama, which has played out time and time again for centuries.
~ from the Sodality of St. Monica

Saint Monica, model of patience, prayer and perseverance,
intercede for us, that we, too, may be awakened to the sacred,
and trust in God's perfect timing.

Prayer of Hope for those who do not yet know the love of God

O glorious mother, St. Monica, who, despite the many means you employed to accomplish the conversion of your son Augustine seemed fruitless, though for a long time God himself appeared deaf to your earnest prayer and unmoved by your ever-flowing tears, did never lose confidence in obtaining the long-sought grace for Augustine.
You did lovingly and tenderly admonish your erring son; you did watch over him ever with all a mother's love, and fearless of danger and heedless of fatigue, follow him from place to place in his weary and wayward wanderings; in a word, all that a mother's tender love could suggest, all that a mother's anxious solicitude could inspire, all that a wondrous prudence and true wisdom could dictate, you, O great St. Monica, cheerfully did to effect the return to God of your firstborn and darling child.
By all these generous efforts, so happily crowned in the end, hear, O mother, the petitions we make to you. Pray for us, too, and pray especially for those who are unmindful of and ungrateful to God. To you, O dearest mother, we are especially dedicated; look upon us, then, as your children, and win for us the grace we need. Regard mercifully the most destitute amongst us, that sin being diminished, the number of the faithful may increase, and greater glory may be given to Him who is the best of friends, the truest of benefactors, our first beginning and last end, the source of all our hope, our Savior, our God. Amen

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Aug. 26, 2015 Wednesday: 21st Week in Ordinary Time

Aug. 26, 2015 Wednesday: 21st Week in Ordinary Time

‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of dead men, and of all corruption. So you, too, outwardly look righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’ (Matt 23:27)
It is not so difficult to see that, in our particular world, we all have a strong desire to accomplish something. When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware it, we have sold our soul to the many gradegivers. That means we are not only in the world, but also of the world. Then we become what the world makes us. We are intelligent because someone gives us a high grade. We are helpful because someone says thanks. We are likable because someone likes us. And we are important because someone considers us indispensable. In short, we are worthwhile because we have successes.

When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life.

In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared.

In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness.
- Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Aug. 25, 2015 Tuesday: St. Louis King of France

O LORD, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar. (Psalm 139)

"Dearest Lord,
teach me to be generous.
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight, and not to heed the wounds;
to labor, and not to seek to rest;
to give of myself and not to ask for reward,
except the reward of knowing that I am doing Your will."
-St. Ignatius of Loyola

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Aug. 23, 2015: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Aug. 23, 2015: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
It was another hot day in downtown Savannah, Georgia. A hostess was standing outside a restaurant, waiting for the customers to arrive. A lady and her 6-yr. old boy approached her. Eager to to invite both to the restaurant, the hostess grabbed a menu. But the little boy said, “I want you to have this,” and handed her a small plastic toy dinosaur. He then shook her hand. She was puzzled; nevertheless, thanked the little boy. The boy and the lady then walked away.

What a puzzling gift that little boy gave her? What is she ever going to do with a plastic dinosaur? The reaction of the people in the Gospel was no different to Jesus’ suggestion that they need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. “This saying is hard. Who can accept it?” Worse, many took offense at such a suggestion and simply stopped following him and returned to their former way of life. We, too, may have difficulty following Jesus; our initial enthusiasm and fervor for Jesus may have waned over time.

Earlier this week in our parish, we had a sharing session for our cluster parishes, facilitated by a team representing the Diocesan pastoral planning committee. They questioned us on the vitality of our parishes and listened as we shared the strengths and the challenges of our parishes. Several parishioners mentioned that we are losing young people and young families; the young are leaving the area, and more importantly the ones who are in our community do not participate in the life of the church. One of the reasons, someone said, is because our way of worship is not attractive or exciting. I agree that our Sunday worship is nothing like that of some of the other Christian churches. We do not have an exciting contemporary band like other churches, pumping out heart pounding music. We do not have dynamic or entertaining speakers to draw people week after week. However, we do have something that no other Christian church has -- body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist in the appearance of an ordinary bread and wine. ‘That’s nice, but that’s not going to draw masses of people,’ some may say. Certainly, if we want to increase numbers in our pews, we should improve our marketing and customer retention programs, right?

Let’s go back to the story of the little boy and the hostess. After the boy left the hostess, the news cameraman who was nearby explained to the hostess that little boy lost his mom recently. Two years before that, when he was 4 years old, he lost his dad. He is now an orphan with his aunt as his guardian. The cameraman explained that the little boy was sick and tired of being sad and seeing sad people around him. So he asked his aunt to purchase for him plastic rubber duckies, dinosaurs, and other trinkets. He resolved to go out to the streets and make people smile. After hearing the story, the hostess began to well up with tears. She walked over and thanked the little boy who is on a mission not to let sadness take over people’s lives. Once that hostess realized the extraordinary love behind the ordinary gift, she was transformed. The little boy made his suffering a gift of love for others; then, joy sprang up in the hearts of his receivers.

Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of God hidden in the ordinary appearance of bread. In the Eucharist, Jesus makes a total of gift of himself--his entire body and soul--to us. How should we respond to such generosity? We know we can’t possibly give back to Jesus in the same way He gives himself to us. He is infinite; we are finite. The only thing we can possibly give that’s of any worth to God is our willingness to love him. God knows perfectly well that everything we have, even the power of loving Him, is already His prior gift to us. No matter. Like a loving parent who is very pleased with the gift the child presents, bought with money the parent gave, God is pleased, immensely pleased, with our desire. He is pleased with our willingness to return His gifts to Him, to give back to the Lord what the Lord has first given to us. Yet, are there not times we withhold our willingness to love him? Are there not times we show our lack of appreciation for his immense gift of himself in the Eucharist?

If we believe in and love the Eucharist, we would long for the mass and not complain about the inconvenient times of the masses that do not fit our already full weekend schedule. As someone said in the Diocesan sharing session, if people recognized the love Jesus is giving to us at mass, our two churches would be jam-packed with people on weekends. But in reality, our churches are not full -- even after decreasing our weekend mass schedule down to three from four, they are not full.

Jesus invites us, his disciples, to offer something beautiful for God--our willingness to love him. Mother Teresa said, "If God who owes nothing to us is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves? To give ourselves fully to God is a means of receiving God Himself.” Today when we receive the entire Jesus during communion, may we also offer our entire selves,

Take, Lord, receive all I have and possess.
You have given all to me, now I return it.
Give me only Your love and Your grace, that's enough for me.
Your love and Your grace, are enough for me.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Aug. 22, 2015 Saturday: Queenship of Mary

Aug. 22, 2015Saturday: Queenship of Mary

Blessed Mother's Statue in the
Convent Chapel of Missionaries of Charity
St. Agnes, Baton Rouge
"We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek - Jesus, her Son."
--Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

"To give worthy praise to the Lord's mercy, we unite ourselves with Your Immaculate Mother, for then our hymn will be more pleasing to You, because She is chosen from among men and angels. Through Her, as through a pure crystal, Your mercy was passed on to us. Through Her, man became pleasing to God; Through Her, streams of grace flowed down upon us." (1746)
--St. Faustina

“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
--Saint Maximilian Kolbe

"Mary, give me your Heart: so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate; your Heart so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life and love Him as you love Him and serve Him in the distressing guise of the poor."
--Blessed Mother Teresa
Convent Chapel of Missionaries of Charity
St. Agnes, Baton Rouge

Friday, August 21, 2015

Aug. 21, 2015 Friday: 20th Week in Ordinary Time B

Aug. 21, 2015 Friday: 20th Week in Ordinary Time B

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

There are two ways that people show their love, love in words and love in deeds. This distinction should be familiar to us from the words of our Savior, who made it very clear that the person who loves Him “is not the one who says “Lord, Lord”, but the one who keeps my word”. There is a proverb in the English language that says, “They do not love that do not show their love.” Nothing depends more on proof in this world than love; nothing needs more proof than love, as all lovers know. “Do something, show me, prove to me that what you tell me is true!”

Jesus showed how much He loved all of mankind both in word and in deeds. Jesus revealed to St. Faustina that his love for mankind was demonstrated by what he did on earth:
“My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of My goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed Myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give Me pleasure if you hand over to Me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace.” (Diary, 1485)

So what is the obligation of my responsive love for God? Since God has been so loving to me, how should I in return be loving Him? The answer is too obvious, “In the same way!” Now we know that God is infinite, and I most certainly am not. God is wealthy and I am poor; that’s an understatement!

What can we possibly give to God? He knows perfectly well that everything we have, even the power of loving Him, is already His prior gift to us. No matter. Like a loving parent who is very pleased with the gift the child presents, bought with money the parent gave, God is pleased, immensely pleased, with our desire. That’s the point. He is pleased with our willingness to return His gifts to Him, to give back to the Lord what the Lord has first given to us. We know and God knows that this is not make-believe. Oh no, it is real, very real indeed. And what makes it so real is the fact that we can refuse to do it. If we need any evidence of the fact that it is in our power to return love for love, we have it in the fact that we can withhold this willingness.

"If God who owes nothing to us is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves? To give ourselves fully to God is a means of receiving God Himself. I for God and God for me. I live for God and give up my own self, and in this way induce God to live for me. Therefore to possess God we must allow Him to possess our soul.” (Mother Teresa)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Aug. 20, 2015 Thursday: St. Bernard

Aug. 20, 2015 Thursday: St. Bernard

Trust as a vessel to contain God’s mercy
Trust is our response in knowing and experiencing merciful love of God. We can use an analogy to describe what trust is. When we go to a public water fountain, we can draw water from it as long as we have a vessel or container of some kind to put the water in. If our vessel is small, we can only bring back a little water; if it's large, we can bring back a lot. And anyone with a vessel can draw water from the fountain. The water is there for us, and no one is excluded. All we need is a vessel.

So it is with God's grace and mercy. In repeated revelations to St. Faustina, Our Lord makes it clear that the fountain is His Heart, the water is His mercy, and the vessel is our trust. We know that there are time when we are so painfully aware of our weakness and our tendency to fall into temptations.

Confidence is defined as the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone. The more we are aware of our weakness, the greater should be our confidence that the "ocean" of God's infinite mercy would constantly overcome our misery. This knowledge should fill us with joy instead of sadness. St. Faustina wrote,

O Jesus, You know how weak I am; be then ever with me: guide my actions and my whole being, You who are my very best Teacher! Truly, Jesus, I become frightened when I look at my own misery, but at the same time I am reassured by Your unfathomable mercy, which exceeds my misery by the measure of all eternity. This disposition of soul clothes me in Your power. O joy that flows from the knowledge of one's self! O unchanging Truth, Your constancy is everlasting! (Diary, 66)

After Holy Communion, I heard these words: You see what you are of yourself, but do not be frightened at this. If I were to reveal to you the whole misery that you are, you would die of terror. However, be aware of what you are. Because you are such misery, I have revealed to you the whole ocean of My mercy. I seek and desire souls like yours, but they are few. Your great trust forces Me to continuously grant you graces. You have great and incomprehensible rights over My heart, for you are a daughter of complete trust... My love and mercy knows no bounds. (Diary, 718)

Once Mother Teresa explained to her sisters: "It is only when we realize our nothingness, our emptiness, that God can fill us with Himself. When we become full of God then we can give God to others, for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Aug. 19, 2015 Wednesday: St. John Eudes

Aug. 19, 2015 Wednesday: St. John Eudes

The Workers in the Vineyard
In theology we learned about the so-called “bedtime conversion.” When somebody is dying and made a perfect contrition, we believe, he/she would be saved no matter how sinful his/her life has been.
Today’s gospel presents to us a parable which appears scandalous to many good Christians because the parable offers a clear picture of God who is unfair and unjust too. Reading the parable for the first time would lead us to the conclusion that there is certainly an unfair labor practice.  But the story should be read from a different angle. In this parable, Jesus wants to give an important lesson on the generosity and love of God which are offered as pure gifts or as free gifts to all of us. Generosity means that we rejoice in the success and good fortune of others. The blessings that they receive reveal God’s goodness. And what is envy? “Envy,” somebody said, “is a kind of spiritual sickness that restricts the heart so that it cannot rejoice in the good of others, much less, gives to them. And so therefore, as children of God, we have to be happy because we have a God who is:
First, He is eager to fill His heaven with people. We have a God who wants to save us and not condemn; a God who, at the very last hour, is still saving souls. In other words, His offering of salvation is accessible to all. This Parable of the Vineyard Workers could be renamed as the Parable of the Good Employer, for what Jesus is stressing is the Father’s merciful love and generosity, a love that seeks desperately to save men and women and give them the dignity of God’s children.
Second, He is eager to save us His children. But this salvation is not transmitted by radio waves but by the convinced and enthusiastic witness of a person who loves Christ deeply, personally, who sees the world as mission field ready for harvest, whose vision of faith penetrates the seemingly worldly character of daily life and to see that there is a battle raging in the spirit between good and evil.
Third, He is a generous God. Generosity means that we rejoice in the success and good fortune of others. The purpose of this parable is to emphasize the truth that we have a God who is compassionate, merciful and generous. His actions go beyond the human understanding of fairness and justice. God gives us his blessings not because we merit them but they are absolutely his free gift to us.
And so as His children, we have to realize also that salvation comes about one by one. We must know that to be authentic apostles, even though we are not on TV or writing best-seller books, we have to go about convincing others, not only by example and persuasion, but always an invitation to experience that mysterious new relationship that has transfigured our lives.
Therefore, we should not be hurt but we should rather be grateful and rejoice that others will be called later and will receive the salvation. And so our challenge is to look at the people we meet today and see them as God does.
-Fr. Joseph Benitez

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Aug. 18, 2015 Tuesday: 20th Week in Ordinary Time

Aug. 18, 2015 Tuesday: 20th Week in Ordinary Time

"It is not how much we really ‘have’ to give but how empty we are so that we can receive fully in our life. Take away your eyes from yourself and rejoice that you have nothing that you are nothing that you can do nothing. Give Jesus a big smile each time your nothingness frightens you." -Mother Teresa

We know that Jesus was not opposed to wealth per se, nor was he opposed to the wealthy. He had many friends who were rich, including some notorious tax collectors. What Jesus teaches is that we should live the evangelical counsel of poverty. This means: detachment from material things and attachment to Christ. Let us reflect on the three kinds of evangelical poverty:

Material Poverty. Christ uses strong words to warn us of our attraction to anything material. Whether we are attached to lavish things or simple things, it makes little difference. No matter what the size of the attachment, our soul will not be able fly to the heights of perfection. Although hard for many, material poverty can be a first step towards affective poverty and path to holiness.

Poverty of Mind. Upon hearing Christ’s words, the apostles “were greatly astonished and said, ‘Who then can be saved?’” Christ tells us not to be astonished when we discover that his ways are not our ways. In this relativistic world, we are too willing to latch on to any reasoning that justifies our opinions or suits our fancy. “This subjectivity, or wanting to be led by our own way of feeling and thinking, is a persistent threat especially in our times. It is the cause of so many personal failures in spiritual and moral matters, since our intelligence, deprived of the superior light of faith and revelation, will go unchecked even in the most obvious and common things, calling good and true what is evil and erroneous

Poverty of Heart. “What will there be for us?” How many sacrifices we make for Christ are nullified by self-seeking! We may have detached ourselves from the luxury of material possessions, but perhaps we remain attached to the praise we receive for having done so. We know we are working for God’s glory when we are willing to do good without expecting any reward.

The hard saying is, “it is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”
-Fr. Joseph Benitez

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Aug. 16, 2015: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Aug. 16, 2015: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
How many of you have of a mother or a grandmother who insists on feeding you? When I visit my mom, she fusses at me for not eating enough. Believe me, after I clear my plate and then some, she still says that I haven’t eaten enough. So here is a simple, yet profound question I would like for us to ponder: Why do moms and maw-maws insist on feeding us until we burst? The simple answer some would say is because they are mamas, and mamas are supposed to feed. Perhaps a more nuanced answer would be that mamas love to feed because they can’t stand for their child going hungry.

Mother Teresa, who is a spiritual mother to many, said something very profound. “The world today is hungry not only for bread but hungry for love; hungry to be wanted, to be loved. They’re hungry to feel that presence of Christ. In many countries, people have everything except that presence, that understanding.” Mother Teresa was quick to say that what she and her sisters did was not just binding the wounds and feeding the poor. Their primary work, she said was to mediate an experience of forgiveness  for those to whom they provided care. She boldly said that forgiveness was the greatest thing in the world and that forgiveness was the key to the survival of mankind. Without forgiveness, she said, reconciliation between God and man, or between man and man could not be possible.

Why does Jesus insist on feeding himself to us? We have been hearing him say the past few weeks that he is the Bread of Life and those who consume him will have eternal life. Jesus states even more explicitly in today’s Gospel, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

So why does our very life, in fact our eternal life, depend on consuming Eucharist which is Jesus’ body and blood? Pope Francis explains, “In the Eucharist we experience the forgiveness of God and the call to forgive. We celebrate Eucharist not because we are worthy, but because we recognize our need for God’s mercy, incarnate in Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, we renew the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of sins, and our hearts are enlarged to receive and show mercy.”

We hunger for forgiveness in our lives because of the hurts we inflicted on others. We also hunger to forgive those who have hurt us. Material things and comforts can distract us briefly from this gnawing hunger in our souls, but not for long. Fractures and tensions within families, within communities, and within countries cannot be solved by money or technology. Forgiveness is the key to the survival of our family, our marriage, our country, and the entire mankind. Forgiveness leads to reconciliation, mutual respect and love for each other.  Jesus wants to feed that greatest hunger by giving us himself who is Mercy.

The mercy that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist begins to enlarge our hearts to receive and show mercy. To actuate this process we need to grow in our love for Christ through prayer and sacrifice. Mother Teresa said, “People are hungry for the Word of God that will give peace, that will give unity, that will give joy. But you cannot give what you don’t have. That’s why it is necessary to deepen your life of prayer. Allow Jesus to take you, pray with you and through you.” She also said that to experience a life full of Christ, little by little, we need to let go of anything that we are holding onto out of selfishness. We begin to let go through small sacrifices of daily life--being patient on Sunshine Bridge (where traffic is horrendous), putting another person’s need ahead of our own, taking care of our family and neighbors. If God wishes more, he will put us in circumstances that demand or invite us to give more.

Do we truly want to satisfy our hunger for forgiveness? Ask Jesus today, as you receive Him, to make you a generous and cheerful giver of forgiveness.
-Fr. Paul Yi

I Sing of Maid: A Hymn in Honor of Blessed Mother

I Sing of Maid
A Hymn in Honor of Blessed Mother

Click to hear Audio of Hymn

I sing a maid of tender years
To whom an angel came,
And knelt, as to a mighty queen,
And bowed his wings of flame;
A nation's hope in her reply,
This maid of matchless grace;
For God's own son became her child,
And she his resting place.

She watched him grow to manhood's strength
To meet his destiny,
And when the danger of his truth
Brought him to Calvary,
She stood by him all powerless
To ease his dying pain,
'Til in the darkest hour of all,
She held her Son again.

And if the song had ended then,
Our eyes would fill with tears,
But ah! The song had just begun
To echo down the years!
Now lift your voices, hearts and souls,
To sing with one accord
To honor Mary, Mother of
The Christ, the Risen Lord!

Words: M.D. Ridge (1987)
Music: THE FLIGHT OF THE EARLS Traditional Celtic melody

Friday, August 14, 2015

Aug. 15, 2015 Saturday: Feast of Assumption of Virgin Mary

Aug. 15, 2015 Saturday: Feast of Assumption of Virgin Mary

The gospel today begins with a journey.
“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste…”

This time of year, I think, a lot of us can appreciate the idea of taking a trip. Millions of us are headed to the beach or the mountains, National Parks or Disney World. But what Mary does here is hardly a vacation. She has just been told that she is to be the Mother of God. And rather than keeping this news to herself, or wondering how she will cope, she sets out on a journey, to visit her cousin, Elizabeth — and we have this momentous scene that follows, The Visitation.

Not only does Mary take this journey to a town of Judah but, with this event, the great journey of her LIFE begins – an adventure that will not end until her final journey, to heaven, on the feast we celebrate today, the Assumption.

We tend to think of the Blessed Mother as a quiet, serene figure – a woman of few words, but blessed with tremendous faith, and boundless trust. This is true.

But this morning, I’d like to ask you to think of her a little differently.

Think of her also as a woman of action.

She is a woman on a continual journey — constantly, by necessity, on the move. She is restless, rarely sitting still or staying in one place.

After this journey to see Elizabeth, we next find Mary embarking on an arduous trip, while pregnant, to Bethlehem.

After giving birth, she and her small family are on the move again, fleeing to Egypt, to escape death.

We meet her again, traveling to Jerusalem, where her son goes missing – and we follow her as she goes in search of him. Finding him, she continues her travels, bringing him home to Nazareth.

Mary, as the first disciple, in many ways prefigures all the disciples who will follow – those who traveled, mostly on foot, throughout the world to spread the gospel and proclaim the good news. Like those apostles, Mary was a missionary – the first missionary, a woman who traveled and carried Christ to the world.

In today’s gospel, we see her, literally, bringing Jesus to another, as she carries him in her womb and goes to her cousin and speaks the words any missionary might pronounce – words which are the very essence of The Good News, and the beginning of all belief:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”

What follows, the Magnificat, is Mary’s great gift to scripture, one of its most beautiful prayers. It is prayed every evening in the Liturgy of the Hours by millions around the world. With that, Mary’s great acclamation becomes the Church’s.

We can only imagine what other travels she took in the course of her life … but we can’t forget one in particular, the most difficult of all, as she followed her son on HIS journey to Calvary.

But today, on this feast, we celebrate her ultimate journey – her assumption into heaven, body and soul. The woman who spent so much of her life in motion — setting out, traveling, searching and fleeing – finally is given a place of rest, a place “prepared by God,” as Revelation puts it. This day, we honor that, and honor how God has “looked with favor on his lowly servant.”

This feast marks the end of Mary’s earthly story – and the beginning of one that continues, to this day, in heaven. She becomes, for all time, what Elizabeth says in her first word of greeting: “Blessed.”

But though she left this world, Mary is not removed from us. Her life is closely entwined with ours. All of us, like Mary, are on a journey. All of us are traveling to places we may not understand, to destinations we cannot see. This is life. But we ask Mary to help guide us on our way.

The road is long. The journey isn’t easy. We pray to have the trust in God that we need to travel whatever road we must take – just as Mary did.

And we pray, too, that one day our journeying will lead us to meet her face to face – in that place prepared for her, that destination that became her home, and where she waits for us, with a mother’s love and a mother’s hope.

-Deacon Greg Kandra

Aug. 14, 2015 Friday: St. Maximilian Kolbe

Aug. 14, 2015 Friday: St. Maximilian Kolbe
Life and Death
The Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo after the Nazi conquest of Poland. He was then sent to the prison in Auschwitz, Germany. The documents for his canonization contain first- person testimony of his selfless outreach to other prisoners, even at the cost of humiliation by guards and other prisoners.

In his diary St. Maximilian wrote the following: “No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner struggle. Beyond armies of occupation and the slaughter in the extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depths of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”

After a prisoner escaped, ten others were chosen at random to die…including a young father. Maximilian offered to take the place of this man and was executed at Auschwitz in 1941.

Few of us have the opportunity to give our very lives. What “piece” of myself can I give away today in service to someone else?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Aug. 13, 2015 Thursday: 19th Week in Ordinary Time

Aug. 13, 2015 Thursday: 19th Week in Ordinary Time

Mt 18: 21 – 19: 1
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.“

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt... Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’

Mother Teresa on Forgiveness
"I once picked up a woman from a garbage dump and she was burning with fever; she was in her last days and her only lament was: ‘My son did this to me.’ I begged her: You must forgive your son. In a moment of madness, when he was not himself, he did a thing he regrets. Be a mother to him, forgive him. It took me a long time to make her say: ‘I forgive my son.’ Just before she died in my arms, she was able to say that with a real forgiveness. She was not concerned that she was dying. The breaking of the heart was that her son did not want her. This is something you and I can understand."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Aug. 12, 2015 Wednesday: St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Aug. 12, 2015 Wednesday: St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Jane Frances Fremiot was born on January 23, 1572, into a prominent and prosperous family of Dijon, in France. Her father was the president of the parliament and a wealthy landowner; her mother, who died in childbirth when Jane was about eighteen months old, was a descendant of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

By the time she was twenty, Jane was a beautiful, lively, charming young woman, not only rich and clever, but also possessing high ethical standards of service and a capacity for hard work.

In 1592, she was wed to Baron Christophe Rabutin-Chantal, a member of the aristocracy and a soldier in the king’s service, who did not hesitate to leave the care of his neglected estate to Jane. As result of her diligent efforts, the family lived comfortably. In spite of the fact that her first two children died in infancy, Jane was supremely happy in her role as wife and mother and administrator of a large property which gave her a chance to practice great charity toward the poor.

She set up soup kitchens and ovens to bake bread to feed the hungry of the neighborhood, she went to the homes of the sick to serve them as nurse and housekeeper, she organized a sort of relief work on a large scale, involving her servants and friends in her charitable interests.

About two weeks after the birth of her sixth child, her husband, Christophe, was fatally wounded in a hunting accident. Jane made a vow of chastity and gave her husband’s and her own elaborate state clothing and jewelry to neighboring churches for vestments and revenue; she reduced her household staff and devoted her spare time to prayer and works of service to the poor.

Within a few months her father-in-law demanded that she and her children come to live at his estate at Monthelon, which also needed a capable and firm management. Jane submitted to this demand, and, typically enough, turned this unhappy period of her life into a means of growth. Not only did she succeed in bringing order out of the domestic chaos, but did so in spite of the hindrances of a disagreeable housekeeper who resented her presence and who used her influence with the old baron to make life as difficult as possible for Jane.

At the same time Jane continued to carry on her works for the poor and sick, and undertook the care and education of the housekeeper’s children along with that of her own.It was during this time that she met the Bishop of Geneva, the future St. Francis de Sales, who became her spiritual director. Under his guidance she learned to live a life of constant prayer in the midst of action, and to profit from the insults and arrogance she endured by increasing her patience, charity, forgiveness, and compliance with God’s will.

St. Francis de Sales confirmed her calling to live a consecrated life and invited her to join him in establishing a new type of religious life, one open to older women and those of delicate constitution, one that would stress the hidden, inner virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, even-tempered charity, and patience, one disciplined enough to be quite ordinary in the eyes of men, but quite extraordinary in the practice of love for God and others, one founded on the example of Mary in her journey of mercy to her cousin Elizabeth.

Over the strenuous objections of her family, Jane readily agreed to accept this challenge, and spent the remainder of her life, another thirty years, bringing the Bishop’s project to fruition. She traveled extensively throughout France and into Italy establishing foundations of the Congregation of the Visitation of Holy Mary.

In December of 1641 when Jane fell ill during a visit to the monastery in Moulins, she was more than ready to answer the summons of the Bridegroom. After dictating a circular letter to all the monasteries and making a firm act of faith, she received Holy Viaticum with great fervor. Slowly and distinctly she pronounced the name of Jesus three times and died at age 69.At that moment in Paris, St. Vincent de Paul, her director after St. Francis de Sales, had a vision of a small globe of fire rising to join a more luminous globe, and the two rising higher to blend with an infinitely larger and more splendid sphere, and he knew that the souls of the two saints that he had known on earth had been reunited in death and had together returned to God, their first and last end.

The body of Saint Jane now reposes in the Church of the Visitation at Annecy, and her heart in the Church of the Visitation at La Charite, on the Loire.

Source: Madame de Chantal – Portrait of a Saint, Elisabeth Stopp, Newman Press, 1963.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Aug. 11, 2015 Tuesday: St. Clare of Assisi

Aug. 11, 2015 Tuesday: St. Clare of Assisi

Mt 18: 1-5. 10. 12-14
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them,and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."

"I always say I am a little pencil in God’s hands. He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything and sometimes it is really hard because it is a broken pencil and He has to sharpen it a little more. Be a little instrument in His hands so that He can use you any time, anywhere. We have only to say ‘yes’ to God."
-Mother Teresa

Monday, August 10, 2015

Aug. 10, 2015 Monday: St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Aug. 10, 2015 Monday: St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Love + Suffering = Joy

Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart, the spirit, the center of the self.

The way to pleasure is power and prudence. The way to happiness is moral goodness. The way to joy is sanctity, loving God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself.

Everyone wants pleasure. More deeply, everyone wants happiness. Most deeply, everyone wants joy.
Freud says that spiritual joy is a substitute for physical pleasure. People become saints out of sexual frustrations.

This is exactly the opposite of the truth. St. Thomas Aquinas says, "No man can live without joy. That is why one deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures." Sanctity is never a substitute for sex, but sex is often a substitute for sanctity.

The simplest, most unanswerable proof that Aquinas is right and Freud is wrong, is experience. It is not a matter of faith alone. It has been proved by experience by many, many people, many, many times. You can repeat the experiment and prove it to yourself. You can be absolutely certain that it is true, just as you can be certain that fire is hot and ice is cold.

There is a catch:
you have to really do it,
not just think about it.

Millions of people for thousands of years have tried the experiment, and not one of them has ever been cheated. All who seek, find—this is not just a promise about the next life, to be believed by faith, but a promise about this life, to be proved by experience, to be tested by experiment.

No one who ever said to God, "Thy will be done" and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy—not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future in this world, but in this world at that very moment, here and now.

In the very act of self-surrender to God there is joy. Not just later, as a consequence, but right then. It is exactly like a woman's voluntary sexual surrender to a man. The mystics often say all souls are female to God; that's one reason why God is always symbolized as male. Of course it's only a symbol, but it's a true symbol, a symbol of something true.

The symbolism is not "sexist" either. It holds for a man's soul as well. Only when lovers give up all control and melt helplessly into each other's bodies and spirits, only when they overcome the fear that demands control, do they find the deepest joy. Frigidity, whether sexual or spiritual, comes from egotism.

We've all known people who are cold, suspicious, mistrusting, unable to let go. These people are miserable, wretched. They can't find joy because they can't trust, they can't have faith. You need faith to love, and you need to love to find joy. Faith, love, and joy are a package deal.

Every time I have ever said yes to God with something even slightly approaching the whole of my soul, every time I have not only said "Thy will be done" but meant it, loved it, longed for it—I have never failed to find joy and peace at that moment. In fact, to the precise extent that I have said it and meant it, to exactly that extent have I found joy.

Faith, love and joy
are a package deal.

Every other Christian who has ever lived has found exactly the same thing in his own experience. It is an experiment that has been performed over and over again billions of times, always with the same result. It is as certain as gravity.

It sounds too good to be true. It sounds like pious exaggeration, a salesman's pitch. Instant joy? All you have to do is surrender to God? What's the catch?
There is a catch. It's a big one, but a simple one: you have to really do it, not just think about it.
To do it completely requires something we dislike very much: death. Not the death of the body. The body is not the obstacle. The ego is. Self-will is. We fear giving that up even more than we fear giving up our body to death—even though that ego, the thing St. Paul calls "the old man" in us, or the Adam in us, is the cause of all our misery.

That old self has sold itself to the devil. It's his microphone. It sits there behind our ears chattering away. When we're about to give ourselves to God, it instantly whispers to us: "Careful, now. Hold back. Don't get too close to him. He's dangerous. In fact, he's a killer."

The voice speaks some truth. Even the devil has to begin with some truth in order to twist it into a lie. It's true; God is a killer. If you let him, he will kill your old, selfish, unhappy, bored, wretched, mistrusting, loveless self.
But he will do it only if you want him to; and he will do it only as much as you want him to. God is a gentleman. He will never rape your soul, only woo it.

And when he does, you understand one of the reasons why sex is so different, so special, so holy: it is an image of this, of heaven, of the ultimate meaning and destiny and purpose of your life.

Even the tiny foretaste of heaven that we can all have here on earth by surrendering to God is as much more joyful than the greatest ecstasy sex can give, just as being with your beloved is more joyful than being with her picture.
You either believe all this, or you don't. If you do, then do it! If you don't, then try it. You'll like it.

-Peter Kreeft

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Aug. 9, 2015: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Aug. 9, 2015: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
Most newborn babies weigh between 6 to 9 lbs.  Imagine, two pounds...that’s what the twin sisters Brielle and Kyrie each weighed when they were born 12-weeks premature. In the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) their doctors placed them in separate incubators immediately after birth. Kyrie was doing well, but Brielle was not. After about a month, Brielle was in trouble, in danger of death and doctors ran out of options. As a desperate measure, a nurse placed Brielle in the same incubator as Kyrie. Something surprising happened; Kyrie placed her tiny arm over her sister as to embrace her. Immediately, Brielle’s heart rate returned to normal, her temperature stabilized, and her breathing became regular. Kyrie’s embrace and presence saved her sister. Now the girls are grownup and healthy, 20 yr. old women.

We all need a loving presence in our lives; without that presence, life becomes hard to face, we lose direction, and life seems chaotic. In the Gospel the past couple of Sundays, we read about Jesus awakening the true hunger in those who flocked to see him merely for miracles. Last week, Jesus urged people not to work for the food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life. This week, Jesus reiterates what he said last week, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” But people were incredulous and full of doubt. Therefore,  Jesus had to admonish them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” Jesus longed to fill their deepest hunger--their hunger for the presence of God in their hearts. But they were resisting because they doubted Jesus.

 An elderly man recently said to me, “I was told by someone in a 12-Step Program that I was born with a God-sized hole in my heart.” The man explained that he squandered most of his younger life in trying to fill that hole with something else. Then one Sunday, he received Eucharist for the first time in a long time. He returned to the pew, crying like a baby. He felt that God loved him deeply. It was as though God embraced him, like Kyrie embraced her sister in the incubator. His restless heart finally returned to normal. His deepest hunger --his desire to be united to God--was satisfied. Then he felt a profound desire--that he must love just as God loved him. But to get to that point in his spiritual life, he had to make changes in his life.

It is not enough to experience the close presence of Jesus. Jesus prompts us to cooperate and to change our lives. I remember there was a period in my life when I returned to attending mass. However, on some Sundays I missed because I would go out Saturday night for dancing and not get home until early Sunday morning. I had to change and give up my old ways.

Are you hungering for that embrace and presence of Jesus? Or do you doubt that Jesus is the one who can fill your life? Jesus invites you today, despite your doubts about him, to place your trust in him. Approach him in the Eucharist with the following prayer, “Jesus I hunger for your love. Come in to my heart. You are the only one who can satisfy my hunger.”
-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, August 7, 2015

Aug. 7, 2015 Friday: 18th Week in Ordinary Time

Aug. 7, 2015 Friday: 18th Week in Ordinary Time

Matt 16:24-28

The Conditions of Discipleship

I do not know if you hear this already. An unknown author said something about what a Christian is all about. This is what he said:

A Christian… is a mind through which Christ thinks.
is a heart through which Christ lives.
is a voice through which Christ speaks.
is a hand through which Christ helps.

In today’s gospel Jesus says: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow,” (v. 24). In these words of Jesus, therefore, following Him is a serious matter. It is because this gospel passage speaks about God’s plan for us which is to live our life fully for Him. But how do we live our life fully?

Bishop Soc Villegas in his homily book, Love Like Jesus (pp. 66-67) gave us how: first islive fully. To live fully means, being heroic. It means being ready to go the extra mile even if the law does not require it. Every Christian is called to be a hero. Every Christian is called to be generous. Every Christian is called to go all the way without hesitation all the time. That is the key to heroism. These are the keys to sanctity: generosity, living life to the full, celebrate with life. It is not forbidden for us to celebrate life. We must enjoy life, this life given to us by God.

Second, Bishop Villegas said is,love deeply. He said that we say we love with the heart. Some of us blurt out statements like: “I don’t love her anymore” or “I don’t love him anymore”. Actually, what we mean is “I don’t feel the joy and pleasure of loving anymore. When the Lord says to us that we must love deeply, the Lord is telling us to go deeper than the heart, to go deeper than the feelings. Examining the structure of our body and going deeper than the heart means going the guts. Deeper than the heart, lies our sikmura. In fact, in oriental religions, the focus of the body, the core of the body is not the heart but the guts. It is the core. It is the sikmura and it is the kalooban. When the Lord asks us to love deeply, the Lord is asking us to love more than feeling, to love with our guts, to love with our sikmura, even if that should go empty. But we know that it is only in loving deeply we can also live fully.

And finally, Bishop Villegas said that the last one is we must let go cheerfully. He said that we must carry our crosses cheerfully. The Lord is asking us to be happy, not necessarily to be merry all the time. To be merry is to sing and dance and to smile all the time and to crack jokes and yet, we can still be happy. We can still be joyful because of the Lord in our hearts. Let us never ever doubt that we are the most precious creation of God. Because of all the places that God can choose to dwell, God has chosen us to be His dwelling place.

And so, as somebody had said, Christianity without the cross would be only another revival movement. Someone said it is the cross that reveals to us that our goodness is not good enough. Faith in Christ is not intended to improve us, to put the finishing touches to our self-image, but to make us a new creation (2Cor 5:17). We become a new creation, not by improving our performance, but by coming to the end of it. We are called to die to ourselves. In a sense we are called to fail, but that failure is better than any success. This was the pattern of Jesus’ life, and will therefore be the pattern of his disciples’ lives too.

-Fr. Joseph Benitez

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Aug. 6, 2015 Thursday: The Feast of Transfiguration

Aug. 6, 2015 Thursday: The Feast of Transfiguration

"The invitation at the Transfiguration, for the disciples as well as for the faithful today, is to listen to Jesus and to follow him, laying down our lives as a gift of love for one another in obedience to the will of the Father." -Pope Francis

Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration. The word ‘transfiguration’ is derived from the Latin word transfigurare for the Greek word metamorphosis which means “change of form and appearance.” Jesus takes Peter, James and John, this special trio within the twelve, up the high mountain of Tabor where the glory of His destiny is revealed to them. It is the glory that belongs to Him as God’s beloved Son. Transfiguration is the foretaste of heaven.

The Transfiguration of Jesus, as one priest said, invites to see the many little transfiguration experiences that we have of daily lives like: changes of nature, gradual opening of a flower, the blooming of trees, transformation of people, the growing of children, the cycle of birth and death, the realization that God is there. Through the eyes of faith we realize that it is a continuous process of seeing not the flower but the blooming, not the people but their talents, not the sun but its rising, not the miracle but God.

Even every time that we are gathering for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist we experience also a moment of transfiguration where our Lord Jesus Christ is transfigured in our very own eyes. The bread and the wine are transfigured and become His Body and Blood as our spiritual food for communion and life in our journey towards eternal life.

I have witnessed people transfigured, not in terms of physical transformation but in terms of spiritual and moral transformation. I have a friend, he is a priest now. Before he entered the seminary, he was a drug addict and a member of a gang. But when he entered the seminary after he attended an intense spiritual renewal, some changes happened about him and now he is a priest of good standing and one of the good priests in his diocese where he was incardinated. Yes, even if we are not in Mt. Tabor, transfiguration happens.

Fr. Joseph Benitez

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015 Wednesday: Dedication of St. Mary Major

August 5, 2015 Wednesday: Dedication of St. Mary Major

The Church celebrates today the dedication of one of Rome’s major basilicas, St. Mary Major. A legend says that a wealthy Roman and his wife, who were childless, made a vow that at death they would leave their possessions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They prayed that she would show them how to do this. On the night of August 5th, at the height of the Roman summer, snow fell on the Esquiline Hill in Rome, where the Basilica of St. Mary Major now stands. And in the same night the couple had a vision telling them to build a church there. Though long recognized as without historical foundation, the legend explains why the church is also known as “Our Lady of the Snows.” It is also called “St. Mary of the Manger,” because of the relic of the manger in which Mary placed her baby after his birth.

Perhaps by default when we think of Mary, we think of Bethlehem. We Catholics are also reared to reflect often on Mary at the foot of the Cross with the Beloved Disciple. But we ought not overlook the many ordinary days over more than thirty years that she served Jesus as His first and best disciple. We tend to think of St. Thérèse as the origin of the Little Way, but she surely learned it through her devotion to Our Lady.

Mary’s love for Jesus was no less strong as she bathed her infant, or fed her child, than it was during Holy Week: less intense, perhaps, but no less dedicated. In this she’s an example for us who tend to lead very ordinary lives. In ordinary moments, we can choose to love with extraordinary love: the love through which Mary served Jesus as His model disciple.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Aug. 4, 2015 Tuesday: St. John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests

Aug. 4, 2015 Tuesday: St. John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests

Today it would be good for us to think about two particular priests.

First, let’s bring to mind a priest whom God has used to touch our lives in some particular way. Maybe it’s a priest who was there for us during an illness or family crisis. Perhaps it’s one whose teaching or personal witness inspires us to greater faith or continued conversion. It could be a priest who has become our spiritual director, a confessor, a personal friend.

Second, let’s also bring to mind a priest with whom, for whatever reason, we’ve found to be a “turn-off.” Rightly or wrongly, we perceive him to be too worldly or lazy or without much talent. Perhaps he’s confused or even scandalized us by his behavior, or his message.

I invite us to think of these two priests, as today is the memorial of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. It’s a day for us to thank God for priests, and also lift them up in prayer.

St. John Vianney was a priest who touched countless lives. He was renowned throughout France as a compassionate and insightful confessor, and he made himself available for confession up to sixteen hours a day.

At the same time, St. John had his struggles, and even his critics. Early on, he was almost not ordained because of his lack of a formal education. As a priest, St. John faced demonic temptations and interferences. What’s more, certain brother priests thought him too “extreme,” an assessment sometimes rooted in envy, ignorance, or even fear.

In short, St. John was a priest whom many gave thanks for but also one whom others thought was in particular need of prayer. As we celebrate his life, let’s hold in our hearts today our two particular priests, that they may be blessed by God to be all that they’re called to be. As St. John himself said, “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.”

-Fr. Scott Hurd

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Aug. 2, 2015: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Aug. 2, 2015: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
Click to hear Audio Homily
Are you pretty good at spotting food that is spoiled in your refrigerator? If the food seems to have slimy texture, stinky odor, spotty or chunky appearance, should you just throw it away? It’s a shame to throw out food, for it’s throwing hard-earned money in the trash. It’s also a shame knowing that  hunger is pervasive in the world. They say that there are some 795 million people in the world who do not have enough food each day to lead a healthy, active life. Just imagine for a moment--a family without a refrigerator. Hunger could be both physical or spiritual. Hunger is physical when we lack adequate food and drink to replenish our bodies. It is spiritual when we lack things like freedom, truth, love, compassion, and peace. Among these two types of hunger, people tend to satisfy the physical and neglect the spiritual, perhaps because they believe that once the physical or material hunger is satisfied, the spiritual hunger will take care of itself.

God sometimes attracts us with temporary earthly goods, benefits, and blessings, to draw us closer to himself where we will derive spiritual satisfaction.  In last week’s Gospel, Jesus satisfied 5,000 people who were physically hungry. In this week’s Gospel, people were flocking to Jesus expecting him to repeat the miracle. Instead, Jesus decided to let them know about the food that endures forever. He said, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” People then asked, 'What must we do if we are to carry out God's work?' Jesus replied,  'This is carrying out God's work: you must believe in the one he has sent.'

Most of us are spiritually hungry, and we don’t know it. We know intellectually where to go to be fed spiritually--to spend time in silence in prayer, to pray with the Word of God, to receive the living Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist--but we stop short of committing time to our spiritual life because we know that we have to give up time dedicated to all our other busy activities. St. Paul advises us in the Second Reading, to break away from the immoral conduct of the surrounding culture and live the new life afforded by the Holy Spirit who lives in us. It’s not enough that we are baptized and received religious lessons in primary and secondary school. Only when we rediscover everyday the truth that is in Jesus, believe, and decide to turn from sin, will we be able to enjoy the fruits of the Holy Spirit--charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.

Whenever we are wearied in our faith-journey, let us go to Jesus not just to replenish our worn-out bodies but also to replenish our worn-out spirits. How hungry are we for God? As we approach the Holy Eucharist (the bread of life) today, may we ask God for the grace to be more interested in our spiritual needs than in our physical needs.