Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nov. 29, 2015: 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C

Nov. 29, 2015: 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C

Have you ever been disappointed by promises? Sometimes people or companies over promise and under-deliver. That was my experience at a Black Friday sale this week. I waited along with about 200 people outside a store which promised to give away $500, $100, or $10 gift certificates to it’s customers. Once the door opened, each of us was given an envelope which contained a mystery gift certificate. Like most of the folks, I got a$10 discount certificate; I had my hopes too high.

When I queued up in a long checkout line, a lady ahead of me in the line suddenly broke out in an ecstatic scream. Most of us began to cheer and clap, thinking she got the $500 gift certificate. Those standing closest to her were asking, “what did you get; what did you get?” The lady calmed down and said, “A roach just crossed my path!” It was deflating to learn that she got the same $10 discount certificate like the rest of the us.

The readings for the First Sunday of Advent focus on the promise of the coming of the Lord, in which no one knows the day nor the hour. The certainty of this promise is at the heart of Christian faith. We have confidence that God does not over promise or under-deliver. We heard in the First Reading, “The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.”

We pray in the Creed every Sunday, “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” Yet, if we are honest with ourselves we know that we are not so good at waiting; we sometimes get tired of waiting or become indifferent. So we must embrace what Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.”

“Christ comes to us bringing his light, he comes also to us granting peace! But who is watching, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a vigilant, praying heart? Who is waiting for the dawn of the new day, keeping alight the flame of faith? Who has time to listen to his word and to become enfolded and entranced by his love? Yes! His message of peace is for everyone; he comes to offer himself to all people as sure hope for salvation.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)

While the rest of the world is distracted and anxious by signs of terrorism, wars, and even the self-imposed busyness of Christmas shopping and parties, we the disciples of Jesus must assume a different attitude in which we see those very signs as pointing to the Lord’s return. The most comforting thing that the Scriptures whisper to us is that the coming of Jesus is not a day to dread but a day to celebrate. And that is the core message of Advent. On March 25 each year, we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation in which Archangel Gabriel announced the good news of the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of Blessed Mother. Almost nine months later, we are now approaching the day when we will behold the fulfillment of God’s promise of the birth of His Son. We wait for God not with a sense of dread but with lively hope---like expectant parents as they wait to hear their baby’s first cry, like wedding guests waiting to glimpse the bride as she comes down the aisle. We wait not for the end of everything but for the beginning of a new day, more beautiful than we could ever have imagined it.

Advent is a season to prepare. When we are called to meet the Lord, we don’t want to be unfamiliar to Him---or He to us. Much better if we can walk into the presence of a longtime friend. Advent calls us to reflect on that friendship and to foster it --- to spend even just a few minutes a day in conversation with Jesus.

Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, November 27, 2015

Nov. 27, 2015 Friday: 34th Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 27, 2015 Friday: 34th Week in Ordinary Time

“ Yesterday is gone; tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. ” -Mother Teresa

The Power of Grace

We turn now to look at how Mother Teresa became the person she was, and how the process of her transformation, born of her encounter on the train to Darjeeling, holds the same life-changing promise for us. She was always convinced of this that the same light which led through her own darkness would, of its own power, illumine and transform all those who opened themselves to it.

When we think of emulating Mother Teresa, we should not focus on how far we are from the goal of goodness and godliness that she represents. Rather, we should remember that Mother Teresa’s transformation was not due to some inborn human attributes. They were due, almost entirely, to the power of the grace she received a grace that she constantly invited her Sisters, and the rest of us, to share in. The fact that Mother Teresa was not born the same person she became, not already imbued with the qualities for which she would became famous, means that the rest of us, too, have hope to change and improve. No matter our present foibles or lack of human qualities, we can all hope to arrive at deeper intimacy with God and deeper care for our neighbor; to live more generously and wholeheartedly, even in the midst of our own trials, and to make a difference with our life; to leave a legacy.

Fr. Joseph Langford
Mother Teresa's Secret Fire

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Nov. 26, 2015: Thanksgiving Day

Nov. 26, 2015: Thanksgiving Day

On this Thanksgiving Day, I imagine many of you will begin your meal with a prayer of grace. If you are personally asked to pray grace before meals, may I suggest the following simple children’s prayer?
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.

While people still have their heads bowed in prayer, consider adding the  following intentions at your dinner:
We pray for healing for the families who have lost their loved ones in the Paris terrorism and we pray for serenity in the hearts of those who are anxious and fearful of future terrorism.
We pray for peace in the ongoing unrest and fighting in the Middle East.
We pray for those who have lost their loved ones and for those who are still grieving.
We pray for those families who are not able to afford a Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Today, as our country takes time out from its hectic pace, we stop to give thanks to God. It was the autumn of 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, after a rich harvest, the men, women and children who had survived the first year in the New World gathered for a feast to offer thanks.
One of the pilgrims wrote at the time: “By the goodness of God, we are so far from want.”
These were people who lived their lives in wonder and hope, grateful for everything: the hard winter and deep snows…the frightening evenings and hopeful mornings …the long journey that had taken them to a new place. They knew how to express gratitude.

Gratitude doesn’t always come easily. We all know that generosity – the giving of a gift – means thinking more about others than about yourself. Generosity represents an act of love, and so does being thankful. To give thanks is to extend yourself; to go out of your way to acknowledge the gift giver. Certainly the cured leper in today’s gospel demonstrated his gratitude by changing the direction he was headed, and walked back to Jesus, all the way back from the temple, to thank him.

For what are we thankful? How do we show our thanks even in difficult times--in the midst of tragedies in the world and tragedies in our lives. Long before Thanksgiving Day was established, Our Lord instituted Eucharist as a way for us to experience and recall the great sacrifice of Our Lord. The term Eucharist comes from a Greek word which means ‘thanksgiving’. The Eucharistic liturgy is always a call to return to the source of every gift, the God who gave Himself for us, the God who is always with us in the joys and sorrows of our lives.

So on this day when we pause from the busyness of our lives,  set aside our differences, and gather around the table for a meal sharing stories and laughter, be sure to give thanks to those who cooked the delicious meal. Perhaps you can bless them with the following poem:

May the stuffing be tasty
May the turkey plump.
May the potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May the sweet potatoes be delicious
And the pies take the prize.
And may the Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off our thighs!

-Fr. Paul Yi

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Nov. 25, 2015 Wednesday: St. Catherine of Alexandria

Nov. 25, 2015 Wednesday: St. Catherine of Alexandria

Sometime in the past a friend of mine sent me this text message: “God never promised us an easy journey in life, only safe arrival.” I think this is true because Jesus in today’s gospel says that our life in this world is not an easy one. We should expect thorns in the forms of persecutions, sufferings and hardships; we should learn to bear our crosses and find more meanings in difficulties. But we should not worry because God will provide us the means.

He says: “By patient endurance you will save your lives.” Are we ready to suffer and to shed blood until the end, if necessary, for our faith? It is because Christianity is a religion of martyrdom. Christianity is a religion of the cross. Jesus willingly shed His blood for our sake and He calls us to be martyrs too. The word martyr in Greek means ‘witness.’ Some theologians in the past said something about being a witness like Tertullian and others. Tertullian said: “The blood of the martyrs is seed.”

God may call some of us to be martyrs. But for most of us our call is to be dry martyrs who bear testimony to the joy of the gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord; to witness to the joy, truth and freedom of the gospel; by our life, and real-life testimony.

What are the marks of a true witness of Christ? David Watson in his, Called & Committed: World-Changing Discipleship (1982 pp. 142-143) said that the marks of a true witness are:

1. A witness must have a first-hand experience of Christ. Hearsay is not acceptable in a court of law as well as in the court of this world’s opinion. People will listen only to what we have personally seen and heard.

2. A witness must be able to express himself verbally. We may witness effectively through our lives, our work, our relationships, our attitudes, our suffering and even our death, yet we must still “be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.” We must do so “with gentleness and respect,” and with the integrity of our lives demonstrating the truth of our words.

3. A witness will have confidence in the power of God. He relies on the power of the message of Christ and him crucified, and the power of the Holy Spirit. He knows that God can break through any defenses, and change any heart. This confidence will not be brash, but humble and sensitive, marked by much prayer. He knows that without God he can do nothing, but that with God all things are possible.

4. A witness will have compassion for the spiritually lost. He will care for them as individuals who matter deeply to God: made in his image, redeemed by his Son and to be indwelt by his Spirit.

Fr. Joseph Benitez

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nov. 24, 2015 Tuesday: 34th Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 24, 2015 Tuesday: 34th Week in Ordinary Time

In the film “Armaggedon,” we are told about a giant asteroid heading directly towards earth. Unless stopped, the asteroid will hit the earth and will mean the end of the world. A similar story is told in the movie “Deep Impact.” Unless stopped, the fall of the comet will have a tremendous impact of unknown proportions. It will also mean the end of the world. Stories about the end of the world continue to fascinate the people, just like the time of Jesus.

In the gospel today, Jesus tells us about the end of time. In describing its signs the Lord is telling us some important points. First, welcome the event calmly. Here, he is warning us to be on guard against false prophets that will only bring panic and fear in us. Second, he encourages us to bring hope into the world and to keep the faith alive in midst of trials. Third, he is reminding us that everything in this world has an end and that even our lives will come to an end.

Am I ready to face the Lord at the end of my life? When I face the Lord, what can I tell him about the life I have lived or what will the Lord tell me about the kind of life I have lived?
(Fr. Jose Mateo, SVD Bible Diary 2002)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Nov. 23, 2015 Monday: 34th Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 23, 2015 Monday: 34th Week in Ordinary Time

Remember last Christmas? Or are you thinking already of next Christmas, just one month from now? Christmas is always connected with gifts. We give and receive lots of gifts, but not all gifts are equal. We may be tempted to sneer at small gifts which don’t cost much and appreciate very much costly gifts. We recycle gifts for someone we do not appreciate so much and go through a lot of thinking and searching to find and buy a gift for someone very dear to us. Involved here is always the giver, the receiver, the gift.

As always, Jesus is a shocker who turns our world and our way of thinking upside down. The giver in today’s gospel is a poor widow, the gift is practically worthless and the receiver is the creator and ruler of the universe. We would expect that Jesus sneers at so small a gift to so great a receiver. But no! He praises the widow and finds her gift more precious that what others put into the collection box. Why?

Ha, there comes the kick! It is not the amount of the gift that counts but the spirit of the giver. That poor widow gave herself; she allowed herself to be given to Him who has everything. What had been given to her, small as it may be, she gave it all back.

We often complain about having not enough money, not enough of this and not enough of that. But we forget easily that what has been given to us is enough to give to Him who gave it to us. And we give it to Him by giving it to others.

Christmas – another chance to think differently about gifts, giver and receiver.
(Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2007)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Nov. 22, 2015: The Christ the King B (34th Sunday)

Nov. 22, 2015:  The Christ the King  B (34th Sunday)

Click to hear Audio Homily
Have you ever been called to be a part of a cause that’s much bigger than yourself? Participating in a race for the cure for cancer or raising money for the Catholic school comes to mind. When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, we Christians, without realizing it pray that we take up the call that God desires for us. Listen to these words, ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.’  Deep down we all long to touch the glory of God’s kingdom, and our great gift from God is that He has “hardwired” us for that glory. Yet sometimes we put aside that great gift in favor of something far less important as we heard in today’s Gospel.

“Are you the King of the Jews?” Pontius Pilate asked Jesus. Pilate was puzzled because there was a mob clamoring for Jesus’ death. Jesus replied, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here."

As we listened in to this exchange between Pilate and Jesus, we were not passive bystanders. We are invited to reflect, whether today, we stand on the side of the mob who is deaf to the call from Jesus to join Him in the building of God’s Kingdom. Sometimes our natural inclination, is toward a narrower vision of life, such as having a goal just to live for oneself. We may say to ourselves, ‘What’s the use of participating in such a bigger cause when what I do will not make any difference?’

When our vision of life narrows, we need to step back and ask the following questions: What is our work in this world all about? Why do we do what we do? What values should govern our choices?

We need to remember that our vision largely controls our perception. You heard the saying, “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” If we think the world is a bleak place, full of evil, greedy, selfish people who have no love for God or each other, and what I’ll do will make no difference, that’s what we will see when we look around. If we believe that Jesus is our King who baptized us and equipped us to bring light into the world by the power of His love, then we see the world as an opportunity to be instruments to plant seeds in the hearts of people who are are longing for a deeper relationship with God. Jesus is a leader with ambitious plans: “I want to overcome all the evils which beset humankind.” He poses a challenge: “Whoever wishes to join me in this undertaking must be content with the same food, drink, and clothing, that comes with following me.”

As we end this liturgical year we are left with a challenge. To what extent have we allowed Christ to become King of my life, to reign in my heart? Can I declare with St Bernard of Clairvaux: “I will have no other King but the Lord Jesus, for he alone is my King and my God”? Or are our hearts divided? We are called to be sharers in the Kingdom and co-workers of Christ; his mission should be our mission, his truth must be our truth for it is only then are we truly children of God and servants of Christ the universal King. Let’s change our vision so that we look for the good in everything, expecting to find it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nov. 20, 2015 Friday: 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 20, 2015 Friday: 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

In one house, I noticed a sign in the sala, “This house is not just a house, it is a home of prayer.” True enough, the entire family was a prayerful one which I would call a family of prayers. What further struck me was an unsolicited comment of one of the neighbors, “You know, Father, I never heard a quarrel in that house!”

As a Christian, I always believed that prayer does not merely involve the acts or activities in praying, i.e. words of prayer, kneeling, standing. There is something more. I believe that prayer is an experience of God through the acts or activities of prayer. Many people have shared to me about their own experience in the activity, like inner peace and tranquility, enlightenment, feelings of affirmation. Many of them truly recognize that these sense experiences are signs of the presence of God in the person who prays.

When the Lord Jesus drove out the merchants in the temple area, He wanted to emphasize the respect and adoration due to God who is present in a house of prayer. More profoundly, each person who prays with a sincere devotion becomes the temple or house of God. Prayer is the channel by which a person becomes connected to God and in which God is able to enter the life of the person. I love to pray because it is in prayer that I experience a personal God. (Fr. Fred Saniel, SVD Bible Diary 2006)

Nov. 19, 2015 Thursday: 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 19, 2015 Thursday: 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

Yes, I can say, “I was there.” I had the privilege of being in the place marked Dominus Flevit, a word in Latin which means, “On this place the Lord wept.” I think, it was on a slope in Mount Hebron, overlooking the City of Jerusalem.

Bible scholars tell us that Jesus wept only two times in the Bible: the first was on the occasion when He saw the future destruction of the City of Jerusalem; the second, when Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, died.

We can say that Jesus was not weak in the face of sufferings. He did not shed a tear when they scourged Him mercilessly; he did not weep when carrying the heavy cross, nor did he emotionally give way when He was hanging on the cross.

But with others, Jesus was emotionally demonstrative. He sympathized with people He loved, people He cared for but did not respond to His call, or people who did not give value to the good God had done for them. Such was the case when Jesus wept, while He was contemplating over Jerusalem, her coldness to God’s care and her impeding destruction. This weeping of Jesus would reveal to us that He was truly human, but he was also God be He rose from the dead by His own power (John 10:17-18).

Empathy, not just sympathy, is one of the qualities of a genuine Christian; it is not just a Feeling for others but putting oneself in the place of another. St. Paul, the great missionary apostle, mentions this along with other essential qualities in one of his letters: “Bless those who persecute; bless and do not wish evil on anyone. Rejoice with those who are joyful; and weep with those who weep. Live in peace with one another. Do not dream of extraordinary thing; be humble and do not hold yourselves wise,” (Rom 12:14-16).

St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the wisest theologians the Catholic Church ever had, mentions about the psychological meaning of weeping or crying in one of his writings, Summa Thologica. First, he posed the question, “What would you advice a woman who is about to cry?” his answer: “You should let her cry, for nothing gives her the greatest pleasure at the moment than to cry.”

-Fr. Erasio Flores, SVD Bible Diary 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nov. 18, 2015 Wednesday: Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Virgin

Nov. 18, 2015 Wednesday: Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Virgin

I beg you, child, to look at the heavens. (2 Maccabees 7:28)

It’s hard to imagine what this mother went through as she watched each of her seven sons executed for refusing to deny his faith. The only glimpse we have into her thoughts is in the words she spoke to her youngest son, and they are remarkable. Instead of telling him what to do or discussing the political viability of his choices, she told him to look at the heavens! Her words reveal a simple truth: when we face suffering and temptation, when we are confused or feeling persecuted, we need to keep the big picture in focus.

In the face of a life-or-death decision, this mother instructed her son to consider who God is: as maker of the universe, God knew what this young man was facing and was perfectly capable of seeing him through and beyond it.

We can see a similar attitude in Mary, who witnessed the rejection, torture, and unjust execution of her only Son. Surely her heart was broken. But in everything she went through, she kept her eyes on the heavens and was able to find comfort from the Holy Spirit. She didn’t give in to despair. Instead, she remembered all that she had grasped of God’s plan and found in that plan the strength to endure.

As our heavenly Mother, Mary gives us similar encouragement: Don’t forget who God is! Remember his love for you. Remember his good plan for you and your family. Remember that he made the universe and has everything under control, no matter how bad things may seem right now. No matter what you are going through, whether as simple as daily deaths to sin or self-denial or as confusing or complicated as unjust persecution, God walks with you and will give you his divine strength.

Take these two mothers’ words to heart today. Approach this day alert to the opportunities and challenges you will face, but be sure to look up! When you are tempted to sin or feel weighed down by burdens, try to picture God, who made the universe, looking on you in love. Let that vision clear your head and fortify your resolve to follow him.

-The Word Among Us

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nov. 17, 2015 Tuesday: St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Nov. 17, 2015 Tuesday: St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Ninety Year Old Man
“…many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion” (2 Maccabees 6:18-31)

Our society has a way of considering elderly people as useless and a burden to the economy. And if we buy into this cultural belief, we who are seniors, will begin to think the same way.

Today we read the remarkable story of a ninety-year-old who helped turn the tide of history on the last day of his life. His heroic stance for his faith earned him a place in Scripture and made him a model for believers for his generation and for all those that followed.

The man’s name was Eleazar. He was well-known and well-respected in his community…”a foremost scribe, a man of advanced age and noble appearance.” His persecutors, as part of their campaign to eliminate the Jewish religion, forced open his mouth and shoved in a piece of pork. Knowing that this was meat forbidden in his religion, Eleazar promptly spat it out in front of everyone. Then he “went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture.”

Some of the men who were in charge of this operation urged Eleazar to “fake it,” by pretending to eat the pork but instead eating a piece of kosher meat. The writer comments that these persecutors tried to help Eleazar “because of their old friendship with him.”
“But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner, worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age, the merited distinction of his gray hair, and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood,” to stand by his faith. He said: “Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously…”

He went on to endure the terrible pain of scourging, “suffering it with joy” because of his devotion to God. He became a legend not only among the young people but “for the entire nation.”

In our age when Christians are being forced to “eat” the lies of our culture, God is raising up many Eleazars to stand for the truth, no matter the personal consequences.
Lest the elderly think they are past their prime, we need to realize our moment of testimony is yet to come. We are not “over the hill” but just approaching the top of it.

Let none of us concede to the lie of the enemy that we are useless in the kingdom of God. From young to old, we resolve to remain firm in our faith no matter the consequences—following in the footsteps of great heroes like Eleazar. We pray for courage.

“But you, O Lord, are my shield, my glory, the lifter of my head” (Ps 3:4).

-Bob Garvey

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nov. 16, 2015 Monday: Saint Margaret of Scotland

Nov. 16, 2015 Monday: Saint Margaret of Scotland

Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! (Luke 18:38)

The blind man in today’s Gospel reading did more than mutter under his breath. He shouted! He ignored all the voices that said, “Stop making a fuss! Just accept your lot in life. Just bear your cross.” He probably even ignored the thoughts in his mind that told him he wasn’t worth healing, he deserved to be blind, or he wasn’t important enough for Jesus to notice. He drowned them out, stubbornly pounding on the door of God’s heart. And he was not disappointed.

Know this: God always wants to heal and restore. He wants to touch us at our sorest points, our most vulnerable, limiting position, and relieve the pain. This is why Jesus exhorts us to ask, seek, and knock. He never says, “Sorry, that’s just too hard for me” or “You really have no business asking me to do that for you.” He never turns his back on anyone who comes to him.

So what do you do when you’ve asked and pleaded for years, but your prayers never seem to be answered? You keep asking! You keep crying out to the Lord. You keep believing that God is good and that he has only good intentions for you. You confess that he who made light shine out of darkness will also shine through your life—both in healing and in patient endurance. Because God really is healing us, all the time.

Even as we endure a long-term illness or an emotional wound, our lives are being shaped. The question is “How will we be shaped?” By clinging to the Lord in faith, we can grow in compassion. We can become vessels of his love and presence. But if we give up, we risk becoming bitter and resigned. If we draw from the well of God’s grace and presence, we will find courage, good humor, and consolation. But if we withdraw, we risk becoming preoccupied by our challenges, blind and deaf to the needs and joys of the people around us.

So always keep before you the image of the blind man who, when healed, was full of praise for the Lord. Because God is with you at every step, you can be sure that he is a good, good God!

“Lord, heal me! Open my eyes today to see how you are working in my life.”

-Word Among Us

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Nov. 15, 2015: 33rd Sunday B

Nov. 15, 2015: 33rd Sunday B

Click to hear Audio Homily

One evening, a woman was hurrying home from work because it was bingo night. As she approached the corner of a street, she spotted a man holding a placard that read: THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR. She went up to him and asked, “Are you sure the end of the world is near?” “Yes, ma'am,” he replied. “Are you sure?” the woman asked. “Quite sure, ma’am,” he replied. “How near?” the woman asked. “Very, very near,” the man responded. “Can you be more precise?” she asked. “It’s going to happen this very night,” the man replied. The woman paused for a moment and then asked, “Tell me, will it be before or after bingo?”

Down the ages there has been widespread speculation about the end of the world (this week’s bulletin article lists some of the prophecy of doom). In fact many people in the world may be worried or on the edge right now because of the terror attack in Paris on Friday night or the on-going unrest in the middle east. The end of the world is often portrayed as ‘doomsday’ where the future is filled with catastrophic disasters. There are Christians, even faithful Catholics, who subscribe this point of view. For us Christians, our belief in the Creed shapes how we view the future. The Creed professes that Jesus, who is now at the right hand of the Father, will come at some future moment, a moment known only to the Father. Christians believe that God’s purpose for the future is not filled with darkness, but with light, mercy, and hope. We believe that there will be a new beginning rather than in the world coming to an end. This new beginning will be the joyous reign of Christ, and therefore a time of joy for his followers. Our task is to keep that hope alive in the world, and to stand prepared.

Jesus admonished us, “You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains.” (Matt 24:6)

Jesus also encouraged us, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” The words of Jesus remain with us to this very day, comforting us, guiding us, and challenging us. We should not worry about the end of the world, like many in the world do. What we should worry about is whether or not we are holding on to our Christian faith and living it to the fullest despite many adversities. Let us ask Our Lord to help us make his words part of our lives so that his presence will illuminate our journey on our earthly road to our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. Let us especially pray for the peace in our world and for those who have recently lost their lives through terror. Remember that we have our daily morning masses at St. Francis and our adoration chapel in Ascension Church where you may be fed by the Lord and pray for peace.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Nov. 13, 2015 Friday: St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Nov. 13, 2015 Friday: St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

[Jesus said to the disciples] “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.” LUKE 17:26–27

We know people who loved to work out every morning until they suffered a major physical setback. We have friends who were confident that they could meet their weekly expenses and other financial obligations until they were laid off from work. We know coworkers who felt safe in their neighborhood until people started being attacked. We anticipate with great joy going somewhere special for vacation until we receive the unexpected news of the death of a loved one.

We cannot read into the future. We cannot always anticipate what will happen in the next moment. We try to go with the flow of life, hoping only good things for ourselves, our family, and our friends. Life is wonderful until something terrible and painful happens. We are never prepared for that sudden tragic event that comes upon us, disrupts our daily routine, and changes our world completely. Our foundation is shaken; we become disoriented, lost, and confused.

We need the gospel to keep us grounded and hold us together for the present and the future. We need the gospel to remind us that there is life after tragedy. Just as we cannot predict what lies ahead, we cannot predict the end of time. As Christ’s followers, we move forward with faith, trusting that God is always with us, loving and supporting us. No matter what happens in life, we are with God.

Ponder: What personal tragedies changed my life?

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Nov. 12, 2015 Thursday: St. Josaphat

Nov. 12, 2015 Thursday: St. Josaphat

The Coming of the Kingdom of God

I read this story about a little girl who was standing with her grandfather by an old-fashioned open well. They had just lowered a bucket and had drawn some water to drink. She asked her grandfather: “Lolo, where does God live?” the old man picked up the little girl and held her over the open well. “Look down the water,” he said, “and tell me what you see.” ‘I see myself,” said the little girl. ‘That’s where God lives,” said the old man, “He lives in you.”

In today’s gospel, the Pharisees asked Jesus about, when the Kingdom of God would come. Jesus surprised them with the answer that the Kingdom of God cannot be observed. It’s not “here” or “there,” but ‘the Kingdom of God is among you,’ that is, within our hearts. God’s kingdom has already appeared in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world. He speaks also of the coming of God’s kingdom as both a present event and an event which would be manifested at the end of time or is already here but not because its completion will happen at the end time.

And so the Kingdom of God begins from within and transforms our hearts to be like God and a people who know the power of His love, mercy and forgiveness. The Lord Jesus is present in His word, in His Body the Church and in the “Breaking of the Bread,’ the Holy Eucharist. Jesus reveals Himself in many countless ways to those who seek Him with eyes of faith. When we read the Word of God in the Bible Jesus speaks to us and reveals to us the mind and heart of the Father. When we approach the Table of the Lord, Jesus offers Himself as spiritual food which produces the very life of God within us (‘I am the bread of life,’ John 6:35).

At the end in addition to the above truth, the article, Experiencing God, says something about what God does to us. It says that:

God is always at work around us.
God pursues a continuing love relationship with us, that is, real and personal.
God invites us to become involved with Him in His work.
God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways.
God’s invitation for us to work with Him always leads us to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
We must make major adjustments in our life to join God in what He is doing.
We come to know God by experience as we obey Him and as He accomplishes His work through us.

-Fr. Joseph Benitez

Lord, sometimes the tasks of the day can feel a bit overwhelming. We can experience a fatigue that builds as the day moves forward. Maybe we need to step out of the daily grind. Unless we give ourselves permission to pause, to relax, to embrace your Spirit in the details of our day, we will be worn down.

We need to claim the reality that the Kingdom of God is among us. Suddenly that which seems so serious is put into perspective; that which evokes fear within us is calmed, and the gratitude that once delighted us is renewed. Lord, with great anticipation we move through this day, confident that your Kingdom will be experienced as we live for you and for those whose lives press against our own.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nov. 11, 2015 Wednesday: St. Martin of Tours

Nov. 11, 2015 Wednesday: St. Martin of Tours

Why should we give thanks to God? A friend of mine sent this email message to me which concerns about being thankful. It says:

“If you own just one Bible, you are abundantly blessed one-third of the world does not have access to even one. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than a million who will not survive the week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of five million people around the world. If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest or torture of death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not. If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God’s healing touch. If you prayed yesterday and today, you are in the minority because you believe in God’s willingness to hear and answer prayer. If you believe in Jesus as the Son of God, you are part of a very small minority in the world. If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.” And these are the reasons why we should give thanks.

And so, like the leper who was grateful to Jesus because He healed him of his leprosy how much more for us? Besides the things I mentioned above, we should be more grateful because God has given us our Christian faith, good health, loved ones, education, talents and skills and a thousand other gifts that we take for granted.

Fr. Joseph S. Benitez

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nov. 10, 2015 Tuesday: St. Leo the Great, Pope

Nov. 10, 2015 Tuesday: St. Leo the Great, Pope

"God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him." (Wisdom 2:23)

"We carry our heaven within ourselves, because he who satisfies the saints with the light of vision gives himself to us in faith and in mystery. It's the same thing. I feel I have found heaven on earth, because heaven is God and God is in my soul. The day I understood this a light went inside me, and I want to whisper this secret to all those I love, so that they too, in whatever circumstances, will cling increasingly to God."

"A soul united to Jesus is a living smile."

-Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
A Discalced Carmelite nun beatified by John Paul II in 1984

Monday, November 9, 2015

Nov. 9, 2015 Monday: Dedication of Basilica of St. John Lateran

Nov. 9, 2015 Monday: Dedication of Basilica of St. John Lateran

Today we celebrate the feast of the most important Church liturgically in the whole world, the Pope’s Cathedral, which proudly proclaims in ancient plaques at the entrance, Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput, “The most holy Church of the Lateran, the mother and head of all the churches of the city (Rome) and the world.” The Lateran is the mother of every church edifice because it was the first Christian basilica in history; it is the head, because Rome, the see of St. Peter, is the principal local Church in the world, and the Lateran is the principal Church of the Diocese of Rome. The Lateran, not St. Peter’s, is the Pope’s Cathedral, where his cathedra, the chair symbolic of his teaching authority, rests. The Lateran, not the Vatican, is where the Popes resided for the first millennium of legalized Christianity. It’s where they celebrated Mass. It’s where they gave their special blessings. This is the reason why on November 9 all the members of the daughter Churches throughout the world celebrate the feast of the dedication of their Head and Mother. St. John Lateran is, we can loosely say, the Cathedral of the world.

When Jesus spoke to St. Francis from the Crucifix in the Church of St. Damien in Assisi saying, “Francis, rebuild my house that you can see is falling into ruins,” Francis mistakenly thought the Lord was asking him to repair the dilapidated Church of St. Damian, a project he finished quickly. But little did St. Francis know that he had misinterpreted the Lord and that the Lord had another rebuilding project in mind.It started with Francis himself, who responded to God’s grace to follow the Lord Jesus completely, uniting himself to the Lord by means of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Soon, many others joined Francis in this pursuit. Eventually they went to Rome to seek the approval of their statutes.The night before they were going to have an audience with Pope Innocent III, the pontiff had a dream and saw a man in a simple, poor man’s woolen habit holding up the Basilica of St. John Lateran, next to papal residence at the time. The next day during his audience, Innocent III saw the very friar from his dream come on in with his closest followers. Pope Innocent III properly interpreted the dream he had received: St. Francis of Assisi was being called to rebuild the Church as a whole, symbolized by the Cathedral of St. John Lateran. He was being called to rebuild the entire household of God.

How did St. Francis rebuild the Church? He helped bring the Church back to her foundations so that the Church could be rebuilt stone by stone on the foundation of Christ. St. Peter gave the Church’s architectural plans in his first letter: “Come to [Christ], a living stone, rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ himself is the foundation of the Church, the cornerstone. And the Church is the spiritual house built of living stones on this foundation. These living stones are those who build their life on Christ, those who are trying to become saints. The Church is made not of marble, wood, bricks and glass, but of men, women, boys and girls, living stones erected on Christ the cornerstone. To celebrate the Feast of the Lateran is to recommit ourselves as living stones building our entire lives on Christ. Our new Holy Father, who took his papal name from St. Francis, has been charged with the reform of the Church and that reform he’s carrying out involves bringing the entire Church back into shape, by helping to make of us a true temple, individually and together with others, built entirely and soundly on Christ.

The readings of today’s Mass help us to ponder this personal, parochial and universal rebuilding project. In the Gospel, we see Jesus declare that the temple is meant to be his Father’s house, a house of prayer not a den of thieves and sin. He overturned tables and formed a cord to drive out whatever was unfit, whatever was not holy and consecrated to God and his service. We began this Mass asking the same Lord to have mercy on us and drive out from within us whatever is unfit. They asked him to give a sign of his authority to clean the temple and he cryptically said, “Destroy this temple and in three days rebuild it,” something that St. John tells us he said referring to his death and resurrection, which was the rebuilding of the true temple of his body. Jesus is the true temple! And just like we see in the first reading from the Book of Ezekiel, when the water flowing from the eastern side of the Temple brought life to the temple and even resurrected the Dead Sea, so the water flowing with blood from the open side of Christ-the-Temple on Good Friday is what brings life to even the driest places on earth and, as the source of the sacramental life in the Church, raises people from the dead.

Jesus’ ultimate plan is to make of us a temple through uniting us totally with him. The temple is God’s dwelling place. Jesus, God-with-us, wants to be with us not just on the outside but on the inside. The Word made flesh wants to dwell not just “among” us but “within” us. That’s the shocking reality to which St. Paul points in today’s second reading: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? … The temple of God, which you are, is holy.” St. Paul calls the Corinthians and all of us to remember who we are as God’s dwelling place and live a life of union with God. God’s plan is for us to become a true tabernacle of God, just as much as the Blessed Virgin Mary was as she carried within her for nine months her embryonic Savior. Everything changes once we begin to view ourselves as a Church, and view others either as a Church or someone destined to be a Church. When we grasp this, and when we have basic love for God, the whole way we view ourselves and others changes. We begin to have reverence for God, for others, and for ourselves. And that’s the way all of us, together, grow into the temple of God. St. Paul uses the plural in the “you are the temple of God,” which all of us, as living stones, comprises, by each of us coming alive through having Christ within us. This was a truth that St. Francis himself reawakened among the people of the 13th century. It’s a reality that Pope Francis is trying to reawaken within us.

We become ever more the temple of God, the dwelling place of the Lord, when we receive God within during Holy Communion. This is where the water flowing from Christ’s side, “the waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High,”  as we prayed in the Psalm, flows within us. This is the place in which God the Master Builder, builds us on his Son. This is the most important and sacred moment in human life, as significant in our life as the Annunciation was in Mary’s and in the whole world. We actually receive God within! It is a moment that should never become routine or rushed. It is a moment in which we are called to ponder Whom we’re receiving and who and what we’re becoming.

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Nov. 8, 2015: 32nd Sunday B

Nov. 8, 2015: 32nd Sunday B

Click to hear Audio Homily

All of us are moved at times to give, whether it is giving of our time, money, or possession. The test of a gift is not the amount in itself, but what its loss means to the giver. One kind of giving is when the giver gives what he/she can live without. We will miss what we gave, but it may not hurt us. Most of our giving probably falls into this category. But there is another kind of giving, namely, when the gift is as desperately needed by the giver as by the receiver. This kind of giving hurts. A real sacrifice is involved.

Mother Teresa told a story how one day she was walking down the street when a beggar came up to her and said, 'Mother Teresa, everybody is giving to you, I also want to give to you. Today, I collected thirty cents. I want to give it all to you.' Mother Teresa hesitated: 'If I take the thirty cents he will have nothing to eat tonight, and if I don't take it I will hurt his feelings. So I put out my hands and I took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody's face as I saw on the face of that beggar man at the thought that he too could give to Mother Teresa.'
Mother Teresa reflected on this encounter: 'It was a big sacrifice for that poor man, who had sat in the sun all day long and received only thirty cents. It was beautiful. Thirty cents is such a small amount, and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up and I took it, it became like thousands because it was given with so much love. And she concluded: 'God looks not at the size of the gift, but at the love with which is given.'

The widow in the gospel tossed her two coins--the her only signs of independence into the collection basket. It was all she possessed, but she maintained her complete dependence on God and neighbor. Her example of faith is grounded in the love of God: her love for God and God’s love for her. She was a steward and not an owner of her meager possessions. This poor widow teaches us that dependence, far from being oppressive and depressive, can really lead to a life lived in deep joy and profound gratitude.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Nov. 6, 2015 Friday: 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 6, 2015 Friday: 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’” LUKE 16:1–2

We can become, for shorter or much longer periods, wasteful persons. We waste so much time on text-messaging, reading and responding to e-mails, downloading music and videos, watching YouTube, and playing games. With deep unawareness, we waste so much food, water, electricity, heat, gas, and oil. We take for granted the many caring and generous people who have invested in us for our future success and happiness. Much of life is often wasted on unreflective, meaningless, unproductive, and random adventures. We have suffered the consequences of living carelessly and irresponsibly. It usually takes some painful experience of personal loss, failure, disappointment, or sickness to bring us to our senses.

We cannot look into the future. We do not know our length of days on earth. We must, however, be responsible for the life we have and use our gifts and talents in a way that lifts up the poor, frees the oppressed, and promotes the common good of all.

The gospel is a wake-up call for us to become less self-centered and selfish. Jesus reminds us that we have been entrusted with the riches of the kingdom of God: love, compassion, and peace. As servants of Christ, we are responsible for making God’s kingdom a reality on earth through our words and actions. Our work in the world is to show others how to love, serve the poor, and live in peace and unity with all people.

Ponder: What is God’s purpose for my life?

Prayer: Lord, I am grateful for the kingdom of God on earth. Help me to live and serve all people with love, compassion, and peace in my heart.

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Nov. 5, 2015 Thursday: 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 5, 2015 Thursday: 31st Week in Ordinary Time

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. (Luke 15:4-7)

“At issue here is the question: "To whom do I belong? God or to the world?" Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me.

As long as I keep running about asking: "Do you love me? Do you really love me?" I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with "ifs." The world says: "Yes, I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much." There are endless "ifs" hidden in the world's love. These "ifs" enslave me, since it is impossible to respond adequately to all of them. The world's love is and always will be conditional. As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain "hooked" to the world-trying, failing,and trying again. It is a world that fosters addictions because what it offers cannot satisfy the deepest craving of my heart.”
― Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Nov. 4, 2015 Wednesday: St. Charles Borromeo

Nov. 4, 2015 Wednesday: St. Charles Borromeo

Hope and Love

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nov. 3, 2015 Tuesday: St. Martin de Porres

Nov. 3, 2015 Tuesday: St. Martin de Porres

Today we are celebrating the feast of St. Martin de Porres, who was canonized in 1962. He was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a young freed slave woman from Panama, who may have been black or of Indian blood. His father was repelled by the darkness of his son's skin at birth and abandoned him, leaving the child-raising to his mother.

At age 12, Martin was apprenticed to a "surgeon," at that time a combination of barber, druggist, physician and surgeon. Once trained, he began to use his skills to serve the poor. At fifteen, he became a lay brother at the Dominican Friary in Lima, where he worked as a barber, a farm laborer, a clothier, and a care-giver for the sick. Each day Martin distributed food to the hungry, he was doctor to the sick, and he helped to establish an orphanage and a hospice for abandoned babies.

Facing racial discrimination, he was allowed to enter the Dominican community as a lay friar and was given the most menial tasks. However, as we see so often in the lives of the saints, the gifts of those who seem to count for little in the eyes of the world cannot be hidden forever; and very often the oppression that they have experienced is transformed into remarkable compassion for others. For Martin, just as it was for St. Francis, that compassion extended to the least in his society and indeed to all of God’s creatures.

Martin devoted himself to severe penances. In turn, God endowed him with many graces and an abundance of spiritual gifts: visions, ecstasies, bilocation (being two places at the same time), healing, and supernatural understanding.

Martin's kindness and his love of prayer and humility helped him become friends with many people from all social classes, which enabled him to alleviate the sufferings of many. His popularity allowed him to use all of his extraordinary gifts to serve the poor and to work diligently to promote their cause. Thus, he was nicknamed 'Martin of Charity.' By the time he died, he was already revered as a saint by the people who knew him and whom he served.

Most humble Saint Martin, whose burning charity embraces all, but especially those who are sick, afflicted or in need, we turn to you for help in our present difficulties, and we implore you to obtain for us from God, health of soul and body and in particular the favour we now ask.....................May we by imitating your charity and humility, find quiet and contentment all our days and cheerfuld submission to God's holy will, in all the trials and difficulties of life.

Pray for us Saint Martin, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nov. 2, 2015: All Souls Day

Nov. 2, 2015: All Souls Day

“My God, I know this place. I am home.” — A Reflection for All Souls Day

Why do Catholic Christians commemorate the dead during the month of November? The feast of All Souls and the month of November is a source of consolation for each of us. If our hearts are broken and suffering about the loss of loved ones, or if we are dealing with unresolved issues about good-byes that were not said, peace that was not made, gratitude that was not expressed, let us ask the faithful departed to intercede for us and for our own peace. The consoling doctrine of the Communion of Saints allows us to feel ever close to those who have died and gives us much hope in moments of despair and sadness.

I share with you two texts that have remained with me throughout my priestly life. In his little book Enounters with Silence, the great Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ, wrote about those who have died:

That’s why our heart is with them now, our loved ones who have taken leave of us. There is no substitute for them; there are no others who can fill the vacancy when one of those whom we really love suddenly and unexpectedly departs and is with us no longer. In true love no one can replace another, for true love loves the other person in that depth where he is uniquely and irreplaceably himself. And thus, as death has trodden roughly through our lives, every one of the departed has taken a piece of our hearts with them– and often enough– our whole heart.

As he was dying in the fall of 1996, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago wrote a moving, personal testament, The Gift of Peace, that speaks powerfully about death and life:

Many people have asked me to tell them about heaven and the afterlife. I sometimes smile at the request because I do not know any more than they do. Yet, when one young man asked if I looked forward to being united with God and all those who have gone before me, I made a connection to something I said earlier in this book. The first time I traveled with my mother and sister to my parents’ homeland of Tonadico di Primiero, in northern Italy, I felt as if I had been there before. After years of looking through my mother’s photo albums, I knew the mountains, the land, the houses, the people. As soon as we entered the valley, I said, “My God, I know this place. I am home.” Somehow I think crossing from this life into eternal life will be similar. I will be home. [pp. 152-153]

May I suggest that each of you do the following during these days of November. Spend some time reflecting on those who have been close to you, who have died, and are now with the Lord.

Slowly read this scripture passage — Wisdom 3:1-3:

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.

Remember one person close to you who has died. Bring this person’s image into your mind’s eye. As you remember his or her life, imagine the Lord Jesus escorting the person into heaven at the time of death. Finally, imagine this loved one waiting for you. Know that when your time of passing comes, the Lord and your loved ones who have gone before you will escort you into the kingdom of heaven.

End your short remembering with this prayer:

Lord, you are the resurrection and the life. You promised that whoever believes in you will never die. Lord, through the power of your rising, help me believe in my own resurrection. Amen.

May we spend our earthly pilgrimage filling our minds with the thoughts of heaven, so that when we finally cross over into eternal life, the images we see may not be foreign, startling or strange. Let us pray that we, too, may be able to say: “My God, I know this place. I am home.”

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nov. 1, 2015: All Saints

Nov. 1, 2015: All Saints

Click to hear Audio Homily

Earlier this week, a couple of men from our parish and I participated in a men’s prayer group at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Pierre Part. During the prayer meeting, the Gospel reading for All Saints was read aloud and the men were asked to to reflect on the words of Jesus. We spent over an hour discussing what the Beatitudes meant for us. What does it mean for you when Jesus says, happy or blessed are you who are humble in spirit, those who are gentle, peace makers, pure in heart, upright, grieving, or persecuted?

Pope Francis said that the Beatitudes spell out a programme for Christian life. “The Beatitudes are Jesus' portrait, his way of life, and they are the way of true happiness, which we also can live with the grace that Jesus gives us… The world tells us that happiness, joy and entertainment are the best things in life. And it looks the other way when there are problems of disease or pain in the family. The world does not want to suffer, it prefers to ignore painful situations, to cover them up. Only the person who sees things as they are, and whose heart mourns, will be happy and will be comforted.”

Those who take the Beatitudes to heart are ones who are truly following the footsteps of Jesus. He said, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11:29) For more than 2,000 years men and women, old and young, wise and ignorant, have heeded the call from Jesus, “You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). Looking at Jesus, we see what it means to be poor in spirit, to be gentle and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say to each of us, “Come, follow me!” Jesus does not say simply, “Do what I say”. He says, “Come, follow me!”

Whether we are aware or not, each of us has a deep hunger for God, an insatiable need to be close to Him, to belong to Him, and to love Him, and we hear in the deep core of our hearts this call to follow Jesus to live the lives of holiness. The word 'holiness' describes this hunger; to be holy is to be set apart, to love and serve Our Lord and our neighbor. Holiness is a way of life that involves commitment and activity. It is not a passive endeavor but rather a continuous choice to deepen one’s relationship with God and to then allow this relationship to guide all of one’s actions in the world. Holiness requires a radical change in mindset and attitude. The acceptance of the call to holiness places God as our final goal in every aspect of our lives. The saints have set examples for us for holiness.

Take the example of an 11yr. old, St. Maria Goretti. She was brutally murdered by an 18-yr. old neighbor, Alessandro, while trying to protect her purity. Even when her life was threatened, she believed with all her heart that her body was the temple of the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit of God was living in her. Before she breathed her last, she forgave Alessandro. While in prison and still unrepentant of his crime, Maria Goretti appeared to him in a vivid dream where he saw her giving him 14 lilies. The 14 lilies were sign to him that she had truly forgiven him for the 14 stab wounds that he had inflicted on her. This dream profoundly changed him. After getting out of prison 27 years later, the first thing he did was to seek the forgiveness from Maria's mother. Her mother caressed his face and said, "Alessandro, Maria forgave you, Christ has forgiven you, and why should I not also forgive. I forgive you, of course, my son!” St. Maria Goretti's holiness and sacrifice put Alessandro on the path to holiness. Alessandro later became a religious friar and traveled with Maria’s mother to the canonization mass in Rome. What profound mercy was shown by Maria Goretti and her mother! This weekend, the relic of St. Maria Goretti is in Our Lady of Mercy for veneration.

The Saints and Blesseds, both named and not named, are travel companions along our journey of the joys and sufferings of life. They are men and women who wrote a new page in their lives and in the lives of so many people for how to live according to the Beatitudes. Holiness is not a gift reserved for a few. We can all aspire to it, because it is a goal within our capacity. Not to be a saint is the greatest tragedy that can befall a Catholic. Believers in Jesus and his message must allow themselves to be enticed and enchanted by his life and message contained in the Beatitudes. Today we must hold up the Beatitudes as a mirror in which we examine our own lives and consciences. “Am I poor in spirit? Am I humble and merciful? Am I pure of heart? Do I bring peace? Am I ‘blessed,’ in other words, happy? Jesus not only gives us what he has, but also what he is. He is holy and makes us holy.