Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jan. 1, 2016: Mary, Mother of God

Jan. 1, 2016: Mary, Mother of God

Click to hear Audio Homily
Recently I presided at an interesting wedding. Have you ever been to a wedding where the guests arriving at the church were welcomed by an Irish bagpipe player in his full kilt? And who gets married on the second to the last day of the year? The timing of their wedding spoke much about what was happening to their lives. Their lives as two independent individuals were coming to a close as they began the new year by making a commitment to merge the pathways of their lives and forge a new journey together as a family.

This time of the year, we get reflective about what happened this past year. We may ask ourselves, “What are things that happened to me this past year for which I am grateful? What are some of the regrets? How will next year be for me?” We may be hopeful for the new year; we may also be apprehensive about this coming year. Is there a reason for us not to be apprehensive or fearful of this new year? The Church celebrates the beginning of the new year with the feast honoring the divine motherhood of Blessed Mother as a reminder that the journey we take this coming year will not be done on our own but together with God’s family. St. Paul in the Second Reading and the Gospel reminds us that we have a special place in God’s plan as adopted brothers and sisters of God’s own Son. God has planned this from all eternity, by sending his Son to redeem us and to lead us to the Father. He also gave us the Holy Spirit so that we would no longer act on our own but with the power of Christ and his Spirit. Thus we are entitled to share in the same inheritance as the Son, an eternal place with the Son in his Father’s house. Blessed Mother brought Jesus into our human family, and through the sheer gift of our Heavenly Father, she brings us into the divine family.

Blessed Mother, as our Heavenly Mother, teaches us to place our trust in Jesus who leads us day by day. Whenever we face fear of the unknown, she comforts us just as she did with St. Juan Diego when she said, “Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?” She teaches us to ponder everything that happens to us before we make a hasty decision. She teaches us how to pray. All of her earthly life, in the silence of her heart, she listened and spoke to God. In the Rosary, she invites us into that garden of silence to listen, to ponder, and to speak to our loving Father.

This year, let us resolve to place our trust in Jesus and Blessed Mother, so that whatever the situation in which we find ourselves – a hardship, a disappointment, a decision to make – we will listen, ponder, and pray that we will take a small trusting step toward God’s plan for us this year.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dec. 30, 2015 Wednesday: 6th Day in the Octave of Christmas

Dec. 30, 2015 Wednesday: 6th Day in the Octave of Christmas

There are some people who when growing old become apprehensive, anxious, afraid, insecure and even bitter. But there are also others who when growing old, grow old gracefully and productively. Like for example: Miguel Cervantes wrote Don Quixote when he was almost seventy years old. Noah Webster wrote his monumental dictionary at seventy. Socrates gave his wise philosophies at seventy. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross at fifty-nine. Benjamin Franklin helped to frame the U.S. Constitution at eighty-one. Benjamin Desraeli became prime minister of England for the second time at seventy. Thomas Edison worked busily in his lab at eighty three. Guiseppe Verdi composed Te Deum at eighty-five. Michelangelo was in his eighties when he painted some of his masterpieces. Galileo made his greatest discovery when he was seventy-three. And in the gospel reading today we have Anna who was very active in the temple as a prophetess even at the age of eighty-four.

We know nothing about Anna except in today’s gospel passage. That Anna is a widow. Even if she is a widow but she has not grown bitter, resentful and insecure. She is old but she has never ceased to hope. Her old age does not kill her hope in God.

Unlike what John Powers in his book, The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice Cream God, had told us that a boy named Conroy writes God a letter. He complains about the fact that people have to grow old.

Speaking for God, an adult friend writes a letter back to Conroy, saying: “I often find your way of thinking quite puzzling. For me, the most beautiful moment on earth is in old people. They are my human sunsets.”

There are two things Anna does in her life as a widow and in her old age:

First, she never stops worshipping God. She spends her life in God’s temple together with the people of God. Today, God gives us His Church to be our mother in the faith. We rob ourselves of a priceless treasure when we neglect to be one of His worshipping people.

And lastly, she never ceases to pray. Public worship, like attending Masses in the Church, is great; but private worship, like prayer, is also great. As someone has truly said: “They pray best together who pray first alone.” The years have left Anna without bitterness, apprehension, anxiety, fear, and insecurity because day by day she keeps her contact with God. God is the source of strength and in whose strength our weakness is made perfect.

Anna never stops worshipping. She never stops praying. She never stops trusting and hoping. In the end, God rewards Anna by letting her see the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ.

And so how are we growing old, productive or bitter?

-Fr. Joseph Benitez

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dec. 29, 2015 Tuesday: 5th Day in the Octave of Christmas

Dec. 29, 2015 Tuesday: 5th Day in the Octave of Christmas

New Year is just two days away. For sure most people are preparing their so-called, “New Year’s resolutions.” I still recall that whatever I make my New Year’s Resolutions I do some rituals to show to God how sincere I am in doing it. However, after a month of faithfully doing my resolutions, I falter and stumble back to my old ways. So, for the rest of the year, I was back to my old habits, but promising to do my best next year.

In today’s gospel, Simeon shows us the right attitude of not giving up, determination with commitment. We could just imagine him waiting for the Messiah day after day. That was his resolution in life, to see the Messiah. He might have gotten sick and missed a day but he made sure that as soon as he got well he continued his resolution.

Resolutions are good, for they direct us to becoming better persons. However, without determination and commitment, it will just remain an idea. Let us be Simeon who kept and fulfilled his resolution until he finally saw the Messiah with his very own eyes.

(Fr. Alan G. Bondoc, SVD Bible Diary 2009)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dec. 27, 2015: Holy Family, C

Dec. 27, 2015: Holy Family, C

Click to hear Audio Homily
Recently while watching the news, a story on a family caught my attention. It was a story about a 45-year old, single, Pittsburgh policeman who adopted two children. Six years prior to adopting the children, Detective Jack Mook was volunteering as a boxing coach for a program for underprivileged kids. The two children -- brothers Jesse and Josh-- participated in the program, but one day stopped attending. Concerned about the children, Detective Jack went looking for them and found them living with a foster family in squalid and dangerous conditions. The detective obtained an emergency child protective services order placing the children under his care, and eventually was able to adopt the two boys. As a product of Catholic education, Detective Jack recognized the value of faith in children’s lives and had the two boys baptized Catholic and enrolled in a Catholic school. Detective Jack said it was quite an adjustment to start a family, but said, “It’s the best thing I ever did in my life.” As I watched this story, I wondered out loud, ‘What makes a family holy?’  Think about it: How can a family that may be intact, extended, broken, blended, dysfunctional, or upended be a holy family?

A family can face many blessings and challenges. As the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus shows us in the Gospel today, no family is free of anxieties, confusion, worries, heartaches, and even losses. We know that this Holy Family experienced poverty, dangers to health, numerous relocations, and even death--death of Joseph before Jesus began his ministry and death of Jesus on Calvary. The family didn’t own much, but their home was a peaceful, harmonious home, full of joy and simplicity of life. It was a stable environment, where mutual love, sacrifice, and respect was a priority; absent was anger, aggression, and dominance of one over another in their home. Jesus had two parents who loved God and their Jewish faith was central to their lives. They taught their son to love God and follow the teachings of their faith.

As we look at the Holy Family, what do we feel we can improve in our own family? I’m not just referring to a family with children, but also to a couple without children, a single person, or a community of religious men or women.  Each family faces modern challenges such as balancing work and family life, making educational decisions for the children, tracking finances, and working through marital disagreements. Perhaps our family members are loving and kind, but at other times they may be disrespectful or resist participating in family life such as doing chores or attending family events. Each day in the life of a family presents its own set of dilemmas along with plenty of tensions. Sometimes we give our children too much; we give and give, thinking it would help them, but it creates unrealistic expectations, dependence, and stunts maturity and simplicity of life. Sometimes we give too little attention to our children because we are just plain too busy or self-absorbed. Sometimes, couples go through an upheaval because of demands from their respective careers. And sometimes parents are trying too hard to keep up with the “Jones”, and the strain of keeping up is taking a toll on their marriage.

Could we  use more peace, harmony, respect, simplicity, love, or joy? We look to the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to fill up what is lacking in our own--to adopt us spiritually.
The Holy Family is holy because God in Jesus Christ is the center of it. Do we have the desire to share in the faith, hope, and love of the Holy Family? None of this is easy and will not come to fruition without each of us cooperating with God’s grace. Putting Jesus at the center requires us to make concrete steps--by making Sunday mass and daily prayer a priority in our lives. If our family finances need a checkup, then take a financial course; if there is marital issues, then seek christian counseling; if there is not enough family togetherness, then make the hard decision to give up some of the extra activities and concentrate on the family. Getting back to Detective Jack’s story, he had to change his eating habits for the sake of his new sons. His kids said that when they open up the refrigerator, all they see is bell peppers and vegetables. Their new dad began to cook fresh meals for them; no more eating alone or eating fast food, but eating together now as a family.

Let’s focus on making our family holy this coming new year by making the commitment to daily prayer. Putting Christ in the center our lives is not a difficult task. Each one of us is given a special gift from God to assist each other in this task. If each of us tries to truly live God’s love, then we will fulfill God’s plan for us to be a holy family. Turn to the Holy Family for strength and guidance, and may the grace from St. Joseph, Blessed Mother, and Our Lord strengthen and help us grow.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dec. 25, 2015: Christmas

Dec. 25, 2015: Christmas

Click to hear Audio Homily
This evening, my sister’s family will be attending Christmas mass. I know what my 7-yr. old nephew will be thinking throughout the mass. His father sent me a photo of a special letter he wrote. It read, “Dear Santa, I believe in you. Here are the things I want: a million dollars, a Meccanoid Robot, Zoomer Dog, and a VEX Robotic Arm. Sincerely, Pio.” I want to add a note to Santa that he should get a second job so that he can afford my nephew’s Christmas wishes.

What are you thinking about during this night? Each time we read the gospel, we are struck by something new. For me, I was touched when I realized that all the persons involved in the Nativity were away from their home. Let me explain.

Mary and Joseph, despite being late in her pregnancy, were traveling to another town because the government required they register in Joseph’s hometown. Dashed was Mary’s hope of having her family close by when she was to give birth to her firstborn. Can we even imagine the stress of traveling by donkey to a town days away? Think about your most stressful trip -- flight delays, crying, sleepy children, and lost luggage; take that image, multiply it by ten and you may get a sense of how Joseph and Mary felt when they arrived in Bethlehem.

The shepherds were not at home -- they were in the field tending the sheep in the cold evening night away from the warmth of their dwellings. Shepherds spent much of their lives away from home and were considered outcasts because they were smelly and dirty from living outside, tending the sheep.

Even the angels were not at home. They were not in heaven where things are always peaceful -- they were flying around talking to those smelly shepherds in the little town of Bethlehem.

And last but not least, not even Jesus was at home. He was away from the loving embrace of His Heavenly Father, sent to our earthly world, to a people who were living in darkness of not knowing God’s love for them.

Why was everyone led away from the comfort of their homes for this holy birth of the Child Jesus? Perhaps God is revealing to us where our true home lies. Most of us think of Christmas time as a time to be home again. But where is home? God is revealing to us that home is where Jesus is - where His love abounds. Even though Mary and Joseph were away from their home, and despite the difficult situation and circumstances, at the moment of the birth of Child Jesus, they were no longer a couple, but a family -- and this was their home.

Think about all the events that happened to you this year. Were there times when you felt you were out of your element, losing direction, perhaps going through dark times or suffering? Were there times that even when you were with your family that you did not feel consolation?

The beautiful hymn of “What Child Is This,” helps us understand what happened on this night in Bethlehem.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

The message of the angel to the shepherds is really a message to all of us. The first message that the angels deliver to us is this: “Do not be afraid.” Then the angels states, “Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. A savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” These are the words we have been longing for. We have been searching and longing for our true home, and finally we have found it. God is with us--Emmanuel. Across two thousand years, those words reach out to us in joy and hope and consolation. No matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter what your circumstances, this is what matters: Do not be afraid. God is with you.

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Our challenge is to discover Jesus in every person, event, and situation. Thus we can never be separated from home, because in Christ, we are always at home.

I wish each of you and your precious family a very happy celebration of the most holy birth of the Child Jesus. May the Christ Child who comes to us in Eucharist, touch those who encounter us and make them feel home. May those whom we counter recognize the heart of child Jesus in us; may we be His love and peace to them.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dec. 23, 2015 Wednesday: 4th Week of Advent C

Dec. 23, 2015 Wednesday: 4th Week of Advent C

“What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
LUKE 1:66

There is such hope in the birth of a baby. This new, precious being is a bundle of endless possibilities, a mystery that must be allowed to unfold at its own pace in order to totally manifest its inner truth of love and goodness. Throughout our lives, we experience change that is, in effect, a rebirth. At every stage of our life we explore new possibilities. We encounter new friends, new schools, new jobs, new family members, new responsibilities, new challenges. Sometimes the possibilities are frightening. When we remember the hand of the Lord is with us, we can face challenges with faith and courage. We can surrender our disappointments, loss, and physical difficulties to God and ask to be shown the gift within them. Sometimes the possibilities we face are joyous and exciting, and we more easily recognize the gift within. It is our privilege to seek the hand of the Lord within these gifts, too, and humbly express our gratitude. All of life is a gift of endless possibilities for sharing and experiencing God’s love and goodness. As we dare to explore these endless possibilities, we become more and more like God in compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Ponder: What will I become in life? Am I satisfied with my life at the moment? What would I like to accomplish with God’s help?

Prayer: Lord, all things are possible with you. Help me know my inner truth of love and goodness and manifest this totally in my relations with others.

Practice: Today I will write a letter of encouragement to someone I have neglected.

- Rev. Warren J. Savage and Mary Ann McSweeny

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dec. 22, 2015 Tuesday: 4th Week of Advent C

Dec. 22, 2015 Tuesday: 4th Week of Advent C


When Mary visited Elizabeth, the two women greeted each other with great joy. Not only that, but the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy, and by divine revelation, she immediately knew that Mary bore within her the Savior of the world.

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth said. (Luke 1:42-43)

Elizabeth gave Mary the highest praise; she called her “most blessed among women,” and recognized her as the mother of the Savior. It doesn’t get much better than that! This is the second time in which Mary was praised so highly. The Angel Gabriel told her she was the “favored one” of God. If that had been you or me, I daresay there’s a possibility that we would have been beaming with pride. We all want to claim the credit we deserve, right?

Instead, Mary turned the entire scene around and gave all of the credit to God. She spoke her Magnificat, a prayer of praise, thanksgiving, petition, and supplication; a prophecy; and a history lesson all rolled into one.

In the Magnificat, Mary gave glory to God and proclaimed her own loneliness. She predicted that, because of God’s greatness – not her own – all future generations would recognize her as the most blessed among women and that God would be merciful to every generation that fears him. Lastly, Mary recalled how God led his people through centuries of hardship, including wars, famine, division, hard-heartedness, oppression, and unfaithfulness. Then she highlighted God’s goodness, which he demonstrated by putting the proud in their place, dethroning despots and raising the trampled, feeding the hungry and depriving those with overabundance, and keeping his promise of posterity to Abraham. Not once did she point a finger to herself.

We could speak our own Magnificat, about our own lives and our own personal and family history. If we stop to think about it, we’ll see how God has led us through thick and thin, ups and downs, and everything in between. We’ll be able to see how God in his goodness has worked in us, through us, for us, and, yes, even in spite of us at the times we’ve resisted cooperating with his will.

And if we are completely honest with ourselves, we will realize, like Mary, that God deserves all the credit. Then, with Mary, we can joyfully say, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Advent is the time to look deeply into our hearts and see for ourselves what truly lays there. Do we see God as the ultimate beginning and end of all that we have, are, and do? Have we ever stopped to give him glory for it? Whether or not we have, now is the time to do it – again, or for the very first time.

- Marge Fenelon

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dec. 21, 2015 Monday: 4th Week of Advent C

Dec. 21, 2015 Monday: 4th Week of Advent C

Mary Knew How to Listen

Mary knew how to listen to God. Be careful: it was not merely “hearing,” a superficial word, but it was “listening,” that consists of attention, acceptance, and availability to God. It was not in the distracted way with which we sometimes face the Lord or others: we hear their words, but we do not really listen. Mary is attentive to God. She listens to God. -Pope Francis, Address, May 31, 2013

Mary listened attentively to the angel Gabriel when she was asked to be the mother of God. Attentive to the needs of her cousin Elizabeth, she went to her when Elizabeth needed help. She contemplated the events of the Nativity in her heart. What can you learn from Mary’s witness? How does God want you to live this out this season of Advent?

Through the Year with Pope Francis Daily Reflections
Edited by Kevin Cotter

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dec. 20, 2015: 4th Sunday of Advent C

Dec. 20, 2015: 4th Sunday of Advent C

Click to hear Audio Homily
What do you want for Christmas? It’s a common question that we’re asking during this season. One Catholic mom asked other Catholic moms on social media, “What do you want for Christmas,” and she received the following replies: a repainted kitchen, a day at the spa, a maid, a night away with my husband, and the most requested item--a nap. I asked that very same question, “What do you want for Christmas?” to a very different group of folks recently, and I received the following replies: peace in my family, forgiveness for my sins, and eternal life. Can you guess to which group I asked the question? The nursing home residents. I replied, “Why are you not asking for new clothes, new TV, or new cosmetics? They replied, “We don’t need it.”

Christmas is only a few days away. By this time we have purchased gifts, decorated our homes, mailed our Christmas cards and attended parties. Even though we have accomplished so much, is there still an empty feeling? Have we forgotten to wait patiently, to long for the Lord? 

The word advent means the arrival of a notable person or event and so during this Advent season there should be a sense of waiting. If there is something we don’t do well during this very busy season, it is to wait. The past three weeks, we should have been longing for the Lord to arrive. Yet when we have to wait, even for a few minutes, we often become impatient with each other--at least, that was what I heard from the folks this week at the penance services. A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patience” means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her womb.

We see that patient attitude toward life in the two women in our Gospel today--Elizabeth and Blessed Mother. Before she was pregnant with John, Elizabeth spent her whole life waiting for a child, not with resentment but with hope. Blessed Mother faced an unexpected pregnancy. With trust, she surrendered to an unknown future held in God’s plan: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Perhaps what we could ask for this Christmas are patience and trust--two of the virtues that Blessed Mother possessed. Elizabeth spoke highly of her cousin’s patience and trust when she said, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Do we believe that even when things are not going our way that God will never leave us and that He cares for us? Do we trust that God’s intention is to provide for our needs and to listen to our prayers? We all have been there, when we doubted God’s faithful love for us. Perhaps as we wait for Our Lord’s arrival on Christmas, we should ask Elizabeth and Blessed Mother to help us grow in our patience.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dec. 18, 2015 Friday: 3rd Week of Advent C

Dec. 18, 2015 Friday: 3rd Week of Advent C

Twas the fight before Christmas : A survival guide to a fairly happy holiday

We've all seen the Hallmark version: the loving, happy, laughing family gathered around the Christmas tree.

Then there's real life.

Father John Cusick, director of young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Chicago, remembers the relative who, every year, tried to goad him into a political argument during Christmas dinner. One year he took the bait and the conversation got heated. Later he went home, took a deep breath, and thought: "What a way to ruin a holiday."

How to ruin the holiday-there are so many ways, from the comedic to the close-to-pathological. We've all been there.

There's the furnace that expires just when the guests arrive.

The ache of missing loved ones who've died, or up-and-gone, or the question of whose turn it is to spend the holidays with the in-laws.

Throughout the Advent and Christmas season, Catholics deal with both what's supposed to be-at least in our imaginations-and what really exists in our families, our jobs, our culture, and our parishes.

"We all have this idea of the holiday as a family gathering, this Norman Rockwell kind of scene," says Patrick V. Dean, director of Grief Education Services for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Cemeteries and founder of the Wisconsin Grief Education Center. "It's a nice visual and it exists, but it's not everybody's story. One could argue that it's almost a minority position-that in all communities and all families, a majority of them have stresses and conflicts."

Jesus was born into a family that had its own Christmas drama of sorts-an unmarried pregnant woman, a long hard trip, and a no vacancy sign at the local motel. He was born into a broken world. For that reason some suggest that Christmas is exactly the time to live out in our own imperfect families the kind of reconciliation that God offers to us. Our efforts to make the best of our messy family celebrations could be one way of bringing Christ's spirit into the world.

Playing referee
Phil Fox Rose's family is all over the place-geographically, spiritually, and politically. His parents left the Mormon church; his father became atheist and his mother "kind of vague" about religion. Of their six children, one is Mormon, one an evangelical Protestant, one attends a liberal Protestant church, two are unaffiliated, and Rose, a 48-year-old writer from New York, became Catholic.

"We're very scattered," Rose says-and most of the time, the East and West Coast sides of the family do not get together.

When they do, Rose has learned not to bring up issues such as national elections or universal health care-or if it does come up, to "gently suggest that the other side isn't evil." He tries to be a healing force-and to suggest holiday gatherings at least for the siblings who live closer together.

That doesn't always happen. But like a lot of people who have close connections with their "families of choice"-friends, close co-workers, and neighbors-Rose has made his own traditions. He often celebrates Christmas with a blend of Presbyterians, Buddhists, and Jews, who have become a second family to him.

Rose, who is divorced, says he understands the stress that single people with scattered families can feel during Christmas. He has friends "who are really kind of irritable at the holidays, almost angry at the fact that the focus is on families coming together. It's kind of rubbing it in their face that they don't have one."

Father Larry Rice, the Newman Center's director, had the sense that Christmas is a struggle for lots of folks-for lots of reasons.

"We really want to reach out to people who are feeling alienated from the church or disconnected from society, and try to bring them some healing," Rice says. "I wanted to do something that was really going to be about welcoming people who have a hard time with the holidays."

The idea is to celebrate the Incarnation, but in a quieter, more subdued way.

"You really don't have to do ‘Joy to the World' at every Mass," Rice says. "We do the more quiet, reflective Christmas songs. We start the liturgy by simply welcoming people, acknowledging that not everybody feels great about Christmas. We invite people to bring with them whatever they're going through and whatever they're struggling with, and to know that all of that is welcome."

Rice preaches a homily about the core meaning of Christmas. "Christ [became] one of us here on the ground and [lived] through all the struggles we live with," he says. "All of our human experience is redeemed, even the difficult parts. Jesus is there to acknowledge and heal whatever is within us that's broken, and to be with us in all our struggles."

From the altar, Rice can look across the crowd and see people crying.

The first year, after the Mass had ended, a woman came up to Rice with tears streaming down her face. "It was the first time she didn't feel out of place at Christmas in 25 years," he says. "I thought, ‘What has she been carrying around for 25 years that was so horrible?' I never found out."

Leslie Scanlon

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dec. 17, 2015 Thursday: 3rd Week of Advent C

Dec. 17, 2015 Thursday: 3rd Week of Advent C

A Royal Son: Genealogy and Birth of Jesus
Matthew 1:1-25

The opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is a stumbling block for many modern readers. Why begin a Gospel with a list of more than forty names? A biblical genealogy does not seem to be the most captivating way to draw readers into the story of Jesus. As one commentator put it, “Reading other people’s genealogies is about as exciting as watching other people’s holiday videos.” But for the ancient Jews, a genealogy was not merely a catalog of old names. Each name told a story and recalled key events in salvation history. Biblical genealogies also conferred identity and privileges on members of a family, bestowing a sense of mission and responsibility.

The particular genealogy in Matt 1:1-17 compresses the entire history of Israel into seventeen short verses. The many names would have brought to mind the various twists and turns, triumphs and tragedies, in that story. By tracing Jesus’ lineage back to David and Abraham, Matthew places the story of Jesus within the larger plot of God’s dealings with Israel and, at the same time, announces that Israel’s story is reaching its climax in the child at the end of the line. Most of all, the genealogy establishes Jesus’ messianic credentials. Grafted onto the trunk of David’s royal lineage, Jesus will appear as the legal heir of this family’s kingly prerogatives that have been passed down from generation to generation.

By entering into the ancient Jewish yearnings for Christ’s first coming two thousand years ago, we prepare our souls to welcome him into our hearts at Christmas. Perhaps the New Testament passage that best encapsulates the spirit of Advent and the ancient Jewish longing for the messiah is the genealogy of Jesus in Matt 1:2-17. Indeed, this family tree sums up “the hopes and fears of all the years” in Israel’s waiting for the savior. Undoubtedly, many ancient Jews were full of fear in the midst of much suffering and oppression, wondering where God was in their trials and questioning whether he would ever come to their aid. But the faithful also clung to hope: hope in the promises and prophecies of old, confidence in God’s faithfulness, and trust that there was some purpose in their suffering and that God one day would rescue them.

Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dec. 16, 2015 Wednesday: 3rd Week of Advent C

Dec. 16, 2015 Wednesday: 3rd Week of Advent C

Always Look for the Good in People

Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what he did was to call out this beauty. Listen to other people, and whenever you discern something which sounds true, which is a revelation of harmony and beauty, emphasize it and help it to flower. Strengthen it and encourage it to live. - Anthony Bloom, “ Always Look for the Good in People ”

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34

Apply this principle to a real person—a celebrity involved in a notorious scandal or crime, or perhaps someone you know personally who has behaved badly. Look for the good in him or her.

- Jim Manney
An IGNATIAN book of days Daily Reflections from the Spiritual Wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Dec. 15, 2025 Tuesday: 3rd Week of Advent C

Dec. 15, 2025 Tuesday: 3rd Week of Advent C

Which of the two did his father’s will? (Matthew 21:31)

“No!” That word can sound like a slamming door. Think about the last time you asked someone to help you. Maybe you asked your spouse to stop for a gallon of milk on the way home, or you asked if you could borrow a book from a friend. If they immediately said no, that would probably be the last time you’d ask them for anything. It would definitely put a strain on your relationship!

In the Gospel reading today, the first son’s “no” put him on his father’s bad side. Working in the vineyard was certainly within what was expected of him in the family. But his “no” wasn’t the end of the story. He may have impulsively refused his father’s request, but when he changed his mind, he was able to get back in line with what his father expected. It was as if he had never even refused. Even better, his relationship with his father was restored! If you think about it, it’s not too different from the parable of the prodigal son in Luke’s Gospel: when the son returned, the father ran out to take him back.

The same is true for us. “No” doesn’t have to be our final answer!

Just because you have said no to God, he has not turned his back on you. You can always change your mind, repent, and say yes! There is always the chance for a new beginning. Just because you see sin in your life—that impulsive first “no” or that long-standing, obstinate “never”—you are not locked into it. Like the first son, like the prodigal son, you can always turn back to your Father. All vestiges of your “no” can be wiped away.

Have you been to Confession yet this Advent? If not, go! Take a few moments to examine your conscience, and ask the Spirit to help you see where your “no” can turn to “yes.” Then go and confess. Turn back to the warm embrace of your heavenly Father. Let him wash you clean. Let him say, “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). It’s never too late to start over again!

“Father, I’m sorry for all the times I’ve said no to you. Wipe my slate clean, and help me to say yes today!”

The Word Among Us

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dec. 13, 2015: 3rd Sunday of Advent C

Dec. 13, 2015: 3rd Sunday of Advent C

Click to hear Audio Homily
Do you have any suggestions on how to make someone joyful? According to a foundation called Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, they suggest several ideas; perhaps you’ve already tried these ideas. 1) Next time you finish a workout at the gym, take an extra minute or two to wipe down the equipment you were using so it will be clean for the next person to use. 2) Whether you are at work, school, or home, clean up after yourself. When you clean up after yourself you make life easier for all those around you. 3) When someone does something nice for you, return their generosity with a pleasant thank you note to let them know you appreciated their kindness.

I heard a great example of someone experiencing joy. A parishioner facilitates a faith sharing group at a women’s prison where the women are exteriorly very tough--tattoos, brightly dyed mohawks and shaved heads, and unwashed face and hair. One female inmate in the group shared an experience of being in a cell with a new inmate who was detoxing cold-turkey from a substance addiction. The new inmate was undergoing painful and messy withdrawal symptoms. The female inmate with great compassion cleaned up the new inmate and cleaned up the mess around her. With that act of kindness, the new inmate experienced comfort and hope and the other inmate experienced the joy of being present to another.

The joy that St. Paul wrote about in the Second Reading is not the kind that we associate with loud laughing and exuberant celebrations. Rather, the joy that he wrote about was the “joy in the Lord,” which is marked by serenity and interior peace. It’s the kind of experience that cannot be affected by even exterior tribulations. St. Paul wrote, “For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39) With the Lord, there is joy within us even in our darkest hour of losing a loved ones, going through separation, or dealing with a terminal illness. When we take the focus off ourselves--that is, to go beyond ourselves--we experience inexplicable joy. Even with our own children, when we realize that they don’t belong to us but to God, then loving them and taking care of them bring us joy.

What ought we do to experience this joy? John the Baptist in our Gospel gives us suggestions, and it’s not something extraordinary: “Let the man who has two coats give to him who has none. The man who has food should do the same.” This sharing exemplifies “simple” charity on behalf of those who lack the basic necessities of clothing and food. Mother Teresa said that there is joy in giving, “God gives us things to share, God doesn't give us things to hold...” Many of you who have brought a gift for the Christmas Giving Tree and contributed to the Thanksgiving Baskets experienced this joy. Even today when you give to the Religious Retirement Fund, you experience a joy of gratitude to the Daughters of Charity and Brothers of Sacred Heart who served in our community.

It is difficult, sometimes, to give. Our modern way of thinking is that if we give, we will be left without. So the act of giving entails a surrender to God and trust that God will take care of us. Yet this placing of oneself in the hands of God, paradoxically, brings joy. It’s in the moment of this surrender that we realize how much God is already taking care of us.

Mother Teresa explained it this way: “Like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, ‘I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.’ And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord.”

Take that opportunity during this season of Advent. The joy that you have within is to be shared. The joy of giving may not necessarily involve things, but simply your time and attention. Spend time in prayer with the Lord to know what he is calling you to share or give.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, December 11, 2015

Dec. 12-13, 2015: Annual Religious Retirement Collection

Dec. 12-13, 2015: Annual Religious Retirement Collection
On this weekend of December 12-13, 2015 our parishes throughout the Diocese of Baton Rouge will be conducting the Retirement Fund for Religious collection. This annual appeal benefits some 35,000 senior Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests—women and men who have consecrated their lives to serving God and the Church.

Pope Francis tells us, “Every consecrated person is a gift for the People of God on its journey.” Many of us can recall special women or men religious who played meaningful roles in our lives. This may have been the sister who taught us in second grade, supporting our educational development. Or perhaps it was the religious brother who led us on retreat and nourished our spiritual growth. Their support of our journeys often required great sacrifices. Most senior religious worked for small stipends, leaving a substantial gap in retirement savings. As a result, hundreds of religious communities now struggle to provide adequate care for aging members.

Your efforts are vital to the success of this Appeal. We are very grateful for your generosity and that of your parishioners.  Our 2014 Diocesan collection contributed $276,451 to the Retirement Fund.   Once again, people of the Diocese of Baton Rouge have demonstrated unparalleled generosity toward the care of women and men religious who have ministered to them and their families.

The Retirement Fund for Religious offers us an opportunity to support elder religious in this phase of their journeys. While many continue in some form of ministry, others are frail and need assistance. Your gift provides vital funding for medications, nursing care, and more. It also helps religious congregations implement long-term retirement strategies that ensure both quality eldercare and continued service to the People of God.

I recognize this is but one of numerous worthy causes in need of assistance; I ask simply that you give what you can. In thanksgiving for the faithful service of senior religious, please join me in supporting the Retirement Fund for Religious and in praising God for the gifts that consecrated life offers our Church.

Fr. Paul Yi
Liaison for the Religious / Chancellor
Diocese of Baton Rouge

Dec. 11, 2015 Friday: 2nd Week of Advent C

Dec. 11, 2015 Friday: 2nd Week of Advent C

Once I came across a cartoon strip depicting this situation: a man and a woman appear stranded on an island. The man looks suggestively at the woman. Apparently, he had said something seductive to her because the scene shows her shaking her head and emphatically saying, “I will know. That’s who will know!” Remarkable integrity and inner freedom!

The people who opposed Jesus expected him to dance to their tune. Their tune, however, was arbitrary, for it catered to their hidden selfish ambitions and desires. Jesus knew. He remained unaffected by these pressures. He danced to his own tune. He was directed by inner motives that he felt secure and certain about. Attuned to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, he was single-hearted in following the Father’s will. He was therefore certain of the fruit of all that he did. He knew where they come from.

In my daily life I hear many voices from within and from without. Do I dance to the tune of others in order to win approval, in order to belong, no matter what? Or do I foster in myself critical, reflective thinking to discern what is of true and what is not? Am I attuned to the still inner voice of the Spirit?

(Sr. Lou Anne, SSpS Bible Diary 2004)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dec. 10, 2015 Thursday: 2nd Week of Advent C

Dec. 10, 2015 Thursday: 2nd Week of Advent C

John the Baptist is truly an Advent figure. He gives us a sometimes uncomfortable reminder that Christmas is much more than a time to make and spend money. Christmas has nothing to do with material gain; it is a challenge to renewal and repentance.

We are struck by the tremendous tribute which Jesus pays to John. There has been nobody greater than he. But this praise is followed by the startling phrase that, “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”. What can this mean? It is something I have often wondered about.

It is William Barclay who gives the best explanation that I have seen. He tells us that what was lacking in John was that he had never seen the Cross. This being the case, Barclay tells us that the full depth of God’s love was something that John could never experience or know. And so even the humblest Christian who has experienced the Cross of Jesus is blessed to be able to know God’s love more deeply than the great John the Baptist. This is indeed an unmerited gift of God to us.

Note however, that Jesus does not say that we are necessarily better than John. Yes we may be more blessed than he was but that will be more blessed than he was but that will be of little benefit to us if we do not appreciate the love that God has shown us. John had a role to play in God’s plan for our salvation and he fulfilled it heroically. His was the task to prepare our hearts to meet Jesus and to show us the way to a relationship with God which he would never experience in his lifetime. Ours is the calling to follow Jesus through the way of the Cross in order to give witness to his love for all people.

How blessed indeed are we to be called to follow Jesus! May this be the light that shines on us as we welcome him into our lives this Christmas.

(Fr. John O’Mahony, SVD Bible Diary 2007)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Dec. 9, 2015 Wednesday: St. Juan Diego

Dec. 9, 2015 Wednesday: St. Juan Diego

"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike." Mt 11:25

During the years that I was serving as Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Seward, Nebraska, I had the privilege of bringing Holy Communion every week to Rosie, a young woman with severe intellectual limitations. She could speak only a few words and incomplete phrases. She could not follow my homilies (she wasn’t the only one!). Rosie had the mental capacity of a little child.

But every Wednesday afternoon, she and her father were waiting for me to bring her Holy Communion. Each time, she would say her "Amen" as I held up the divine host with a broad smile on her face. As she received Christ in the Eucharist, she was one with our Lord and Savior, the King of Universe.

Rosie knows far more about God than the smartest atheist at Harvard. For she knows the love of God our Father; and she experiences also the love of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. Only by opening oneself to the gift of faith in God can this spiritual wisdom be received. "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." Mt 11:27

How blest is Rosie and how blest are you and I to know and to love the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, this Blessed Trinity that comes to dwell in our hearts and who speaks to us through the Church.

Knowledge of God is His gift to the childlike, to those with the humility and faith to believe. The "wise and learned" of this world can also come to know God (and He desires that they do so) but, when and if they do so, it’s not due primarily to their own intelligence but to their acceptance of the gift of faith. Jesus reiterates this throughout His public ministry. Recall the words of Jesus recorded by St. Luke (10:15), "I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Knowledge of God, the blessing of knowing the Lord through His Divine Revelation, is not something we can boast of achieving; it is our heavenly Father’s gift. But, at the same time, we have to receive this gift in gratitude and work out our salvation, using our energy and abilities to fulfill our mission from God. "What you have received as a gift," Jesus says, "give as a gift." And, in today’s Gospel, He tells us, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." Mt 11:29-30

St. Juan Diego, undoubtedly, rejoiced in these words of Christ. They resonated with the deepest desires of his inner self. From his own life experience and that of his native people in central Mexico, he was keenly aware of the stark contrast between the yoke of slavery and the yoke of being a beloved son. He had gratefully embraced the yoke of being a child of God in Baptism, and he desired to do his heavenly Father’s will at all times. He also knew that God’s way is so different from our human ways that it is tempting to think our human ways are better, especially when we do not initially understand what God is asking or what obedience requires. Only with perseverance and grace do we discover the meaning of the Book of Sirach (3:17-18), "My son,, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God."

The humble have "no other gods," no false idols, nothing that their heart desires more than a loving communion with the Lord and fellowship with all the saints. Because he knew how to "conduct his affairs with humility", Juan Diego was ready to put aside "his own affairs" when a higher calling or more important mission beckoned. Of course, that is what happened when the Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him on Tepeyac hill in December of 1531, and asked him to be her chosen messenger to take a message to the Bishop of Mexico. To carry out that mission, Juan Diego needed both the grace of perseverance and the virtue of humility.

There are more than 70 species of cacti in Arizona and northern Mexico. Cacti vary incredibly in size, from the majestic Saguaro, which towers as tall as a five-story building and weighs as much as 15 tons, to the tiny Pincushion cactus, which reaches about two-inches in height. While there is no cactus as majestic and stately as the Saguaro, it cannot compete in exquisite beauty with the tiny Pincushion. From April to May, and again in mid-summer, pink blossoms sprout from this little cactus, often dwarfing the rest of the plant, but providing joy to the observant hiker and giving praise to God.

St. Juan Diego was not a saguaro; he was a pincushion. He was not eager to draw attention to Himself but delighted in drawing attention to the beauty of God and to His Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe. When he showed the bishop his tilma, not only did the Virgin Mary’s image appear on its surface but also the beauty and fragrance of the roses that he had picked on Tepeyac hill. The messenger of Our Lady, Juan Diego, was like a tiny pincushion cactus, beside the splendid beauty of the Mother of God.

Like a child, he was grateful to call God his Father and call the Blessed Virgin Mary his Mother. Before God, our Father and Creator, are not all human beings little pincushions? Are we not fortunate when we can find the humility to say with John the Baptist, "I must decrease; He must increase"

It takes a long time for most of us to realize our true stature before the Lord. But, from time to time, God lifts up a saintly person, one like the little pincushion cactus and invites us to hear Him say with Jesus, the Son of Mary, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike." Mt 11:25

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
Marian Congress in Phoenix, Arizona, Aug. 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

First Day - Dec. 8 - Novena for Deeper Conversion and Greater Holiness

First Day - Dec. 8 - Novena for Deeper Conversion and Greater Holiness
Every Tuesday beginning Dec. 8th and finishing Feb. 2nd

Holy Spirit! Lord of Light! From Your clear celestial height, Your pure beaming radiance give!

The Holy Spirit

Only one thing is important -- eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared--sin? Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for "The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us."


Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Spirit, and hast given us forgiveness all sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us your sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE.
Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.
Act of Consecration, Prayer for the Seven Gifts

On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth." Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who, before ascending into heaven, did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

Dec. 8, 2015 Tuesday: Immaculate Conception

Dec. 8, 2015 Tuesday: Immaculate Conception

Around the world today, we celebrate another beautiful feast day for our Blessed Mother, the feast of her immaculate conception. Though the feast is celebrating Mary’s conception, the gospel reading is about Jesus’ conception. Our Gospel story is about a young girl, perhaps 14 years old, who receives a visit from an archangel. This is no normal visit – the archangel isn’t there to play cards or have dinner - Archangel Gabriel is there with a special message. The angel tells Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High….” I’ve often wondered how frightened Mary felt after that visit by Archangel Gabriel. Imagine, a young girl learning that she will bear the Messiah who will ultimately change the world. She didn’t receive a detailed description from Archangel Gabriel about the meaning of the message or how bearing the messiah would impact her life.

While Mary might have been frightened by the visit from the angel, she knew that she was not alone. When Archangel Gabriel visited her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” How often throughout the rest of her life she must have recalled those words and been comforted by them. Knowing the Lord was with her allowed her to raise the child Jesus, be with Him during His public ministry, ponder the events of Jesus’ life and walk with Him on the journey to the Cross. Her life was a life of prayer as she “kept all these things in her heart.”

Blessed Mother is not just a figure who lived 2000 years ago and then vanished from our life. We can learn so much from her life and she can help us in our own. Blessed Mother has been where we are or have been. She walks with us each day, always drawing us to her Son. Mary is the woman facing an unexpected pregnancy. She is the teenager realizing that all her plans and dreams have suddenly been changed. Mary is the refugee seeking sanctuary. She’s an expectant mother, waiting joyfully to see the face of her child. She’s the grieving mother holding the body of her deceased son.

When Blessed Mother was conceived in her mother’s womb, she was given a great gift to trust God with great love, to generously and freely give all of herself as a gift to others. It was to this Immaculate Heart that her Son was conceived. God desires to mold our own hearts to be like hers so that we may receive Jesus and give Jesus to those we meet.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dec. 7, 2015 Monday: St. Ambrose

Dec. 7, 2015 Monday: St. Ambrose

Mother Teresa’s Untold Story: A Review of ‘The Letters’

“If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from heaven — to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” — Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Telling a tale of the inner spiritual life of a person is difficult — we might even say impossible — for our spiritual lives are largely unseen. One can see certain things from the outside, but only God knows what is happening interiorly: the growth, the challenges, the setbacks and movements away from and toward God.

Mother Teresa’s life was one marked by service to the poorest of the poor on the streets of Calcutta out of love for Christ. In the many photographs we have of her, she radiates joy and love to those she served.

Yet what none of us saw was her interior life: a life of profound loneliness that has only recently been revealed.

The Letters, the first feature-length theatrical biopic on Mother Teresa, attempts to convey this. Sometimes it succeeds; other times it does not.

The film opens with a series of scenes from various venues: Ireland, 1931, when Sister Teresa makes her vows with the Loreto Sisters; India, 1998, where a priest and postulator of her cause for canonization, Father Benjamin Praagh (Rutger Hauer), visits a hospital where an Indian woman has allegedly been healed through Mother Teresa’s intercession; England, 2003, where we’re introduced to an aging Father Celeste van Exem (Max von Sydow), Mother Teresa’s spiritual director; and Rome. It’s a slightly confusing opening that attempts to introduce us to the central characters of the story.

Father van Exem explains to Father Praagh that he will want to read Mother Teresa’s letters, letters that reveal the profound darkness she experienced.

“She felt God had abandoned her,” Father van Exem explains. “No one knew of her feelings of isolation. Her longing for God felt like torture. She felt there was no God in her.”

The story is told largely through narration by Father van Exem or through the voice of Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson) narrating her letters.

The story follows Sister Teresa’s early consecrated life as a teacher in a school run by the Loreto Sisters. While she is first and foremost a teacher, it is through the poor outside the windows of the convent that God calls her.

“Surely God loves the poor as much as he loves privileged girls,” Sister Teresa explains to the mother general of the desires growing in her heart. Sister Teresa’s first challenge is to overcome the suspicions and jealousy of her superior.

The film relays the story of Mother Teresa’s being released from her vows to the Sisters of Loreto and her founding of the Missionaries of Charity, all within the context of India’s fight for independence. It tells the story of her work in the slums of Calcutta, leading up to her opening of the Home for the Dying and ending with her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

The film’s greatest weakness is relying on narration to tell us what we’re going to see or what we’ve already seen. This happens repeatedly. It’s unnecessary and both slows down and distracts us from the movement of the film.

As examples, we’re told that Mother Teresa was shocked by the poverty she confronted. We’re told that she was drawn to serve the poor. We’re told that she received a “call within a call.” It’s an important point, but one wonders: Could it have been captured artistically?

Where this does work is in explaining her sense of abandonment, her loneliness and the emptiness that she felt. Then, when we later see her walking alone, we can ever-so-slightly feel the “dark night of the soul” that she experienced, just by the way she’s walking.

One cannot help but compare this motion picture to the 2003 made-for-television film Mother Teresa, featuring Olivia Hussey in the main role. That film did a better job of showing Mother Teresa’s spiritual encounters.

Where the film succeeds is when it shows us Mother Teresa’s relationships with those she serves and the challenges she faces in her service to the poorest of the poor. We’re moved when she begins teaching some orphan boys the alphabet or when she helps to deliver the breech baby of a Hindu couple who had previously tried to force her from the slums. Later, the father runs to meet Mother Teresa as she walks home, falls on his knees and begs her forgiveness.

Both in the film (which was shot in India) and her life, it is her actions that inspire, especially in light of the film’s revelations that were described in The New York Times best-selling book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta. The film, directed by and based on a script written by William Riead, borrows heavily from the letters contained in the book. The film tells us that Mother Teresa wanted the letters destroyed after her death because she feared that they would “make people think more of me and less of Jesus.” We can be thankful that they were not destroyed.

Her letters have been largely misunderstood by the secular media, thinking that they somehow suggest her lack of belief. In fact, the letters echo Christ’s words to Thomas: “Blessed are they who believe without seeing,” or, in Mother Teresa’s case, we might say: Blessed are those who believe without feeling. It is for this reason that the film is an important one.

As we see Mother Teresa feeding the hungry, teaching the orphan, visiting the sick and comforting the dying, we cannot help but recall the Gospel passage from Matthew 25 about the hungry, thirsty, naked and imprisoned.

Stevenson does an excellent job embodying Mother Teresa, both in her accent and posture. Less so in her face, but she does such a good job acting that we come to see her as Mother Teresa. She conveys Mother Teresa’s single-minded devotion to serving the poor and her complete trust in God. Although the film contains two well-known actors in von Sydow and Hauer, it doesn’t give them much material to work with. The two spend most of the film talking or narrating.

We’ve seen many of this film’s scenes before. Mother Teresa had very similar scenes of the blessed nun receiving her call to serve the poor, her receiving the news that her congregation has been approved by the Vatican and the riots outside of her Home for the Dying. In that sense, the film doesn’t cover much new territory. It’s simply another take on a story that many Catholics already know well.

Where it does shed some new light is in helping the viewer to understand that during all the years of her very visible work in India, she was plagued by interior doubt, darkness and a feeling of isolation. This revelation makes her seem more relatable and makes her sacrifices even more admirable.

The film won the 2014 Sedona International Film Festival’s “Audience Award.” For those unfamiliar with Mother Teresa and her work, this film offers a good introduction. For those familiar with her story, it’s spiritually beneficial to see it again through eyes opened to her unseen story of suffering. That’s not only something worth seeing, but something worthy of reflection.

Tim Drake

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Dec. 6, 2015: 2nd Sunday of Advent C

Dec. 6, 2015: 2nd Sunday of Advent C

Have you ever been asked to share your faith with someone? Sometimes this happens when you are least prepared; you have no books or notes in front of you for reference. In those occasions, you can’t say, “Wait here a minute. Let me google that,” And you can’t say, “Let me ask my pastor to call you.” Simply put, you are it; you are the one whom God is sending to share the Good News. One lady shared a personal story of sitting in a plane getting ready for take off. A well dressed gentleman sitting next to her pulled out a bible, and after letting out a deep sigh turned towards her and asked, “Do you know what this book is all about? I’m an atheist, and my wife handed this book to me and said I should read it.” If you were put in that situation, how would you respond? Where would you begin? Do you think God is asking too much of you when He asks this of you?

When a very well known person was wrestling with what God had asked of her, she wrote in her diary: “My own Jesus--what You ask it is beyond me [...] I am unworthy--I am sinful--I am weak--Go, Jesus and find a more worthy soul, a more generous one. I am so afraid--This fear shows me how much I love myself. I am afraid of the suffering that will come.” Those very personal words belong to Mother Teresa. Reflecting on our own journey of faith, do we also find ourselves unworthy, too weak, sinful, and fearful to share with others our faith and relationship with God?

On this Second Sunday of Advent, we see in John the Baptist, our own calling--to lead all people to Jesus. How will we accomplish that? If we look to the life of Mother Teresa--a saint of our time--we see a life of love, compassion, and kindness. She didn’t use scholarly words. She preached by the way she loved. Though Mother Teresa felt unworthy, weak, and fearful of the role entrusted to her, like St. Paul, she trusted that she was not carrying out this role on her own strength. St. Paul said, “Brothers and sisters: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

There is power in God’s grace. Whether we admit it to others or not, in some way or another we have strayed from the path of faith. However, God has been compassionate and merciful to us, and He will always be compassionate and merciful. The fact that Mother Teresa was not born the same person she became, not already imbued with the qualities for which she would become famous, means that the rest of us, too, have hope to change and improve. We trust that through God’s grace, no matter our present shortcomings or lack of human qualities, we all have 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.

We might be thinking that we can’t be in the same league with Mother Teresa, but the ingredient that she had, that all of us have access to--is trust. Our Responsorial Psalm tonight was, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” Do we recognize how the Lord has already done great things in us and for us? Do we trust in God that He will accomplish great things through us?

-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, December 4, 2015

Dec. 4, 2015 Friday: St. John of Damacene

Dec. 4, 2015 Friday: St. John of Damascene

Today’s gospel scene is unusual, even mysterious and almost funny. Imagine two blind men running after Christ. And Jesus lets them run! Certainly they fell, tripped and bruised themselves along the way. Undoubtedly they must have been a little afraid or nervous but their desire to be healed and their faith in Christ was greater than any of the physical, emotional or psychological obstacles. It is only when He enters a house that they can finally pin Him down and have their prayer request answered. This is quite strange because usually Jesus is quite eager to cure people and in this gospel scene, He makes hard for these two blind men to grant their request. Why is this?

This is maybe because God sometimes delays to answer our own prayers. In the sense that too often, our desires are shallow and God allows more time to deepen them. There are times, however, when God would desire to answer our prayers, but is hindered by our own actions and attitudes, since He will only act in consistency with His own holy nature and loving wisdom. Some of those hindrances are listed below:

Sin in the heart: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me”
Unforgiving attitude: “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance…..” (Mark 11:25).
Carnal motive: “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions,” (James 4:3).
Selfish family relations: “Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered,” (I Peter 3:7).
Unbelief: “But he should ask in faith, not doubting….For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,” (James 1:6, 7).

And so, let us enlarge our desires and hearts too, it is because St. Paul said:”God is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,” (Eph 3:20).

-Fr. Joseph Benitez

For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits; truly my hope is in you.
O Lord of Light, our only hope of glory,
your radiance shines in all who look to you,
come light the hearts of all in dark and shadow.
For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits; truly my hope is in you.

—Marty Haugen, “My Soul in Stillness Waits,”

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dec. 3, 2015 Thursday: St. Francis Xavier

Dec. 3, 2015 Thursday: St. Francis Xavier

The True Disciple

I do not know if you are familiar with this Latin metaphysical axiom “agere sequitor esse” (or ‘Action follows being’). This means that one must act according to one’s nature. The human person must act in the human way intelligently and responsibly. In a similar way, the Jewish terms, halakah (one’s way of “walking”) must follow haggadah (the teaching).

Jesus in today’s gospel passage speaks about two builders. One builds his house upon the solid rock while the other builds his house on sand. Jesus praises the one who builds his house on rock. And what is this rock? The rock is of course Himself and His teachings, His words, His life and His examples. But listening to His word or by merely reading it is not enough, what is required also which is equally important with reading, is acting. In the beginning of this gospel passage Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven,” (v. 21). In this statement of Jesus, He is most probably saying to us that entrance into the kingdom is only for those who do the will of the Father. On the Day of Judgment the morally corrupt prophets and miracle workers will be rejected by Jesus.

How do we apply this teaching of Jesus? I’m sure the one that I will share with you will help us to put into practice the Words of Jesus coming from an unknown author. He advised us not to open our mouth when:

In the heat of anger – Proverbs 14:17

When you don’t have all the facts – Proverbs 18:13

When you haven’t verified the story – Deuteronomy 17:6

If your words will offend a weaker person – 1 Corinthians 8:11

When it is time to listen – Proverbs 13:1

When you are tempted to make light of holy things – Ecclesiastes 5:2

When you are tempted to joke about sin – Proverbs 14:9

If you would be ashamed of your words later – Proverbs 8:8

If your words would convey the wrong impression – Proverbs 17:27

If the issue is none of your business – Proverbs 14:10

When you are tempted to tell an outright lie – Proverbs 4:24

If your words will damage someone else’s reputation – Proverbs 16:27

If your words will damage a friendship – Proverbs 16:28

When you are feeling critical – James 3:9

If you can’t say it without screaming it – Proverbs 25:28

If your words will be a poor reflection of the Lord or your friends and family – Peter 2:21-23

If you may have to eat your words later – Proverbs 18:21

If you have already said it more than one time – Proverbs 19:13

When you are tempted to flatter a wicked person – Proverbs 24:24

When you are supposed to be working instead – Proverbs 14:23

May the above advises guide us safely through the hectic Christmas preparations.

-Fr. Joseph Benitez

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dec. 2, 2015 Wednesday: 1st Week of Advent

Dec. 2, 2015 Wednesday: 1st Week of Advent

He broke the loaves and gave them to the crowds. (Matthew 15:36)

Ruth Stull was a woman given to a cause—the natives of Peru. Originally from Ohio, Ruth traveled to Peru to share the gospel with them. It wasn’t an easy vocation, and there were times that she must have felt as crumbly as the bread that Jesus held in his hands in today’s Gospel reading. But Ruth saw great hope and consolation in this story, not an occasion to worry about herself. “If my life is broken when given to Jesus,” she once said, “it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad.”

What a wonderful perspective! Of course, very few of us are called to share the gospel in a Peruvian jungle, but we have all experienced what it’s like to be tested and tried—and divided into many pieces—in the course of doing God’s will. Parents experience this as they pour themselves out for their children. Priests experience it as they minister to their many parishioners. Everyone experiences it with the everyday demands of life! We know that we are able to touch so many more people if we allow ourselves to be “broken and scattered” than if we remain safe in our comfort zones.

We all face situations in which we feel fragile or unsure as to whether there is enough of us to go around. But here’s the miracle and the paradox. If we can place ourselves in Jesus’ hands as we keep moving forward, we’ll find his comfort and strength—and we’ll end up bearing much more fruit than we ever thought we could.
We may think that we are most suited to help people when we feel strong and capable. And of course we need to take care of ourselves so that we don’t become exhausted or dispirited. But many times, it’s when we feel weak that God works most powerfully through us.

Ruth Stull learned to “boast most gladly” in her weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). We can, too.
Today, keep repeating these simple words: “When I am weak within myself, then Jesus will be strong in me.” It’s not a paradox. It is a simple statement of faith in God’s grace and strength.
“Lord, give me the strength to work hard, the peace to survive my demands, and the desire to give myself generously to others.”

The Word Among Us

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dec. 1, 2015 Tuesday: 1st. Week of Advent

Dec. 1, 2015 Tuesday: 1st Week of Advent

The words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading are rather confusing. He says: “I give you praise, Father…for although you have hidden these from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Obviously we should not take these words literally. What Jesus meant is that He reveals Himself to people whose hearts are open and humble or who have childlike simplicity and not to those who are proud and arrogant.

Childlike simplicity knows how to trust in God as the Father and this is what we need today. It is because of the complaints of this 10-year-olds Sunday School Class of Mrs. Imogene Frost class that I read in their views of “What’s wrong with grownups?” at the Brookside, N.J. Community. Their complaints were:

Grownups make promises, then they forget all about them or else they say it wasn’t really a promise, just a maybe.
Grownups don’t do the things they’re always telling the children to do like pick up their things or be neat or always tell the truth.
Grownups never really listen to what children have to say. They always decide ahead of time what they’re going to answer.
Grownups make mistakes, but they won’t admit them. They always pretend that they weren’t mistakes at all or that somebody else made them.
Grownups interrupt children all the time and think nothing of it. If a child interrupts a grownup, he gets a scolding or something worse.
Grownups never understand how much children want a certain thing, a certain color or shape or size. If it’s something they don’t admire, even if the children have spent their own money for it, they always say, “I can’t imagine what you want with that old thing!”

Sometimes grownups punish children unfairly. It isn’t right if you’ve done just some little thing wrong and grownups take away something that means an awful lot to you. Other times you can do something really bad and they say they’re going to punish you, but they don’t. You never know, and you ought to know.
Grownups are always talking about what they did and what they knew when they were 10 years old but they never try to think what it’s like to be 10 years old right now. (From: J.A. Petersen, ed., For Families Only, Tyndale, 1977, p. 253)
But what is more important is that we must be Christ-like. An unknown author said: “When the wife of missionary Adoniram Judson told him that a newspaper article likened him to some of the apostles, Judson replied, ‘I do not want to be like a Paul…or any mere man. I want to be like Christ…I want to follow Him only, copy His teachings, drink in His Spirit, and place my feet in His footprints…Oh, to be more like Christ!’”

Fr. Joseph Benitez

Nov. 30, 2015 Monday: St. Andrew the Apostle

Nov. 30, 2015 Monday: St. Andrew the Apostle

One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus (John 1:40-42a).

Following Christ as a Family
If you heard of a great new restaurant in your neighborhood that offered unbelievably great tasting and healthy food for free, would you actually go to the restaurant or be content to just hear about it? Wouldn’t you not only go, but also tell your family and friends and try to bring them too?

In the Gospel reading for the Feast Day of St. Andrew, the Apostle Andrew heard about Jesus Christ, and then followed after Him. You, too, have heard of Christ; but are you following Him? Furthermore, Andrew not only followed Christ, but found his brother and brought him to Jesus. Are you willing to be like St Andrew – willing to find and bring others to Christ? Are you willing to be like St. Peter – willing to be found and brought to Christ?

It is necessary for you t not only hear Christ, but to follow Him – and to follow Him with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why can’t you just follow Christ on your own? If you are like Andrew and are already following Christ, why should you go and find your brother or sister who is unaware of Christ or struggling in his or her faith? You do it out of love. Just as you would not enjoy eating at the restaurant by yourself as much as you would with your loved ones, no one who knows and is following Christ wants to be saved alone. If you are like Simon, you can’t follow Christ on your own because you won’t know how to proceed. You won’t know how to get to Christ, how to follow Him.

If you try to follow Christ on your own, you determine your own fate. No one is there to pick you up when you fall. Neither can you pick anyone up when they fall. Our Church does not function this way. We are a body. A leg or eye can’t just decide to function on its own. Remember the disembodied hand, “Thing”, from The Addams Family? He could do a lot of things but he always needed to be carried in his box and placed where he could function.

Therefore, do not try to follow Christ without your brothers and sisters.

Fr. David Bleam