Saturday, February 27, 2016

Feb. 28, 2016: 3rd Week of Lent C

Feb. 28, 2016: 3rd Week of Lent C

Click to hear Audio Homily
We all are painfully aware of the heartbreaking devastation that folks in our area suffered. Many of us have been donating to, cooking for, delivering to, and consoling those directly affected by the tornados. A couple of days ago, a young mother shared with me her experience. She had volunteered at a church in Paincourtville serving food to those whose homes were destroyed. As she listened to the tragic stories of residents who lost everything, one common statement they each said to her was, “We only lost things; we can always buy those. But we are so grateful for our lives being spared.” The young mother reflected later that day, “Why was my house and property spared while theirs was not? How would I feel if I lost everything that was dear to me? Do I put too much emphasis on acquiring things rather than giving of myself?” Her experience that afternoon at the church parking lot was a transforming one for her.

This past Tuesday, many of us were in our homes taking shelter in bathrooms, closets, and hallways as the emergency message instructed us to seek shelter from possible tornados. After the storms passed, we watched on TV, the surreal damage that the tornados caused. Many may have been asking, ‘Why were we spared of the calamities while others were not?’ It’s the same question that people in Jesus’ time wondered. In today’s Gospel, Jesus referred to Galileans who lost their lives because of political violence and another group who were killed by a collapsed tower. Did they meet unexpected deaths as punishment for their sins?

Jesus did not agree with a popular Jewish belief held at that time that all tragedies and misfortunes were punishments from God, or that enjoying good fortune was a reward from God. Jesus replied to their question with a parable of a barren or useless figtree. Fig trees grow like weeds in stony field and even in cracks of the wall and produce a fruit that leads the owners of vineyards to tolerate their presence between the vines and olive trees. But if they prove unproductive, they can be rooted out in a moment and replaced. So unless they bear fruit, they are taken out quickly. God, however, in Jesus’ parable, gives even these useless trees a second chance to pull their lives together and bear fruit. The point is that God is patient and merciful.

The parable of the barren or useless figtree has a lesson for all of us. God’s mercy is infinite but man’s earthly life, during which he can obtain that mercy, is very finite. God’s mercy can forgive sins no matter how grievous, but His mercy cannot touch even less serious sins unless the sinner is sorry and asks for forgiveness. Christ, our true mediator with God, is continually interceding for us, but unless we do our part by repenting and changing our behavior, his intercession will be of no avail.

On Friday, many of our Donaldsonville people volunteered to cook and deliver meals to those who lost much in a subdivision near Paincourtville. A young man from St. Augustine Chapel in Klotzville who has been delivering meals to the residents since the tragedy explained that his house and car were completely destroyed by a tornado. In fact, he was driving his car fleeing the tornado when his car was flipped upside down. But he got out of the car without a scratch. In the aftermath of the tornado, he walked around his neighborhood saw that many homes were destroyed. The remarkable sight he noticed, time and time again, was that many of the destroyed homes still had a Blessed Mother’s statue standing upright and unharmed. He said, “I have everything I need right now. I may have lost everything, but I can buy those things later.”

What causes suffering or affliction and what do we learn when we look through the eyes of faith? Seeing the statues in the neighborhood comforted the young man and helped him see the mystery of suffering through the eyes of faith. Blessed Mother is always leading us to her Son, and this young man through his faith was bearing fruits of charity, goodness, joy, and patience.  The young man knew the joy of the Gospel even in the midst of a tragedy in his own life. Let us all continue to pray for and help those who are suffering from this tragedy.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, February 26, 2016

Feb. 26, 2016 Friday: 2nd Week of Lent

Feb. 26, 2016 Friday: 2nd Week of Lent

We Have What We Need

When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him. –Genesis 37: 4

I was in awe. Not only that, I felt inferior. While attending a retreat, I sat dumbstruck by our retreat preacher. He was good; no, he was better than good. He spoke confidently, entertaining but with substance. But that is not why I felt diminished. As he shared his life, everything he had touched turned to gold. He had preached around the world, appeared on TV, authored five books. Earlier in life, he served as a high school chaplain, and to this is day his former students bombard him with phone calls on Father’s Day. He has the only adoration chapel in his diocese. He resurrected a dying inner city parish. He had the largest youth group. I sat there feeling feeling this twang of envy, hoping that he failed somewhere. Stop! You can’t go there, I chided myself. Don’t be like Joseph’s brothers.

God has blessed me. That priest’s calling is not my calling. And it is the same with you: God has blessed you.

Oh, how jealousy and envy blind us. They can actually destroy our spirit. Much of our dissatisfaction comes from the sin of envy. When we compare, we despair. God has ordained each of us with a particular calling, a particular mission. Now it may not seem all that special or important, but in God’s eyes it is. He has given us the gifts, talents and the tools necessary to carry out our purpose. God does not ask us to be someone else, just the person he made us to be. We are not in competition with one another. When we compare ourselves to others, we lose sight of that and fall into self pity, loathing and even depression. Run from envy.

Father, I am at times jealous and envious. Sometimes I feel cheated and overlooked. Help me to avoid the comparison game and focus on being the person you created me to be. That is all you expect, and in doing so, I will find peace and contentment. Amen.

List three ways that God has blessed you.

Fr. Thomas Connery, Lent: Little by Little

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lenten Penance Services (Feb. 29 - Mar 2, 2016)

Lenten Penance Services (Feb. 29 - Mar 2, 2016)

You are invited to experience God's healing mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Monday, 2/29, 7PM: Our Lady of Peace, Vacherie

Tuesday, 3/1, 7PM:  Ascension of Our Lord, Donaldsonville (Immediately following the 6PM Divine Mercy Mass/Chaplet)

Wednesday, 3/2, 7PM: St. Augustine, Klotzville

You can use the Examination of Conscience below to prepare yourself for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

An Examination of Conscience based on the Seven Deadly Sins
by Fr. Dylan James

Pride (ST II-II q162)
Pride is the mother of all sin. It is a craving for excellence beyond what is reasonable. It makes a person hate being equal to others, and hate being less than God.
Have I refused to admit my own weaknesses?
Have I dwelt on the failings of others?
Have I judged others, in my thoughts or words?
Have I ranked myself better than others?
Have I borne hated for another?
Have I refused to learn from others?
Have I been stubborn? Refused to admit I was wrong? Refused to accept that another person had a better idea?
Have I been arrogant?
Have I held others in contempt?
False-humility fails to use our gifts.
Have I neglected to use the talents that God has given me?

Vanity (ST II-II q132)
Vanity is excessive concern about manifesting my glory before others
Have I been overly concerned about what others think of me? Have I allowed this to motivate my actions?
Have I lied or exaggerated to make myself look good?
Have I wasted undue time and money on clothes and appearance?
Have I been content with my lowly position, or have I resented the role that Christ asks of me?

Lust (ST II-II q.153; CCC 2351)
Lust is disordered desire for sexual pleasure, isolated from its procreative and unitive purpose (CCC 2351).
Custody of the Eyes: “Whoever looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28)
Have I viewed other people as mere sexual objects rather than as persons to be loved?
Pornography: On internet? or TV?
Impure Thoughts:
Have I entertained impure thoughts?
Impure Acts:
Alone, or with another?

Anger/Wrath (ST II-II q158)

Anger is undue desire for vengeance -undue in cause or in amount.
Have I harboured resentment, grudges, and hatred in my thoughts?
Have I nurtured imaginary angry conversations?
Have I been slow to forgive?
Have I lost my temper?
How have I carried my cross?
Have I been impatient with people, family, events, sufferings, sicknesses?

Covetousness/Avarice (ST II-II q118)
Avarice is the excessive love of possessing things
Have I been overly concerned about my own comfort and well-being?
Have I been resentful of my lack of money?
Have I been generous in giving? Have I given with a cheerful heart?
Have I cheated, stolen, or failed to pay my bills on time?
Have I used people for my own ends and advantage?
Have I wasted money?

Envy (ST II-II q36)

Envy –is sadness at the happiness of another
Jealousy–is coveting what belongs to another
Have I envied or been jealous of the abilities, talents, ideas, good-looks, intelligence, clothes, possessions, money, friends, family, of another?

Have I judged others in my thoughts?
Have I damaged the reputation of another person by my words, attitude, or looks?
Have I repeated accusations that might not be true? Have I exaggerated?
Have I failed to defend the reputation of others?
Have I failed to keep secrets?
Do I despise others of different race, class or culture?
Lies: Have I lied or exaggerated?

Sloth/Apathy (ST II-II q35)
Laziness, especially laziness in the things of God. Sloth is a sorrow in the face of spiritual good -it makes a person lethargic and want to do nothing.
Have I sought God above all else, or have I put other priorities ahead of him? (e.g. friendships, ambition, comfort and ease)
Have I got so caught up in the things of this world that I’ve forgotten God?
Have I risked losing my faith/piety by bad company, bad reading, cowardice, or pride?
Have I trusted God, especially in times of difficulty?
Have I attended Mass each and every Sunday?
Have I neglected to say my daily prayers?
Have I entertained distractions in prayer, or failed to give God due concentration in prayer or in the Mass?
(Note: Not giving God the effort he deserves in prayer is a sin, but it is not the same thing as involuntary weakness in mental distractions.)

Gluttony (ST II-II q148)
Gluttony is the inordinate desire for food.
Have I eaten more than I need?
To how serious an extent?
Have I spent excessive money on food?
Have I drunk alcohol excessively?
Have driven after drinking?
Have I eaten greedily and with little consideration for the presence and needs of those at table with me?
Have I given money to help the hungry?

My Neighbor:
Have I been lazy in helping others?
Have I been attentive to the needs of my neighbor, the needs of my family?
Has my conversation been focused on my own pleasure, or on others?
Has my humor been insensitive to others?

My Family:

Have I been more focused on myself than on the needs of others?
Have I spent time with my family? How have I manifested my concern for them? Have I been forgiving and tolerant of them? Have I scandalized them by a bad or lazy example?

Punctuality and Discipline:

Have I sinned against my neighbor by being late?
Have I sinned against God and the congregation by being late for Mass?
Have I gone to sleep on time?
Have I made good use of my time, or have I wasted time needlessly? E.g. TV or internet?
Have I planned good use of relaxation and recreation, knowing that I need to rest well?

Feb. 25, 2016 Thursday: 2nd Week of Lent

Feb. 25, 2016 Thursday: 2nd Week of Lent

And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Luke 16: 20-21

A fellow named Willie Smith called a dry cleaner looking for his suit. “We have a William Smith,” answered the store clerk. “No, Willie Smith,” he insisted. The clerk looked in their logbook and discovered that the suit had been picked up by the sister of a William Smith. The clerk phoned her, then got back to Willie. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said. “But William died and was buried in your suit.” “Well you’re not going to believe this,” he said. “I was at that funeral. And I remember thinking, ‘What a nice suit William is wearing.’”

We can’t help but notice what people wear. For better or worse, we observe their apparel. Clothes make the person. Lazarus was no different. It wasn’t so much his wardrobe, but it was his skin. It was covered with sores. Strangely enough, the rich man never noticed him. He lay right outside his door. He was blind to his needs. The rich man knew more about what he was having for dinner than the state of Lazarus. That was his sin.

Lord, help me to see others as you see them, especially those who are in need.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Feb. 24, 2016 Wednesday: 2nd Week of Lent

Feb. 24, 2016 Wednesday: 2nd Week of Lent

In light of devastating tornadoes that affected the lives and properties of many in South Louisiana, here is a homily given by Pope Francis to residents of Tacloban in January 2015, fourteen months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the central Philippines.

Pope recalled his initial reaction, on Nov. 8, 2013, to the typhoon that claimed some more than 7,300 lives and destroyed more than 1 million homes.

“When I saw that catastrophe from Rome, I felt that I had to be here, and on that day I decided to be here. Now I have come to be with you — a little bit late, but I am here,” the pope said.

“I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord and he never lets us down. ‘Father,’ you might say to me, ‘he defrauded me, because I lost my house, I lost what I had, I am sick.’ That’s true, if you would say that, and I respect those sentiments. But I see him there nailed to the cross and from there he does not let us down,” Pope Francis said.

“So many of you have lost everything I don’t know what to say to you. But he does know what to say to you,” the pope said.

“And beside him on the cross was his mother,” the pope said, pointing to a statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus. “We are like that little child there. In moments of pain, when we no longer understand and want to rebel, all we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and tell her ‘mom,’ as a child says to his mother when he is afraid. Maybe that is the only word we can say in such difficult times: ‘mother, mom.'”

Pope Francis concluded on a solemn yet hopeful note, drawing a link between the consolation of faith and the solidarity among those working to rebuild the area.

“We have a mother, we have our older brother Jesus, we are not alone,” the pope said. “We also have many brothers who in this moment of catastrophe came to help us. And we, too, feel more like brothers and sisters because we have helped each other.”

“Let us move forward, always forward, and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord,” he said, before the entire congregation observed a moment of silence.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Feb. 21, 2016: 2nd Sunday of Lent C

Feb. 21, 2016: 2nd Sunday of Lent C

Click to hear Audio Homily

How many of you would agree that being stuck on a bridge in your car over an hour is not a pleasant experience? That’s what happened to me this past Tuesday right after the 6PM mass in Donaldsonville. I only had an hour to get to a meeting in Baton Rouge but when I got to the top of the Sunshine Bridge, we came to a standstill. After 30 minutes, I turned my car off and I was beginning to get frustrated. Even though I had just come from mass and had sung the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I wasn’t feeling so merciful. A couple of ambulances and a police cruisers squeezed by an already packed bridge. Finally accepting that I would be on the bridge a while, I decided to pray. Meanwhile, folks behind and beside me began to curse; I could feel so much negative emotions fuming from their mouths. I asked the Lord, “Should I pray for the persons who may be injured in the accident?” Then I sensed in my heart, “Pray more for those who are frustrated and angry on the bridge.” I was surprised by Our Lord’s request; I thought the people injured in the accident were more important. Instead, the folks who were frustrated and angry, including myself, were more in need of prayer. I listened to him and began to pray.

To listen to Jesus, is the main message that Heavenly Father intends for us as a guide on our forty-day journey through this holy season. Rarely does God the Father speak in the New Testament; infact, only in two instances. The first instance occurs at the Baptism of Jesus, and the second instance occurs at Transfiguration of Our Lord which is our gospel reading for today. In both instances, Heavenly Father instructs us, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” To listen to Jesus is what God wants. If we wish to turn away from sin and be more firmly rooted in the gospel, and if we wish to grow in holiness, the best way to do so is to spend this Lent listening to Jesus.

What keeps us from listening to Jesus? The incident on the Sunshine Bridge showed that our impatience, anger, and selfishness can freeze our hearts and block the voice of Jesus. This happens frequently in our daily lives. For example, we curse under our breath or gossip when someone slights us. We put down someone who failed to meet our expectations. St. Paul advises us in the Letter to the Ephesians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31–32). Daily we experience the pitiful struggle of being human--only minutes after going to confessions about the sins of cursing someone, we commit it again while driving home. We need not despair however, because Christ will change this miserable state of being human. St. Paul wrote in the Letter to the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” Christ can change our sinful tendencies, if only we humbly listen to Him so that He can change us.

The Word of God is placed in our hearts when we listen attentively at mass and through scripture reading. His words are treasure that money cannot buy. Jesus said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), The more that we listen to His Words, our pride, bitterness, negativity, impatience, and anger do not overtake us and overtake our tongues. We have the choice to bless others with His Words that give life. In turn, we will experience a deep abiding peace within ourselves.

While I was stuck on the bridge, I began to pray with a song that I had been listening to earlier. It’s called Gaelic Blessing, and it speaks about the deep peace we can experience through the transforming power of Christ. May we allow Christ to transform our impatience, anger, and selfishness so that our words and our lives be a blessing for others.

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you;
moon and stars pour their beaming light on you.
Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world, to you.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, February 19, 2016

Feb. 19, 2016 Friday: Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus

Feb. 19, 2016 Friday: Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus

Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus
By Fr. Miles Walsh, Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Baton Rouge

One of the most oft-quoted verses of the Old Testament is a blessing which is found in the Book of Numbers 6:24. (In fact, it is one that many of you may know by heart:) May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He let His face shine upon you and give you peace. Notice the reference in that verse of Scripture to the face of God. To be sure, seeing the face of God is the supreme blessing that we all hope one day to receive.

when God became man in the Person of Jesus Christ, He assumed a human face. Because of Christ’s incarnation, we can now behold the face of God in the face of His Son. And I bring this up today because in our Catholic tradition, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, is the feast of the Holy Face, a special day of devotion to the wounded face of Jesus Christ. (Approbation given by Pope Pius XII in 1956 and by Pope John Paul II in 1986.)

In 1844, Our Lord appeared to a French Carmelite nun, Sr. Marie of St. Pierre, and confided the following message to her: Those who contemplate the wounds on my face here on earth…will one day behold my glorified face in heaven. In the course of this private revelation, Sr. Marie of St. Pierre felt herself transported to the streets of Jerusalem on the day of Our Lord’s Passion and witnessed the moment when Veronica took her veil and pressed it to the wounded face of Jesus as He carried the Cross. She witnessed as Veronica wiped away the mud and the spit from the wounds on His face. In that moment, she was also given to know that the insults and the blasphemies which Our Lord received that day did not cease on Good Friday, but that the blasphemies uttered against Him and His heavenly Father have only continued and increased throughout the ages.
Does that surprise any of us?

The message of Divine Mercy is very much a message of love for Jesus Christ, reverence for his earthly image, and reparation for the sin of the world. In her Diary, in entry number 926, St. Faustina writes on Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras) in the year 1937, the year before her death: During the final two days of this carnival season, I have experienced an overwhelming flood of chastisements and sins. In a single instant, the Lord gave me to know of the sins that are committed through the world during these days. I nearly fainted from fright, and even though I know the depth of God’s Mercy, I was surprised that God allows humanity to exist. But the Lord also gave me to know who it is that upholds mankind’s existence. It is “chosen souls.” When the number of chosen ones is complete, then the world will cease to exist.
My friends, when Faustina speaks about “chosen souls,” she is speaking about individuals like you and me: those who willingly unite themselves to Jesus, who consciously choose to draw near to Him, and who desire to avoid offending Him by deliberate sin—those who willingly offer their own lives in union with His perfect sacrifice as an act of reparation for the sin of the world. Just as Veronica once consoled Our Lord by her willingness to follow Him on the road to Calvary, so we can choose to take the place of Veronica, we can choose to take the place of Simon of Cyrene, we can choose to take the place of the Apostle John, and stand with Mary, the Mother of God, beneath the Cross of Christ, in the world today.

Pope Benedict wrote that true reverence for the face of Christ means this: first of all, that we recognize His wounded face in the faces of our wounded brothers and sisters, those individuals on the margin of society who are the victims of violence and war, those who are homeless, those who are mentally or physically ill, those who are suffering greatly at the present time--we consciously choose not turn our gaze from them. Second, we reverence the face of Christ, Pope Benedict says, by contemplating His Passion, the Way of the Cross, as we do especially in the season of Lent. Third, that we reverence the face of Christ by recognizing His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist and adoring Him in the Sacrament of the Altar.

I invite you in a moment of silence sometime today to unite yourself to Our Lord Jesus by gazing prayerfully upon His Holy Face. -Fr. Miles Walsh

Feb. 19, 2016 Friday: 1st Week in Lent C

Feb. 19, 2016 Friday: 1st Week in Lent C

I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, “Raqa,” will be answerable to the Sanhedrin… Matthew 5: 22

A young man regularly mowed the pastor’s lawn. One day the boy announced that he would no longer be able to mow the lawn as he was leaving for college. The pastor asked if he knew anyone who would be interested in the job. The young man drew a blank, but did offer to sell his mower to the pastor. The pastor agreed.

Checking up on the pastor the next day, the young man noticed the pastor pulling at the cord of the mower. The pastor called over in desperation, “How do you get this thing started?” “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to tell you,” the young fellow apologized. “You have to cuss at the mower before it will start.” The minister blushed, “I don’t think I can do that. Besides it has been a long time since I’ve used any cusswords. I wouldn’t even know how to start.” “Don’t worry,” laughed the young man, “you keep pulling that rope long enough and those cuss words will come right back to you!”

Jesus is quite demanding. He warns us that if we use abusive words towards our neighbor we will be liable to judgment. Ouch! It seems extreme. After all, it is only words, right? But words reveal what lies in our heart. Unwittingly we may have gotten careless with our language. Foul language is all around us. Never mind the assault we can receive from the dialogue in movies, but it is now commonplace on TV, radio and in daily conversation. We probably have become immune to it. Jesus knows that what is on our lips originates from our heart. Clean heart, clean tongue. Lent is a good time to be watchful of our tongue and not let those old habits slip out.

Lord, you told us that blessed are the pure of heart and therefore I want to have a pure heart. I want in my speech to speak kindly. May my words rise up to you and give you glory.

-Fr. Thomas Connery, Traveling Light

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Feb. 18, 2016 Thursday: 1st Week of Lent

Feb. 18, 2016 Thursday: 1st Week of Lent

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matt 7:7)

Acedia = "sloth" Acedia is a Greek word that names a state of languor or torpor, of unconcern or dissatisfaction with one's condition or action in the world. It's one of the 7 Deadly Sins in which one is tempted to become listless and inert, or begin longing to be elsewhere or to do something other than what they were doing.

Obstacles, problems, lack of initial and immediate success, unexpected situations encountered can all or individually generate the fear of failure which leads to acedia. Acedia is the prelude to the death of commitment.

Sometimes a work will never be attempted because imagined problems cause such acedia that success can never be imagined. What do you supposed could happen in a church if we did not suffer from corporate acedia. What would you be willing to attempt for God in your life if you were not afraid of failure?

If fear of failure could be cast out of mind and heart, what energy, commitment dedication, and singleness of purpose could prevail? How could this be done? The answer is, of course, to keep our lives focused on Jesus who, in the eyes of the world, was the most monumental failure. What looked like abject failure from any perspective was transformed by the resurrection into perfect accomplishment. That which looked like defeat and death was made in God’s providence, into victory and life.

If we were not afflicted by acedia, what might we dare for Jesus Christ: forgiving the unforgivable, loving the unlovable, involvement with those different than we, teaching the Gospel, witnessing to the faith, risking the day of self that we might live in Christ, heading a ministry group, holding an office in the church, volunteering, sacrificial giving of our money and – what else?

This Lent, ask yourself what you are not doing, nor trying, not even thinking of attempting because way down deep you fear failure. Then ask yourself what you would like to do for Christ in your wildest dreams if you could only be free of the acedia caused by the fear of failure.

Next ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I try this?” In asking yourself, ask the same questions of God. Then, with God’s help fling off acedia, defy the risk of failure and go for it!
I heard a dear man once say; “We are not responsible ‘for’…we are responsible ‘to.’”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Feb. 16, 2016 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Week 3

Feb. 16, 2016 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Week 3

Little Timmy had a pet peeve; he did not like to go to church because of the long prayers that the priest said throughout the mass. The prayers seemed to go on and on. When Little Timmy found out that his mom invited the priest for dinner, he was not happy. To Timmy’s surprise and delight, the priest simply prayed, "Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen." Little Timmy couldn’t help but notice how short it was. So he said to the priest, “Father, you don’t pray so long when you’re hungry, do you?”

We don’t impress Jesus by the length of our prayers. More is not necessarily better. Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” How we pray says much about our relationship with God, yet it doesn’t mean that we need to use many words. It is through our prayer that we connect with God, the one who created us and loves us beyond description. Prayer is how we express thanks and praise; it’s how we give glory to God, and how we seek God’s help. A powerful example of a relationship through prayer was shown to us this past weekend.

Did you watch Pope Francis celebrate mass this past Saturday at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. After giving the homily, Pope Francis sat on a chair facing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and simply gazed at the image in silent prayer for over five minutes. A hush descended on the 10,000 people inside the basilica and the 30,000 people outside the basilica. In that silence, we witnessed the Pope’s great love for Blessed Mother and her Son. Like Juan Diego, a humble son was gazing with trust and love at his mother and the mother gazing with love and mercy back at her son. I wonder if the Pope knew that he was teaching us how to pray?

Pope Francis said, “Prayer changes us, [changes] our heart. It helps us better understand our God. This is why it is important to speak with the Lord.” May we not be discouraged when we are distracted in our prayers. As Jesus taught us, the focus of our prayer is to gaze upon our Heavenly Father, Abba, who sees our hearts and listens to our prayers with great compassion.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Feb. 16, 2016 Tuesday: 1st Week of Lent

Feb. 16, 2016 Tuesday: 1st Week of Lent

The Lord’s Prayer

I’m sure when you hear somebody shouts: “ASAP!” The meaning that would immediately enter our minds is generally we think of it in terms of even more hurry and stress in our lives. Also maybe we think of this abbreviation as “As Soon As Possible.” How about if we think of it in a different manner in order to find a new way to deal with those rough days along the way as like these:

There is work to do, deadlines to meet; you have got no time to spare but as you hurry and scurry = ASAP! Always Say A Prayer.

In the midst of family chaos quality time is rare. Do your best let God do the rest = ASAP! Always Say A Prayer.

It may seem like your worries are more than you can bear. Slow down and take a breather = ASAP! Always Say A Prayer.

God knows how stressful life is. He wants to ease our cares and He will respond to all your needs = ASAP! Always Say A Prayer.

Our prayer will be effective and transforming only if it imitates Jesus’ prayer. We pray first that God be hallowed, that God’s Kingdom come when we do His will here as it is in heaven. Only secondly that we ask for what we need: spiritual and material bread, forgiveness and strength to overcome temptations we face today. Christ’s conditional requirement is that God’s forgiveness can be received only after we show forgiveness to others. And so therefore, let us approach God in prayer confidently, simply and with upright intention. It is because God knows our true needs better than we do

-Fr. Joseph Benitez

Monday, February 15, 2016

Feb. 15, 2016: Pope Francis' Homily at Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Feb. 15, 2016: Pope Francis' Homily at Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pope Francis’ historic first pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City brought reflections of obedience, surrender, and hope as the Holy Father celebrated Mass on Feb. 13.

“We have just heard how Mary went to meet her cousin Elizabeth. She sets out without delay, without doubts, without lessening her pace, to be with her relative,” Pope Francis stated during his homily on Feb. 13, pointing to the Gospel of Luke.

Mary “is the woman who says ‘yes’...this is the ‘yes’ which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet the others,” the Holy Father continued.

Pope Francis offered these reflections while celebrating Mass at the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe during his 6-day papal trip to the country of Mexico.

During his homily, Pope Francis noted that listening to that particular Gospel passage on Mary “in this place has a special significance.” He went on to highlight Mary’s availability to those in need, saying her obedient surrender to God helped her serve her brothers and sisters.

“Just as she accompanied Elizabeth in her pregnancy, so too she has and continues to accompany the development of the blessed Mexican land,” Pope Francis stated, saying Mary reveals herself particularly to those who feel worthless.

When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in December 1531, Pope Francis recalled that “the first miracle occurred which would then be the living memory of all this Shrine protects.”

“On that morning, God roused the hope of the little ones, of the suffering, of those displaced or rejected, of all who feel they have no worthy place in these lands,” the Pope stated.

Pope Francis also noted that St. Juan Diego first experienced true mercy and hope through Our Lady of Guadalupe. Although St. Juan Diego often thought “he was not the right person,” Mary remained persistent in her requests and made him “her ambassador.”

Because of St. Juan Diego’s lowliness, the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe was able to proclaim that “we are all necessary, especially those who normally do not count because they are not ‘up to the task,’” the Holy Father stated.

“God’s Shrine is the life of his children, of everyone in whatever condition, especially of young people without a future who are exposed to endless painful and risky situations, and the elderly who are unacknowledged, forgotten and out of sight,” Pope Francis said.

The unworthiness of St. Juan Diego can be an example to everyone, the Pope continued, saying Mary favors her children who feel rejected, “assuring us that those who suffer do not weep in vain.”

“Look at the Blessed Mother from within our own sufferings, our own fear, hopelessness, sadness, and say to her, ‘What can I offer since i am not learned?’” the Holy Father said.

The Pope then reflected on a liturgical hymn, asking to have “eyes for you, O Mother, simply contemplating you with a heart quietened by your tenderness, that silence of yours, chaste as the lilies.”

The Holy Father also noted that Mary wants all her children to “be ambassadors” like St. Juan Diego, by giving food to the hungry, refuge to those in need, clothing the naked and helping the sick.

“Today, she sends us out anew; today, she comes to tell us again: be my ambassador, the one I send to build many new shrines, accompany many lives, wipe away many tears,” Pope Francis stated.

“Mary says this to us again. Go and build my shrine, help me to lift up the lives of my sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters.”

Below is the full text of Pope Francis' Feb. 13 homily at Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City:

We have just heard how Mary went to meet her cousin Elizabeth. She sets out without delay, without doubts, without lessening her pace, to be with her relative who was in the last months of her pregnancy. Mary’s encounter with the angel did not hold her back since she did not consider herself privileged, or make her hesitate in leaving those around her. On the contrary, it renewed and inspired an attitude for which Mary is, and always, will be known: she is the woman who says “yes”, a “yes” of surrender to God and, at the same time, a “yes” of surrender to her brothers and sisters.

This is the “yes” which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet the others. Listening to this Gospel passage in this place has a special significance. Mary, the woman who gave her “yes”, wished also to come to the inhabitants of these American lands in the person of the Indian Saint Juan Diego. Just as she went along the paths of Judea and Galilee, in the same way she walked through Tepeyac, wearing the indigenous garb and using their language so as to serve this great nation. Just as she accompanied Elizabeth in her pregnancy, so too she has and continues to accompany the development of this blessed Mexican land. Just as she made herself present to little Juan, so too she continues to reveal herself to all of us, especially to those who feel, like him, “worthless” (cf. Nican Mopohua, 55).

This specific choice, we might call it preferential, was not against anyone but rather in favour of everyone. The little Indian Juan who called himself a “leather strap, a back frame, a tail, a wing, oppressed by another’s burden” (Ibid.), became “the ambassador, most worthy of trust”. On that morning in December 1531, the first miracle occurred which would then be the living memory of all this Shrine protects. On that morning, at that meeting, God awakened the hope of his son Juan, and the hope of his People. On that morning, God roused the hope of the little ones, of the suffering, of those displaced or rejected, of all who feel they have no worthy place in these lands. On that morning, God came close and still comes close to the suffering but resilient hearts of so many mothers, fathers, grandparents who have seen their children leaving, becoming lost or even being taken by criminals.

On that morning, Juan experienced in his own life what hope is, what the mercy of God is. He was chosen to oversee, care for, protect and promote the building of this Shrine. On many occasions he said to Our Lady that he was not the right person; on the contrary, if she wished the work to progress, she should choose others, since he was not learned or literate and did not belong to the group who could make it a reality. Mary, who was persistent – with that persistence born from the Father’s merciful heart – said to him: he would be her ambassador. In this way, she managed to awaken something he did not know how to express, a veritable banner of love and justice: no one could be left out in the building of that other shrine, the shrine of life, the shrine of our communities, our societies and our cultures.

We are all necessary, especially those who normally do not count because they are not “up to the task” or “they do not have the necessary funds” to build all these things. God’s Shrine is the life of his children, of everyone in whatever condition, especially of young people without a future who are exposed to endless painful and risky situations, and the elderly who are unacknowledged, forgotten and out of sight.

The Shrine of God is our families in need only of the essentials to develop and progress. The Shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day… Visiting this Shrine, the same things that happened to Juan Diego can also happen to us. Look at the Blessed Mother from within our own sufferings, our own fear, hopelessness, sadness, and say to her, “What can I offer since I am not learned?”. We look to our Mother with eyes that express out thoughts: there are so many situations which leave us powerless, which make us feel that there is no room for hope, for change, for transformation.

And so, some silence does us good as we pause to look upon her and repeat to her the words of that other loving son: «Simply looking at you, O Mother, to have eyes only for you, looking upon you without saying anything, telling you everything, wordlessly and reverently. Do not perturb the air before you; only cradle my stolen solitude with your loving Motherly eyes, in the nest of your pure ground. Hours tumble by, and with much commotion, the wastage of life and death sinks its teeth into foolish men. Having eyes for you, O Mother, simply contemplating you with a heart quietened by your tenderness that silence of yours, chaste as the lilies». (liturgical hymn) And in looking at her, we will hear anew what she says to us once more, “What, my most precious little one, saddens your heart?” (Nican Mopohua, 107). “Yet am I not here with you, who have the honour of being your mother?” (Ibid., 119).

Mary tells us that she has “the honour” of being our mother, assuring us that those who suffer do not weep in vain. These ones are a silent prayer rising to heaven, always finding a place in Mary’s mantle. In her and with her, God has made himself our brother and companion along the journey; he carries our crosses with us so as not to leave us overwhelmed by our sufferings. Am I not your mother? Am I not here? Do not let trials and pains overwhelm you, she tells us.

Today, she sends us out anew; today, she comes to tell us again: be my ambassador, the one I send to build many new shrines, accompany many lives, wipe away many tears. Simply be my ambassador by walking along the paths of your neighbourhood, of your community, of your parish; we can build shrines by sharing the joy of knowing that we are not alone, that Mary accompanies us. Be my ambassador, she says to us, giving food to the hungry, drink to those who thirst, a refuge to those in need, clothe the naked and visit the sick. Come to the aid of your neighbour, forgive whoever has offended you, console the grieving, be patient with others, and above all beseech and pray to God.

Am I not your mother? Am I not here with you? Mary says this to us again. Go and build my shrine, help me to lift up the lives of my sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Feb. 14, 2016: 1st Sunday of Lent C

Feb. 14, 2016: 1st Sunday of Lent C

Click here for Audio Homily
This past week, the students of Parish School of Religion (PSR) gave me a beautiful Valentine’s Day gift. It was a huge heart-shaped card written with their special intentions. One student wrote, “Fr. Paul, I will clean my room for a month [as my sacrifice for you].” One girl wrote, “I will pray every night,” and another wrote, “I will sell some of my stuffed animals and give money to charity.” Finally, one boy wrote, “I’m not going to download apps for a week.” Their card really touched me in that they were willing to do an act of sacrifice as a spiritual gift for me. Their gifts to me will be hidden from my eyes, but the impact of their gifts of sacrifice will be far reaching into my life during this Lent.

On this occasion of giving gifts to our significant other, it may be helpful for us to reflect on the nature of true love. True love propels us to offer more than just material gifts. Somehow we know that true love costs more than what money can buy. Mother Teresa had a saying, “True love hurts. It always must hurt. It has to be painful to love someone...When people marry, they have to give up everything in order to love each other. A mother who gives life to a child suffers much. The word ‘love’ is misunderstood and misused so much.”

Everything Jesus did was for love--the love for His Father and the love for us. We heard in the beginning of the Gospel that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit led him to the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the devil. Jesus was voluntarily led into battle in the wilderness by the Spirit. He, unlike us, was able to overcome temptation by His own power.

Why would someone go into something knowing that there would be much suffering? For Jesus it was the love for his Father that he took on an adversary whom we would have no hope to overcome. In his encounter with Satan in the desert, Jesus relied on Heavenly Father and His words from scripture to overcome temptations. Unshaken in adherence to God’s will, Jesus does not give in to the devil who finally leaves Jesus, awaiting another opportunity, most particularly in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.

Hunger and lack of trust are two main areas where the evil one tempts us. Hunger is the most basic human need, and it encompasses more than just bodily craving. We all crave to be loved, honored, praised, preferred to others, and have approval of others. Do we not observe ourselves getting anxious, impetuous, reluctant, and impulsive when we seem to lack these? The temptation of the evil one is to convince us that Heavenly Father has shortchanged us. In this way, the evil one attempts to strike at the heart of our trust in Heavenly Father’s providential love for us. Jesus’ reply to this temptation is simple, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Representing and standing in place of the whole human race, Christ defeated Satan in rejecting the way of comfort and ease, prestige and power, success and adulation. Instead, he chose the way of becoming the Suffering Servant. In so doing, Jesus won for us the ability to share in divine life.

What Jesus shows us in the desert is the ideal of every Christian life: total love for God and life of radical prayer of self-giving. To follow Jesus on this path requires commitment to daily prayer, living on God’s words in scripture, sacrificing for others, and trust. This is not something that can simply happen on one day. It’s the fruit of self-reflection and of openness to God’s love. May I offer you a radical prayer that will change your life? It’s a prayer composed by St. Ignatius of Loyola called Suscipe.

Take my heart, O Lord, take my hopes and dreams
Take my mind with all its plans and schemes
Give me nothing more than your love and grace
These alone, O God, are enough for me

I surrender, Lord, all I have and hold
I return to you your gifts untold
Give me nothing more than your love and grace
These alone, O God, are enough for me

-Fr. Paul Yi

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Feb. 12, 2016 Friday: Friday after Ash Wednesday

Feb. 12, 2016 Friday: Friday after Ash Wednesday

Why do we and the Pharisees fast [much], but your disciples do not fast? – Matthew 9: 14 

In 1787 the Continental Congress of the United States authorized the official penny. The motto they chose was not “In God we trust” but the blatant “Mind your own business.” Ouch! Somehow I can’t imagine Jesus telling John’s disciples those very same words when they asked him, “How come your disciples do not fast?” Jesus was too gracious and clever to be so blunt. But maybe we need to be reminded from time to time to mind our own business. It can be tempting to compare ourselves to others especially during Lent, to measure who is more spiritual based on what they are doing for Lent. We may see ourselves as more sacrificial while others loaf through Lent. Not good.

Lent is a time for your own personal renewal. It is between God and you. It is not a competition or a comparison on who is doing more. At different stages and with different needs, we respond to God’s invitation accordingly. The real question during Lent is not what is my neighbor doing, but what is God asking me to do.

Heavenly Father, sometimes I get caught up in the comparison game. It’s not just a matter of who has a bigger house or newer car, or even who has a better spiritual life. You don’t compare me to others and therefore neither should I. Help me to focus only on honoring and pleasing you. Amen.

-Fr. Thomas J. Connery
Lent, Little by Little

Feb. 11, 2016: Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Feb. 11, 2016: Thursday after Ash Wednesday

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? Luke 9: 25

After nine seasons, the popular TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond broadcast its final episode. The star of the show, Ray Romano, had gone from struggling as a stand-up comedian to become one of the highest-paid actors on television. At the conclusion of the last day’s filming, Romano spoke to the studio audience, reflecting on his past and his future. He read from a note his brothers had stuck in his luggage the day he moved from New York to Hollywood, nine years earlier.

“My older brother Richard wrote, ‘What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul?’” said a tearful Romano. “Now I’m going to work on my soul.”

What does it profit? Life is short and eternity is an awfully long time. At the end of our life what will really matter? Fame? Money? Success? Handled correctly they are all good things but not ends in themselves. What does matter is making a difference in another person’s life. Can I honestly say that because of my being here the world is a better place? I don’t have to solve world hunger or bring peace to war-torn regions, but I can be a blessing to another person. I can love God by loving the people God put in my life.

Almighty God, help me today to make the world a little better by loving those nearest to me.

-Fr. Thomas J. Connery, Traveling Light

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Feb. 10, 2016: Ash Wednesday

Feb. 10, 2016: Ash Wednesday

There is one question that many folks will be asking each other today, “What are your plans for Lent?” A plan implies that we’re going to take necessary steps to follow through to achieve a goal. Our goal for Lent should be to make a lasting change in us. It’s utterly amazing that God whom heavens cannot contain chooses to dwell in our weak and frail body and soul. What preparation do we make to invite Him in? Should we simply focus on externals, such as ashes on our forehead, so that we appear to be changed?  We all admit that we don’t like change. We are at home with our habits, our routines and lifestyle. We protect them and resist the new and different. We convince ourselves that we are just fine, for we know of others who are in worse shape. After all, we have gone this far in life and have managed, so why bother to change now?

How do we change our hearts to honor God? The church suggests the following three approaches: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer is our way of communicating with God. In our communal prayer, the mass being the most important, we are united in our praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the gift of his Son who strengthens us in the Eucharist.  In our private prayer, we have the opportunity to converse with God about our daily lives. We turn to Him believing that He hears us, trusting that He will answer us, and believing that He knows what we need even before we ask.

Fasting from food and comfort help us to purify our body and soul. We need to keep in mind that God does not need the self-imposed suffering we undergo, but we need to become detached from the things we would want outside of God. The purpose of our spiritual suffering is to unmask the lies we try to live by and to open our soul to the Father so that, together with Jesus, we may receive everything from him. Sin turns us inward, makes us live on the surface of ourselves, and separates us from others. Through fasting we become more attuned to what God wants for us.

Almsgiving is a way for us to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. Pope Benedict XVI said that through almsgiving, we train ourselves spiritually, because it helps us to overcome constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. It also helps us to recognize Jesus in the poor.

Lent is the invitation to re-establish our friendship with God. Thus, the most perfect mortification is an act of love to God that takes us out of ourselves, transporting us into the love of the Beloved. One suggestion for your Lenten practice is to pick something different each week--do certain prayer one week or do certain fasting one week--instead of trying to stick with one thing the entire 40 days. In this way, we will begin to see small changes each week during the 6 weeks of Lent. May we use this time to look within ourselves and to grow in our relationship with the Lord.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Feb. 9, 2016 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Week 2

Feb. 9, 2016 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Week 2

Tonight,  throngs of crowd are enjoying the Mardi Gras parades. Our Louisiana Mardi Gras reminds me in someway the throngs of people who participate daily in the candlelight procession at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. The key difference between the two crowds is that instead of the crowd chanting, “Throw me something, mister!” the crowd at Lourdes lift their lit candles and chant, “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria.” They lift their voices and their hearts to the Mother of Mercy in the sanctuary of God known for healing mercy.

And tonight we come to this sanctuary to cry out to God for His healing mercy. The prayer of King Solomon in the First Reading reflects that very desire:
“May your eyes watch night and day over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honored; may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place.
Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”

In this sanctuary, Jesus looks at us with great love and desires to heal our sinful hearts. He is saddened when we stop at the surface of things, as he lamented in today’s Gospel, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” God sees our hearts with great compassion; yet, when we look at others, do we judge based on their externals and not see their hearts? Pope Francis explains, “When we have a person before us, Jesus urges us to never stop at the surface of things. Instead, he calls us to look beyond, to focus on the heart in order to see how much generosity everyone is capable of. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God."

Our Holy Father has challenged us to truly see the entire person and not just the external. I know for myself that when I would wait at a signal light and see a homeless person holding up a sign, I would take my clerical collar off so that I didn't have to be bothered. One time after I drove off, I heard within, "That was my son in whom I'm well pleased." I realized then that was an ugliness within me that needed to be purified.

The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year of Mercy should be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy. God is asking us to be more aware of how we are being loved and forgiven. In turn, we are invited to do the same for others. Let us ponder the following:
Is there a relationship in your life that is poisoned by judgment or bitterness? How is God asking you to see this person differently, with Jesus’ eyes of mercy?

-Fr. Paul Yi

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Feb. 7, 2016: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Feb. 7, 2016: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Click to hear Audio Homily
Do you remember your last annual performance review at work? Some of you are now retired and don’t miss that stress at all. Some of you are too young to know that feeling, but if you have experienced semester exams at school, then you have some sense of preparing for a review. Experts say that months before we go into the actual performance review, we should ask the supervisor or manager two questions:  (1) Tell me one thing I'm doing well and should continue doing. (2) Tell me one thing I could do that will help me be more effective. Essentially we are proactively seeking the mind of the supervisor to look for information that will help us to grow and develop professionally.

Wouldn’t it be helpful for us to do ask similar questions to God so that we would know how we are doing spiritually? How would we respond if all of a sudden we were in the presence of Almighty God, who knows every detail of our life--the good, the bad, the proud moments, and not so proud moments-- who asks us, “What did you do with your life? How did you love?” Perhaps we would respond in the manner as did Isaiah, Paul, and Peter in the readings today. In the First Reading, young Prophet Isaiah was before the presence of God, and he felt ashamed and unworthy to be there. Paul, in the Second Reading, retold the story to Corinthians of how he was the least worthy apostle because he persecuted the Church.  In today’s Gospel, Peter realized how unworthy and sinful he was when he realized that he was in the divine presence of Jesus.

A university art professor had a near death experience where he had a life review before God. He said, “In my life review, I had to turn away numerous times when I saw myself treating my children in unloving ways...The most disturbing behaviors I witnessed in my life review were the times when I cared more about my career as an artist and college professor than about their need to be loved.” Throughout every scene of his life review, he was aware of God’s questions to him, “What did you do with your life? How did you love? Did you glorify yourself or did you glorify Me?”

I pondered those questions this week. I imagined myself standing before God and having my life review. I may wear these clerical clothes of a priest, but before God, I know who I am-- a sinner who received tremendous mercy and forgiveness. Jesus’ priesthood was given to me as a gift; I didn’t earn it, and I don’t possess it; it’s His priesthood and not mine. Everyday, God is asking of me, ‘Paul, how are you using My gift of priesthood? Are you using this great privilege to bring others closer to Me? Are you using this gift to love others?’ Pondering these questions was very meaningful to me. So now I ask you, have you ever pondered similar questions? God has given each of you a unique gift; it’s not yours, but His. Are you using that gift to bring others closer to God or solely to bring glory and comfort to yourself?

Jesus is asking us to go deeper in our faith, just as he commanded Peter in the Gospel, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Our tendency is to limit our life to what is shallow, superficial, and safe. When we live on the surface of life, we hear Jesus’ voice as just another voice in the crowd. Yet, Jesus is commanding us to the deep water of faith-living where we avail ourselves to silence and contemplation in order to appreciate the presence of Christ in our life and put out of our life all self-serving distraction.

At times, we may not trust Jesus as we should and not be willing to lower our nets. Like Peter, we think we know better than Jesus. In commanding us to lower our nets, the Lord affords us the chance to demonstrate our confidence in God’s merciful wisdom. When we symbolically lower our nets through trust, then Jesus lifts us out of ourselves, and gives us the graced ability to respond to the will of God in a way that exceeds our natural capacity.

I suggest a simple spiritual exercise for this coming Lent. Ask Jesus the following two questions daily: (1) Lord, when have I trusted you today and lowered the nets on your command? (2) Lord, when was I filled with fear and refused to cast my nets on your command? Do not be afraid of your failure. God permits you to see your sins and failures only to bring about in you a deeper confidence in his mercy and compassion.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, February 5, 2016

Feb. 5, 2016 Friday: St. Agatha

Feb. 5, 2016 Friday: St. Agatha

The Life Review

HOWARD STORM had been rescued from the horrors of the outer darkness, and now he found himself with Jesus, paused in space looking toward what he knew to be God’s City. Jesus called in a melodic tone, and seven lights shot across the vast distance from the City of Light to join them. Howard recognized them as angels or saints, more brilliant and beautiful than Howard could imagine, trumped only by Jesus himself.

"They asked me if I would like to see my life. Unsure of what to expect, I agreed. The record of my life was their record, not my memory of my life. We watched and experienced episodes that were from the point of view of a third party. The scenes they showed me were often of incidents I had forgotten. They showed their effects on people’s lives, of which I’d had no previous knowledge. They reported the thoughts and feelings of people I had interacted with, which I had been unaware of at the time. They showed me scenes from my life that I would not have chosen, and they eliminated scenes from my life that I wanted them to see. It was a complete surprise to see how my life history was being presented."

As Howard watched his early years relived in 3-D, he saw how his father’s anger slowly became his own anger, directing his life.

"Seven angels and myself held by Jesus were arranged in a circle while the scenes were projected in the midst of the circle. . . . I saw how I was being trained to repress emotions and was obedient so as to win the approval of my parents. I was also learning that my father completely dominated all of us by the threat of his anger. Although we were not allowed to show anger, I was learning what a powerful means of controlling people anger could be. . . . The angels showed me how my father’s compulsion to be successful was driving him toward increasing impatience and rage with his family. I saw how my mother, sisters, and I each developed different means of coping with his unpredictable mood swings. . . . I grew withdrawn and lived in a private world of anger and violence. . . .

The angels and Jesus shared their feelings of joy with me when love was expressed, and they shared their disappointment and sadness when we hurt one another. God had put my mother, father, sisters, and me together to love and support one another in our life’s journey to grow in love and spirit. We were adapting our desire to love in unhealthy ways. . . .

I didn’t understand—nor did my generation—that love and sexual relations are not the same thing. We viewed members of the opposite sex as objects to be exploited for sexual gratification. . . . This period of my life was shameful to watch in divine company because I had misdirected my desire to love and be loved. . . . The sexual revolution that I grew up in was opposed to love by promoting counterfeit sexual love as true love. This cultural wave of hedonism was bathed in alcohol and drugs, which are an even further departure from love and the will of God. . . . God brought my wife and me together to learn love. I saw it in my life review. God gives us each other to learn how to love. This is our job. . . .

In my life review, I had to turn away numerous times when I saw myself treating my children in unloving ways. The most unloving thing that I did was to be at times so obsessed with my concerns that I was indifferent to their needs. I am sorry for the occasions that I was impatient or cruel to my daughter and son. The most disturbing behaviors I witnessed in my life review were the times when I cared more about my career as an artist and college professor than about their need to be loved. The emotional abandonment of my children was devastating to review.

It was horrifying to see how I had become so much like my father. . . . I begged them to stop it because I was so ashamed of my failure to live lovingly and because of the grief I had caused God, Jesus, and the heavenly beings. The only reason I could bear to proceed with the life review was because of their love for me. No matter what we watched me do in life, they communicated their love for me, even as they expressed their disapproval of things I did. . . . To use vulgar words is only poor taste. To use the name of God in crude or empty ways is an insult to our Creator. I was horrified at how it hurt my heavenly company when we witnessed me blaspheming God and Christ Jesus. . . . As my adult life unfolded before us, my self-centered nature predominated, and this greatly displeased my divine company. I did very little that was not in my own self-interest. Other people’s needs were less important than my own desires. This is opposed to the will of God and is the opposite of love. . . .

The angels showed me that we do not earn our love of God by the things we do. God’s love is given without cost or strings attached. We live lovingly because God loves us so much. Thank God there is a way to change our lives and be forgiven our mistakes. . . . Only a person who loves God can accept that God would suffer and die for us so that we may be raised up to life with God. God defeated the power of death through God’s great love for us. Jesus is God’s redemptive act for a fallen world. . . . If a person is not ruled by the love of God, he or she is ruled by hatred of God. The greatest hatred of God is to be indifferent to God."

-John Burke, Imagine Heaven

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Feb. 4, 2016 4th Week in Ordinary Time C

Feb. 4, 2016 4th Week in Ordinary Time C

Uniquely You
“Who defines who you are?” This is such a critical question, but so few of us have really stopped to answer it. Who has the right to define who you are? What you’re worth? What your purpose is? Whether you succeed or fail? How you define your identity is ultra-important. What you believe about yourself is what shapes all your decisions and actions.

Most of us end up believing things about our identity that are not grounded in God’s reality—of who God created us to be, what God created us to do. We believe lies about our identity that the evils of this world inflict on us. We constantly worry about the opinions or approval of others. We experience intense anxiety when we’re not succeeding or are not recognized for our accomplishments. We feel sick inside when the stock market drops or we don’t get promoted. We find ourselves lowering our standards to new levels then justifying it in order to prove our worth or get someone to love us. We feel the need to control our spouse or our kids because our identity has somehow gotten wrapped up in what others think or do.

When we base our worth or identity on what we do or what was done to us, we will struggle with fear of failure, feel the need to prove ourselves, or manipulate others who get in the way of our success. We will become self-consumed. That’s because God never created us to get our identity from what we do or what others did to us, but from who we are to God.

Van Lommel notes that many Near Death Experience (NDE) survivors he’s interviewed “talk of attaching greater value and meaning to life and less importance to material things such as an expensive car, a big house, and a job with status or power.” Many people try to perform, accomplish, or gain notoriety to make a name for themselves. What we will see in Heaven is that life is not about all that.

Uniquely Loved
When Dr. George Ritchie had his life review in his NDE, this matter became evident:

Every detail of twenty years of living was there to be looked at. The good, the bad, the high points, the run-of-the-mill. And with this all-inclusive view came a question. It was implicit in every scene and, like the scenes themselves, seemed to proceed from the living Light beside me.
What did you do with your life? It was obviously not a question in the sense that He was seeking information, for what I had done with my life was in plain view. . . . Hadn’t I ever gone beyond my own immediate interests, done anything other people would recognize as valuable? At last I located it, the proudest moment of my life: “I became an Eagle Scout!”
Again, words seemed to emanate from the Presence beside me: That glorified you. . . . I saw myself walking forward at a church service at age eleven, asking Jesus to be Lord of my life. But I saw how quickly that first excitement turned into a dull routine of church-on-Sunday. . . .
I started to point out my premed courses, how I was going to be a doctor and help people. But visible alongside the classroom scenes was that Cadillac car and that private airplane—thoughts as observable as actions in that all-pervading Light.
And all at once rage at the question itself built up in me. It was not fair! Of course I had not done anything with my life! I had not had time. How could you judge a person who had not started? The answering thought, however, held no trace of judgment. Death, the word was infinitely loving, can come at any age.

God never intended you to base your identity on accomplishments or performing. No one knows what you were created to do and be except your Creator. Look what God says about your true identity: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43: 6–7, italics mine). God made you for himself—not to prove your glory, but to be his glory. His pride and joy. His beloved son or daughter. What he wants you to do is learn to be secure in his love, in who he made you to be, and from that place of security, you can do what he created you to do. And first and foremost, this is to love those you uniquely can love.

Paul explained, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13: 12–13). Heaven will be that place where you realize how uniquely loved you are. He doesn’t want you to wait until Heaven to realize this.

-John Burke, Imagine Heaven

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Feb. 3, 2016 Wednesday: St. Blase

Feb. 3, 2016 Wednesday: St. Blase

Many Catholics are familiar with St. Blase because he is associated with a special blessing of the throats that is given on this day.
Blase was born to a wealthy family of noble heritage in present-day Armenia in the fourth century. He received a good education—some accounts tell us that he was a physician before he was named a bishop.

During a persecution of Christians, Blase escaped arrest by living in a cave. There are many stories about him interacting with wild animals during his hiding. People sought him out there to ask for his intercession because he was known for curing the sick.

One woman came to him with her little boy, who was close to dying because he had a fishbone stuck in his throat. Blase healed the boy; this event and others like it has made him patron saint of those with throat trouble.

He was eventually discovered and brought to authorities. While he was being transported to prison, the arresting party came across a poor woman in distress. The woman depended upon her pig for her livelihood, but a wolf had carried the pig away. At the command of St. Blase, the wolf returned it unharmed.

While he was imprisoned, Blase was beaten and starved. The woman whose pig he saved brought him food, and she also brought him candles so that he would not have to sit in the dark of his dungeon. Eventually, Blase was tortured and beheaded.

The story of the throat miracle and the candles in the dungeon are the origins of the special blessing of the throats that is given today with candles. Traditionally, the candles are blessed on Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas.

Priests hold these candles in the shape of an “X” and place them over the head or under the chin, and extend this prayer: “Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Church prays in a special way today for all of those who are sick as well as those who care for them. St. Blase’s relics rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica, and his image is used here with permission from

St. Blase, you saved a boy from choking to death and are patron against illness, pray for us!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Feb. 2, 2016 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Wk 1 - Presentation of the Lord

Feb. 2, 2016 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Wk 1 - Presentation of the Lord

There have been many times when I have visited families at their homes, that when I ring the bell at the front door I end up waiting for a couple of minutes before someone comes to the door. A family member reminds me that normally they do not use the front door. Rather they use the side door near the carport or garage. Now when I visit homes, I go straight to the carport or garage. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Our Lord has given us a special door straight to His Heart, that is His Mercy. For the Year of Mercy, cathedrals and special churches around the world including St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge and St. Michael’s in Convent have been designated with Holy Doors. Pope Francis said, “Going through the holy door is the sign of our trust in the Lord Jesus who did not come to judge, but to save.”

In today’s feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Mary and Joseph carried the child Jesus through the door of the Temple in Jerusalem and presented him. This is the day in which our Incarnate Savior encounters his believing people at the dwelling place of his Father. Later when Jesus begins his ministry, Jesus says of himself, “‘I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.’”

Just as Mary and Joseph offered Jesus to the Heavenly Father, we come today to offer ourselves to the Heavenly Father so that we may be merciful as He is merciful to us. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Forgiveness is a willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, negative judgment, and indifferent behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity, and even love toward him or her.

As we begin the Divine Mercy Novena today with Lent only a week away, we ask Our Lord to help us to enter into the door of His Heart of Mercy. It’s not enough that mercy and forgiveness remain beautiful words but must be realized in our daily life. The visible signs that faith has transformed our hearts are our willingness to forgive and be merciful.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Monday, February 1, 2016

Feb. 1, 2016 Monday: 4th Week in Ordinary Time C

Feb. 1, 2016 Monday: 4th Week in Ordinary Time C

Healing of Gerasene Demoniac

May I be forgiven or at least not declared crazy or sacrilegious that the most vivid images that come to me from this gospel incident is not Jesus or the possessed man but the PIGS! Oh, I am not all that crazy about pork (too much of it is bad for my health I am told). But struck me that the text says there were “about two thousand pigs” in the area. Two thousand! Can you imagine that, two thousand pigs all together at one time? Maybe the largest number of pigs I have seen together would be 20 – in a truck heading for the slaughterhouse. Two thousand pigs would mean 100 trucks each containing 20 pigs. Wow, what a “porka-cade.” But in the gospel story, there were, of course, no trucks. They were just there, all of them ambling around perhaps in search of food.

May no one of us ever be possessed by the devil or devils – 1000, 100, 10 or even just one. May that never happen indeed. But perhaps, if we may not have been possessed by the devil or devils, might we not have been possessed by 2000 SINS? Maybe not at the same time, but cumulatively as it were, since we committed our first sin? If even the just fall at least 7 times a day, what about us, unjust men/women, how many more times do we fall through our nights and days? Seen from this perspective, if it is hard to picture 2000 pigs, it should not be as hard to accept that maybe, just maybe, we may have committed 2000 sins.

But perhaps the saving factor of this rather bizarre imagining is the happy truth that just as Jesus cast out at one time 2000 devils from the possessed man in the gospel, He does the same to you and me. When we are sorry for our sins and confess them, Jesus forgives us, no matter how many or big or black they may be. Every sin is wiped out, lost in eternal oblivion. They no go anywhere – not even to pigs.

Se next time we have lechon, may we just enjoy it, calorie-count notwithstanding. But we may not forget to thank the Lord for His graciousness, His forgiveness and His love, and do as the man in the gospel was asked to do: announce to all what the Lord in His mercy has done for us.

(Fr. Roderick Salazar, SVD Bible Diary 2006)