Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29, 2016: St. Catherine of Siena

April 29, 2016: St. Catherine of Siena

God has loved us without being loved, but we love him because we are loved…we cannot profit him, nor love him with this first love…In what way can we do this, then, since he demands it and we cannot give it to him? I tell you…we can be useful, not to him, which is impossible, but to our neighbor…love is gained in love by raising the eye of our mind to behold how much we are loved by God. Seeing ourselves loved, we cannot otherwise than love.” – Letter to Brother Bartolomeo Dominici

Love transforms. St. Catherine states that “love transforms one into what one loves” (Dialogue 60). In loving God, we become like the one we love. When two things are joined together, there can’t be anything between them, otherwise there wouldn’t be a complete union of them together. This is how God wants us to be with him in love. Once we are removed from selfish love we can love God with the love with which he has first loved us. St. Catherine takes this transformative love to the highest level:

“The eternal Father said [to me], ‘If you should ask me what this soul is, I would say: she is another me, made so by the union of love.” (Dialogue 96)

By God’s love we become kneaded and knit into our Creator who redeems us and lets us participate in his divine love.

Ultimately, St. Catherine’s love led her to a life of penance and service to her neighbor. There’s no saying it wasn’t a harsh life – she died at age 33 – but it was certainly a life lived in love. She saw all of her actions and penances tied up in the cross of Christ: a tree not of unnecessary torture and grief but a tree of love. St. Catherine wished to graft herself into that tree and so be joined to the fiery love that comes from Christ.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April 24, 2016: 5th Sunday of Easter C

April 24, 2016: 5th Sunday of Easter C

Click to hear Audio Homily
A young man in his late 20’s, Eric Mahl, was living among the homeless in Cleveland. He slept at the homeless shelters, ate food in soup kitchens, and spent the day walking around talking with other homeless folks. He would slip in Catholic churches to attend mass, but people would stare him down with unwelcomed gaze. Few years prior, he was instantly recognized and welcomed in the same churches because he was a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns football team. One day as he was walking the streets of Cleveland, he saw a the face of a fellow teammate on billboard. The young man said to himself, ‘I’m so much happier now on the streets than when I was in the NFL or the sales career following football.’ Eric was convinced that trusting what Jesus told him to do while praying in an adoration chapel was the best thing he ever did. In prayer, Eric heard Jesus tell him, “Love one another as I love you.” He heard this call in his heart for a long time, but like most of us, he kept his faith and his daily life separate. He prayed the Rosary, went to mass, and spent time in the adoration chapel, but his faith did not influence his career ambition and desire to be successful in the world.

We have that struggle too -- the struggle to live out our faith in our daily life. Our tendency is to compartmentalize our life from our faith. When Eric heard Jesus say to him, “Love one another as I love you,” he said to himself, ‘I already know that. Jesus, can you give me something more profound?’ There is a saying, “Be careful what you ask for.” One evening in prayer at the adoration chapel, young and successful Eric was feeling particularly grateful to God for his upbringing in a good Catholic family, his football career, and a great job. He asked Jesus, “Lord, what can I give You in return?” He felt Jesus respond to him, “Give me everything.” The young man was startled by the response and he ignored the prompting for awhile. He kept telling Jesus, “Not yet, not yet.” Then he answered Jesus’ invitation by selling everything he owned. Through God’s guidance, he spent time at a Carmelite monastery, the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA, then he began his ministry in the streets of Cleveland as a missionary to the homeless. As he spent time with the homeless, he spread the message of Good New of Jesus Christ, particularly Divine Mercy. He was truly happy among the modern lepers on the streets. What Eric did not know before was that by truly loving someone, he would be fulfilling the new commandment of Christ. This was a new beginning for Eric; he was beginning to learn how to love as Jesus loved--how to put in practice through his heart, the faith knowledge he possessed.

Do you feel in your heart today the desire to live a new life? Have you been feeling a tug from Jesus to open your heart and to start anew? “See, I am making all things new,” Jesus said in the Book of Revelation, and the new beginning in our lives is possible through Jesus. Today’s readings are all about new things: the New Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth, and a new commandment. We experience daily the sadness and sorrow from things being out of order. May be our relationship with our loved one is not where it should be. Our lives may be out of control because of our sinfulness. St. Paul in the First Reading exhorts us to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Yet this promised new kingdom is already within our grasp; in fact it is already given to us as a gift.

What is then the necessary step to live the new life in this new Jerusalem? Today’s gospel passage gives us the secret of Christian renewal as the faithful practice of Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus adds a new element to the Old Testament command of love by telling us that the true test of discipleship is to love other people in the same way that he has loved us. How did Jesus love? He made an eternal gift of himself to the Father and to us on the cross. In the same way, we find the true purpose and fulfillment when we make a sincere gift of ourselves to others. The renewal of Christian life means a radical change of vision and a reordering of our priorities in life. Such a renewal brings us to embrace new attitudes, new values and new standards of relating to God and to other people. As we try to love as Jesus loved, we will begin to see in ourselves motivation, attitude, and behavior that are contrary to God’s way of loving--namely jealousy, anger, spitefulness, selfishness, greed, sensuality, and pride.

Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbor as he loves us is radical. To love one’s enemies is radical, and to be merciful as he is merciful is radical. This doesn’t mean we all have to sell everything we have and live with nowhere to lay our heads, but we all must go out of our comfort zones and seek the true good of our neighbor. This is a challenge we face head-on by first experiencing the mercy and love of God as our Father, which will then compel us to share it with others.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April 20, 2016 Wednesday: 4th Week of Easter

April 20, 2016 Wednesday: 4th Week of Easter

Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness." (John 12:44-50)

Padre Pio on Light from God
You say that you cannot tell if the rays of light that are coming into the depths of your spirit at times are coming from God or not…. Well, here are three signs by which to discern if these rays of light are from the Father of lights. The first is that such light gives us even more wonderful knowledge of God. To the degree that this knowledge is disclosed to us, it gives us a much deeper understanding of his incomprehensible greatness. That light leads us to love God the Father even more and to sacrifice ourselves even more for his honor and glory. The second sign is an increased knowledge of ourselves, a deeper sense of humility when we realize that such wretched creatures as ourselves have had the impudence to offend him…. The third is that these heavenly rays always produce increasing disdain for the things of this world, except for those things that can be useful for God’s service.

If the rays of light produce these three effects, consider them as coming from God. These results cannot be produced by the enemy and even less so by your fantasy and imagination.
-St. Pio of Pietrecina

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April 19, 2016 Tuesday: 4th Week of Easter

April 19, 2016 Tuesday: 4th Week of Easter

"My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:22-30)

St. Ignatius of Loyola is one of Christianity's most important teachers of discernment. And yet Ignatius himself did not write a systematic, step-by-step, by-step, follow-the-recipe sort of guide to making a decision. He knew that every decision carries with it so many variables that a cookie-cutter method would be contrived and clunky. Humans are simply too complex for a one-size-fits-all discernment manual. Instead, Ignatius set out to teach people how to become a kind of person who, through a sort of learned intuition, could detect the sources of one's thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Through that discernment of the sources, which he called the discernment of spirits, a person can determine mine God's will in any given situation. In other words, once a person can recognize the motivations moving her toward one particular choice or another, then the work of coming to a decision becomes easy: she simply chooses the option that comes from God.

OK, maybe the choice still isn't always easy, but the point is that the tricky part is not in the act of choosing ing option A, B, or C but rather in creating an internal skill-an Ignatian intuition-of recognizing the motives attracting and repulsing you toward or away from any given option. Ignatian discernment, then, isn't so much about what to do but about who to be. It's about becoming a person in tune with the movements that lead toward God. The doing will flow from the being.

In John's Gospel (John 10:1-5), we learn that sheep know the voice of the shepherd to whom they belong. They recognize his voice and follow that voice. They will not follow a stranger, because they know that the stranger's voice is not the voice of their good shepherd. The great Bible commentator William Barclay gives a vivid description of this image. In first-century Palestine, each shepherd had a unique call that his own sheep recognized immediately. Sometimes at night, several flocks were herded together into a cave for protection. In the morning, how would the sheep be sorted? The shepherds would stand a distance from one another and begin calling their sheep. By hearing the various voices, the sheep could immediately detect the voice of their shepherd and follow him (William Barclay, Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 57).

In any given situation, whether in an ordinary day or in a day of momentous decision, there are many voices in your head and heart proposing posing to you a variety of actions, reactions, or nonactions. The Ignatian method of discernment teaches you how to fine-tune your spiritual senses so that you can more readily detect and move toward the voice of the Good Shepherd, distinguishing that voice from all the others.

-Fr. Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April 17, 2016: 4th Sunday of Easter C

April 17, 2016: 4th Sunday of Easter C
“World Day of Prayer for Vocations”

Click to hear Audio Homily
At the beginning of this homily, I’d like to offer all of you a free hearing test. It’s a very simple test so listen carefully to these questions: 1) What was the first reading about? Can you name some of the characters in the reading? 2) Do you remember the response to the Psalm today? 3) From what book of the Bible was the second reading taken? What images do you remember from the second reading? Some of us have to admit that we did not do too well at the hearing test--a test of whether we are listening to the voice of God. For some of us, the only time during the week that we listen to God’s voice is when we attend Sunday mass.

Why is it necessary to listen to God’s voice? Psalm 23 explains it beautifully. “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
How comforting it is to be guided and protected by such a shepherd!

In the Gospel today, Jesus introduces himself as the good shepherd of his flock. He says that he knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice. Jesus knows each of us, our needs, our merits, and our faults. He loves us as we are, with all our limitations, and he expects us to return his love by keeping his word. He speaks to us at every Mass, through the Bible, through our pastors, through our parents, through our friends, and through the events of our lives. Jesus also gives eternal life to us, his sheep, by receiving us into his sheepfold and giving us faith in Baptism, and by strengthening that faith in Confirmation. He supplies food for our souls in the Holy Eucharist and in the divine words of the Holy Bible. Jesus also protects us placing us in the loving hands of his Almighty Father. He goes in search of stray lambs and heals the sick ones. He heals the wounds of our souls through the sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in illness and old age with the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Most importantly, Jesus offers his life for his sheep, as an atonement for the sins of all people.

Jesus says that no one will be able to snatch us, his sheep, out of his hands. The only way his sheep will come out of his hands is when the sheep choose to leave. Jesus doesn’t put his sheep in a cage. If we wander off freely, hearing someone else’s voice, he will go after us, to try to bring us back, but he respects our freedom to leave, even if this is an abuse of our freedom. Yet without Jesus to guide us and protect us, we are an easy prey for the spiritual wolves of this world, including Satan and his minions.

We know that given our life circumstances it is difficult for us to really listen to the voice of the Lord and really follow him. There is plenty noise in the world that competes for our attention. We may be too busy or tired to start or end the day with the living word of God in the bible. Without pondering daily on scriptures and a period of silent prayer, our soul feels lost, like a styrofoam cup floating on a turbulent lake. We cannot afford to be without the guiding voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. If you did not do well on the hearing test, meditate on this Sunday’s readings as your prayer today. Make the effort to listen to Jesus’ voice through his living words in the scripture. We are his sheep; he is our shepherd.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April 13, 2016 Wednesday: Saint Martin I, Pope and Martyr

April 13, 2016 Wednesday: Saint Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Optional Memorial)

Those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:4)

Watch a pot of boiling water, and you’ll see the simple act of steam rising above it. But so much is going on behind the scenes that it really is a marvel. As they approach boiling temperature, the water molecules begin moving so rapidly that they separate from each other and rise into the air. The water doesn’t disappear—it just disperses.

By analogy, we can see what happened to the Christians in Jerusalem as a similar change of state. The persecution that arose against them heated things up, and as a result, many of them were “scattered” throughout the Mediterranean (Acts 8:4). You could say, then, that the Lord used the evil that had been intended to destroy the Church as a catalyst to make it spread farther. It was a result that no doubt surprised the persecutors—and probably those who were being persecuted as well!

God wants to surprise us, too. He wants to bring good out of whatever challenging situations we face. He wants us to know that those situations that get uncomfortably “hot” for us don’t have to destroy us. Instead, they can help us grow. As St. Paul said, they can build our endurance, which builds our character, which in turn builds our hope (Romans 5:3-4). And with stronger hope, we become stronger witnesses—the same thing that happened to the first disciples.

What are you experiencing today that raises your temperature? It could be as simple as a long line at the grocery store or a glitch that slows down your Internet connection. Or it could be something much worse, like an ongoing conflict with a family member or a financial dilemma that brings you to your knees. Whatever it is, know that no matter how “hot” things become, if you stay close to the Lord, the heat won’t consume you. You’ll still be there, only different. Like steam hovering over a boiling pot, you may feel lighter. And like steam, you may find yourself willing to spread the warmth of God’s love to the people around you.

“Father, I trust in you! When situations challenge me, help me to remember that you will never abandon me.”

Word Anong Us,

Monday, April 4, 2016

April 4, 2016 Monday: Feast of Annunciation

April 4, 2016 Monday: Feast of Annunciation

Spiritual Mothers for Priests.

Have you ever wondered why Mary, who is the most perfect of all creatures, the most beloved by Jesus, and the most intimately united with him was not chosen to be a priest at the altar? I mean, she’s the one who was standing right there at the altar of the Cross! If anything, this tells us that Jesus’ choice to reserve the ordained priesthood to men alone is not based on a superiority of men over women. If it were based on superiority, then Mary clearly would have been the first priest. But she was not. Why not? Because Jesus had another gift for her and for many women: the gift of spiritual motherhood, a vocation in the Church that, unfortunately, is not widely known. Yet it’s a vocation that’s just as important as the ordained priesthood, at least in the sense that it’s not only a privileged source of priestly vocations, but it also sustains them and makes them bear fruit. Actually, there’s a sense in which the vocation of being a spiritual mother for priests may be even more important than a priestly vocation. I say this because one spiritual mother can “give birth” to and sustain not just one priestly vocation but many.

I said that the priesthood, in a sense, comes from spiritual mothers. Why? Well, let’s start with Mary. Without her “yes” to God at the Annunciation, we would not have Jesus Christ, our High Priest. So, without her “yes” to motherhood, there would be no priesthood. Similarly, without the yes of so many hidden spiritual mothers for priests, there would be few (if any) priests. Let me explain.

As I write, I’m well aware that any good or fruitfulness of this writing flows in large part from the prayers and sacrifices of my spiritual mothers. I don’t just think this. I know it. I myself have clearly experienced the power of their prayers in my own priestly life and throughout my time in the seminary. It’s a given. In a sense, I owe everything to their prayers.

So who are these spiritual mothers? They’re consecrated women, married women with families of their own, and single women devoted to the Lord. They come from all walks of life, and again, I know it’s their prayers that keep me going as a priest. I also know it’s the prayers of such spiritual mothers that keep many other priests going and make their ministries fruitful. Finally, I’m sure that Mary, the first and preeminent spiritual mother, helped keep Jesus going in his priestly mission and assisted in making it fruitful. Let’s go more deeply into this point.

I have no doubt that while Jesus was pouring himself out in the toil and labor of preaching the kingdom, healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons, Mary was united with him in prayer and sacrifice. Surely, her motherly heart went out to her
Son and to all the people his words and actions would reach. Moreover, I’m convinced that it was the power of her prayers that inspired faith in so many of the people that Jesus healed. The grace for this didn’t seem to come directly from Jesus, for he himself was astonished at their faith (see Lk 7:9). So, where did the grace of faith in these Jewish and pagan people come from if not from the Spirit-filled prayers of the perfect disciple whose faith is unsurpassed? For instance, where did the blind man, Bartimaeus, get the courage to repeatedly cry out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me” despite rebukes from crowd? (see Mk 10:46-48). Where did the bleeding woman get the faith that made her reach out to touch Jesus’ garment? (Mt
9:20-22). Where did the Syrophoenician woman get the boldness to persevere in faith after being rebuked by Jesus himself? (see Mk 7:25-30). I suggest that these graces came from Mary’s prayers, which give birth to faith in faithless men and women.

Similarly, we can ask the questions, “From where does the grace come for a young man to renounce marriage and the world and to embrace a life of toil and service as a priest? From where does the grace come that helps him persevere through the testing and training of the seminary?” And once he becomes a priest, “From where does the grace come that gives power to his words, insights to his mind, and warmth to his heart as he serves God’s people?” Of course, the question of where specific graces come is a mystery, and we surely know that the grace of ordination gives a priest everything he needs to fulfill his vocation, but how many extraordinary graces come from spiritual mothers? I’m convinced that many such graces come from them and that their prayers often make the difference between mediocrity in the priesthood and saintly priests.

How much the Church today needs spiritual mothers for priests! In a time when so many convents are empty, Jesus calls out to women from all walks of life to be spiritual mothers for priests. He doesn’t just rely on religious sisters and nuns. He calls out to any woman who will beg the harvest master to send out laborers into the vineyard. He calls out to those who feel a desire to help his priests be what he calls them to be. He calls out to those who love the Church and know that the priests have a special calling to and responsibility for the mission of communion. For Jesus knows that without the priests, there is no Mass. He knows that without the priests, there is no Sacrament of Penance, Anointing of the Sick, or Confirmation. He knows that the renewal of the Church comes through a renewal of the priesthood. Furthermore, he knows that the renewal of the priesthood comes from generous women who give themselves as spiritual mothers and exercise their common priesthood by offering themselves through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ for those in the ministerial priesthood.

This offering of oneself for priests does not have to be something scary. For, while it’s true that there are many “victim souls” among the spiritual mothers of priests (heroic souls who lovingly offer all kinds of agonies such as cancer and other illnesses), there are also many women who live the vocation simply by offering up their little sufferings. But again, this means so much because, remember, even little sufferings lovingly united to the offering of the Mass take on infinite value. In fact, some of the best spiritual mothers, I believe, are those who offer up things that they might never have realized could bring great holiness to priests. For instance, they can offer their broken motherly hearts if they can’t conceive a child or if their children leave the Church and go the way of the world. They can offer their broken spousal hearts if they’ve been abandoned by husbands who couldn’t say no to the culture of death. They can offer their lonely hearts if their husbands are aloof or deceased or if they’ve never been able to marry. Such women, who may be tempted to think of themselves as motherly failures, can find deep meaning in a vocation of offering up their broken hearts for the sanctification of spiritual fathers.

To all those being called to be spiritual mothers for priests, I say this: We priests need you! Priests who are lonely, depressed, discouraged, overworked, overwhelmed, tempted, persecuted, tepid, and brokenhearted need to feel the motherly love of your prayers. The Church needs you! It needs you to beg the Master of the harvest for holy priests, men who will say no to the culture of death and embrace a life of self-giving service to God’s people. God’s people need you! They need the holy priests that your prayers will inspire. They need to be fed by priests who have the Heart of the Good Shepherd and the fire of his love.

Just as life begins in mothers, so the life of the Church begins in all you spiritual mothers out there.

Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC
One Thing is Three

Sunday, April 3, 2016

April 3, 2016: Divine Mercy Sunday C

April 3, 2016: Divine Mercy Sunday C

Click to hear Audio Homily
Have you seen the Charlie Brown comic strip where Snoopy was writing a theology book? Snoopy’s title for his new theology book was “Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?” Often times when religion is brought up in a conversation emotions get heated. In my atheist days during high school, I used to get very angry with my bible believing classmates when they challenged me about not believing in a personal God. A young man who was welcomed into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil said that his supervisor at work got very angry with him for wearing a small cross on his neck and for saying “God bless you,” to a sneezing customer. He was informed by his boss that he would have to consent in writing that he would not wear the cross or discuss religion. The young man refused to sign the letter and instead chose to resign. As he was leaving the workplace, his manager said, “You know, you shouldn’t quit your job over your religion.” The young man replied, “You don’t understand. My faith means everything to me.”

Distrust of God is something that we commonly encounter all around us--in our workplace, in our marriage, and in our family. In fact, it is the original sin of Adam and Eve that we all inherited--distrust of the goodness of Heavenly Father. Because of our distorted image of God, we do not recognize Him as good, merciful, and trustworthy. When the core of our being lacks the trust in Heavenly Father, all other relationships are poisoned by this distrust. What restores our distrust in God is experiencing his mercy in the Risen Lord.

In today's Gospel, the Apostle Thomas personally experiences the mercy of God. Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: "We have seen the Lord." Thomas stands for all of us who struggle with faith— who make progress slowly, and sometimes from crisis to crisis, growing from partial belief to the fullness of Easter faith. How does Jesus react to this distrust? With patience. Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief. Thomas acknowledges his little faith when Jesus appears personally to him, and he responds to Jesus’ patience by saying, “My Lord and my God!” In doing so, Thomas is enveloped by Divine Mercy. He sees God’s mercy before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ’s hands and feet and in His open side. In those wounds, Thomas discovers trust. To meet Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is an experience that changes our understanding of God, for Christ reveals both the full truth about our humanity and the face of the merciful Father, who can and does bring life out of death. God's mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones.

The Lord desires to pour out his Merciful Love to all of us, but so many just do not want to receive it, just like the young man’s supervisor I mentioned at the beginning of the homily. Jesus told St. Faustina how souls wound his heart by ingratitude, distrust of his goodness, and despise his graces. We can console Jesus by asking to receive his mercy that other souls rejected. We do this when we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Notice what we are asking of the Heavenly Father, “For the sake of His (Jesus’) sorrow passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” By asking to receive the rejected mercy, we are giving a second chance to those who reject God’s mercy and love. In turn, we allow our hearts to be healed of indifference toward the pain and suffering of our neighbor; in short, we allow Jesus to make our hearts more like his.

Pope Francis, encourages us, “Let us be renewed by God's mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.”
-Fr. Paul Yi

Saturday, April 2, 2016

April 1, 2016: Easter Friday

April 1, 2016: Easter Friday

The future is not in our hands. We have no power over it. We can act only today. We have a sentence in our Constitution that says : ‘We will allow the good God to make plans for the future —for yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come and we have only today to make Him known, loved and served.’ So we do not worry about the future.
-Mother Teresa