Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 26, 2016: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

June 26, 2016: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Click to hear audio homily
In one Korean TV drama, a newlywed wife tearfully barged into her parent’s home with a suitcase of her belongings. When her parents asked why she was here, their daughter explained that she and her husband argued for the first time. Did he hit you, they asked. ‘No.’ Did he use vulgar language, they asked. ‘No.’ Her dad then proceeded to grab her suitcase and put it outside the house. “Go back! You can’t stay here. How are you going to spend the rest of your married life together if you can’t work out one single argument? ”  With that, she was shown the door. Was her dad unsympathetic and cold, or was he trying to teach her a lesson? The daughter made a commitment to marriage--fidelity and perseverance through good times and bad, sickness and health--in front of her family and numerous invited guests. It could be said that this young lady put her hand on the plow and looked back. She had lost sight of her commitment and was going to give up on her marriage because of one argument with her husband.

Mother Teresa used to say something similar to the young women who just joined her order. She was pleased to receive new novices as long as they met her strict requirements. They had to live without income, personal possessions, or relationships outside the order. All that they had was to be given to God and to the poor. She expected her nuns to serve the poor willingly and happily and always with a smile. "If you don't have the zeal to help the poor, to take good care of the lepers, then [you] should pack up and go home," Mother Teresa told a group of novices. "No need to stay."

Jesus makes it very clear in today’s Gospel that he welcomes and invites disciples, but once they commit to follow him, they are to resolutely follow him to Jerusalem and the cross.  Jesus does not hide the difficulties ahead for his disciples. To those who want to follow him, Jesus points out that the way he is going holds no glamour. Those who hesitate, Jesus rejects. The only disciples worthy of following Jesus are those who put their hand to God’s plow and do not look back. Just as Mother Teresa cautioned new novices about the cost of serving the poor, Jesus makes it clear that to make a commitment to follow him will involve sacrifice and suffering. To shy away from a commitment at the first sign of suffering is to miss out on the growth that God has planned for the disciple.

Our sugar cane farmers are familiar with plowing fields; these days, the straight lines are achieved with precision GPS guidance system on tractors. A real-life plow most of us may be familiar with is a push lawn mower. We know from experience that we can only cut a straight line in the grass if we keep our focus on what we are doing.  In our daily life, the glamours of the world may attempt to pull us away from our true calling, but St. Paul reminds us to focus on serving God and our neighbor. Our GPS system for making a straight line in life must be nourished daily by the Word of God, contemplative prayer, and communion with Jesus in the Eucharist, for Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. How would our life look if we did not have a relationship with God and not follow God’s will for our lives? Would it be a world of self-centeredness? Do you know of someone who could improve his relationship with God to redirect his life?

During this week, let us ponder what fields we are plowing now. Do we feel tempted to look back or leave it and go elsewhere? What adjustment do we need to make today in order to plow a straight line?

-Fr. Paul Yi

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

June 21, 2016 Tuesday: St. Aloysius Gonzaga

June 21, 2016 Tuesday: St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Entering the Kingdom
Why is it so hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God?

On retreat earlier this month, I learned a possible answer: Jesus can save all of us — and he wants to — but we have to let him. Often we try to save ourselves with our money, our talents, or our hard work. We begin to think we don’t need God. So, our retreat leader asked, “Are we poor enough to let Christ save us?”

St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into a royal family; he renounced his inheritance and became a Jesuit. Six years later he died caring for plague victims. He could say, with Peter, “We have given up everything and followed you.” He could also affirm, with Peter, that his decision brought both persecutions and rewards.

On this feast day, let us ask ourselves: Are we poor enough to let Christ work in our lives?

—Daniel Everson, S.J.

O Holy Mary, my mother, into your blessed trust and custody, and into the care of your mercy,
I this day, every day, and in the hour of my death, commend my soul and body.
To you I commit all my anxieties and miseries, my life and end of my life.
By your most holy intercession and by your merits may all my actions
be directed and disposed according to your will and that of your Son. Amen.

—St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

June 19, 2016: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time C - Father’s Day

June 19, 2016: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time C - Father’s Day

Click to hear Audio Homily
A father of a five children came home with a new toy. He asked his children which of them should be given the present. “I’ll give this toy to the one who is the most obedient here. Who here never talks back to mom and does everything that mom says to do.” The children paused and answered back in unison, “You play with the toy daddy!” As one recently deceased man whom I knew well told me, “Father, can I tell you the secret to a happy marriage that I learned from my dad? He told me, ‘As long as your mom is happy, the whole family is happy.’ I try my best to make my wife happy.” On this Father’s Day, we remember and honor dads, grandfathers, uncles, and all the men, living and deceased, who tirelessly and selflessly gave of themselves for their spouse and families with unconditional love.

What does your father mean to you? (Both living and deceased) What is the one thing you are proud about your father? A father of seven children was asked, “What are you most proud of?” He thought for awhile and then replied, “my weaknesses.” He explained that he made many mistakes in his life, and yet he realized that those were opportunities for growth. His faith in Jesus taught him that Heavenly Father loved him in his weakness. In his humility he realized what St. Paul wrote in the letter to the Corinthians, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)

Who am I for you? It’s another way to express the question that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” In today’s gospel, Jesus spent the night in solitude in prayer to his Father. Who is Father to Jesus? For Jesus, his Father meant everything to him. He loved his Father with love like no human son can love. And the expression of that love was Jesus’ resolute determination to fulfill his Father’s will, through the passion and sacrifice on the cross. Jesus’ greatest desire for us is that we too love his Father like he did. The more we know about the Father, the more we will love Him. Jesus came to reveal who our Father is like. And Jesus revealed that the Father loved all of us so much that He gave us His only Son. To love the Father, Jesus said was to follow the narrow path of daily sacrifice of carrying our cross. Who is Heavenly Father for you? Do you know Him? Do you love Him? Do you love Him enough to listen to Him who speaks through His Son Jesus?

Jesus also asks of all of us, “Who am I for you?” Who is Jesus for us? We may respond to him as Peter did just as we learned in the religion class: you are the Son of the living God, you are the Redeemer, you are the Lord! Yet what we have learned and studied in the religion class does not suffice. How much of what we know of Jesus is truly our conviction and faith? We see that although Peter answers Jesus correctly, Peter is rebuked when he shows displeasure of the path of suffering that Jesus is revealing. Only when Peter failed Jesus by denying and betraying him, Peter comes to realize who Jesus is for him. Later Peter realizes on the shores of Galilee walking with Risen Jesus, how much Jesus loves him in his weakness.

Peter’s weakness is found in all of us. Not a day goes by when we let down our loved ones and especially Jesus through our failure to love. But God does not leave us in our misery. Like a compassionate father, He gently corrects us, forgives us, and binds our wounds. He also provides for us St. Joseph as a model of an exemplary father and a tireless intercessor who assists us daily. How many of us say a regular prayer to St. Joseph? On the door leading to the garage of our rectory at St. Francis is a relief of St. Joseph. As I exit the door, I briefly touch St. Joseph and pray, “St. Joseph, please guide me this day as my spiritual father.”

Saint Joseph experienced the same difficulties in life we all do, yet he lived an exemplary life and established an ideal that is well-worth emulating, especially for all men. For St. Joseph, doing God’s will was paramount; God always came first. Each time God told him to do something, Joseph’s response was immediate and he would carry out the task at hand the way God wanted it done. He faithfully and tenderly loved, protected and provided for the Child Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Saint Joseph certainly set the bar high for modern-day fathers, yet, by his very example, Joseph solidly demonstrates that it is quite possible to follow his example to be a righteous man by listening to, trusting in and obeying God’s word.

Likewise, earthly fathers are called to teach his children by example to cultivate a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father through prayer, to live their lives according to God’s word and guide them firmly along the path to Heaven. An earthly father is called to be a source of strength and support for his spouse and the whole family.

So, today, on this Father's Day, I ask all fathers to take a minute and thank God for their vocation and for the gift of family and children. We cannot look back and redo mistakes we have made, but like Peter, we can resolve again to serve the Heavenly Father. We ask Heavenly Father for the grace for our fathers to be ever closer to his children and wife. As St. Joseph was for Jesus, be the example and teacher of the wisdom that is nourished by the Word of God.

Blessing for the Fathers
Through the intercession of St. Joseph,  may you be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
May you be granted most especially fortitude, and the wisdom to allow God to mold you into the father and husband he has created you to be.  May you walk in the humble path of St. Joseph and guide your family always in the ways of our Lord.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June 15, 2016 Wednesday: 11th Week in Ordinary Time

June 15, 2016 Wednesday: 11th Week in Ordinary Time

Growing in Inner Silence

Silence is an essential component of the spiritual life, yet many complain they can’t experience it either inwardly or outwardly. There’s little we can do to change our noise-polluted world, but can we develop interior silence? The increased noise levels of modern life are inevitable, but what we hear around us should not camouflage our restless spirits or distract us from the sense of alienation that accompanies accelerated change. Living with the roar of buses and subways, drills ripping up concrete, fire and police sirens, unwanted background music, and information overload has brought us to an acute awareness of noise pollution. To cope with this cacophony, we need to set aside times of intentional quiet. Silence is not only an essential component of the spiritual life we must preserve if we want to welcome God’s word; it is that which preserves us.

What is silence? To be silent is not merely to be mute. Spiritual silence is an emptying of self to make room for God. Ultimately it is only silence that can open us to a deeper experience of God.

How do we achieve this state of silence? It is a matter of patiently letting go of our controlling, ego-ridden, manipulating selves. Willful forcing only causes more tension. Most of us have spent a lifetime focusing so intently on our projects that we can’t expect to break their grip on our souls in an instant. We are like a westerner trying to learn the art of archery from a Zen master while not being able to relinquish his desire to hit the bull’s-eye.

With perseverance and God’s grace, our silence will lead us to that solitude which Franz Kafka wrote about in The Great Wall of China:
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

At this point of emptiness we can turn to God, who is waiting for us in the silence. This still point is found only in surrender, in daily dying, in letting go of our ego projects as ultimate. At the center of this solitude, we may experience a oneness with the mystery in and around us.

Each time we retreat to a corner of silence in our project-oriented world, each time we practice surrender, we put ourselves in a state of peaceful readiness. We become docile.

As we learn to cultivate these pockets of silence throughout our busy lives, we might slowly discover that action and practice are themselves being transformed into pathways of prayer. The words of Christ to the Samaritan woman come to mind in this regard:
Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him (John 4: 21-23).

Since body and soul form a unity, we can’t expect to acquire inner silence without at least some discipline of outer silence. Exterior silence is meant to be at the service of interior stilling. However, it isn’t wise to rely totally on external structures to enforce silence; it is the inner motivation that urges us to seek the “still point” of our soul. What happens outside us affects what happens within. In this sense outer silence lends itself to interior quieting. Similarly, inward changes manifest themselves outwardly. In other words, the deeper our presence to the Divine, the more it affects the spiritual quality of our outer activity.

The best way to offset noise pollution is to cultivate an atmosphere of silence: outer so that I can recollect myself before God and inner so I can listen and respond to his word.

By Susan Muto and Adrian van Kaam
Am I Living a Spiritual Life? Questions and Answers for Those Who Pray

Monday, June 13, 2016

June 13, 2016 Monday: St. Anthony of Padua

June 13, 2016 Monday: St. Anthony of Padua

"St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around...please come around. Something is lost which cannot be found!"

(Photo: A faithful praying before the incorrupt tongue of St. Anthony of Padua)

So goes a little prayer intoned by many of the faithful when searching for their keys, a piece of jewelry or any lost object. St. Anthony of Padua is a much-loved saint and one of the most famous contemporaries of St. Francis of Assisi. He was born near the Cathedral of Lisbon in 1195, raised by devout parents and joined the Augustinians when he was 15 years old.

He studied and prayed in the Augustinian abbey for many years, but when he was 24, five Franciscan friars passed through on their way to Morocco. St. Anthony met them and was greatly impressed by their desire to serve God in dangerous territory. When they were martyred and their mutilated bodies brought back to Lisbon, he was so moved that he requested permission to join the Franciscans, and did so in 1220.

St. Anthony of PaduaHe wanted to follow them and also go to Morocco, but he became very ill and was sent home. God had plans which the young Anthony didn't know about, and his ship ended up in Sicily. From there he traveled to Assisi where he was assigned to a hermitage near Forli. He kept largely to himself and did menial jobs in the kitchen, living a quiet life of prayer and service.

One day he attended an ordination of Dominican and Franciscan friars, where mistakenly no one had planned a homily. Although Dominicans were known for their oratory skills, they deferred to their hosts when asked to preach and Anthony was asked to read the Gospel and speak a few words. He stood up and began to preach, quietly at first but soon became on fire, almost as if he had experienced his own personal Pentecost! The Dominicans and his own friars were so amazed that they reported back to St. Francis of Assisi himself, who sent a letter asking Father Anthony to teach theology to the brothers, provided, that as the Rule prescribes, the spirit of prayer and devotion may not be extinguished. Humble and obedient, St. Anthony became a distinguished teacher and preacher.

Although he was small in stature he had a loud, clear voice and a strong grasp of Franciscan spirituality. One of the most well-known miracles attributed to him was that he preached to the fish in a river near Padua, who rose out of the water and listened to him. He was also found by a man, whose house he spent the night in, holding in his arms the Child Jesus, unspeakably beautiful and surrounded with heavenly light.

St. Anthony of Padua died at the young age of 36. It is said that the children all cried and angels rang the church bells. The miracles attributed to St. Anthony continued through the centuries, so much so that he became known as the Wonder Worker, and his popularity as a saint of the people endures to this day.

St. Anthony wrote in one of his sermons:
"The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ. What a beautiful thought! All of us can be like that - beautiful stars who shine when Christ calls on us, not for ourselves but for His glory. If we take the time to open ourselves to the things of God through prayer and contemplation, we will be ready when He calls us to do some work of mercy. And yes, everyone is capable of this! Why not get up a little earlier to start your day with scripture, use your lunch hour to read something uplifting, pray as you prepare dinner. In small ways open yourself to Christ, and He will open your heart!

It is said that St. Anthony went to preach to the fish because the people whom he tried to bring his message to wouldn't listen to him. He was not deterred from his mission by uncooperative circumstances! When we find ourselves beset by problems, can we be as creative? Asking the Holy Spirit to increase our gift of fortitude can help us to keep trying in situations where we may normally have given up. When you have to overcome adversities in your life, remember St. Anthony preaching to the fish!


Friday, June 10, 2016

June 10, 2016 Friday: Blessed Anna Maria Taigi

June 10, 2016 Friday: Blessed Anna Maria Taigi

Desires/Appetites that Blind Us

Matthew 5:27-32
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

We all have our fatal attractions. No matter how often we are burnt by fire, it seems that we are powerless to stay away from the source of our misery . And against our better judgment, we are drawn back over and over again. You would think that we would learn from our mistakes. St. John of the Cross tells us that desire “dulls” the memory (A.1.8.2); that is, in the heat of the moment, we can recall the painful consequences of past choices, but those memories have no more force than that of a vague idea. Our inordinate appetites encapsulate us in the present moment so that we ignore the painful lessons of the past and become heedless of future danger.

The Fisherman’s Lure (A.1.8.3)
“Those who feed on their appetites are like a fish dazzled by a light that so darkens it that the fisherman’s lure cannot be seen” (A.1.8.3). The psychological and spiritual dynamics of blindness contained in this image are similar to those that we discussed in our previous reflection, namely, that the pursuit of our inordinate appetites darkens the intellect , weakens the will , and dulls the memory (A.1.8.2). However, this image contains an added dimension: it is only after the bait has been swallowed that our eyes are opened. This is because “these evils do not unmask themselves at the moment the appetite is being satisfied, since the pleasure of the moment is an obstacle to this. Yet sooner or later the harmful effects will certainly be felt” (A.1.12.5; italics added).

At other times, it is only long after we have indulged our inordinate appetites that we recognize their harmful effects. In this regard, St. Augustine , writing of greed for temporal goods, says the following: “Such delight, however, is blindness and utter misery , for it ensnares the soul all the more and leads it on to worse afflictions. The fish is delighted, too, when, failing to notice the hook, it devours the bait. But, when the fisherman begins to draw his line, first the fish’s inner parts are dislocated; after that it is dragged to its destruction, away from all the pleasure that its joy in the bait had brought it. So it is with all who imagine they are happy with temporal goods. They have swallowed the hook and wander aimlessly about with it. The time will come for them to experience how much anguish they have devoured in their greediness.” 12 We all know the truth contained in Augustine’s image. Often in life, it is only long after we have indulged our inordinate appetites that their destructive effects become manifest.

For Reflection
We all have our fatal attractions. What do I believe God is instructing me to do in order to protect myself against them? Do I have a desire that makes me pursue something with a savage intensity that overwhelms me with guilt and shame the moment it is satisfied? Have I ever awakened to the harmful consequences that an inordinate habit has had on my life over time? Have I ever considered that this realization is God’s merciful invitation to change?

Fr. Marc Foley, OCD
The ascent of Mount Carmel : reflections

Thursday, June 9, 2016

June 9, 2016 Thursday: St. Epherem

June 9, 2016 Thursday: St. Epherem

How to deal with difficult times

Jesus told St. Faustina:

My daughter, I want to teach you about spiritual warfare. Never trust in yourself, but abandon yourself totally to My will. In desolation, darkness and various doubts, have recourse to Me and to your spiritual director. He will always answer you in My name. Do not bargain with any temptation; lock yourself immediately in My Heart and, at the first opportunity, reveal the temptation to the confessor. Put your self-love in the last place, so that it does not taint your deeds. Bear with yourself with great patience. Do not neglect interior mortifications. Always justify to yourself the opinions of your superiors and of your confessor. Shun murmurs like a plague. Let all act as they like; you are to act as I want you to....If someone causes you trouble, think what good you can do for the person who caused you to suffer. Do not pour out your feelings. Be silent when you are rebuked. Do not ask everyone's opinion, but only the opinion of your confessor; be as frank and simple as a child with him. Do not become discouraged by ingratitude. Do not examine with curiosity the roads down which I lead you. When boredom and discouragement beat against your heart, run away from yourself and hide in My heart. Do not fear struggle; courage itself often intimidates temptations, and they dare not attack us. Always fight with the deep conviction that I am with you. Do not be guided by feeling, because it is not always under your control; but all merit lies in the will. Always depend upon your superiors, even in the smallest things. I will not delude you with prospects of peace and consolations; on the contrary prepare for great battles. Know that you are now on a great stage where all heaven and earth are watching you. Fight like a knight, so that I can reward you. Do not be unduly fearful, because you are not alone (1760).

Friday, June 3, 2016

June 3, 2016 Friday: Solemnity of Sacred Heart of Jesus

June 3, 2016 Friday: Solemnity of Sacred Heart of Jesus

June, traditionally, is dedicated in our Catholic calendar to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi is the Feast of the Sacred Heart, always in June. Since childhood, I've had a strong devotion to Jesus under this title.

The heart symbolizes love, mercy, tenderness, compassion. Our God has a heart! His Sacred Heart is literally on fire with those noble sentiments, and I find that very consoling.

Here is a very practical ways to bond with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The morning offering. Easy but profound: early each day, right after getting out of bed, dedicate the day to Jesus, and unite all your prayers, works, words, thoughts and trials to His Sacred Heart.

Here's what I have prayed every morning since I made my first Communion:

All for Thee, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee!

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in your love for me!

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy Kingdom come!

My Dad, the first to admit he was far from a saint, had that morning offering taped to the mirror on the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. I guess he prayed it while he shaved.

Try it—you won't regret it.

By Cardinal Timothy Dolan