Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 31, 2016: 18th Sunday Ordinary Time C

July 31, 2016: 18th Sunday Ordinary Time C 

This past week and a half, I was in Seoul, South Korea to baptize and give last sacraments to my 95-year old uncle. He’s been through many challenges in his life, including the Korean War, poverty, and cancer. Now he is in a nursing care facility for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. His long-term memory is good; he recognized me and knew that I had traveled from the United States. He complained that my aunt isn’t visiting him often. Unfortunately, his short-term memory is fading and he doesn’t recall that she visits him every morning. He seemed immensely joyful and grateful. He repeatedly said to his wife, “I’m going to miss you. I’m sad that I have to leave you, but I’m grateful to you for being my faithful wife. I’m so grateful.” In fact, he told every person who visited him how grateful he was for their kindness for visiting him. For most of us, we would find nothing joyful about living in this nursing facility.  He shares a room with nine patients and he’s not allowed to have any personal items. Even his pajamas are provided by the facility. In a sense, he is poor regarding earthly possessions but rich in friendships and love.  

On the flight back from Korea, I was reflecting on what I possess and what my uncle possesses right now. Do I live a life poor regarding earthly possessions but rich in friendship and love? In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us about our attachment to desiring wealth and security. A man implores Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance, hoping perhaps this respectable teacher would force his brother to give him his fare share. Jesus uses the occasion as a teachable moment to warn his disciples against covetousness, against desiring wealth, against our desire to obtain more and more and more.

Jesus says to the disciples, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” He is trying to teach us about the real meaning of life. He knows that we are inclined to preoccupy ourselves in acquiring possessions to the extent that we identify the happiness or sadness of our lives with how many things or how much money we possess. One of the dangers of wealth is to succumb to the illusion that we don’t need God, that we are self sufficient, that we can take care of ourselves without deference to the one who gave us life and numbered our days on earth. ‘Owning’ or ‘possessing’ material items is not the issue, but when the items become no longer a means to love God but an end in itself, then the ‘possessing’ is idolatry.

While in Korea, I left my iPhone in a taxi. When I returned home, I activated an old iPhone I had kept after I had upgraded to a newer version last year. As I started using the older phone, I was thinking to myself, “It’s a bit slow, but it still works fine. Why did I get a new one last year?” There is simple answer to my question: it’s unchecked consumerism. Many of us replace items before the usefulness has ended; we do so because we can. In many ways the desire to upgrade and buy new items is reflected in how our culture is blind to what’s really happening in the world. Our eyes are closed to a hurting world--a world that does not value all life; a world that will destroy the most vulnerable lives; a world where children go hungry; a world where lifelong commitments are replaceable; a world where someone different from us is inferior; a world where we are self-centered.

How do we go about opening our eyes and committing to help change this troubled world? We do this by loving Our Lord, recalling in prayer his life, death, and resurrection. We are challenged to turn to Our Lord’s Sacred Heart and follow His way to rebuild and transform hearts left barren, dry, and cracked by self-centeredness. Some criticize that prayer alone is idealistic, impractical, and will not effect change. No matter what challenge we face in life, we must begin with prayer to allow us to look at the situation in light of the gospel values. From prayer we receive the grace to conform our hearts to be Christ-like. Once our hearts are filled with love, our eyes will see the hurting world, and we will work to cultivate a world of peace.

Let us not get distracted with any material things or possessions. May we focus on God's greatest gift to us, the gift of His Son, and live out our lives committed to fulfilling Jesus’ mission of love and mercy.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Monday, July 18, 2016

Q: What Should I Do When Violence Surrounds Me?

Q: What Should I Do When Violence Surrounds Me?

-By Rev. George W. Kosicki, C.S.B.

In His conversations with Saint Faustina, the Lord emphasized the connection between Himself, who is mercy itself, and finding peace. This peace which comes from trusting God's mercy is not just for individuals, but also for nations and the whole world. The path to peace is not in summit meetings, nor in stockpiling arms, nor in acquiring more material goods. The path to peace is found only in God's mercy. The Lord told Saint Faustina:

"Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy" (Diary, 300).

"Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace" (Diary, 1074). 

We all need to know how to pray for God's mercy on the whole world.

Our world is caught in a spiral of hatred and violence. It seems we are in a vortex, being pulled deeper and deeper into self-destruction. We must act decisively to bring peace and mercy. We can do it by calling on Our Merciful Lord. 

St. John Paul II spoke directly about the spiral of violence immediately after celebrating Holy Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday (April 23, 1995):

Dear brothers and sisters. We must personally experience [the tenderhearted mercy of the Father] if in turn we want to be capable of mercy. Let us learn to forgive! The spiral of hatred and violence which stains with blood the path of so many individuals and nations can only be broken by the miracle of forgiveness. 

Repeatedly John Paul II has called for Divine Mercy in order to forgive. Mercy, he says, is the only solution for peace. Governments must halt the violence of terrorism, but more violence is not the permanent solution for peace.

You who have experienced God's mercy and are at peace will radiate mercy to others. You can plead for mercy on the whole world. But there is more! You can encourage those who are without hope or trust in God to turn to the merciful God. You can be apostles of Divine Mercy to those who are trapped in fear. 

The present situation worldwide is so serious, so vast, so beyond our human power that we need salvation by the sovereign act of God's mercy to break the evil and violence of the destructive spiral.

St. John Paul II proclaimed a “Manifesto of Mercy” on November 30, 1980, when he published his second encyclical Rich in Mercy. 

With a prophetic sense, he made clear that mankind must turn to God's mercy as the only source of peace. He described mercy as the presence of love which is greater than death. He summoned the Church to plead for God's mercy on the whole world. Since then he has continued his strong call for mercy. It could be called a cornerstone of his pontificate. “Where, if not in Divine Mercy, can the world find refuge and the light of hope?” he said at the Beatification of Saint Faustina on April 18, 1993. 

On Mercy Sunday, April 13, 1994, he said: “As people of this restless time of ours, wavering between the emptiness of self-exaltation and the humiliation of despair, we have a greater need than ever for a regenerating experience of mercy.”

St. John Paul II has testified how he personally prays and how he has himself served as a minister of Divine Mercy. At the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Poland on June 7, 1997, he said:

I pray unceasingly that God will have mercy on us and on the whole world (Chaplet of Divine Mercy). 

Also, in the conclusion of his encyclical, Rich in Mercy, he wrote his prayer for mercy on the whole world: 

We lift up our voice and plead that the love which is in the Father ... may be shown to be present in our modern world and be shown to the more powerful than evil, more powerful than sin and death.” 

The Divine Mercy Chaplet itself can be summed up as a simple prayer: “Jesus, Mercy!” 

The prayer, “Jesus, Mercy” can take on several levels of meaning when we pray it sincerely and from the heart. We are saying: 

•Jesus, You are mercy itself (it is a prayer of praise) 
•Jesus, have mercy on us (it is a cry of repentance) 
•Jesus, give us grace and mercy (it is a petition for help).

So be an apostle of Divine Mercy. 
You who know God's mercy can and must do something to break the spiral of violence in the world. There is a three-step action plan that works: 

 1. Form a deep desire to break the spiral of violence; 
2. Confess to God that man cannot do it because he is inadequate and incapable; 
3. Ask God for His grace and mercy on the whole world. Plead in confidence with your whole heart and strength for His mercy which enables us to forgive — and so enables us to pray the Lord's prayer.  

By living with trust in His Divine Mercy and pleading for His mercy on the whole world, you will be “holy ministers of Divine Mercy” (John Paul II, April 21, 2002).

-By Rev. George W. Kosicki, C.S.B.
Divine Mercy Answers Life's Crises and Problems 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tragic shooting of Police Officers in Baton Rouge

Tragic shooting of Police Officers in Baton Rouge
On this Lord's Day, we are shaken by an unspeakable act of violence against police officers in Baton Rouge. As most of us came out of Sunday services and learned of this tragedy, we could not help but feel frustrated and saddened by continued violence.
Let us offer prayers for the deceased souls, families of deceased, and for fellow sheriff and police officers. We place our confidence in Our Lord who offered his life to bring peace to our world.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
The fruit of Silence is prayer. The fruit of Prayer is faith. The fruit of Faith is love. The fruit of Love is service. The fruit of Service is peace.
(Mother Teresa)
-Fr. Paul Yi

July 17, 2016: 16th Sunday Ordinary C

July 17, 2016: 16th Sunday Ordinary C

This week I was asked by someone what she could concretely do to help with the recent events in our Baton Rouge community. Many of us have seen on TV this week, violence, confrontation, accusations, and death. It has also been a remarkable week of charity, peacemaking, engagement and hope. Many of us may have been pondering about issues such as racial relationships, civic responsibility, the role of police and their most difficult duties. Difficult but necessary conversations have been held around churches and in our homes; fervent prayers have been offered for peace and reconciliation. The question may remain, “Now, what should I do?” Jesus’ wisdom shared with Martha and Mary in today’s gospel may guide us in what our next action should be.

Mary and Martha showed us two sides of a coin--Mary’s desire to be in the presence of Jesus and Martha’s desire to act in response for Jesus. In reflecting on Martha and Mary, Pope Francis said, “In our Christian life, dear brothers and sisters, may prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother — the poor, the sick, those in need of help, a brother in difficulty — is a sterile and incomplete prayer.” Holy Father also cautioned that service performed without taking the time for dialogue with God in prayer risks serving itself rather than God who is present in the brother in need. He said it is important to understand that the two attitudes, listening to the word of the Lord in contemplation and practical service to others, are essential aspects to our Christian life that should never be separated, but lived in profound unity and harmony.

The time for the Church to collaboratively work on aspects on racial and civic relationship problems that exist in the City of Baton Rouge and within the Diocese will come soon. Yet, before we collaborate on racial and civic issues, we must take time to get our own spiritual houses in right order. To this end, Bishop Muench has asked all Catholics of this diocese to pray, fast, and reflect during this coming week (July 16-24). Bishop Muench is asking us to ponder Psalm 139 which says that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image and likeness of a loving, forgiving and merciful God. Please consider these two questions in your prayerful reflection this week.

1. What does it mean to you that we are all made in the image and likeness of God?
2. How can you acknowledge this great truth in your words and actions toward those whom you perceive as “different” from you?

This is time for us to depend on God’s grace and mercy, for we are not the source of all answers. May this time spent with Jesus lead us to a new place of understanding and reconciliation.

Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July 10, 2016: 15th Sunday Ordinary C

July 10, 2016: 15th Sunday Ordinary C

Click to hear Audio Homily

I don’t know about you, but I spent these past few days glued to the news on TV. As many of us in the nation watched images of incidents of violence and displays of profound emotions, we cannot help but wonder, “What can we do? How do we keep hope alive in the midst of so much darkness? How can we believe that we can move toward peace in the face of such violence and division?” Obtaining peace requires us to first turn to God, ask His grace to transform our minds and hearts, and work to overcome our indifference.

In the beginning of this year, on the World Day of Peace, Pope Francis delivered a prophetic message to all of us. He proclaimed, “God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind! God does not abandon us!” Pope then challenged all of us to look at our own selves if there were attitudes of indifference. He said, "Some people prefer not to ask questions or seek answers; they lead lives of comfort, deaf to the cry of those who suffer. Almost imperceptibly, we grow incapable of feeling compassion for others and for their problems; we have no interest in caring for them, as if their troubles were their own responsibility, and none of our business."  Many believe the enemy of peace is war, but Pope Francis said that "indifference makes one think only of oneself and creates barriers, suspicions, fears and closure." He then asked people to open their hearts to those who are in need, as "This is the way to win peace." He explained peace must be "cultivated" and "won." To do so, one must go through a "spiritual struggle that starts within our hearts."

In the gestures and actions of the Good Samaritan, we recognize God’s merciful action and compassion. God himself is the model of the Good Samaritan. Through this parable, we come to understand that God does not ignore us, He knows our sorrows; He knows how much we need help and consolation; He comes close to us and never abandons us. Each of us should ask ourselves, “Do I believe that the Lord has compassion for me just as I am, a sinner with so many weakness and problems?” If we firmly believe in God’s compassion for us, then we must heed Jesus’ command, “Go and do likewise.”  And by imitating his love and compassion, we show ourselves to be his followers. It is not easy to be followers of Jesus. His command for us to love God and neighbor entails caring for others even to the point of personal sacrifice. We cannot standby as onlookers when we see so many people worn out by hunger, violence, and injustice,

Today in solidarity with the communities of Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas, we pray for the eternal rest of those killed, for the consolation of their families and friends; and, at the same time, for peace. We ask God for the courage to actively work for peace in our country. We must ask ourselves, “How do I contribute to peace in this world? How to I contribute to violence and racism? How must I be changed?” As Dorothy Day said, "The greatest challenge is how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.” We earnestly pray as St. Francis of Assisi did, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mass for Peace and Healing of Divisions, Tuesday, July 12, 6PM at St.Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church, Donaldsonville

Fr. Desmond Ohankwere of St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church and Fr. Paul Yi of Ascension/ St. Francis Churches plan to offer a mass for peace and healing of divisions
Tuesday, July 12, 6PM at St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church
421 St. Patrick Street, Donaldsonville, LA 70346

We invite people of faith in our area to pray for peace and healing of divisions. As people of faith, we turn to the Lord in challenging times, seeking not only his consolation and healing but also his wisdom and guidance. In the midst of anger, fear and frustration, we need to come together as God’s family to pray that God’s grace might unite all people of good will and bring light into the darkness of this difficult time. In its simplicity and familiarity, the Mass will allow us to ask the Lord not only to console families who have lost their loved ones, but also to heal the divisions in our community, to guide our public servants in their pursuit of the common good, and to satisfy the longings of those who thirst for justice and peace.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

July 3, 2016: 14th Sunday Ordinary C

July 3, 2016: 14th Sunday Ordinary C

Click to hear Audio Homily
We have all heard the saying, “You get what you pay for.” If you didn’t pay much money for something, it is probably of poor quality. There is a store in Donaldsonville where that principle doesn’t seem to apply. The store sells name brand items that once cost $25, $50, $100 or more, but now their resale price is 25 cents, 50 cents, or 1 dollar. Whether you spend one dollar or 25 dollars at the store, you get a friendly smile and service from the employees. Customers are greeted with, “Good morning! What are you looking for? How can we help you today?” Sometimes when a customer says, “I don’t have a dollar to buy these items,” an employee will take a dollar out of her purse and purchase it for the customer. When a customer says she is going through a bad time, an employee will hold her hand and pray with her. What’s amazing about this store is that none of the employees are paid. Yet the employees give way more than what’s required of them. People shopping at our Daughters of Charity Thrift Store on St. Vincent Street find more than clothing and household items at a low price. They receive as a bonus the love and compassion of our volunteers from Ascension and St. Francis Churches. Our volunteers are truly disciples of Jesus who bear the peace, healing, and good news of salvation to others. They do their work not for personal gain or honor, but they are simply loving Jesus who comes to them in the disguise of the poor.

Who is a disciple of Jesus, and how does one become a disciple? Does one have to be officially appointed like the seventy-two who were chosen and sent by Jesus? Does one have to preach sermons and drive out demons in order to be a disciple? This line of thinking may lull us into believing that reaping the harvest of Our Lord belongs to a chosen few such as priests, nuns, and missionaries. However, the disciples Jesus chose were not well educated, extraordinary, talented men and women of that time but ordinary men and women who had family and jobs. Even before we were born, we were already chosen to be disciples of Jesus.  Let us not confuse membership with discipleship. When we think of ourselves as a member of a group, we think in terms of rights, privileges, and entitlements. As someone said that in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.

What is the difference between discipleship and membership? A member is often asked to simply maintain the minimum requirement to belong to the group such as to pay dues and attend meetings. In contrast a disciple of Jesus is a spiritual apprentice, a work-in-progress, learning a new way of living and being in the kingdom of God.

With our baptism, the transformation by the Holy Spirit began in us; however, being transformed by the Spirit is not a one-time event in our life. We must have the desire to become a better disciple, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through our lives. God nourishes us throughout our lives with His Presence, His Word and Sacraments to transform our hearts to be more like His Son. With each mistake we make, we forge a new commitment through repentance and forgiveness.

As a disciple, we do not desire for worldly attention and praise. St. Paul puts it directly in our Second Reading, “Brothers and sisters: may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No matter what we accomplish, all glory belongs to God. He must increase, and we must decrease. The moment we start to toot our horns, grace received from God disappears like water leaking through the sieve of our cupped hands.

The most important act of the will Jesus asks of a disciple is trust. Despite being aware of our littleness, he asks us to trust that he will provide the grace and strength necessary to overcome difficulties and to accomplish His mission for each of us. One thrift store volunteer told me how difficult it was for her to overcome the death her husband. One day in church, she felt the desire to give of herself to the poor by volunteering at the thrift store. Although she felt her grief made her hesitant, she trusted her inner inspiration. Everyday she began the day with the wisdom of St. Francis which reads, “Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received--only what you have given.” Then she ended her prayer with, “Jesus, I trust in You!” This routine gave her the ‘shot-in-the-arm’ necessary to serve Jesus as a willing disciple.

As a disciple of the Lord, we know that we are assured of God’s deep love, and we understand that His love calls us beyond ourselves. Everyday Jesus simply asks us to share with others what we have received from him. He is not asking us to do something extraordinary. Our mission from Jesus for today can be as simple as the simple gestures of kindness that our thrift store volunteers extend to the folks visiting the store. Our Lord will be immensely pleased when we serve Him and others with a desire to be transformed, with humility, and with trust.

-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016 Friday: St. Junipero Serra

July 1, 2016 Friday: St. Junipero Serra

Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matt 9:13)

A near-death account of a man who died and went to Heaven and came back

Jesus looked at me, and His expression was so excited and joyful. He placed his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘I want you to see what I have prepared for you from the moment you were created.’” Simon broke down and sobbed, and leaning forward, he wrapped his hands over his face and wept. After a minute or so, he straightened up and wiped his eyes. “Had I any idea what was waiting for me, and how much my Lord truly loved me”—he looked up and pointed his finger at me—“I never would have let you people bring me back!”

After a long time of silent tears, and a few more tissues, he lifted his head and went on. “We were standing before a huge structure similar to our buildings, but not made from stone or brick because you could see through it. It was incredibly beautiful and shone as bright as the sun. This . . . this was my mansion!” (Then Simon quoted the biblical passage in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house, there are many mansions . . .” and Matthew 6:20–21, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal . . .”) “But as I stood in front of it and looked into this immense structure, it was revealed to me that my life was the architect and the source of its construction and design. Everything that I had done during my life that was good, kind, and directed toward the good of another human being, it was all there. Every bowl of soup, every piece of bread, every blanket or an encouraging word, every tender gesture done for the love of God built and engineered it all. He rewarded to the n th degree every single thing I had done here on earth that pleased Him. I didn’t deserve any of it, to be brutally honest, but His generosity magnified my feeble efforts on earth to such a degree that I was awestruck standing before such incredible magnificence. It was beyond anything any mortal mind could remotely comprehend, and it was specific only to me. No other structure looked like mine because every soul’s life experience is unique. Your life, your gifts and graces, are different than mine and vice versa. All of my prayers, every single one that I had ever offered up to heaven were there. Prayers of praise, thanksgiving, and petition were there, and all of them in combination formed the mortar that held it all together, adorning it with such beauty that there is no way that I could begin to describe it. But the prayers that I had said for other people were the most pristine and the most ornate of its decoration. Oh, if only I had the words to tell you what it all looked like.”

By Kelley Jankowski
An Army in Heaven