Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dec. 1, 2016: Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent

Dec. 1, 2016: Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent

Jesus told us plainly that if we do God’s will, we will enter heaven. Seems pretty simple, right? We hear it again and again in scripture and that repetition indicates its importance. Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed,” or Romans 8:27, “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

So why is this so difficult to do? It has been my experience that the one person most difficult to convince is usually myself. I start out wanting to do the right thing—to please God. I want to trust him and know that what he has in store for me is far greater than I could do for myself. I want to believe that when I ask to hear from him, he will answer me. But then I get restless. My expectations are for God to answer me on my terms, my timeline, and in line with my desires. When he doesn’t, then I choose my way because that is what I ultimately wanted anyways and it usually comes with some immediate (albeit temporary) satisfaction. That is not what Jesus had in mind when he shared his wisdom. Doing the will of the Father is not always in line with our will. Following his will means being open to his direction, to wait patiently for his response, and to accept with a thankful heart the path he puts us on. Be thankful that we have a God who cares enough to intercede so that we can experience a life of abundant blessings.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nov. 30, 2016: Feast of St. Andrew, The Apostle

Nov. 30, 2016: Feast of St. Andrew, The Apostle

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

What kind of disciples did Jesus choose? Fishermen! In the choice of the first apostles we see a characteristic feature of Jesus' work - he chose very ordinary people. These same disciples, and those who would soon be chosen to join them, are the ones who would proclaim the life and death of Jesus and the saving, life-giving message of His triumphant resurrection! Those he called were non-professionals, had no wealth or position of power or fame in society. Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would become under his direction and the power of the Holy Spirit.

When the Lord Jesus calls each of us to be his disciples, we think we have nothing to offer him in exchange. The Lord takes what ordinary people can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom.

God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the Gospel? What do we do so that others around us may come to know Our Lord? He has chosen us to be agents of change wherever we live, play, work and travel.

Mother Teresa said it beautifully: “Christ prays in me, Christ works in me, Christ thinks in me, Christ looks through my eyes, Christ speaks through my words, Christ works with my hands, Christ walks with my feet, Christ loves with my heart. As St Paul’s prayer was: “I belong to Christ and nothing will separate me from the love of Christ.” It was that oneness, oneness with God in the Holy Spirit.”

Monday, November 28, 2016

Nov. 29, 2016: Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Nov. 29, 2016: Tuesday of the First Week of Advent In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah once again there is a clear reference to the birth of the Savior. “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him.” During the season of Advent we are preparing ourselves to receive the Lord in our hearts. Our preparation is two fold, we are preparing a place for the Lord now, and second we are also preparing for His return in glory. Now what is Jesus saying when he turned to his disciples and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Many prophets and kings spent a lot of time searching for the Messiah they longed to see. Our Lord explains to His disciples how blest they are because they are in His midst. This we mustn’t forget during advent as we prepare to celebrate our Saviors birth is that he is already present among us. We at times can easily forget that He is at work in the world. As we go through our day we must ask ourselves are we like the prophets and kings who are failing to see the Lord at work or are we like those early disciples who recognize the Lord’s hand at work in our lives. May we not get so wrapped up in the midst of our preparation during the season of Advent for the coming of the Lord that we fail to see Him at work here and now. -Fr. Keith Michael Carroll

Nov. 28, 2016: Monday, 1st Week of Advent A

Nov. 28, 2016: Monday, 1st Week of Advent A

Today’s reading is all about waiting.

Paul opens his letter to the Corinthians and explains to them that their clocks are off. The final coming of Jesus has not come yet. Like the Corinthians we must wait……patiently. We know not the hour or time of Jesus’ return but we do know one thing.

He has left us and all generations with the gifts to endure the wait. We have available to us His Church. We have the teachings He left us with. Just like the faithful waited for the promised Messiah to come in their time, we must wait as well.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. As we wait we can prepare. We can learn all there is to learn about Jesus and His teachings. There is so much we can learn about our faith that we can never learn all of it in our lifetime.

Learn as much as you can about your faith. Read scripture and good Catholic books daily. To know your faith is to know Jesus. To know Jesus is to know an eternal friend.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Nov. 27, 2016 1st Sunday Advent A

Nov. 27, 2016 1st Sunday Advent A

Click to hear Audio Homily

I hope your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. Many of us spent the special day being grateful for all that God has given us, spending time with family, and enjoying a special meal. Our family gathered at my parent's home in Texas with my sister's family, driving in from Baltimore, Maryland. We ate an enormous Thanksgiving dinner of rice, beef soup, and bean pancakes while watching the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins football game. All the while we loosened our belts and took occasional naps. That evening I went with my nephews, niece and their dad to a big box store for a pre-Black Friday shopping spree with specific instructions from my dad--their grandfather: ‘they are to choose whichever two or three items they want in the store.’ Although their grandpa was being very generous, their dad pulled them aside and said, "Nothing over $10, clear?" I'm sure many of you went shopping as well. Did you notice though, that even before Thanksgiving and Halloween, Christmas decorations were already in retail shops? Christmas begins earlier every year in this country. Many shops and businesses compete to have the first and the biggest display of Christmas lights and decorations. Advertisements for Christmas toys commence in October. I know folks who received Christmas party invitations two weeks ago. Therefore, it is not surprising that some people feel that Christmas is anticlimactic because it has ended almost before it has begun.

From a Christian perspective, however, Christmas does not begin until December 25 and it is preceded by four weeks of waiting and preparation during the season of Advent. Our focus in Advent is on waiting in hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise to save us through the Messiah, and on preparing for the Second Coming of Christ on the Last Day when all the nations will be assembled before him. Our Christian hope is incomplete without this understanding of Advent, the season of waiting. Advent is not about staying awake to wonder when the end of time will be. Advent is about recovering that which has become hidden in us over time. It is about waking up from our spiritual darkness and assuming a position of waiting -- of waiting, fully prepared for the coming of the Lord. We are to come awake again out of the slumber of our everyday existence. What we know in our minds we must allow to come alive again in our hearts. God is with us. God chose to send his Son among us, as one of us. We are prepared for our ultimate encounter with the Lord, face to face, by our encounters with God in the readings, in prayer, in the Sacraments, and preeminently in and through Eucharist.

The worldly sense of hope, which is most accurately expressed as wishful thinking, lacks surety or certainty. To be hopeful in the worldly sense is to articulate a desire or a wish that may or may not be realized. For example, when we say, ‘We hope that that the sugar cane grinding season will finish before Christmas, but we cannot be certain that it will be completed by then. In sharp contrast, Christian hope is a virtue and it expresses certainty based on God’s promise to be faithful to us in all circumstances. For instance, when we say, ‘We hope in the resurrection of the dead’, we are not simply engaging in wishful thinking. We are articulating and communicating a certainty that is based on our faith.

As I watched my nephews and niece shop in the store, I could not help but notice all the folks busily stuffing their carts with large electronics, beddings, and other doorbuster items. Fortunately for my dad, my nephews chose Pokémon trading cards instead of expensive Nintendo games. Back at home, these six- and nine-year old nephews began to tear all the packaging and compare the cards they got. At the beginning both boys were elated and excited. Then they began to shove and push each other as they were envious of the cards that the other had. Both began to clutch their cards as to guard some precious jewels and both angrily said to the other, "These are mine! Don't touch them! No, you can't have them!" Their 12-year old sister told me that both boys owned in excess of one hundred of Pokémon cards. In some way these boys' behavior reflected what we adults do with material goods. We feel as though we never have enough, and we're envious of others' goods even though we already own what we need.

Our readings today are all about time, and about coming awake again in time. During this season of Advent, let us remember all that has happened over this past year, to remember the tragedies and failures, the successes and joys. As we light each candle on our Advent wreath, we mark both the year that has been and the time that is to come. Lighting the candle is lighting up our hope again -- to pray, remember and give thanks to God for all that already has been given to us, and to look forward with hope to the coming Kingdom of our Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord.

Friday, November 25, 2016

25 Days of Advent

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What if this Advent you did more than just shopping and spending time with friends and family?

What if you could challenge yourself to do something greater?

What if you spent 25 days preparing for the coming of our Lord?

Isn`t that the best way to celebrate Advent?

Isn`t this what Christmas is all about?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Chaplet of Divine Mercy on the Solemnity of Christ the King

Chaplet of Divine Mercy on the Solemnity of Christ the King (Nov. 20, 2016)
at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church, Donaldsonville, Louisiana.
Sung and prayed by Grace Notes, Staci Gulino, Fr. Paul Yi, Fr. Joe Vu

Click to Download Audio File

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nov. 21, 2016: Presentation of Mary

Nov. 21, 2016: Presentation of Mary
Religious parents never fail by devout prayer to consecrate their children to the divine service and love, both before and after their birth. Some amongst the Jews, not content with this general consecration of their children, offered them to God in their infancy, by the hands of the priests in the temple, to be lodged in apartments belonging to the temple, and brought up in attending the priests and Levites in the sacred ministry. It is an ancient tradition, that the Blessed Virgin Mary was thus solemnly offered to God in the temple in her infancy. This festival of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, the Church celebrates this day. The tender soul of Mary was then adorned with the most precious graces, an object of astonishment and praise to the angels, and of the highest complacence to the adorable Trinity; the Father looking upon her as His beloved daughter, the Son as one chosen and prepared to become His mother, and the Holy Ghost as His darling spouse. Mary was the first who set up the standard of virginity; and, by consecrating it by a perpetual vow to our Lord, she opened the way to all virgins who have since followed her example. Reflection: Mary's first presentation to God was an offering most acceptable in His sight. Let our consecration of ourselves to God be made under her patronage, and assisted by her powerful intercession and the union of her merits.

Consecration to Merciful Love

The Prayer of Consecration to Merciful Love:

Merciful Father, relying on the prayers and example of Abraham and Mary, my father and mother in faith, and of St. Thérèse, my sister in the way of humble confidence, I, ______________________ , choose, this day, with the help of your grace, to strive with all my heart to follow the Little Way. And so,

I firmly intend to fight discouragement, do little things with great love, and be merciful to my neighbor in deed, word, and prayer.

I aim to keep before my eyes my poverty, weakness, brokenness, and sin, trusting that my littleness and contrite heart will attract your Merciful Love.

I choose to remain always little, not relying on my own merits but solely on yours, dear Lord, and those of the Blessed Mother.

Finally, I believe, my God, that you can and will make me into a saint, even if I won’t see it, even if I have to struggle all my life against vice and sin, even if I have to wait until the very end. This blind hope in your mercy, O Lord, is my only treasure. And now, to confirm my resolve and to console you for so much rejection of your mercy, I OFFER MYSELF, THROUGH THE HANDS OF MARY IMMACULATE, AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking you to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within you to overflow into my soul, and that I may thus become a martyr of your love, O my God, and a gift of mercy to so many others.

I ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Nov. 20, 2016: Christ the King, Year C

Nov. 20, 2016: Christ the King, Year C
Conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy

Click to hear audio homily
As we celebrate the conclusion of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I invite all of us to reflect back on this year. What was your most memorable experience of God’s mercy? What stands out as your most unforgettable act of mercy you did for someone?

A couple of experiences that stand out for me come from a retreat I made in Krakow, Poland this year,  a couple of months before 2.5 million young people arrived in Krakow for World Youth Day.  The first experience was a somber walk through the Auschwitz Concentration Camp where over a million people were killed. The empty barracks where people were housed stood as a reminder of the dark evil that humanity is capable of cooperating with. I stopped briefly to pray at the cell where priest and martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe died. He made the ultimate sacrifice when he volunteered to die in place of a stranger - a man with a family. His sacrifice was a testimony that Divine Mercy is stronger than evil. Second experience that
stands out was praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the very chapel where St. Faustina prayed with her fellow sisters. The chapel was packed at 3PM, the hour of Mercy, with nuns and pilgrims from all over the world gathered to offer to the Eternal Father, the body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

It was the same chapel where St. Faustina had a mystical experience. She wrote in her diary, "During Holy Mass, I saw the Lord Jesus nailed upon the Cross amidst great torments. A soft moan issued from His Heart. After some time, He said: I thirst. I thirst for the salvation of souls. Help Me, My daughter, to save souls. Join your suffering to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners.” (Diary of St., Faustina, 1032)

Today’s Gospel invites us to behold Jesus as King, even in the scene at Calvary. He hangs on a cross between two common thieves and over his head is the sign that reads: This is the King of the Jews. Those around him were mocking this title by calling out for him to save them, to save himself, to save all. Even as he hangs upon the cross, seemingly helpless, one thief asks Jesus for forgiveness and proclaims that he is the Savior. The other thief is unwilling to ask. One is promised salvation and paradise while the other is not. The mercy flows so freely from Jesus, yet we place obstacles that prevent us from receiving the gift that Jesus offers us.

Jesus is a king but he is a most unusual King; he is a crucified King. From the cross he extends an invitation to each of us to pick up the cross daily and follow him. In Baptism we have accepted this invitation and everyone is called to reach the potential that he has been given.

It is a most unusual kingdom -- a kingdom of holiness, justice and peace. The greatest in the Kingdom are the childlike. The weak conquer the strong, the foolish confound the wise and a camel gets through the eye of a needle, we add by subtracting and multiply by dividing because nothing is impossible with God.

In the Kingdom of God there is only one law, the law of love. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend of these two commandments.” (Matt 22: 37-40) Jesus identified the neighbor as the one in need and said that we love the neighbor by doing to him what we would wish him to do for us. Whatever we do for the neighbor he takes as having been done to himself.

In the Kingdom of God there is only one banquet, the Eucharist, which is a foretaste of the feast we will share in the next life. The King said that we are to do this in memory of him. We are waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ. We do not hold on to this life too tightly. The gift of life is great but the Giver of life is greater still and in Him is a life that never ends.

We are so privileged to be invited to this banquet of the Eucharist, the banquet where we drink deeply of His merciful love. This privilege also has a responsibility--”Be merciful as your Father in Heaven is merciful.” The great act of mercy of Our Lord on the Cross is also the invitation for us to live a merciful life.
St. Faustina responded to Jesus’ invitation this way:
O Christ, I am most delighted when I see that You are loved, and that Your praise and glory resound, especially the praise of Your mercy. O Christ, to the last moment of my life, I will not stop glorifying Your goodness and mercy. With every drop of my blood, with every beat of my heart, I glorify Your mercy. I long to be entirely transformed into a hymn of Your glory (Diary, 1708).

Is there someone you know who is burdened by sin or sadness? Tell them about your most memorable experience of God’s mercy and share how Jesus has called you out of your own darkness. Offer to pray with your friend, trusting that Jesus wants to mercifully call that person out of the darkness to live a new life of joy and freedom.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nov. 13, 2016: 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time C

Nov. 13, 2016: 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time C
Have you heard the phrase “the end times” recently? In the gospel we just heard Jesus talks about signs of the end times--wars, insurrections, nations rising against nations, powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues, and religious persecutions. There were such signs in the time of Jesus, and those signs are also happening in our world today. On the cover of the recent Time Magazine (Nov. 14, 2016) was a composite photo of the two candidates for the presidential election holding a sign together that read, “The End is Near.” In one sense, the phrase meant that two years of grueling and contentious campaigning were about to conclude. In another sense, the sign reflected the sentiment of exasperation and fear in the people of our nation about the prospect of one or the other candidate becoming the president of the United States.

As we observe the signs around us, should we be worried or anxious? Jesus offers us this advice, “do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Does this comfort you or make you more anxious? A spiritual writer put it this way, “Look around you. Everything in the world passes away. Each day evening comes, and evening drops so quickly. Every life has a sunset that quickly falls, yours too!” Most of us will face the appointed time for our death long before the Second Coming of Christ. In the time of St. Paul, some believers were convinced that Christ’s Second Coming was so imminent that they stopped working and did not do their fair share to support themselves and help the poor in the community. St. Paul had to admonish such persons.

How are we to make sense of events that are happening around us in respect to what God is asking each of us to do? About 50 years ago, a woman in our area faced a tremendous challenge. Her husband had just had a heart attack and was facing uncertain future in the hospital bed. The desperate wife made a plea to God, “Lord, if you heal my husband from this heart attack, I will make a sacrifice to you for the rest of my life. I will not eat sweets except on Sundays.” Her husband survived and lived another 20 years. She kept her side of the bargain by fasting from sweets for 6 days out of the week. Giving up sweets was a tremendous sacrifice for her because she was a chocoholic. She recently celebrated her 100th birthday and has been faithful to her sacrifice for 50 years. This lady lived through numerous signs of end times--World War I, Great Depression, World War II, Cold War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, 9-11, several devastating hurricanes and Great Flood of Baton Rouge. She has dedicated her life to serving God, attending daily mass, and offering her sacrifice thus placing her hope in Him through trying times.

The central message of the gospel IS NOT that the world is coming to an end. Though we recognize that this world will pass away, we live in the hope of the world to come. Jesus said to us, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20) He kept that promise by instituting the Eucharist, His resurrection, sending of the Holy Spirit, and establishing His visible Church on earth which the gates of hell will not prevail over it. Regardless of what’s happening in the community, nation, and the world, the right response of a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be an instrument of peace and hope. We are to trust Jesus who will work in us through the Holy Spirit. If what we say and do instills fear or division in others, we need to prayerfully discern what kind of fruit we are bearing. Fear and division are not of Christ. Our mission is to bring compassion, joy, peace, and gentleness to this world.

Going back to the 100 year old lady. She saw her doctor not too long ago for a checkup. He was her 4th or 5th doctor--her former doctors all have past. Looking over her blood work, the doctor asked her whether she was eating sweets because her blood sugar was high. She said she have been fasting from sweets the past 50 years. He then asked her whether she was adding sugar in her coffee. She said no, because sugar is considered sweets. She then revealed that she added condensed milk in her coffee--she didn’t consider that as a sweet. When asked how much, she said 3 cans per week. He nearly fell out of his chair. He wondered how she didn’t die of diabetes the past 50 years.

We worry about many things in life including fear of the end times. Nothing happens without God’s consent; He counts even every hair on our head. Knowing this we cannot fear what’s ahead of us. In Jesus we find a new hope, a new strength, and a new confidence. When we live by faith, we realize that Our Lord who wrote the history of mankind accompanies us in our own history as well.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Nov. 6, 2016: 32nd Sunday Ordinary C

Nov. 6, 2016: 32nd Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily

When was the last time you gave some thought about death? If you visited a grave of a loved one on All Saints and All Souls Day, thoughts about your own mortality must have passed through your mind. Even children ask questions about what happens after death. A boy asked his mom about his recently deceased grandfather, "Mom, when will Grandpa come back? Will he be here for my birthday?" Mom explained, "He won’t be here for your birthday, but we’ll remember the times he was here.” The boy then asked, “Can we drive to heaven to visit Grandpa?”

Questions about what happens after death were also on the minds of scholars of religion and ordinary folks in the time of Jesus. The Pharisees and many Jews believed in the doctrine of the resurrection after death but the Sadducees denied resurrection. The Sadducees came to Jesus with what they thought was a case that would make the doctrine of the resurrection look ridiculous. Jesus challenged their beliefs. He said we shall all rise to a new and eternal life, in a form and an existence very different from that of our present life. Thus, the question of ownership of wives or property will not, and cannot arise in our new life.

In the brief answer to the Sadducees, Jesus gave us the essential facts concerning our future status. He affirms that all those who have proved themselves worthy while in this life will rise to an eternal life. To be worthy before Christ in this life is to trust him, trying daily to be holy, and committing ourselves to being instruments of compassion. Undoubtedly we will fail or get lost due to our weakness and sinfulness. Our Lord keeps seeking out His people, right until they draw their very last breath. We can never be sure if a soul was truly lost, even if he never showed any outward sign of repentance and faith at all. The Lord searches him out in the depths of his heart in ways we cannot see. His one last chance is at the moment of death. What we can do is pray for him and entrust him to God's mercy and know that God will do everything He can for the soul.

We get a foretaste of our own resurrection through Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Recently Fr. Joe and I heard confessions for 3rd graders. Even at that young age, we could see the joy of the little ones when they said out loud and received forgiveness for their sins against their parents and friends. How much more so it is for us adults to experience that joy in freedom from our guilt and sins. Cleansing of our sins is a joyful experience of a new beginning and a taste of heaven.

And what about the intimate union with Jesus in the Eucharist? For most of us, we have been waiting the past 6 days to receive Jesus so close to our hearts. Our faith is renewed each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, and we are filled with new light, new strength, and new hope knowing that heaven is right here in our hearts. For the past 2 weeks, there have been much hype and anticipation for the LSU-Alabama game. Many fans have been on the LSU campus since 6am this morning. Do we have that same hopeful anticipation in receiving Jesus into our hearts? Like the child who is confident that his mom can drive him to Heaven to see Grandpa, let us also be filled with confidence that the resurrection and heaven that Jesus promises us is not far away in a distant future, but it’s here and now when we open our hearts with our trust.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Celebrating the Conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy
Sunday, November 20, 2016, 2:30PM
Solemnity of Christ the King
at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church

2:30PM Songs of Praise by Grace Notes

3:00PM Divine Mercy Chaplet (Sung) -  Staci Gulino, Grace Notes, Fr. Paul Yi

3:30PM Holy Mass

716 Mississippi St. Donaldsonville LA 70346

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Nov. 2, 2016: All Souls Day

Nov. 2, 2016 All Souls Day

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good day!

Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, and today the liturgy invites us to commemorate the faithful departed. These two occurrences are intimately linked to each other, just as joy and tears find a synthesis in Jesus Christ, that is the foundation of our faith and our hope. On the one hand, in fact, the Church, a pilgrim in history, rejoices through the intercession of the saints and blessed who support her in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel; on the other, she, like Jesus, shares the tears of those who suffer the separation from loved ones, and like Him and through Him echoes thanks to the Father who has delivered us from the dominion of sin and death.

Yesterday and today many people visit the cemetery, which, as the word itself implies, is the "place of rest", as we wait for the final awakening. It is lovely to think that it will be Jesus who will awaken us. Jesus himself revealed that the death of the body is like a sleep from which he awakens us. With this faith we stop - even spiritually - at the graves of our loved ones, those who have loved us and have done good deeds for us. But today we are called to remember everyone, to remember everyone, even those who no one remembers.

We remember the victims of war and violence; the many "little ones" of the world crushed by hunger and poverty. We remember the anonymous who rest in common graves. We remember our brothers and sisters killed because they are Christians; and those who sacrificed their lives to serve others. We especially entrust to the Lord, those who have left over the last year.

Church tradition has always urged prayer for the dead, in particular by offering the celebration of the Eucharist for them: it is the best spiritual help that we can give to their souls, particularly to the most abandoned ones. The foundation of prayers in suffrage of souls is in the communion of the Mystical Body. As the Second Vatican Council reiterates, "fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead" (Lumen Gentium, 50 ).

Remembering the dead, caring for their graves and prayers of suffrage, are witness of confident hope, rooted in the certainty that death is not the last word on human fate, death is not the last word, because man is destined to a life without limits, which has its roots and its fulfillment in God. Let us raise this prayer to God:

God of infinite mercy,
we entrust to Your immense goodness all those who have left this world for eternity, where you await all humanity, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ Your Son, who died to save us from our sins.
Look not Lord, at our poverty, misery and human weaknesses when we present ourselves before You to be judged in happiness or condemned.
Gaze upon us with pity, born of Your tender heart and help us to walk the path of purification.
May none of your children be lost to the eternal fires of hell, where repentance is no more.
We entrust to You Lord, the souls of our beloved departed, of those who died without the comfort of the Sacraments or who did not have the opportunity to repent, not even at the end of their life.
May no one fear the encounter with You at the end of their earthly pilgrimage, in the hope of being welcomed within the embrace of your infinite mercy. May sister death find us in prayerful vigilance, and full of all the good we have done during our existence, be it long or short.
Lord, may nothing distance us from you on this earth, may everything and everyone support us in our ardent hope to serenely and eternally rest in You.

With this faith in man’s supreme destiny, we now turn to the Virgin Mary, who suffered the drama of Christ's death under the Cross and participated in the joy of His resurrection. May she, Gate of Heaven, help us to understand more and more the value of prayers for the dead. They are close to us. May she support us in our daily pilgrimage on earth and help us not to lose sight of the ultimate goal of life which is Heaven. And we with this hope that never disappoints we move forward!
-Pope Francis

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nov. 1, 2016: All Saints

Pope Francis Speaks of Hope in All Saints Day Homily

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the end of the feast of All Saints, just before the sun set, Pope Francis celebrated an outdoor Mass at Rome's Verano cemetery and urged Christians to hang on to hope as they reflect on the promise that earthly life ends with eternal life in heaven.

In his homily at the evening Mass Nov. 1, Pope Francis set aside his prepared text, looked out at the thousands of people gathered between long lines of tombs and told them, "We reflect and think about our own future and about all those who have gone before us and are now with the Lord."

"The Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, the fullness of love -- all that awaits us," the pope said. "And all those who preceded us and died in the Lord are there," in heaven with God.

Even the best of the saints were not saved by their good works, the pope said, but by the blood of Christ.

"God is the one who saves, he is the one who carries us like father -- at the end of our lives -- to that heaven where our forebears are," he said.

The feast day reading from the 7th chapter of the Book of Revelation described a multitude of people from every race and nation standing before God. They were dressed in white, the pope said, because they were "washed in the blood of the Lamb. We can enter into heaven only thanks to the blood of the lamb, the blood of Christ."

"If today we are remembering these brothers and sisters of ours who lived before us and are now in heaven, they are there because they were washed in the blood of Christ," he said. "That is our hope, and this hope does not disappoint. If we live our lives with the Lord, he will never disappoint us."

"We are children of God," he said, and live in hope of one day seeing God as he is.

"On the feast of All Saints and before the Day of the Dead, it is important to think about hope," he said.

The early Christians used an anchor as a symbol of hope, he said, and "to have our hearts anchored up there where our loved ones are, where the saints are, where Jesus is, where God is -- that is hope. That is the hope that doesn't disappoint."

The feasts of All Saints and All Souls are "days of hope," he said. The virtue of "hope is like a bit of leaven that enlarges your soul. There are difficult moments in life, but with hope you go forward and keep your eyes on what awaits us. Today is a day of hope; our brothers and sisters are in the presence of God, and we, too, will be there in the Lord's arms if we follow the path of Jesus."

"Before sunset today, each one of us can think of the sunset of our lives," the pope said. "Do we look forward to it with hope and with the joy of being welcomed by the Lord?"

Throughout Italy, like in many predominantly Catholic countries, people take advantage of the All Saints public holiday to tidy up and take flowers to the graves of their loved ones on the eve of the Nov. 2 celebration of All Souls' Day. After the Mass, Pope Francis was to visit some of those graves, praying for the deceased and blessing their tombs.

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service