Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16, 2017: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

July 16, 2017: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

“I don’t get it.” That was my reaction when I opened the bible and began to read it in college. “Who are these people and what do these words mean?” It was difficult at first to make sense of what I was reading, and it was frustrating. I had too many interests and cares about the world, and the word of God was not taking root. As in today’s Parable of the Sower, my heart was like a hardened foot path--unreceptive and barren--so that when the seeds of God’s words fell on my heart, the evil one came and stole them away. I did not know how to read and pray with scripture. Only when I joined bible studies, did I begin to understand the meaning of the words I was reading.

What do you do each day to allow God’s words to take root and flourish in your life? Ponder these questions.
1) Do you read the daily mass readings?
2) Do you attend Mass with an expectation that God is going to speak to you personally through the readings and the homily?
3) Do you anticipate that your life will change in someway because you pondered the gospel?

I have come to know a couple who has a simple daily habit that nourishes them and inspires their outlook of the day. They both wake up early in the morning. First, they grab a cup of coffee and read the daily mass readings. In silence they ponder the words and ask, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” They jot down any words or phrases from the reading that touch them. Then they write in their journal as if they are responding to the Lord directly. Finally, they share with each other what they have journaled. This daily habit guides them toward God’s mission for them as well as strengthens their marriage.

We have the promise from God through Prophet Isaiah that God’s words have the power to change us. “Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

Prophet Isaiah prophesied that God’s word will accomplish the end for which it was sent. The word of God will continue to work on us for our whole life, seeking to draw us to the Lord. What lacks is our cooperation. We must remember that our Christian life is a life of combat against ourselves and against all the cultural values which are not in accord with the word of God. This brings us to ask, how can we expect God’s powerful words to touch us if we do not take the opportunity to read or hear them? Our Lord warns us through the Parable of the Sower that even if we have heard his word, wordly anxiety or greed can destroy our spiritual life. How can the Word of God take root in a place where the soil has been replaced with sewage? The Word of God can’t grow in a cesspool of self-absorption, unbridled anger, and unchecked lust. Yet, Our Lord, the Divine Sower, continues to plant the seed of his Word throughout this fallen world. He wants to transform this world one heart at a time. He desires us to respond with love toward even the ones who commit atrocious harm against another in the name of God and religion.

Take also the example the heartaches some parents experience with their grown children. Although their children were taught Catholic faith, their grown children no longer go to church or have even become self-professed agnostic or atheist. We must remember to be patient in such cases; we must hope that the seeds of love and the faith that we’ve planted in the hearts of those we love, will eventually bear fruit. The miracle of God’s seed is that unbeknownst to us, the faith that we’ve planted in others, even when they seem to be buried under too much dirt, will germinate, grow, and yield a harvest of some extent.

Do you believe that during this short hour we spend in this church, if we have even a small desire to listen, a great miracle can happen in our lives? Do you believe that if you invest 15 minutes each morning to read and ponder God’s words, your entire day will be filled with God’s strength and joy?

We must want to be on good soil for God’s words to take root, grow, and produce fruit. We can place ourselves on the good soil when we read and listen to the scriptures and speak through prayer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We firmly believe that both the Word of God and the Body of Christ will feed us and grant us faithful perseverance in living according to Christ’s word so that God’s kingdom will flourish beyond measure.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July 11, 2017: St. Benedict, Abbot

July 11, 2017: St. Benedict, Abbot

Matthew 9:32-38
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest."

"Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers"

One day I was pondering over what I could do to save souls; a phrase from the Gospel showed me a clear light: Jesus said to his disciples, pointing to the fields of ripe corn, “Look up and see the fields ripe for harvest” (Jn 4,35) and a little later, "The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers". How mysterious it is! Is not Jesus all-powerful? Do not creatures belong to Him who made them? Why then does Jesus say: "Pray the master of the harvest to send out laborers ... "? Why? ... Ah! Jesus has so incomprehensible a love for us, that He wants us to have a share with Him in the salvation of souls. He wants to do nothing without us. The creator of the universe waits for the prayer of a poor little soul to save other souls redeemed like itself at the price of all His blood. Our vocation, yours and mine, is not to go harvesting in the fields of ripe corn; Jesus does not say to us; "Lower your eyes, look at the fields, and go and reap them"; our mission is still loftier. Here are Jesus' words: "Lift up your eyes and see .... " See how in my Heaven there are places empty; it is for you to fill them ... each one of you is my Moses praying on the mountain (Ex 17,8f.); ask Me for laborers and I shall send them, I await only a prayer, a sigh from your heart! (By St. Therese of Lisieux, Letter 135)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017: 14th Sunday A

July 9, 2017: 14th Sunday A

A mom asked her son a simple question, “What does faith mean to you?” A 10-year old boy with autism named Josiah Cullen answered his mom, “Faith is more like falling back than climbing up. Obey the fall. Be the answer to God's beautiful catching of you.” Josiah beautifully demonstrates what Jesus revealed in the Gospel, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” Using Josiah’s explanation, then faith is not so much our own efforts to attain knowledge or to understand the mystery; instead, faith is our trusting and resting in the reality of God who made us, sees us, loves us, and is with us every moment of our lives. How would you explain in your own words what faith means to you? What role does it play in your own life?

Faith is to know, to believe, to love, and to respond to the Father whom Jesus reveals to us. Our faith is a gift from God, and it is not earned nor must we strive to become worthy enough to receive the highest spiritual concepts. Jesus said to his disciples, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." Imagine, just as the Father holds back nothing to His Son, Jesus will reveal the highest mysteries to us when we are open, trusting, and honest, like a child.

What does it take to have a childlike faith? A few years ago, a White Castle parishioner was at her church office when a couple fleeing from Hurricane Katrina had a tire blowout in front of the church. The couple did not have resources to stay at a hotel but was looking for a place to stay. A little later, a young man drove up in a UHAUL truck looking for water for his friends. When the parishioner brought some water to the truck, she saw that the truck was full of New Orleans evacuees. The parishioner felt a prompting from God to open a shelter in her small town at the former Catholic school building. She first had doubts she could accomplish the task; she didn’t know how to establish a shelter or know from where the resources would come. She and her daughter contacted local folks to bring mattresses, food, and supplies. Surprisingly to her, the whole town showed up to help. Then the evacuees began to pour in. Eventually it reached 170 evacuees. Food would begin to run out, but somehow food would be delivered when it was needed. Local pharmacists tended to the medical needs of the elderly in the shelter free of charge. Even the evacuees pitched in to help. Evacuees who were skilled in any way tended to the needs of the building and the needs of others. For six weeks, a miracle blossomed from child-like faith and compassion of the townspeople. It was truly an example of faith as trusting in God’s providing hand.

Faith is also an invitation from God. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” He is speaking to those of us who are exhausted, collapsing from the weight of hard work, responsibilities, heavy burdens of self absorption. He is also speaking to those of us who experience moments of discouragement, loss of hope, fear, feeling ourselves wandering aimlessly, unable to believe in a better future. Jesus is inviting us to be yoked with him so as not to be pulled away by the yoke of the world and our selfish desires.  We don’t typically see a yoke in the farms anymore in this age of electronically controlled tractors. But the kind of yoke in the day of Jesus was a wooden crosspiece that was fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they were to pull. So imagine you are yoked together with Jesus to pull your cart of burdens. Two pulling the cart is certainly better than one. With Jesus leading us in this joint yoke, we can be sure that he is leading us in the direction toward the Father. The mission Jesus offers is light and easy, and not beyond our ability. It is a mission we can handle, a commitment that is within our ability to handle, with God’s help.

How can we grow our faith? Do we have the desire to join ourselves to the yoke of Jesus by letting go and entrusting ourselves to Him? Pray in silence about whether you’re overburdened because you’re tackling more than you should. Ask in prayer for the wisdom to rely on God for the mission he is entrusting to you.

Friday, July 7, 2017

July 7, 2017: 13th Week in Ordinary time

July 7, 2017: 13th Week in Ordinary time

What is God's call on your life? Jesus chose Matthew to be his follower and friend, not because Matthew was religious or learned, popular or saintly. Matthew appeared to be none of those. He chose to live a life of wealth and ease. His profession was probably the most corrupted and despised by everyone because tax collectors made themselves wealthy by over-charging and threatening people if they did not hand over their money to them.

God searches our heart
What did Jesus see in Matthew that others did not see? When the prophet Samuel came to the house of Jesse to anoint the future heir to the throne of Israel, he bypassed all the first seven sons and chose the last! "God looks at the heart and not at the appearance of a man" he declared (1 Samuel 16:7). David's heart was like a compass looking for true north - it pointed to God. Matthew's heart must have yearned for God, even though he dare not show his face in a synagogue - the Jewish house of prayer and the study of Torah - God's law. When Jesus saw Matthew sitting at his tax office - no doubt counting his day's profit - Jesus spoke only two words - "follow me". Those two words changed Matthew from a self-serving profiteer to a God-serving apostle who would bring the treasures of God's kingdom to the poor and needy.

John Chrysostom, the great 5th century church father, describes Matthew's calling: "Why did Jesus not call Matthew at the same time as he called Peter and John and the rest? He came to each one at a particular time when he knew that they would respond to him. He came at a different time to call Matthew when he was assured that Matthew would surrender to his call. Similarly, he called Paul at a different time when he was vulnerable, after the resurrection, something like a hunter going after his quarry. For he who is acquainted with our inmost hearts and knows the secrets of our minds knows when each one of us is ready to respond fully. Therefore he did not call them all together at the beginning, when Matthew was still in a hardened condition. Rather, only after countless miracles, after his fame spread abroad, did he call Matthew. He knew Matthew had been softened for full responsiveness."

Jesus- the divine physician
When the Pharisees challenged Jesus' unorthodox behavior in eating with public sinners, Jesus' defense was quite simple. A doctor doesn't need to visit healthy people - instead he goes to those who are sick. Jesus likewise sought out those in the greatest need. A true physician seeks healing of the whole person - body, mind, and spirit. Jesus came as the divine physician and good shepherd to care for his people and to restore them to wholeness of life. The orthodox were so preoccupied with their own practice of religion that they neglected to help the very people who needed spiritual care. Their religion was selfish because they didn't want to have anything to do with people not like themselves. Jesus stated his mission in unequivocal terms: I came  not to call the righteous, but to call sinners. Ironically the orthodox were as needy as those they despised. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

On more than one occasion Jesus quoted the saying from the prophet Hosea: For I desire mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). Do you thank the Lord Jesus for the great mercy he has shown to you?  And do you show mercy to your neighbor as well?

"Lord Jesus, our Savior, let us now come to you: Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with your selfless love. Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with your precious blood. Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with your joyous Spirit. Our hearts are empty; fill them with your divine presence. Lord Jesus, our hearts are yours; possess them always and only for yourself." (Prayer of Augustine, 354-430)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

July 6, 2017: St. Maria Goretti

July 6, 2017: St. Maria Goretti

 + Our bodies allow us to become a gift to others in love.
The human body includes right from the beginning…the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence. (St. John Paul II,  January 16, 1980)

“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, and goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her.”  (Jason Evert, How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul)

Saint Maria Goretti’s Story

One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti.

She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When Maria made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, 18-year-old Alessandro, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it,” she cried out. “It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

Maria was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family), and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack.

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her 82-year-old mother, two sisters and a brother, appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later at Maria’s canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

“Ladies...only lift the veil over your body to the spouse who is worthy to see the glory of that unveiled mystery.”
― Jason Evert

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4, 2017: Independence Day

July 4, 2017: Independence Day

Independence Day is one of the biggest holidays of our country. This year, the 4th of July marks the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776. The Thirteen Colonies of America declared themselves states and no longer part of the British Empire. The Revolutionary War was long and costly--perhaps the second-longest conflict in American history. While the 50,000 casualties on the American side are roughly equal in number to the total dead and wounded in Afghanistan, this was at a time when there were fewer than three million people were living in the former British colonies.

The impression we have about this significant birthday of our country is that of joyful celebrations--parades, barbecues, vacations, and fireworks. Yet, it is good to remind ourselves what we celebrate and why we celebrate. Psalm 33:12 summarizes succinctly what Independence Day means to our country, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” One of the founding fathers of our country, Charles Carroll (the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence) said, “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”

Our beloved America was shaped by Christian forefathers displaying wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of Christian faith. The forefathers spoke of God-given, inalienable rights. Our forefathers believed in God and acknowledged Him.  They planted seeds for future generations to live faith-filled lives, freely and without cause for concern.  And they set up laws under which they knew man could prosper.

St. John Paul II, a man who lived through totalitarian regimes pointed out why Christian values need to be the foundation of democratic nation like ours. “Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person… Nowadays there is a tendency to claim that agnosticism and skeptical relativism are the philosophy and the basic attitude which correspond to democratic forms of political life… As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.” (Centesimus Annus, No. 46)

Someone beautifully summarized why we cannot divorce our nation from the Christian faith. “Our Founding Fathers may have opted for a separation of Church and state but not for a separation of God and state. There is no brotherhood of man without the Fatherhood of God. The division of life into the sacred and the secular is a false dichotomy. There is not now, there never was and there never will be the purely secular, that is, anyone or anything which is not dependent on God. Atheistic capitalism would suffer the same fate as atheistic communism.”

On this day celebrating our nation’s Independence Day, let us fall on our knees like our Founding Fathers and acknowledge how we are dependent on God, how we need His wisdom, providence, and guidance on every aspect of our lives.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 2, 2017: 13th Sunday Ordinary A

July 2, 2017: 13th Sunday Ordinary A

Click to hear Audio Homily
If you look at your faith journey up to now, was there a time when your faith caused a strain in your family or even division within your family? After moving to Baton Rouge area, two siblings from North Louisiana where they grew up as devout Protestants decided to enter the Catholic Church through the RCIA program. In fact, the two siblings brought their spouse and children through the program as well. When their family in North Louisiana found this out, they were criticized severely. “I can’t believe you are thinking about being Catholic. Have you lost your mind? Why in the world would you leave biblical Christianity to follow a religion based on men’s tradition? How in the world did you fall for a religion like that?” In fact, their mom and dad began to shun them from family gatherings. It was a very difficult time for these two families. As the RCIA program progressed through Lent, the hearts of the two siblings were opened up to the scriptures referencing the sacrifice and the cost of Our Lord’s love for humanity. Something clicked. Why was Our Lord willing to sacrifice for someone who did not love him? What was the cost of his suffering in loving us? Are we willing to love until it hurts like Jesus? These insights helped solidify the resolve of the two siblings to continue through the program despite family rejection. After two decades, the two siblings have worked tirelessly in their parish to help start programs that ignite Catholic faith.

From the early days of Christian communities down to our generation, Christians grappled with the severity of Jesus’ summons to absolute discipleship. "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus is not saying that His followers should not love their parents and families, but that family bonds, relationships, and allegiance must ultimately be subordinate to the new kinship that comes from baptism. Jesus calls forth a commitment that must surpass and supersede even the demands of love and respect for one’s parents and family.

Jesus’ teaching not only caused division between people but called individuals to examine and struggle within themselves. Jesus challenges us to “lose our life in order to gain it.” Can you recall a time in your life when you were attached to something or someone that was destroying your life, marriage, or family? Was it bad habits, irrational impulses, addictions, or personality traits that caused much pain for you and others? What did you do about them? Did you struggle to change for the sake of yourself and family? Are you still struggling?

There is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus. Are we willing to pay that cost? We need to subordinate all of our natural loves and attractions to our love for Him. Why would we do this? As disciples of Jesus, we understand that our earthly life is transitory and therefore not our goal. There is greater life awaiting us that makes this life pale by comparison. By keeping that goal in mind, we are able to more easily prioritize things in terms of our earthly life and its challenges. Many tens of thousands of Christian martyrs surrendered their physical life in order to hold fast to their faith, and thereby inherit eternal life with God.

We must be able to say with St. Paul that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. “Dying to one’s self,” means first of all saying ‘no’ to our own natural love of ease and comfort, saying ‘no’ to the instincts and desires which prompt us to touch and taste and handle forbidden things. Secondly, “dying to one’s self” means admitting that, ‘I can't do it.’ We confess that on our own powers and abilities, we can’t save ourselves. This opens us to accept the promise that God can do it, and He has already done it for us. We live no longer to follow our own will, but to follow the will of Christ, and in that service, we find our perfect freedom.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 25, 2017: 12th Sunday A

June 25, 2017: 12th Sunday A

Do we ever wonder how growth and change happen to us and in us? Sometimes we have control over what we want to change and yet at times we are not given a choice but to accept. How does our faith in God help us through the change? Here are some examples. Shortly, our high school graduates will embark on a new adventure in college, facing unfamiliar environment, leaving old friends, and making new friends. Starting July 1, some of our priests will take on new parish assignments--full of hope, yet also with some doubt whether they have the gifts necessary to handle unfamiliar responsibilities. Some of us are facing a new transition--perhaps separation from marriage, incurable illness, or surviving the death of a loved one. Our family and friends advise us to put ourselves and the new challenge entirely into God’s hands. We are advised to trust and to believe that God will be there for us. Yet, we cannot help but admit that we are afraid of the change. It may seem to us more practical and effective to adjust to the change on our own than to allow God to lead us.

Jesus speaks to all of us who believe we control every circumstances. To show us a different way, Jesus invites us to look at the birds in the air. Two sparrows are sold for a penny, but not one of them will fall to the ground without the Father wanting.  Every hair on our head has been counted, and not one hair falls without our Father wanting it (Lk 21, 18).

A survivor of cancer recently shared how this gospel passage consoled him so much. He said as his hair fell everyday from chemo treatment, his fear of death was overcome by his awareness of God’s love for him. This life threatening experience helped him put everything else in life in perspective. Even though he got strange looks from the congregation with his bald head, he courageously went up to the ambo during Sunday mass to lector. He was honoring and giving testimony to the Father by living a life of trust in His Providence. Although the cancer was an unwelcomed and unstoppable change, his life of faith transformed the darkness into light.

Do we realize how much joy we bring to the Heavenly Father when we acknowledge Him through our lives? When we give testimony of His Living Word by preaching not by words but our lives of humble trust, we make ourselves worthy of being a child of God.

Friday, June 23, 2017

June 23, 2017: Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

June 23, 2017: Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Christians struggled for many years under the power of an Almighty God, fearful of this Law-giver and of the punishments they would receive if they did not obey him, and hopeful of the rewards if they did. Then the pendulum swung. Fear of authority was replaced by a negation of authority. Jesus became Emmanuel, God-with-us, the gentle and kind friend, who blesses everything and who makes few demands. It was a positive swing but something was lost in the transition: Jesus lost his divinity, his sacredness, the flame of love that purifies, hurts and burns in order to lead us into something totally new: the ecstasy of love and a peace that surpasses all human understanding. It is important to come back to the true face of God, the God of love, a love that burns and purifies and leads to the Wedding Feast.

We need to fear and fight against a cheap god, a god of the imagination and of human dreams, a god who was an idol rather than a reality, a god who blesses our mediocrity and weaknesses rather than calling us to growth. We need to seek the real God, the flame of love that burns and quenches the deepest yearnings of our wounded hearts.

The true God is not a God to be feared: God is a Lover. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is a gentle and demanding Bridegroom: we are the bride. God seeks us like the Hound of Heaven, to bring us poor mortals into the friendship and ecstasy of love. The beauty, the power, the humility and the vulnerability of this wondrous God of Love is looking for space in our hearts: ‘Open up the door of your hearts. Let this Lover, this Tremendous Lover, into your being.’

Opening up can, however, be painful. It means becoming vulnerable, leaving and losing things that give security. The way to open up is through faith. It is through belief and trust in the promises of Jesus, in the person of Jesus, calling us through the pain to a union of love. And we should not seek the marvelous, the extraordinary, or even the charismatic, but rather the presence of God who burns us, who gives and reveals divine love, the life of the Trinity, through faith, hope and through all our gestures of love towards our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest. ( By Jean Vanier)

O Jesus, eternal Truth, our Life, I call upon You and I beg Your mercy for poor sinners. O sweetest Heart of my Lord, full of pity and unfathomable mercy, I plead with You for poor sinners. O Most Sacred Heart, Fount of Mercy from which gush forth rays of inconceivable graces upon the entire human race, I beg of You light for poor sinners. O Jesus, be mindful of Your own bitter Passion and do not permit the loss of souls redeemed at so dear a price of Your most precious Blood. O Jesus, when I consider the great price of Your Blood, I rejoice at its immensity, for one drop alone would have been enough for the salvation of all sinners. Although sin is an abyss of wickedness and ingratitude, the price paid for us can never be equalled. Therefore, let every soul trust in the Passion of the Lord, and place its hope in His mercy. God will not deny His mercy to anyone. Heaven and earth may change, but God's mercy will never be exhausted. Oh, what immense joy burns in my heart when I contemplate Your incomprehensible goodness, O Jesus! I desire to bring all sinners to Your feet that they may glorify Your mercy throughout endless ages. — (St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary,72)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June 18, 2017: Solemnity of Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

This is My Body
A Reflection by Fr. Peter John Cameron O.P.

There was a heart-wrenching story in a magazine a few years ago about a baby boy born with a rare genetic disorder that left him with severe deformities; among them, the boy had only one eye. The boy’s name was Max. Many people thought the child too frightful to look upon—he should be put away in an institution. His wise mother refused. She saw something exceptional in her son because of the abnormalities of his body. She intuited what the Catechism teaches: In creating human beings “God... impressed his own form on the flesh he…fashioned, in such a way that even what was visible might bear the divine form” (CCC, 704). As the mother put it, “[Max] changes everyone who meets him. He changes their ideas about beauty, about worth. He has made every member of our family…grow up and change their life view in some essential way.”6 This miracle is the result of Max in his own way living out the Lord’s words: “This is my Body.” The exceptionality of Max’s body moves those who encounter him to make a judgment about how they look at all of life. In this respect, Max’s presence in the world is “Eucharistic.”

When Christ told the crowds, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life within you” (see John 6:53), many people were repulsed at the notion. But for the Lord’s true disciples, this summons moved them to look even more closely at Christ’s body—to regard it with new eyes and to ascertain its meaning in a more open way—and thereby to see beyond what may have initially repulsed them. They glimpsed the exceptionality of Jesus Christ (an exceptionality conveyed by his body), and they therefore stayed with him.

As the Catechism expresses it, “the individual characteristics of Christ’s body express the divine person of God’s Son” (CCC, 477). Saint Thomas Aquinas says that Christ promised to reward his friends with his bodily presence. Even during our pilgrimage he does not absent himself, but through his veritable Body and Blood joins us to himself. We need to hear Christ challenge us with the words “This is my Body” every day of our lives so that our lives may be given new and truer horizons. The exceptionality of the Eucharistic Body of Christ changes our ideas about beauty, about worth. It enables us to grow up and change how we view our lives in every essential way.

Reflection Questions
- What is the standard I use to look at life and make judgments?
- What about the gospel do I find scandalous or “too much” for me?
- How has staying with Jesus, despite the pressures put on me by the world, changed my life for the better?  

Loving Father, in clinging to the Body of your Son we have life, and in communion with his Body we reach the very heart of God. Make me attentive to the exceptionality of the Body of Christ and change my life so that it becomes a true image of his.

- By Fr. Peter John Cameron O.P., "Jesus, Present Before Me: Meditations for Eucharistic Adoration"

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Talk on St. John of the Cross by Fr. Paul Yi, June 21, 2017, 6:30PM

St. John of the Cross and Mother of Mercy: Tender Guide in the Dark Night
A talk by Fr. Paul Yi
Presented by Marian Servants of the Eucharist

Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 6:30PM
Kleinpeter Activity Center, St. George Catholic Church
7808 St George Dr, Baton Rouge, LA 70809

6:30PM Praise and Worship
7:00PM Talk by Fr Paul Yi
8:00PM Rosary & Intercessory Prayers


John is a saint because his life was a heroic effort to live up to his name: “of the Cross.” The folly of the cross came to full realization in time. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34b) is the story of John’s life. The Paschal Mystery—through death to life—strongly marks John as reformer, mystic-poet, and theologian-priest.

Ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25, John met Teresa of Avila and, like her, vowed himself to the primitive Rule of the Carmelites. As partner with Teresa and in his own right, John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God.

Yet, the paradox! In this dying of imprisonment John came to life, uttering poetry. In the darkness of the dungeon, John’s spirit came into the Light. There are many mystics, many poets; John is unique as mystic-poet, expressing in his prison-cross the ecstasy of mystical union with God in the Spiritual Canticle.

But as agony leads to ecstasy, so John had his Ascent to Mt. Carmel, as he named it in his prose masterpiece. As man-Christian-Carmelite, he experienced in himself this purifying ascent; as spiritual director, he sensed it in others; as psychologist-theologian, he described and analyzed it in his prose writings. His prose works are outstanding in underscoring the cost of discipleship, the path of union with God: rigorous discipline, abandonment, purification. Uniquely and strongly John underlines the gospel paradox: The cross leads to resurrection, agony to ecstasy, darkness to light, abandonment to possession, denial to self to union with God. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. John is truly “of the Cross.” He died at 49—a life short, but full.

(excerpt of biography from Franciscan Media)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

June 11, 2017: The Most Holy Trinity A

June 11, 2017:  The Most Holy Trinity A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Have you had an experience of feeling immensely happy from being loved? Someone shared recently her visit to her granddaughter who is almost a year old. The baby was born with many birth defects, depends on a ventilator to breathe and receives around the clock care. The grandma scooped the baby up in her arms, and began to sing the two songs that she always sings to her--Ave Maria and Silent Night. The baby began to grin ear to ear, a sign that she knows that she is precious to her grandma and that she is loved by her.

This grandmother’s experience helps us reflect on how precious we are to God and how much God loves us. St. John’s Gospel reminds us, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” At times we forget that we are made in the image and likeness of God -- that we are truly God’s beloved daughters and sons. At times we look at ourselves in the mirror or look deep within and are overcome with sadness with what we perceive to be disfigurement, ultimately saying to ourselves that we are not loveable. So it seems to us too incredible that God’s eternal plan is to include us in the unfathomable love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet this plan was accomplished by the Father when he sent his Son and the Holy Spirit into the world to redeem us. From the very beginning of our Christian life, we entered into the eternal relationship with the Trinity when the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” were pronounced as life saving water was poured over our head. And the Holy Spirit dwells within us to guide and direct us to true happiness and eternal life with the Father.

Do we understand the difference between the love that the Father gives us and the love that we seek in the world? Heavenly Father created each of us and placed in us all that we need to live in this pure love. Yet at times the love of things, pleasures, and self distract us from reaching that true happiness that we can only know through God. Pope Benedict XVI said, "The strongest proof that we are made in the image and likeness of the Trinity is this: only love can make us happy, because we live in relation to others, we live to love and to be loved.” We are called to live not without each other, over or against the other, but with one another, and in one another.

The infant born with birth defects reminds us that our perfection lies not in the way we look, not where we were born, or not in the physical gifts we were endowed. Those who do not know this beautiful child, may likely pity her for being born that way. However, the child’s perfection is precisely demonstrated in how she allows others to love her; and by allowing others to love her, her mission from God is being fulfilled. Likewise, our perfection lies in how we love others and how we allow others to love us.

The heart of the mystery is that God dwells within each of us. God is not just out there somewhere, God is alive within us. Jesus promised us that He would never leave us alone, and we are not alone. He is with us always, not just outside of us but within us. Every aspect about us--every breath we take and every minute detail of our lives--are being held in his loving gaze, just as that grandma held her granddaughter in her arms to sing lullabies. So let us remember to be grateful to God always, not only in the moments that we come to him for worship but also in the moments when life doesn’t seem easy. As the Psalmist said, “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

Friday, June 9, 2017

"Outcasts" Free Movie Screening, Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Outcasts" Movie
Free Baton Rouge Screening
Thursday, July 13, 2017 - 6:00 pm
 Catholic Life Center - Main Auditorium
1800 S. Acadian Thrwy, Baton Rouge, 70808

"A bold example of social justice in action."
Follow the cameras of Grassroots Films, the Award-Winning producers of "The Human Experience" and "Child 31" on an unexpected journey across the globe. Travel with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to the prisons of Central America, walk the dark city streets of London, New York and Ireland's most treacherous neighborhoods as they attempt to affirm the dignity all those they encounter. Step beyond your comfort zone and into the lives of our modern day "outcasts."
Immediately following the film, there will be time for discussion and a Q&A session with one of the films producers.

This is a free event.

For more information, contact Danielle
Van Haute, Respect Life Coordinator, at 225-242-0323 or

WARNING: This documentary is for mature audiences only.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

June 4, 2017: Pentecost A

June 4, 2017: Pentecost A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Once as a child, my mom took me along to a jeweler to have her old, gold wedding ring amalgamated with another ring. It wasn’t the kind of jewelery shop like we see in the mall. It was a small, soot-blackened room filled with men each working with a small blowtorch. One of the jewelers placed my mom’s two rings in a small porcelain bowl and began to apply the blowtorch. I had to turn my head away because the rings glowed uncomfortably bright white under the torch. For 30 minutes the jeweler alternated hammering the ring and applying more blowtorch to shape it. When it was finished, the jeweler brought the ring to my mom for inspection. It was amazing to see the new ring transformed from two old, beat up wedding bands. I was so mesmerized by the power of the flame of fire which melted the gold and burned away imperfections. This memory came to mind as I reflected on the event that occurred on the day of Pentecost in the Upper Room in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago where Blessed Mother and the disciples obediently waited in prayer for the Holy Spirit to come. We can’t imagine what that experience was like, to hear the sound of the rush of a mighty wind filling the entire room and to be enveloped by tongues as of fire. What an experience it must have been to be united or amalgamated with God’s Spirit of Love!

Pentecost marks the end and the goal of the Easter season. Our Lord had promised the Apostles, “You will receive the Holy Spirit and you will be my witnesses in the world.” This day is a memorial of the day of the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and Blessed Mother, an event that took place fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus. Previously timid and fearful disciples received gifts of the Holy Spirit which empowered them to witness to Christ by their sacrificing love and bold faith. Pentecost marks the birthday of the Church, for it was the inauguration of the Christian Church by the apostolic preaching of St. Peter, the fruit of which was the conversion of 3,000 Jews to the Christian faith.
World Youth Day 2013 Copacabana Beach

Let us each ponder these questions. Do I know the Holy Spirit? Am I conscious of His presence, action, and power in my life? Am I cooperating with the Holy Spirit to be Our Lord’s witnesses in the world? Pope Francis said, “The Holy Spirit is the one who moves us to praise God, to pray to the Lord, the one who is within us and teaches us to see the Father and to call Him, ‘Father.’ The Holy Spirit frees us from this ‘orphan-like’ condition which the spirit of the world wants to put us in.”

Holy Spirit is our Counselor, Comforter, Helper, and Encourager who quietly works in us and through us every day behind the scenes in the ordinary activities of our lives and the lives of people around us. Did you know that He is there in all his fullness wherever people worship and pray in the name of Jesus. He is there to inspire us to turn away from our sinfulness and to reassure us that we are still loved in spite of our sin. He confronts us and urges us to take a good look at ourselves and to change course when necessary. He challenges us to leave behind the old way, to stretch ourselves beyond fear and step out in faith to do things for Christ--things we have never done before or ever imagined ourselves doing.

If we have not done so, today resolve to allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives. Ask for His assistance in our thoughts, words, deeds, and in the breaking of our evil habits. To be open and docile to the Holy Spirit means that we need to be sincere in our concern for a friend; to be generous to those who seek our help; to trust and persevere even when trials come one after another; to be faithful in taking on responsibilities that we once resisted because we felt it was beyond our capabilities; to be grateful to God even when times have been hard; to be courageous in rising above past failures and putting past hurts behind us. Jesus wants to make our faith strong, give us hope that endures, and a love that never grows cold. He never refuses to give his Holy Spirit to those who ask with expectant faith.
World Youth Day 2013 Copacabana Beach

I invite all of us at this moment to open ourselves to the Refiner’s Fire, the Fire of the Holy Spirit. Just close your eyes and open your palms to receive the tongues of Fire as you listen to the lyrics of this song.

Purify my heart / Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart / Let me be as gold, pure gold

Refiner's fire / My heart's one desire
Is to be holy / Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy / Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will

Purify my heart / Cleanse me from within / And make me holy
Purify my heart / Cleanse me from my sin / Deep within

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31, 2017 Wednesday: Feast of Visitation

May 31, 2017 Wednesday: Feast of Visitation

Our Lady Shares Her Gift

Our Lady is, in the language of tradition, “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” And yet, as St. Maximilian Kolbe and Pope John Paul II observed, to say “spouse,” though it is the deepest of human relationships, is still far from describing the degree of union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul, in his apostolic letter on the Rosary, defines Our Lady as the “Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit,” precisely in referring to the Visitation. This union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit is something for which we have no analogy. Here on this holy ground, the language of human experience fails us. Language can only point beyond what we can fathom, toward the full gift of Our Lady.

But Our Lady’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is not something she keeps for herself. It is entirely for her children, and as Scripture shows us, she is more than able to dispense these gifts abundantly.

Let us return to Luke’s account of the Visitation (see Lk 1:39-56). Elizabeth has conceived in her old age, and is to give birth to a son who will be the forerunner of the Messiah. Even though she has miraculously conceived, she is still in need of help. She has been feeling the weight of her own fragility for some months already when Mary unexpectedly arrives at her door, calling out Elizabeth’s name. Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, and she discovers a spiritual revolution taking place within her:

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Lk 1:41-44 NIV)

What does this tell us? First of all, that there is an extraordinary anointing of the Holy Spirit on Our Lady’s person, even on her voice. What Elizabeth discovered, and Mother Teresa after her, is that this anointing on Our Lady’s presence is transmitted even when it is not sought or consciously attended to. For Our Lady’s presence to be effective in our lives, even as for Mother Teresa or Elizabeth or the saints, she needs only to be welcomed and wanted, whether or not we are consistently conscious of her presence.

The Visitation demonstrates Our Lady’s role not only in the life of Elizabeth, and of Mother Teresa, but of every disciple. At Mary’s approach, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Not because she lacked the Holy Spirit until then: the Spirit was already working miraculously in her life in the conception of John. But with the coming of Our Lady, there was a new and fuller outpouring of the Spirit, giving Elizabeth new energy and new hope for her task. The unborn life within her and her responsibility for it, a burden and source of worry until now, has suddenly become full of joy. What had caused her fatigue is now giving energy. The child in my womb leaped for joy : She is no longer carrying him; he is carrying her.

Beyond that, Elizabeth is given new gifts. Elizabeth was not a prophetess; yet once Our Lady enters her life, she is given the spirit of prophecy. She is the first to proclaim not only that the Messiah is present, but that he is the Son of God: Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Who told her that her young cousin was to be mother of the Lord, something of which even Joseph was ignorant? All of this happened through Mary’s presence. So we are on scripturally sound terrain when we attest to the gifts of the Spirit that Our Lady poured into Mother Teresa, and when we declare these miracles of grace her reason for giving Our Lady “all her confidence.”

by Fr. Joseph Langford, Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017 Tuesday: St. Joan of Arc

May 30, 2017 Tuesday: St. Joan of Arc

“Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and so they give their lives to little or nothing. One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it…and then it’s gone.
But to surrender who you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying – even more terrible than dying young.”
― Jeanne d'Arc (St. Joan of Arc)

Saint Joan of Arc, 1412-1431

The church officially remembers Joan of Arc not as a martyr but as a virgin—the Maid of Orleans. Of course, Joan was a martyr, but not in the technical sense. Yes, she died because she did what she thought God wanted her to do. But she was killed for her politics, not for her faith. Pagans did not execute her for refusing to worship their gods. Infidels did not slay her for defying them. Political enemies burned her at the stake for defeating them at war.

Paradoxically, Christian people, good and bad alike, cheered at her demise. Other Christians wept. This incongruity may trouble us, but Joan would have expected it. The war she fought embroiled French Christians against English Christians. We too have waged wars like that, pitting Christian against Christian. Just as we may have felt that God was on our side, Joan believed that God was with the French. When the judges who condemned her asked if the heavenly voices she followed to war spoke in English, she replied tartly, “Why should they speak English when they were not on the English side?”

Joan of Arc was born into the violent times of the fifteenth century. During her childhood, King Henry V of England invaded France and seized Normandy. He laid claim to the crown of the French king, Charles VI, who was mentally ill. Paralyzed by civil war between the duke of Burgundy and the duke of Orleans, the French could not put up much of a defense. Things worsened when agents of the duke of Orleans murdered the duke of Burgundy. The Burgundians reacted by becoming England’s allies.

Eventually, Burgundian mercenaries brought the war home to Joan’s family. The raiders sacked the little village of Domrémy-la-Pucelle, forcing them to flee. Thus, the indiscriminate brutality of war disrupted Joan of Arc’s pleasant childhood to acquaint her with fear.

In 1424, when Joan was only twelve years old, the great miracle of her life unfolded. One summer day in her father’s garden, she heard a mysterious voice, which was accompanied by a bright light. “At first I was very much frightened,” she said later. “The voice came toward the hour of noon. I had fasted the preceding day. I heard the voice on my right hand, in the direction of the church. I seldom hear it without seeing a light. The light always appears on the side from which I hear the voice.”

She identified the speaker as Michael the Archangel. Subsequently, he spoke to her many times, gradually revealing a preposterous mission. “You have been chosen to restore the kingdom of France,” said the voice, “and to protect King Charles.” She was to accomplish these things as the head of the army! Imagine the terror and confusion the archangel’s messages must have caused young Joan.

Joan found the visions comforting, but they also put her under great stress. Fear of her strict father compelled her to keep them secret; she confided only in her parish priest. The messages must have both thrilled and troubled her. The revelations conflicted with reality. How would a simple peasant girl accomplish such imposing, if not impossible, tasks?

By May 1428, Joan’s voices had become relentless and specific. They directed her to go at once to a town nearby and to offer her services to Robert de Baudricourt, the commander of the royal forces. Reluctantly, she obeyed. De Baudricourt, however, greeted her with laughter, telling her that her father should give her a good spanking.

At that time, conditions were deteriorating for the French. The English had put Orleans under siege, and the stronghold was in grave danger. Joan's voices became more insistent. “But I am merely a girl! I cannot ride a horse or wield a weapon!” she protested.

“It is God who commands it!” came the reply.

Unable to resist any longer, Joan secretly made her way back to de Baudricourt. When she arrived she told the commander a fact she could have known only by revelation. She said the French army—on that very day—had suffered a defeat near Orleans. Joan urged him to send her to Orleans so that she might fulfill her mission. When official reports confirmed Joan’s word, de Baudricourt finally took her seriously and sent her to Charles VII.

She was outfitted with white armor and provided a special standard bearing the names Jesus and Mary. The banner depicted two kneeling angels offering a fleur-de-lis to God. On April 29, 1429, Joan led her army into Orleans. Miraculously, she rallied the town. By May 8, the French had captured the English forts and had lifted the siege. An arrow had penetrated the armor over Joan’s breast, but the injury was not serious enough to keep her out of the battle. Everything, including the wound, occurred exactly as Joan had prophesied before the campaign. A peasant maiden had defeated the army of a mighty kingdom, a humiliation that demanded revenge.

The way to Reims was now open. Joan urged the immediate coronation of the king, but the French leaders dragged their feet. Finally, however, at Reims on July 17, 1429, Charles VII was anointed king of France. The Maid of Orleans stood triumphantly at his side. Joan had accomplished her mission.

During the battles at Orleans, the voices had told Joan she had only a little time left. Her shameful end lurked ominously in the shadows. Later, she sustained a serious arrow wound in the thigh during an unsuccessful attack on Paris. In May 1430, after spending the winter in court, she led a force to relieve Compiègne, which the Burgundians had under siege. Her effort failed, and the Burgundians captured her.

Through the summer and fall, the duke of Burgundy held Joan captive. The French, apparently ungrateful, made no effort to rescue her or obtain her release. On November 21, 1430, the Burgundians sold Joan to the English for a large sum. The English were quite eager to punish the maiden who had bested them.

They could not execute Joan for winning, but they could impose capital punishment for sorcery or heresy. For several months she was chained in a cell in the castle at Rouen, where five coarse guards constantly taunted her. In February 1431, Joan appeared before a tribunal headed by Peter Cauchon, the avaricious and wicked bishop of Beauvais.

Joan had no chance for a fair trial. She stood alone before devious judges, an uneducated girl conducting her own defense. The panel interrogated her six times in public, nine times in private. They questioned her closely about her visions, voices, male dress, faith, and submissiveness to the church. Giving good, sometimes even unexpectedly clever answers, Joan handled herself courageously. However, the judges took advantage of her lack of education and tripped her up on a few slippery theological points. The panel packed its summary with her damaging replies and condemned her with that unfair report. They declared that demons inspired her revelations.

The tribunal decided that unless Joan recanted, she was to die as a heretic. At first she refused. But later, when she was taken before a huge throng, she seems to have made some sort of retraction.

Cauchon visited her, observed her dress, and determined that she had fallen back into error. Joan, her strength renewed, then repudiated her earlier retraction. She declared that God had truly commissioned her and that her voices had come from him. Having condemned Joan of Arc as a relapsed heretic, the judges remanded her to the state for execution. The next morning she was taken into Rouen’s public square and burned at the stake.

Like Jesus’ life, Joan of Arc’s life seemed to end in failure.

Twenty-three years later, however, Joan’s mother and brothers asked that her case be reopened. Pope Callistus III appointed a commission to review the matter. In 1456, the new panel repudiated the trial and verdict and completely restored Joan’s reputation. Once again her piety and exemplary conduct had triumphed.

Few Christians hear heaven-sent voices. I know I don’t. Joan was one of those rare exceptions who did. She obeyed what she perceived to be God’s directions, and against all odds she achieved the purpose she was given. Though I’ve never heard a heaven-sent voice, now and then I sense something God wants of me. Doesn’t that also happen to you? Perhaps Joan’s example will reach down through the centuries to encourage us to listen closely for and to obey God’s message to us.

- by Bert Ghezzi, Mystics and Miracles

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May 28, 2017: Ascension of the Lord A

May 28, 2017: Ascension of the Lord A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Do you know of someone who has a child with autism? One couple noticed that their seemingly normal 22-month old toddler began to regress, losing eye contact, speech, and play skills. After four months of tests, doctors told them that their son, Josiah, had autism for which there is no known cure. Until the age of seven, no amount of therapies and treatments helped their son communicate. It was after the parents saw a documentary about a woman who taught nonverbal children to communicate by pointing at letters, that they decided to teach Josiah through using an iPad. To their surprise, he immediately began to type words, and the first word that Josiah typed on his own was, “godisagoodgiftgiver.” The parents were shocked. The next sets of words that Josiah typed were equally shocking, “God is very capable.” Their 7-year old son began to reveal through the iPad that God was showing him visions of Heaven. His parents were convinced that the complex and profound proclamations about God and Heaven from their son were beyond natural.

There is a tendency in our culture to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say, “Well, I don’t have time to fix it, and it is just as cheap to throw it away and buy a new one.” Sometimes we treat people in the same way. We say, “Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, that person has disability, or she has emotional issues...we’d better not spend too much time with them.” Newly pregnant mothers have come to me very upset because they were told that the baby “has issues” and that they should consider ending the pregnancy--i.e. abort their child.

God’s approach with us, however, is very different. Even before Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and lost their place in Paradise, God had an eternal plan to rescue humanity, ultimately sending His own Son to assume our lowly and fragile human nature and elevate it to a divine level. As St. Paul said, God raised Jesus from the dead and through ascension, seated him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion. And God put all things beneath his Son’s feet and gave him as the head over all things to us, the church, which is his body. Jesus’ ascension into heaven is hope for all of us, that through divine mercy, our nature is with God in Christ. As man, Our Lord Jesus lives forever to intercede for us with the Father. At the same time, from his throne of glory, Jesus sends out to the whole Church a message of hope and a call to holiness.

The power and efficacy of Our Lord’s Ascension touches all of us in the concrete reality of our daily lives. We may experience difficulties in life as we try to live out the Gospel, but because Jesus is at the right-hand of the Father and interceding for us, his power and grace will sustain each of us and give us the strength to remain steadfast in our dedication to God’s kingdom.

Going back to the child with autism.. One day, Josiah began to type on the  iPad, “Just as reality faces you with the might of a wrestler, you face reality with the joy of a Lord. He fights with joy inside of justice. He hits with the pipes of musicians. He fires with the hoping hearers marching to his ways...Worship the king, sing loud to the prized pardon who requires praise...Please him, all you hail the king of majesty forever. Make a noise to the king on the throne." (Josiah's Fire: Autism Stole His Words, God Gave Him a Voice written by Tahni Cullen)

This little autistic child is teaching us about the transforming power of divine love. We need to be be deeply conscious of Christ’s victory and triumph over sin and death. Realize that the strength that Our Lord gives us is greater than our weakness, greater than the weakness of the whole world. As Our Lord told his disciples, the power of the Holy Spirit is available to us, for us to be his witnesses.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 25, 2017 Thursday: 6th Week of Easter

May 25, 2017 Thursday: 6th Week of Easter

The light shining in darkness, part 2

Satan’s ploy with humanity, which has not changed from the Garden until today, is to bring us to question God’s intentions. He suggests that in dealing with us, God acts as self–interestedly as we do; that his commandments exist only to keep us under the divine thumb, subdued and servile. If he tells Adam not to eat of the tree, it is for the basest of reasons: God is afraid that you “will be like God …” (Gen 3:5). The God of Satan’s packaging is a miserly giver, changeable and untrustworthy, a master who gives only in order to get, only looking to exact our worship and servitude.

Once we start to question God’s intentions, though, once we doubt that he cares for our needs or listens to our prayer, what source of provision and protection is left to us beyond our own self-reliance? We are left with no other option than taking for ourselves whatever we lack, since God, or so we are convinced, is not looking out for anyone but himself.

Satan persuades us that we have no other choice but to take whatever we want, and by whatever means, regardless of the moral implications. The enemy leads us to sin, not so much because he enjoys its perversion, but in order to distance us from the Almighty. By separating Creator from creature, he keeps God’s love for us at bay, impeded from reaching us in the only way possible through our own free choice, and by our own hand. Satan’s appeal plays to the basest of our ego-drives. By stimulating our selfish and superficial desires, he hopes to drown out our deepest God-given and God-fulfilled longing. He offers us, in exchange for the deeper gifts God has promised, only excitation and distraction: fool’s gold, pacifiers, surrogates dangled before us like baubles. These are poor substitutes for the gift of divine love, impostors that deprive us of our true and lasting happiness in God.

By making an idol of the self, and by ego run amok through sin, we pay a steep price in loss of relationship with God, with others, and ultimately with ourselves. Rather than climbing the heights to rival the Creator, to “be like God” (Gen 3:5), as we have attempted from Eden to Babel and down through history, we end up not only not like God, but unlike ourselves living more basely than the animals beneath us. These are the new lows humanity has reached; this is the new poverty; these are the depths we have carved out for ourselves alone.

- Fr. Joseph Langford, MC
Mother Teresa’s SECRET FIRE
The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own

May 24, 2017 Wednesday: 6th Week of Easter

The light shining in darkness, Part 1

By shining with God’s light before the world, Mother Teresa has indirectly pointed out the darkness that is its opposite; she has helped us to name the darkness , to unmask the great lie.

Each time she spoke in public, after making the Sign of the Cross over her lips, Mother Teresa would repeat this line from St. John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world …” (Jn 3:16). She would remind her audience that each of us is precious to God, chosen out of countless others who could have existed in our place. She would go on to say that each of us is cherished, prized as “the apple of his eye” (Dt 32:10), and that as long as we have breath, this love will never leave us. This was the light she held up before the world, reflected in her words and works. This is the truth that frees us to get up when we fall, to hope in a love we cannot earn, and to become what we were made to be.

While those who heard Mother Teresa speak might have forgotten or ignored this truth, or even doubted it, Satan knows it all too well, “and trembles” before its implications (cf. Jas 2:19). God’s faithful love, his undying thirst for us, represents the undoing of Satan’s kingdom. It buckles the very foundations and shakes the underpinnings of Satan’s empire. Since Satan cannot bring God to stop loving us though he tries, accusing us “day and night before our God” (Rev 12:10) he resorts to the next best thing. Since this “enemy of our human nature” 126 cannot change the heart of God, he does all in his power to change the heart of man the focus of his strategy since the Garden. Because he cannot stop God from loving, he tries to stop man from believing. In the end, the result is the same. As far as we are concerned, by our unbelief in his love, it becomes as if God did not love us and either way, we are equally lost.

Using every twist of logic, every un-redressed injustice unearthed from our past, every broken dream and unhealed wound in a pantheon of hurt, Satan gnaws away at our belief in God’s love and care. While there is a “blessed night,” a sacred darkness that hides a light too bright to behold, there is also an unholy night, a darkness that is the absence of all light and worse, the opposite of all light, a kind of demonic anti-light. If all true light is the breath of the Holy Spirit, there is, on the other hand, a toxic darkness that is the breath of the evil one. His one desire is to nullify the light and power of God’s love, to distance us from that love, to neutralize its impact on our conscious lives. He knows that the less we are aware of God’s love, the less we are in touch with it, the more likely it is that we will forget or doubt it and all the easier it will be to entice us to sin, to live instead for ego.

- Fr. Joseph Langford, MC
Mother Teresa’s SECRET FIRE The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 21, 2017: 6th Sunday Easter A

May 21, 2017: 6th Sunday Easter A

Click to hear Audio Homily
On one Sunday morning, Kirk, a 10-yr. old boy woke up with a bad attitude. His mother was urging him to wash up and dress for church, but Kirk was not being cooperative. He was disgruntled because he couldn’t stay home and watch TV with Dad. Hearing all the commotion, his dad got up from the couch and intervened. “Son, you need to go to mass. I went every Sunday when I was your age.” Little Kirk turned around with his shoulder slumped and headed to the car but not before his dad heard him grumble, “Yeah, and I’ll bet it won’t do me any good either.” When Kirk returned to his pew from receiving communion, he was surprised to see his dad in the communion line.

What prompted that dad to go to mass? Was it simply guilt? Was he feeling the emptiness of not having been nourished by Jesus in the Eucharist for a long while? Or was he prompted by the Holy Spirit? St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading, “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” As the spiritual leader of the house, that dad recalled his baptismal promise to witness his faith. He felt convicted in someway, like most of us at times, the lack of our fervor in our love for God.

Our Lord stated plainly to his disciples, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus wasn’t trying to twist our arms to get us to comply to do certain things. Knowing our human weakness, Jesus asked his Father to send the Holy Spirit, our Divine Advocate, to dwell in us so that we are not left as orphans and left to our devices. This Spirit of truth is within each one of us, defending us from all that can separate us from Jesus.

This Spirit of truth invites us to live in the truth of Jesus in the midst of a culture where all too often selfish motives and double-speak masquerade as the truth. Have you noticed how these days a lie is justified as strategy, exploitation is called business, irresponsibility is called tolerance, injustice is called status quo, arbitrariness is called freedom, lack of respect is called sincerity?

Holy Spirit led Our Lord to unveil the hypocrisy in the lives of the people and call them to conversion while seeking the loveless, the unloving, and the unloveable. Are we going to allow this Spirit of truth to be diminished by our inaction? Or are we going to announce the Good New of Jesus through our daily reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit in a culture that is so in need of encouragement and hope? The Holy Spirit gathers our scattered desires and re-focus them on God. Desire for God integrates us, as our life becomes focused on the only One who can fill us. This Spirit is encouragement, power, light, love… that reaches us from God’s ultimate mystery. As the father of the little boy responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit with humility, we must welcome this Spirit with a trusting heart and humbly respond with generosity.

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19, 2017 Friday: 5th Week of Easter A

May 19, 2017 Friday: 5th Week of Easter A

Friendship with God

Jesus calls his disciples his personal friends. Jesus not only showed his disciples that he personally cared for them and sought their welfare. He personally enjoyed their company and wanted to be with them in a close and intimate relationship. He ate with them, shared everything he had with them - even his innermost heart and thoughts. And he spent himself in doing as much good for them as he could. To know Jesus personally is to know God and the love and friendship he offers to each one of us.
One of the special marks of favor shown in the Scriptures is to be called the friend of God. Abraham is called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). God spoke with Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Jesus, the Lord and Master, calls the disciples his friends rather than his servants.

What does it mean to be a friend of God? Friendship with God who is our everlasting Father and with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ entails a personal, close, and loving relationship and a union of heart, mind, and spirit with the One who created us in love for love. Such a relationship with our Father, Creator, and Redeemer involves loyalty, respect, and obedience. But it is even more than these because God has chosen to love us in the same way in which the Father and the Son love and serve each other - a total giving of oneself to the other in a bond of affection, esteem, and joy in each others company.
Jesus' discourse on friendship and brotherly love echoes the words of Proverbs: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). The distinctive feature of Jesus' relationship with his disciples was his personal, loyal, and sacrificial love for each one of them. He loved his own to the end (John 13:1). His love was unconditional and wholly directed to the good of others. His love was costly and sacrificial. He gave the best he had and all that he had. He gave his very own life for those he loved in order to secure for them an everlasting life of union and love with the Father in heaven.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 14, 2017: 5th Sunday of Easter A

May 14, 2017: 5th Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Around this time of the year many of us receive invitations to high school or college graduations, and we are challenged to find a meaningful graduation gift. Cash, gift cards, a laptop, or a travel voucher come to mind as typical gifts. However, I venture to say there is one gift that you could give that the graduate may not appreciate initially, but will appreciate later. My mom gave such a gift to me when I graduated from high school. Her gift to me was a rosary. The rosary was not just any rosary; the rosary was not even a brand new one. The rosary that she gave me was one that she had prayed with for at least a year. She picked the rosary up early each morning when she woke up and again late at night before she went to bed. Through the contemplative prayer of the rosary she encountered Our Lord through the gentle guiding hands of Blessed Mother. My mother wanted me to experience the deep abiding peace that came with encountering Jesus, the Prince of Peace, in prayer. She knew that I was going to face uncertainties and trying times as I embarked on a new beginning as a college student. One thing she knew in her own experience was that praying the rosary helped her imitate Blessed Mother who trusted in God even when the future was uncertain.

The Gospel we heard today is a discourse from the Last Supper, right before Jesus’ arrest, Passion, and crucifixion. The atmosphere was one of gloom and anxiety as the enemies of Jesus closed in around him. Our Lord said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” He spoke those words to assure his disciples during such time of anxiety. Jesus called his disciples to trust in His Father and to trust in Him. These words were not only for the disciples but are so necessary for our graduates and for each of us. There comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove, and to accept where we cannot understand. If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that the purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light. Trusting in Jesus means that even in the worst-case scenarios in our lives, God will not allow us to be crushed and lost. In those times we try our best and trust that God will take care of the rest.

Jesus also said, speaking to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Ever since Adam and Eve fled the Garden of Eden after their fall, we too struggle with conflicting desires within us--a part of us desires to be close to God, while the other part of us desires to flee from him. There is a sacred space that God created deep within our soul, what spiritual writers call “the heart,” that we are called to journey to every moment. However, original sin pulls us away from making that journey, leaving us to feel empty and unsatisfied. We restlessly seek for something or someone else to fill this empty feeling, but are never satisfied because only our communion with Heavenly Father fully satisfies us.

Jesus said that only through him, with him, and in him, we find our way back to the Heavenly Father, the One who awaits in that sacred space within us to heal and fill our deepest desires. How do we accomplish this daily, to find our way back to the Father? The way back to the Father is to turn our hearts and minds to Him through prayer. A very effective prayer is Blessed Mother’s rosary, which allows us a way to have an intimate encounter with Her Son who is the merciful face of the Father. Most of us have difficulty praying because the distractions within and outside of our soul pull us away from encountering Him. We are frequently on the surface of our soul, like a styrofoam cup tossed about on the surface of an ocean. The commotion of our selfishness, jealousy, anger, lust, and greed pulls us toward the surface and the superficial. We need a way to go deeper into the sacred space within our soul where God and his love can be found and experienced.

When we thumb through the beads of a rosary in our hands and recite the words of the Our Father and Hail Mary, our conscious attention begins to dive deeper into the depths of our soul. We achieve interior silence as our body and mind are quieted down. Our often busy imagination then focuses on the mystery of Our Lord’s life, and we are transported beyond time and space to the very presence of Our Lord who is the way, the truth, and the life. A storm of thoughts and distractions may go on above us, but as we provide a minimal inner movement of our fingers, our lips, and our imagination, we remain in the depths of our soul in union with God who loves us.

What a gift it is give to someone who is experiencing uncertainty or turbulence in their lives when we give them the gift of prayer--for example, to hand them a rosary that we prayed with personally! It’s like giving someone scuba gear to help them dive deep to harvest pearls of their soul. My own mother wanted to share with me the grace of encountering Jesus in the depths of her soul by giving me her personal rosary. Sometimes we don’t realize how powerful the gift of prayer is for someone. Do you have a rosary that’s been gathering dust? I encourage you to begin to pray with that rosary and make it a gift for someone in your life. Heavenly Father awaits patiently within us, calling for us to be with Him. We sense this as a longing, hunger, or thirst. Are we prepared to make that choice to leave the distraction behind and begin our daily pilgrimage to Him?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The 6 Fatima apparitions of 1917

The 6 Fatima apparitions of 1917

There were six Marian apparitions to the shepherd children from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917. All of these apparitions took place on the 13th of the month except for the August apparition.

May 13, 1917
The children were tending their sheep near the Cova da Iria in Fatima, a few miles from their home. A beautiful young woman dressed in white appeared to them over the holm oak. The Lady said she was from heaven and wanted the children to return to the same place at the same hour on the 13th of each month for six months. She asked the children to pray the Rosary every day.

June 13, 1917

Our Lady again asked the children to pray the Rosary every day, and she asked Lucia to learn to read and write. She revealed that Jacinta and Francisco would die soon, but Lucia would live longer. She then revealed that God wished to establish in the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart, and her heart would be a refuge and a way to lead people to God.

July 13, 1917

The Lady disclosed a three-part secret to the children. (See “The secrets of Fatima” on Page 12.)

Aug. 19, 1917
The children missed their scheduled meeting with the Lady at the Cova da Iria on Aug. 13 because they were detained by the anti-clerical civil authorities. The children resisted efforts to have them deny the apparitions. They were put in prison and released on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption. The Lady then appeared to the children a few days later, on Aug. 19 at Valinhos near their home in Aljustrel. The Lady asked the children to continue to come to the Cova da Iria on the 13th of each month and to pray the Rosary every day. She told them that she would perform a miracle the last month (October).

Sept. 13, 1917
The Lady asked the children to continue to pray the Rosary for the end of the war. She told them that Jesus as well as St. Joseph would appear in October.

Oct. 13, 1917
The most dramatic of the apparitions. Some 55,000 people gathered on a rainy day near Cova da Iria in Fatima and witnessed the “miracle of the sun.” Some 20,000 other people witnessed the miracle from as far away as 25 miles. The sun started spinning and grew larger. It looked like it was going to fall on the earth. People fell to their knees in fear. The people then noticed that their clothes were completely dry even though they had been standing in the rain for some time. Even unbelievers and skeptics witnessed the phenomenon. The secular newspaper, O Século, had a front page story on “How the sun danced at midday in Fatima.”

While the people were looking at the miracle of the sun, the three children saw a sequence of apparitions. St. Joseph was seen with the Christ Child, and they appeared to bless the world. The Blessed Mother was seen robed in white with a blue mantel; then she appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows and then as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The Lady revealed her identity to the children as “Our Lady of the Rosary.” She asked them to pray the Rosary every day and to have a chapel built at Cova da Iria, the site of the apparitions.

May 13, 2017: Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis in Fatima

May 13, 2017: Our Lady of Fatima

Homily of Pope Francis
Holy Mass, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima 13 May 2017

            “[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun”.  So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son.  Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27).  We have a Mother!  “So beautiful a Lady”, as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of 13 March a hundred years ago.  That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady”.  They had seen the Mother of Heaven.  Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her.  The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her.  We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.

            Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures.  Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell.  Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5).  In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady.  She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her.  According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth.  We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus”.

            Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus.  As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17).  When Jesus ascended to heaven, he brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake.  Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father (cf. Eph 2:6).  May this hope guide our lives!  It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.

            Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years.  All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope.  We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore him.  That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering.  God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

            In her Memoirs (III, 6), Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat?  And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary?  And all those people praying with him?”  Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me!  I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned.  Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.

            Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life.  In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfillment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia.  We do not want to be a stillborn hope!  Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).  The Lord, who always goes before us, said this and did this.  Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us.  We do not mount the cross to find Jesus.  Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.

            With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Saviour, resplendent at Easter.  Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.