Sunday, January 29, 2017

Jan. 29, 2017: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Jan. 29, 2017: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Reflection on Beatitudes of Today's Gospel

Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day which focuses on the Beatitudes, Pope Francis described them as a “programme”, the “identity card of a Christian”.

“If you ask yourself how to become a good Christian, this is where you can find Jesus’s answer, an answer,” he said, “that points to an attitude that is currently very much against the tide: Blessed are the poor in spirit.

“Wealth,” Francis pointed out “offers no guarantee, in fact when the heart is rich and self-satisfied, it has no place for the Word of God: “Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted.

“The world tells us that happiness, joy and entertainment are the best things in life,” he continued. “And it looks the other way when there are problems of disease or pain in the family. The world does not want to suffer, it prefers to ignore painful situations, to cover them up. Only the person who sees things as they are, and whose heart mourns, will be happy and will be comforted. Thanks to the consolation of Jesus, not to that of the world. Blessed are the meek in this world which is filled with wars, arguments, hatred. And Jesus says: no war, no hatred. Peace and meekness.”

Pope Francis continued saying “if you are meek in life, people will think you are not clever”. Let them think that, he said, “but you are meek because with this meekness you will inherit the Earth”.

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness”. It is so easy, the Pope observed, to become part of the corrupt and referred to “that daily approach of ‘do ut des’. Everything is business”. How much injustice does that approach cause, he noted, and how many people suffer because of injustice. And Jesus says: “Blessed are they who fight against injustice. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy”. The merciful, the Pope said, are “those who forgive and understand the mistakes of others”. Jesus, he pointed out, does not say “blessed are they who seek revenge”.

“Blessed are they who forgive, who are merciful. Because we are all part of an army of people who have been forgiven! We have all been forgiven. That is why blessed is he who undertakes this path of forgiveness. Blessed are the pure of heart, they who have a simple, pure heart without dirt, a heart that knows how to love with purity. Blessed are peace-makers. But it is so common amongst us to be war-makers or perpetrators of misunderstandings! When I hear something from one person, and I go and say it to someone else in a second, enlarged, edition… the world of gossip. People who gossip, who do not make peace, are enemies of peace. They are not blessed”.

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness”. How many people, Pope Francis said, have been persecuted, “and continue to be persecuted simply for having fought for justice”. And recalling the Beatitudes, the Pope pointed out that they represent “a programme for life offered to us by Jesus”: “So simple and yet so difficult”. And he said: “if we are searching for more, Jesus gives us other indications” as written in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was ill and you cared for me, I was in prison and you visited me”. With these two things – the Beatitudes and Matthew 25 – “one can live a holy, Christian life”.

“Few words, simple words, but practical for all,” the Pope said in closing. “Because Christianity is a practical religion: it is not just to be imagined, it is to be practiced. If you have some time at home today, take the Gospel, Matthew’s Gospel, chapter five. At the beginning there are the Beatitudes; in chapter 25 the rest. And it will do you good to read them once, twice, three times. Read this programme for holiness. May the Lord give us the grace to understand his message”.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Jan. 27, 2017: 3rd Week of Ordinary Time

Jan. 27, 2017: 3rd Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 4:26-29
Jesus said to the crowds:
"This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come."

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In this parable the focus is on the seed’s intrinsic power to grow of its own accord. The sower liberally scatters his seed, then goes on with the routine of his daily life. Slowly, imperceptibly, the seed begins to sprout. The farmer does not know how this happens; even today, with the tremendous advances in microbiology, life remains a mystery. Nor can the farmer control the process. According to its natural stages the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain. The farmer can water, weed, and fertilize the ground as the months go on, but he cannot make the ripe grain appear a day before its appointed time. Farming requires an element of trust and patience. Yet the moment the harvest has arrived, the farmer is ready with his sickle to reap without delay. The harvest is a biblical image for the final judgment (Joel 4:13; Rev 14:14-15).

With this parable Jesus explains that the kingdom of God is a divine work, not a human achievement. God brings about its growth, which at times is imperceptible. We cooperate, but we cannot control or hasten the arrival of the kingdom by our efforts any more than the farmer can harvest his grain in January. St. Paul knew this principle well: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth” (1 Cor 3:6-7).

Every member of the kingdom is being made ready for the harvest by our inner growth in holiness and virtue, which God brings about through our cooperation with his grace.

The parable serves as an encouragement for those who think their efforts for the kingdom are fruitless, and a warning for those who think they can bring about the kingdom by their own projects and programs.

By Mary Healy. "Gospel of Mark: The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Jan. 26, 2017. St. Timothy and St. Titus

Jan. 26, 2017. St. Timothy and St. Titus

GOSPEL. Mark 4:21-25
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

FIRST READING. 2 Tm 1:1-8
I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.

----

Jesus is continuing to instruct his disciples in private, although at an unspecified point the setting will shift back to the crowds by the sea (see 4:33). He asks a rhetorical question: Is a lamp brought in (literally, “Does the lamp come”) only to be hidden under a bushel basket or a bed?

The obvious answer is: Of course not! The implication is that the lamp is Jesus, who has come into the world to bring humanity the light of revelation (see Luke 2:32; John 1:9; 8:12). Jesus wishes to prevent a mistaken interpretation of his earlier words about the mystery of the kingdom (Mark 4 :11). Despite the obscurity of the parables and the difficulties people have in understanding his teaching, his purpose is not to hide the kingdom but to make it known. 4:22

Verse 22 clarifies the point. What is hidden and secret is the mystery of the kingdom that is present in Jesus. It is hidden in the ordinariness of his life (see 6:3), in the apparent simplicity of the parables (4:11), and in the disappointments and hindrances he has encountered (2:7; 3:6, 21-22). But it is hidden only for a time, for the sake of eventually being fully revealed. Just as Jesus’ identity cannot be prematurely publicized, because to do so would lead to a false understanding of his messiahship, so the mystery of the kingdom has to germinate and sprout deep within human hearts before its full splendor can come to light.

On one level this saying alludes to the fact that the time of hiddenness has ended with Jesus’ resurrection. Now the mystery of his messianic identity and mission is fully revealed, and his followers are to take that light into the whole world (see 13:10). How senseless it would be to be given such a bright light only to conceal it under a bushel basket or a bed!

On another level the kingdom is still hidden in the trials and setbacks that accompany the Church’s mission of evangelization. But in the end, all that God wishes to reveal is destined to come to light. 4:23 Jesus stresses the importance of taking time to consider and reflect on this mystery of hiddenness by twice reminding his audience to carefully heed his words. 4:24-25

The second pair of cryptic sayings expands on the consequences of hearing well or poorly. Jesus is telling his audience: You will profit from my teachings in the measure you pay attention to them—and if you do strive to understand, God will give you still more understanding than you could attain by your own efforts. The last saying, which occurs elsewhere in the context of the parable of the talents (Matt 25:29; Luke 19:26), seems to conflict with our idea of fairness, and even other biblical statements about the poor being made rich (Mark 9:35; Luke 1:53; 6:20, 24).

What could it mean here? In this context it signifies that whoever responds to Jesus with openness and a desire to learn will be given even more insight; whoever does not will lose even the little understanding he has. God’s revelation is a gift, but it is a gift that must be freely accepted.

By Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark: Catholic Commentary

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Jan. 25, 2017: The Conversion of St. Paul

Jan. 25, 2017: The Conversion of St. Paul

To be converted means, also for each one of us, to believe that Jesus "has given himself for me", dying on the Cross (cf. Galatians 2: 20) and, risen, lives with me and in me. Entrusting myself to the power of his forgiveness, letting myself be taken by his hand, I can come out of the quicksands of pride and sin, of deceit and sadness, of selfishness and of every false security, to know and live the richness of his love."
(Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, from address given on January 25, 2009)

Before Saint Paul’s conversion he thought he was a very good man. He thought he did everything very, very well. He was full of zeal, convinced of the direction he was taking in life, and was very successful within the scope of the people who mattered to him.

He had no idea that he was very misguided. Then the Lord entered his life, shook him up, blinded him, threw him to the ground and left him confused and unnerved for three days.

Having encountered the Risen Lord he was transformed. He re-evaluated everything in his life and became the most impacting force in the Church other than Jesus Himself. Paul translated the experience of Jesus not only from Aramaic into Greek, but from an Asian mentality to a European mentality. He became the greatest missionary the Church as seen, establishing churches that survive even to this day, and he wrote two thirds of the New Testament.

Paul’s conversion not only changed him; it changed the world.

This brings us to this feast’s application to us. God is calling some people here present to undergo a major change in the way they are living their lives. All of us, in fact, are being invited by the Lord to undergo some kind of transformation, some form of conversion, some new way of believing and thinking. Wouldn’t you agree that all of us have some kind of obstacle to our following Christ more closely? And wouldn’t we all agree that the mother of all vices if pride? So as we celebrate Paul’s conversion let us take as look at the virtue that conquers pride: humility.

There are 3 different degrees of humility.

The 1st degree of humility is necessary for salvation. It’s having enough humility to stop justifying mortal sin in our lives. It’s the humility needed to recognize that I have this major obstacle in my life, some major sin, that keeps me at a distance from God. And it’s having enough humility to recognize that so far I have been unwilling to do what I need to do to remove this obstacle from my life. Without this 1st degree of humility I make the decision to live with my sin, even to justify it. The 1st degree of humility leads us to say to the Lord, “Not for all the riches in the world would I ever commit a mortal sin.”

The second degree of humility is a move towards holiness. In this state of relationship with the Lord, He, the Lord, has become so important to me that I don’t want to do the least little thing against the Lord. This is not scrupulosity but rather a desire to be one with Christ, to see Him in all things, to encounter him in all the people and events in our lives, a desire to rise above my mediocrity, and not settle for a half-hearted response to the call of Christ. And now we don’t want even venial sins to stand in our way, preventing a clear sight of the Lord who loves us so. This is the state of no longer wanting to disagree with, for instance, the teaching of the Church on the sanctity of life and settle for some compromise between good and evil. This second degree of humility leads us to say, “Not for all the money in the world would I ever want to commit even a venial sin.”

The third degree of humility is a move into true sanctity. In this degree of humility I see myself as part and parcel of all of sinful humanity and I see my call to be among those who are despised, rejected, ostracized, spat upon, and facing extreme oppression, because thus was treated my Lord and Savior. This is the degree of humility that hears the teaching of our Church as the voice of Jesus and embraces it, especially on such tough subjects as there being a need for a redistribution of wealth so there is a greater bond between the rich and the poor. A person who abides in this 3rd degree of humility not only understands, but lives, the Church teaching that says, “No one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lack the bare necessities of life.” (Populorum Progressio, 23)

Oh, how far away from this degree of humility we all are! But now we can see what is the trajectory of holiness the Lord is calling us to. Let us on this feast of Paul’s conversion let us ask the Lord to help us grow in holiness.

By Fr. Bill Breslin
http://www.fatherbillsblog.com/heart/2009/01/homily-for-the-conversion-of-st-paul-12509.html

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jan. 24, 2017: St. Francis de Sales

Jan. 24, 2017: St. Francis de Sales

"Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister"
Scripture: Mark 3:31-35

31 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you." 33 And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34 And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."

Who do you love and cherish the most? God did not intend for us to be alone, but to be with others. He gives us many opportunities for developing relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Why did Jesus, on this occasion, seem to ignore his own relatives when they pressed to see him? His love and respect for his mother and his relatives was unquestionable. Jesus never lost an opportunity to teach his disciples a spiritual lesson and truth about the kingdom of God. On this occasion when many gathered to hear Jesus he pointed to another higher reality of relationships, namely our relationship with God and with those who belong to God.

What kind of relationship does God want with us?
What is the essence of being a Christian? It is certainly more than doctrine, precepts, and commandments. It is first and foremost a relationship - a relationship of trust, affection, commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, mercy, helpfulness, encouragement, support, strength, protection, and so many other qualities that bind people together in mutual love and unity. God offers us the greatest of relationships - union of heart, mind, and spirit with himself, the very author and source of love (1 John 4:8,16).

By Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jan. 22, 2017: 3rd Sunday Ordinary A

Jan. 22, 2017: 3rd Sunday Ordinary A

Click to hear Audio Homily
When someone texts you or calls you on the cell, how quick are you to respond? It depends on who is trying to reach you, what you’re doing, or whether you’re in a meeting, in the middle of a meal with someone, or praying. A 19-yr. old Italian college student, Stefano Cabizza, was worried about the economy and finding a job after graduation. So he did what most Catholics would not dare do, write the Pope. He wrote a letter a to Pope Francis in which he described his life and expressed hopes that he would find a job at the end of his studies. So he was stunned to have the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics phone him up for a chat. Stefano said, “I couldn’t believe it. Pope and I laughed and joked for about eight minutes.” Pope told Stefano to use informal title of the Pope rather than a formal one. Pope said to him, “Do you think the Apostles would have used the polite form with Christ? Would they have called him ‘your excellency’? They were friends, just as you and I are now, and with friends I’m accustomed to using informal title.” Stefano said, “He asked me to pray for him and then he gave me a blessing.” Stefano was surprised that Pope Francis would care enough about an ordinary student among tens of thousands, to call him by name and to reassure him. We have to wonder, is this also how Jesus knows and calls each of us?

Just imagine how Peter and Andrew felt when out of the blue a man approached them and called out to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." They had just cast their nets into the sea when this unfamiliar man called upon them. Perhaps Andrew recognized the man as the rabbi called Jesus whom he met with John the Baptist. Something must have stirred inside both Andrew and his brother Peter. They left the nets in the ocean and at once followed him. A similar experience happened to James and his brother John. They were mending broken nets in the boat when the rabbi motioned them to join him. Perhaps they saw Andrew and Peter with the rabbi. Something also stirred in them to promptly leave their nets and even their own father to follow Jesus.

Do you ever have one of those days when you have planned everything out to the hour, and then either someone or something unexpected changes your schedule? How would you feel? Irritated, resentful, or let’s go with the flow? The Book of Proverbs gives us a nugget of wisdom regarding this: "The human heart plans the way, but the LORD directs the steps." (Proverbs 16:9) Prophet Isaiah also reveals that God’s ways is not our ways, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)

At any moment of the day, the Holy Spirit prompts us with a mission from the Heavenly Father. It may not be something that we scheduled or would prefer to do. A disciple of Jesus in a sense must be ready to surrender each and every moment, just as Blessed Mother did when she said, “Let it be done to me, according to your word.” All of us prize our freedom, the ability to choose what we want and when we want it to happen. Yet there is a greater way to experience freedom--freely choosing to do God’s will when He wills it.

In 1975 after the city of Saigon fell to the Communist Vietnamese Army, then-Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan was put in jail by the Communists for 13 years, of which nine of those years he spent in solitary confinement. One night, alone in the prison cell,  Bishop Nguyen was tormented by a thought that he was uselessly wasting away. He thought, “I’m forty-eight years old, in the prime of my life, and here I was isolated, inactive, and far from my people.” One night, he heard a voice from the depths of his heart advising him:
"Why torment yourself? You must discern between God and the works of God. Everything you have done and desire to continue to do, pastoral visits, training seminarians, sisters and members of religious orders, building schools, evangelizing non-Christians. All of that is excellent work, the work of God but it is not God! If God wants you to give it all up and put the work into his hands, do it and trust him. God will do the work infinitely better than you; he will entrust the work to others who are more able than you. You have only to choose God and not the works of God!"

If we are to be ready to respond to the call from Jesus, as did Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Bishop Nguyen, we should be ready at every moment of the day. We may not be asked to leave behind our profession, livelihood, or all of our possessions. Rather, we may be asked to welcome the interruption in the plans of today as an opportunity to serve Jesus. Perhaps it can be a smile, a kind word, or a short prayer for a person who interrupted our plans. For even a serious change in our plans, such as an illness or the loss of a loved one, we have to be ready to entrust it in God’s hands and live day-to-day with courage that He is guiding every step. Trusting in God should not be an extraordinary response for us; trusting God should be an ordinary response as a Christian. Our Lord reminds us that perfect love casts out fear. The love and care that Our Lord has for us is as personal and compassionate as the phone call the young man received from Pope Francis. Let us go about this week recognizing interruptions as opportunities to love and serve Our Lord.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Jan. 16, 2017: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jan. 16, 2017: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now let me say that the next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and goodwill toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God. And so when we say "Thou shalt not kill," we're really saying that human life is too sacred to be taken on the battlefields of the world. Man is more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke from a limitless smoldering. Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such. Until men see this everywhere, until nations see this everywhere, we will be fighting wars. One day somebody should remind us that, even though there may be political and ideological differences between us, the Vietnamese are our brothers, the Russians are our brothers, the Chinese are our brothers; and one day we've got to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. But in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. In Christ there is neither male nor female. In Christ there is neither Communist nor capitalist. In Christ, somehow, there is neither bound nor free. We are all one in Christ Jesus. And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won't exploit people, we won't trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won't kill anybody.

If there is to be peace on earth and goodwill toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. Something must remind us of this as we once again stand in the Christmas season and think of the Easter season simultaneously, for the two somehow go together. Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light, and they crucified Him, and there on Good Friday on the Cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, "No lie can live forever." And so this is our faith, as we continue to hope for peace on earth and goodwill toward men: let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington, D.C., and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare. I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes' problem of poverty. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisors, 16,000 strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over 500,000 American boys are fighting on Asian soil. Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can't give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream.

I have a dream that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers. I still have a dream this morning that one day every Negro in this country, every colored person in the world, will be judged on the basis of the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, and every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. I still have a dream that one day the idle industries of Appalachia will be revitalized, and the empty stomachs of Mississippi will be filled, and brotherhood will be more than a few words at the end of a prayer, but rather the first order of business on every legislative agenda. I still have a dream today that one day justice will roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. I still have a dream today that in all of our state houses and city halls men will be elected to go there who will do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with their God. I still have a dream today that one day war will come to an end, that men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, that nations will no longer rise up against nations, neither will they study war any more. I still have a dream today that one day the lamb and the lion will lie down together and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. I still have a dream today that one day every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill will be made low, the rough places will be made smooth and the crooked places straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. I still have a dream that with this faith we will be able to adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when there will be peace on earth and goodwill toward men. It will be a glorious day, the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
His final Christmas sermon. Four months later he would die at the hands of an assassin in Memphis, Tennessee

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Jan. 15, 2017: 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time A

Jan. 15, 2017: 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Some of you may have been given an award or certificate in the past. Were you ever asked to give a speech when receiving your award? Whom did you thank or give credit in your speech? An NBA basketball player in recent years gave a speech after receiving the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. He said, “First and foremost I have to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with the talents to play this game, with the family to support me, day in, day out. I’m His humble servant right now and I can’t say enough how important my faith is to who I am and how I play the game.” In a magazine column, the same NBA star wrote, “I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is just a game that can be taken from me at any moment. But I love that basketball gives me the opportunities to do good things for people and to point them towards the Man who died for our sins on the cross. I know I have a place in heaven waiting for me because of Him, and that’s something no earthly prize or trophy could ever top.” This 28-year old young man knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Are we also convinced of who Jesus is for us, and do we give credit to Him where it’s due?

John the Baptist knew Jesus as his cousin. He knew Mary, mother of Jesus, as well, but he wasn’t sure that his cousin was THE MESSIAH. Something had happened when John baptized his cousin Jesus which had convinced John beyond all doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. John said, "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."

John’s father, Zechariah, was a priest of the Jerusalem Temple, so John would have known all the ritual of the Temple and its sacrifices. Every morning and every evening, a lamb was sacrificed in the Temple for the sins of the people. So long as the Temple stood, this daily sacrifice was made. In the gospel today, John proclaims of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God.” In essence John is saying, 'In the Temple, a lamb is offered every night and every morning for the sins of the people; but in this Jesus is the only sacrifice that can deliver men and women from sin.'

At every mass we hear the similar words of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” And we reply, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” With these humble words of ours, as we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we proclaim that we are welcoming into our souls Jesus whose love, sacrifice, suffering, and resurrection heals us and saves us.

Because of who Jesus is for us and what he has done for us, our life on earth has an entirely different meaning for us than those who do not yet know Jesus. We know why we are here, we know why we must expect and accept trials and troubles, because we know where we are going, and understand that life’s tribulations, as well as its joys and consolations, are the road which leads us to the true life. The basketball star I spoke about in the beginning said to the reporters, “People should know who I represent and why I am who I am.” He was humble enough to realize who he is before God and what his mission is on this earth--to be a servant whose way of life points to Christ. He uses the stage of basketball court to simply say, “Look at Christ and what he has done for me.”

What can we do concretely in our daily lives to point others to Christ? Let us thank and bless God, for having given us the light of faith and the opportunity to witness with our lives that Jesus is Our Lord and Savior.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Jan. 8, 2017: Epiphany

Jan. 8, 2017: Epiphany
Click to hear Audio Homily

It was the day after Christmas, and the local news anchor announced that the Christmas tree collection was going to begin promptly. My heart sank because Christmas was not over, in fact, it had just begun. Whereas many of our local stores have switched out Christmas goods with Mardi Gras decoration and sweets, many countries around the world are celebrating the gift giving on this feast of Epiphany. To us in the States, gift buying and giving and all the holiday parties are over. We’re so ready to be back to slower and peaceful pace of life again. But when you ponder about the feast of Epiphany, that’s exactly what we’re celebrating.

Imagine on the stillness of the night, three men following a star. They represent all of us and the rest of humanity, in search of the True Light, True Peace, and True Happiness. We can identify with these men, for we are in constant search for that which will ultimately fulfill us. We don’t sit still. Sometimes we feel that working harder, accomplishing more, knowing more people, or having more would make us happy. We keep busy hoping that would help us get us to our goal of being happy.

Yet these men did something opposite of what we would normally do. They sacrificed their time by putting their careers and their lives on hold, so that they could journey to Bethlehem in search of Jesus. They dedicated their talent and time to pay homage and to worship the True King. When the Magi arrived at the place where the child was with Mary his mother, they fell on their knees in adoration. They opened their treasures – their hearts – and presented Jesus with gold, incense and myrrh, highly valuable commodities, a currency, and of great value in those times. Having accepted their gifts on behalf of her Son--as she does with all our prayers--Mary, in turn, presented Jesus to the Magi. This was her gift to them, and one of immeasurably more value than gold, incense and myrrh. 

As we know, after finding Jesus, the Magi did not go back to King Herod, but returned to their own country a different way. This is conversion. This is the heart, changing. Having replaced in their hearts the riches of gold, incense and myrrh with the treasure of Jesus, the three kings now became ‘wise men’ and avoided returning to their old ways. Like the Magi, will we also long to search for Him and to behold Him? In the busyness of life and distractions of the world, will we make a new resolve to disconnect from things of the world that keep us from seeing Our Lord? Can we develop one habit this new year that would help us grow closer to Jesus? Ponder what God is asking of you so that you may grow closer to His Son. If you’re not praying every day, consider adding prayer in your daily routine. If you have a regular prayer routine, consider adding a little time. The way we get to know Jesus and our mission, is to read the scriptures. Start by reading the Gospel of Mark, which is the shortest of the Gospel--perhaps you could read 10 minutes a day.

Do we want to see our lives transformed by the love and power of Jesus Christ? Each of us must take time to become a more effective instrument of the Gospel of peace, mercy, and righteousness. Let us examine Jesus' humility and ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude in our hearts.
I leave you with a hymn which tells of the mystery of what the Magi discovered in Bethlehem. 

Helpless and hungry, lowly, afraid
Wrapped in the chill of midwinter;
Comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace,
new life for the world
Who is this who lives with the lowly,
 Sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world
 In the eyes of a child, a child of the poor

Bring all the thirst, all who seek peace;
Bring those with nothing to offer.
Strengthen the feeble,
Say to the frightened heart: “Fear not: here is your God!” 
Who is this who lives with the lowly,
 Sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger?
This is Christ, revealed to the world
 In the eyes of a child, a child of the poor

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Preparing for Epiphany

Preparing for Epiphany

Whereas Christmas appears to be over in the United States, Christmas is culminating with the feast of Epiphany in many countries around the world.

Let's journey in prayer with the Magi who represents all of us--humanity in search for the True Light in the silence of the night.

NIGHT OF SILENCE
by Daniel Kantor

1. Cold are the people, Winter of life, We tremble in shadows this cold endless night, Frozen in the snow lie roses sleeping, Flowers that will echo the sunrise, Fire of hope is our only warmth, Weary, its flame will be dying soon.

2. Voice in the distance, call in the night, On wind you enfold us you speak of the light, Gentle on the ear you whisper softly, Rumors of a dawn so embracing, Breathless love awaits darkened souls, Soon will we know of the morning.

3. Spirit among us, Shine like the star, Your light that guides shepherds and kings from afar, Shimmer in the sky so empty, lonely, Rising in the warmth of your Son's love, Star unknowing of night and day, Spirit we wait for your loving Son.

Jan. 6, 2017: St. Andre Bessette, CSC

Jan. 6, 2017: St. Andre Bessette, CSC



Brother André expressed a saint’s faith by a lifelong devotion to Saint Joseph.
ess and weakness dogged André from birth. He was the eighth of 12 children born to a French Canadian couple near Montreal. Adopted at 12, when both parents had died, he became a farmhand. Various trades followed: shoemaker, baker, blacksmith—all failures. He was a factory worker in the United States during the boom times of the Civil War.

At 25, André applied for entrance into the Congregation of the Holy Cross. After a year’s novitiate, he was not admitted because of his weak health. But with an extension and the urging of Bishop Bourget, he was finally received. He was given the humble job of doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, with additional duties as sacristan, laundry worker and messenger. “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained 40 years,” he said.

In his little room near the door, he spent much of the night on his knees. On his windowsill, facing Mount Royal, was a small statue of Saint Joseph, to whom he had been devoted since childhood. When asked about it he said, “Some day, Saint Joseph is going to be honored in a very special way on Mount Royal!”

When he heard someone was ill, he visited to bring cheer and to pray with the sick person. He would rub the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lamp burning in the college chapel. Word of healing powers began to spread.

When an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, André volunteered to nurse. Not one person died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. His superiors were uneasy; diocesan authorities were suspicious; doctors called him a quack. “I do not cure,” he said again and again. “Saint Joseph cures.” In the end he needed four secretaries to handle the 80,000 letters he received each year.

For many years the Holy Cross authorities had tried to buy land on Mount Royal. Brother André and others climbed the steep hill and planted medals of Saint Joseph. Suddenly, the owners yielded. André collected $200 to build a small chapel and began receiving visitors there—smiling through long hours of listening, applying Saint Joseph’s oil. Some were cured, some not. The pile of crutches, canes and braces grew.

The chapel also grew. By 1931, there were gleaming walls, but money ran out. “Put a statue of Saint Joseph in the middle. If he wants a roof over his head, he’ll get it.” The magnificent Oratory on Mount Royal took 50 years to build. The sickly boy who could not hold a job died at 92.

He is buried at the Oratory. He was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2010. At his canonization in October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said that Saint Andre “lived the beatitude of the pure of heart.”

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-andr-eacute-bessette/

Quotes of St. Andre Bessette:

“I am nothing. Only a tool in the hands of providence; a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph”

“Put yourself in God’s hands; He abandons no one.”

“It is with the smallest brushes that the Artist paints the best paintings.”

“Practice charity with your neighbor—and this doesn’t mean only to give money to the poor. There are many ways to practice charity. We could, for example, keep ourselves from examining our neighbor’s conscience. There is also visiting the sick, who often do not need money, but who need good advice to help them get closer to God.”

“When you say to God, Our Father, he has his ear right next to your lips.”

“There is so little distance between heaven and earth that God always hears us. Nothing but a thin veil separates us from God.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Jan. 5, 2016: St. John Neumann

Jan. 5, 2016: St. John Neumann

Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. 
And Jesus said to him, "Follow me." 
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. 
Philip found Nathanael and told him,
"We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, 
and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth." 
But Nathanael said to him,
"Can anything good come from Nazareth?" 
Philip said to him, "Come and see." 
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
"Here is a true child of Israel. 
There is no duplicity in him." 
Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" 
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." (Jn 1:43-51)

How Jesus Looks at Us

Jesus' gaze, when He walked the earth, would cause a profound awakening in others. When He passed by, the eyes of the blind were opened. Paralytics threw away their crutches. Those who were sick sprang from their beds completely cured. Jesus had a divine attraction about Him which tore at hearts that were thirsting for love and truth. He satisfied their longing because He Himself was Love, Truth and Life.

Jesus always looks at us with Infinite Kindness. He watches over us. He never tires of knocking at the door of our hearts. Nor does He tire of waiting for us to open to Him, because He loves us. He will take our mortal life into His own divine hands so that He might give us eternal life. He will close our eyes here on earth, that He might open them to the True Light. He will always be our consolation and our happiness. He will not allow us to weep like those who have no hope.

Let us imitate Jesus in His Gaze. Always tender, sweet, and loving. Let us see Him in souls, because His Divine Image is reflected in them better than in the blue of the skies or the waves of the sea.

- Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, "What Jesus is Like"