Friday, March 31, 2017

Mar. 31, 2017: Friday, Fourth Week of Lent

Mar. 31, 2017: Friday, Fourth Week of Lent

Allowing God to Plead Our Case

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, those who are crushed in spirit he saves. –Psalm 34: 19

Burdened with our past sins or with worries regarding our loved ones, we are often overwhelmed or brokenhearted, as the psalmist says. As we carry the weight of these burdens, we seldom consider the dangers this constant stress has on our body and our psyche. We are just trying to survive, to get by.

Yet, as we grow weary with life, God stays close to us despite our broken hearts. Even if we have sold our souls cheaply, God stays close willing to pay the price to redeem us. The Lord always looks out for us. God redeems us rather than condemns us.

While the word diabolos in Greek means “the accuser,” or “the slanderer,” the Latin word advocatus—the word giving us the English word “advocate” that we use for the Holy Spirit—means a lawyer, or one who pleads our case in court. When we slander another person, we play the role of the diabolos. God is not diabolos, but our advocate. God doesn’t abandon us to our sins, rather God takes up our case, not only pleading in our favor but also paying the price for our crime.

By Sr. Joan Mueller, Journey to Joy

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mar. 30, 2017: Thursday, Fourth Week of Lent

Mar. 30, 2017: Thursday, Fourth Week of Lent

Reclaiming Our Glory

They made a calf in Horeb and adored a molten image; They exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bullock. –Psalm 106: 19-20

You might wonder about the Israelites: After God did so much for them in the Exodus, why would they turn around and worship a golden calf? What ingrates! But, truth be told, we also spend our lives on silly things. Some folks play computer games for hours and neglect their relationships. Others spend money on frivolous things and go into debt. We use our time gossiping to the neglect of our children.

What did the Israelites sacrifice for their “calf-worshipping” behavior? Psalm 106 tells us that they exchanged their glory for such silliness. Glory is God’s light shining through the human person. It is God’s grace reaching out through our hands and feet to those in need. It is God’s grace that flows into a needy world through those who faithfully call to God asking for this grace.

When we surrender our lives to contemptible idolatries, we exchange our glory—we sell our dignity too cheaply. We would never think of selling a diamond for a few dollars, dollars, but we sometimes sacrifice the glory of our soul for passing entertainment or a fleeting high. We look at ourselves and fail to appreciate our God-imbued soul.

By Sr. Joan Mueller OSC, Journey to Joy

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mar. 29, 2017: Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

Mar. 29, 2017: Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
(John 5: 17-30)

An Account of Near-death Experience

Morning comes again and I awaken and hurry to the hospital so I can be there when visiting hours begin, knowing that sitting alone in his room lends itself to Bernie’s depression. Happily, I find him brighter and stronger today, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find him smiling and in a good humor as I kiss him good morning.

Dr. Villandia’s wonderful spicy cologne in the hall announces his presence for rounds and he enters the room with his usual greeting, “Buenos Dias, Bernardo! Como estas?” Without hesitating, Bernie answers very enthusiastically, “Great!!”

“Great?” I respond in a surprised tone as the doctor and I flank his bed on either side, taking note of the dramatic change in him since yesterday when he asked to have his life support disconnected. “That is music to my ears! Why are you feeling so great?"

“I don't know… this is the best I’ve felt since I got here. I can feel my strength returning and I am getting better,” Bernie offers with a visibly different countenance and attitude than the previous morning.

“Wow!” I say thankfully. “Praise God. I’m so happy to hear that.” “Me too,” Dr. Villandia interjects. “And your new heart medication will hopefully make you feel even better. I ordered the nurses to begin it just now. Let’s pray that it gets your heart stronger so we can move you to a rehab center soon.” After a brief check up and assessment of Bernie’s hand, foot and back wounds, which are not healing due to the fact that his circulation is so poor, the doctor departs and I pull my chair up beside the bed to begin morning prayers.

“Do you want to hear about my near death experience?” Bernie asks unexpectedly and unassumingly as I sit down.

“Oh my gosh... yes!!!” I say excitedly. “I’ve been waiting forever for you to tell me this! What did Jesus say to you?” I want to know.

“Judy, I died and I remember it clearly,” he begins slowly and quietly. “I saw my spirit leave my body and I could see myself floating in the air, looking down at my body, where I could see my damaged heart. It looked like my heart was torn in half and one side was a vivid color of blue that looked like ugly debris—and I knew it represented all of the things I had done in my life that were not pleasing to God. The other side was a beautiful gold—and I knew it represented all of the things I had done that were pleasing to God,” he continues with a soft, intentional voice that seeps a sacred silence.

“I could feel myself being pulled over and over toward the blue side of my heart, even though I wanted to go toward the gold side. I felt that I had to make a choice, but I felt a strong emotional struggle over which side to choose. Finally, I chose the gold and started moving toward the gold side of my heart and, when I did, I got on a gold bus and went toward the light. I followed the light all of the way to heaven. And, Judy,” he continues with deadly seriousness, “When I got there, I wasn’t permitted to enter.”

“You weren’t permitted to enter?” I ask quizzically, mindful of the man who previously maintained that he was certain he would go to heaven because he was a “good person.” “No, I wasn’t permitted to enter. All of the sudden, I started going toward the dark side of my heart again and I started heading toward the darkness, and when I did, I met the most unimaginable creatures,” Bernie relays somberly. “They were indescribably hideous and they had tusks coming out of the center of their heads. You know what tusks are?” he asks as though it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of the concept. “And these creatures began to assault me and violate my body, beating me up and ramming things down my throat and into the other orifices of my body. I was begging them to stop, but they just kept beating me and screaming in my ears with hideous voices yelling, ‘We’re here to help you!! We’re here to help you!’ I was pleading with them, saying, “Please… please, I beg you, this isn’t the kind of help I need.”

“How did you resolve it?” I ask, spellbound at his story, especially as it comes forth from a man who never believed in demons and insisted for years that I was “too focused on the demonic” when I would speak of Satan and his minions.

“I surrendered to God,” he says slowly and deliberately, emphasizing each word purposefully. “And when I did, I was given food, air and water—and I had so much peace. I was told by God to go back—that I needed to make amends with God, my life and the people in my life. And, Judy,” he says, looking me right in the eye after a moment’s hesitation, “this is my purification. And I NEED it,” he continues, conveying his experience with a level of honesty and humility that I have rarely seen in my husband in the twenty-four years I’ve known him.

The word “purification” is not something I’ve ever heard leave my husband’s lips, but it’s a term I’m well acquainted with from Catholic theology. The idea around purification is that in order to go to heaven we must be objectively holy, and the bible is explicit that “nothing unholy will enter heaven.” (Rev. 21: 27) In order to become holy, we must be sanctified—made holy—either in this life or the next. Purification happens in this life when we embrace Jesus Christ through faith and baptism, and then die to ourselves as we strive to live according to Christ’s teachings. Purification is an ongoing process as we allow our faith—and our suffering—to have a transformative effect on us. When we do, we become pliable, teachable and moldable as we allow ourselves to be conformed to Christ, and as we let the “fire” of God’s love change us into a more accurate image and likeness of Him, burning away the dross in us—or as Bernie called it, “ugly debris”—that is incompatible with the love of God.

If we still need purification when we depart this life, it’s known as “purgatory,” which Pope John Paul II said is not so much a “place” as it is an experience of being cleansed as we see the truth about ourselves—which is often very painful—in the blazing fire of God’s love as we enter heaven. Apparently, Bernie has had this experience of truth, and it’s clear to him that he stands in need of this time of cleansing.

“Judy,” Bernie continues with his story, “I’ve had that vision in my mind continuously for weeks and it’s all I’ve been able to see every time I close my eyes. But I’ve been unable to speak about it until now,” he continues. “Something changed yesterday... I don’t know what it was.”

“Wow!!!! That is incredible!” I respond in stunned amazement, suspecting that I know exactly what caused the change. “Do you know what happened yesterday? After you asked me to let you die, I started praying and I heard God say to take authority over a spirit of death. I called Johnnie Hernandez to come pray with me and while we were praying over you, it occurred to me that you had made an agreement with the spirit of death by insisting that you were going to die before you turn sixty-four—almost like putting a curse on yourself,” I continue as Bernie looks up at me with wide eyes. “Johnnie and I took authority over that spirit and we watched it leave your body. And you are completely different today,” I convey with awe, as the change in him is truly remarkable. “Well, I didn’t know that happened, but I know that something changed,” Bernie agrees with a smile. “And you know what, Judy? Every time I close my eyes now all I can see is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

“Praise God!!!” I enthusiastically reply. “You didn’t know what happened because you were asleep when we prayed. But there’s no doubt in my mind that I saw a spirit of death leave your body. Johnnie and I both saw it.”

“Thank you for praying for me,” Bernie responds as he looks up at me with sincere gratitude in his eyes. “And thank you for being by my side all of this time in this hospital. I finally understand how much you love me,” he continues gratefully.

By Judy Landrieu Klein, MIRACLE MAN

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mar. 26, 2017: 4th Sunday of Lent A

Mar. 26, 2017: 4th Sunday of Lent A

Click to hear Audio Homily
How well do you know Jesus? How can you tell if someone knows Jesus well? A man named Bill went through a life-changing religious conversion two years ago was eager to tell his friend Tom about his awesome experience of accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Tom was skeptical of Bill’s conversion, so he decided to test his friend’s newfound faith. “Tell me, Bill, what country was Jesus born in?” Bill replied, “Uhhh, I’m not sure.” Tom asked, “Tell me, how old was he when he died?” Bill replied, “I’m not sure.” “So you don’t know much about the man you claim to accept as your Lord and Savior?” Bill replied, “I’m ashamed to say that I know very little about him. But what I do know is that a couple of years ago, my family was falling apart with my alcoholism. My kids wouldn’t even look at me. But after finding Christ, I gave up drinking and tried everyday to be the best husband and father. Now my children eagerly await for me when I return from work. I don’t know Jesus too well, but that’s what the Lord has done for me.” What we can learn from the story is that knowing Jesus is not so much about learning facts and figures about him, as it is about being permeated by the love of Christ, allowing oneself to be led by the Holy Spirit, and grafting one’s own life onto the tree of life -- the Lord’s Cross.

The conversion that Jesus brought about in the man’s life is much like how he gave true vision to the man born blind in our Gospel today. The disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" But Jesus replied, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes with spittle and clay then asked him to wash himself in the pool of Siloam. Paradoxically, the man’s congenital blindness revealed Jesus as the true light of the world and showed the spiritual blindness of the world.

Just as our baptism removed the darkness of original sin in our souls and enfolded us in the eternal light of Christ, the blind man, was healed and given clear vision--not only physical vision but a spiritual vision with the gift of faith to recognize Christ before him. His newly gained vision was contrasted with blindness of the Pharisees. They claimed to know a lot about God, but sadly they could not see God in the flesh in front of them because of their pride and arrogance.

Whether we know it or not, all of us here have been given a miracle--a miraculous vision to be able to recognize God and to be in relationship with him through our baptism. In the second reading, Paul reminds us, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” We’ve been given a great privilege to be able to see the world through our faith. Yet, this privilege comes with a responsibility, to make a choice to live our lives differently than how people in the world live. Pope Francis reminds us:

“You have to come to know Jesus in the Catechism - but it is not enough to know Him with the mind: it is a step. However, it is necessary to get to know Jesus in dialogue with Him, talking with Him in prayer, kneeling. If you do not pray, if you do not talk with Jesus, you do not know Him. You know things about Jesus, but you do not go with that knowledge, which He gives your heart in prayer. There is a third way to know Jesus: it is by following Him. Go with Him, walk with Him. One cannot know Jesus without getting oneself involved with Him, without betting your life [on] Him. Everyone must make his choice.” (Pope Francis)

We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness. We all have blind-spots -- in our dealings with friends, in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. We need to ask him to remove from us the root causes of our blindness, especially, self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and hardness of heart. As we continue our Lenten journey, let us pray earnestly, “Heavenly Father, help us see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly.”

Mar. 25, 2017: Annunciation of Our Lord

Mar. 25, 2017: Annunciation of Our Lord

Reflection on Annunciation

May It Be Done to Me (Lk 1: 38)
Motherhood, probably more than anything else in life, teaches us to say yes. Indeed, there are a million and one yeses in motherhood, all of them held together in the tension of unspeakable love and piercing swords, both large and small: yes to carrying new life; yes to the physical discomfort of a rapidly changing body; yes to painful birth, tender scars, and sore breasts; yes to being unable to conceive; yes to miscarriage; yes to adoption; yes to a willful two-year-old, three-year-old, or teen; yes to indescribable love for a new baby; yes to caring for a sick child; yes to countless nights of praying for a reckless young adult; and yes to practicing repeatedly and then rejoicing over a first step and every first step thereafter.

I had always thought of motherhood as “doing” something, such as getting pregnant, bringing home a baby, loving and fashioning a little heart and soul, and forming and directing another’s life. I now understand that motherhood is meant to “do” something to us: form and fashion us, awaken and enrich us, strip and heal us, and teach us to become women of prudence, patience, and perseverance, as it trains us constantly in the art of consent. Much like the practice of prayer, motherhood holds the potential to mold us into beings who are receptive to God and to others, into persons who become ever more capable of living a life-giving, love-expanding yes.

Mary is the icon of humanity precisely because she reveals to us how to say yes to God. She shows us what a profound effect authentic human surrender can have—both on us and on the world around us, giving us a window through which to see how divine activity is supposed to play out in human affairs. Mary illustrates for us in living color the way in which all human beings are purposed to relate to God, teaching us what it looks like to open our hands, hearts, and bodies to him to allow the divine presence to penetrate and transform us and the entire created realm.

Mary’s life teaches us that we are meant to be actively receptive to God, to his grace and to his will. Active receptivity is the ability to at once surrender and receive. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. We must actively surrender to God in order to receive what he has for us. Why? We must do so because surrender involves the critical gesture of opening our hands. Hands clamped tight, holding on to our will and our ways, leave no room for God’s gifts.

The greatest gift ever given to mankind—the Redeemer, the God-man, Jesus Christ—came forth in response to the surrendered yes of a woman. Mary demonstrates just how pivotal our assent is and how imperative it is that we learn to hear and readily respond to the voice of God.

- By Judy Landrieu Klein, "Mary's Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God"

Friday, March 24, 2017

Mar. 24, 2017: Friday, 3rd Week of Lent

Mar. 24, 2017: Friday, 3rd Week of Lent

The love which conquers all
What makes our love for God and his commands grow in us? Faith in God and hope in his promises strengthen us in the love of God. They are essential for a good relationship with God, for being united with him. The more we know of God the more we love him and the more we love him the greater we believe and hope in his promises. The Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as he loves (Galatians 5:13). Do you allow anything to keep you from the love of God and the joy of serving others with a generous heart? Paul the Apostle says: hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5:5). Do you know the love which conquers all?
- Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net

Prayer
Lord, when we feel rushed, overwhelmed by all the commitments, slow us down. Let your Spirit remind us to keep perspective. If we but take a few minutes to be in your presence, to speak from our heart and wait on you, we will be centered and fortified to better serve others. We thank you for those in our day who will refresh us and help us to be more content, more joyful, and more giving.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mar. 22, 2017: Wednesday, Third Week of Lent

Mar. 22, 2017: Wednesday, Third Week of Lent
Examining Our Reputation

Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5: 19

Whether we think of it or not, we are moral exemplars for others. People watch us, and some might even admire us. Children follow our example. While movie and rock stars understand that their lives are regularly observed, most of us tend to think of our lives as ordinary and private.

In the Middle Ages, one’s fama, or reputation in the public forum, was an important part of someone’s virtue. People diligently guarded their reputation. When the Church began the formal process of canonization, a person’s reputation was scrutinized, and this is still true today.

This is not to say that a good Christian is simply one whom everyone likes. We need only remember that not everyone liked Jesus! But how we live our Christianity is not a private matter. Others see how seriously we value our Christian faith by the way we behave.

Spiritual Practice:
Consider your public life. What do people think about you as a Christian believer? Do they see you swearing or belittling others? Do they see you gossiping? What small commandments do you break that undermine the public witness of your faith?

By Sr. Joan Mueller OSC, Journey to Joy

Mar. 21, 2017 Divine Mercy Week 5

Mar. 21, 2017 Divine Mercy Week 5
What does my neighbor have to forgive me for

Have you heard of the wise saying, “Curiosity killed the cat”? It means that being inquisitive about other people's affairs may get you into trouble or can lead one into dangerous situations.

In today’s Gospel passage, Peter asks Jesus, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?" How often do we find ourselves seeking forgiveness from God and neighbor for a repeat offense? If there is one sin that we commit more than a few times a day for which we need forgiveness from our neighbors, then it is the sin of curiosity. Let me be clear, there is a good side of curiosity, the inquisitiveness that leads us to explore and to discover truth. Yet there is also the dark side of curiosity -- the tendency for us to nose into our neighbor’s affairs to superficially gather information and then vying to be the first to pass on juicy rumors. Curiosity is often associated with other vices -- inordinate attachment to fads and fashions, wasting time. When we spread rumors, we are no better than those bright, colorful tabloid magazines at the grocery checkout counter that belies the pursuit of truth.

For her religious sisters, Mother Teresa often instructed them to keep their nose out of other’s affairs as a way of practicing humility. She said, “Avoid curiosity. Do not interfere in the affairs of others. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.” You’ve heard of the term, “custody of the eyes.” In this sense, avoiding curiosity is to practice “custody of the mind” in which we refrain from asking questions about matters that either we cannot resolve or are within the purview of others to resolve. Especially when our questions are not about our own welfare or the welfare of others whom we can truly help, we should remember that curiosity is sometimes damaging.

St. Paul had great advice for the Philippians. “Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Our soul will remain in peace and recollected to hear the voice of God when we keep the custody of the eyes and mind. As we continue our journey in the desert with Our Lord, we discern the temptation of the evil one from the true voice of God. Curiosity not only killed the cat but can also kill our soul.

Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20, 2017: Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the BlessedVirgin Mary

March 20, 2017: Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Would that I could persuade all men to be devoted to this glorious Saint [St. Joseph], for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God. I have never known anyone who was truly devoted to him and honored him by particular services who did not advance greatly in virtue: for he helps in a special way those souls who commend themselves to him. It is now very many years since I began asking him for something on his feast, and I have always received it. If the petition was in any way amiss, he rectified it for my greater good . . . I ask for the love of God that he who does not believe me will make the trial for himself—then he will find out by experience the great good that results from commending oneself to this glorious Patriarch and in being devoted to him .- St.Teresa of Avila

Since we all must die, we should cherish a special devotion to St. Joseph, that he may obtain for us a happy death. All Christians regard him as the advocate of the dying who had honored him during their life, and they do so for three reasons: First, because Jesus Christ loved him not only as a friend, but as a father, and on this account his mediation is far more efficacious than that of any other Saint. Second, because St. Joseph has obtained special power against the evil spirits, who tempt us with redoubled vigor at the hour of death. Third, the assistance given St. Joseph at his death by Jesus and Mary obtained for him the right to secure a holy and peaceful death for his servants. Hence, if they invoke him at the hour of death he will not only help them, but he will also obtain for them the assistance of Jesus and Mary. - St. Alphonsus Liguori

(Photos from St. Joseph Altar sponsored by St. Joseph Society of Donaldsonville, Mar. 19, 2017, St. Francis Catholic Church Hall, Donaldsonville, Louisiana)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 19, 2017: 3rd Sunday of Lent A

March 19, 2017: 3rd Sunday of Lent A

Has anyone asked you recently a soul-searching question such as “Do you know what you want out of life?” If we were to ask that question to a teen about to graduate from high school, perhaps the response would be, ‘I don’t know, but I know I need to go to college or get a job.’ If we were to ask that question to a married couple with children, perhaps the answer would be, ‘I don’t know, but I’m too busy to ponder that question at this moment.’ If we were to ask the question to a retired person whose spouse may or may not be alive, the answer might be, ‘I don’t know, but I’m busy going to my grandchild’s ballgames and events.’ As much as we all want certainties in life, there remains in all of us an uncertainty we cannot quite put our finger on.

When the Samaritan woman came to the well, she was searching for plain water, but she probably did not know that her heart longed for the water of eternal life. She thirsted, but did not know for what she was thirsting. Not only the Samaritan woman, but even the people of our age thirst, search, and long for something beyond our imagination. Today, so clouded is the mind and soul by the noise, the glamour and the empty promises of the world that we cannot know that we long for something more. There is, deep inside all of us who come into the world, that longing to know what we truly want out of life.

In some ways, we are like the Israelites in our First Reading wandering in the desert. We keep looking to quench the thirst of our deep longing with worldly solutions. The Israelites grumbled against Moses saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?" When what we long for is not satisfied with worldly solutions, we doubt God or blame God for not satisfying our thirst. Yet Jesus points out to us that if we are looking for worldly pursuits--represented by the stagnant water in the well--to satisfy our longing, we will not be satisfied. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;  the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  Imagine having a fountain of water rising up within us, keeping our spirit ever refreshed and alive. Would we not, like the Samaritan woman, leave our old water jar at the well?

Jesus points to himself as the answer to our deepest thirst and longing, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) But do we come to him? Do we set aside time to meet him each day in our prayer and reading of scriptures? Do we carry him inside us everywhere we go? When we come to Mass, we are like the woman coming thirsty to drink at the well. If, like the Samaritan woman, we truly encounter the Lord, we would never be the same again. We would want to share that experience with others. The Samaritan woman became the first evangelizer, telling her village about what Jesus had done for her.

A priest reflecting on the deeper questions about his life wrote:
“[My life] story is about returning...My life drifts away from God. I have to return. My heart moves away from my first love. I have to return. My mind wanders to strange images. I have to return. Returning is a lifelong struggle….God’s love does not require any explanations about why we are returning. God is glad to see us home and wants to give us all we desire, just for being home. . .so why delay? God is standing there with open arms, waiting to embrace me. He won’t ask any questions about my past. Just having me back is all he desires.”

The answer to the question for each of us, “do you know what you want out of life,” is quite simple: To know, to love, and to serve Our Lord in this earthly life. That’s our life’s mission statement and daily bread. We the disciples should feel compelled to point others to Jesus: ‘Look at him, look at the one who loves me unconditionally! Look at him who has forgiven
and restored me! Look at him who is with me always and who
never abandons me! Look at him!’ When we truly know, love, and serve him, then we will have quenched our deepest thirst.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16, 2017: Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

March 16, 2017: Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

"Later"

Scripture of Rich Man and Lazarus:
“The rich man also died and was buried . . . ” (Luke 16: 22)

Reflection:
Lent warns us again and again that “later” may be too late. The story of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus repeats the warning.

The rich man was not a bad person, just a wealthy one inattentive to a neighbor’s need. Given time, he might eventually have noticed the daily suppliant at his door. Maybe one of the dogs would have snarled at him and caught his attention. He was given time, a lifetime, but it wasn’t enough. And suddenly, it was too late. After death, he realizes the opportunity he has lost, or rather thrown away on his own daily feasts, so he begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers. Too late, too late, says Abraham, too many warnings already unheeded, even when given by Moses and the prophets. The rich man apparently does love his brothers and pleads that Lazarus, raised from the dead, should startle them enough to get their minds onto essentials. But no, it is already too late. The habit of the deaf ear has grown too strong to break. We can hardly miss the irony of that ending told by Jesus, who will in fact return from the dead and, all too often, still go unheard by those busy about more pressing (i.e., selfish) business.

This story bothers me. I do “later” very well. Every year, I have heard St. Paul’s urgent Ash Wednesday warning: “behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6: 2). And every year, I do diligently make serious Lenten efforts, but every year, come Easter, I let go of the season’s unfinished business, the places in the heart as yet unconvinced and unconverted, sing my alleluias, and go on about life as usual—a bit reformed, I hope, but still too often ignoring the beggars on my doorstep, whatever form they take, because I’m busy meeting some other deadline than the Lord’s, until next Lent. The rich man always stops me in my tracks for a moment, though. What if there is no “next Lent”? Or what if I have grown too deaf to hear its warning when it comes?

Meditation:
List three good works you have been putting off, three “beggars at your door.” What stops you from attending to them now?

By Genevieve Glen, "Not by bread alone"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 15, 2017: Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

March 15, 2017: Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

True Service

Scripture:
The mother of sons of Zebedee approached Jesus and said, "Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking...
[ T] he Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20: 28)

Reflection:
Up till now, the Lectionary has been a textbook for our Lenten study of the baptismal commitment we will accept or renew at Easter. We’ve reviewed some of the tools for our transformation into a more vivid image of God in Christ. We’ve heard what that could look like. But today’s readings provide a sobering preview of what is required beyond praying, fasting, giving alms, and trying to live holy lives. The readings offer one picture only: Jesus Christ walking willingly into enemy fire to pick up and redeem all those who have been and will be felled by it. This Jesus is not a pretty picture: he is judged, condemned, mocked, scourged, and crucified before he is raised on the third day. In the gospel, Jesus quickly draws back and lets the curtain fall again over that horrifying vision of the book’s penultimate chapter. Instead, confronted by the ambitions of the Zebedee family, mother and sons, he uses the gentler imagery of a chalice to be drunk. We know what it is: we will come again soon to the story of the chalice Jesus will find too much but will accept anyway and drink down on our behalf (Mark 14: 35-36). But for now we are spared the details as Jesus recasts the story of suffering and death into the story of service. Ah, now that’s a comfortable theme for Lenten Christians, isn’t it? Until, of course, Jesus adds the zinger at the end: ultimately the service we’re called to is the same as his—to give up our lives for others, though that will more likely be by self-sacrificing service than by death.

Lent is living toward the cross in such a way that, when it opens like a door before us as it did for Jesus, though in different ways, we will walk through willingly, not for our sakes but for the sake of all those he gave his life to save.

Meditation:
Think about the hard moments you’ve already known in your efforts to be of real service to others. What made them hard? When did they deter you from your desire to serve and when did they not?

By Genevieve Glen, "Not by bread alone"

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mar. 12, 2017: 2nd Sunday of Lent A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Several years ago on a private pilgrimage in France, I visited the city of Lyon where the Brothers of Sacred Heart (who ran the boys school in Donaldsonville) originated. I arrived at the city in the evening time and noticed off in the distance a magnificent church on top of a mount - the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere. It took me a good hour to walk to the base of the mount, and then rode a funicular to the top to reach the church. Unfortunately, the church was locked. I noted the time of the early morning mass, and decided to wake up early the next day so as to concelebrate the mass. My walk the next morning started at 5am. However, when I reached the funicular station, I was deeply disappointed that the station was closed. Not deterred, up the mount I went huffing, puffing, and sweating to reach the church. It took a good 35-40 minutes. The moment I set my foot inside the church, though, I was awestruck and mesmerized by the art and architecture. I had never seen such a beautiful church. I was so filled with joy that I forgot how tough the climb was to the top of the mount.

If you look back on your life, do you remember such a spiritual mountaintop experience? Do you still cherish it? Whenever I preach about the climb that Peter, James, and John took to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration, I'm reminded of my climb up to Notre Dame de Fourviere. There is a purpose for why we are led on a difficult climb up a high mountain. It may not be a physical mountain that we are led to climb--it could be a challenging obstacle or setback such as loss of a loved one, separation, or serious illness that tests our emotional or spiritual patience and endurance. For Peter, James, and John, the purpose of the climb up the Mount of Transfiguration was to prepare them for a much more difficult climb later on to Mount Calvary.

On three occasions, Jesus told his disciples that he would undergo suffering and death on a cross to fulfill the mission the Father gave him. As the time draws near for Jesus' ultimate sacrifice on the cross, he takes three of his beloved disciples--Peter, James, and John--to the top of a high mountain. Just as Moses and Elijah were led to the mountain of God to discern their ultimate call and mission, so Jesus now appears with Moses and Elijah on the highest mountain overlooking the summit of the promised land. There Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. Peter and his companions got a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ Resurrection, and Peter told Jesus that he did not want this glorious vision to end. Yet, that was not the purpose of this glorious vision. Jesus went to the mountain knowing full well what awaited him in Jerusalem - betrayal, rejection, and crucifixion. Jesus very likely discussed this momentous decision to go to the cross with Moses and Elijah. God the Father also spoke with Jesus and gave his approval: This is my beloved Son; listen to him. The Father glorified his son because he was faithful and willing to obey him in everything.

The Lord Jesus not only wants us to see his glory - he wants to share this glory with us. He shows us a glimpse of the Transfiguration experience at communion time when we partake of his most precious Body and Blood. As he sends us off at the end of the Mass, he desires us to bring his presence into the lives of others. Jesus shows us the way to the Father's glory - follow me - obey my words. Take the path I have chosen for you and you will receive the blessing of my Father's kingdom - your name, too, will be written in heaven. Jesus fulfilled his mission on Calvary where he died for our sins so that Paradise and everlasting life would be restored to us. He embraced the cross to win a crown of glory - a crown that awaits each one of us, if we, too, will follow in his footsteps.

Our continuing journey through Lent asks us to reflect on our willingness to embrace Father’s plan for us. Are we willing to part with anything that might stand in the way of doing the will of God? Our faithfulness to daily prayer, fasting, and almsgiving will help transform our minds and hearts to be more detached from the world and embrace Father’s will for us. If we are faithful to daily spiritual responsibilities, our hearts will change to be more humble, selfless, forgiving, and compassionate.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mar. 10, 2017: Friday, First Week in Lent

Mar. 10, 2017: Friday, First Week in Lent

[Jesus taught them, saying:] “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.” MATTHEW 5:22

Pope Francis
In the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced. World Day of Peace Message, 2014

Prayer
Lord, you desire that all people live together in peace and love. As I reflect during this holy season of Lent, I realize that I must assume some of the responsibility for the conflict, division, poverty, war and violence in the world. I contribute to the breakdown of the global human family when I make someone else my enemy; when I provoke others with my temper; when I use abusive language; when I refuse to forgive someone who has offended me; when I am selfish. Lord, rekindle in my heart a desire to be loving and merciful. Give me the wisdom to accept and embrace others without judgment. Amen.

Monday, March 6, 2017

March 6, 2017: Monday of the First Week of Lent

March 6, 2017: Monday of the First Week of Lent

Scripture:
“Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” (Lev 19: 2)

Reflection:
What could it possibly mean for God to say in the same breath, “Be holy” and “I am holy”? We sometimes hear God’s holiness defined as otherness. No wonder we then enthrone holy people on pillars, eyes cast heavenward, hands joined in prayer, untroubled by the world around them—and a safe distance from us. Mother Cabrini up to her elbows in troubled immigrants, or Mother Teresa collecting the dying from the streets, or Maximilian Kolbe taking a family man’s place in a starvation bunker would certainly laugh at that picture!

Yet holiness is dangerous. God, the Holy One of Israel, ordered Moses to keep his distance and take off his shoes on the holy ground before the burning bush. Only the high priest was admitted into God’s presence in the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple. God claimed divine otherness and distance through Isaiah: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, / so are my ways higher than your ways, / my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isa 55: 9).

What, then, could we have in common with the all-holy God? Vatican II spelled out the link in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium): All are called to holiness in “the perfection of charity,” that is, love undistorted by self-seeking. And “God is love” (1 John 4: 8).

Keeping this notion of holiness vague is a great way to escape its demands. God won’t let us get away with it. The first reading from a section of the book of Leviticus titled “the Holiness Code” (Lev 17–26) spells out concretely some of what holiness looks like: Don’t steal, cheat, oppress, or harm anyone. Give up hatred, revenge, and grudges. The picture is summed up in a commandment we know well: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12: 31). That’s an effective twist: Would you do any of these things to yourself?

Jesus adds yet another twist: whatever you do, or don’t do, to those in need, you do, or don’t do, to him. We could close the Lenten Lectionary right here. This is program enough to occupy us for many Lents, for a lifetime in fact. And so it must.

-By Genevieve Glen, Daily Lent Reflection 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 5, 2017: 1st Sunday of Lent A

March 5, 2017: 1st Sunday of Lent A

Let me ask you a personal question. Do you struggle to pray? I certainly do. It’s difficult for me to quiet myself when my propensity is to reach out for my phone or tablet, getting on Amazon for latest deals, looking up things on Google, or checking to see if there is a new email or text. Our typical day is filled with checking texts, Snapchats or Facebook, watching TV or videos on our phone or tablet, and listening to talk radio or music. I don’t think the problem is that we lack time to pray. Someone said, “I want to pray, but I don’t want to miss out on anything that’s going on around me.” Our problem is that whenever there is an opportunity for silence and prayer, our mind races with a nagging worry or craves for something fun; both distractions pull us away from entering into prayer.

Lent provides us an image of a desert to describe our prayer life. When we think of a desert, emotive words like dryness, thirst, hunger, loneliness, and fear come to mind. Often times when we attempt to pray, our spirit resists because we fear that we will be deprived of sensory stimulation. If we shut ourselves away from all the noise and distractions, we fear we may encounter the chaos of our anxieties, inadequacies, lusts, and guilt, all of which are temptations to prayer.

Jesus enters into the desert for us 40 days and 40 nights in fasting and prayer. There he does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, that is to battle and conquer for us the three main temptations that have persistently obstructed our relationship with God since the days of Adam and Eve. In our First Reading today, we read about the temptations that Adam and Eve faced. The temptations they faced are the same temptations we face every day. As written in Genesis, “[Eve] saw that the tree [of knowledge of good and evil] was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.” (Gen 3:6) The three temptations or three disordered desires are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

The lust of the flesh is the disordered desire for pleasure. Eve desired to eat the forbidden fruit because she thought it was good for food. The lust of the eyes is a disordered desire to possess things that don’t belong to us. Eve saw the fruit and wanted it for herself because it was beautiful. The pride of life is a disordered desire for self-love or vanity, making oneself an idol. Adam and Eve desired to become like God on their own power, apart from God. When we enter into silent prayer, we become aware of these disordered desires which wreak havoc in our lives. Who in this church have not been overcome by gluttony for food, sexual thoughts, or grandiose thoughts of ourselves? The lust of the flesh, eyes, and pride are like three big bullies that push us around, and we feel powerless before them.

Jesus overcame these three disordered desires by humility. In the desert, Satan posed three temptations with this questioning doubt, “If you are the son of God....” Satan’s temptations strike at the heart of Jesus’ relationship with His Father. In response to Satan’s challenge, Jesus rests in his trust and assurance of His Father. Satan tempted Jesus to turn a stone into a bread, tempted Jesus to worship Satan in exchange for possessing the entire earthly kingdom, and tempted Jesus to prove publicly to people that he is the Son of God by performing a miracle of levitation by throwing himself off a pinnacle of the Temple. The three disordered desires--flesh, possession, pride--were conquered by Jesus who humbly trusted in the Heavenly Father to provide for everything he needs rather than to give in to the temptations.

When we enter into prayer, undoubtedly Satan will confront and frustrate our prayer time with thoughts of our past failures, worries about the future, lustful desires for flesh, or our desire to be praised or respected. Remember that we do not enter into prayer alone. We are praying to the Heavenly Father, praying with Jesus, and praying in the Holy Spirit with the myriad of angels and saints ministering to us. We too are called to trust and rest in the assurances of the Father who provides what we need. The challenge for us is to make prayer a part of our daily necessity just as we do not miss mealtimes. To this end, we need a concrete plan.

Is there a set aside time for prayer just as you schedule a workout time, mealtime, and TV time? If there is no plan yet, I recommend that you put on your calendar a 15-minute prayer time in the morning and evening. If we schedule our prayer, then more than likely we will adhere to our schedule and pray. In addition, I recommend that you make the effort to attend at least one weekday mass in addition to a Sunday mass. We should be aware that Satan does not want us to pray; he does not want us to have that one-on-one meeting with God because that is when we receive the grace necessary for us to overcome temptations and follow the path that God laid out for us. I challenge all of us to enter into this Lent with an intentional plan for prayer.

Friday, March 3, 2017

March 3: Friday after Ash Wednesday

March 3: Friday after Ash Wednesday

Wounded Eyesight

Scripture:
Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? . . . This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; . . . Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; . . . Then . . . your wound shall quickly be healed . . . (Isa 58: 6-8)

Reflection:
Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are the three pillars of Lent. Today Isaiah warns us against reading fasting through too small a lens. In an older Lenten tradition we fasted from certain amounts of food. Now we observe the Friday practice of fasting from meat. My long-ago seventh-graders would ask, “Can you drink chicken bouillon from a mug since you’re not eating it?” They wanted precise rules. It was a seventh-grade question: What exactly do I have to do? What can I get away with before God will get mad?

Such questions are symptoms of spiritual astigmatism in adults. Keeping an eye on how we look to God as we measure out parsimonious penances keeps our focus on ourselves: How am I doing? God is much more interested in what we’re doing than how we’re doing. Penances like wearing sackcloth and ashes in biblical times or abstaining from meat today are not goals for us to be tested on. They are means to clear eyes clouded by looking so much at ourselves we can’t look around and see others’ suffering and need.

A touch of hunger opens the door into the streets of our world. A morsel of want lets us see more clearly there what Isaiah saw: human beings yoked and bound to others’ material or emotional profits, made invisible by filthy clothing or others’ disregard, destitute of resources or of purpose and of love.

Tend to these wounds and others like them, says Isaiah, and your own will be healed. Wounds? Yes, blinded eyes, hardened hearts, worries over our own standing before God that keep us from being what we are: brothers and sisters beloved by God and made one in Christ.

Meditation:
Remember one unhappy face you’ve noticed. noticed. What caused it? Want, hunger, loneliness, fear? What is one thing you could do to lessen it? Start now!

Prayer:
God of love, open our eyes to the suffering we never see around us; open our hearts to recognize our brothers and sisters in want; direct our steps toward help we could offer.

-By Genevieve Glen, Daily Lent Reflection 2017


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Mar. 2, 2017: Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Mar. 2, 2017: Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Scripture: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23)

Reflection: Moses says, “Choose life” (Deut 30: 19)! Who wouldn’t? The Holocaust of World War II and the genocides in our day have produced incredible stories from people like Walter Ciszek, SJ, and ImmaculĂ©e Ilibagiza of choosing to live, even amid impossible horror. Yet Jesus tells us that we must choose more than just breathing in and out. True life carries a high price: “Take up your cross,” not once but every day, and “follow me.”

Long repetition has narrowed the meaning of this familiar exhortation down to bearing life’s sufferings, and perhaps even adding to them voluntarily. Certainly patient endurance under pains great and small is an essential dimension of Jesus’ cross, but it is only a slice of the larger reality of Jesus’ life. He carried that bar of rough wood on shoulders already torn and bleeding only in the last hours of his life. But he bore the reason for it all his life: unyielding love for every human being, even his enemies.

That burden surely wore him down: he spent hours under a hot sun teaching, healing, and casting out demons. Every time, he could have said that power went out from him (cf. Mark 5: 25-34). But he never took a day off. Exhausted and resting by a Samaritan well, he took on a sinner in need (John 4: 4-42). Perhaps hungry himself after hours of preaching and curing the sick, he multiplied bread for the throng instead of going for lunch (Matt 14: 13-21). Thirsty, he even refused drugged wine on the cross (Matt 27: 34).

Love that takes responsibility for others was his lifelong burden—and he shouldered it gladly for the sake of the joy before him (Heb 12: 2), the joy of knowing humanity was safe at last under the shadow of the cross.

Choose life? How? Take up the weight, light or heavy, of responsibility for others’ good. Walter Ciszek knew that. ImmaculĂ©e Ilibagiza knew that. Because they knew that survival without love is worthless. It costs the erosion of one’s own soul. They learned it from Jesus.

Meditation: When does the burden of love chafe you? What most tempts you to lay down genuine responsibility for the sake of self-indulgence?

-By Genevieve Glen, Daily Lent Reflection 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 1, 2017: Ash Wednesday

March 1, 2017: Ash Wednesday
As I look out in the congregation today, a question comes to mind. Why on this day do so many people come to church? More folks come today than any other day of the year except Christmas and Easter. Certainly it’s not out of obligation, for this is not a holy day of obligation. It’s not because the Church is giving out something materially valuable, for we are distributing ashes made from burnt palms from last year’s Palm Sunday. The only adequate answer I can think of is that we feel the frailty and the mortality of our lives. Perhaps, we feel a call from within, a desire to make right our relationship with God, for we do not know when God is going to call us home. Today’s responsorial psalm captures our inner desires:   

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

With Ash Wednesday, we are beginning the season of Lent. Think of Lent as a long retreat during which we recommit ourselves to prayer, to listen to the voice of God, to fast and offer sacrifice, and to offer concrete assistance to those in need. Lent is a period of spiritual combat against our selfish and prideful ways. During Lent, Lord Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness and to be our guide and consoler in temptation and testing. The Lord gives grace to the humble who acknowledge his dependence on Him and He helps us to stand against the attacks of our enemy, Satan, who seeks to destroy us. 

The first step in entering into Lent is to heed our Lord’s call, “repent.” For Catholics, this means making the effort to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you have not been to confession this past year, it’s time. The Lord is calling you.  

The second step is to be faithful to the Lenten regulations, especially today, Good Friday, and every Friday during Lent. The Church calls persons from age 18 to 59 to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. And, everyone from age 14 and up are called to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and every Lenten Fridays. So what about fasting and seafood platters or crawfish boils? Ask yourself if it passes this test. Does the quantity I’m eating exceed one full meal? On fasting days, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. 

The third step is to deepen your prayer life. What amount of time do you spend now in prayer? Do you look forward to speaking and listening to Our Lord in prayer? Our Lord is waiting, waiting to converse with us. Give Him the opportunity during this Lent by spending at least 5 more minutes than what we have been giving Him. 

During this Lent, let us be reconciled to God! Use this opportunity to grow in holiness and experience the true joy of repentance and Divine Mercy.