Tuesday, December 29, 2009

impersonation


1 John 2:3-11; Psalm 96 Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; Luke 2:22-25

In the first letter today on this 5th day of the Octave of Christmas John gives us a practical look at what it means to be a disciple; not only is it practical advice but it assures us of confidence in our knowledge of JEsus, confidence in our path to holiness that culminates in the fullness to be had in heaven.

In some sense, St. John invites us to impersonate Jesus. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery; yet John doesn't want us to merely imitate Jesus' external actions but he wants us to impersonate his heart.

We must allow our heart to be formed after his.

This formation of the heart occurs with each new attempt to do as he did. The more we seek to live like Jesus the more we are able to live like JEsus the more our heart will be formed into his.

Truth of the matter is this: we can only love what we know; thus the more we seek to impersonate the heart of JEsus the more we know about Jesus; the more we know the more we love; the more we love the deeper our knowledge grows.

The life becomes a spiral in which we dive deeper and deeper into the reality of Jesus and He dives deeper and deeper into us.

Thus, the "word of God can be perfected in us." This is not a one time thing, but a continual journey into the heart of Jesus, like Mary our hearts must be pierced through.

On another thought, we are still in the octave of Christmas, which means Christmas is not over; we must linger in this festival and allow the spirit of giving to transform our heart and make it like his.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holy Innocents




1 John 5-2:2; Psalm 124 Our Soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare; Matthew 2:13-18


Today we pause for a moment to remember the Holy Innocents.

Herod in his blind and cruel rage, motivated by a inordinate ambition for control, sent his men to Bethlehem and the surround territory to murder all the male children 2 years and under.

Herod in this diabolical act picks a fight with heaven, wanting to end the life of Jesus, while just a babe in swaddling clothes.

The Holy Innocents, themselves children left without defense, become a holocaust.

Why?

Because Herod chooses to rule from fear.

Thus, children, innocent victims, become spotless lambs. All because of mistaken Identity. They were mistaken to be Christ because of their physical attributes, their age and size.

But are we not all called to be mistaken for Christ. Are we not invited to the reality of mistaken identity where we are looked upon as an alter Christus, another Christ, though, not because of our physical attributes but for the way we live from the heart and how we choose to be spotless lambs, victims who share in the victory of Christ over sin and death in our life.

And what of Mary of Joseph and Jesus, fleeing to Egypt. There they go into a strange land with strange customs and language and food. They abandon all they know and enter into the unknown. Like so many immigrants and refugees and migrant workers, Mary and Joseph associate with the poorest of the poor, outcast in a land not their own.

They are on the run. They are in hiding. Fresh into the world Jesus is already being persecuted. The world already turns against its savior, frowns upon redemption, chooses to live for itself and close itself up to the offer of heaven on earth.

Already from the beginning the cross looms large on the horizon. If they do this to a child, what will they do to the man?





Saturday, December 26, 2009

Filled with grace and power


Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59; Psalm 31 Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit; Matthew 10:17-22

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles begins today with these words, "Stephen, filled with grace and power..."

Stephen filled with grace and power...

What a description!

This reality of Stephen points to the meaning and beauty of Christmas.

Once we celebrate Christmas, we can never go back to the way things were. We can never go back to the routine of living or get back to the routine of life. Christmas changes everything and the normal life gives way to a life filled with grace and power, wonder and awe.

St. Stephen let his encounter with Christ change everything. He embraced the gift, received it fully and set aside the passive life of normal do nothingness and exchanged it for one of zeal, grace, and power.

As Jesus is born in a manger, heaven comes to earth, we all are invited to tap into the power and grace of heaven and thus live life anew.

It may not change our circumstances but it will change our outlook and empower us to go beyond the norm.

"Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal king; today we celebrate the triumphant suffer of his soldier; yesterday our king is robed in swaddling clothes, in the flesh from the virgin's womb, makes his entrance in the world; today the soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body makes his entrance into heaven." St Fulgentius

Thursday, December 24, 2009

more than we imagine

Readings for Christmas

Yesterday I was at one of the local banks in town doing some last minute rearrangement of my bank account. As I was visiting with the bank teller, I noticed a big plasma screen on the back wall.


The screen was flashing different advertisements and the like. One of the things flashed on the screen was a little segment called "word to the wise." In this segment there was a quote from somebody famous.


One of the quotes flashed on the screen was from Pablo Picasso, the Spanish artist. The quote was the following, "Everything you can imagine is real."

My first thought was that Mr. Picasso should stick with painting, becasue he is a far better painter than philosopher.

The quote doesn't mean anything. Everything I can imagine is not real; in fact many of the things we imagine is bogus.

The season Christmas isn't a season of imagination. Rather, it a season in which we surrender our imagination to what is real. We let reality as it is change how we imagine anything and everything.

At Christmas we have to step outside of our imagination and we have to let reality inform us just how far our imagination falls short of what is most real.

At Christmas we celebrate God becoming man, born of a virgin, born in a manger between the ox and the ass in a sleepy little town of Bethlehem, with shepherds and magi and angels singing "glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth."

Born this day is a savior.

Who could have ever imagine that!

No at Christmas we are invited to appreciate reality as it is not as we might imagine it to be.

Blessed be God who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

EVery time we say "merry Christmas" we are saying that God goes beyond our imagination, God is more than. This is the good news, the foundation of our faith, hope, love and joy.

What is real is more than what we can imagine.

May we keep it real and let reality keep us sound and joyful and free.

Born this day is the king of kings, the lord of lords, the savior who comes to take away our sins.

It is real, whether you can imagine it or not!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

bow and rise

Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24; Psalm 25 Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand; Luke 1:57-66

The psalm's refrain today in the liturgy invites us to "lift up your heads and see; you redemption is near at hand."

Yet the psalm itself tells us that the "friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him."

The reality described is one of bowing low in order to truly be able to see clearly. We can not lift our heads and see until we have first gone down on bended knee. This is why at Christmas we genuflect when proclaiming the in the Creed, "by the power of the Holy Spirt HE was born of the Virgin Mary and became man."

We bow and thus we can rise and see that our redemption is at hand.

Pope Benedict this past Sunday at his noon angelus and welcoming of the crowd spoke these words: "Christmas is not a fairy tale for children; Christmas is God's answer to the drama of humanity in search of Peace. How we welcome Jesus and how we live at the service of God's plan and faith brings forth that peace into the world."

We must bow at the crib and then we shall rise and live the peace the Child brings to the drama of humanity.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

magnificat


1 Samuel 1:24-28; My Heart exults in the Lord, my Savior;Luke 1:46-56

Magnificat or magnificent are words that derive their meaning from that latin which means "serving to magnify."

This is the primal focus of the outburst of Mary we encounter in today's gospel passage:
"my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior."

The entire hymn reflects on the entire life of Mary as one "serving to magnify."

This outburst of joy is a result of her openness to the possibility of God, her openness to divine initiative and also divine providence.

This outburst is preceded by a question of suspicion "how can this be."
Mary's trust in God allows her suspicion to give way to one of joyful anticipation, "my soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices..."

Mary's history becomes the history of God at work.

Through the life of Mary we can trace the lines of God; we can easily surmise that God is always up to something.

What God does in Mary's life, he wills to be done in ours.

Our life can and should become the history of God. In our life, we can say God is always up to something. We too shall serve to magnify if we are open to his initiative and providence.

"He has shown the strength of his arm" and you can say that he is the original Arm & Hammer where you find "your daily solution" to life's stink.

By the "strength of his arm" God always holds us in the palm of his hands.

Monday, December 21, 2009

laughter is a leap

Song of Songs 2:8-14; Psalm 33 Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song; Luke 1:39-45

"For the moment the sound of your greeting reached m ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy."

"Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy , to say seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be hard: hard to be light." G.K. Chesterton

"where joylessness reigns, where humor dies, the spirit of Jesus Christ is assuredly absent. But the reverse is also true: joy is a sign of grace. One who is cheerful from the bottom of his heart, one who has suffered but not lost joy, cannot be far from the God of the evangelium, whose first words on the threshold of the New Testament is 'Rejoice'." Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger now Pope Benedict XVI

It is amazing what we we can learn from a child, a child in the womb, who knew how to laugh and leap for joy.

Christmas is a time for leaping and laughing. Try it! You may agree that you like it.

Song of songs 2:8ff
"Hark! My lover-here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag...My lover speaks; he says to me, "Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!...Let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and you are lovely."

The wedding of Song between God and Man as we prepare for the wedding between God and Man in the incarnation. The bride groom comes are we ready.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

just do it

Micah 5:1-4; Psalm 80 Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45

"A body you have prepared for me...behold, I come to do you will."

This week here at the parish as been much to do about a little of everything.

Early in the week i was called to a home where the grandfather was found dead in his bed. The family wanted a catholic priest to be with them, since I am a fire department chaplain I was called out.

That encounter was followed by an encounter with a family who was preparing for cancer surgery on friday; they wanted to pray and talk and get ready.

Saturday I had two weddings and between them I was called to the hospital to assist a family, where Mom and child were endanger; so we did an emergency baptism and then prayed and anointed mom before they were life flighted to another hospital that could care for them better.

In the midst of all these encounters, the phrase, "God's will" kept coming up and be tossed around.

Think about the phrase, "God's Will" for a moment.

The phrase as become a cliche; we use it when we try to explain the unexplainable or tackle the mystery of life that leaves us scratching our head; we uses it at times to excuse us from responsibility or even as a reason to do nothing.

The phrase, "God's Will," as become a pat answer we give when we have nothing else to say for instance when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness; it is used when a loved one dies without warning; it is used when life meets tragedy and life is turned inside out and upside down.

It is the will of God or God's will, they say, we say, all say as we try to figure out the why behind the what we are faced with and especially as we stare in the face of tomorrow unsure about what might be next.

We sigh and say "God's will."


A little clarity for the sake of clarity.

First, God's will does not hold us hostage to the winds of change or whims of life. god's will is not random. We should not equate it a slot machine where we pull the leaver hoping for the jack pot only to discover our life savings depleted. God's will is not chance or accidental.

God's will is one of purpose; there is a plan.

God's will does not take life but receive it; there is a big difference between the two.
God's will doe snot leave us empty but is life giving.
God's will does not leave us scrambling as if it is fourth and long and time is running out; God's will satisfies and sustains.

God's will has little to do with what is happening to us; it is more about what we happen to be doing. God's will is less focused on what is done to us and more on what we do.

God's will is bodily. In our bodies we bring God's will with us where and when we go. As we read in the letter of Hebrews, "a body you have prepared for me...behold I come to do your will."

God's will is not passive but one of action.
God's will is one of worship, praise, and thanksgiving; God's will is one of love, friendship, and forgiveness; God's will is one of honor, obedience, and integrity; God's will is one of life, death, and resurrection; God's will is one of truth.

Our bodies become the instrument that bears the force of heaven on earth: "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Every moment and every breath there is ample opportunity to experience God's will, to make God's will present.

This is why we incense the body at the funeral service. Our body bears heaven on earth. Through our body God's reaches forth and touches the world around us.


As we move toward Christmas with visions of magi and shepherds and mangers we must not forget that the Babe of Bethlehem gives way to the man of Golgotha, the man on the cross: A body you have prepared for me...Behold, I come to do you will."

God's will is not something we say, phrase we speak when we are speechless and having nothing else to give; God's will is something we do.

By our life, we can say with Elizabeth, "blessed are yo that believed that What was spoken by the Lord would be fulfilled."

God's will, let it be done or in other words, just do it.




Saturday, December 19, 2009

mouth filled with praise

Psalm 71 "My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory."


O Antiphon for Dec 19, "O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay."

In the words of Elizabeth, "So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others."

Why is our mouth filled with praise? Because in Christ, at Christmas, God has seen fit to take away our disgrace before others, even before ourselves. God's anger last a moment but is favor last a lifetime.

Of all the things that fill our mouth should not praise be the finest wine we drink, and the greatest glory we give is to sing, sing for ever this new song: God with us, Emmanuel.

O come, O Come Emmanuel, come and take away my disgrace, our disgrace and let our mouth be filled with praise and our voices sing your glory for eternity

Friday, December 18, 2009

Redemption song

Jeremiah 23:5-8; Psalm 72 Justice shall flourish in his time and fullness of peace for ever; Matthew 1:18-25
O Antiphon Dec 18,"O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and on Mount Sinai gave him your law. Come, and teach us the way of prudence."

"sing these songs of freedom; all I have ever had is redemption song" Bob Marley

"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as King he shall reign and govern wisely; he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days, Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they shall give him:"The Lord our Justice." Jeremiah

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit...the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home...she will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins...Emmanuel, God is with us." Gospel of Matthew

Salvation now has a name: Lord our Justice, Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with us.

The song of redemption can only be properly sung when anonymity gives way to a face and a name; the shadow of the past comes true to form in the present.

The melody of the Old Testament prophecies now have lyrics from the New and together the redemption song echoes in our hearts.



Thursday, December 17, 2009

genealogy

Genesis 49:2,8-10; Psalm 72 Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever; Matthew 1:1-17
O Antiphon Dec 17, "O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence."

Today as we turn the corner and head down the straight road toward Christmas, just 9 days away, we encounter the genealogy of Jesus.

This genealogy shows us that Jesus was a man woven into human history with its ups and downs. He is the fruit of a lengthy past filled with many blemishes and marks; this path has many skeletons hanging in the closet, a checkered past filled with incest, adultery, murder, dishonesty, prostitution, and yet in the midst of the many detours around goodness, God keeps his promise.

God is relentless; he writes straight with crooked lines; he leads the blind on paths they know not.

And if we look closely we discover that the real hinges of the genealogy are not the deeds of men but the faith of women, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Tamar. These women of pagan and gentile origin direct the lineage to be one of faith and grace. In Mary, at the final decisive point, we see the complete realization of the whole history of men.

Through Mary a new beginning is made; a new beginning comes through faith. The faith of mothers changes and redirects everything to God: the path of grace come through the women.

Something to think about.

Despite all the wrong turns, the path of fidelity opens wide for Christ. In the history of "no" spoken to God there is one "yes" that changes everything, that rights every wrong.

"Of her is born Jesus who is called the Christ."

Thus, the genealogy is a genealogy of grace that welcomes the sinners and is based on forgiveness, and the darkness gives way to the light.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the only place


Isaiah 45:6-8, 18, 21-25; Psalm 85 Let the clouds rain down the just one, earth bring forth a savior; Luke 7:18-23

Isaiah's text is a commentary on the first words of the bible, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..."

Three things to note about God as creator, the principle belief in faith:
1)God has called to existence everything that exist outside himself
2)He alone is creator, his voice alone can call things into existence
3)Everything that exist is dependent upon God who gives existence to all

As man it is important to remember that God creates from nothing but when we create, we always have something to start with and from: namely we and this world exist.

Everything is being sustained by God; we are being held within his hand.

This is not a bad place to be; in fact it is the only place to be.

On January 1st this year Pope Benedict gave his World Day of Peace proclamation. He focused our attention on the environment.

"If we what to cultivate peace, we must protect creation. Relationship between man and the environment must mirror God's creative love from whom all things are made and to whom all things return...In contemplating and cultivating the beauty of creation, man discovers his true dignity and place in the world."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

change

Zephaniah 3:1-2,9-13; Psalm 34 The Lord hears the cry of the poor; Matthew 21:28-32

What did God say when man was created?
"God looked upon all he made and found it to be very good."

"Good!"

The verdict of our existence echoes forth in this one syllable word, "Good!"

When Jesus speaks of humanity he seeks this "good" that is there from the beginning.

It is this "good" that creates the space for potential change in every person.
This is why people who do bad things can become persons of reputation worthy of admiration, such as the tax collectors and prostitutes in the gospel today.

The powers of the soul find their full potential in the proclamation of God in the beginning, "very good."

Thus, we all have the power to change, change our mind, change our hearts, change our attitude.

We all have the potential to go from a "won't" to a "will", from a "don't" to a "do", from a "no" to a "yes".

This is the power of change that Jesus admires and point to as not only a potential but a necessity, "the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you."

They changed their mind and believed. What do we change? How have we changed? Will we change?

When we see people who do bad things, we should pause and pray that they change and by their change they bring change to everyone around them. They give us hope, that if the worse can change so can we, each and every day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

indispensable


Num 24:2-7, 15-17; Psalm 25 Teach me your ways, O Lord; Matthew 21:23-27

Advent reflection by John Paul II

"Looking at the crib, our gaze is especially fixed on the Virgin and on Joseph, who await the birth of Jesus. In them we see realized the indispensable conditions to prepare ourselves for Jesus' birth. In the first place, interior silence and prayer, which allow one to contemplate the mystery that is commemorated. In the second place, the willingness to accept the will of God, in whatever way it is manifested."

The thing that was lacking in the scribes and pharisees of Jesus time, especially as we see in the gospel of today, was that they went through the motions of religion but they had no substance. They observed the outward necessities but they failed to attend to the inward reality, communion with God in the silence of their heart, seeking to hear and to see more clearly each and every day. They thought they had it all figured out.

Those who allowed religion to penetrate to the inward part of their being, they heard and saw and believed when they looked upon the face of Christ.

The others, simply gawked at such absurd notion that God would send this lowly of Nazareth to be the Messiah. How dare God do such thing? While those who heard and saw and believed, they had already come to suspect and expect the unexpected!

Heavenly origin or human origin!

Perhaps as we peer into the manager, the empty crib, we can begin to surmise that heavenly and humanly go together, and thus salvation begins to blossom from the top down and from the bottom up.

The answer the scribes and pharisees give is a cop out, "we do not know?" This will never do. We are in the know. We have heard. We have seen. We have come to believe.

In the end this knowing and seeking to know will be the cause of action, love, fidelity, transformation. In the silence, we encounter what we feared might be true as we ponder the manger; it is true what we have heard, God is love, he comes, he keeps silence no longer.
In the inward silence of our heart as ponder the manger scene, the silence is broken and the cry of the babe moves our heart to believe.

"...a star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel."

St. John of the Cross, mystical doctor, pray for us...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

rejoice


"Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul." G.K. Chesterton


Saint Paul tells us to "Rejoice always in the Lord." Rejoice always, at a ll times, in all circumstances. Joy as little to do with what is going on in our life at the moment. Saint Paul writes these words while he is in prison, in chains. Shackled yet he remains filled with joy.

Why does he command us to rejoice?

In all the waiting and trying and figuring and acting and maneuvering we do in our life, in faith we know we do not go alone. We go together and we go with Him who is near, in our midst, who is always now, before us.

We are not alone in this adventure we call life; If we seek to follow the lead of Jesus, then we too shall know joy; joy is about standing before God more than it is about the circumstances we are standing.

Rejoice!

Our Lady of the Americas: Guadalupe


Readings for the feast

Our Lady has a name, Guadalupe we call her. She came to bring good news to the natives of the land we call Mexico. Wrapped in warmth she brought conversion to a land that had been ravaged by fear. In her stead the prince of Peace reigns.

"Hail Full of grace the Lord is with you"

"What joy could surpass this, O Virgin Mother? What grace can excel that which God has granted to you alone? What could be imagined more dazzling or more delightful? Before the miracle we witness in you, all else pales; all else is inferior when compared with grace you have been given. All else, even what is most desirable, must take second place and enjoy a lesser importance.

Truly you are blessed among women:
You have changed Eve's curse into a blessing;
Through you the Father's blessing has shone forth on mankind, setting them free from the ancient curse;
Through you your forbearers have found salvation, for you were to give birth to a savior;
Without seed, you have borne, as your fruit, him who bestows blessings on the whole world and redeems is from that curse that made it sprout thorns;
Though a woman by nature, you will become, in reality, God's mother by grace;

You, O Virgin, are like a clear shining sky, in which God has set his tent. From you he comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber. Like a giant running his course, he will run the course of his life which will bring salvation for all who will ever live, and extending from the highest heavens to the end of them, it will fill all things with divine warmth and with life-giving brightness." St. Sophronius

Thus, this women is clothed with the sun. In her womb she bears the Son. She comes as Queen Mother bearing the warrior King who shall invite us all to taste victory.

Her name is Mary of Guadalupe.

Here is a story concerning our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe: click here Perhaps She should have done a little research...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a verse


baptized in Christ
fed by what he sacrificed
we give ourselves to life and love
until we rest in heaven above


These were words spoken by the the new bishop of the Brownsville Diocese, a friend and mentor, when I was in the seminary, Bishop Daniel Flores, though in the seminary we simply called him Monsignor.

He spoke these words at the media conference when the appointment came. He went on to add the following:

"We work so no one grows too weary on this road we travel...If we leave behind anyone on this road, then Christ will not let us cross to the heaven he has prepared for us. We go together, or we do not go at all."

As Jesus tells us "the least of the kingdom in heaven is greater than he." May we tread cautiously on the road with one eye on heaven the other on our fellow man, seeking to aid until the journey is complete. Heaven is a place where the least become great.

May we let "God grasp our right hand" and lead us on the way. God has answered the call of the needy by placing us in their path, "for what you do to the least you do unto me."

The Hand of Christ awaits us, to show us the way to heaven's door.

Baptized in Christ
Fed by what He sacrificed
we give ourselves in life and love
until we rest in heaven above

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Immaculate


Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98 Sing to the Lord a new song for he has done marvelous deeds; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception: Mary conceived without sin in her mother's womb.

Today we celebrate a 2nd chance for our humanity where we see just how much God wants us to be with Him and never separated from Him.

In Mary we see that God desires to save us but will not do so without us.

In Mary we see a new way of being human, complete and singular devotion to the will of God for the sake of humanity.

In Mary we see "God' s smile" in that immaculate reflection of divine light.

Grace enters history in this Virgin of Virgins and here we encounter the reality that victory of love is not only possible but certain.

Our First Lady of the Faith stands before God and says "yes" and the world changes. The power of yes that continues to affect us all across time and space, across nationalities and race. Love gains.

As the Angel speaks to Mary, "Hail, full of grace," Mary blushes; she blushes like a rose touched with the light of the sun at Dawn, brilliant in color, radiant in beauty, sublime in innocence, magnificent in virtue, charming in her humility, excellent in her courage, bold in her willingness to go forth where man had ever been before.

Today we Honor our First Lady of the Faith as the Patroness of the United States. We ask her to pray for us, to intercede again that we might surrender to God's will, letting ourselves be conquered by grace and allow the victory of love to reign in this place.



Monday, December 7, 2009

gymnasium for the soul

Isaiah 25:1-10; Psalm 85 Our God will come to save us; Luke 5:17-26

Tomorrow we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church.

Here are few words from the Doctor to prepare us to Honor our Blessed Mother:

"Virginity is thus proposed to us, as if in a picture, in Mary's life. From her life, the beauty of chastity and her exemplary virtue shine out as from a mirror. Here we may well receive instruction on how to lead a life in which virtue, instructed by example, shows you what you must do, correct, or avoid."

"She was a virgin, not only in body, but in her mind as well, and never mixed the sincerity of her affections with duplicity. Lowly of heart, serious in speech, prudent in spirit, sparing in words, devoted to reading, she did not place her hope in changeable riches but in the prayer of the poor. Industrious in her work, modest in her speech, she let God, not man, judge her thoughts."

"She never raised her foot off the ground without taking a step on the path of virtue."

On a side note, here are few words from the Doctor concerning the Book of Psalms:

"In the Book of Psalms there is profit for all, with healing power for our salvation. There is instruction from history, teaching from law, prediction from prophecy, chastisement from denunciation, persuasion from moral preaching. All who read can find the cure for their own failings. All with eyes to see can discover in it a complete gymnasium for the soul, a stadium for all virtues, equipped for every kind of exercise; it is for each to choose the kind he judges best to help him gain the prize."

Friday, December 4, 2009

questions

Friday readings revisited

We all have questions.

In our life, as our circumstances pile up upon us, as the mystery of tomorrow becomes today, different questions rise from our hearts and our minds, especially when what we experience does not meet our expectations of our life or of God:

Why did this or that happen?
What shall we do now?
Who will help us?
Where is our God?
When will this trial be over?
Which way shall we go?

And thousand other questions fill our waking days and our restless nights.

In the midst of our questions posed before God in time as we experience it, as we look for answers and solutions and reasons why, there if we stop and rest in the silence we encounter another question; a question that comes from the depth of the universe itself, a question that trumps all of our questioning, "Do you believe I can do this?"

Jesus speaks the question that God has posed from eternity to us all, "Do you believe I can do this?"

Here, God listens to our many questions and he waits for our answer to his. He waits. Will we have the courage of the blind men and say the words Jesus longs to hear, "Yes, Lord!"

In God's question to us we find the strength to trust, to breathe, to live.

In our "Yes" we begin to see. Hope is discovered in God's question to us!

reason for the season

Isaiah 29:17-24; Psalm 27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Mt 9:27-31

advent awareness with G.K. Chesterton:

"There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we ourselves are incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real. It is the fundamental fact of being, as against not being; it is unthinkable, yet we cannot unthink it, though we may sometimes be unthinking about it; unthinking and especially unthanking. For he who has realized this reality knows that it does out weigh, literally to infinity, all lesser regrets or arguments for negation, and that under all our grumblings there is a subconscious substance of gratitude."

"But in a little while" we shall come to this realization that the abyss of light, actuality, existence, the fact that things truly are is the miracle we have all been waiting for, right before our very noses. We shall have our eyes opened for we will have finally answered the question of our existence, "Do you believe I can do this?" as Jesus speaks in the gospel, answered it together with the blind men, "Yes, Lord."

Our "Yes" to God who first said "Yes" to us remains the grounding of our life and the source of our gratitude and the reason for our faith.

Perhaps here we encounter the reason for the season.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

expect temptation


Today, Thursday, I have a few words from St. John Vianney:

"we must expect temptation. If you ask me what is the cause of our temptations, I shall tell you that it is beauty and the great worth of our souls which the devil values and which he loves so much that he would consent to suffer two Hells, if necessary, if by so doing he could drag our souls into hell...

We should never cease to keep watch on ourselves, lest the Devil might deceive us at the moment when we are least expecting...

When tempted by pride we should humbly and abase ourselves before God. When tempted against purity we should mortify our bodies and all our senses and be ever more vigilant. If our temptation consist for distaste for prayers,w e should pray with greater attention, the more we are tempted to give them up the more we should increase in number...

how greatly we should fear, lest we do not recognize our temptations! And if we shall never recognize do not ask God to allow us to do so."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

interior diary


Isaiah 25:6-10a; Psalm 23 I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; Mt 15:29-37

A word from the Pope for Advent:

The word advent can mean "presence," "arrival," or "coming."
In the ancient world it was a functionary term that indicated a visit of the king or emperor to a particular province.

The Christians adopted this word to express their relationship with Jesus Christ: the king who entered this poor "province" of earth to visit everyone.

Advent was a term that was an attempt to say:"God is here, he has not withdrawn, he has not left us alone. He is here and he comes to visit us."

It is a visit in which God enters our life and wants to address each of us.

We, however, are so absorbed in doing or possess by activity or allow the interest of society to monopolize our life and attention that we miss it.

Advent is a liturgical time in which we slow down; advent invites us to pause to grasp a presence. Advent invites us a pause to grasp the presence of God who is here, who has arrived in our life.

Every event of the day is a gesture God directs to us, a sign of care he has for each of us.

How many times does God makes us perceive something of his love, daily?

In Advent a salutary task for us would be to keep an "interior diary" of these encounters, contemplating the Lord who is present, contemplating the visitation of his love.

Once we receive from Jesus, like the disciples in the gospel, then we can give to others around us; thus, we shall all be satisfied.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

childlike


Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72 Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever; Lk 10:21-24

"you have revealed them to the childlike...:

The words of Jesus in the gospel captures the essence of the season of Advent.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, as we prepare to receive the Christ child in the manger, we are invited to become small again; we are invited to rediscover what it means to be a child.

Advent is a time we unlearn all of the pretense that has gathered on us like dust. We shake ourselves free from being all grown up and discover the child that can be in awe of God's beauty and creation.

Advent is where and when we unlearn our self-importance, unlearn our sense of having to run the world, or even having to run our own lives and we surrender.

Advent is a time when we stop trying to solve life's mystery and we embrace the mystery that brings life.

Now is the time to embrace the inner child: creative, imaginative, trusting, innocent, loving to love and being in awe of everything. It is time to let God "wow" us.

Here in the words of G.K. Chesterton we find meaning in life itself: "The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation for them."

Only the child can truly appreciate the wonder of it all. Only a child can recognize the full worth of what the eye beholds.


Monday, November 30, 2009

St. Andrew



Today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. St. Andrew, according to the gospel of John, was the first disciple called; upon hearing the voice of Jesus resonate in his hear he went to gather his brother Simon.

St. Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus and together they shared an intimacy that grew and developed into a life of service in faith, a life that would leave the ultimate testimony, death on a cross.

When you read the call narratives, the one thing that stands out about the encounter of the disciples and Jesus is how quickly the disciples responded. The gospels recall how "immediately" or "at once" the disciples leave everything and follow Jesus.

With out hesitation, Andrew and Simon and the others open their heart wide to Christ.

As we enter into the first full week of Advent, perhaps the catch phrase this first week is "immediate." As we prepare for the coming of Christ we should immediately respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our life, we should immediately respond in charity in proclaiming the truth, we should immediately respond in service.

A good way to enter fully into the Advent season of waiting is by immediately living the faith we have received in Christ; no excuse, no delay, just prompt response in love to love offered.

The voice of Jesus calls us forth, do not delay.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bless the Lord


All of us like t0 be congratulated; all of us like to be told "good jOb" or "well done" or "way to go."

It fills our hearts with joy and gives us strength and encouragement for the journey. It comes across as a blessing. We like blessings.

But can we bless the Lord?

Dt 8:10 Moses tells the people, "when you have eaten your fill bless the Lord for the good land he has given."

Not only can we bless the Lord but it is a command, we must bless the lord.

Just like we are blessed when people recognize what we have done and respond with congrats and thanks so too we must learn to live by recognizing what God has done and respond with congrats and thanksgiving.

Look around! How easy it is to miss al that God has done.
What a great job God has done and continues to do, even if it isn't what we want.

Blessing the Lord demands recognition and response of thanksgiving; thus our heart filled with gratitude will strengthen us for the journey.

The most supreme way of blessing the lord is worship. As we gather at the Eucharist, we gather to bless the Lord. We enter into the thanksgiving of Jesus to the Father.

By our presence we bless the Lord. We acknowledge what he has done in Christ.
Our hearts are filled with gratitude.

At the end of Mass, the priest tells us the Lord is with you and May Almighty God Bless you, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.

We have blessed God with our presence and in return he blesses us for the journey ahead.

Monday, November 23, 2009

san clement


dn 1:1-6, 8-20; Glory and Praise for ever; Lk 21:1-4

today we celebrate the feast of the 3rd successor of Peter, Clement I.

He was Pope toward the end of the 1st century.

In his letter to Corinth, Pope Clement exhorts the community to pray for the governing class, the civil rulers, even as they are being persecuted by them. This prayer is the oldest prayer we have written outside of the New Testament text.

"Grant them, Lord, health, peace, harmony, stability, so that they may give no offense in administering the government you have given them. For it is you, Master, heavenly "King of eternity," who give the sons of men glory and honor and authority over the earth's people. Direct their plans, O Lord, in accord with "what is good and pleasing to you," so they administer the authority you have given them, with peace, considerateness, and reverence, and so win your mercy."

May this be our prayer for our government leaders as they seek to pass health care reform.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ, Servant King

Daniel 7:1-14; Psalm 93 The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.

The gospel today describes Jesus before Pilate; Jesus is being judged by the world.
JEsus is open to judgment.

Here we learn to be open to judgment as well. One cannot live unless one is open to judgment. It is when we are closed to judgment that we are condemned to die.

Pilate condemns Jesus because he is not open to judgment himself.

Every year during Lent the Pope leads the stations of the cross; on Good Friday night he leads them in the Coliseum. In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II at the close of the stations in the coliseum spoke these words:
"Who, if not the condemned Savior, can fully understand the pain of those unjustly condemned?

Who, if not the King scorned and humiliated, can meet the expectations of the countless men and women who live without hope or dignity?

Who, if not the crucified Son of God, can know the sorrow and loneliness of so many lives shattered and without a future?

Jesus took his wounds to heaven, and there is a place in heaven for our wounds because our King bears his in glory."

Jesus testifies to the truth; he is the truth. Thus we must let him reign by allowing him to take away our sins each and every day.

Friday, November 20, 2009

a reading and a prayer

For today I have a reading and a prayer:

This morning As I was praying the office I was struck by the reading of the day from Ephesians 4:29-32

"Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ."


A prayer:
"Breathe on Me, O Holy Spirit
that my thoughts may be holy

Act in me O Holy SPirit
that my work may be holy

Draw my heart, O Holy SPirit
to defend all that is Holy

Guard me then O Holy SPirit
that I always may be holy."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Basilicas of Rome

















Feast of the Dedication of St. Peter's and St. Paul Basilicas in Rome

Today in the church we celebrate the commemoration of the dedication of St. Pete's Basilica in Rome along with St. Paul's Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica was founded around 323 A.D. and for a 1000 years stood tall. It was razed in 1509 and rebuilt under the guidance of Pope Julius II. It was officially dedicated on November 18, 1626. It is built over the burial place of St. Peter.

If you go there today you can see the bones of Peter next to the chapel of St. Clementine.

St. Paul Outside the Walls was also built in the century. It was the largest basilica until the new St. Peter's was built. After a fire it was rebuilt. It is currently built over the grave site of St. Paul.

The Basilicas are built in honor of God in how he chooses men to proclaim the good news. Peter and Paul both lived professing faith in Jesus Christ and they died with that profession in their hearts and minds.

Pope Benedict reminds us that basilicas are primarily a place of prayer. They invite us into the household of God. For thousands of years men and women journeyed to these places to beg God for favor and to give God thanks for favor received.

These basilicas are houses of prayers for the faithful.

Prayer in general is two things. One prayer is service to God who deserves our ceaseless praise and adoration.

Prayer is also a testimony to the world, a witness for others. every time we fall on our knees we are giving witness to the world. Prayer prepares us for martyrdom.

Some where between these two realities we learn hope. Somewhere between service to God and witness to others we grow in hope and are strengthen to fall upon our knees and withstand the onslaught of the world.

Between these two we are empowered to live like the mother in the first reading of today, who hoped in the Lord.

The Basilicas that rise high above the city of Rome, give service to God and witness to man. They stand has visual signs of Hope for All in the Lord.

"Lord, in the midst of life's countless changes strengthen us with your never-changing love."


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

the King's daughter


2 mac 6:18-31; Ps 3 The Lord upholds me; Lk 19:1-10






"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." Thornton Wilde

"Charm is the ability to be truly interested in other people." Richard Avedon

"Science is organized knowledge; wisdom is organized life." Immanuel Kant

As I ponder the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary these three quotes come to mind. The daughter of a king, princess in the eyes of the world, she decides to give her loyalty to her God and subject herself to her subjects both poor and lowly.

In the words of the first reading she became a "model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation."

She took the words of Psalm 45 to heart and allowed them to shape her life, "Listen, O daughter, give ear to my words: forget your own people and your father's house. So will the king desire your beauty" he is your Lord, pay homage to him...the daughter of the king is clothed with splendor, her robes embroidered with pearls set in gold. She is led to the king with her maiden companions. They are escorted amid gladness and joy; they pass with in the palace of the king."

She became forgetful of herself, but never forgetful of her God; in her devotion to him, she became the King's daughter above all else and dedicated her life to his service by tending to the poor and afflicted and hungry.

She was wise for she order her life according to God's desire. She was truly conscious for she treasured the pearl of great price and understood what treasure she held in the gift of her faith. She was charming, for all who came to her, the least of the least, she recognized with great interest as the King in disguise seeking her embrace.

She was wise, conscious, and charming. Today she remains for us a model to follow; today she is enrolled in the roll call of saints interceding for us along the way.

Like Zacchaeus, she refused to be just another face in the crowd. She refused to just stay on the ground but she soared. As Zacchaeus climbed the Sycamore to get a closer look at Jesus and was changed for ever, in her heart Elizabeth ascended so that she might get a better look of the King; in spying him in her heart, she was moved to do her part, her duty to her King, a life of loyalty in love.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

end times


Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm You are my inheritance O Lord; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32

As we move toward the end of the Liturgical year, as we approach the feast of Christ the King, our readings point toward the end times.

Daniel tells us " in that time..." and the words on the lips of Jesus direct us toward "those days..."

Both readings direct us to look ahead, look forward, and speak of what will come in the end times.

As we ponder the readings, we get a sense that there will be great upheaval, cosmic distress and disorder. The world is falling apart, crumbling around and lives are being shaken, shattered and torn.

In the history of Christianity there have been many who have focused their attention on the end times, what will come. And numerous men and women who have done so have often lost their focus and shifted from what will come to when it will come.

Many have professed to be in the know, to have the inside scoop, to know when was when; with great fervor, great study, great excitement, great diligence they predicted the end, only to end themselves in greater failure.
Just name few:

992 a group of Christians proclaimed the world would end because the feast of the Annunciation was on the same day as Good Friday; obviously the fervor subsided when 993 came around.

Nostradamus a french astrologer and self-proclaimed prophet predicted the world would end when Easter fell on April 25. This has happen in the year 1666, 1734, 1886, 1943 and again in 2038. Yet, here we are still waiting and wondering.

In 1346 at the onslaught of the BLack Death, the plague that swept over Europe, many believed in to be the beginning of the end. Here we are still alive and still struggling with sickness.

Charles Russell the founder of the heretical sect known as the Jehovah's witness and the Watchtower Society predicted the world to end in 1914, then again in 1918, 1925, 1975, 1995. In fact some 9 times they predicted the world to end and 9 times they changed their prediction.

Even Joseph Smith and Ellen White the founders of two other heretical sects: Mormons and Seventh Day Adventist predicted the world would end in the 1800. The world is here but they are not.

In 1988 a book was written, "88 reasons the world will end in 1988." It was followed by a sequel, "89 reasons why the world will end in 1989."

In the Year 2000, many were crazed for the end times. Water was flying off the shelves as people were anticipating the end of the world as we know it.

A hotel in the Holy Land to take advantage of the craze by offering invites to come watch the world end overlooking the Mt. Olives.

Of course, now we are dealing with 2012, and the Mayan Calendar. Do they really have the inside scoop.

When we focus on the when we lose sight of the what. It it the what will come that is of most importance; when it comes it will come.

What is it that we are waiting for. It is the consummation of history as we know it. God will definitively step in to history and change our lives for ever, for eternity. When life as w eknow it crumbles and the world falls apart, God is breaking in.

This is what the end is about. It is about God breaking into our lives more fully then has already been.

The end times prepares us for this time. Many of us have already experienced our world falling apart. In those moments, God wants to break into our life that we might surrender more readily and be dependent more perfectly.

Here is the good news of the end times.

The fact that we do not know the "day nor the hour" means we are in the know, we have the upper hand. Not knowing the day nor the hour means we have to let this day and this hour be the moment of God breaking into our lives, our city, our world. We have to let this time be the time we take nothing for granted and we live our life fully prepared so as to find our names int he book of life.

The end times gives us a glimpse of what is most certain amidst all the uncertainty.

The Apocalyptic literature as we find it in Daniel and the Gospel is not written to scare us but strengthen us and comfort us. It reminds us of the defining characteristics of Christianity, that we have a future.

We have a future, a future that is not founded on emptiness, a future that does not end in the cold damp ground, but a future filled with real possibilities, a future filled with the fullness of life.

It is this future that makes the present worth living, worth enduring. It empowers us forward.

This is the hope that engenders movement and allows God to break in each and every day no matter when the end will arrive.

The Eucharist celebrate is a foretaste of that breaking forth of God in our lives. Jesus comes to us in a real way to fill our lives with his presence, to strengthen our resolve, to etch our names in the book of life with a life lived in faith.






Friday, November 13, 2009

very superstitious

Wisdom 13:1-9; Ps The heavens proclaim the glory of God; Lk 17:26-37

Jesus tells us today in the gospel, "As it was...so it will be...where the body is so the vultures will gather."

What does this saying have to do with Friday the thirteenth and superstition.

Superstition has to do with unjustifiable or unreasonable beliefs in associating one event with the consequences of another.

For instances equating bad luck to breaking a mirror, or walking under a ladder, a black cat crossing, opening an umbrella in doors; or equating good luck to rabbit's foot, four leaf clover, rally caps, or wishbones.

Jesus wants us to let go of our superstition and focus on reality.

My favorite superstition is associated with weddings. Often times I will have a bride who refuses to walk down the aisle on the night of the rehearsal our fear it may cause bad luck, yet she will live with her fiance prior to getting married.

She will cling to superstition but not avoid sin. It boggles the mind.

Jesus wants us to unboggle the mind. He wants us to keep it real. He wants us to be attentive to our behavior and focus on the things we do have control over like our decision, our life of devotion, our life of faith. Only then do we truly begin to embrace the freedom he gave us and let go of the shackles of superstition.

This is what the Catechism of the Church teaches in regards to superstition:
#2111 "Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g. where one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayer or the sacramental signs to their mere external performance apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition."

Keep it real for as it was so it shall be and where the vultures gather there the body shall be.
Only in reality do we truly come to belief and life to its full.

I would like to quote Ron Sterling the writer of Twilight Zone, "There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known by man; It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition."

Ron Sterling, I am not sure whether he was a believer or not, but he could have been talking about that dimension we call a life of faith, where it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives with us; surely this dimension, this reality, is as vast as space and timeless as infinity, for it leads to eternity; it isn't between science and superstition, rather it underlies both endeavors and sustains us on our journey; this dimension of faith is where we meet reality.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

she produces friends of God


Wsidom 7:22-30;8:1-; Luke 17:20-25

As we ponder the beauty of the reading from the book of wisdom there is one thing that jumps out in the midst of all the beautiful array of adjectives describing wisdom:holy, one, manifold, eloquent, undefiled, sure, sweet, loving that which is good, beneficent, gentile, kind, assured, pure and the list goes on and on.

All of these things are necessary attributes of wisdom, yet the one that stands shoulders above all the rest, the one attribute that will be the litmus test for for us is the reality that wisdom:"produces friends of God."

She makes us friends of God.

Where have we heard that before?

Ah Yes, we heard that on the lips of Jesus at the Supper before his crucifixion, on his knees washing the feet of the apostles he tells them, "I no longer call yo servant but friends."

WIsdom personified most perfectly stoops to our level washes our feet and invites us into the intimate friendship with God.

In this sweet embrace the Kingdom of God begins to take shape in our hearts and minds and lives.

In this embrace, the kingdom of God is within.

Thus, the outward signs of the kingdom are not to be perceived in the clouds or the sky but rather the outward signs are seen by what we do with our hands, or where we go with our feet, what we say with our lips, what look upon with our eyes, what we choose to listen to with our ears, what we hold on to with mind, what we desire in our hearts.

These are the outwards signs of the kingdom within.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

wonder and amazement

Wisdom 6:1-11; Psalm 82 Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth; Luke 17:11-19

We have been reading from the book of wisdom over the past few days and I thought I might share what Pope BEnedict has to say about wisdom.

This is part of Pope Benedict's address to astronomers at a blessing of a new observatory:

"knowledge if it aspires to be wisdom cannot be reduced to calculation or experiment... and rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, invites us to lift our gaze to the heavens, and there we discover our place in the universe, there we discover the love that moves the sun and the other stars...we can recapture the sense of wonder and amazement that leads us to God."

We need to recapture our sense of wonder and amazement of not just the big things but the little things; we need to let God wow us on a daily basis and thus nothing becomes ordinary and everything has God's finger print all over it.

Only then can we truly present God again to the world that has forgotten Him.

With a renewed sense of wonder and amazement we become living adoration and our life truly becomes a gift that changes the world and re-centers it to God.

The Leper that returns to Jesus, while the other nine go on their merry way, was wowed by God, was awakened to a new sense of wonder and amazement, "realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him."

This is what it looks like to be in awe.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Leo the great



Words of Pope Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, concerning what we put our attention toward in this life..

"The fewness of those who were present has if itself shown, dearly beloved, that the religious devotion wherewith, in commemoration of the day of our chastisement and release, the whole body of the faithful used to flock together in order to give God thanks, has on this last occasion been almost entirely neglected; and this has caused me much sadness of heart and great fear...One is ashamed to say it, but one must not keep silence: more is spent on demons than upon the Apostles, and mad spectacles draw greater crowds than blessed martyrdoms. Who was it that restored this city to safety, that rescued it from captivity-the games of the circus-goers or the care of the Saints."

Words of Pope Leo the Great on the birth of Jesus

"Recognize, O Christian, your dignity, and having been made a partner of the divine nature, do not return by an unworthy way of living to the old baseness. Remember who is your Head and to whose body you belong."


The art work is a depiction of Pope Leo's encounter with Attile the Hun, which is in St. Peter's BAsilica in Rome over his burial place.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Church of Rome and the world


Ezekiel 47:1-12; Psalm 46 The waters if the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the most high; 1 corinthians 3:9-17; John 2:13-22



Today we celebrate the dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica.

As we commemorate this dedication we also pause to remember how far we, as Christians, have come.

For the first 300 years of Christianity, Christians were considered enemies of the state; we were renegades, rebels and outlaws. We were not allowed to practice our faith in the public square. So we went around meeting behind closed doors, seeking hiding places where could whisper our praise to God in muffled sounds.

Then something happened.

Constantine, the emperor of the Roman Empire, had a vision. As he was going off to battle, the cross appeared to him in the sky and he was told that by this sign he would conqueror.

So he marked the armor of his soldiers and horses with the sign of the cross and went into battle and returned victorious.

In honor to the God of the cross, he declared Christianity to be no longer persecuted by the state, to be now one of the legitimate forms of worship in the public sphere. In 313, Christians were free to come from behind the close doors and step out into the open; Christians were allowed to raise their voice in praise where once they were only allowed to whisper softly so as to be undetected.

They could now publicly proclaim the good news.

In 318, the Basilica of St. John Lateran was dedicated.

Today if you got o Rome, you see the Basilica rise high above the city. The facade looms large against the skyline. There on top of the world is a statue of Jesus with the cross in one hand and the other hand pointing out to the world, surrounded by the statues of the apostles.

As look up and ponder the majesty of the Basilica, the majesty of the gesture of Christ, the words of the great commission come to mind, "go out into the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them all I have commanded you, and behold I will be with you always until the end of the age."

Strength rises as we recall that we are never alone and Christ ever abiding presence walks before us converting the nations with His cross held high.

The Basilica of St, John Lateran is called the "Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclesiarum mater et caput: the Church of Rome and the World."

What is striking about the cathedral are actually two doors. The first set of doors as walk into the Basilica are the original doors of the Senate House of Rome. As you enter the Basilica you enter through the gates of the Senate which give way to the triumph of the cross.

The second door is a door with the image of the Blessed Mother holding the child Jesus imposed on top of the Crucifixion of Christ with the latin inscription: Christus Heri, Hodie, Semper: Christ: yesterday, today, forever."

May this celebration strengthen us in our resolve to live boldly and publicly our faith. May it encourage us to refuse to be silent and voice our faith seeking to transform society.

It is by the cross we shall conqueror.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Word of God set in before you set out

Kings 17:10-16; Psalm 146 Praise the Lord, my soul; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:41-44

Obviously todays readings have a connection; the first and gospel both include widows.

And these widows have a lot to say and offer to us as we continue our journey with God.
However, I am going pass on the widows and focus on Elijah.

Elijah is important for us. He is the precursor to the Messiah. The jewish believed that Elijah would return and then the MEssiah would arrive. In fact, in the passover celebration the Jewish people still today set a place for Elijah anticipating his return.

So it is important for us as Christians, to look closely at ELijah for he will show us where we will encounter the Messiah, Christ, most perfectly in our life.

First, we encounter Elijah with the widow and her son and the oil and flour.

In order to understand this passage we have to go backwards. It is what happens before that sets the stage for what is unfolding in the passage set before us this Sunday.

If we were to go backwards, before this passage 17:10-16, we encounter Elijah doing something.
We encounter Elijah waiting. Now, Elijah isn't just waiting around, killing time. He is keeping vigil. He is attentively listening for the word of God to speak to him. He is waiting on the word.

This is essential.
Elijah does not set out on his journey until the word of God sets in his heart and mind.

The word of God determines the direction of his life. The word must set in before he sets out.

Think about our lives for a moments; think about the decisions we have made, places we have gone, the things we have done.

How often have we rashly made decisions, in haste avoiding the word of God? How often have we been impatient with God's word and took matters in to our own hands?

Look at out society. the fabric of our live sis slowly unraveling because we have set out without letting the word of God set in. How different would our life be in the word of God became our compass, giving us direction?

If we take the word of God with us when we go, it will change where we go and what we do when we get there!

Invitation for us to practice waiting, keeping vigil with and for the Word of God: praying daily, reading scripture and understanding how God reveals himself and what he desires for us. studying the teaching of the church which is the word of God teaching us, and seeking counsel form Holy people who live upright lives.

These are ways we keep vigil for the word and allow the word to set in before we set out.

Friday, November 6, 2009

right stuff

Romans 15:14-21; Psalm 98 The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power; Luke 16:1-8

St. Paul speaking to the early community of Christians in the letter to the Romans reminds them of who they are: "I am convinces about you, brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge, and able to admonish one another."


You are full of goodness.

Paul raises the bar. It is a saying that people will live up to the expectations placed upon them. If you remind them of their goodness while admonishing them then in deed they will begin to live the goodness that you perceive.

You are full of goodness.

St. Paul is both reminding them of the goodness that he sees but also encouraging them to continue to live that goodness for others.

Basically, St. Paul is telling them that they got the right stuff, they just got to let it out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

blush

Romans 14:7-12; Psalm 27 I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the Land of the living; Luke 15:1-10

In pondering the first reading as St. Paul tells us about the "standing before the judgment seat of God" and that we shall "give an account of [ourselves] to God" I thought of a quote from Mark Twain.

Mark Twain made an observation about man; he stated that "man is the only animal that blushes or for that matter needs to."

Blushing refers to a reddening of the face in shame or embarrassment.

When we look ahead to that particular judgment standing before God who sees all, knows all, examines all a question comes to mind, "will we blush."

Will we stand before God red in the face or will we give then angels something to rejoice in here and now: "I tell you there will be rejoicing among the angels over one sinner who repents."

May we accuse ourselves here and now so as to not be accuses later; may we give cause for rejoicing in heaven and leave the shame behind.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

st charles

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Charles Borromeo.

He is a patron of apple orchards, intestinal disorders, seminarians and seminaries. Quite a diverse grouping.

St. Charles Borromeo is described in a biography as being shy, unattractive, having a big nose, and spoke with dreadful stammer. In the eyes of the world he was not the first choice; he would be the kid chosen last at recess. Yet, in the eyes of God his souls was to burn with the divine flame of love, spending his life with great zeal for the gospel.

This fact, in itself, should give us a pause when we find our selves judging who and what God can use to further his kingdom.

The state of one's soul is by far the more to be concerned with than outer looks.

St. Charles Borromeo would remind every one that we should never "ask what is the safest bet, but what is the will of God."

Life is no more than the swift passing reflection on the changeless mirror of eternity and men who burn with love of God wear out their mortal sheath before old age dulls their mind and spirit.

He would say, "be mindful of others, but never forgetful of self."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Avila bound


Readings until I return click here

Reflections until I return click here

Out of the country; going to Spain for a few days; we priest have it tough.

Will be in Avila the place of St. Teresa. Here are few quotes from the Doctor of the Church.

"It is true that we cannot be free from sin, but at least let our sins be not always the same."

"Remember you have only one soul; you have only one death to die; you have only one life to live; if you do this there will be many things for which you will no longer care."

"Untilled soil, however fertile it may be, will bear thistles and thorns; so it is with man's mind."

"True strength rises in obedience."

Here is a tid bit from a book entitled The Spiritual Life by Tanquerey:

"To avoid sin is not sufficient; we must grow in perfection. Here again, what is the great stumbling block if not the love of pleasure and dread of the cross. How many would wish to be better than they are, to aim at perfection, were it not that they shrink from the effort required, from the trials sent by God to his friends. Some Christians have to be reminded what St. Paul said time and again: Life is a struggle; that we should blush with shame if we show less courage than those who strive for an earthly reward and who in order to assure victory deprive themselves of sundry pleasures, willingly submitting to discipline: stern and arduous. They for a corruptible crown but we for an incorruptible."





that sly fox


We see the Pharisees come to Jesus and say, "Go away, leave this place because Herod wants to kill you."


The first question to ask is, "Are they trying to warn him or scare him?"

Are the Pharisees really concerned for Jesus' welfare or are they more concerned for themselves.

Jesus' isn't spooked so easily. He stands his ground and continues the course he knows God has ask him to go. He lets the comments roll off his back and pursues the higher ground.

It is admirable for us to seek to imitate Jesus. Steady and strong we shall move through this life unhindered by fear and not easily spooked by words of another.

Today I would like to share a few words of St. John Vianney:

The Good God wants us to never lose sight of the cross. Therefore He has placed them everywhere. Crosses are scattered through out life, on the road side, in the public square, in our home and family and at our work place. There are many crosses that beckon at us. THey are like stones over a river by which we pass toward heaven. These crosses are meant to deepen our appreciation and deepen our memory of that Cross which proves God's love.

Every time we experience a cross in our life we should say the words of St. Francis of Assisi: we adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world; by this cross you redeem me.





Tuesday, October 27, 2009

wish upon a star but hope in Christ

Romans 8:18-25; Psalm 126 The Lord has done marvels for us; Luke 13:18-21

star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight...
When you wish upon a star...

Pennies in a fountain...


We spend a lot of time wishing but what we really need is hope.

St. Paul tells us that it is in hope we are saved.

What is the difference between hoping and wishing?

Hoping has everything to do with reality, with outcomes that have real possibility, with outcomes that are reasonable. Hopes have everything to do with that which we have seen before and we hoping to see again.

Wishing has little to do with reality but more with fantasy; we wish for those things that have no chance of occurring. Wishes usually end with dreams alone but never come to fruition.

For instance, in school as a student I would hope for a substitute teacher; I would hope for an open book test; I would hope for a bad weather day. These things were real possibilities; I had seen them before I could see them again.

In school as a student I would wish for never having homework again; I would wish for not having to go back to school; I would wish for no longer having to take test. These things were unreal.

Hope is rooted in reality. Thus we cam move forward in life.

St. Paul tells us that the reason we are save din hope because we, as believers, have access to the ultimate reality. The redemption of our bodies is not just a dream or a wish but a reality. We have seen this before and we will see it again. In Christ the redemption of our bodies is made real.

Thus we have hope in this life. This hope is reasonable.
What has been seen will be seen again.

Therefore we have a cause for action; we have a cause to work toward what we seek.
Hope gets us moving if it is real.

As the Led Zeplin song goes:
"There is a lady whose sure that all that glitters is gold, she is buying a stairway to heaven. When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all cold, with a word she can get what she came for; And she is buying a stairway to heaven."

We wish upon a star, but we hope in Christ for in him a stairway is made by the cross and redemption is seen.