Friday, September 30, 2011

St. Jerome: ascending

Baruch 1:15-22; Ps 79 For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us; Luke 10:13-16

A few words from St. Jerome, whose feast we celebrate today

"Happy the man who makes progress daily, who does not weigh what he did yesterday, but makes his resolution for today and keeps it. The holy man sets his heart on ascending;the sinner, on descending. Just as the saintly man progresses day by day, the sinner regresses day by day. Happy the man who wholeheartedly ascends the highways."

Isn't this what Jesus is talking about in the gospel today. "Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have long ago repented, sitting in sack cloth and ashes..."

Sounds like, the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida were descending and not ascending. What about you and me?

"Happy the man who makes daily progress, who doe snot weigh what he did yesterday, but makes his resolution for today and keeps it...the saintly progresses day by day."

Keep ascending. Keep climbing the mountain of the Lord.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

champions of God's people

Revelation 12:7-12; Psalm 138 In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord. John 1:47-51

The opening lines of the first reading form revelation is spooky: War broke out in heaven.

Wow! This is pretty serious. Heaven is a place of peace and joy and love and fullness of life. Heaven is where birds sing and paradise welcomes all.

Heaven is a community of friendship, deep and intimate love that seeks the highest good of the other. There is no selfishness in heaven. And there is a War that rages in heaven.

The great coup where the servants seek to be the master. In a moment, in an instant, Lucifer the great angel himself chose to turn from God and thus began his fall into misery and self-loathing.

But Michael and the angels stand guard, hold their ground, wielding victory as they cast out the devil and all of his demons that seek to ruin souls.

"The dragon and his angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven."

What a sad commentary on the state of affairs for the devil. To choose oneself over God and thus lose a place in heaven. There was no longer any place for them in heaven. Why?

THe selfishness of the devil blinded him to the beauty that is God and he no longer could stand the array and light of heaven. It isn't that God kicks him out, but rather the devil doesn't want to be in God's presence.

This is the twisted reality of sin and the fall. The fall wasn't originally in the garden of eden, no that is the second fall. The original fall is Satan from grace. To forsake heaven for one's self, truly this is what "War" is in its essence.

Imagine "warring" against goodness! It seems bit odd or counter productive, but isn't this exactly what we do when we give in to temptation, act selfishly, speak hurtful words or hold grudges, choosing not to forgive, are we not warring against goodness? Are we not raging war against heaven trying to break through into our lives?

War broke out in heaven. How do we stop the war in our daily lives? How do we keep the fight raging in our choices and actions?

This is why we pray and ask Michael, Gabriel, Raphael to intercede for us. we hope that we might stand with them, and stop the war from raging inside of us and let heaven win, let heaven break through into our lives daily.

"They conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony..."

There is the many we stand fast in victory.

O glorious prince St. Michael,
chief and commander of the heavenly hosts,
guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits,
servant in the house of the Divine King
and our admirable conductor,
you who shine with excellence
and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil
, who turn to you with confidence
and enable us by your gracious protection
to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael intercede for us and help us become champions of God

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good King Wenceslaus

Nehemiah 2:1-8; Ps 137 Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you; Luke 9:57-62

In the words of Jesus, "No one who sets his hand to the plow and looks to what is left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God."

I love the gospel today. People approach JEsus as he journeys forth and volunteer to follow him "wherever he goes" but they start to make excuses, "but first let me go..." you can fill in the blank with your own excuses.

How often is this our response to Christ? We seek to follow him and our resolve is real and strong but something comes up that seems more important at the time. Or we are afraid to let go, afraid we might miss out on something else if we follow to soon.

Perhaps we are afraid of what people might think or say or do?

With Jesus there is no missing out, there is just the fullness of joy and love that is abundant.

The risk is the reward.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Wenceslaus. He was taught Christianity by his grandmother, St. Ludmilla. This alone should give us pause to remember our grandparents or anyone who taught us the Christian faith and how to follow Christ. Think of all those who have "trained us in the ways of faith" as we say at the baptism of a child.

Upon the death of his Father, Wensceslaus took over and ruled with a good heart, assisting the poor at every turn, attending their funerals, bringing them food and clothing, he even made the wine and bread for use at the altar during mass. He ended the persecution of Christians, built churches, and brought back clergy to celebrate and minister to the people.

In just a short 4 years he was known as the "Good King" of Bohemia.

His brother began to despise him. At the age of 22 he was struck down by his brother outside a church. He is considered a martyr for the faith since pagan brother disliked his christian lifestyle. He is the first slav to be canonized.

He never wavered in his willingness to follow Christ. He never made excuses. He did not delay nor worried about missing out. He just simply walked in the footsteps of Christ.

Also today we celebrate the feast of St. John Dukla, polish origin; St. LAwrence of Ruiz and companions who were martyred in Nagasaki, Japan.

HEre are a few words from Pope Benedict on praying the Angelus:

"As we pray this Angelus, we may join Mary in her "yes", we may adhere trustingly to the beauty of God's plan and to the providence that he has assigned to us in his grace. Then God's love will also, as it were, take flesh in our lives, becoming ever more tangible. In all our cares we need have no fear. God is good. At the same time we know that we are sustained by the fellowship of the many believers who are now praying the Angelus with us throughout the world,"

Again he tells us:

"Christ, risen from the dead, shines in this world and he does so most brightly in those places where, in human terms, everything is sombre and hopeless. He has conquered death -- he is alive -- and faith in him, like a small light, cuts through all that is dark and threatening."

***********Below is a picture of Ludmilla teaching Wenceslas the way to follow Christ

Here is a you tube version of the Christmas Carol: Good King Wenceslas

Lyrics to the Good King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Presence of God

Today we honor the life and memory of St. Vincent de Paul.
Here are a few words from him,
"always begin your prayers with an act of the presence of God...Just consider that although we do not yet see God, faith teaches us that his holy presence is everywhere...penetrating all things and even our hearts to their very depths. Though our eyes may deceive us, but the truth that God is in all places will never deceive."

Practice the presence of God throughout the day. Recall this reality to mind often and be consoled and strengthen as the psalm tells us "God is with us.".

Be at peace in his embrace which comes to us by the warmth of the sun, the cool of the breeze, the shadows that fall, in the birds that sing, in the child at play, in the grown ups complaint. In all things God is near and he is present to us, let us be present to Him.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cosmas and Damian

zechariah 8:1-8; Psalm 102 The lord will build up Zion again and appear in all his glory; Luke 9:46-50

Often times I hear self proclaimed preachers telling the people gathered that God wants to fulfill their dreams or make their dreams come true.

Every one seems to eat these words up. They flock to this kind of message.

I, however, cringe when I hear such things.
Do I really want a God who wants to make my dreams come true? It sounds cheesy and too much like disney land or hollywood.

We have emasculated our God by such notions. Think about God who goes around trying to make everybody's dreams come true. More importantly, think about all those dreams. Do we really want to make some them come true?

No, I refuse to accept a God whose sole purpose is too make my dreams come true. I need something more. I need some one bigger than my dreams.

I want a God who isn't caught up dream land. I need a God who has a plan. I need who God who has included me in his plan, a God who invites me to surrender my dreams or allow my dreams to be purified by his plan for my life and the life of the world.

This is something I can hang my hat on.

This is what Zechariah tells us in the first reading of today,

"I am intensely jealous for Zion, stirred to jealous wrath for her. Thus says the Lord, I will return to zion and dwell within Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain. Thus says the Lord of host: Old men and old women, each with a staff in hand because of old age, again shall sit in the streets of Jerusalem. The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets...I will rescue my people...I will bring them back ...they shall be my people and I will be their God with faithfulness and justice."

There it is, God's plan of action. Notice, Zechariah doesn't once speak of dreams.

St. Cosmas and St. Damian understood this. Thus they were willing to lay their life in order to be part of God's plan of faithfulness and justice.

These twin brothers who were doctors, who went around practicing medicine free of charge so that they might imitate God's generosity, were willing to give their life completely in martyrdom so that they might truly imitate the plan of action laid out by God' son: for the one who is the least among you is the greatest."

Set aside your dreams and jump into God's plan of salvation and there you shall find true joy and satisfaction, faithfulness and justice.

Cosmas and Damian pray for us

Sunday, September 25, 2011

a little lip is better than lip service.

Ezekiel 18:25-28; Ps 25 Remember your mercies, O Lord; Philippians 2:1-11; Matt 21:28-32

Take a few moments and read the gospel, the story of the Father and his two sons. The meaning is crystal clear.

You have one son who tells the father basically, "up yours!" He tells the father that there is no way he is going in the vineyard. We don't know why? We just know he flat out refused. Then as he walks away something happens. His mind begins to race. His hearts begins to pound. His conscience begins to cry out.

There is something about walking away that pricks us.

Whatever happens, all we know is later he returns and enters the vineyard and gets to work. As Jesus tells us in the gospel, "afterwards, he changed his mind and went."

The other son, responded in the positive to his father. HE said, "yes, sir." HE even responded with politeness and honor, calling his father, "sir." But all that talk led to little action. In fact, he ran off and did his own thing. He never returned. He had no intention of returning.

Which son did the Father's will? This is a no brainer, of course the first son.

For we all know, we can take a little lip as long as action follows, but lip service is good for nothing.

So which are we? Are we those that give God lip and then change our minds and return rather than keep walking away or are we the those who talk a big game, say all the right things, but when it comes right down to it, we don't do it?

Which one: a little lip and lot of action or lip service and no action at all.

Do we pray good a game and remain part of the do nothing party or do we get in there and get our hands dirty doing the will of the Father, no matter how many times we have to turn around and change our minds.

When it is all said and done there is more said then done, if you are the second son.

God is always open to change and changing often.

A promise to do can never take the place of performance, and fine words are never a substitute for fine deeds.

Friday, September 23, 2011

promise keeper

Haggai 2:1-9; Psalm 43 Hope in God; I will praise him, my savior and my God; Luke 9:18-22

Yesterday,I was visiting the 3k class room while they were painting their fish, with finger paint. As they were painting , i told them that i would learn all their names. So I went down the list and put to memory 15 names.

They were all impressed.

So i told them I would mention their names at mass on friday morning. They were all excited.

This morning, As i began my homily, i was again acknowledged the 3k class who were sitting front and eager to be acknowledged. As I was going down the list of names, i realized Iw as short a few names. In fact, their were four i could not remember. One of those young 3k's name that i could not remember happened to have to the same name as me.

Image! Of all the names I forgot, i could i possible forget, the 3K whose name was David. But I Did. The rest of the school thought it was the funniest thing.

Our memory isn't full proof. We forget. We forget often.

But, the reading point to the reality that God doesn't forget. IN fact Haggai, in the first reading for today, reminds the people, ""For I am with you, says the Lord of hosts. This is the pact that I made with you, when you came out of Egypt, ANd my spirit continues to be in your midst."

Think about that for a moment. The time between the Red sea crossing and the egyptian event and the prophet Haggai speaking is roughly 1200 years. 1200 years had passed and yet God recalls it to his people that he has no intention of forgetting and every intention of following through.

God remembers. God keeps his promises.

When JEsus speaks of the suffering he must endure in the gospel, he is thinking of God who carries out his promise.

We may forget. But God does not. In fact the reason we are asked to go to mass on Sunday and celebrate in the community is so that by celebrating, we remember; we remember that God remembers.

God is a promise keeper. In Christ, he comes to keep us.

st Padre Pio

Words of encouragement for the devout life according to Padre Pio

"May Jesus bless you always and smile at your spirit, subjected through his goodness to so many trials; may he always console your heart, afflicted for him and by him, not through hate but through love"

"You may rest assured, my dear friend, that what best guarantees our perfection is the virtue of patience; and if it is necessary to practice this virtue with others, it is right to exercise it first of all towards ourselves. Those who aspire to the pure love of God need patience with themselves even more than with others"

Five maxims for the devout life
According to Padre Pio to live a devout life without failing, all you need do is to fix some excellent and generous maxims in your mind:

"The first one I desire you to cherish is from St Paul: 'All things work together for the good of those who love God' (Rom 8:28).

"The second maxim that I desire you to keep for ever engraved on your heart is that God is our Father; and what do you have to fear as the daughter of such a father whose providence would not let a hair of your head be harmed?"

"The third maxim is that you must observe what the divine Master teaches his disciples: 'What do you lack?' The disciples answered that they lacked nothing. When you were troubled even at the time when you unfortunately did not feel much confidence in God, tell me, were you never oppressed by anxiety? You will answer, 'No'. So, I will reply, 'Why do you not have the strength to overcome all the other trials?'.

"The fourth maxim concerns eternity. Living these brief and fleeting moments should not matter much to the children of God, since they will live for eternity in glory with God."

"The fifth maxim that I implore you to keep fixed in your mind is that of the Apostle St Paul: 'Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Gal 6:14). Treasure in your heart the crucified Jesus Christ and all the crosses of the world will seem like roses. Those who have been pricked by the crown of thorns of the Saviour, who is our Head, do not feel the other wounds."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

rise to new life

Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13; Psalm 19 Their message goes out through all the earth; Mt 9:9-13

a poem to share entitled: Magnificat

O Lord, I did walk upon the earth
and my footprints did keep pace with the rain
and I did note, I did note where orange birds
flew up from the puddles thou hast made
and where the toads leapt from your trenches,
but nowhere was there that I could go
for I could not rise from the firmament
upon which I was placed, and nowhere could I
so I kept until I could no more straight
then bent said I am down to make room for the more
and you half hearing did send me down
into the soul of another by mistakes
and I would like to thank you for it
from where I lie, risen in the eye of the other.

I especially like the last line, "risen in the eye of the other."
It reminds me of the gospel in which we hear proclaimed throughout the church as we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew, the apostle and the evangelist.

If you open you bible today and read Matthew 9:9-13 you will encounter the call narrative of Martthew. Jesus, seeing matthew sitting at his post working, calls out to him, "follow me." And Matthew, "got up and followed him."

He rises from his post; he is risen in the eye of the other.

Are not all of us called to experience this awakening. The call itself is already the prefiguring of the resurrection, when we shall all arise. The word of Christ has that kind of power to bring about that kind of a dramatic turn about in one's life.

How many times have we heard stories of people who have experienced a calling from the Lord and find their life completely changed and headed in a new direction.

How often do they experience that "risen" reality that comes from hearing of God's call in their life?

This too is our fate, our destiny, what we are made for. We are made and created to be receivers of God's call, that word that impells us to rise. All of us must live out in our own life what Matthew experiences in his, to rise to a new life, to have a new horizon open up by simpling heeding the word that comes to us.

This is why Matthew writes his gosple. He doesn't want the word of God to fall deafly to earth, but rather he wants all to be given the opportunity to experience what he experienced and to be encouraged to rise and move forth in a new direction of living, living in the call received.

Notice that Matthew doesn't follow Jesus alone. Rather, his willingness to rise from his post and take a step in the new direction draws others to come and see as well for "many tax collectors and and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples."

It is Stephen King who said, "Alone. Yes, that's the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn't hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym."

Alone is no longer a word that has a place in the lives of those who have risen and taken a decisive step in the direction of that new life that only comes in Christ. One step in this new direction is an opening to a new kind of commuion.

Matthew leaves his post and embarks on a new life in a communion that is made by the word that issues forth.

Rise today! Take a new step in that decisive direction of surrender and trust. Be in step with Christ and never be alone again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Korean martyrs:Tta-ra o-se-yo! 따라 오세요!

Wisdom 3:1-9; Ps 126 Lk 9:23-26

Today we celebrate the courageous acts of will of Andrew Kim, Paul Chong Hasang and his companions. Between 1839-1867 103 christians gave their lives as martyrs. Andrew Kim was a priest, Paul Hasang was a lay apostle and most of the those who were killed for their faith were the laity.

Andrew Kim's final exhortation, "I urge you to remain steadfast in faith, so that at last we will all reach heaven and there rejoice together."

Gandhi says the following, "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."

In deed, this is the source of strength for every martyr. The will is that faculty that chooses the highest love and lets that love lead it on. Martyrs are great witnesses not because of how they die but "why" they die.

I am reminded of this every time I scroll through the channels on the TV and come across Spike TV which has a show called 1000 ways to die. In depicts people who do unintelligent things, at least normally, that lead to their death.

The focus is on the way they die and also the why, usually referring to bad decisions.

Martyrs are those who make good decisions. THey choose the highest good and allow their will to be reinforced in the faith they profess.

What would the world look like if we all had that resolve, allowing our will to be reinforced by the faith we profess.

Where does our strength come from?

As the book of wisdom reminds us, "The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. They seemed in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace...As gold in a furnace, he(God) proved them and as a sacrificial offering he took them to himself."

There is the key to martyrdom. Martyrs allow God to have his way with way them. They allow God to make them a sacrificial offering and thus taking them to himself.

In the end we shall be judged on love. This is the reason for our will. We must choose wisely; we must seek the highest good; we must be willing to take our cross, deny ourselves, and follow JEsus.

It is following JEsus that our will is purified, refined, proved and thus strengthen.

"Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love." wisdom 3:9

The words of the post are in korean, Tta-ra o-se-yo! 따라 오세요!, which simply means "come with me!"

Blessed John Paul II on the mission of the lay faithful
"The People of God believes that it is led by the Spirit of the Lord, who fills the whole world. Moved by this faith it tries to discern authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the events, the needs, and the longings which it shares with other people of our time. For faith throws a new light on all things and makes known the full ideal to which God has called each individual, and thus guides the mind towards solutions which are fully human"(6).

It is necessary, then, to keep a watchful eye on this our world, with its problems and values, its unrest and hopes, its defeats and triumphs: a world whose economic, social, political and cultural affairs pose problems and grave difficulties in light of the description provided by the Council in the Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes.(7)This, then, is the vineyard; this is the field in which the faithful are called to fulfill their mission. Jesus wants them, as he wants all his disciples, to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" (cf. Mt 5:13-14)."

Monday, September 19, 2011

mysterious Januarius

Ezra 1:1-6; Ps 126 The Lord has done marvels for us; Luke 8:16-18

Today we celebrate the feast of an obscure saint, saint Januarius. He was a bishop who was martyred in 305. Not much is known about his life other than the hagiographers tell us that the emperor Diocletian had a hard time killing the bishop. He tried to throw him to animals but the wild beast wouldn't touch him. He tried to throw him in a furnace but the bishop wouldn't burn. Eventually, he decided to behead him, and that seem to work.

I find it kind of humorous that the hagiographers just seem to focus on this bit of his life. The saint that wouldn't die, might have been another title for this post. But, again in all fairness, beheading seems to work every time.

Excuse my failed attempt at humor.

None the less, St. Januarius has gotten more notoriety since his death than he did in life. Since the 14th century, a vial filled with his blood is taken out on his feast day and the dried blood liquifies. The people of Naples wait on this miracle. IT has been testified countless times. Scientist have no explanation as to why the dried blood of the martyr, who has been dead since 305, liquifies on his feast day. It has become an historic mystery.

Here is an article that explains it in further detail:

What a strange and beautiful faith we have.
Now let us look at the reading for today.

The German word for hospitality Gastfreundschaft which means friendship for the guest…It means the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. — Henri J. M. Nouwen

Think about that in relation to the first reading and the gospel. In the book of Ezra, we are told that God uses the foreign King of Persia to bring about restoration of Jerusalem. Who would have thought that a Persian king would be instrumental in rebuilding the temple and rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.

What a turn of events for the people in their history. What a great lesson. God can and often will use the those we least expect to bring about change for the better. God is open to using anyone and everyone to bring about his will; so too must we learn to be open to whom ever God wishes to make his will known to us.

We must create space where the stranger can become a friend instead of an enemy.

Perhaps, this can be used to understand the gospel.

Jesus tells us, "No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bushel basket; rather it is placed on the lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light."

Hospitality demands the light be seen. Again as Henri Nouwen points out, we must create space so that the stranger can become a friend instead of an enemy. What better way than to keep the lights on as the old motel6 commercial reminds us.

Click here for radio spots of Tom Bodette doing his thing

Here at motel 6, we will leave the light on for ya!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

God's justice is his generosity

Isaiah 55:6-9; Ps 145 The Lord is near to all who call upon him; Philippians 1:20-27; Mt 20:1-16

Just a few lines from the readings today:
Isaiah speaks the words of God, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord, aS high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts."

St. Paul, as he faces trial and possible execution, writes these words from prison, "Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death."

The gospel parable, "Are you envious because I am generous."

The parable this Sunday is one that evokes many emotions, usually negative emotions. The landowner in the parable goes out and hires day laborers at various times of the day and then at the end of the day he pays those who work one hour the same wage as those who work 12 hours and there arise a bit of resentment in the hearts of those who worked all day. They feel slighted and perhaps abused. They also feel cheated.

Now in order to fully understand this parable, we must go back and read chapter 19. JEsus sets this parable up in 19. Only in full context does the parable begin to unfold its meaning for us.

Quick overview of 19.

In chapter 19, we encounter JEsus encountering a rich young man who asks him a pretty good question, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" This question should be the primary question we ask on a daily basis. How do we get form here to there?

JEsus asks the young man to examine his life and see if he has obeyed the commandments. Young man responds with enthusiasm that from early on, when he was knee high, he has done so. JEsus praised him for his faithfulness and then adds the following, "If you wish to be perfect, then sell all you have, give to the poor, and follow me."

The young man was overwhelmed with the words of Jesus. The gospel tells us he went away sad because he had many possessions.

JEsus speaks of how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle. We are all familiar with this passage.

Upon hearing this, the disciples cry out, "then Lord who can be saved!"

JEsus responds with words of encouragement, "for men it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."

Then Peter speaks. This is important. Peter is often rash. There is no filter between his brain and his mouth. We know people like this. Sometimes, we are like this.

Peter ask the question to Jesus, "what about us learn, we have given up everything. What should we expect from it?"

Peter has a good point. His question is one of justice. He heard Jesus tell the rich young man that he should give up everything and follow him and Peter realizes that that is exactly what he and the other 11 have done.

He wants to know, what is it for them. What is their reward, their pay scale? He is seeking Justice. What is due to them who have given all.

We all have our system of justice. It primarily goes something like this: I give you something, and you give me something back.

Thinking about justice reminds me of a note that sits on the principal's desk in St. Rose of Lima school where i was last year.

When you sit at the principal's desk, and yes I sat at the desk several times last year. The first thing you see is this note that is on Fairness and equality. The note reads, "Fairness and Equality are not the same. Fairness means you get what you need (or what is due) and equality means every one gets the same things, and this is not always fair."

The principal has that note on her desk, because students, especially young students, will often cry foul, "that is not fair." So the notes is point of reference and conversation.

And for the most part we agree with the note.

BAck to the gospel. Jesus upon hearing Peter's quest for justice responds, "you who have followed me shall likewise take your places on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel..."

Now imagine Peter hearing this invitation to sit on thrones...I bet he got a little big headed. Perhaps, he felt some what privileged, or entitled, or special.

It is in this context, JEsus gives us this parable that is about God's justice and generosity. Jesus seeks to keep Peter grounded.

The landowner hires workers and as I mentioned above, regardless of the hours they put it, he pays them all the same wage.

Those who worked for twelve hours, as they approached the foreman, "thought they would receive more."

They felt entitled. They thought they deserved a "bonus" for simply doing what they said they would do. Part of the reason for this is they didn't think the other workers deserved the pay they got. Their sense of justice was alarmed.

Now think about for a moment. We have all been there. We have often looked around and have seen people experience abundance in their life and felt alarmed. We felt they didn't deserve it, at least not according to out standard of justice. Our hearts began to cry foul, "that is not fair."

How often have we gotten angry at God because His generosity and our sense of justice didn't quite match? How dare God "make us equal" as the workers proclaimed in the parable?

We have been faithful all of our life, we struggle to make ends meet, we think and here are those who are johnny come lately and all of a sudden everything seems to work for them. This is not fair and the wrestling match ensues between us and God and our hearts get embittered and we are cry out because of injustice to us.

Which reminds of a story. The greek writer Nicolas Kazantzakis, tells of his life as a young man growing up in Greece. He, has a young man, decided to spend some time with a monk who lived on top of Mount Athos. He wanted to know what wisdom he had gain in his life of solitude. Upon arriving on the top of the mount, Nicolas, asked the monk if he still wrestled with the devil. The monk replied, "I use to when I was young, but I have grown old and tired and the devil has grown old and tired with me." Nicolas then responded, "well, then your life must be easy, without struggle." The monk replied, "No! My life is more difficult. BEfore I struggled with the devil, but now I wrestle with God."

Nicolas, upon hearing this asked the monk, "You wrestle with God. And do you hope to win!"

The monk looked at Nicolas and sighed, "No, I wrestle with God and I hope to lose."

When it comes to our sense of injustice or justice in relation to God's justice and generosity and the wrestling match that ensues, we better hope like the monk, we lose.

God sees everything, we see almost nothing.

For in the end, I would much rather be judged by God's standard of justice then my own standard. For it is His justice that is already a gift of his generosity.

Besides, the gift of labor in the vineyard is far greater than having spent my life being idle in the market place. The reward is the work itself. Imagine the workers in the parable. WHo had a better day? Those who worked for twelve hours, knowing they were gong to get paid and thus were assured their families would be taken care of and they would have food or those who spent 3/4 of the day idle and unsure as to whether or not their family would be provided for?

The work in the vineyard,the kingdom of God, is already a reward for us who labor. By our faithfulness, we have assurances that bring peace and stability. Those who have no faith spend their life in anxiety and turmoil, which is no way to live.

We better hope we lose the wrestling match and that in deed God's justice and generosity win, for his justice is already very very merciful.

In the end, we will be all treated equally. There is not more or less there is only the fullness of God for eternity.

Friday, September 16, 2011

companions for the journey

1 timothy 6:2-12; Ps 49 Blessed the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs; Luke 8:1-3

Today's gospel is by far one of my favorite gospel stories in Luke.

JEsus is on the move. He is going from one town to the next, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.

And does not go alone. He has companions for the journey.

The twelve along with a list of women folk: Mary magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herrod' steward, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.

What a diverse group associated with Jesus.

The twelve alone are pretty different as far as personalities and temperaments. The range is quite large.

Then to had this motley crew, we now encounter these ladies.

Mary magdalene, who seven demons were cast can only imagine her dark and loose past. She was considered a lady of the night, if you catch my drift.

Then there is Joanna who was a lady of the court. She was a women of means. She was the wife of the King's financial advisor and officer. She was use to having people wait on her. Her wardrobe was probably quite elaborate.

Then there is susanna. she has no history. She just has name. Perhaps she was a no body. perhaps she was just ordinary. Whatever it may be, she was moved to follow Christ.

What a group of companions for the journey. When we look close at this particular scripture, we realize it looks a lot like today, a lot like us.

The next time you go to mass, take a look around. What a motley crew Jesus has called together. We go together or we do not go at all.

All of our differences, all of our histories, all of our past lives, all of that converges into the person of christ who holds us all together.

We are his. He is ours. We go together, or we do not go at all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Hymn to Mary, our lady of sorrows!

Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the Heav’nly Way!
Mary the Root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the Rose-Tree, Christ the Rose Blood-red!
Mary the Font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the Chalice, Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the Temple, Christ the Temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored!
Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the Mother, Christ the Mother’s Son.
Both ever blest while endless ages run.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Cross is the MEasure of the World

Homily by BLessed John Cardinal Newman

"A great number of men live and die without reflecting at all upon the state of things in which they find themselves. They take things as they come, and follow their inclinations as far as they have the opportunity. They are guided mainly by pleasure and pain, not by reason, principle, or conscience; and they do not attempt to interpret this world, to determine what it means, or to reduce what they see and feel to system. But when persons, either from thoughtfulness of mind, or from intellectual activity, begin to contemplate the visible state of things into which they are born, then forthwith they find it a maze and a perplexity. It is a riddle which they cannot solve. It seems full of contradictions and without a drift. Why it is, and what it is to issue in, and how it is what it is, and how we come to be introduced into it, and what is our destiny, are all mysteries.
In this difficulty, some have formed one philosophy of life, and others another. Men have thought they had found the key, by means of which they might read what is so obscure. Ten thousand things come before us one after another in the course of life, and what are we to think of them? what colour are we to give them? Are we to look at all things in a gay and mirthful way? or in a melancholy way? in a desponding or a hopeful way? Are we to make light of life altogether, or to treat the whole subject seriously? Are we to make greatest things of little consequence, or least things of great consequence? Are we to keep in mind what is past and gone, or are we to look on to the future, or are we to be absorbed in what is present? How are we to look at things? this is the question which all persons of observation ask themselves, and answer each in his own way. They wish to think by rule; by something within them, which may harmonize and adjust what is without them. Such is the need felt by reflective minds. Now, let me ask, what is the real key, what is the Christian interpretation of this world? What is given us by revelation to estimate and measure this world by? The event of this season, – the Crucifixion of the Son of God.

It is the death of the Eternal Word of God made flesh, which is our great lesson how to think and how to speak of this world. His Cross has put its due value upon every thing which we see, upon all fortunes, all advantages, all ranks, all dignities, all pleasures; upon the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It has set a price upon the excitements, the rivalries, the hopes, the fears, the desires, the efforts, the triumphs of mortal man. It has given a meaning to the various, shifting course, the trials, the temptations, the sufferings, of his earthly state. It has brought together and made consistent all that seemed discordant and aimless. It has taught us how to live, how to use this world, what to expect, what to desire, what to hope. It is the tone into which all the strains of this world's music are ultimately to be resolved.

Now, let me ask, what is the real key, what is the Christian interpretation of this world? What is given us by revelation to estimate and measure this world by? The event of this season, – the Crucifixion of the Son of God.

Look around, and see what the world presents of high and low. Go to the court of princes. See the treasure and skill of all nations brought together to honour a child of man. Observe the prostration of the many before the few. Consider the form and ceremonial, the pomp, the state, the circumstance; and the vainglory. Do you wish to know the worth of it all? look at the Cross of Christ.

Go to the political world: see nation jealous of nation, trade rivalling trade, armies and fleets matched against each other. Survey the various ranks of the community, its parties and their contests, the strivings of the ambitious, the intrigues of the crafty. What is the end of all this turmoil? the grave. What is the measure? the Cross.

Go, again, to the world of intellect and science: consider the wonderful discoveries which the human mind is making, the variety of arts to which its discoveries give rise, the all but miracles by which it shows its power; and next, the pride and confidence of reason, and the absorbing devotion of thought to transitory objects, which is the consequence. Would you form a right judgment of all this? look at the Cross.

Again: look at misery, look at poverty and destitution, look at oppression and captivity; go where food is scanty, and lodging unhealthy. Consider pain and suffering, diseases long or violent, all that is frightful and revolting. Would you know how to rate all these? gaze upon the Cross.

Thus in the Cross, and Him who hung upon it, all things meet; all things subserve it, all things need it. It is their centre and their interpretation. For He was lifted up upon it, that He might draw all men and all things unto Him.

But it will be said, that the view which the Cross of Christ imparts to us of human life and of the world, is not that which we should take, if left to ourselves; that it is not an obvious view; that if we look at things on their surface, they are far more bright and sunny than they appear when viewed in the light which this season casts upon them. The world seems made for the enjoyment of just such a being as man, and man is put into it. He has the capacity of enjoyment, and the world supplies the means. How natural this, what a simple as well as pleasant philosophy, yet how different from that of the Cross! The doctrine of the Cross, it may be said, disarranges two parts of a system which seem made for each other; it severs the fruit from the eater, the enjoyment from the enjoyer. How does this solve a problem? does it not rather itself create one?

I answer, first, that whatever force this objection may have, surely it is merely a repetition of that which Eve felt and Satan urged in Eden; for did not the woman see that the forbidden tree was "good for food," and "a tree to be desired"? Well, then, is it wonderful that we too, the descendants of the first pair, should still be in a world where there is a forbidden fruit, and that our trials should lie in being within reach of it, and our happiness in abstaining from it? The world, at first sight, appears made for pleasure, and the vision of Christ's Cross is a solemn and sorrowful sight interfering with this appearance. Be it so; but why may it not be our duty to abstain from enjoyment notwithstanding, if it was a duty even in Eden?

This being the case, the great and awful doctrine of the Cross of Christ, which we now commemorate, may fitly be called, in the language of figure, the heart of religion.

But again; it is but a superficial view of things to say that this life is made for pleasure and happiness. To those who look under the surface, it tells a very different tale. The doctrine of the Cross does but teach, though infinitely more forcibly, still after all it does but teach the very same lesson which this world teaches to those who live long in it, who have much experience in it, who know it. The world is sweet to the lips, but bitter to the taste. It pleases at first, but not at last. It looks gay on the outside, but evil and misery lie concealed within. When a man has passed a certain number of years in it, he cries out with the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Nay, if he has not religion for his guide, he will be forced to go further, and say, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit;" all is disappointment; all is sorrow; all is pain. The sore judgments of God upon sin are concealed within it, and force a man to grieve whether he will or no. Therefore the doctrine of the Cross of Christ does but anticipate for us our experience of the world. It is true, it bids us grieve for our sins in the midst of all that smiles and glitters around us; but if we will not heed it, we shall at length be forced to grieve for them from undergoing their fearful punishment. If we will not acknowledge that this world has been made miserable by sin, from the sight of Him on whom our sins were laid, we shall experience it to be miserable by the recoil of those sins upon ourselves.

It may be granted, then, that the doctrine of the Cross is not on the surface of the world. The surface of things is bright only, and the Cross is sorrowful; it is a hidden doctrine; it lies under a veil; it at first sight startles us, and we are tempted to revolt from it. Like St. Peter, we cry out, "Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee." [Matt. xvi. 22.] And yet it is a true doctrine; for truth is not on the surface of things, but in the depths.

And as the doctrine of the Cross, though it be the true interpretation of this world, is not prominently manifested in it, upon its surface, but is concealed; so again, when received into the faithful heart, there it abides as a living principle, but deep, and hidden from observation. Religious men, in the words of Scripture, "live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved them and gave Himself for them:" [Gal. ii. 20.] but they do not tell this to all men; they leave others to find it out as they may. Our Lord's own command to His disciples was, that when they fast, they should "anoint their head and wash their face." [Matt. vi. 17.] Thus they are bound not to make a display, but ever to be content to look outwardly different from what they are really inwardly. They are to carry a cheerful countenance with them, and to control and regulate their feelings, that those feelings, by not being expended on the surface, may retire deep into their hearts and there live. And thus "Jesus Christ and He crucified" is, as the Apostle tells us, "a hidden wisdom;" – hidden in the world, which seems at first sight to speak a far other doctrine, – and hidden in the faithful soul, which to persons at a distance, or to chance beholders, seems to be living but an ordinary life, while really it is in secret holding communion with Him who was "manifested in the flesh," "crucified through weakness," "justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, and received up into glory."

This being the case, the great and awful doctrine of the Cross of Christ, which we now commemorate, may fitly be called, in the language of figure, the heart of religion. The heart may be considered as the seat of life; it is the principle of motion, heat, and activity; from it the blood goes to and fro to the extreme parts of the body. It sustains the man in his powers and faculties; it enables the brain to think; and when it is touched, man dies. And in like manner the sacred doctrine of Christ's Atoning Sacrifice is the vital principle on which the Christian lives, and without which Christianity is not. Without it no other doctrine is held profitably; to believe in Christ's divinity, or in His manhood, or in the Holy Trinity, or in a judgment to come, or in the resurrection of the dead, is an untrue belief, not Christian faith, unless we receive also the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice. On the other hand, to receive it presupposes the reception of other high truths of the Gospel besides; it involves the belief in Christ's true divinity, in His true incarnation, and in man's sinful state by nature; and it prepares the way to belief in the sacred Eucharistic feast, in which He who was once crucified is ever given to our souls and bodies, verily and indeed, in His Body and in His Blood. But again, the heart is hidden from view; it is carefully and securely guarded; it is not like the eye set in the forehead, commanding all, and seen of all: and so in like manner the sacred doctrine of the Atoning Sacrifice is not one to be talked of, but to be lived upon; not to be put forth irreverently, but to be adored secretly; not to be used as a necessary instrument in the conversion of the ungodly, or for the satisfaction of reasoners of this world, but to be unfolded to the docile and obedient; to young children, whom the world has not corrupted; to the sorrowful, who need comfort; to the sincere and earnest, who need a rule of life; to the innocent, who need warning; and to the established, who have earned the knowledge of it.

And so, too, as regards this world, with all its enjoyments, yet disappointments. Let us not trust it; let us not give our hearts to it; let us not begin with it. Let us begin with faith; let us begin with Christ...

One more remark I shall make, and then conclude. It must not be supposed, because the doctrine of the Cross makes us sad, that therefore the Gospel is a sad religion. The Psalmist says, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy;" and our Lord says, "They that mourn shall be comforted." Let no one go away with the impression that the Gospel makes us take a gloomy view of the world and of life. It hinders us indeed from taking a superficial view, and finding a vain transitory joy in what we see; but it forbids our immediate enjoyment, only to grant enjoyment in truth and fulness afterwards. It only forbids us to begin with enjoyment. It only says, If you begin with pleasure, you will end with pain. It bids us begin with the Cross of Christ, and in that Cross we shall at first find sorrow, but in a while peace and comfort will rise out of that sorrow. That Cross will lead us to mourning, repentance, humiliation, prayer, fasting; we shall sorrow for our sins, we shall sorrow with Christ's sufferings; but all this sorrow will only issue, nay, will be undergone in a happiness far greater than the enjoyment which the world gives, – though careless worldly minds indeed will not believe this, ridicule the notion of it, because they never have tasted it, and consider it a mere matter of words, which religious persons think it decent and proper to use, and try to believe themselves, and to get others to believe, but which no one really feels. This is what they think; but our Saviour said to His disciples, "Ye now therefore have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." ... "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you." [John xvi. 22; xiv. 27.] And St. Paul says, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." [1 Cor. ii. 9, 14.] And thus the Cross of Christ, as telling us of our redemption as well as of His sufferings, wounds us indeed, but so wounds as to heal also.

And thus, too, all that is bright and beautiful, even on the surface of this world, though it has no substance, and may not suitably be enjoyed for its own sake, yet is a figure and promise of that true joy which issues out of the Atonement. It is a promise beforehand of what is to be: it is a shadow, raising hope because the substance is to follow, but not to be rashly taken instead of the substance. And it is God's usual mode of dealing with us, in mercy to send the shadow before the substance, that we may take comfort in what is to be, before it comes. Thus our Lord before His Passion rode into Jerusalem in triumph, with the multitudes crying Hosanna, and strewing His road with palm branches and their garments. This was but a vain and hollow pageant, nor did our Lord take pleasure in it. It was a shadow which stayed not, but flitted away. It could not be more than a shadow, for the Passion had not been undergone by which His true triumph was wrought out. He could not enter into His glory before He had first suffered. He could not take pleasure in this semblance of it, knowing that it was unreal. Yet that first shadowy triumph was the omen and presage of the true victory to come, when He had overcome the sharpness of death. And we commemorate this figurative triumph on the last Sunday in Lent, to cheer us in the sorrow of the week that follows, and to remind us of the true joy which comes with Easter-Day.

And so, too, as regards this world, with all its enjoyments, yet disappointments. Let us not trust it; let us not give our hearts to it; let us not begin with it. Let us begin with faith; let us begin with Christ; let us begin with His Cross and the humiliation to which it leads. Let us first be drawn to Him who is lifted up, that so He may, with Himself, freely give us all things. Let us "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," and then all those things of this world "will be added to us." They alone are able truly to enjoy this world, who begin with the world unseen. They alone enjoy it, who have first abstained from it. They alone can truly feast, who have first fasted; they alone are able to use the world, who have learned not to abuse it; they alone inherit it, who take it as a shadow of the world to come, and who for that world to come relinquish it.

The Cross-roads

Numbers 21:4-9; Ps 78 Do not forget the works of the Lord; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17

The cross, that is crucifixion upon the cross, was invented as some historians surmise by the Assyrians. The Assyrians were terrorist of the middle ages. They saw crucifixion as a way or tactic of inflicting great fear in the hearts of its enemies. It was used to to bring about the least amount of resistance to being conquered and the least amount of rebellion once conquered.

Crucifixion was a device that brought about the most amount of pain for the longest amount of time. It was a terror tactic that was very effective. The assyrians conquered quickly.

The Roman Empire adopted the crucifixion from the Assyrians. They thought it so cruel and base that no Roman citizen regardless of his deeds, even treason, could ever be crucified. It was reserved only for slaves and conquered people.

It became a tool of intimidation. The one to be crucified was stripped naked, publicly humiliated and nailed upon the cross for all to see.

The cross before it was decorative was an instrument of destruction, and instrument of torture, an instrument of pain, an instrument of death. Yet, it was the Person of Christ in his body that transforms that instrument of destruction and death into a place of peace, forgiveness, and life itself. The ugliness of the cross becomes beauty in Christ.

That which was meant to be a tool of terror and intimidation now stands at the center of faith, is now to be exalted as the means by which redemption is brought to all.
From terror and intimidation to praise and glorification.

But without the body of Christ the cross remains only a piece of art, only a decorative remembrance of what was once a bare wall.

Exalt the cross...see it as a triumphant and victorious work of redemption...see it as beauty not just art.
Pope John Paul II proclaimed that in the end we are saved by beauty...The Exaltation of the Cross should remind us of that beautiful reality upon whose life we now live.

We hear the words of St. John in the gospel today, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his son to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him."

Remember the first station of the cross: JEsus is condemned to death. Jesus allows himself to be conquered and condemned so that we might avoid that peril. JEsus chooses to perish so that we might inherit the imperishable life.

We exalt the cross. We rejoice. This day we look backwards to Good Friday when we venerate the cross. We look forward to Good Friday in which we will venerate the cross. We forever live beneath the shadow of the cross.

The cross is life.

The cross roads is no longer just an intersection upon which we may take different directions; rather the cross is that which gives us direction and directs on the road to life abundant and joy that is full.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Doctor Chrysostom

1 Timothy 3:1-13; Ps 101 I will walk with blameless heart; Luke 7:11-17

Today we look to the past to find wisdom and guidance from one of the Church's most eloquent preachers and stout defenders: St. John Chrysostom.

Here is a bit of the doctor's prescription
"I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbor. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world! If Christ is with me, whom should I fear? Though the sea ad the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider's web....For I always say: Lord, your will be done; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done."

The first reading today is Paul speaking about the requirements to be a bishop, a leader in the church. Also, it highlights the requirements for Deacons, and women in the church.

It is worth reading Timothy chapter 3 and use it as a guide for ourselves. Are we irreproachable, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not aggressive, gentle?

Do we manage our household well?
What is our reputation like to outsiders?

Are we addicted to drink?
Are we greedy for sordid gain?
Do we hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience?

Are we dignified?
Are we slanderers?
Are we faithful in everything?

Look for a moment at the invitation to have a clear conscience.

This one is particularly neglected in our society. One who says they have a clear conscience doesn't necessarily have a clear conscience according to St. Paul. The greek word Katharos for clear means pure, as in pure of heart. Blessed are the pure of heart they shall see God. Or in the words of Revelation, nothing unclean, unpure, shall enter heaven.

The issue of a clear conscience, doesn't mean you don't feel guilty; it has little to do with the feeling of guilt being present or absent, but rather it refers to truly adhering to the teachings of God in Christ passed on through the church.

Inward purity is about having our heart and mind fixed on God's way for us. IT is about dedication to the godly life of holiness. St. Peter points out that we purify our souls in obedience to faith and sincere love. Notice, obedience is what makes sincere love possible. The proper order is so essential.

There are many who claim a "clear conscience" but yet they are as far from God as one can imagine. Clarity of conscience doesn't not mean we set our own standard of living, choosing to live any way we know how (we are not the Duke's of hazard, making their way anyway they know how), rather it is a conscience that clings to the word of God and seeks to be conformed to that word God has spoken, allowing one's life to be shaped and molded by the word of God passed on through his Church.

Our conscience is made to hear and heed the word of God. In our society, many of us have mistaken our own thoughts and words for God's words and we do our own thing. This is not a clear conscience but a perverse one.

How many people are walking around fooling themselves. They think their conscience is clear but in reality it is soiled.
Our conscience is made for truth and truth comes from outside of us. It is truth that purifies.

As Jesus makes the dead man rise in today's gospel, so to does he desire to awaken our dead consciences to the fullness of life that comes through him.

Think about your life to day. When have you failed to heed the word of God? When have you deadened your conscience to the truth of God's word? How have you chosen to make your own way, to do your own thing rather than enter through the narrow gate?

Monday, September 12, 2011

star of the sea

1 timothy 2:1-8; Ps 28 Blessed be the Lord for he has heard my prayer; Luke 7:1-10

Today we celebrate the optional memorial of the Holy Name of Mary.

In January, we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. September seems to be a fitting month of celebrating the Holy Name of Mary since on the 8th we celebrate her birthday.

Mary, Our Lady, the star of the sea.

Here is a tid bit from St. Bernard, "Look to the star of the sea, call upon Mary … in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart … If you follow her, you will not stray; if you pray to her, you will not despair; if you turn your thoughts to her, you will not err. If she holds you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you need not fear; if she is your guide, you will not tire; if she is gracious to you, you will surely reach your destination."

Mary in Hebrew simply means, "Lady." As Jesus is Our Lord, Mary is Our Lady.
A quick glance at the history and development of the word and meaning of "Lady" reveals a few subtleties that are very telling.

First, the word "lady" referred to one who kneaded bread or one who was a dough baker. Of course, JEsus being the bread of life, the obvious connection rise to the front as to why Mary is Our Lady.

But the word "lady" quickly became a title, "Lady" which indicated a particular rank in society. A Lady was one of superior position in society, whose manners and sensibilities befit high ranking, a woman who was as an object of chivalrous love.

Today we celebrate the name of MAry, Our lady, who certainly as the highest ranking in our society. She certainly is and should be an object of chivalrous love.

Our Lady is often given the title of Star of the Sea, Stella Maris.
Pope Benedict in his encyclical Spe Salve, commented on Mary as the Star of the Sea.

"Human life is a journey. Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are those who lived good lives. They are light of hope. JEsus is the true light, the sun that has risen above the shadows of history. But to reach him we need lights close by-people who shine with his light and so guide us along the way. WHo more than Mary could be the star of hope for us. With her "yes" she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, i whom God took flesh, became one of us, pitched his tent among us. "

Like a fixed Constellation helping us navigate the waters of life, Mary points us toward our destination and She guides on the way by her example, "behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to the word!"

Here is the english version of the latin hymn: Ave stella Maris (star of the sea)

1. Hail, bright star of ocean,
God's own Mother blest,
Ever sinless Virgin,
Gate of heavenly rest.

2. Taking that sweet Ave
Which from Gabriel came,
Peace confirm within us,
Changing Eva's name.

3. Break the captives' fetters,
Light on blindness pour,
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.

4. Show thyself a Mother;
May the Word Divine,
Born for us thy Infant,
Hear our prayers through thine.

5. Virgin all excelling,
Mildest of the mild,
Freed from guilt, preserve us,
Pure and undefiled.

6. Keep our life all spotless,
Make our way secure,
Till we find in Jesus,
Joy forevermore.

7. Through the highest heaven
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son and Spirit,
One same glory be. Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

war on terror

Sirach 27:30-28:7; Ps 103 The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion; Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35

Tid bit from sirach, "Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight..."

From the gospel, "I say to you, not seven times but sevety-seven times...Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you..."

Being from a large family can be quite entertaining, especially when the nephews and neices come along. What has been real fascinating is watching my nephews grow up. I have noticed that around age 11 they have this desire to prove themselves. In a particular way, they want to show that they can take down their uncles. I have had this experience several times where my nephews want to "man-up" against me.

There have been quite a few wrestling matches in which the nephews try to take me down. One in particular comes to mind.

We were at my parents house and my nephew and I were wrestling around. Then somehow a ball got involved. We were pegging each other with the ball, trying to burn each other out. I threw the ball and it went right through my nephew's fingers and caught him right on the nose.

He turned three shades of red. Then he picked up rock and threw it right at me. Luckily, I was still spry enough to avoid the rock. Then he charged me and jumped on me and started to swing at me. The whole time I was laughing thinking it was funny. But my mephew just had rage.

After sometime, I rolled over and sat on top of him and pinned his arms beneath me and looked at him, stopped him from swinging, and I asked what was his malfunction.

He was so angry and hurt by the ball hitting him accidentally in the nose that he told me that he wantde me to "hurt as much as he was hurting".

Think about that for a moment. This is a common pexperience for many of us. When we get hurt and harmed or someone in our family or circle of love gets hurt or harmed, instinctially we want to strike back, get even; we, like my nephew, want the other person to feel our hurt and pain.

This is an instinct we are all familiar with.

This is why Jesus' respone to the Peter's question is so challenging to us.

Peter ask the question, "how many times must I forgive, seven times?"

In other words, Peter wants to know when enough is enough. When can we draw the line. When do we officially reach our limit and have the right to get even, strike back.

Jesus tells us plainly that forgiveness must be limitless, boundless, "seventy-seven times."

Jesus doesn't want us to operate at the level of insticnt he wants us to dig deeper and operate at a new level of living and relating, that level that comes from faithfulness.

This is what forgiveness is all about.
For a moment, I want you to think about 9/11. Ten years ago today, the towers fell. Most of us who were attentive remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. I was in the smeinary and I just finished my morning class and had stepped into the community TV room to catch the news and there I watched a replay of the plane hitting the towers, then shortly afterwards saw them fall one by one.

Where the towers once stood tall and majestic there only remained a crater of dirt and ash and bodies.

Those craters of dirt and ash are symbols of many things. Certainly they remind us of the consquences of sin. They remind us of what hatred is capable of doing, where destruction, death and loss lingered over the sight, ground zero.

They remind us of how people can misue religion and let it become a driving force that seeks to destroy humanity itself.

The craters are also symbol of something else. We remember when every one was fleeing from harms way trying to save themselves and their loved ones, there were men and women who were running right into the teeth of harms grasp. Firefighters and policmen and chaplains, rushed to the aid of so many who were helpless.

So many gave their life seeking to save the life of others.
From the crater of dirt and ash, rose heroic deeds of courage and selfless love.

In the midst of tragedy, the human spirit could not be overcome.

Shortly after the towers fell, the War on Terror ensued. Our country went in pursuit of those who were responsible.

But let us stop right there. Think about the war on terror. The war on terror was meant to be a matter of justice, where those who let hatred and anger consume them and guide them to hurt innocent lives, were to be brought to justice.

In some sense, Jesus' words in the gospel about forgiveness and mercy are the truest war on terror. The real terror, happens in the human heart. When mercy is over looked and anger and rage take over, then terror begins to reign.

Forgiveness and mercy are meant to keep terror at bay. We do it where we are, one moment at a time, one heart at a time, in our daily relationships. Every time we refuse to seek revenge or vengeance and seek to move forward in forgiveness we win the war on terror.

We can pray for end to terror, but we must first make it happen in our daily lives, otherwise, our prayer is in vain.

Ultimately, any mercy we give really is first mercy we have received.

We are the ones in the gospel who had a huge amount forgiven. God is the one who sends his son to forgive our debt as St.Paul tells us that "by the blood of the cross, God had reconciled the world to himself."

If God can forgive such a big amount, how much more can we forgive the smaller amounts between brothers.

Forgiveness of others is really and act of reciprocity; we simply give what we have first received. The cost of mercy we received was the very life of Christ. He gave it until the end. We too shuld give in equal measure, seventy-seven times.

THis is how the war on terror is won. This is how humanity can truly begin to live together.

We should fight for justice. We should seek to eliminate evil and hatred that seeks to hurt innocent lives. But, we should never lose sight of mercy.

For as St. Leo the Great reminds us, "those who are situaed in the hazards of life, must seek the mercy of God by being merciful to others" even sevety-seven times.

Unless you forgive your brother from your heart...never lose sight of the mercy you have received and pass it one and let the war on terror continue forth.

Friday, September 9, 2011

remembering 9/11

Here is the prayer Pope Benedict XVI made at ground zero when he visited the US several years ago. As we journey through this weekend and remember 9/11 may this prayer gives us direction and strength to live the gospel of forgiveness and love even as we seek to reject hatred in all its forms...

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.
We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.
We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.


Here are a few words spoken by the Vatican representative to the UN at a prayer service at ground zero

At a Mass in Manhattan’s Church of the Savior near the United Nations, then-Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the UN told us in his moving homily in Feburary 2002:

“The sacred scriptures speak to us about sin, and the desperate need we all have for conversion. What you will see today when you visit Ground Zero is the consequence of sin: A crater of dirt and ashes, of human destruction and sorrow; a vestige of sin that is so evil that words could never suffice to explain it. Nevertheless, it is never enough to talk about the effects of terrorism, the destruction it causes, or those who perpetrate it … We do a disservice to those who have died in this tragedy if we fail to search out the causes. In this search, a broad canvas of political, economic, social, religious and cultural factors emerge. The common denominator in these factors is hate, a hate that transcends any one people or region. It is a hatred of humanity itself, and it kills even the one who hates.”

9/11 reminds us what hatred can do. It has also taught us that love, faith, and hope is stronger than hatred. Love is stronger than any force of death and peace rises from the ashes. We must be bearers of that peace as we live and breathed beneath the shadow of the cross, where death gives way to life, destruction gives way to renewal, and hatred is transformed by forgiveness.


1 Timothy 1:1-2,12-14; Psalm 16 You are my inheritance, O Lord; Luke 6:39-42

"You Hypocrite!"

Strong words from Jesus in today's gospel.

"Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."

The reality is this. We all have short comings, faults, weaknesses. We all a history of falling, failing, and rising forth.

The one thing we all have in common is imperfections. I know, for some, it is hard to imagine being imperfect.

But all delusion aside, imperfections exist in us.

The failure to recognize our own imperfections and shortcomings simply means we are pretending to be who we are not. This is exactly what being a hypocrite is all about: acting and pretending.

Why would we dote on the other person's shortcoming and failings without first recognizing our own short comings and failings.
Operating out the awareness of who we really are can lead to greater compassion, concern and care giving.

When we see the faults of others, we should stop and recognize our own faults.
WE all pretend we are perfect and beyond reproach. IT is this acting and pretending that mocks the mercy of God.

God puts up with us. It suits us just fine when He does put up with us. God puts up with a lot. Should we not follow his lead.

This is not to say we can't be critical but we need to be critical tempered and tethered to the mercy we have received and the mercy we desire. Only then can we truly see.

Only then can we act appropriately.

Today when someone is really annoying or when their faults seem to be more than you can bear, take a step back, take a deep breath and think about times yo have driven people up the wall. Think about your shortcomings, especially those things that you speak with God about regularly. Think about how God in is infinite patience puts up with us and has put up with us.

Find strength there.

Through that lens then look upon your fellow man/woman.

See how they change and come into focus as one in need of the very Mercy we ourselves have received.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

birthday of Mary

Micah 5:1-4; or Romans 8:28-30; Psalm 13 With delight I rejoice in the Lord; Matthew 1:1-16,18-23

Today we celebrate the Birthday of Mary the Blessed Mother of Jesus.

As much as we love to celebrate birthdays, today surely should be on top of the list of celebrations we would not want to miss.
Have a slice of cake with some ice cream. Indulge yourself, for today we celebrate the birth of the one who will become the door way to salvation.

Through Mary's soul God gains access into Humanity and God becomes part of the human family and enters in to human history, our history.

This is what the genealogy of Jesus is all about. In the gospel of Matthew we start with Abraham and go all the way to the offspring of Mary and there we trace the lines of how God enters into our Family tree and how through the Son of Mary, we are taken up into the household of God.

In our tree that branches outward and upward the branches are coated with the honey of redemption that comes from Christ who is God with us, Emmanuel.

It is because of this member of the human family the lines of sin that have been traced through our past is now overcome by the future mercy that shall flow from the tree of the cross.

Our past no longer holds us bound because through Mary in Christ we now have a future, the future is filled with hope and the dark door tomorrow is thrown wide open and the light from above penetrates and elucidates and invites us to step from the shadows and live fully in the brightness of this new promise, Emmanuel is his name, God with us, God for us, God come to earth to set us free.

Have some cake today. Light a few candles. Enjoy the ice cream. Sing loudly. The shadow of sin and death is broken by the glow of this woman who shall bear the Son, who is the way, the truth, and the life, the light of the world.

All because She says yes, "behold the handmaid of the Lord, be done to me according to thy word." Being open to the word of God, again allows God to have access to humanity. One simple yes, oh what beauty from the lips of this mother whose birth we celebrate today.

All of creation sings, as the psalmist tells us this day, "let me sing of the Lord, He has been good to me...let my heart rejoice in your salvation."

When your past hounds you, stop for a moment; look upward and remember why we celebrate and then let your song lead you on.
Here is a tib bit from a poem called Orchid blossoms

"Just as I wonder
whether it's going to die,
the orchid blossoms

and I can't explain why it
moves my heart, why such pleasure
comes from one small bud

on a long spindly stem, one
blood red gold flower

opening at mid-summer,
tiny, perfect in its hour.

Mary is the one small bud that brings joy to the human race, perfect in it hour.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Papal Wednesday

Here are a few words from the Pope concerning fraternal correction in relation to this past Sunday's readings

"The Gospel text, taken from Matthew 18, which treats of the life of the Christian community, tells us that brotherly love also includes reciprocal responsibility, on account of which, if my brother sins against me, I must be charitable to him and, first of all, speak with him personally, showing him that that what he said or did is not good. This way of behaving is called fraternal correction: it is not a reaction to the offense I have suffered but a being moved by love for my brother. St. Augustine comments: "He who has offended you, in offending you, he has caused himself a grave injury, and will you not care for the wound of your brother? […] You must forget that you have been offended but not your brother’s wound" (Sermon 82, 7)."

"...All of this shows that there is a co-responsibility in the journey of the Christian life: everyone, conscious of his own limits and defects, is called to welcome fraternal correction and to help others with this particular service."

"...We must participate both in fraternal correction, which requires much humility and simplicity of heart, and in prayer, that it might rise up to God from a community truly united in Christ."

Reflect on the Pope's quote from St. Augustine today, "He who offended you, in offending you, he has caused himself a grave injury, and will you not care for the wound of your brother."

Sin of another gravely injures that person. Sin is a two edge knife, not only does it cut the one who is offended but it cuts more deeply the one who offends. Our personal hurt should never rise above the necessity of tending to the wound of the other.

How often does our personal hurt or the sting of our own injury blind us from the burn of sin in the other?

Fraternal correction is about true love not about personal vindication. We must seek the highest good of the other, only then can we truly heal from the affliction we have received.

Is this not what Christ does, "while we were sinners he died for us." It was and is his death that becomes the healing salve that cures the wound of our sins. He sheds his blood in order to keep the sins from destroying us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Luke 6:12-19

"Yes, for your way and your judgments, O Lord, we look to you; your name and your title are the desire of our souls. My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you..." Isaiah 26

In today's gospel we encounter Jesus praying. "Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God."

Jesus prays. Prayer was not a waste for him, but was how He lived and loved. He did not just pray a little bit now and then but he devoted time and energy to lift his heart to his Father.

Prayer was about entering and guarding the living relationship Jesus had with his Father.

The one thing that is constant about relationships that are alive is that they require time and attention. When we want relationships to die, we stop giving them time and attention.

Just like all relationships, we only discover the relationship by being in the relationship. We can only deepen our prayer by praying.

Prayer is a gift we obtain through prayer.

No technique can ever substitute for time spent devoted to lifting our hearts and minds to the one who loves us. This is prayer.

Here is a tid bit from one of my favorite literary writers, Georges Bernanos, "suddenly I experienced the silence like a presence. At the heart of this silence was the One who is himself silence, peace, and tranquility."

Another from Soren Kierkegaard, "Praying does not mean listening to myself speak; praying means calming down and being still and waiting until you hear God."

I would just like to add, that sometimes when we pray we have a tendency to chatter on and on and on and it is good to be attentive to what we speak and say, because often times God will be speaking to us in and through what we speak to him.

Nothing is wasted on God. So even if we find the silence terrible, the noise of our chattering can contain the silence of God who speaks.

Remember, it isn't about making prayer a part of our life as an essential goal, but rather it is about making our life a part of our prayerful dialogue of listening and speaking to God with our hearts and minds lifted upward and outward, ready to receive and ready to respond to His promptings.

JEsus departed to the mountain to pray. JEsus had special places of prayer as well. We too should develop a special place we go to pray on a regular basis. Places have a way of preparing our heart and mind to be lifted more readily. Our environment is important. We are creatures of habit.

For me, the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament seems to be the place my heart most readily is lifted upward and outward. Think about your experiences and encounters in prayer. Where was your heart most easily lifted? What places give you access to that reality of prayer and dialogue most readily?

Jesus prayed before every big decision. Throughout the gospel, Jesus prays at important times. Like in today's gospel, He prays before selecting the twelve. How often we hurry through life's choices with our a though or glance upward.

How our choices would have been altered had we paused briefly to look up and dialogue in prayer and allow God to stimulate our conscience.? I know when we were planning our trip to Spain for WYD in MAdrid. There wasn't a day I did not lift that intention to God prior to our travels.

Jesus prays. Jesus has special places devoted to prayer. Jesus prays before making important decisions.

Perhaps this is a model for our future lives.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

living in the kingdom: real time

Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

The phrase kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven comes up often in sacred scripture. JEsus mentions it quite a few times.
And we love to think about the kingdom, speak about the kingdom, and imagine what the kingdom will be like when it is all said and done.

But what fail to understand is that the kingdom of God isn't just what comes later or what is waiting for us around the corner. Rather, the kingdom of God is right now.

Every time we encounter Jesus speaking or acting or instructing in the gospels, He is letting us know what it looks like to be living in the kingdom here and now.

As we step the narrow gate and enter on the path of following Christ then the kingdom becomes active and unfold through us in our daily lives, in the way we speak, interact in our relationships, and how we live.

The kingdom isn't just what is coming tomorrow but it is what is happening right now as we live our life in faith.

In today's gospel, we catch a glimpse of what it looks like to live the kingdom and let it unfold through us.

Though today Jesus gives us a glimpse of that which we rather not deal with. JEsus invites us to fraternal correction. "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens you have won over your brother."

Think about that for a moment. First of all, notice Jesus assumes that there is an objective standard of right and wrong. There is behavior that is acceptable and there is behavior that requires and demands a reprimand.

Sin is real. It needs to be addressed. God has revealed to us ways of living with one another and these can not be altered. We do not have the right to determine what is sinful and not sinful. Rather we receive it as a gift, a privilege.

This certainly stares in the face of our society that tells us that right and wrong is subjective or personal. Society suggest that whatever works us is okay. But, this is not the standard of Christ. Somethings are no longer acceptable. IT is our job to recognize it, address it and face it. It is not our right to alter the truth. We must live it.

This is what the watchman of the first reading is all about. God tells Ezekiel that he is the watchman for Israel. His task is to speak out against sin and wickedness.

When is the last time we have spoken out when we have see or experienced sinfulness in our society? Usually, we probably just remain quiet and say nothing. We turn a blind eye.

And yet, we have failed to honor God and honor society by our silence and our society has slowly been eroded.

We must speak out. It is our duty.

Notice, in the gospel when we encounter sin in our life, we do not speak out in order to feel vindicated. IT is not about us. Rather, it is about "winning over our brother." This is the heart of the gospel.

IF we are to be instruments and vessels of redemption then we to must seek the good of the other. Christ does what he does for our sake not for his own. This is the pattern of life we must imitate. We must do for others regardless how it affects us. Only here do we truly experience the virtue of love. We do not seek ourself in love but we seek the good of others.

Again notice what the gospel doesn't say.

Jesus doesn't tell us that when we have been sinned against that we should call all our neighbors and tell them. Jesus does not invite us to gossip. We should not seek revenge or vindication. Rather, we should suck it up and face it head on, mano y mano.

We have to speak to those involved. We have to raise their awareness to the fact that somethings have to change. This is our task. We do so privately so as to guard their reputation and give them and opportunity to rise to the challenge of Christ.

If they do not listen, then Jesus tells us to bring back up, two or three people to testify to the facts.
This important. How often, when we have been hurt by another that all we can experience is the sting of the sin which can color our vision, so we need other sets of eyes to make sure we are seeing and acting clearly.

Then if this doesn't work then we let the church get involved. This is important. Not everyone has the same standard of living. Not everyone operates on the same level of charity. But ideally, those who belong to the church should be of the same heart and mind. They are united not because of their opinions on things but by the truth Christ reveals through his church.

Thus, we should get people to help who know what they talking about and who are faithful in living the reality themselves. This is the church, united around the successor of Peter and the apostles.

ANd if this doesn't work, then JEsus tells us to treat them as gentiles and tax collectors.

And how does JEsus treat tax collectors and gentiles? He treats them as those in need of work. He reaches out to them. THese are the ones who need prayer. Thus, we unite for one purpose in prayer, to bring back those who have strayed.

In doing so, the kingdom unfolds. Redemption is not about being successfull but rather being faithful to the truth and love Christ reveals. The course action laid out by Christ in the gospel aids us to allow the kingdom to come daily in and through our lives.

Fraternal correction is a mandate by Christ. We must speak up and speak out. We have been silent way to long. Our society needs for us to rediscover our backbone and finally take a stand and let the kingdom come in real time through us.