Monday, February 28, 2011

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

From St. Jean Marie Vianney:

"You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Trust in Him

Isaiah 49:14-15
Psalm 62:2-3,6-9
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34

God loves you. Let that sit with you for a moment. God loves YOU. It’s good for us to hear these words every now and again and to really let them sink into our hearts because it is easy to forget that reality. And even when we are reminded of it, it can easily be a simple thought in our head rather than an experience of love in our heart.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah we hear today once again this expression of God’s love for us, His sons and daughters: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of the womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” All of us know, especially all of you mothers, how inconceivable it is for a mother to forget about her children. It’s a permanent change that takes place in that exchange between a mother and child and so strong is that bond that even parents who lost children many years ago still think about them regularly. And it is in light of that great love and great concern that the Lord speaks, saying that even greater than that is the love He has for each of us; He will never forget us. 

This great love for us is also an invitation extended to each of us to show that love in return and to place our trust in Him who created us and sustains us. All throughout our scriptures this weekend we hear this aspect of placing our trust in God. The section from Isaiah clearly shows this relationship of trust that the Lord desires us to have with Him, where we as infants are able to see Him as a parent on whom we rely for everything. The psalm expounds upon this by denoting several titles for the God of trust – our rock, our salvation, our stronghold, and our refuge. In the gospel passage taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Christ tries to drive home this point of God being one worthy of trust by having the people simply look around them. He points to the birds that do not store up anything for later and yet are cared for by God. So too the flowers, do not expend great amounts of energy to grow and be clothed with beauty and yet, they too are sustained by God. And how much more important are we than they? In all of this Christ is pointing out that all of the lesser things are cared and that it would be foolishness to suggest that God would not care also for the things of much greater value – His own children. Implicitly, Christ is showing the people that the invitation to enter into relationship with God is not an empty one, but that He will provide for our necessities and much more. God is a faithful God in Whom we can place our trust, but it is up to us to take that step and say those words of faith, “I trust in You.”

This can be surprisingly difficult though. After all, we are trained to be self-motivating and self-reliant by everything around us. And this requires that we be busy about many things, ensuring that we have properly prepared everything for ourselves in the future. While preparing for the future isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can become a bad thing if we let it. We can become like Martha in the gospels, where she is busy at work fixing up the house while her sister Mary is at the feet of Jesus listening to His words. We can busy ourselves so much so that our focus can begin to turn from God to the many things that we need to take care of. We can come to Mass and be worried about what to cook for dinner, or go into the chapel and be concerned about some situation at work or home, and in that time miss the fact that the Lord is right there with us. And even worse, sometimes we can be so consumed by these things of the world – food, drink, and clothing – that we can not simply lose sight of God in that but can turn away from Him all together, placing the trust in ourselves. Recall that Christ began this particular topic by noting that one cannot serve two masters because eventually one side has to be chosen. So with our lives, we will eventually have to make a choice to trust in ourselves and our own ability to secure our future or we can place our trust in the Lord who will secure our future for us.

Here we can see the great value in our world today of the devotion to the Divine Mercy and the beautiful mantra of “Jesus, I trust in you.” The message of the Divine Mercy reminds us of the merciful love that the Lord has for us, a love that forgives us immediately when we turn back to Him and confess that we have lost sight of Him or turned away. Moreover, the image and mantra remind us of this fact that God is indeed trustworthy and that we are invited to placed our trust in Him. This trust isn’t just the trust in His mercy, but absolute trust in all things. For several years I have been fostering this devotion to the Divine Mercy in my own life. And for the longest time I saw those words “Jesus, I trust in You” as a sign of my trust only in His mercy. And then one day I realized that to trust in Jesus is much more than to rely on His mercy when I fail, but that it is to commend everything to His care. To let Him worry about everything, even the smallest things.

Most you know about the nine-week novena to the Divine Mercy beginning this Tuesday evening and I hope that many of you are able to attend and join in the praying of that beautiful Chaplet of Divine Mercy ['listen now' button around 6:30 on Tuesdays]. But remember also that the devotion to the Divine Mercy isn’t just for this time of year or to be prayed as a community. Rather, it is a devotion that can easily be brought into every aspect of our daily lives. Whether before reception of communion, as part of our daily prayers or during a rough part of our day, a profound impact can be made in our lives if we turn to the Lord and simply utter those five small words – Jesus, I trust in You.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Everyday Love

Readings for Wednesday, February 23/ St. Polycarp:
Sirach 4:11-19
Psalm 119:165,168,171-2,174-5
Mark 9:38-40

When I was a teenager and early in my time at seminary, I used to burn with this great love for God and great zeal that would come out in very interesting ways. I would pray that God would allow me to suffer the pains of having the stigmata for Him. I would pray to be martyred or suffer some great painful trial for love of Him. I would always suggest to the Lord these great ways in which I could show Him how much I loved Him. And then one day when I was praying I heard Him ask me, 'Can you love me in the everyday?' Sure I can speak these great pious phrases about showing my love, but when it came down to it, could I show God that I love Him when I'm on the interstate and traffic isn't moving? Can I show God that I love Him when I am hungry and the people preparing the food just aren't quick enough? Can I show God that I love Him when I get that extra class assignment to do when I already have plans to enjoy a nice weekend off? Can I love Him in those times? 

Today Mother Church celebrates the feast of St. Polycarp, a bishop in the 2nd Century. He was a man who battled against heretics, was consulted by Pope Anacetus on the placement of the date of Easter, and has at least one letter extant which we can read today. The most notable thing, however, is the marytrdom that he suffered at age 86, being burned alive on a pyre. For us today, it is important to understand that all of those great things were only possible because St. Polycarp loved God in the everyday. In a life of 86 years, these few small facts about his life illustrate only a small piece of his work for the Lord. None of us can know the countless small acts of love that he made to God that gave him the grace to say yes in those times of great trial. Each small 'yes' was one more step in being able to make that final 'yes' in martyrdom. 

For us today, we have the gift of remembering once again St. Polycarp and the example of his life lived in humble service and love of God. And modeling ourselves on his life, we are called to see those ways in which God is inviting us to love Him in the everyday, leading us closer to those greater acts of love to come along out journey. God grant that we might be able to choose the way of love.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pray for the Pope!!

Greetings all! I would like to ask all of you to join with me in offering prayers for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Fr. Z over at What Does the Prayer Really Say has begun a campaign to offer the Holy Father a spiritual bouquet. That is simply a collection of prayers by a group of people. He has on his blog a little checklist that has a list of options to choose from. It will continue for the next month and will be 'offered' on March 19th, the feast of St. Joseph, the Pope's baptismal name day. You can find the page HERE. The Holy Father has a great burden to bear in guiding the Church in the path of righteousness and defending her from the evil one - please join in with your prayers!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Listen to Him

Readings for Saturday, February 19:
Hebrews 11:1-7
Psalm 145:2-5,10-11
Mark 9:2-13

It is interesting to hear on this quiet Saturday morning the reading of the Transfiguration of Christ. I was actually struck by this fact because we typically celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration with lots of music and ceremony. But today, one this simple Saturday morning, we hear the words of Saint Mark speaking again that great mystery. As I listened again to that gospel passage we have heard numerous times I was struck by the voice of the Father: This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him." Eight simple words and yet the message is so deep. This is emphasized in Saint Matthew's gospel in that the Father cuts off Saint Peter, who is still speaking about the tents, and utters these words (Mt 17:5). With that extra little detail we begin to grasp the necessity for each of us to spend time simply sitting with the Lord, listening to Him speak to our hearts. If we are too busy with work, even good works, we miss this blessed opportunity.

To reflect a bit, recall that this reading and line of 'Listen to Him' are read on a Saturday, the day on which we traditionally honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, who at the wedding at Cana spoke the words to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5). The question then is 'How can we do what He tells us if we do not take the time to listen?' Blessed indeed would we be if only we spent some quiet time before the Lord listening to the words He seeks to speak to our hearts. 

Lord Jesus, speak to us and give us the grace to hear.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

The goal of every Catholic is to glorify God. We do this by becoming saints and we do that by being holy in this life. Another grace in living a life of holiness is that you can be a source of grace for others. In this we find for ourselves a great challenge. And so I'd like to offer this quote from St. Jean Vianney, who said all of that much more succinctly:

"What will convert [insert name here] is the sanctity of your own life!"

Again and Again...

This officially makes the third layout within a few days. After looking at some of the comments I received, I decided to change it up again and see what everyone's thoughts are. Please shoot me an email or leave a comment on this post if you think this is a better setup than the previous one with the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Hopefully the readability is increased and ... it finally has a picture of St. Philomena on it! :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Unintentional but Official!

1000 visitors!

As of this morning the visitor numbers for this blog were somewhere in the mid-900's. After letting some friends and family know about the updated background and such there was an unexpected spike in the site traffic. This resulted in a milestone of sorts in that this little blog has now officially registered over 1000 visitors from nearly 20 nations. Thanks to all of you for coming to read these posts. Hopefully they are beneficial for your spiritual life as they are for mine. My prayers are with you all!

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

"In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrin of God, and the assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church."

St. Ignatius of Antioch
Letter to the Trallians in the early Second Century

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From Inside

Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17
Psalm 104:1-2, 27-30
Mark 7:14-23

"Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile." As we hear in this portion of the gospel, the Lord is speaking to the Jews about ritual cleansing and purity. The Jews of Christ's day believed that certain foods were unable to be eaten because they would make you unclean and that there were certain ceremonies for doing things to ensure 'cleanness' of one's self and thus the ability to enter the Temple to worship. What the Lord points out to his listeners is that the truth is not what goes in the body but rather what comes out of it that is important. As with the body, so also with the soul.

I'm sure each of us has experiences at least weekly if not daily things that frustrate us, that try us, or that sometimes almost break us. Those are the times to recall this gospel passage that we hear today. Sure, bad things happen but the more important part of things is our reaction to them. I find it interesting that today we also hear the story of God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden to have dominion over it, that same garden which contains the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There, Adam will soon be faced with an outside disturbance from the serpent, Satan, and he is forced to make a response. And from his heart will issue that response of pride and self-exaltation. For us who read these two scripture passages side by side today, we hear the Church and the Lord reminding us of the importance of the response to things that may come at us throughout our days. May the Lord give us the grace to choose well and respond according to His most holy will.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

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

"This, then, is a lesson for us. We cannot presume to persevere in bearing our crosses, counting on our own strength and goodwill alone, as St. John had presumed to do. Without an intimate relationship with Our Lady, the command to pick up our cross daily and follow the Lord will prove too difficult and demanding. We may indeed love Jesus deeply, as St. John surely did, or as St. Peter did, warming himself at the fire. But we will fail and fall before the scandal of the Cross when it threatens to touch us, if we face it by ourselves. Without Our Lady, we would be as St. John alone on Good Friday, alone before the crosses of life, oblivious of Jesus in our midst. In times of trial, we are often like the poor in Mother Teresa's vision, covered in darkness, unaware that Jesus is there in the midst of us. Without the fidelity Our Lady gave St. John, the Church would never have heard the words 'I thirst.'"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

From Saint Augustine of Hippo:

"God bestows more consideration on the purity of the intention with which our actions are performed than on the actions themselves."

Great Indeed!

Genesis 1:1-19
Psalm 104:1-2,5-6,10,12,24,35,36
Mark 6:53-56

I sometimes wonder if we really value the Book of Psalms enough. After all, it is the only book of the entire Bible, the gospels included, that is read at every Mass throughout the year. While the gospels certainly provide us with the beautiful story of the Life of Jesus Christ, the psalms provide for us the words to really pray with Christ. They encompass every human emotion somewhere in the book and often have a way of speaking the words that our hearts feel and yet are unable to voice.

In the responsorial psalm today, we hear the words of Psalm 104 being spoken in our midst and the challenge is to make those words our own and to make the sentiments behind them our own - the Lord is great! We begin by speaking to our soul: Bless the Lord my soul! And our soul responds, 'O Lord, my God, you are great indeed!' This is what the Lord wants us to experience - His greatness. The fact that He has made all creation out of nothing and has set order to the universe, as we heard in the reading from Genesis. He made all of these things and for what? I would suggest the answer ought to be 'for whom?' And I would further suggest that answer would be 'For you and for me.' He made all creation to sustain us and give us joy, but most of all to help us to see His glory in a small way now so as to prepare us for all that is to come. So why not take a moment today and make these words of the Psalm our own and simply let our soul bless the Lord?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Different Angles

The Presentation by Rembrandt
Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 24:7-10
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40

Happy Candlemas Day! Happy Feast of the Presentation of the Lord! Happy Feast of the Meeting of Jesus, Simeon and Anna! Happy Feast of the Purification of Mary! Happy Feast of Simeon the Old Man! 

Believe it or not, those are all proper names of the feast that we celebrate today. They apply to different places and different times but all speak to the same exact event, just from a different angle. As this notable feast neared, I was trying to think of what I could write about and I had more ideas come to mind that I have proper names listed above. At first I was a bit frustrated but as I sat with this list of names I began to see the beauty and depth of the faith and the scriptures, that each name approaches from a different angle and shows for a different element of the life of faith. 

As we contemplate this scripture passage, it would greatly benefit us to reflect on it and find who we are in the story. There are many figures to relate with - Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna. Or consider the fact that there were very likely others around for this ceremony. Where do we fit? Where do I fit? Are there things in my life, or maybe my life as a whole, that need to be presented to the Father and consecrated to Him and Jesus was offered and consecrated? Do we hear the words of Simeon foretelling Mary's own future suffering speaking to some suffering in our life today? Are we being called to simply trust and listen for the voice of the Lord as Joseph was? Is there a place in our lives where we are full of rejoicing as Simeon and Anna at the sight of the Christ? Are we like those unnamed souls gathered in the Temple that day, who are simply caught up in wonder at the things unveiling before their eyes? 

These questions are only the surface though, for much more remains to be unveiled as we begin to really pray with the words of Sacred Scripture. We need only spend the time with Lord to begin to see and understand it.