Monday, March 31, 2014

Caving and Light

One of our trips to Saltpeter Cave in TN
Readings for Sunday, March 30/ 4th Sunday of Lent:
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13
Psalm 23:1-6
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

My first summer assignment as a seminarian was to be a camp counselor at a boys’ wilderness camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (check them out here). I signed up to be a caving instructor, not realizing the caves they would use and the caves I was thinking of were nothing at all alike. One particular cave we would explore was Worley’s Cave in Tennessee. It went two miles into the earth – one way in, one way out – and it had a whole slew of offshoot caves such that you could spend days exploring all over inside of it. And so we did. One trip we actually stayed inside the cave on a nice tall ledge, the top of which was large enough for the whole group to comfortably set up sleeping bags. At the end of the evening we all settled in our bags and I got it mine, took of my helmet with light and placed it next to me and went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night and reached over for my light and, much to my shock, it wasn’t there. I began frantically searching around, as I thought the kids had woken up in the night and played a joke on me. After a few terrified moments I finally touched my helmet and light to discover that everyone was in their place except me. I had apparently been a bit restless and moved several feet away from where I had started. In that moment I realized just how much I was not made for darkness; I am supposed to be in light.

In the Letter to the Ephesians today we heard St. Paul say, “You were once darkness (not were IN darkness, but WERE darkness) but now you are light in the Lord.” That little line is the story of the man born blind and it is our story as well.

The man born blind was perceived as a great sinner because an ailment was viewed as the result of someone’s sin. This is actually referent to Adam and Eve as well. In the beginning they fell to sin and part of the consequence is what theologians call a ‘darkening of the intellect,’ namely that we are not able to understand and ‘see’ as God sees anymore. That’s why we hear the story of Jesse and Samuel trying to pick out which of Jesse’s sons was to be the king and they continually fail because “man sees the appearance but God sees into the heart.” And so we struggle to see clearly even today. The blind man is alongside us in that state and the Lord comes to him and works what is surely one of the weirdest miracles: He spits on the ground, rubs it in his eyes, and send him off to wash. Weird though is seems, there is a great theology being spoken here. First the spitting into the ground is symbolic of Christ taking on our humanity. He humbles himself to be one with us and would soon offer Himself up to save us all. The rubbing of the saliva-dirt mixture personalizes that reality and one can see in a sense that Jesus is rubbing Himself into the eyes of the man, that the man would now look out through the lens of Jesus Christ. Also significant is the sending of the man to the pool of Siloam. St. John here emphasizes that the pool was called ‘sent’ and seems to do so because all throughout the Gospel Jesus says ‘I am the one who is sent.’ It seems that Jesus is telling the man to go wash in the pool that is Christ Himself. And when that happens he is healed of the blindness and comes running back to the community, who is confused by his presence. They think it’s him but they’re not sure. To this confusion he responds, ‘I am!’ In our modern context it seems that he is simply saying, ‘Yes, I am the one, it’s me guys!’ but there is much more. In John’s Gospel in numerous places Jesus says, “I Am…” and continues with a description of Himself. In the agony in the Garden Jesus is awaiting the army of men to take Him away and when they arrive Jesus asks, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They respond, ‘Jesus the Nazorean.’ He responds simply with, “I AM.” And with that, the scriptures tell us, they were knocked off their feet. I am is the Divine Name revealed in the Old Testament, so it holds great power. This blind man is essentially living the words St. Paul would later write to the Galatians: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” He was like another Christ because he had been immersed in Him and given His eyes to see.  And this is our story as well.

In Baptism each one of us was born blinded by original sin – we were darkness – but Jesus Christ came in the person of the minister of the Church and spread not spit and dirt in our eyes, but spread holy oils and the Sign of the Cross on our head, breast, and back. Then we were washed in the water that symbolizes the life of Christ and made like another Christ – we are light in the Lord, meant to be shared with the world. We have been healed of the blindness of sin, but to be honest with you I sometimes don’t really feel like it. I know that I have been given the eyes to see like Jesus, but so often I fail to do so. I know I have been given the heart to love like Jesus, but so often I fail to do so. I know that I have been given the strength to serve others, to endure trials, to be patient with others, and many other things, but I fail to do so. I know that I have been healed of my blindness, but sometimes I still feel very much in the dark. In those times I have to remind myself that, just like my experience in that cave, it was not the light that left me but I who left the light. Through so many little actions I spiritually close my eyes to the light of Jesus Christ, but it is that same Jesus who waits for me each and every day to come back to cast out again the darkness that I often try to reclaim into my heart.

In our diocese and throughout the country there is a program going on during Lent called “The Light Is On For You”. It is a program to encourage use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, taking it’s name from the little light outside many confessionals that indicate the priest ready to absolve from sins. As I was thinking about it, our parishes don’t have light on the outside, but the inside. It’s like another little way of recognizing that we are darkness sometimes by our choice to sin, but we are never unable to immerse ourselves in the light by stepping into the light that is found is that reconciliation room. There is nothing to keep us form receiving the grace, love, and mercy of our God aside form ourselves. So, the question is are we ready to step into the light? Are we ready to immerse ourselves once more in He who is the Light of the World that our darkness might be cast out again? Be not afraid to come to Confession. There is no judgment, but only mercy, peace, joy, and light.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Papal Intentions for April 2014

Papal Intentions for April 2014

Universal Intention: That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.

Mission Intention:   That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

and while you're at it...

Prayer for the Pope!!!

V. Let us pray for Francis, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, give him life, 
and make him blessed upon the earth, 
and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

Our Father... Hail Mary...

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. 
Through Christ our Lord. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

HWP: St. Gabriel the Archangel

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Our Lady with that beautiful salutation and the good news of the Incarnation. In the Extraordinary Form calendar this celebration is preceded by the feast of the Archangel Gabriel. So in honor of this great messenger of God who first bore the news of the Salvation to come, we offer this...

Prayer to St. Gabriel the Archangel
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, I venerate you as the Angel of the Incarnation, because God specially appointed you to bear the messages concerning the God-Man to Daniel, Zechariah, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Give me a very tender and devoted love for the Incarnate Word and his Blessed Mother more like your own. I venerate you also as the "Strength from God" because you are the giver of God's strength, consoler and comforter chosen to strengthen God's faithful and teach them important truths. I ask for the grace of a special power of the will to strive for holiness of life. Steady my resolutions; renew my courage; comfort and console me in the problems, trials and sufferings of daily living, as you consoled our Savior in his agony and Mary in her sorrows and Joseph in his trials. I put my confidence in you. Saint Gabriel I ask you especially for this favor: (mention your request). Through your earnest love for the Son of God made man and for his Blessed Mother I beg of you, intercede for me that my request may be granted, if it be God's holy will. Pray for us, Saint Gabriel the Archangel, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
Prayer taken from

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How's Your Prayer Life?

Readings for Sunday, March 23/ Third Sunday of Lent:
Exodus 17:3-7
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42

A couple of weeks ago a friend sent me a book. I opened it up and started looking through the first few pages and found a fill-in the blank self-test with questions such as: Who is the first person you turn to for advice when you’re having problems with a spouse or significant other? Who is the first person you turn to for advice when you have tough financial decisions to make? Who is the first person you turn to when you’re not feeling well? At the conclusion of the little test there was an answer key of sorts and what it basically said was ‘If your answer to each of those questions was not ‘Jesus Christ’ then you have some work to do. Keep reading the book.’

As a priest I often have people come to me to discuss things that are going on in their life where they are looking for answers. Things such as those above, as well as major life decisions, struggles in faith, problems with sin, and a whole host of other things. And one of the questions that I often ask in response is simply, “How’s your prayer life?” The normal response is, “Well, it’s pretty good. But, Father, this what's really bothering me is…” and they revert back to their point. To which I respond again, “I know. But how is your prayer life really? What is the Lord doing in your life right now?” My question about prayer is not just a nice little thing that the priest is supposed to ask. It’s actually at the core of everything. If we believe Jesus is who He claims to be, if He is the one who created us, loves us, forgives us, and wants to heal, restore, and sustain us, then our life must necessarily revolve around Him. And we meet Him in prayer. Prayer is everything.

The story we just heard from St. John’s gospel is actually a synopsis of the Christian life of prayer. It starts with Jesus coming to the well to find rest and then a Samaritan woman comes to draw water. This simple intro would be raising red flags all over the place of any Jewish listener. First, the event happening at a well evokes marital imagery, as every time a well is found in the Old Testament it is in connection with a man seeking a spouse. Except the Lord comes to wait not for an earthly bride, but for one to bring with Him to the heavenly marriage feast of Heaven. He’s looking to save her soul, thirsting for it. And so he says, “Give me a drink.” The fact that Jesus was there was bad enough, but for Him to speak, that it too much! Think about it for a second. Who here goes out and cuts their yard at noon? Nobody. Why? It’s hot! Nobody in their right mind is going to go out to labor at midday unless there’s some specific reason. And we know her reason – she was sinner. She was an outcast; someone that the other ladies of the village wouldn’t have associated with, someone the others would have whispered about and treated cruelly. So to save herself the trouble, she goes at noon when nobody else is there because that what she thinks she deserves. She can’t live a normal life anymore. And there’s Jesus at the well. She thinks, ‘Oh, well He’s a Jew so it won’t matter.’ But then He speaks and with that she is in shock. First, she is a woman and he is a man. The two weren’t supposed to interact in public. Secondly, Jews and Samaritans don’t mingle or even use the same buckets. And yet He comes and asks for a drink. He tears down every wall that could be between the two of them, and many of us have more than just two. We separate ourselves from God because we’re ashamed of our past, we're afraid of our future, we’re not convinced we can do what He calls us to do today and so we set up walls. And Jesus comes over and again to tear them down to meet us. Rather than flee, she decides to stay. There’s something about this Jesus that settles her despite all of the social rules she’s breaking right in public. She is open to the encounter of prayer.

What follows is a dialogue that includes many things we’ve likely experienced personally. The opening point is that it is a dialogue. All of us are guilty, I’m sure, of giving monologues to God where we tell Him everything and then politely dismiss ourselves before God can get a word in edgewise. We’re called to speak and to listen. The first thing that the woman experiences after deciding to stay in this encounter of prayer is misunderstanding and confusion. She’s at a well and Jesus is talking about living water and she wants it but has no clue how He’s gonna get it because He doesn’t even have a bucket (maybe the heat got to His head?). And she asks for the living water He gives thinking that she’ll never thirst again and won’t have to come to the physical well anymore, but she is missing the whole point. Jesus is speaking and she can’t make sense of it. How many of us have decided in good faith to pick up the Bible and we do so only to find that we can’t understand a single thing happening? So we get frustrated because now we need to go find another book to explain the first book. Or how many times have we gone to pray about something – we need to know which choice to make in a tough decision, or we are looking for some guidance, peace or consolation from God – and we go pray only to realize that nothing is any clearer when we walk away? Misunderstanding. Confusion. If you’ve ever been in that place, it’s okay. But don’t let it be the reason you quit prayer. The woman, too, decides to continue the conversation despite not knowing really what is happening and so she comes to a new experience. Jesus says to her, “Go get your husband and bring him back with you.” She quietly replies, “I don’t have a husband.” You can imagine the knowing-look as he says, ‘I know’ and proceeds to tell her about her whole life. Here Christ comes to the deepest place of shame and sin in her heart and wants to address that. And what does she do? What do all of us do? Change the topic. He comes close to that painful place and she becomes a great theologian and starts debating Jesus on which religion is the true and other such things. We too like to change course to some other aspect that’s easier to discuss, to some theological idea or something we’ve heard before that we want to reflect on further. But Jesus wants to heal that place where we need Him most. The woman again perseveres in prayer and the Lord continues to guide her on the path. Finally, she starts to come down again and speaks of this messiah that is to come and will tell everything. Here her life changes as the Lord looks her in the eyes and says, “I Am He.” I Am He. The Messiah, the one to reveal everything, the one who created you, will save you, and wants to fill you with peace. I Am He.

We arrive at this most powerful moment of the whole passage and what happens next? We now interrupt your program for this commercial break! This scene cuts away to Jesus talking about reaping the harvest, speaking of the souls to be won for eternal life. Meanwhile we’re on the edge of our seat waiting to hear the conclusion of things. And we return to the story to find that the woman has gone to the town, told everyone about the Messiah and brought a slew of people back with her. They came trusting in her word and then came to believe on their own because the Lord stayed two days talking with them. Jesus, the Jesus man, spends two whole days talking, eating, and praying with these people He isn’t even supposed to go near.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is at the well in this very moment waiting for us to go to Him and to encounter Him again. There’s absolutely nothing that can keep us from Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, where we are right now, or where we’re going in the future - He’s already there waiting for us. Waiting to have the chance to ask us for a drink, to ask us to give Him our whole life to Him for eternity.

All of us start Lent with our penances and we have great aspirations of what is going to happen and hopes to have a good Lent. I doubt that I’m the only one who has given myself a free pass from time to time on these things. When Fr. Ed brought home a bunch of sweet the other day I reasoned myself into it. I mean, after all, it really was an act of charity since he had two whole cakes that I eat part of both of them so He wouldn’t have to have it go to waste. And a couple of the cookies too. And the brownies. And the fudge… So there I stood licking my fingers of the last few crumbs, frustrated that Lent wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. If you’re in a similar place, the good news is that we’re not even halfway through the season. We still have four full weeks before Easter comes and that is more than enough time for God to do incredible things in our lives.

So, I want to make a challenge to everyone in the Church today to encounter Jesus in these next four weeks and to do so in a specific way. Hopefully you all know about the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at the Lutcher Chapel. In that chapel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year except the three days before Easter, the Lord Jesus is present in the Eucharist, exposed so that you can look upon His Body and Blood and in a sense speak to Him face to face about whatever is happening in your life. He is truly waiting for you to go visit. So that’s my challenge: for each of you here to spend at least 30 minutes in Adoration twice a week for the next four weeks. That’s only four hours out of a month. But here is a promise I can make: there is not a single person here today that can go and spend 30 minutes twice a week in Adoration and really seek the Lord in prayer who would be able to look me in the eye on Easter Sunday and say that nothing has changed in their life. If we spend time with Christ in prayer, we’ll be confused sometimes, we’ll be challenged to repent of sins, we’ll sidestep the Lord here and there, but in the end we will encounter the God who was waiting for us the whole time. So I ask you, How’s your prayer life?

Photo by Jeff Geerling

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

HWP: St. Patrick

This past Monday (as I'm sure you realized) was the feast of St. Patrick, after whom I was named. I love his feast because he is my patron for one, but also because according to my family history, one of the Maher family ancestors was among the first to be baptized by St. Patrick when he brought the Gospel to the Irish people. In a sense then my faith intimately tied up with this great missionary, so rather than dedicate this HWP to St. Joseph (whose feast is today), I offer the lengthy but powerful...

Lorica of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness 
Of the Creator of creation. 

I arise today 
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, 
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension, 
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. 

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels, 
In service of archangels, 
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward, 
In the prayers of patriarchs, 
In preachings of the apostles, 
In faiths of confessors, 
In innocence of virgins, 
In deeds of righteous men. 

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven; 
Light of the sun, 
Splendor of fire, 
Speed of lightning, 
Swiftness of the wind, 
Depth of the sea, 
Stability of the earth, 
Firmness of the rock. 

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me, 
God's wisdom to guide me, 
God's eye to look before me, 
God's ear to hear me, 
God's word to speak for me, 
God's hand to guard me, 
God's way to lie before me, 
God's shield to protect me, 
God's hosts to save me 
From snares of the devil, 
From temptations of vices, 
From every one who desires me ill, 
Afar and anear, 
Alone or in a multitude. 

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul, 
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom, 
Against false laws of heretics, 
Against craft of idolatry, 
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards, 
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul. 
Christ shield me today 
Against poison, against burning, 
Against drowning, against wounding, 
So that reward may come to me in abundance. 

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in the eye that sees me, 
Christ in the ear that hears me. 

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness, 
Through a confession of the Oneness 
Of the Creator of creation.

Prayer taken from EWTN devotion page for St. Patrick.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mass on the Mountain

Transfiguration of Christ by Gerard David
Readings for Sunday, March 16/ 2nd Sunday of Lent:
Genesis 12:1-4
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22
2 Timothy 1:8-10
Matthew 17:1-9

If you’ve heard a handful of my homilies (or maybe read the blog), you’ll probably know that I love talking about typology – how God uses events that point toward something greater to come, a sort of ‘shadow’ that longs for it’s fulfillment. The crossing of the Red Sea is a type for baptism. The union of Adam and Eve is the type for marriage. We could name countless instances of such events in the Bible, but as I was praying with the Scriptures today, I realized that the Gospel passage we just heard was yet one more of those events that in some way points toward something greater to come. The Transfiguration, if you’ll stick with me for a few moments, is actually what we’re experiencing in every celebration of Holy Mass.

Let take a look. It begins by telling us that, “Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” This little intro setting the stage is actually quite important for two reasons: 1) It is Jesus – God Himself - who brings them to a separate place to be with Him for a specific event. Likewise, it is God who draws us here today. We come of our own free will, but it was God who first put that desire or compulsion in our heart. 2) He calls them to a separate place for a specific purpose. Almost every time we hear about a mountain in Scripture it is in relation to some encounter with God Himself; Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets at various points, and this one with Jesus is yet another. You may not have thought about it before, but almost every Catholic Church you’ve been to in your life has a step to get up into it because we are coming to have another encounter with God here in this church. Stretching the connection a little bit, I laughed while thinking about this because us Louisiana people don’t have hills much bigger than the levees out front and I remember the first time I lived in the mountains for a while and how every time I wanted to get to my cabin up top I had to make several stops long the way to catch my breath again. And the Bible says it was a high mountain, so in a sense I guess you could say that the beginning part of the journey was also the penitential rite! Maybe a stretch, but it works!

Anywho, continuing on. The passage carries on as Jesus “was transfigured before them” and they beheld for a moment His radiant glory as His face and clothes “became white as light.” This incredible event was a physical way of Jesus revealing Himself and letting the disciples understand a little more who He really was. And is this not the exact thing that happens in the reading of the Scriptures? The presence of Moses, the one who gave God’s law to the Israelites, and the greatest prophet, Elijah, who pointed forward to Jesus, indicates that the whole law and prophets were awaiting this one man to come among us. Each weekend we hear those same readings from the law and prophets in the Old Testament and the letters and Gospels of the New Testament and are able to hear Jesus speaking to us about who He is. When the disciples see what is happening Peter cries out, “Lord! It is good that we are here! Let’s build three tents!” He wants to stay there because of the joy of the occasion. Shouldn’t we too be rejoicing in the occasion of revelation from Christ? The truth is that if we come here and are not impacted in some way by the readings there is a problem because we have become deaf to the voice of God. It’s a time to be attentive and wait for the Lord to speak to us and reveal Himself to us in some way. But it is not enough for us to stay in that place.

In the middle of Peter’s exclamation to Christ, bright cloud cast a shadow over them and a voice pierced the skies saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” A statement and a command. After the revelation of Christ in the Scriptures we celebrate the Eucharist and a sort of shadow comes over us, too, veiling the full mystery at hand – there is chalice veil, incense, and various prayers and actions and in the midst of them all the sacred statement: “This is My Body. This is the chalice of My Blood.” followed by the command: “Do this in memory of Me.” The disciples prostrated themselves on the floor, but we simply kneel in humble adoration as the Heavens are opened up to us as well and we receive what Jesus describes as the Bread from Heaven, His own flesh.

Here comes the part that is most profound. The disciples are there, faces pressed to the floor in reverential fear of the Lord. And we are told that “Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’” Holy Communion is the time when Jesus comes to us. He descends from the heavens onto this holy altar and then He descends the steps to come to each of us and touches us; flesh touches flesh. And He says to each of us “Rise, and do not be afraid.” All of us have our cross to bear. That’s what St. Paul is reminding St. Timothy of in our second reading when he says, “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel.” He’s basically saying, ‘Timothy, pick up your cross! Walk!’ This walk is not something we can do alone otherwise end up like this third Station right here when Jesus falls the first time, except it happens a thousand more. We have to rely upon Him and the grace He gives to us. St. Paul continued his urging, saying, “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.” The calling God gives us and the grace He pours out are not because of anything we have done but wholly because we are part of His plan. Each of us has a purpose and all of us are written into a certain part of God’s plan. Our daily task is to seek it out and to fulfill it. And this is the conclusion of the Gospel.

When Jesus tells them to ‘Rise, and do not be afraid’ it says that “when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone.” They saw no one but Jesus alone.  This could be taken in two ways. First, it is important for us to have Jesus Christ truly as the center of our life. It is for us to see Jesus alone because we are always looking to Him so that no matter whether we are at work, school, church, ball practice, the grocery store, or playing games, Jesus is the center and everything else revolves around Him. Jesus isn’t a part of our life. He is the whole foundation of everything else. Secondly, it can be taken to indicate that every person that they encountered from then on, they saw Jesus in that person. The poor person in need of help: Jesus. Those ignorant of the faith: Jesus. The person that aggravates us to no end: Jesus. The person that talks bad about us: Jesus. The random person that we don’t know their name: Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, we’ve climbed the mountain today to encounter the Living God. We have heard His revelation to us. We will soon kneel in adoration at that sacred statement and command, and then we will be touched by God and given strength to walk forward. The task then is for us go out and seek to love, serve, and honor those in need. God grant that we might walk away changed today and truly see Jesus alone.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

HWP: Acclaim to the Suffering Christ

In the Calendar for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite of the Church, today is the feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great. In addition to being my patron and confirmation saint (he didn't help me become a rock star like I had anticipated...and the whole reason I chose him to start with), he is an incredible saint of God and had an influence upon the Church which we can't even conceive of in our current day. Below is a beautiful prayer attributed to him, which seemed quite appropriate for the celebration of the season of Holy Lent. So, without further ado...

The Prayer of Acclaim to the Suffering Christ
O Lord, you received affronts without number from your blasphemers, yet each day you free captive souls from the grip of the ancient enemy. You did not avert your face from the spittle of perfidy, yet you wash souls in saving waters. You accepted your scourging without murmur, yet through your meditation you deliver us from endless chastisements. You endured ill-treatment of all kinds, yet you want to give us a share in the choirs of angels in glory everlasting. You did not refuse to be crowned with thorns, yet you save us from the wounds of sin. In your thirst you accepted the bitterness of gall, yet you prepare yourself to fill us with eternal delights. You kept silence under the derisive homage rendered you by your executioners, yet you petition the Father for us although you are his equal in divinity. You came to taste death, yet you were the Life and had come to bring it to the dead. Amen.
Translation thieved from 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Novena Alert: St. Joseph

Today is the first day of the Novena to St. Joseph, whose feast we will celebrate next Wednesday. Don't miss this great opportunity for an outpouring of God's grace through the intercession of the patron of the Universal Church. 

Novena to St. Joseph 

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through thy foster Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, so that, having engaged here below thy heavenly power, I may offer thee my thanksgiving and homage.
O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. 
St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me.

For a lengthier Novena Prayer, customized for each day, check out this one from EWTN.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blessed Are Those Who Are Tempted

Readings for Sunday, March 9/ 1st Sunday of Lent:
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Psalm 51:3-6, 12-13, 17
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

I might think I’m a little crazy when I say this, but I love being tempted. Yes, you heard me right. I love being tempted… because it means that God is doing something. The concept is all over the place in the Scriptures, but the place I found it most concretely was in a book titled The Context of Holiness by Fr. Marc Foley, in which he talks about how it was because of, not in spite of, the temptations and trials of life – the early death of her mother, the departure of two old sisters for the convent, failure to be accepting into the Carmel as a sister, and various difficulties in religious life – that little Therese Martin became Saint Therese and not just Sister Therese, the nun who had no impact on the world. God permits everything that happens to us for some purpose. He has a plan in mind. That’s what we hear all throughout our readings today, most clearly in the Gospel.

St. Matthew tells us, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” There are two important things to note here. First, the devil wasn’t in charge. It was God who drove the Lord out into the desert to be tempted; God has a plan unfolding. The second part ties in with that in that the word ‘tempted’ used here in Greek is ‘peirazein’, which is more properly understood as a testing. A small shift in the meaning of that word helps us understand that Jesus was being tested by the Lord to see whether He was ready for the mission. The idea of a test isn’t foreign to any of us. We’ve all taken them whether as school kids, beginning a new job, or taking on new tasks, we’ve all been tested at some point to test the same thing: are we ready for the task?

The Tempation of Adam & Eve
In our first reading today we heard about the first testing in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. We all know the story mostly, but the problem is that often times we think of what the world has told us about the story. It was all Eve’s fault! Poor Adam was just going about his work when Eve, who had already eaten the fruit, gave him some too. He even says this himself. But the truth is that the primary fault lies not in Eve but in Adam. [That’s right ladies, it really was the man’s fault here.] If we backtrack a bit in the story we see that God created Adam and breathed life into him and set him in the garden to care for it. Tying that story with the other creation account, we see a larger image wherein the man Adam is entrusted with authority over all of creation, including the woman. Obviously this isn’t some sinful authoritarian concept but rather an authority of service, tending to things to make sure they are cared for properly. And the primary task of Adam was to keep Eve and the rest of creation from the snare of the devil. Fast-forward to the scene of the fall and Eve takes the fruit, gives it to Adam, whom the Scriptures tell us “was with her”! He was there all along and failed to care for her as he was supposed to. This is why we can speak truly the words of St. Paul that “through the disobedience of one man (Adam), many were made sinners.”

The good news, though, is that Jesus Christ has come among us to set right what was wrong. The verse continues, “so through the obedience of one (Jesus), the many were made righteous.” Adam failed in his mission to care for the woman and all of humanity that would come forth from her womb. To remedy that we have the Savior, Jesus.

If we read things closely, which we always should, we might feel a bit of déjà vu in the Gospel. There’s a reason. Look again at what Eve experienced when she looked at the tree. She saw that it was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and was desirable for gaining wisdom. St. Paul later described this as the triple lust or triple concupiscence – lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. And this is exactly what Jesus fixes. Look now to the Gospel again. The first temptation is the devil looking at the hungry Jesus saying, ‘You’ve been fasting for all these days, surely you can turn that stone into bread to eat.’ It was good for food. Lust of the flesh, conquered. Next, the devil takes Jesus to the height of the Temple. The Temple was one of the most popular places in Jerusalem, so the devil brings Him and says, ‘All of these people would see you jump and be caught by angels. Think of how many people would realize your power then!’ Desirable to exalt Himself. Pride of life, conquered. Lastly, he takes Jesus to the highest mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms in their magnificence and says, ‘Look how beautiful this is. Surely you could do so much with this!’ It was pleasing to see. Lust of the eyes, conquered.

The Temptation of Christ. Mosaic in St. Mark's Basilica, Venice, Italy.
Where Adam had failed the test before, Christ passed it triumphantly and has brought all of us with Him into the victory. But it’s not as if we have no more worries in this life, that we can just sit here and cruise to heaven. My brothers and sisters, we have been made righteous in God’s eyes, but we are not through being tested. In fact, if you’re not being tested I would say there is a problem. Let me say that again. If you’re not being tested, if you’re not being tempted in some way, there is a big problem because that means you’ve already said no to God and He is isn’t trying to prepare you for what is next in His plan. If we’re not being tested it means the devil is happy with where we are – not taking part in God’s Will. We should count ourselves blessed when we encounter trials, temptations and tests because it means God is working on something. We can trace it back to every person in the Scriptures – Adam & Eve: tested. Noah: tested. Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob: tested. Moses and Joshua: tested. David: tested. All the prophets: tested. Jesus Himself: tested. The 12 Apostles: tested. And a whole army of saints down to today: tested. Where there is a test, there is a purpose and a plan. That’s why St. James tells us to “count it all joy when you encounter various trials.

Whatever penance you’ve taken up this Lent, remember every time you have that little urge to cheat a little here and there, to change it because things are a tough, recognize in that moment that it’s not that the devil is just on your case but rather that it is God permitting that temptation to strengthen you, to test you, to prepare you. Blessed are we when we are tempted, because it is then that we know God is up to something.

For a bit more on this, check out this CD/MP3 from Dr. Brant Pitre HERE.
If you're a visual person, my friend Luke Arrendondo has a handy little chart to make the connections a bit simpler HERE.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

HWP: I Am Yours

As we begin today the Lenten Season, we hear the invitation once more to that 40-day journey with the Lord Jesus in the desert. These coming days hold for us many gifts and graces and likely a few surprises. Let us pray to be open to all that God has in store, that we might seek His holy will in all things and belong always and only to Him beginning today. So we pray this prayer from the Doctor of the Church, St. Francis de Sales:

Lord, I am Yours, and I must belong to no one but You.
My soul is Yours, and must live only by You.
My will is Yours, and must love only for You.
I must love You more than myself, since I am all Yours and all in You.