Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

A man gave his life over to Christ. Almost immediately, he was filled with a dread that God would call him to be a missionary in Africa. The fear consumed him to the point that it threatened to make him abandon his new found faith. But, in prayer, he felt assured that God would not put him in Africa without first putting Africa in his heart. With time, the man not only stopped fearing that God would send him to Africa, he began desiring to spread God's word there. He did eventually decide to go to Africa as a Christian missionary and was later martyred there. God kept his promise. He first planted the desire in the man's heart and then equipped him to serve in the missions event to the point of giving his life.

Today, we celebrate two of the great missionaries of our faith, Saints Peter and Paul.

Saint Peter was one of the original twelve apostles called by Jesus. Because of his profession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of the World, Peter was called by Jesus to be the rock on which he would build his Church. Since that day, a pope has served as the successor to Peter and as the visible sign of the unity of the Church.

Saint Paul, on the other hand, was not one of the original apostles. In fact, in the days following Pentecost, he sought to crush the fledgling Church through an intense persecution which culminated with the stoning of Saint Stephen, the first to give his life for Christ. On the way to the city of Damascus, Saint Paul would be overwhelmed by a vision of the Risen Lord and converted from a persecutor of the Church to one of its most fervent missionaries. Though he wasn't one of the original twelve apostles, we call Saint Paul an apostle, nonetheless, because of his experience of the Risen Lord. He would be the Church's first theologian helping to formulate the basics of the new Christian faith and spreading that faith throughout much of the Greek speaking world.

God gave great success to the missionary work of Saints Peter and Paul. But, like the man in our story, neither of them was ready to spread the word from day one. Rather, each needed to spend time with the Lord before setting out to preach to others. Saint Peter spent three years following Jesus and learning from him up to the time of Jesus' death. Then, Peter sat at Jesus' feet after the resurrection, as we read in today's gospel when Jesus called Peter to tend his lambs. Saint Paul, likewise, spent three years praying and reflecting in the deserts of Arabia before finally meeting with Peter in Jerusalem, as we read in the second reading, and setting out on his missionary journeys around Asia Minor and eventually to Rome.

Like the man in our story, Jesus placed a burning love into the hearts of Saints Peter and Paul which expressed itself in a desire to spread the word of Jesus' death and resurrection. Because Saints Peter and Paul desired nothing else than to be faithful to their master, they would eventually give the ultimate witness to their faith by both being martyred in Rome. Saint Peter would be crucified upside down, and Saint Paul would be beheaded.

Today, in this place, Jesus is asking each of us if we love him. And, if we do love him, will we feed and tend his sheep? And, if we will tend his sheep, are we willing to go where we'd rather not go? Are we willing to follow Jesus to where the poor are? Are we willing to follow Jesus to where the hungry beg for bread? Are we willing to follow Jesus to where the sick are seeking treatment? Are we willing to stretch out our hands to tend Jesus' lambs wherever they may wander?

Jesus understands if we find his questions unsettling or even disturbing. Jesus understands if we hesitate or if we aren't ready to answer. Jesus even understands if our answer to him is "not yet". It very often takes time for us to understand what God wants of us. And, it takes even longer for us to be equipped by God with what we need for the mission. Jesus is a gentle master. He will place within our heart a desire for whatever mission he is calling us to. He will work on us until our fear gives way to love and our love shows itself in service to Jesus' sheep.

In every age, God has provided us, his sheep, with women and men of faith who witness powerfully to his love. It began with Saints Peter and Paul. The task now falls to each of us. In this place Jesus invites us to a meal and asks each of us if we do indeed love him and will serve him. If we are not ready to answer yet, we must pray that God will place in our heart a desire to serve him and the opportunity to know his will for us. That is a prayer that God will certainly answer. We will be both surprised and delighted by where our "yes" to him will take us.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Lord's Supper

We are told that one of the signs of the breakdown of the family is that fewer families share meals together. With such erratic work and schools schedules, we too often find ourselves grabbing a bite here or there or wolfing down a microwaved burrito while scrolling through Facebook. However, mealtimes are essential to the life and functioning of a family. It is over meals that we slow down, look each other in the face and tell each other how we are doing. We get to know one another over pasta, burgers and broccoli. We forge bonds that nourish us more deeply than carbohydrates or proteins can.

My wife and I are blessed with a close, intimate relationship. Looking over our lives, I have to credit it to our shared passion for food. We never miss a meal, and we take any and every opportunity to go out to eat. Time shared conversing over a meal strengthened our relationship even when our faith was not as central a part of our marriage and when we rarely prayed together.

Since meals play such a foundational role in human bonding, it makes sense that our God would long to share a meal with us. He wants to share an intimate union with us that goes deeper than words or concepts. Even more wonderfully, the food that he wants to share with us is his very self. The bread becomes his body. The wine becomes his blood. We are united to our God in a wonderful way. As the hymn, “Gift of Finest Wheat” so beautifully expresses it: “Whom all the world cannot contain comes in our hearts to dwell.”

So why would we ever want to miss an opportunity to share this meal with our Lord and God? When we consider that it is God himself whom we receive, how silly does it sound when people say, “I get more out of praying at home or being in nature.”? There is no union with God more real or more intimate than the communion we share when we gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

We must strive to make our hearts, then, a worthy place for him. If Jesus were to come to our homes, we would make sure it was spotless for him. We would cook our best meal and spread out our finest china. So our soul must be as spotless as possible to welcome him into the sanctuary of our heart. And, at the moment we receive him, we must block our all distractions and focus on the Savior who meets us. He brings unfathomable graces and inestimable riches. As he promises, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will never die but have eternal life.” He comes to share this meal with us, to give us his life, until the day we enter the fullness of life eternal in Heaven.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Body of Christ

The human body is one of the marvels of creation. Our body is the way we relate to the world and to one another. We recognize and know each other through our bodies. Our bodies are the way we see each other, touch each other and speak to each other. Our bodies are also the way we pass life on to the next generation. Through the intimacy of our bodies with the bodies of our loved ones we co-operate with God in creating new life. Ultimately, our bodies are who we are. Our bodies are ourselves. Though we commonly say that we have a body, it is more correct for us to say that we are a body.

So, it makes sense that the God who wanted to be known by us and wanted to pass on His life to us would take on a human body in the person of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus - through His body - we see and know the Father. We can now relate to God because He has taken on a body like our own. Through the person of Jesus, God now speaks our language. But, most importantly, by taking on a human body, God now passes His life on to us. Through the body of Jesus, we can have the eternal life that only God can give.

We don't see Jesus the way the apostles did. We are not able to speak with Him and touch Him the way Martha and Mary did. How, then, does Jesus pass on this eternal life to us? Through the wondrous mystery of the Eucharist.

At every Mass, through every generation, Jesus has made himself present to us through the gift of His Body and Blood. Through the Eucharist, Jesus gives us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. Saint Paul affirms it for us in the second reading. The cup of blessing is a sharing in the Blood of Christ and the bread we break is a sharing in Christ's Body. Through the gift of the Eucharist, the God who wants to be know by us and who wants to pass His life on to us, comes to live within us, entering our bodes and penetrating our souls in the form of bread and wine.

God is so generous to us! It wasn't' enough for God to reveal Himself to us in Scripture. He sent His only Son to die for us giving us the forgiveness of sins and the hope of everlasting life through His resurrection. But, even that wasn't enough for God. In his infinite generosity, He gave us the very flesh and blood of His Son to feed us and sustain us during our lifetime. It is the nature of God that He gives, and gives and gives of Himself. When God had spoken His last word of revelation, when every drop of blood had been drained from Jesus' body, when His very Spirit had been poured out for us, He had to go even further and give His Body to nourish us.

Why does God go so far as to give us the flesh and blood of His Son? It is because God longs to share His life with us. God pines for our love like a teenager dogged by a crush. God cannot rest until He has given us every opportunity to experience His love and His life.

The only way that we can receive the eternal life of God in all its fullness is through the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus makes it very clear to us in the gospel of John. Jesus gives His flesh as bread for the life of the world. Unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we do not have life within us. Why is that? Because the only way for us to receive God's life is through God. No one else can give us God's life except God Himself. I received my human life from my mother and father who were humans. A monkey or a dog couldn't give me human life. My human life had to be given to me through the bodies of my mother and father. Just so, we cannot receive God's life unless God gives it to us. And that gift of eternal life comes to us through the Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We gather here today to witness and experience the miracle of bread and wine which will be transformed into Jesus' body and blood for the life of the world. There will be some of us who are unable to receive communion today. There are young children here who have not yet made their First Communion. As a community we pray for you that in your innocence God will touch your hearts. Some won't receive communion because you feel unworthy. You may have not gone to confession in many years or may be struggling with personal problems. As a worshiping community, we pray for you that you can experience the transforming life and love that God offers to all sinners. And some cannot come to communion today because a particular situation in your life does not allow it. We pray for you that you can work your way through whatever situation you are in and be able to approach the God of mercy and compassion who seeks to envelop all people in His loving embrace. Though not all of us may receive, none of us is left out of the transforming power of God's presence in the Eucharist. Even if we cannot receive His Body and Blood on our tongue, we may gaze upon it in wonder and awe and invite His power into our lives and into our hearts. Many of us will be able to receive this precious gift of God in the Eucharist. We must examine our hearts and prepare ourselves so that we accept this gift worthily and with deep gratitude. Our eternal life with God depends on it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mysteries of the Kingdom

During the month of July, the gospel readings will be taken from Jesus’ parables on the Kingdom of God. It just so happens that they are grouped perfectly to be used as mysteries of the Rosary. Reflecting on them would be a great preparation for the Sunday liturgies.

The Parable of the Sower - Matthew 13: 1-27
The Parable of the Weeds - Matthew 13: 24-30
The Mustard Seed and Yeast - Matthew 13: 31-35
The Hidden Treasure and the Pearl - Matthew 13: 44-45
The Parable of the Net - Matthew 13: 47-52

Monday, June 20, 2011

Praise the Holy Trinity

If you're ever tempted to think you know it all or that you've figured everything out, try spending five minutes talking to a child. A conversation with a child can teach us how little we really know. Children have such active and inquisitive minds. Nothing gets past them. And, when it comes to questions of faith and religion, children come up with questions that would stymie even the most brilliant theological mind.

Try answering these questions to a child's satisfaction:

- If God made everything, then who made God?

- How can God know everybody?

- How can God be everywhere at the same time?

- If God is everywhere, why can't we see Him?

If you find those questions difficult to answer, how much more difficult would it be to explain the Trinity? God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three persons in one God. The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet, they are one God. If you think you understand this, try explaining it to a child. Better yet, if you think you understand it, try explaining it to me! The Trinity is a mystery beyond any one's ability to understand.

Though we can never really understand this mystery, it is necessary for us to know about the Trinity because it tells us something important about God. Because God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He lives in a community of love. God is not an entity but a family. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, throughout all eternity, have lived together in a communion of love and fellowship.

And so, God didn't create us because He was bored or because He was lonely. God created us because the love that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share is so abundant that it overflows. Just as the intimacy a husband and wife share overflows to bring children into the world, just so, out of love, God created a world that He could share Himself with. Jesus explains it to Nicodemus in today's gospel reading: "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but have eternal life." God created us so that we could be a part of the deep love that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have shared throughout all eternity.

God is a mystery. And, we as human beings are so removed from the God who created us that we could never hope to share in His life in heaven. We could never hope to know God with the feeble minds we were created with. We could never hope to love Him with the selfish hearts we have. But, God loved us so much that He sent His Son so that we could know Him and could love Him. God, through Jesus' death and resurrection, has brought us into His family of love so that we can share that love with Him and be members of the family of love that He is.

It is our baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit which makes us children of God. Gathered here as members of God's family we come to the altar to share in God's very life through the gift of the Eucharist. At this table, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit will come to us in the simple form of bread. It is here that we experience the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. All of us are invited to share in the abundant life and the abundant love of God.

Mysteries are impossible to understand. No matter how long we live or how much we study them, we will never fully understand the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. But, we can understand love. More importantly, we can experience love. The mystery of the Blessed Trinity is simply this - that God is love and that God loves us. Even a child can understand that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Prayer to Saint Joseph for Fathers

Saint Joseph, guardian of Jesus and chaste husband of Mary,
you passed your life in loving fulfillment of duty.
You supported the Holy Family of Nazareth with the work of your hands.
Kindly protect those who trustingly come to you.
You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes.
They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them.
You too knew trial, labor and weariness.
But amid the worries of material life, your soul was full of deep peace
and sang out in true joy through intimacy with God’s Son entrusted to you
and with Mary, His tender Mother.
Assure those you protect that they do not labor alone.
Teach them to find Jesus near them
and to watch over Him faithfully as you have done.

Pope John XXIII

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Prayer to the Eternal Father

From the Angelic Reliquary

Eternal Father, Father of mercies, we thank you for the love you show us. How different are you gifts from those of men. You offered up your Only Begotten Son to death as a remedy for sin. We treat each other with hate and selfishness. How great is your providence! How excessive your love! You take the occasion of our faults to multiply your blessings upon us, forgetting our sins.

God of Mercy, may these excesses of your love lead me to serve you as the Author of my good an to flee from the world for I have experienced its deceit. Give me the grace to entrust my whole life to you just as you handed over your Only Begotten Son as a remedy for my sin.

May it all be for the glory and honor of God, and of Our Most Holy Lady, Mary.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Season of Pentecost

After every great Church celebration, a season of prayer and celebration follows. The birth of Jesus is followed by the Christmas Season. We extend the feast of Jesus’ resurrection over the following fifty days with the Easter Season. However, after Pentecost, there is nothing - no Pentecost Season, not even a Pentecost octave. We are dumped unceremoniously into Ordinary Time with a few feasts - The Blessed Trinity, The Body and Blood of Christ and the Sacred Heart of Jess - to console us. To my mind, there should be at least a week of festivities during which we can wear the red and celebrate the marvels the Holy Spirit has worked in the Church.

Maybe there is another way to look at it. Perhaps Ordinary Time, despite its uninspiring title, could be considered the Pentecost Season. It is during this Ordinary Time that we live as a Church, moving in the Spirit that was poured out on us, preaching the good news and practicing works of mercy. We mark this time liturgically with the color green. The rapid growth has given way to a time of stability and maturity. The green leaf can now bear fruit.

So let’s not fret that the feast of Pentecost lasts but a day and is gone. Let us live this Ordinary Time as a Pentecost Season bearing the fruits of the Spirit to the glory of God!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reflections on Babel

Does God punish progress? Would He prefer that we live like the Amish without technology and modern conveniences? Does He long for the days when we dwelt in caves and foraged for our food in the woods?

If God does not punish progress, then how do you explain the story of the Tower of Babel? They wanted to marshal their abilities to build the greatest city ever featuring a tower that would pierce the clouds. But God is offended by their efforts, confusing their speech to frustrate their ambitions. Shouldn’t God as a loving Father take delight in the initiative of His children rather than place obstacles in their way?

We were made in God’s image and likeness and we must strive to be like God in every way. However, while the good man seeks to be like God in His mercy, the evil man schemes to be like God in His power. The good man strives to be like God so that he can live in peace with his Maker and his fellow men. The evil man strives to be like God so he can replace Him, have no more need for Him, and then exercise dominion over his fellow men. The story of Babel ends in confused speech because, when we seek to replace God, human community is destroyed in the process.

The story of today’s world is the story of Babel. We have made great strides in technology, medicine and the sciences. We live longer and healthier lives. But our society is breaking down. Our minds have traveled faster than our spirits, and we have lost ourselves in the journey. We have debunked every myth, reduced every mystery, split every atom, but we can find no meaning in it anymore.

G.K. Chesterton wrote that in a universe without God, there is no room for man. By trying to write God out of the equation, we find ourselves in a situation in which we cannot explain why humans are superior to animals, why we should not experiment on and destroy human lives at their initial stages and we why should not kill off the sick. What seemed self-evident just a generation ago - the dignity of every human life - is indefensible and even offensive to many.

What kind of progress is that?

God does not punish progress. He gave us our intellects so that we could unlock the mysteries of nature and benefit from them. But when the pursuit of progress becomes an end in itself, when, for the sake of progress, the poor are exploited, innocent lives are sacrificed, and the voices of conscience are silenced, then we have made no progress at all. We have simply slid back into tyranny.

The gift of the Spirit poured out on Pentecost shows the way to another type of progress, a progress that leads to community rather than disunity, to remembering rather than dismembering. The Spirit points us to a law written in our hearts which is greater than the law of survival of the fittest or the law of supply and demand. It is a law that recognizes the innate dignity of each person, a dignity that cannot be reduced to dollars and cents or to convenience and expediency. When I recognize the face of God in my fellow human beings, I cannot turn my back on them in their need or exploit them to satisfy my own needs. I cannot treat them as objects for my pleasure or material gain. They are persons like me, and more importantly, in the likeness of God.

To see one another in terms of empathy rather than competition - that is real progress. And real progress is what God rewards - progress directed toward enriching us rather than diminishing us.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pentecost 2011

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. In Jesus' day, Pentecost was a harvest festival. It was a time to celebrate all the bounty the earth brought forth through the creative power of God. It was also a time to celebrate how God calls us to work with Him in making the land fruitful through the sweat of our brow.

Now, we know Pentecost to be the birthday of the Church. It was the day when the Holy Spirit rushed upon the apostles and Mary as they prayed in the upper room fifty days after Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

The New Testament tells us that the room shook and tongues of fire rested on their heads as the Holy Spirit filled them with grace and power.

Their experience of the Holy Spirit was so tremendous that they couldn't contain themselves. They poured out into the streets proclaiming to all those who had come to Jerusalem for the festival about the wonders of Jesus Christ and His love for all people. In fact, their joy was so great and their hilarity so intense that people thought they were drunk!

We call Pentecost the birthday of the Church because, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were given the power to go out into the world and proclaim the message of Jesus' death and resurrection. They were transformed from timid men hiding out in fear to bold preachers of the gospel. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they went from being a group of Galilean fishermen and tax collectors to being witnesses to Jesus' resurrection in Jerusalem, in Samaria and eventually to the end of the earth.

We are gathered here today because of those apostles and the gift of the Holy Spirit they received. Let's think about this for a minute. Most of us here today were baptized by a deacon or priest. That deacon or priest was baptized by another deacon or priest. And, they in turn were baptized by another deacon or priest. And so on and so on. If we were to go back far enough following the chain of baptisms, eventually it would lead us back directly to the apostles and Jesus. We are connected over many centuries to the Christians of the past through our common baptism.

Not only are we linked to the Christians of the past, but we are linked to the Christians of the present scattered throughout North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Australia and Asia. In the case of Catholics, we are all hearing and preaching on the same readings from the Bible. We are all receiving the same Eucharist. Though our masses are in English or in Spanish or in Swahili, we all worship the same Lord and God. We are linked through a common confession of faith and a common baptism to every other Christian scattered throughout the world who professes that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Saint Paul describes this for us beautifully in the second reading. He describes the Church as a body. Jesus is the head, and we are the members. Just as all the parts of the body are connected together and rely on each other for life and nutrition, so we are all connected to one another and to Jesus. And, just as every part of the body has a certain function - the eyes see, the heart circulates blood, the feet walk - so each of us has a certain role in the Church. No person is indispensable. Just as we would have a hard time getting around if we were missing a foot, so we as a Church are less effective in preaching the gospel when people keep their talents to themselves instead of sharing them to enrich the life of our community.

As human beings, it is natural for us to want to belong. Our ties to our family and friends are the things we value most in life. Each of us belongs here, too. The Church is a home for those who have faith and have been baptized. The Church is a home for us. And, we must work to make this home an even more welcoming place. To the stranger, we must extend a hand of friendship. To the needy, we must offer some of our bread. To the sorrowful, we must lend a shoulder to cry on. Our faith demands that we recognize that we are all interconnected no matter what language we speak or what country we belong to. When we do that, we become "Church". We make Church real in our lives and in our communities. We experience a new Pentecost, a new outpouring of Jesus' Spirit. Sins are forgiven, and people are united in love.

All of us know someone who, for whatever reason, has stopped coming to church. Maybe someone has said something unkind to them. Maybe they were offended by something someone said to them. Maybe they just felt as if they didn't belong. Now is the time for us to tell those persons that we miss them. Now is the time for us to tell them that we are not the same without them. We are not all that we could be without them. It is time for us to make the effort to invite people back, to fill this Church with worshipers, so that we can all grow together in our faith by using the gifts God has given us.

Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit gives us boldness to proclaim the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection. It gives us strength to serve the needy among us. The Holy Spirit works to help us realize that we are not free agents living our faith on our own, but that we are interconnected to other Christians who lived before us and to Christians living now scattered throughout the globe.

When we receive the Eucharist today, we receive Jesus' body, and we become Jesus' body. It is up to us now to make His word known throughout all the earth.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Living Water of the Spirit

When we are children, we need our parents to watch over us. We haven't learned yet that we'll get burned if we touch the stove or that it's dangerous to run into the street. As we grow older, though, we start learning how to protect ourselves and how to stay out of trouble. The discipline that our parents imposed on us, often against our will, eventually comes to be an almost automatic way of thinking and living for us. We absorb from our parents values and attitudes that will be with us for the rest of our lives. We know how true this is because so often we catch ourselves saying something to our children or grandchildren that our parents used to say to us. We internalize the messages we received from our parents and act on them as we mature.

When Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as a river of living water which flows from within the person, He is describing much the same reality. When Jesus' Holy Spirit dwells in us, then we have Jesus' values and Jesus' attitudes operating within us. We see things as Jesus sees them. We begin to recognize Jesus in the people we meet. We begin to understand that it is Jesus speaking to us when we read the Bible. Just as we absorb our parents' attitudes and values by the discipline they imposed on us, so Jesus' Word begins to penetrate our hearts and minds through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we begin to change from within.

How does this all take place? When we come to believe in Jesus, when we grow in knowledge of the Scripture and receive the sacraments, the Holy Spirit begins to work on our minds and hearts so that we grow in the knowledge and love of God. And, as we grow in that knowledge and love, we come to be more like Jesus. Before we know it, we will be surprising ourselves by saying inspirational words and doing kind deeds. Just as we often catch ourselves saying something our parents used to say, we'll catch ourselves being moved by the Spirit to speak words of comfort and encouragement to those we meet.

The next thing that happens as the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us is that the rivers of living water begin to overflow in us. We can no longer keep Jesus and His Word all to ourselves. Like the apostles on Pentecost day, we can no longer contain the joy that loving God gives us, and we have to tell others about it. The Holy Spirit makes us witnesses to His power and love at work in us.

We live in a culture that tells us that religion is something private, something we should keep to ourselves. We typically don't care what our neighbors believe or what religion they belong to, as long as they don't tell us about it. But, a Christian who has really experienced the power and love of the Holy Spirit, can't keep the message to himself or to herself. We can't keep the lid on the rivers of living water bubbling up from within us. And thank goodness for that! Where would we be if the apostles had decided that Jesus' resurrection would be their little secret? Where would we be if those who witnessed Jesus' miracles and heard His words didn't pass the stories along to the next generation of believers? And, what will become of our children and grandchildren if we fail to share with them the power of God's love made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ?

Today's feast, Pentecost, is the celebration of the birthday of the Church. We are the Church because of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit through faith now lives in the hearts of almost two billion women and men who call themselves Christians. There are women in Africa, men in Asia, children in Europe, old ladies in South America and teenagers in Australia who believe and worship just as we do. This didn't all take place over the past 2000 years because the apostles had a good business plan and marketing strategy. It happened because the Holy Spirit worked in a powerfully way giving authority to the words of those who preach and making those who hear ready to give their hearts over in faith. That same Holy Spirit is among us now strengthening me as I preach and touching your hearts as you listen.

The task now falls to us who have been given to drink of this life giving water in the Spirit of Jesus. Will we keep it to ourselves? Or, will we speak about to everyone we meet so that all creation which is groaning and in agony can be transformed by the values and the attitudes of Jesus, our Savior.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Visit to the Blessed Sacrament

Another prayer from the Relicario Angelico

Lord, my Jesus Christ, God made flesh, and Son of the Living God, I adore, bless, praise, glorify and magnify you with all my heart.

I confess and believe with a sincere and lively faith that you are in this most Divine Sacrament, true God and true man, present in the greatest and most marvelous way.

I adore You, All-Powerful God, with that adoration that is due your infinite majesty.

I adore You, Living Bread, that came down from Heaven to give life to the world.

I adore You, venerable Sacrament, who are the treasury of all virtues and graces.

I adore You, most holy of all sacrifices, which you offer to the Father to sanctify souls.

I adore You, with my whole soul, true Body and Blood of my Lord Jesus Christ born of the immaculate womb of the Virgin Mary.

I adore You, Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world.

I adore You, marvelous Sacrament of love, who are the life of souls and the new food of angels.

I adore You, the highest mystery of the Catholic faith.

I adore You, hidden God and Savior of the world.

I adore You, Sacred Host and Chalice of blessing.

I adore You, precious price of our redemption.

I adore You, most astonishing of all miracles.

I adore You, Most Divine Sacrament, who are the memorial and the compendium of all God’s works of love and power.

I adore You, Divine Viaticum of the sick, who are the immortal healing remedy.

I adore You, Jesus the reflection of the Father’s glory.

I adore You, Divine Word and Eternal Wisdom.

I adore You, precious legacy of the covenant of Christ.

I adore You, most sumptuous banquet of God, at which the angels minister.

I adore You, Divine sustenance, by which the sons of men become the sons of God.

I adore You, Living and nourishing Bread, by which the Creator is united to the creature and mortal man is transformed into God.

I adore You, my God, concealed here in faith but in Heaven revealed clearly to the saints and angels.

I adore You, perennial wellspring of heavenly delights.

I adore You, spiritual nourishment of chaste and devout souls.

I adore You, Sacrament of piety and spiritual bond between God and men.

I adore You, Sacred Manna who strengthens hearts and gives joy to the spirits which consume You.

I adore You, Most Divine Sacrament, who are the life of our souls, the balm for our wounds, the consolation of our travails, whom the angels and saints of heaven praise, adore and magnify for all eternity. Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


From the Relicario Angelico

O Jesus, my love, light, life, comfort of pure souls and our greatest good. My soul and my whole being rejoice remembering the wonderful mystery of your glorious Ascension.

You ascended, my Jesus and my all, to the heavens in glory and triumph and you are seated at the right hand of the Eternal Father as All-Powerful King. Take my heart up with you, my good Jesus. Lift it up, steal it and carry it so that it may chase after you and follow you and that it may not tire until it has reached those wellsprings where it may drink and live forever. You, my sweet Redeemer, as victor over death and sin, restorer of life, and glory of the human race, ascended above the heavens to honor your Eternal Father with your presence, and to send to your Church the Holy Spirit, the Consoler. You ascended to take your seat on a royal throne, because of your humanity and greatness, to take possession of Heaven for all your sons, and to give joy to all the Heavenly Court with the sight of your glory. You ascended to fill the places left empty by the fallen angels with the holy souls that you bring up with you. You rose up to Heaven so that your Most Holy Mother, seeing you ascend so triumphantly and so gloriously, would forget all the sorrows she suffered during your torments and humiliations; and so that your disciples, spurred on by your promise, would give their lives freely for the preaching of your gospel.

Therefore, my only Good, grant me grace so that, while living with my body on earth, my heart may be in Heaven and so that all my love, my joy, my hope, my thoughts and desires might be where you are, because wherever my heart is , there my treasure will be. And what other treasure could there be for me than You who are a rich inheritance, a precious gem and the blessing of all your chosen ones, center and resting place of my afflicted heart? Oh Lord Jesus, wellspring of life, abundance of Heaven, quench my thirst with that river of consolation and joy that runs through the fields of the Paradise of delights, the Holy City. Wound my heart with your holy love, so that it will forget every vain and deceitful thing, and only remember that which is true and eternal. May my soul rise up to you always on the wings of holy desire, and after being liberated from the weight of this mortal body, may it reach the port of tranquility and rejoice in you and in your Most Holy Mother in the company of all the blessed ones for ever. Amen.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Seventh Sunday of Easter

In the morning, a mother is rushing to get her kids off to school and herself off to work. She's made the lunches. Now, it's time to get her three-year-old daughter dressed. It shouldn't take her more than a minute to push the shirt over her head and pull her pants on. But, her daughter decides that she doesn't want to stop watching T.V.. So the mother has to talk her into getting off the couch and going to her bedroom. Once she accomplishes that, the daughter decides that she doesn't like the shirt her mother has picked out. So, the mother has to patiently convince her daughter why the shirt she picked out is the right choice. Once she gets her shirt on, the daughter decides that she wants to tell her mother a story. Then, the daughter decides that, even though it's the middle of winter, she wants to wear her flip-flops. Finally, after much negotiating, the daughter is finally dressed and ready for the day. What should have taken only two minutes at the most took about ten minutes. Getting a child dressed is no exercise in efficiency.

Our spiritual life and our life as a Church community are much the same as getting a three-year-old dressed. It doesn't always follow a straight line. We make progress one day, and then face a setback the next. One day, God feels close to us and prayer comes naturally. The next day, we're distracted and in a fog. The life of God in us as individuals and among us as a Church is also no exercise in efficiency.

Today's readings teach us about the necessity and the power of waiting on the Lord. In the first reading, Jesus has ascended into heaven and instructed the apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture tells us that in that upper room they dedicated themselves to constant prayer waiting for the time when Jesus' words would be fulfilled. Jesus didn't send them back to Jerusalem to do something or to accomplish something. He sent them there merely to wait. Of course, Jesus could have just given them the Spirit right away without their having to wait. He could have brought God's Spirit down upon them as He was ascending to heaven. But, the time wasn't right. And, Jesus always waits until the time is right to ensure that His gifts have the maximum effect in our lives. Jesus is not concerned with efficiency, but with sanctity.

There are many definitions for prayer. For some, prayer is reciting the Our Father or the Hail Mary. For others, prayer means asking God for "our daily bread". Some people in their prayer praise God in a loud voice for the wonders of His power. But prayer, first and foremost, is about waiting on the Lord. Prayer means waiting for the Lord to speak to us. Prayer means waiting for the Lord to direct us. Prayer is not about something we do whether it is a prayer we recite or thoughts we conjure up. Prayer is about what God does. Prayer is about quieting our minds down so that when God speaks, we can hear Him. Prayer is about waiting so that when God is ready to work in our lives, we will be ready to say "yes". Like getting a three-year-old dressed in the morning, prayer is no exercise in efficiency. But, it is an exercise in experiencing the beauty and power of God and His love.

In our preaching, we don't tend to pay too much attention to the Psalms. But, the Psalms are the prayer book of the Bible. The Psalms are the prayer book of the Jewish people and of Christians. The Psalms are Jesus' prayer book. Today's psalm gives us a beautiful description of what prayer is and can be. Simply put, prayer is gazing on the loveliness of the Lord. No words need be spoken. The way a lover looks into the eyes of his beloved or the way a mother holds her child, so we savor the wonder of an Almighty Creator who is present among us, who knows us and who loves us. God is beautiful. Prayer, then, means waiting to be seduced by God's love and beauty.

We are gathered here in this church not to accomplish anything or to get something done. There is no agenda to our meeting here today. We are simply here to wait and to listen. We are here to receive and to give. A wonderful thing is about to take place. The Creator of the Universe will come to us in the form of bread and wine. We will gaze on His beauty. We will taste of His goodness. The time is now. The hour has come for us to open our hearts and receive our beautiful savior. How lovely is this place! How lovely is the dwelling place of the Lord!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Ascension of the Lord

What are we like when we are feeling confused? What goes on in our minds and hearts when circumstances in our life don't make any sense? We usually stop whatever we are doing and try to make sense of the situation. We stare into space trying to figure out just what is going on. We take a step back to get perspective on our surroundings. Confusion can paralyze us with the fear that we have lost control.

In today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples are the picture of confusion. Who can blame them? In a few short days they experienced the devastating brutality of Jesus' death and then the exhilaration of learning that He was raised from the dead. And, they had just finished up many glorious days with Him in their homeland of Galilee. Now, Jesus is ascending into heaven. All they can do is look up into the sky like people who won't leave a theatre after the movie is over. They don't know what to do next. They don't know what their next step should be. It takes the angels to snap them out of their trance and to reassure them that Jesus would return.

Where had Jesus gone? Jesus ascended to heaven to take the throne the Father had prepared for Him. In heaven, Jesus is exalted for winning the victory over sin and death through His cross and resurrection. When generals return victorious from battle, we honor them with parades. Jesus' ascension into heaven is His victory parade for having won back for the Father all the peoples of the earth. Paul says, in the second reading, that God has put all things under Christ's feet. This victory still has not been completed, and won't be until Jesus comes again in glory at the end of the world. But, we know who the winner will be, even as the battle rages on.

It was unclear to the disciples just what was going on. But Jesus' plan was to make them His witnesses throughout all the earth. From His throne in heaven, Jesus would send upon them the Holy Spirit which would give them the power to overcome their fear and the conviction to preach about Jesus' death and resurrection even when their lives were threatened. The confusion was to last only a short while. The Holy Spirit would make everything clear to them in short order.

The message of the apostles and their mission has been passed on to us who gather here 2000 years later. We are to make disciples of the nations, if we are to be true disciples ourselves. We are to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, just as we have been baptized. We are to teach the commands of Jesus, just as they have been taught to us. And, we are to know and remember always that Jesus is with us until He comes again in glory at the end of the world.

We live with much confusion. In our individual lives, we can be confused about what God wants for us, about what direction our life is leading us in or about why some difficulties always seem to be placed before us. As a Church, we are so often confused about how to preach and live God's Word faithfully and how best to be true disciples of Jesus. That confusion too often paralyzes us. It too often causes us to do nothing or to give up altogether. It sometimes tempts us to turn back to old, comfortable patterns of living rather than stay on the path of ongoing conversion that the gospel calls us to. It too often causes us to look to the world and its values for guidance, rather than striving to know and live God's will.

But, Jesus' ascended to heaven to take over authority for our individual lives and our lives as a Church. Jesus is now fully in control, even when things seem chaotic around us. And so, when we are confused, we are to go forward in faith expecting that Jesus will eventually make clear to us why we are experiencing difficulties or why such-and-such a thing is happening in our individual lives or in our history as a Church community.

To serve Jesus, we do not have to have everything figured out. We do not have to know everything to be faithful to Jesus our Savior. We only have to trust that if we say yes to Him and to His will, then He will use our words and our actions to touch the lives of those we meet. When we are confused or agitated by events around us, we simply have to know and believe that Jesus is with us and that He will make all things work our for our good and for His glory.

Jesus has ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father where He reigns as King over heaven and earth. When Jesus does come again, we don't want to be caught looking up into the skies waiting for something to happen. We want to be living in the Spirit of insight and wisdom which Paul describes in the second reading. That Spirit reveals to us the great hope to which we are called. It emboldens us through the immeasurable scope of His power at work in us who believe. It works wonders in us who give our lives over to our Savior Jesus and who trust that, at the right hand of the Father in heaven, He has everything under control.