Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Glorified Body

Mary always leads us to her son, Jesus Christ.

All these many centuries after her earthly life ended, it is no different. She is the one who leads us here, to this holy place, so that we can reflect on and celebrate the hope of heaven that is ours through faith.

On this holy day we commemorate the Blessed Virgin Mary who was assumed body and soul into heaven.

When we die, our souls will be separated from our bodies and our corpse will corrupt.

However, by the gift of God, Mary’s body was not left to rot in the earth but was lifted up together with her soul to the glory of heaven.

This was fitting and pleasing to Jesus. As His mother never sinned during her life, He desired that her body not suffer the effects of sin which are corruption and decay. Since the harmony of her body and soul was never disrupted by evil desires, so her body and soul would not be separated by death.

This gift that Mary received is a participation in Jesus’ own resurrection. Just as Mary suffered along Him during the hours of His crucifixion, so she would enjoy the resurrection of her own body.

This same hope is held out to us who have been baptized into Jesus’ death. Though none of us can claim to be sinless, we can be assured that, if we embrace with love the crosses that are part of our day-to-day lives, we too will one day participate in Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

We are made for more than this life and what it can give us. We are made for more than to spend several decades on earth and then die. Rather, our true home is heaven. We were created to spend eternity with God.

During this earthly life, we experience a struggle within ourselves. Our soul and our body are constantly at war with each other. On the one hand, we yearn to pray, to be disciplined and to serve others. But, on the other hand, we get tired, frustrated and bored. We want to wake up early to pray but our body wants to spend another ten minutes in bed. We want to read the Bible but so often turn on the television instead. We are in a constant battle to respond generously to God’s grace or to give in to temptation or laziness.

This does not mean that our bodies are bad. On the contrary, God created our bodies and made them good. Our body is more than just a container for our souls. Rather, our bodies are who we are. We are our body as much as we are our soul. However, because of sin, our bodies so easily yield to temptation. And, because of sin, our bodies will one day die.

However, during the struggles we experience during this earthly life, we hold on to a hope that cannot fade. It is the hope that one day our bodies will be raised up and reunited with our souls. Like Jesus and Mary, we will have a glorified body that no longer experiences pain and suffering. It will be a body that is in total harmony with our soul. In that glorified state, our whole being will praise the goodness and mercy of God throughout all eternity.

Mary already rejoices before the throne of God in a glorified body. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ and by her prayers, we hope to attain the same.

And so, in the time we have remaining in our earthly life, we struggle against temptation and sin. When we fall, we repent and go to confession. When we overcome evil through love, we give the glory to God. In all things, we rely on God’s grace and the prayers of Our Lady in heaven. And we look forward in hope, for one day the struggle will be over and our corrupt bodies will be raised to immortality.


That is the mystery we celebrate today. That is the mystery we live every day of our lives as we look forward to the glory that awaits us in heaven.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mary Leads Us To Jesus


Mary always leads us to her son, Jesus Christ.

All these many centuries after her earthly life ended, it is no different. She is the one who leads us here, to this holy place, so that we can reflect on and celebrate the hope of heaven that is ours through faith.

On this holy day we commemorate the Blessed Virgin Mary who was assumed body and soul into heaven.

When we die, our souls will be separated from our bodies and our corpse will corrupt.

However, by the gift of God, Mary’s body was not left to rot in the earth but was lifted up together with her soul to the glory of heaven.

This was fitting and pleasing to Jesus. As His mother never sinned during her life, He desired that her body not suffer the effects of sin which are corruption and decay. Since the harmony of her body and soul was never disrupted by evil desires, so her body and soul would not be separated by death.

This gift that Mary received is a participation in Jesus’ own resurrection. Just as Mary suffered along Him during the hours of His crucifixion, so she would enjoy the resurrection of her own body.

This same hope is held out to us who have been baptized into Jesus’ death. Though none of us can claim to be sinless, we can be assured that, if we embrace with love the crosses that are part of our day-to-day lives, we too will one day participate in Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

We are made for more than this life and what it can give us. We are made for more than to spend several decades on earth and then die. Rather, our true home is heaven. We were created to spend eternity with God.

During this earthly life, we experience a struggle within ourselves. Our soul and our body are constantly at war with each other. On the one hand, we yearn to pray, to be disciplined and to serve others. But, on the other hand, we get tired, frustrated and bored. We want to wake up early to pray but our body wants to spend another ten minutes in bed. We want to read the Bible but so often turn on the television instead. We are in a constant battle to respond generously to God’s grace or to give in to temptation or laziness.

This does not mean that our bodies are bad. On the contrary, God created our bodies and made them good. Our body is more than just a container for our souls. Rather, our bodies are who we are. We are our body as much as we are our soul. However, because of sin, our bodies so easily yield to temptation. And, because of sin, our bodies will one day die.

However, during the struggles we experience during this earthly life, we hold on to a hope that cannot fade. It is the hope that one day our bodies will be raised up and reunited with our souls. Like Jesus and Mary, we will have a glorified body that no longer experiences pain and suffering. It will be a body that is in total harmony with our soul. In that glorified state, our whole being will praise the goodness and mercy of God throughout all eternity.

Mary already rejoices before the throne of God in a glorified body. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ and by her prayers, we hope to attain the same.

And so, in the time we have remaining in our earthly life, we struggle against temptation and sin. When we fall, we repent and go to confession. When we overcome evil through love, we give the glory to God. In all things, we rely on God’s grace and the prayers of Our Lady in heaven. And we look forward in hope, for one day the struggle will be over and our corrupt bodies will be raised to immortality.


That is the mystery we celebrate today. That is the mystery we live every day of our lives as we look forward to the glory that awaits us in heaven.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Assumption Of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Early on, those who followed Jesus would have had a great respect for Mary simply because she is His mother. Just as we would have affection for our friends’ mothers, we can imagine that the first disciples of Jesus would have loved Mary because Jesus did.

As time went on, however, it became clear to these disciples that there were more reasons to love Mary. They came to realize that she was a great woman in her own right.

First of all, they would have seen her as the model of discipleship. At every event of Jesus’ life, Mary is by His side. From His birth to His death on the cross, she follows her son. The disciples would have seen in Mary a faithful follower of Jesus, willing to be with Him no matter what the circumstances.

Secondly, they would have seen her as a model of prayer. We see this conviction particularly in the gospel of Saint Luke. Mary is the one who ponders the mystery of her Son’s life. At every significant moment, she is at prayer. Even after the resurrection, she joins the disciples in the upper room to await the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the early disciples of Jesus would have come to consider Mary to be their mother as well. Saint John tells us in his gospel that Mary was given to us by Jesus on the cross to be our mother. We can imagine that just as she comforted and cared for her son, so Mary would have comforted and cared for the disciples after He ascended to heaven. We can also imagine that she never failed to share her wisdom and insight into the mystery of Christ with them.

Therefore, Mary was more than simply the mother of Jesus. For the first Christians, she was a woman of prayer, a disciple and a mother for all believers. Her greatness came not only from the fact that she offered her body to bring the Messiah into the world but that she was the first to believe in the good news. As Saint Augustine put it, before she conceived Jesus in her womb, Mary had already conceived Him in her heart. She is the blessed one who “believed that what was spoken to [her] by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

It is in this way that we can understand the meaning of today’s feast. Because Mary was faithful in bearing the Christ child in her womb, because she never failed to offer her body to accomplish the Heavenly Father’s saving will, God rewarded her by raising her body and soul into the glory of Paradise. God would not allow the body of the woman who carried His Son to suffer decay. He would not allow the body from which the Son of God took His flesh to be discarded in a grave. Rather, He gave her a share in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into glory.

In Heaven, Mary continues to serve as an inspiration for us. She teaches us how to pray and gives us an example of what it means to be faithful to Jesus. Constantly in the presence of her Son, she offers prayers for us, bringing our needs to the throne of God. While we certainly can go straight to Jesus with our petitions, there is an extra power that our prayer receives when Mary carries them for us to her Son. In a sense, she translates our prayer into words that will be pleasing to Jesus. She removes from it whatever may be selfish or foolish. In her wisdom, she sees through our words to the real need of our heart and offers them to her Son on our behalf. And we can be assured that Jesus will not say “no” to his beloved mother.

So we gather here today to rejoice that we have a mother in Heaven who is watching over us and praying for us. That should give us great confidence as we approach Jesus with our needs and the needs of those we love. It also gives us great hope that, just as Mary was raised to the glory of heaven, so we too await the day when we will enter the glory of God’s Kingdom.

Mary has gone ahead of us and we hope to follow close behind by following her example of prayer and faithfulness to Jesus, her Son.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Pray, Hope And Don't Worry

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, affectionately known as “Padre Pio”, was well-known all over Italy for his holiness and wisdom. People came from all over the world to confess to him and seek advice for growth in their spiritual lives. His words to them were always simple but full of wisdom, “Do not worry. Pray and hope.”

Do not worry. Pray and hope.

While this is simple advice, it is not easy to live out. We naturally fret over situations that threaten to harm us either physically, financially or emotionally. With sickness, family tensions, unemployment and social unrest all around us it is easy to be consumed by fear.

Padre Pio’s advice comes from his unshakeable faith in God and His love. The saintly friar knew that God was in control of all things. He was convinced that nothing could separate him from the love of God and that, no matter what may happen, our Heavenly Father would make all things work for good.

Therefore, saying “Do not worry. Pray and hope,” came as naturally to Saint Pio as worry and fear come to us who have lesser faith.

In today’s gospel, we see the apostles in a state of panic. Their small fishing boat is being tossed about like a cork on the Sea of Galilee. Frantically, they are fighting to keep the waves from swallowing them up. It looks as though all may be lost.

Then they see Jesus walking on the water toward them. At first they think they are seeing things. It has to be a ghost. But they recognize Him as their Lord. Unlike them, He is not filled with fear. He does not panic. Rather, He shows Himself to be Master over the stormy sea. He has control over nature in all its wrath and fury. In fact, not only does He walk on the water but, as soon as He gets in the boat, He calms the winds.

Doing so, Jesus shows Himself to be God. Just as God parted the Red Sea before the Israelites to save them from Pharaoh's army, so Jesus calms the Sea of Galilee to save His disciples from the storm. Just as God parted the Jordan River so that the Israelites could enter the Promised Land, so Jesus walks on the water to save the ones He had chosen. As God, Jesus has power over the elements and uses that power to save His people.

In just the same way, Jesus has power over the problems  that threaten to crush us. He has power over the debt that threatens to swallow us up. He has control over the relationships which drain our energy and leave us exhausted. He has power over those forces in government that want to deprive us of our religious freedom and other rights. As Creator of the Universe, there is nothing which lies beyond His authority.
For us, it is a simple matter of faith. In the face of everything which is beyond our control, we can place it in the hands of this Almighty God knowing that He will handle it. Whatever it may be, only He can bring about certain justice, lasting peace and a clear resolution. It might not be in the way we expect or in the manner we prefer, but it will be effective. In the midst of the storms that rage around us, we can be confident that He will save us. It is simply a matter of praying and hoping.

Now, placing all things in God’s hands is not a way for us to deny the problems that face us. It is not a way of absolving ourselves of responsibility for our lives. Rather it is a way for us to act in a clear and confident manner.

Fear paralyzes us. It makes us want to run away and hide. However, when we acknowledge that God is in control, we regain our confidence. We realize that no matter what may happen, God will save us. We can confront the circumstances that threaten us knowing that our Heavenly Father is greater than any earthly power. Like Peter, we find the courage to get out of the boat, to confront the storm and discover that we have abilities beyond what we ever could imagine. Sometimes that is all it takes for the bullies in our lives to drop their weapons and run away.

Each of us here today is facing some difficulty that seems overwhelming, some problem that seems unsolvable, some pain that seems beyond anyone’s power to relieve. God knows what we are facing. If we allow Him to join us in the boat, if we allow Him to be with us in the storm, He will see us safely to port. It may not happen immediately. God may allow the storm to rage around us for a while so that we can learn to trust Him more deeply or maybe so that we can discover that we have more strength, courage and resiliency than we thought.

Either way, He is in control and will not allow us to go under. Saint Pio’s simple advice should guide us always. “Don’t worry. Pray and hope.”

Friday, August 11, 2017

Silence Is God's Language


Have you ever heard God speak to you? Have you ever had a thought pop into your head or a feeling move your heart so intensely that you knew it could only have come from God? Have you ever seen your prayers answered? Have you ever felt yourself wrapped in your Heavenly Father’s loving embrace?

If any of us have answered “no” to these questions, there is probably one good reason why. We most likely do not have enough quiet time in our lives.

In today’s society we are surrounded by noise. We are jerked out of sleep in the morning by a radio alarm. As soon as we get out of bed, we turn the television on. In our cars, we have the radio going. Every other time, we either are scrolling through the computer, playing with our cellphones or have earphones on. Even in church before Mass when we should expect to have some quiet time, there is often needless chatter in the pews.

However, without silence, we cannot hear God speak to us. Our Heavenly Father most often does not reveal Himself in blinding visions. He does not come to us shouting and waving His arms. Most often, God speaks to us in silence, when we are quiet and when our attention is focused on Him.

This is the lesson the prophet Elijah learned in today’s first reading. He is standing on the mountain where God first appeared to Moses and gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites after they fled Egypt. Elijah was in trouble. Jezebel, the queen of Israel, wanted him killed, and he was running for his life. He knew it was the end of the road for him, and he wondered what God was going to do about it.

As the story goes on, a strong gust of wind passed by, an earthquake shook the mountain and a fire blazed up. These were the ways God had shown Himself in the past. He had appeared in the burning bush to Moses. He had led the people out of Israel in a pillar of fire. And an earthquake rocked Mount Sinai when the Ten Commandments were delivered to the people. But God did not choose to appear in these ways to Elijah. Instead, He spoke in a soft, gentle whisper. God was doing something new. If Elijah had been looking for some great show of power, he would have missed it altogether.

God loves each of us. And because He loves us, He wants to speak to us. He wants us to know that He is always with us. He wants us to know that He is in control and that He will provide us with all that we need. However, if we are to hear Him, we have to be quiet. We have to shut out all the noise buzzing around us and calm our minds and spirits. We have to be ready to listen.

How do we do that? A good first step would be to set aside time everyday to practice being quiet. Each of us needs a place we can go where we can be alone with God without noise and without distractions. It may mean getting up earlier in the morning or going to bed later. It may mean clearing out a room in our homes or apartments where we can settle ourselves down to focus on our Heavenly Father. Whatever it takes, for our spiritual well-being we need to give ourselves some quiet time.

If by God’s grace we are able to make time everyday to be quiet, our lives will change in amazing ways. We will experience a growing sense of God’s presence. When difficulties arise, we will have more perspective and a clearer mind to be able to deal with them. No matter how out of control circumstances may be around us, we will have a peaceful center that gives us reassurance and serenity through it all. Most importantly, we will live with a sense that God ultimately is in control of everything and, because He loves us, He will make all things work for our good.

Storms inevitably come our way. Like Elijah we may find ourselves running for our lives, or like the disciples in the gospel, we may find ourselves being tossed about by the waves. God may seem to be far away or to have abandoned us altogether. Like Peter, we may feel that we are about to drown and have come to a point where our only hope is to reach out our hand to Jesus and cry out, “Lord, save me.” But if we have a peaceful center that is nourished by quiet time and prayer, we will have confidence no matter how strong the wind is or how powerful the waves.

If we were to make quiet time for the Lord and  were to hear Him speak in His soft whisper, what would we hear? Most likely it would be the words Jesus speaks in today’s gospel, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” In fact, there are no words that Jesus speaks more often in all the gospels than, “Be not afraid.” Jesus wants to relieve our fears by reassuring us that He is by our side. The One who calmed the raging sea, who revealed Himself in fire on Mount Sinai and who conquered death is in control. Though He is hidden from our sight, He is still by our side. And He will save us if we cry out to Him. If we make time to be quiet in His presence every day, then our ears will be opened to hear Him speak and our eyes will witness His actions in our lives.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

God Is Greater

A woman was widowed at a young age and left with three young children to raise. As you can imagine, she struggled through many long days and lonely nights worrying about how she would pay her bills and build character in her children. Sympathizing with her, a friend gave her a magnet for her refrigerator which simply said, "God is greater than..." After the "than", there was a blank line to fill in. So, for instance, God is greater than my bills. God is greater than my worries. God is greater than my boss. She kept the magnet on her refrigerator as a reminder that, no matter what she might be experiencing, God was in control. The God who loved her was greater than whatever challenge she might be facing.

In today's gospel, Jesus shows that he is greater than the powers of nature. The disciples were being tossed about the Sea of Galilee by strong waves and head winds. Despite the chaos and obvious danger, Jesus comes to them walking on the water. He shows himself to have power over nature even at the height of its fury by calming the sea and its waves. The display of majesty and power leaves no doubt in the minds of the disciples that Jesus is the Son of God.

Throughout the Scriptures, the sea symbolizes chaos and nature's power to destroy. We see it dramatically in the story of Noah as the flood waters rise to destroy all life on the earth. The prophet Jonah likewise encounters rough seas when he tries to flee the Lord's command that he preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. It is only when he stops running away from the Lord and is tossed into the raging sea that the waters calm down.

But, the seas can also be the place where God's saving power is manifest. For instance, as the Hebrews are fleeing the Egyptian army, the Red Sea parts for them allowing them to cross to safety. And, at the end of the forty year pilgrimage in the desert, it is the waters of the Jordan River which welcome them into the promised land flowing with milk and honey.

So, the sea represents both the fury and chaos of nature as well as the place where God shows himself to be Master and Savior.

In our everyday lives, the same is true. It is precisely where there is chaos in our lives, where there is confusion, where we are struggling that God shows his power in our lives. God shows himself to be greater than any pain we may be suffering. God shows himself to be master over our lives and over our world.

How do we come to know this power of God at work in our lives? Very simply, we have to begin by thanking God for our difficulties and for our struggles. That's right! We have to thank God for the chaos and confusion in our day-to-day lives. When we stop complaining and start thanking God we begin to realize that God has a plan for our life and that God can use our problems to make us grow in holiness. By praising God, we proclaim our faith that God is the master of our lives and that God is greater than our trials and tribulations. And, we grow in the assurance that God will never allow us to be submerged by the waters, but even when we fail as Peter did, he will be there to reach out a hand to us. By thanking God, we don't trivialize our pain and suffering, rather we maximize our experience of God's power at work in us.


Peter was doing a fine job of walking on the water. He only got into trouble because he took his eyes off Jesus and starting worrying about the wind and the waves. In that moment, Peter forgot that Jesus was greater than the sea and greater than the power of nature. As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter how daunting or how difficult our lives may become, we will be fine. We can be assured of this because the God who holds the whole world in his hands cares for us even more than we care for ourselves. He will pull us to safety soon.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

Coming To Belief


How is it that simple Galilean countrymen came to believe that Jesus was not only the Messiah but the eternal Son of God?

If someone were claiming to be God, we would naturally be skeptical. Even if we were somehow to be convinced that one of our friends was really God, we would probably have quite a bit of trouble convincing others.

Yet, twelve men from Galilee did in fact come to believe that Jesus Christ, a carpenter from Galilee, was truly God in the flesh and they succeeded in convincing countless others as well.

How could that be?

The simple answer is that their experience of Jesus convinced them that He was divine.

At His baptism, they heard God’s voice call out from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). Those same words are echoed in today’s gospel when Jesus is transfigured in glory before Peter, James and John.

During the years that followed, they witnessed Jesus perform mighty miracles. Not only did He cure the sick and raise the dead, but He also showed that He could command hurricane force winds to be stilled and could even walk on water. Not only that, He showed that He could read men’s minds and claimed to have the power to forgive sins - powers which only God could claim to have.

What finally convinced them, however, was the Resurrection. God raised Jesus from the dead making it clear to them that He shared in Almighty God’s power over the grave.

They then went out to all the world and witnessed to others what they had seen and heard during those years that they spent with Jesus. Preaching to a pagan world steeped in arcane mythologies, the apostles spoke of events which they themselves witnessed - historical events and actual places which others could also testify to. Saint Peter, in fact, tells us as much in today’s second reading: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.” The apostles were not so much preaching a doctrine or a way of life but a person - Jesus Christ - whom they had come to know personally and who convinced them by means of powerful deeds that He was, indeed, the Son of God and Savior of the World.

Therefore, when we hear so-called experts and scholars claim that Jesus never existed or that the apostles made up the gospels, we should pay no attention to them. In fact, there is at least as much if not more evidence that Jesus existed as there is that Julius Caesar or Socrates existed. If we are going to doubt the historical truth of the gospels then we should also doubt the historical truths about Caesar Augustus or any other figure from antiquity.

The fact is that Jesus really existed. He really claimed to be the Son of God. Our faith in Him, then, lies in historical realities that are attested to by eyewitnesses. These eyewitness testimonies have been handed down to us. This testimony, as Saint Peter tells us in the second reading, is “altogether reliable”. Our faith, therefore, is not “blind”. Rather it is based on history - on events that really took place.

Of course, not everyone who witnessed Jesus’ miracles came to believe in Him. We know that some of the religious authorities of His day claimed that His powers came from the devil (Luke 11:15). They were also extremely offended by His claim to be equal to God. It was ultimately because of this that Jesus was put to death.

How is it then that some believed and that many others did not?

The answer is that faith is a gift. Throughout the gospels, it is Jesus who invites people to follow Him. He always takes the initiative. That is why He says to the disciples, and to us, at the Last Supper, “It is not you who chose me but I who chose you” (John 15:16). We cannot give ourselves faith. It is not the result of our efforts but it is, rather, a gift of God which we can only receive with humility and gratitude.

This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about faith: “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him…” (CCC 153).

At the end of the day, we can never understand why some people believe and others do not. However, we can be sure that God offers this gift to everyone - both the gift of believing and the gift of living out our faith. We know this because “God desires everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). If God desires everyone to be saved and if faith is necessary for salvation, then it follows that everyone is offered the gift of faith.

If there is anyone here who finds it hard to believe and doubts that God has ever offered them the gift of faith, please know that you are not alone. Many people struggle to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially in our modern times. However, also know that if you desire to believe then that is already God preparing your heart for the gift of faith. God never gives us anything without first planting the desire for it deep within us. Continue to pray, then, and to ask because Jesus promised: “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Mt 7:8).

On this Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Jesus revealed His glory to Peter, James and John. Seeing His glory for themselves, they believed. We also have come to believe because their testimony has been handed down to us through the gospels. Not only that, we too have our own stories of how we have personally witnessed Jesus’ power to heal, His love for us and the miracles that happen through faith. Like those first apostles, we must fearlessly and boldly witness to others what we have seen and heard so that they too might experience Jesus for themselves. And, since faith is a gift, we must pray that God open the hearts of all people so that they too may come to believe. Then the whole world will be transfigured by the light of faith which will continue to shine down through the ages until the Son of Man comes again in all His glory.