Sunday, January 15, 2017

Today we are again reminded, that Jesus continues to take away the sins of the world, our sins, yours and mine...

John 1;29-34. Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. January 15th, 2017.

This past Monday the Church celebrated the Feast day of, “The Baptism of the Lord.” With this feast came the close of the Liturgical Season of Christmas. In today’s Gospel we hear describe that event when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan.

Before Jesus is baptized however, we hear the words of John the Baptist as he points out the Person of Jesus. They are the same words that we hear repeated at every single Holy Mass. As the priest holds up Jesus, newly born on the altar at the words of the consecration by the power of the Holy Spirit, the priest echoes these words of the St John, “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.”

Because we hear it so often we can easily lose the meaning and the truth behind these marvelous words. At Christmas, and at every Christ-Mass, Jesus comes again, in the flesh, in order to take away not only the sins of the world, but our sins—yours and mind. With out this taking away of sins, the world would be totally without hope, and you and I would be lost.

This is the true meaning of Christmas, that the almighty and all powerful God, the very God who made everything out of nothing, who fashioned the galaxies and their stars, Who continues to hold everything in existence—including us, the Mighty God before whose holiness we are totally unworthy to approach, this same God, in His unfathomable love for us, came to us not as an unapproachable frightening Deity, but as an approachable little babe. And even more, in the Holy Eucharist this same God—Immanuel (God still with us through the Sacraments), continues to come to us as one of us. And He comes to us not as a divine judge in order to justly condemn us for our sins, but as the Divine Mercy of the Father in order to forgive us, heal us, save us; to take away our sins and take us to Himself.

This is the deeper meaning behind the incredible words of today’s Gospel…”Jesus takes away our sins.” He doesn’t, as wrongly said Martin Luther and so many other theologians after him, just cover our sins with His righteousness as “snow covers over a pile of dung.” No, it is much more than that. Jesus takes our sins away, and by doing so, creates a new creature. Not only is the outer sinful man covered over, but his inner being is renewed, redeemed, sanctified, recreated, reborn and made holy—thus restoring the likeness of God in the person and elevating and uniting the nature of the person to the Divine Nature of God Himself.

The baptism of Jesus then points to our own baptism. At our baptism not only were our sins taken away but we were rebirthed, becoming literally the adopted sons and daughters of God Himself. At our baptism we began, to literally share in the Divine Nature, the Nature of God Himself—we began to not only to be able to worthily approach God, but to actually become one with Him in a union of Love. Imagine, God makes us one with Himself.

As I visit the sick here at the hospital, I love to use Holy Water. I usually begin with a Holy Water Joke like, “How do Catholic’s make holy water? We boil the hell out of it!....But then after, and seriously, I ask the question. Why does Holy Water work? Why does the devil hate it?

Holy Water works because of our faith in our baptism. And the devil hates it, because when it is used in faith (it must be used in faith, it is not magic) it reminds the devil of our baptism. Before the devil fell, he was the highest of all angels. In someway God revealed to satan and the other angels that He—God, was going to take us humans and literally share with us God’s own nature, making us adopted sons and daughters of God, who would then become truly Our Father who art in Heaven. To satan this was impossible to accept; it was too beneath God to even think such a thing, much less bring it about. Thus satan rejected the very mercy of God and so rejected the Fatherhood of God.

Well satan was right in a sense; “it is way beneath God to be Our Father, and to send us His own Son by Nature to take on our nature in order die for us in order to take away our sins. And it is even more, way, way more beneath God (what a understatement) to make us through baptism of water and the Holy Spirit, His own adopted children, sharing with us His Divine Nature. But in His Love and Mercy He nevertheless does so as a totally unmerited gift. This is why Holy Water burns the devil; He suffers because of who we are…And who are we? We are the sons and daughters of the Almighty God Himself!!!

Sadly for some religions they too reject this notion of God as our Father and we as his beloved Children. Not only do they reject it as impossible and to far beneath the majesty of God, but some even consider such a notion as blasphemous. For them, God is not Father but our Master, and we are not His beloved children, but His slaves. But contrarily, Jesus has come to reveal to us the truth about God and the truth about us. He has come not to call us slaves, but friends (cf. Jn 15;15…and to tell us, that God is our Father (cf. Mt. 23;9) and we, through our baptism and the faith it brings, become His beloved children.

And so, the frequent use of holy water with faith should remind us of our baptism, and our baptismal promises—when we (or our parents on our behalf), rejected satan and all of his empty promises, so as to live as the children of God (cf. Baptismal Rite). If we really knew what it meant for us to be children of God we would surely die of joy. Again, it is the incredible gift of our baptism that makes this possible.

How the gift of our baptism should then leads us to desire to live our lives more fully as children of God. How we should have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of confession for post-baptismal sin. How we should dread mortal sin, which is the one the thing that we can do that overturns the miracle of our baptism and separates us from the love of the Father. And if we should fall into mortal sin, how we should not hesitate to run to Christ, Who is the Divine Mercy of the Father in Person; Christ, Who in the sacrament of Confession, working through the person of the priest, is able to restore the grace of our baptism along with offering us those special helps and healings in order to sin no more and so no longer offend our Beloved Father in Heaven. It is in confession by the way, that we allow the Father, through Jesus working through the sacred priesthood, to love us more.

Today we are again reminded, that Jesus continues to take away the sins of the world, our sins, yours and mine, but only if we permit Him to do so. And we do this by accepting His Mercy through the repentance and confession of our sins. Then we can offer more and more fully, beginning at this Holy Mass, our complete self in love to the Father, through the Son, becoming one with them in the love and the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. Holy Mary Mother of God and Mother of the sons and daughters of God—Our Mother, pray for us sinners who have recourse to thee. Amen.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

the truth about Mary, leads us to the full truth about Jesus.

Solemnity of Holy Mary, Mother of God. January 1st, 2017

Today we celebrate that Holy day given to us by the Second Vatican Council- the solemnity of Mary, “Mother of God.” It is her most privilege title and the very best way to address her. Mary as “Mother of God,” is also one of her oldest titles. The Church at the Council of Ephesus first officially proclaimed it in 431. At that council, the Church declared her as “Theotokos,” which is Greek for the “God-bearer,” another way of saying the “Mother of God.” But this official declaration wasn’t the beginning of the belief of this truth of our faith, for even while Jesus was alive, to those who the Father revealed Jesus as God in the flesh, knew that she who gave birth to Jesus, was then truly the Mother of God.

With this in mind, we discover that the name- “Mother of God,” is more than just a declaration about Mary; it is really a declaration that declares and protects the truth about Who is Jesus Christ. He is truly divine while at the same time truly human. The Church has always protected the truth about Mary, because it protects and leads us to the truth about Jesus.

Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ who was at the same time truly God and truly Man. The one who gives birth is mother to the one birthed; and so because Mary gave birth to Jesus who was and is God become man, she is then truly “Mother of God.” Our mother who gave birth to us did not create us; and so, by declaring Mary as Mother of God we don’t mean she was the creator of Jesus (for Jesus wasn’t created-He is the Eternal God), but that she gave birth to Him in time.

Mary was not a god who gave birth to a god. Mary is not a god or a goddess herself. She is a limited created human being who was given the high honor of supplying a human nature, that is, a body, blood and soul along with a human intellect and will, to the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity-the Eternal Word. Through her Jesus became true man, all the while remaining true God.

It is important to make a distinction here. Mary is not the mother of the human person of Jesus Christ, but Mary is the mother of the Divine Person Jesus Christ. Jesus is not human person but a divine person with both a human nature and a divine nature. Mary then did not give birth to just the human nature of Christ and not to the Divine nature, but she gave birth to the whole Person of Jesus Christ (you cannot separate the natures of Christ, because both make up the one divine person of Jesus Christ). Mary is therefore truly the Mother of God. This is the glorious truth we celebrate today, the first day of the year.

When one denies the truth about the Mary as Mother of God, one inevitably denies the truth about who Jesus Christ truly is. If the truth about the Mother of God, is not upheld we misunderstand the very nature of Christ and we do not know Him as He is. We then can end up saying and believing untrue things about Him, like: “He didn’t know He was divine;” or, “that there were two persons in Jesus, one Human and one divine;” or, “that Jesus was a human person”…These errors and those like them lead to a mistaken belief that Jesus was really just a good and nice guy, just a nice do-gooder, just a prophet, just a creature like us.

Yes, the truth about Mary, leads us to the full truth about Jesus. He is more than just prophet, He IS God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, without beginning or end. He, though equal to the Father, was sent by the Father, to come down to earth as one of us, as a true man, though without sin, all the while remaining what He was before-True God; and as the Almighty and Living God, He can make demands on our life. And we for our part have duty in justice as well as in love, to believe, adore, hope and trust Him; and so in love, obey Him and follow Him in and through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which He founded on the Apostles.

So this is why we publicly praise Mary as the Mother of God, and why at this time so closely after the important festival of Christmas and on the very first day of the New Year. To celebrate at Christmas is perfectly natural. When we visit a newborn babe, we of course inquire about the baby’s health, weight and the like. Then we always want to know about the health of the mother. We have looked for a week at the baby in the crib. It is now perfectly reasonable to look at the Mother, the Mother of the infant Jesus…for if we know about her, if we know her and draw closer to her we will know better her son; and to know someone is too love them and to love them is to draw closer to them.

And to celebrate on the first day of the eye is practical. On this first day of 2017 we wish one another a Happy New Year. This means we hope and pray that our friends and loved ones will have a blessed and holy year, that they will try to know Christ more clearly, love Him more warmly, and serve Him more faithfully, just as His Mother did. To do this nothing will help us more than the inspiration and help of that same Mother. Jesus loved and honored her. He wants us to love and honor her also. The disciples are to do what the master does; we honor Mary because Jesus honored her first.

I remember a very touching story about motherhood that I heard a few years ago that happened during a devastating earthquake in Iran that claimed tens of thousands of lives. Four days after the devastating earthquake the rescue crews had lost hope of finding any more survivors. Then a miracle happened, they found a young girl of 12 still alive. She was unconscious and had a broken leg, nevertheless she was found alive. She was found alive because she was wrapped in the arms of her mother who was killed by falling debris. The mother’s protective embrace actually saved the Child.

The Mother of God too, wraps in her arms those children who turn to her for protection. She not only protects them from physical harm but even more importantly she protects her children from spiritual arm. She is truly the Mother of God and the mother of the children of God. (If Jesus is the head of the Church and we are His body, Mary gave birth both to the head as well as to the body of Christ, and so she is truly our Mother). And she is a good mother who safely leads us to her divine Son, the divine Son she gave to the world in His birth and the divine Son she allowed to die on the Cross-for our salvation (this is the meaning of the Brown Scapular, to wear it in order to be embraced in the protection of the mantle of our Heavenly Mother, and to ask her to help us at the Holy Mass in order to offer ourselves in love, completely to Him Who is Love).

This death of Christ is renewed today on this altar and every day at every Christ-Mass. If we want the world to keep Christ in Christmas, we Catholics need to first keep the Mass in Christ-Mass Let us ask the Mother of God to intercede for us, and obtain for the grace to make the Holy Mass more important in 2017; in fact, to make it the absolute center of our life and of our family life. As individuals and families, let us, especially by praying the rosary, ask our dear Blessed Mother to help us draw closer to the Holy Eucharist Who is Immanuel-God truly with us still. She will help us to keep our eyes always on Jesus, so that we will have a holy and Blessed New Year. Through this Holy Mass and through the maternal intercession of the Mother of God may God grant to you and your loved ones the grace and helps you need to make this a truly joyful year by adhering your lives more closely to our Blessed Savior. I wish you all a Blessed New Year!!! Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Over the last couple of weeks of Advent, we have been preparing for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. We have been told to stay a wake, not to fall asleep. In this we have discovered that Advent is the liturgical time, which reminds us that all of our life is an Advent, a time of joyful preparation for the coming of Jesus at the end of the world or the end of our life which ever comes first. But we have also been reminded that Jesus has already come, and even more than that He comes to us now at this Holy Mass and at every Holy Mass with and in His same body and blood that he was born with at Bethlehem. This great truth is not only the cause of our Joy, it is the very source of our hope…the source of all hope…We have hope because God is truly with us, in the flesh.

A few years ago I came across a very interesting true story about hope. A priest was once given the assignment of serving a woman’s prison where many of the inmates were in for life. He was told that these particular women were very tough, and so it would be hard to get much of a response from them. In fact, at his first meeting with them only two women showed up. So he knew he had to do something in order to get more of the inmates to come and hear the truth about God and the truth about themselves.

He devised a plan to invoke the curiosity of the inmates. So he said to the two women, I am going to ask you the following question, if you can’t give me the correct answer I’ll stop talking, leave and come back next week to see if you have the answer. He asked them, “What is the worst sin? One of them answered, “Murder.” No, the priest said and he left. The next week there were about twenty women present. They all gave various answers to the question, such as rape and even killing a baby. Again, the priest said, “No.” and left.

The following week the room was completely packed. Still none of them had the answer. This time however, the priest revealed to them the correct answer. The worst sin He said was the sin of despair, loss of hope. He went on to tell them that they had hope even if in their desperate situation; they had hope because they were daughters of God and because they had God as their Father. Without belief, without faith in this, they would be lost in despair. He then told them of the unconditional love of the Father and how we don’t have to earn His love; we just have to open our hearts to it and trust in it, place our hope in His goodness, and then with a contrite heart, ask for and receive His forgiveness and mercy.

Our only hope is God!!! This was the message of the priest to the woman inmates. We have so many troubles in this life, our world is in great, grevious trouble, and we see others in so much trouble. To have hope, we have to return to faith in God, not only believing that He exists, but returning to living our lives in complete fidelity to Him, to His Church, to His truth and obedience to His commands and teachings out of love for Him; in others words, living our lives in conformity to His Holy Will. Hope is impossible without this true faith.

This points us to an important fact. Our Catholic faith is not just about information we know; Christianity doesn’t just tell us facts, doctrines and truths. Our faith tells us that each one of us is personally willed by God and so loved by God. In fact, each one of us is so loved by God that he came to earth for us, become a man for us, was born for us, lived and even suffered and died for us; and finally, He truly rose from the dead for us. He did all of this for us so that He would move our hearts to trust and hope in Him, love Him so that we might enter into an eternity of perfect happiness with Him, in union with Him and His Father forever. Our faith gives us hope by showing our true goal, which is God Himself, thus, giving us a reason to live no matter the situation; and so those with hope have the abundance of life.

When we truly believe that God only allows what is best to happen those who love Him we have hope and this Hope does something to us, it changes us, redeems us, saves us. Hope like faith however, is not just something we have it is something we live. Our hope in God must be operative; it must be performative. In other words, What keeps us from hope is not the situations of our lives but rather how we respond to them. It’s not our defects or other people and their defects but it’s the way we respond to them that can keep us from hope. We can either rebel against God because of our circumstances and so become angry and despair, or resign to our fate with a woe is me attitude; Or instead we can accept our situation with the attitude that Our Father God knows best—that I am loved-I can be saved, that I can become united with God intimately- that God loves me definitively and so I hope in Him even when it seems hopeless. I will still trust in Him in every situation because I know through faith that He will only allow what is best for me so that I may reach my goal of eternal happiness with Him already here on earth.

We need to ask our Lord for the capacity to accept big things, little things, to accept others they way they are, to accept ourselves the way we are. Yes we need to keep struggling to become better, and call others to become better with the help of God’s grace, but we need to accept our weakness, and other’s weakness, in order that we can all rely on God more than on ourselves, to become better by accepting all circumstances by crying out, Jesus I adore you, I believe in You, Jesus I trust in You and I love you; I trust in Your love for me and I abandoned my self totally to you! Now, O My God, help me to adore, believe, trust in You and love You more.

The season of advent and Christmas can sometimes be the worst. It is so busy and our hearts and minds are so preoccupied. It is also the season of rampant depression for so many reasons, sadness, the loss of a loved one, life in a mess, unemployment, an illness, the state of affairs in our world and in our Church, Christmas away from those we love. All of this really shows us that we can’t place our hope and trust in ourselves, others, circumstances or things to bring us happiness. If we rely on these, we lose hope and then we get angry at God-why does He allow this to happen to me or to my loved ones.

We also can’t place our trust and hope in the world. Man continually tries to create a system to trust apart from God and we end up with the gulag of Communism and the Auschwitz of Nazism. We can’t put our trust in politics or political systems; we can’t put our trust in Government or science to save us.

In this season we have our family and friends and their love. This is good it helps to show us and lead us to the love of God. Yet, even those who are closest to us can and will let us down. Just like we can’t trust the world, so too, we can’t trust our love ones totally, because they are imperfect and weak just like us. So too, there is no perfect priest, no perfect bishop or pope; there is nobody who is perfect save One, The only One, Jesus Christ, our only Savior and our Lord and our God; HE ALONE IS OUR ONLY HOPE.

In these last couple of days before we celebrate Christmas we must turn ever more to the source of our true hope and so the source of our true joy, Jesus Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. The Holy Mass and our active, full, conscious and fruitful participation in it, is then cause of our hope. In our actual participation in it, the Mass becomes the cause of our hope because it makes truly present Jesus and His sacrifice of love that saved us, is saving us and will save us, if we place our hope in its Power to save us.

At the Holy Mass, in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus’ birth two thousand years ago becomes present to us, and so Jesus is born on the altar before us, lives before us, suffers before us, dies before us, and resurrects before us, actually, truly and really. Jesus becomes fully present before us in the Holy Eucharist as true God and true Man. At the Mass as well His second coming becomes present; at the Mass we are at once at the beginning of the world and at the end of the world. At the Mass our goal, which is heaven becomes present on earth as well. And at the Mass, our hope can be increase, when we receive, worthily, Jesus the source of our hope; if we but open to the doors to our hearts, minds and soul so that He can enter and mount His throne, ruling over our lives and changing us into His image and likeness. Then we ourselves can become living tabernacles of Christ and hope for the world, for we can take Jesus newly born in us, out into our daily lives and share with others the joy and the hope that is within us.

In our Gospel today, Joseph gives us the secret of Christmas. He lets Mary into his home. And by doing so He lets the Divine Child into her home as well. So to with us, if we want to let Jesus into our homes, into our hearts, then we must let more fully Mary into our homes and into our hearts. And she brings with her divine son Jesus. Mary, Mother of God, by your faithful yes to God’s Will you brought forth hope into the world-Jesus your Son; help us to open the door to our homes, to our hearts and welcome you in, and so welcome Him in. Amen.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Solemnity of Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King. November 19th, 2016

The past few weeks, our readings have been about the end times. And the ultimate end of these readings, and the ultimate end of everything for that matter, is the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ. And so, this week’s Solemnity of Christ the King brings the Church’s “Liturgical time” or Liturgical year, to a close.

Over the past months of time we have celebrated the mysteries of the life of the Lord. Pope St. John Paul II taught that, “While the feast of the Epiphany, Easter, and the Ascension all relate to Christ as King and Lord of the Universe, the Church has desired to have this great feast to be a special remembrance to modern man, modern man who seems somewhat indifferent to truth and his supernatural destiny, that his earthly life, all earthly kingdoms, and all time, will end in front of the Kings of kings.”

So on this special feast day, we now contemplate Christ in his glorified state as King of all creation and as King our souls. This feast day serves as a reminder to us that the Lord should truly reign in our life and over every aspect of it. The Lord Jesus needs to be sovereign over our hearts and minds, by being present in our families, among our friends, neighbors, and with our colleagues at work.

Christ’s kingship in our daily lives should be a witness against those who would reduce religion to a set of negative statements or to some kind of “pick and choose” Catholicism. Many would like to limit Christ’s sovereignty to just a corner of their lives and make their faith solely a private affair, claiming that they can’t take their faith in Christ out into personal relationships or out into the public and so political sphere. Contrastingly, this feast day is a call to each of us that we must affirm with our words and especially with our deeds, that we aspire to make Christ the King, reign indeed, over all hearts, both our own and other’s as well.

When we think of a sovereign, we can easily think of an absolute monarch or dictator, who commands without question. We are reminded about the crimes against humanity, the many injustices that these types of tyrants have committed and we can immediately think that sovereignty is a bad thing. Certainly, the foundation of our own country was against a sovereign; and in fact, this week we will celebrate thanksgiving and the blessings of freedom in our country. Jesus is a sovereign, it is true, but not in the way of earthly tyrants, for He has come to serve and not to be served.

Jesus established a kingdom of divine love and truth, whose demands go much farther than mere justice to mercy. Love demands that we give our all, without ever counting the cost. Mercy demands that we put the other before ourselves. This is difficult of course, because it means that we must give up our own self importance and self will and ascent to Jesus’ truth and His Will in order to open our hearts to receive His Divine Love. And Mercy demands that we share this Love and so this Truth with others.

The call to make Jesus our sovereign King can then make us hesitate. In fact, this call goes against our modern society. We live in a society that has dethroned God that no longer sees Him as Almighty (for an almighty God has a claim on our lives, a claim which demands absolute obedience to His Will and to His truth). But our world is one that has all but abandoned God, has especially abandoned Jesus Christ as King, maybe not in word, but in deed. If anything at all, it pays Jesus lip service.

It is a world that, not only no longer searches for the truth, it has abandoned any notion of absolute truth. For modern society based on radical individualism, truth has been replaced with feelings, emotions, and opinions; it is all about one’s personal “feelings” or one’s personal opinions. Deep within our society is a hatred for the very notion of kingship, of serving Christ the King by serving others; in stead it is, “I want to be king; I want to be served, I want to define truth.” It is no longer about obedience to the Holy Will of God, it is now about the “will of the people,” about our own will over and above the Holy Will of God and others. It is the kingdom of man without any reference to the Kingdom of God (a good definition of Atheistic Communism).

Jesus, however, manifests to us the Will of His Heavenly Father by obediently accepting death, even death on a cross. Hence, the cross is Jesus’ throne, the crown of thorns His royal diadem. While all those at the foot of the cross expected Christ to show a spectacular demonstration of His Royal claims by coming down off the cross, Jesus instead shows forth his divine authority by commanding the forgiveness of sins, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do. While Jesus in His sacrifice atones for all of the sins committed by mankind, He chooses to manifest the greatest act of sovereignty the world as ever seen by being concerned with just one man, and a criminal at that. “Jesus remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you today you will be with me in paradise. In this Jesus shows, not just strict justice, but Divine Mercy!

And so, the most important question one must ask on this Feast of Christ the King is not whether He does or does not reign in the world, but does He or does He not reign in me; not if His royalty is recognized by states and governments, but is it recognized and lived by me. Is Jesus Christ, truly King and Lord of my life? Who reigns in me, who sets the objectives and establishes the priorities in my life: Is it Christ or another? To live "for the Lord," means to live in view of Him, to live solely for love of Him, for His glory and honor, and for the spreading of His Kingdom on earth, which subsists fully in the Holy Catholic Church.

Consequently then, The reign of Christ extends so far as there are men and women who understand themselves to be children of God, who are nourished by Him through His Holy Catholic Church and her great Sacraments, children who live only for Him; and as a result, want others to share in this Family of God under the Kingship of Christ and His sweet yoke.

However, it must be clear that, the reign of Christ extends only as far as there are those who realize it is only in being obedient to the Holy Church, to Her leaders and to Her divine teachings, that one is truly obedient to Christ the King.
Holy Mother Church gives us this feast at the end of the Church year, and this end of the Church’s year should be a type of spiritual death for all of us, a death to sin and selfishness, a death to our self will, and a rising to a new beginning, a new life in Christ and in His Holy Will. And just as natural death brings with it the prospect of seeing and standing before Jesus Christ our sovereign king, the end of this Church year brings us this opportunity to stand before Christ the king who is truly, physically, substantially present in the Holy Eucharist and allow Him to renew His divine Kingship over us…This is the Eucharist Reign of Christ the King. (As an aside: the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart as promised by Our Lady of Fatima will be the conversion of the world to true faith in the Holy Eucharist; and so, it will be the coming of the Eucharistic Reign of Christ on earth (conversion of Islam, Judaism and al faiths to the Holy Eucharist as Sacrament of Sacrifice, Sacrament of true Presence and Sacrament of Communion). This will begin a time of great peace on earth, peace that the world had not yet experienced).

Let us pray, “Jesus our Sovereign King, so many times we have been thieves by stealing your sovereignty over our lives. You always grant more than we could ever ask or imagine. The good thief only asked you to remember him but instead You granted Him paradise. So in your infinite mercy, King Jesus, “Remember us when you come into your kingdom. Holy Mary, mother of the King of kings, Queen of heaven and earth, and our Mother and our Queen, Pray for us sinners who have recourse to thee. Amen. May God bless you and Viva el Christo Rey…Long live Christ the King!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

It is the way we live our faith each day that is most important.

As we see the leaves of the trees fall and feel the cold weather coming, we are reminded that we are beginning to wind down another year. We see starting already ads and displays for Christmas, even though Advent is still a few weeks away. The Church, in choosing the readings for this time of the coming of the ending of the year, is helping us to look towards the coming of the end of our life, and so, the four last things of our life -Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell.

Our death is that moment that each one of us will stand before the Jesus when He comes again as Judge of the living and the dead, as Judge of our own life. We, of course, will speak much more of the Second coming of Christ during the Advent season, but we are being prepared for this focus with our readings today.

Holy Mother the Church, like a good Mother, wants us to realize that nothing, nothing in this life is more important than our faith in Jesus Christ. And nothing is more important than living our life in faithfulness to Him, and friendship with Him as a preparation to meet Him face to face. Now is the time of mercy, but soon will come the time of Judgment. Jesus comes to us now in the Sacraments as Divine Mercy, but at the end of our life He will come as Divine Judge.

To emphasize the importance of our faith in Jesus and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, this same Holy Church—who is our Mother, this same Church in our first reading, gives us the incredible, moving and true story of another mother who realized the importance of faith. She was willing to see all seven of her sons killed before her eyes rather than see them deny their faith. She like a good mother loved her sons enough to know that their eternal salvation was more important than life in this world or anything this world as to offer. Holy Mother the Church knows this as well.

The modern popes have reminded us that martyrdom, dying in witness for our Catholic Faith in fidelity to Jesus and His Catholic Church is always a distinct possibility for the true believer in any age and in every age. Our pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI said once that, “The possibility (to be martyr) does not seem to be immediate (to us), however, how we should be prepared to die for Christ.”

Sometimes we dismiss this idea for our times, perhaps because it has been so easy for us to practice our faith in the past. How many of us here have had to risk our life or imprisonment in order to make it to Sunday Mass, for example? How many of us have lost all of our possessions for being Catholic? How many of us have seen a member of our family or a brother or sister in Christ killed before our eyes.

The fact is, however, more Catholics today are suffering and dying for their faith than ever before in history, just look at the Middle East…thousand dying for their Catholic Faith. Mothers and fathers seeing even their young children-babies, die for the faith, just like the mother in our first reading. Our age, which will definitely go down in history as the “Age of Martyrs.”

In speaking about the distinct possibility of Martyrdom we Catholics face, Benedict emphasized that it is the way we live our faith each day that is most important.

It is the way we live our faith each day that is most important. This is the point that Jesus is trying to teach us in our Gospel today. Jesus corrects the Scribes and Pharisees because they failed to see how important is the way that one lives one life here and now with regards to how and where one spends eternity. The question regarding marriage in the afterlife was asked to Jesus; “Who of the seven husbands would the one woman belong to?” Jesus tells them that they missed the main point. And the main point is: the way we live today in our life of faith will be the way we will live life forever. In other words, how we live today and every day will determine how we will live in the next.

On a daily basis, we may not be brought before magistrates to witness to our faith (although that might becoming sooner than we may think) but we are called to witness to the truth by living our Catholic Faith. This means of course much more than just coming to Holy Mass. It means this of course, but it also means conforming our lives more and more to the all of the Teachings of the Catholic Church; teachings that come not from man, not from the pope, bishops or priests, but that come from God Himself. The teachings of the Catholic Church are the teachings of God.

One such example of how we live our catholic Faith, that is relevant in this election week, is by how we vote and our responsibility to vote ethically. We live our Catholic faith by the way we vote. I recently read an article by a priest who is a prolific thinker and author. In speaking about the upcoming election he said:

It is incorrect to say that the coming election poses a choice between two evils. For ethical and aesthetic reasons, there may be some bad in certain candidates, but badness consists in doing bad things. Evil is different: it is the deliberate destruction of truth, virtue and holiness. While one may pragmatically vote for a flawed candidate, one may not vote for anyone who advocates and enables unmitigatedly evil acts, and that includes abortion. “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it'" (Evangelium Vitae, 73).

 At one party’s convention, the name of God was excluded from its platform and a woman who boasted of having aborted her child was applauded. It is a grave sin, requiring sacramental confession and penance, to become an accomplice in objective evil by voting for anyone who encourages it, for that imperils the nation and destroys the soul.

By the way, the priest went on to rightly say:

“It is also the duty of the clergy to make this clear and not to shrink, under the pretense of charity, from explaining the Church's censures. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are dangerous, but worse are wolves in shepherd’s clothing. While the evils foreseen eight years ago were realized, worse would come if those affronts to human dignity were endorsed again. In the most adverse prospect, God forbid, there might not be another free election, and soon Catholics would arrive at shuttered churches and vacant altars. The illusion of indifference cannot long be perpetuated by lame jokes and synthetic laughter at banquets, for there is handwriting on the wall.” (Fr. George Rutler, Pastor of the Church of St. Michael, from his weekly Column of October 30, 2016)

Today the Church as a mother, as our Holy Mother, is even more concerned about the eternal salvation of Her sons and daughters than the mother in our first readings; She wants us to realize what this life is really all about. In fact, Holy Mother Church’s prime consideration, the reason for her very existence and for everything she does, is for the Salvation of Souls (Cannon 1752). Today she is reminding us that the most important thing in this life is our beautiful Catholic faith and our living it out each day faithfully in love, in charity so that we may reach heaven and help others reach it as well.

Like any mother, the Church doesn’t want to instill in us fear. She doesn’t remind us about the last things, Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell in order to instill fear in us; fear doesn’t lead to authentic freedom and so fear doesn’t lead to true love. Faith is not about fear, but about responsibility and love. Our Holy Mother want us to realize that what is needed is responsibility and accountability shown in our concern for our salvation and the salvation of the souls of our neighbor whoever they may be (even if they be our enemy).

Soon it will be night, and we will be questioned about our love. Love is shown not in sweet words, nor in lofty thoughts, not in warm fuzzy feelings or emotional highs. No, love is shown by deeds; Love is shown by how you and I live our Beautiful Catholic faith on a daily basis.

The level of our love with which we die, will be the level of our love for all eternity. If our love is great, then our love in heaven will be great. If our love is cold here on earth, it will be cold in the next, cold not in heaven, but cold by being separated from heaven; that is, separated for ever from the God who is Love (Deus Caritas est—God is Charity 1 Jn 4:8).

It is love of Christ alone, which give the martyrs the strength to face cruel deaths; it is this love that will be lived forever provided we begin to live it more intensely today. And this love can be lived only to the extent we live out our Beautiful Catholic faith on a daily basis. The source of this love is the Holy Eucharist, because the Holy Eucharist is Love incarnate, Jesus the One who truly loves us beyond our imaginings. It is the Holy Eucharist that gives us the strength to live the Church’s teachings, it is the Holy Eucharist that gives us the strength to witness our faith even unto death. Holy Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Mother of the Church, Mother of the Martyrs, be today ever more our Mother. Holy Mary, pray for our beloved country, pray for our parish, pray for our families, pray for us. Amen.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

we can say without qualification that, “God is constantly with us”; He never leaves us and longs to enter into intimate conversation with us, not just once in while, but always.

Luke 18; 1-8. Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 16th, 2016

In our readings, the Holy Spirit speaks to us today about the need to pray constantly and to preserve in our prayers in order to maintain our Faith, our hope and to grow in our love of our loving Father God. We are told of Moses and how as long as his hands were held up in supplication toward our God, things went well in the heat of the battle.

In our Gospel, Jesus uses the image of a widow in great need; she persistently bothers the unjust judge who because of her constant supplication finally gives into her request. Jesus makes a contrast here between the judge and our Heavenly Father; if even this unjust Judge will grant the widow’s request because of her perseverance, how much more will the Just Judge, Our Father in heaven who loves us, grant our requests when we persevere in our prayer to Him. The lesson is of course this, we must pray constantly, without ceasing or becoming weary trusting always that God hears and answers every one our prayers, even when it seems He is delaying doing so.

At the end of our Gospel today, Jesus questions whether He will find any faith on earth when He returns in glory. Without faith, hope and love we cannot make it to heaven. And there is a direct connection between the level of our faith, hope and love and the amount we pray. This is so because the source of these supernatural virtues is of course God Himself. Prayer is that action which put us into direct Contact with the living God. And by the greatest act of prayer, our adoration, we acknowledge our awareness that God is the Source of our being and hence we acknowledge at the same time in humility that every thing we need depends on him (we are like the widow really in great need, whether we know it or not).

God has allowed difficulties in our lives for this very reason. When we are in times of need, especially great need, we realize much more deeply, than when everything is going well, that we need God and his grace to help us in these trying times. The more we turn trustingly to him and petition Him with our prayer the more we see more clearly that his is a trustworthy God, always reading to answer those who but call out to him with constant prayer.

Saint Paul instructed echoing our Lords words in today Gospel, “pray without ceasing.” (1 THess. 5:17) But how does one pray without ceasing? What does the Holy Spirit mean by “pray without ceasing?” Let’s take a look at some ways we can pray ceaselessly.

Ceaseless prayer is simply living in a personal, constant union with God. It doesn’t mean spending all day in church, and it certainly doesn’t mean neglecting our daily duties of life in order to pray. No, ceaseless prayer is fulfilling our duties with out mind and heart centered on God and on our love for Him and His love for us; in this our daily duties, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, become themselves a prayer offered to God.

Ceaseless prayer has to do with the desire of our heart. It’s not about calculating the time of prayer; does a mother ask how often she should love her child, or a friend how often he should love a friend? St. Augustine says that the essence of prayer is desire. If the desire for God is constant, so also is prayer, but if there is no interior desire, then you can howl as much as you want – to God you are mute.

Jesus himself gave us the example of unceasing prayer. Of him, it is said that he prayed during the day, in the evening, early in the morning, and sometimes he passed the whole night in prayer. Prayer was the connecting thread of his whole life. In his humanity Jesus shows us definitively that pray consists in love for the Father.

But Christ’s example tells us something else important. We are deceiving ourselves if we think that we can pray always, that we can make prayer a kind of respiration of the soul in the midst of daily activity, if we do not set aside fixed times for prayer, times when we are free from every other preoccupation. And so, part of our ceaseless prayer are those specific times of our day which should be devoted to contemplation and private prayer; It is during these times that we come to know God’s will for us and are strengthened to perform our daily duties in a way that is pleasing to Our Lord, as well as being redemptive for ourselves and others.

Prayer then should be the first act of our day and the last of act of our day, along with times in between to pray as well, especially before and after meals, even in public. Also an essential part of our scheduled daily prayer is the prayer of the Holy Rosary. Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Rosary, in its own particular way, is part of this varied panorama of ‘ceaseless’ prayer. On Thursday we celebrated the 99th anniversary of the last apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal. There the Mother of God asked us to pray the rosary daily. The three little shepherds (at Fatima) understood the value of the Rosary as a call to prayer and an easy way of responding to Jesus’ call to us to pray always. Sister Lucia, one of the visionary of Fatima wrote,

“Those who say the Rosary daily are like children who, every day, manage to find a few moments just to be with their father, to keep him company, to show him their gratitude, to do some service for him, to receive his advice and his blessing. It is an exchange of love, the love of the father for the child and the child for the father; it is a mutual giving.”

In the Rosary, Our Mother leads us by the hand to a deep intimate loving encounter with her Son, Jesus. And so, the Rosary is really a Eucharist prayer; if it is prayed correctly and with love and devotion it leads us to Jesus in the Eucharist, and the Holy Eucharist is the most essential part of our ceaseless prayer. And so in our prayer of the Holy Rosary, we discover that ceaseless prayer is absolutely impossible without the Holy Mass.

And so it is essential for our prayer that we set aside, as the Church as always done, a special day dedicated to worship and prayer: Sunday. In light of our present day persecutions, we modern Christians should take our inspiration from the words that, in 305, St. Saturnius and his fellow martyrs addressed to the Roman judge who had them arrested for participating in the Sunday Mass: “The Christian cannot live without the Sunday Eucharist. Do you not know that the Christian exists for the Eucharist and the Eucharist for the Christian?

We have to end by saying that daily prayer is hard, praying without ceasing takes effort and the devil tries to keep us from it, especially our prayer at Holy Mass. John Henry Newman, the great convert from Anglicanism, says: “Nothing is more difficult than to be disciplined and regular” in our prayer life. It is easy to be religious in fits and starts…at times we “feel” spiritual, but to be regular at prayer is a trial, he says because we are so weak and inconstant. Newman stresses that Satan “perceives well that daily private prayer is the very emblem and safeguard of true devotion to God.” and of maintaining us in a course of good conduct, of holiness of life. That is precisely why the Devil will use any and every means to prevent us from praying regularly.

Perhaps, we can take a lesson from St. John Vianney; The Cure of Ars (Doctor of souls) taught: it is not surprising the devil does everything in his power to get us to lessen the time of our personal dialogue with the Lord or to do it poorly. Look at the senseless set of reasons the enemy gives you for abandoning your prayer. ‘I have no time’ – when you are constantly wasting it. ‘This not for me.’ ‘My heart is dry…’ Prayer, St John Vianney says, is not a question of what you say or feel, but of love. And you love when you try hard to say something to the Lord, even though you might not actually say anything.” And when you love you want to be with the one you love constantly.

Many of our difficulties in prayer disappear when we pause to consider that we are in the presence of God. He is at our side as much as with the ones who heard and spoke to him in today’s Gospel. In fact we can say without qualification that, “God is constantly with us”; He never leaves us and longs to enter into intimate conversation with us, not just once in while, but always. Let us turn to our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary to help us to pray. “Lovely Lady dressed in blue teach us how to pray, for God was just your little boy tell us what to say.” Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

In our first reading today, we heard the words of the prophet Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” But you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?” These lines from Sacred Scripture seem to be written for our own day.

In these our times, we are experiencing violence on a level never seen before in the history of the world, never seen before! We see increasing terror attacks. And shootings are in the headlines every day; 19 homicides already this year here in Rockford surpassing all of last year; in Chicago, last years total number of shooting homicides, 509 was surpassed already as of September 1st. Currently it stands at 565 dead.

It is clear that our world is descending more and more into a world of incredible violence and misery, producing so much ruin and leaving so many victims in misery. It is clear to see that the life and dignity of the human person is no longer respected, but is now easily discarded, the result, as Pope Francis said, of a “throw away society.”

On this Pro-life Sunday, we acknowledge all of those who have worked so hard to end the threats against life, even through it seems the threats grow stronger and even more violent. Those who truly understand the importance of the Prolife movement know that the escalation of violence in our society will only continue to increase until the life and the dignity of ALL human persons is upheld and protected; this is especially true with regards to the life of the unborn person. Violent begets violence and there is nothing more violent than abortion (the dismemberment and the ripping out of unborn baby from its mother’s womb); not to mention, the great wounds and scars it causes to lives of the women and men who participate in it, albeit sometimes desperately.

In light of the ever-increasing violent threats against life, it is easy to become discouraged, easy to lose hope that things will ever change. Our efforts to defend and promote the life and the dignity of every human person can seem to be having no effect. We, like Habakkuk, can want to cry out to God, “Violence, but You do not intervene!”

Today, God doesn’t want us to become discourage by our seemingly lack of success in the pro-life movement, for we see in the readings of today’s Holy Mass the unstoppable power of Faith, Hope and Charity. The prophet Habakkuk, who was so despairing, receives a wonderful vision from God- faith is not without hope. “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” In the end, it is not just that Love will triumph, but that the Love of Jesus will triumph over our culture of violence, over our culture of death!

In this month of pro-life activities, we are reminded as Pope Francis once said, “always have hope in Christ!” Our hope in Christ points, not only of physical life, but to spiritual life as well – to our life in Christ that has the power to transform us; and through us, to transform our culture and world. It is the power, the power of Divine Love, to heal and to save lives, not just earthly lives but more importantly eternal life-souls for all eternity.

By opening our own hearts more fully to His love and mercy, we let Christ dwell in us more powerfully, and we see then more deeply the intricate and unique beauty of each person, made in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the most Precious Blood of Jesus who is God Himself. And through our holiness of life, through our faithful discipleship, others will come to see more deeply this perennial truth as well. They will see the sacredness of every human life, no exceptions.

And so God will surely act, but we need to do our part, for it is God’s desire that we become his faithful disciples. And faithful disciples are those who are His faithful witnesses to the truth about the value and worth of each and every human person no matter their particular situation. And so today, we need to, in an ever-deeper way, ask Our Loving God what He wants from each one of us in order for life to become sacred again in our land.

Allow me to offer some suggestions:
To start with, we can make an effort to come to know our faith better in order to give a more effective witness of our Christian life. We need to know our faith better in order to live it and so witness to it. Too often, we can only think about nourishing our emotions and feelings and fail to do the hard work of continuing to form our intelligence and our conscience by the Teachings of the Church, which are literally the Truth that comes from God. Learning the truth is hard work, and it isn’t always enjoyable, yet, it is vital for us in order to be effective and to bring the light of Christ to the world and to the poor souls who have been affected by it’s darkness.

Better understanding of our faith helps us to defend its unchanging truth and live it more fully in our lives. Our words testifying to the value of all human life do no good if we are not living our lives in witness to this value. This witness is shown in our own marriages and families by our openness and generosity in the number of children we bring into the world, by our practice of the Church’s moral teaching with regards to the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act, by our refusal to use artificial contraception which divides these two essential elements of God’s plan for sex, and by using Natural Family Planning only in cases of serious reason. We have to always keep these two aspects, unitive and procreative, intact. And so, we also show our openness by our refusal to use In-vitro Fertilization, surrogate mothering and other practices, such as homosexual acts and so-called homosexual “marriage” which also go against God’s natural and moral law. The teachings of the Catholic Church give an absolute clear defense of life, but they must, if we are to have life, they must be believed and understood, celebrated, and with the help of God’s grace, lived in our daily lives as a witness to their truthfulness and life-giving-ness. In this we become faithful witnesses to Life!!!

The second thing we can do is to offer acts of atonement and reparation for all crimes against the human person, those just mentioned, as well as for poverty, false accusation and for all forms of murder and violence. We can offer everything we do each day to Jesus in love for Him and for souls. We can make spiritual acts of reparation every day, little acts of love we perform each day to try and repair the damage done by all sins, especially ones so heinous as crimes against the human person.
We can offer our daily sufferings, big or small, in atonement for those who commit the sins against life, crimes that cry out for vengeance before the Almighty God.

This brings up another suggestion on how we can carry out God’s will for us to be effective witnesses to life. And this is by humble heartfelt prayer, especially before He who is Life Itself, Who is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. This type of prayer is essential. It is in our personal time in faith before our Eucharistic Lord that He Himself nourishes and renews our faith and hope, so we can “always hope in Christ;” and it is before Him that we can beg Him who is the Fount of Life and Unfathomable Mercy to envelope the whole world and open Himself out upon us.

Before Jesus truly present in the most Blessed Sacrament, we can beg our Lord for the conversion of all those who desire to destroy life, destroying themselves and our world in the process. It is there that we can bring all that we are and have and offer them to God in supplication for what we need and desire. It is also before Jesus in the tabernacle that we can obtain grace, the grace of conversion to change our sinful world steeped in a culture of death. There we can open our hearts to the Divine Mercy of God in Person, and become instruments of that mercy to others so they too can see the unique beauty of each person; in this, we can be used
to transform our culture to a culture of life.

Before the living Jesus, hidden in the little white host, we can as well call down graces and mercy upon all of those who have been involved in crimes against life in order to shower them with the love of God and the Mercy of God so they can seek the forgiveness of God through their sincere repentance. When was the last time you and your family prayed on hour before Jesus in the tabernacle asking, begging, for an end to the crimes against life in order to destroy our culture and death and turn it into a culture of life?

God in His divine providence has allowed us to be alive at this place in human history, where human persons are thrown away at will. He offers us an opportunity to show Him our faithfulness and love by doing all that we can to end all the crimes against life most especially through our spiritual acts of prayer. This Friday October 7th, is the feast of “Our Lady of the Rosary.” The original title of this feast day was, “Our Lady of Victory.”

The feast of Our Lady of Victory, celebrated the Holy Roman Empire’s great and miraculous naval victory over the vastly superior fleet of the Ottoman Empire. It was one of the most spectacular conflicts in naval history. In this battle known as the Battle of Lepanto, the Christian fleet of the Holy Roman Empire was outnumbered three to one by the Ottoman Empire’s mighty navy; it should have been a complete slaughter. Had the Christians lost they would have lost control of the Mediterranean, and the Turk’s boast that he would make a mosque out of Saint Peter’s Basilica—as his forebears had done with Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia—could have become a definite reality; the stakes couldn’t not have been higher.

The Dominican Pope, Pope St. Pius V, saw the seriousness of the situation clearly and so instructed all the Churches of Italy to pray the rosary as the battle began. Through the faithfulness of so many Christians praying the most powerful spiritual weapon of the Rosary, a miracle occurred which allowed the Christian fleet to win an absolutely impossible battle. The pope, correctly attributing the win to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory the following year, which would eventually be renamed the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.

Our present day battle for life, like the Battle of Lepanto, seems to be against invincible forces. This brings up my final suggestion: In our Pro-life efforts, let us invoke our Lady under her title, “Our Lady of Victory.” The Virgin Mary is described in one biblical verse, “as she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” If enough Catholic Christians would unite in prayer under the banner of our Lady, if the parish church families and individual families of our Country would together pray her Rosary, most especially before the Blessed Sacrament, we would quickly win this present day battle; which by the way, makes the Battle of Lepanto look like children playing in a swimming pool.

We like Pope St. Pius V, need to see clearly the seriousness of our modern day situation and like the faithful of Italy, act decisively with faith; the sakes could not be higher, literally million of souls hang in the balance. In this great modern day battle, which is the battle for life itself, our faithfulness and steadfastness will not decide the outcome of the battle, for battle for life will succeed, but our faithfulness will decide the outcome of the destiny of our country and the eternal destiny of millions and millions of souls.

In the end, the Blessed Mother has promised us that her Immaculate Heart will triumph over our culture of sin and death, and an era of peace will ensue. For the triumph of the Immaculate heart will be a triumph of love, a triumph of love brought about by those faithful sons of daughters of God who pray the rosary with devotion, and wear the brown scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel as a sign of their consecration, that is as a sign of our setting aside, of their hearts and their wills to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with the Chaste Heart of St. Joseph.

Like the prophet Daniel, let us, at this Holy Mass, cry out before the Lord, “We have sinned against you!” We may not be directly responsible for the crimes of our day, but here we can implore God Divine Mercy to forgive these sins by sending His graces of conversion on those who have committed them so that they may be reconciled with God and with the human race. “Eternal Father, I offer to Thee the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, along with the offering of my own heart, body, blood and soul on the paten at this Holy Mass, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”