Friday, August 27, 2010

"Humility is being aware of your self worth but not your self importance"

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time August 29th, 2010

The readings today speak to us about a very important virtue-the virtue of humility. It seems humility is not a very popular thing these days. In fact, I wonder if many view humility more as a vice, that is as a type of weakness; in other words, the more humble we are, the more others will take advantage of us. While it’s true there are many in our world trying to take advantage of us, true humility is not this. Humility is not being a floor mat allowing others to walk all over us; Humility is not a weakness. No, humility is a strength. One priest summed up Humility in this way, "Humility is being aware of your self worth but not your self importance"

Humility is of course, the virtue that opposes pride in our hearts. Humility comes first and foremost with our correct relationship with God and then flows to our correct relationship to others. It is knowing the truth about yourself and about God. Humility recognizes that God is our Creator and Lord, and we not only depend on Him, but we must, if we are to be happy, obey Him, His human representatives and His Laws.

Perhaps to better understand humility we can compare it with its opposite vice, Pride. While humility is the truth, pride is a lie. Pride is disobedience to God, to His Laws, and to those He has placed in authority over us. We can think ourselves above God, that we know better than God.

In pride, we then place ourselves above the teachings of Jesus, which He gives to us without through the Church He founded to proclaim His truth. Pride denies the truth that Jesus gave the Catholic Church His authority and promise to be with Her till the end of time so that we could be sure Her teachings were indeed His teachings, “and the gates of Hell will not destroy her.” Without the Church the "self" becomes the determinant of the truth. Then each person, not God, decides what’s true. In the end this is an act of pride, because it’s a lie. This was the really the temptation in the garden, the devil told the first humans, “you will know the difference between good and evil; in other words, you will be able to choose for yourself what is true and what is false, what is good and evil. Pride leads to disobedience to the truth, so disobedience to God. This is the same temptation the devil still uses against us.

Humility, however, recognizes the truth that God is the only one who determines truth and He has revealed it to us in its fullness through His Son Jesus Christ who is Himself the Truth. He personally founded the Catholic Church on the apostles with Peter as their head to be His audible voice throughout the ages; Jesus gave the truth to the twelve and the authority to teach it; Guided by the Holy Spirit which leads them into all truth, they then passed Jesus’ teachings down through the centuries through their successors, the Bishops.

Humility recognizes the teachings of the Church come from God, not from man, and so man is not free to pick and chose, or change them. Can we question them? Yes. But not question them in the way of denial, but in the way of trying to understand them more deeply, to understand why and how they are true in order that we can live them obediently in our life and so be happy both in this life and in the life to come.
Another manifestation or type of pride is the opposite of the above; it is when we judge ourselves to be below the dignity that God has given to us as His beloved child. This pride is called false humility and it leads us to give up in the struggle to love and follow God by obeying His commands, His human representatives and His teachings. Here again we play God, because just as we are not to judge where another’s soul stands before God, so too we are also not to judge ourselves before God. This type of pride can come out like this, “how could God ever love me, I did this terrible thing and he could never forgive me.” or “The teachings of the Church are too hard, so why even try.” With false humility we look at our weakness more than we look to God for strength to over come them.

In contrast, true Humility recognizes that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done and what we have failed to do; we are all indeed too weak on our own power to live God’s commands; but indeed, we are still loved by God more than we can imagine. He desires to forgive us of any or our failure to live the truth—our sins, if we but truthfully and sorrowfully and humbly ask for His forgiveness by confessing them before His personal representative in the Sacrament of confession and make a firm purpose of amendment to sin no more. God is always ready to give us the strength we need to humbly follow Him if we but, in humility call upon His name through prayer and the Sacraments of His Church, the sources of grace for us.

Speaking of confession. I want to share with you a very special story, which I think is a very good example of humility. Two religious brothers were in Rome to meet personally with John Paul II; they were walking the streets waiting for the time of their own person meeting with his holiness, when they happened upon a homeless man. After talking with this man and sharing with a holy card with him the man revealed to them that he was actually an ex-priest who left the priesthood and was now homeless. The brothers quite saddened by this priest’s plight left the man and met with the Holy Father. They immediately share with him the fact that they had met this homeless priest.

The Holy Father commanded them to immediately go back into the streets, find this man and bring him back to him. They obediently did as they were told and brought this homeless man to the Holy Father. The Holy Father spoke to this man ever so lovingly, ascertaining that he was indeed an ex-priest. The Holy Father then told the two brothers to wait, while he took this priest into another room to talk to him in private. The Holy Father took the man into the room and reached into a pocket of his white cassock and pulled from it a purple stole. He place the purple stole around ……the neck of the homeless priest, knelt down before him, and the Holy Father said, “bless me father for I have sinned.” And then in a moving display of humility and obedience to the priesthood, which the homeless priest later shared with the two brothers, the Holy father, John Paul the second, the vicar of Christ on earth, proceeded to give his confession to this priest of God, who although homeless still maintained his dignity as a child of God, and priest of the Most High, Jesus Christ. Once a priest, always a priest.

The Holy Father showed us, by example, true humility. One of the greatest acts of humility we can perform is when we go to confession in obedience to Jesus command to confess our sins to a priest. There the priest who is acting with the authority and in the person of almighty God, we can truthfully confess our sins, confess that in our pride we have been disobedient to His teachings, the teachings of His Church and disobedient to those he as place in authority over us. We can confess the many times we have failed to give the glory to Him for all our gifts and so claim His glory for our own. In our humility we will then be able to accept His infinite mercy and forgiveness and with the help of His grace amend our lives by living in obedience to His truth so that we may be united to Him more fully in love.

Pride in all of us can be very strong. Just when we think we are not prideful, it is then when pride can be the most powerful in us. Humility is the only antidote to pride. Humility is truth, it is being truthful about ourselves, not only about those things we do wrong, our sins, but also in what we do good through God’s grace. Again, Humility is the truth about God and about ourselves...There is a God and we are not Him!

(((Humility is actually an internal choice we make in the silence of our hearts by adoring God. In the act of adoration, by the help of His grace, we choose to bow ourselves humbly under the hand of the Creator, we choose to submit our wills to His, we choose to die to our self, which is to our self-will, our self-reliance and to our own ideas and opinions; we submit ourselves to God's truth in humility. We are his and we acknowledge our complete dependence upon him. In other words, God helps, not those who help themselves, but only those who realize they absolutely need God’s help and so take the posture of a beggar before Him; but a beggar who is loved infinitely by Him.

In Adoration we bow our hearts, minds, and yes even our bodies, bowing and kneeling before the majesty of the Almighty, all Powerful, and ever-living God. Then, in this position of humility, we offer to God everything we are and everything we have, and entrust it to Our Heavenly Father to take care of it all for us…what could be better than this?

The deeper our adoration of God, the more we realize the truth of our complete dependence on God, the more deeply we grow in our relationship with God & so the more deeply we grow in humility. He who exalts himself shall be humbled, he who humbles himself shall be exalted. In humility we open our hearts more fully to His truth and so live in humble obedience to His Church, her teachings and her representatives all with the help of His grace. )))

Let us turn to the Virgin to help us to be humble. We pray for an increase in the virtue of Humility when we meditate on the First Joyful Mystery, The Annunciation. We see the humility of Our Lady when she gives her yes to God. But even more we see the humility of our God when He condescends Himself to come down from heaven in order to be Conceived in the womb of the Virgin and become man. In His divine Humility Jesus the God-Man is still with us in the Holy Eucharist. Are we too prideful to kneel or even bow down before His true Presence? Through Mary may we like her strive to imitate the divine humility of her Son. Amen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Only the Truth gives peace; only the Truth gives life!

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 22nd, 2010

Today, Jesus seems to be saying to us some very divisive and even intolerant words. He tells us to strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will try to enter and will not succeed.” He says, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!” and “Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth…” Jesus words seem like swords to our modern age of tolerance, disrupting to our apparent peace; after all can't we just get along. But here again, Jesus speaks the truth, the hard truth and yes the sometimes divisive truth.

When hearing the tough truth of the Gospel, we can have the tendency to want to soften it, to remove those things that seem to us to be difficult--divisive or intolerant. Like parents who don’t want to destroy the peace by correcting their children, we can begin to think that to bring people together in peace and unity we should just drop the teachings of the Church that seem to lead to division and a lack of peace. But it never works trying to preserve the peace by denying the truth; Peace is always the fruit of truth.

A good example of this false notion of the preserving the peace and so preserving a false perception of unity has also been seen in the last forty years in the Ecumenical dialogue trying to reunite Christian communities and Churches. After many early successes in ecumenical dialogue after Vatican II, the “spirit of the age” has rendered it for the most part uninspiring and unfruitful. Why? Because too many Christians, especially Catholics involved in the discussions are afraid of offending. “Better to get along.” And so, much of the effort has been in trying to reach the goal of "getting along".

Now, it’s good for us to want to get along, of course; however, the trouble is when getting along is the main goal, many of our significance differences are ironed over and ignored, the fullness of the truth is set aside. Many of our separated brothers and sisters, not to mention Catholics, even priests and religious, have frankly abandoned the full truth of the Gospel for a political correctness, teaching incorrectly for example that abortion and contraception are morally correct or that traditional marriage should be abandoned, and divorce and remarriage, or even so-called homosexual "marriage" should be allowed. More and more Christians are abandoning faith in the Gospels. To try to cover up these grave errors under the umbrella of “getting along, tolerance or inclusivity,” does nothing but lead to a false unity and peace and eventually chaos and destruction...just look at history.

A few years ago there was an instruction that came out from Rome regarding defects in the other Churches. Afterwards, commentators in the news and some Christians condemned Pope Benedict for being divisive and hurting the efforts to “get along” with other Christians. Surprisingly, some of the harshest critics of the Holy Father were so-called Catholic Theologians. However, the Holy Father far from condemning the other Christian communities and Churches was merely stating the truth; that as Catholics we believe that the Fullness of the Truth that Jesus Christ came to bring to the world for our salvation subsist fully only in the Catholic Church and her teachings. He is not saying that other Christians are evil or that they have no truth or that there is no way they can get into heaven, he is only saying that they are missing some of the vital necessary truth that Jesus Christ came to give us in order for us to enter into life. The Holy Father is the universal spiritual father of all souls on earth, Catholic or not; like a good father he is speaking the truth that all God's children need, not only for unity, but for salvation.

To help understand what our Holy Father is saying, and since we have the Eucharistic miracle display in the parish center this weekend after the this Mass, let’s look at another example of one of the teachings that divides us from the other Christian communities, really the main teaching that divides us—the teaching of the Holy Eucharist. Only the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches claim to have the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus; all the other Christian communities believe the Eucharist is merely symbolic or spiritual, but not the true flesh of Jesus and the fullness of His human nature along with the fullness of His divinity.

The Catholic Church however, believes that the Eucharist is not symbolic or spiritual or some kind of co-mingling of Jesus with the bread and wine, but that it is truly Jesus Christ still physically present on earth in His human resurrected body. Even if other Christians claim to believe in the Eucharist in this way, according to Catholic teaching it would not be possible for them to have the Eucharist in this way. Why? Because only the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have and can claim to have apostolic succession.

The divine power to confect the Eucharist was given to the twelve apostles at the Last Supper when Jesus laid His hands on them and ordained them priests and bishops, telling them to do this, “in commemoration of me.” This divine power to make present the sacrifice of Calvary and the true body, blood, soul and divinity was then passed on to the apostle successors also by the Laying on of the hands, known as ordination. Only the Catholic Church and orthodox churches have keep intact Apostolic Succession and so have transmitted through out the centuries that same divine power Jesus gave to his apostles.

Why is this truth important for unity and salvation? Because the only way we can reach the Father is through the Son, and particularly through the human nature of the Son, that is through His Human Body, Blood and Soul. Jesus Human nature is the bridge, the only bridge, that spans the infinite gulf between God and man. The Eucharist is this Human Body, Blood, and Soul of Jesus united to His divinity, and so only through Eucharist can anyone, anyone possibly be saved, “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you will not have life within you.”

You see the truth matters with regards to our eternal salvation, especially the truth of the Eucharist. Only the Person of Christ can save us and, the Eucharist IS the Person of Christ. So, how can we as Catholics possibly say that other Christian faiths who do not have the Eucharist are not defective, how can we in order to just get along, say they are not missing something vital to life?

Only through an honest and straightforward dialogue with other Christian communities about our differences can we ever hope to have unity and peace. Even more, if we love other Christians and even people of other non-Christian faiths, our own children and family members who have left the Church, how can we not want them to have the truth of the Church's moral teachings which give life, how can we not want them to have the truth of the Eucharist, which is not only necessary for salvation, but which is Jesus Christ, God in the flesh still among us, Love itself still among us...

Today, Jesus tells us that only through our acceptance and living the truth will we finally enter into the Kingdom of God in heaven. Jesus makes it clear however, that to accept the full truth of the Gospel is hard, and to conform our lives to it is even harder; it is the narrow way…this is especially the case with regard to the truth of the Church's moral teachings and the truth of the Eucharist. Only by the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and its acceptance in our hearts and living our lives in conformity to the truth with love, will we have unity and peace, within our families, in our parish and with all the other faiths as well. Only the truth will give us life. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Mt 7:14). Holy Mary Mother of all Christians and all people and nations, pray for us. Sweet Heart of Mary be our salvation. Amen.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

We continue today with our theme of prayer and it’s urgency for our lives. Last week a man approached Jesus to settle an argument he was having over the inheritance. Jesus pointed them to what was most important- an intimate relationship with God; nothing is more important than possessing and being possess by the God who is Love. And so, Jesus makes it even clearer to us in our Gospel today- “sell your belongings- for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus tells a couple of parables to give this a true sense of urgency. We are only here on earth to learn how to love, to learn how to love as God loves us so that we might be intimately united with Him here on earth and forever with Him in Heaven. Live is very short, and so is our heart set on Jesus and on an intimate self-sacrificing relationship with Him more than on anything or anyone else? Is our heart set on Him alone or is it divided?
Jesus knows us well and so He starts His words to His disciples and to us with “Do not be afraid.” There is a great temptation- to withdraw from God because we are inordinately afraid, afraid of the unknown, afraid of what it may cost us, afraid of love. And so Jesus asks us a very important question today- are we ready? Have we really taken the time to examine our readiness? Are we truly, truly ready to meet him when we die, do we love Him enough now to want to spend an eternity intimately united with Him, and so if He came to us tonight would we really want and desire to go with Him?
Sadly, most souls live their lives in denial of the reality of death, after all how seldom we hear of the four last things, that is death, judgment, heaven and hell, in our day. Some even naively and ignorantly believe that everyone goes to heaven, even though many there are who do not love Jesus with their whole heart, soul and mind. How can anyone possibly spend forever intimately united with Jesus in love, if they have not have not had an intimate relationship with Him here on earth. Is their denial of death really a type of fear resulting from their failure to love Jesus?
Last week I shared with you a story a priest I know told me. This same priest told me a story of a man in his parish who happened to be rather obnoxious during Mass one Sunday. During his homily, which was about being prepared for death by loving God now, this person caught the priest attention because he talked with his neighbor throughout the whole homily and laughed in mockery at the message of the priest as he did so. He came up to receive Jesus at Holy Communion with the same mocking attitude smiling, really more like sneering at the priest. That night the priest was called to anoint this person. He had electrocuted himself with a hair dryer. He was dead. Was this person ready to die?
Another priest friend told me the story of another man. This man tried to live his Christian life with much fervor out of love for Jesus. Two of his sons became priests. After the death of his wife, he joined his sons in the monastery. On Christmas day, he was at Mass. He received Holy Communion and returned to his pew for his thanksgiving prayer to tell the Jesus truly present in soul how much he loved Him. He died right in the pew with Jesus still bodily present in his soul. Who of these two was really ready to die? )
So then how do we know that we are ready? Well, Jesus gives us clues to the answer to this question in the first part of the Gospel today. First, Jesus tells us we should not be afraid, fear is a sign that we are not ready. We heard these words of Jesus repeated by our last Holy Father immediately after he was elected Pope—“Be not afraid!” John Paul knew then and we too know now that we truly live in a world of fear. We have much to fear in our day and with good reason. Everything from crime to war, economic woes to terrorist attacks blanket the newspapers and television today. What will happen next? This fear touches our lives very deeply, whether we want to admit it or not—“what will happen to our families, our children?” It is very easy to fall into despair, overwhelmed by feeling afraid. It is true that we need to be cautious because of the very real danger we face, yet we cannot have the dread of this fear dominate and control our lives and take our trust in God away.
So too when we hear the seriousness of the words of Jesus spoken directly to each one of us today, they are serious words, words warning us to be ready to meet him. Upon hearing these words we can become even more fearful. We fear not being ready to met Christ--We fear the judgment day. Fear of Judgment can actually be a good thing because it can knock souls out of their complacency and turn them back to God saying, “I am sorry because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.” Some don’t want to face this fear so they never think about our death, after all they think it’s along time down the road, we have plenty of time. And so they refuse to repent, refuse to rid their lives of those actions or things that keep them from an intimate relationship with Christ. Others develop an irrational fear, one that takes them away from God who they think is ready to strike them with a lighting bolt from heaven.
A good fear of judgment however, is a sincere and reverential feeling that a person experiences before the tremendous majesty of God, especially when he reflects upon his own infidelity and the danger of being "found wanting" (Dan 5:27) at the eternal judgment which no one can escape. The believer goes and places himself before God with a "contrite spirit" and a "humbled heart" (cf. Ps 50 [51] :19), knowing well that he must await his own salvation "with fear and trembling" Jesus however desires us to even rise above this type of reverential fear. He wants us to fear, not so much hell, but instead fear offending him because we love Him more than we love ourselves…I am sorry most of all because by my sins I have crucified you my loving savior and offend Thy infinite mercy.
Jesus desires our salvation because he loves us so much, he wants us to fear hell, but only because it would be an eternity away from intimacy with Him. Jesus wants us to know that united with Him in Love we have nothing to fear in this life or in the life to come; with Jesus there is no fear only love, without Jesus fear dominates and controls our lives. For this very reason Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist.
In the Eucharist He is intimately with us to ease our fears by helping us to become prepared for anything this world has to offer by growing in our love for Him and for our neighbor. But we for our part must receive Him with faith, with trust and with great love for Him to be able to work in our hearts, to rid our hearts of our hearts of all fear and fill them with His love instead. And so to the degree we love and believe in Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the degree we will be ready to meet Him when He comes for us. The more we love and believe in His true present there the less we will fear.
Through the grace of the Eucharist, which comes to us through our faith and love in Him, we will live in union with God’s Holy Will, trusting in His divine mercy by actively seeking his forgiveness for our sins, especially in confession. We will no longer live lives of dreadful fear, but lives of Holy fear, fear in which we love our God so much, we would never purposely chose anything, anything that would displease him. Then instead of being full of fear of death, we will actually begin to long for our last day on this earth in order that we can finally be with our beloved Jesus, united fully to Him, and with Him to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Let us ask in today’s Mass ask for our Blessed Mother to obtain for us from the Holy Spirit the gift of Holy fear to move us to a stronger love for Jesus. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to slowly but surely, take away all the other treasures we hold on to, particularly the treasure of our own wills and sin so that for us our only treasure is to by one with Jesus and His Sacred Heart truly present in the Holy Eucharist. And where our treasure is, so to will our heart be. Amen. God Bless you.