Saturday, September 25, 2010

We are called to be Minsters of God's Love.

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Sept. 26th, 2010

Today we hear what lies at the very heart of being a faithful loving disciple of Jesus Christ, “What ever you did to the least of my brethren you did unto me and whatever you failed to do unto the least of my brethren you failed to do unto me.” In this we discover that the great sin of the rich man in today’s Gospel, was not that he was rich, for nowhere in the scriptures does Jesus condemn the mere possession of earthly goods as such, but that the rich man failed to use his riches to help another in need. Jesus harshly condemns all those who use their earthly goods in a selfish way. And so, the rich man was condemned because he failed to even take notice of the poor man Lazarus, who was definitely in need.

The rich man probably did nothing wrong as he amassed his fortune. He most likely wasn’t responsible for the wretched poverty of Lazarus, at least not in any direct way. And as far as we know, he didn’t take advantage of the situation to exploit Lazarus. Nevertheless, the rich man had a definite lifestyle. It might be summed up with the words, “he feasted magnificently.” In other words, he lived a mediocre life, spiritually speaking, by living solely for himself as if there was no judgment after death, no heaven or hell. He had completely forgotten the fact that we are not owners of what we have, but only administrators.

The rich man in the Gospel did not know how to use and share what God had blessed him with. The great St. Augustine, commenting on this parable, said that, “Lazarus was not received into heaven because he was poor, but because he was humble. And wealth itself was not what kept the rich man from eternal bliss. His punishment was for selfishness and disloyalty.”

The sadness of this story is even more increased when we realized that the rich man knew Lazarus by name and still did nothing. We know he knew Lazarus by name for the rich man tells Abraham to send “Lazarus” to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue. And he begs Abraham to send “Lazarus” to his father's house and to his five brothers, so that “Lazarus” may warn them, lest they too come to his place of torment.

Each one of us needs to have this parable of the rich man and Lazarus present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Too often, sadly, it is only when we are in need, that our faith and trust in God and concern about our eternal salvation become the most important things in our lives; yet, paradoxically, when we have enough and more than enough and are lying in our comfort, we can become as the book of Amos says, complacent. In our complacency the last thing on our mind is our eternal salvation, not to mention the salvation of our neighbor…God himself becomes a mere afterthought. It seems the more we have, the more selfish we can become, and so the more our poor brother and sister become forgotten.

Christ however, doesn't call us to mediocrity; He wants our love, all of it. He wants us. And He demands from us, as a matter of love, openness to our brothers and sisters in need, whoever they may be. Whether they be materially rich or poor, economically advantaged or disadvantaged, whether they are the affluent of society or the most vulnerable in our society such as the unborn, the disabled, the sick and the elderly; no matter the case, we are to look to their needs in order to show our love for God and our faithfulness to Him. This brings up a most important point. There is a group of people that we are to care for even more than those just mentioned, people that we need to “feed” most of all. Who are they?

Mother Theresa, champion of the poor, gives us the answer. She said that the poorest souls she ever encountered, even more so than poor in Calcutta, were souls within the affluent countries of the world including these very United States. While most of these souls here don’t lack material goods (in fact most are quite wealthy materially speaking) what they do lack is something much greater and that is lack of knowledge of the Love of Jesus Christ. They have tried to replace the love of Jesus with love for the things of this world and so are starving for His love. For her, these are the poorest of the poor.

Everyone is looking for love, but so many don't know where to find the source of authentic love. The only source of Authentic love is Jesus Christ. Our greatest mission as believing Catholics is to bring Christ's love and so his truth, to those who are starving for it, many of whom don’t even know it. We must love them for love of God. We are to bring his love to all our poor brothers and sisters, whether they be materially poor or rich and in doing so bring them to Jesus. In this we really care for them and for their salvation and tend to our own salvation as well. Everything we are and everything we possess, even our very lives, are to be used to help others get to heaven that is if we ourselves are to make it.

But before we can bring Jesus’ love to the poor and lead the poor to Him, we must first discover the source of the living water of God's love and draw near in order to quench our own great thirst for God's love. And the source is of this living water is the Holy Eucharist-the very person of Jesus, who is the Love of the Father.

Mother Theresa once said to her sisters, “We can’t bring Jesus and His love to others if we don’t first recognize that Jesus is truly present among us in the Holy Eucharist.” And she told her sisters, that we can’t lead others to the love of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist unless we ourselves first come in contact with Him there—frequently, drawing from His Eucharistic Heart the living waters of His love, and returning to Him the gift of our love, the gift of our self. Once we realize through faith that the Eucharist is Jesus, is God the very source of all love, then we will realize as did Mother Theresa and all the saints, that the truly poor of this world, the poorest of the poor, are those who do not know the love of Jesus and that this love is available in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

The rich man knew Lazarus by name, and yet he did not give Him food. We too know so many modern day Lazarus’ by name; they may bear the name of our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children, co-workers and friends; Lazarus’ that do not know the truth that the food for which they are starving for is the food of the Holy Eucharist which is the very Love of God the Father.

The Eucharist is by far the greatest of all riches. Because we have the Eucharist, we are really the richest of rich men. As a result we just can’t allow ourselves to be like the rich man in the Gospel and live a mediocre live. We can't fail to give the Lazarus’ of our lives what they need most in this world the Love of God. We must bring them this Love of God, God Himself alive in our hearts because we have become one with Him through our Belief, adoration, hope and love of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The truly poor of this world, those who don't know God's love, must experience Jesus and His love alive in us. We are called to be faithful disciples, that is...Ministers of God's Love.

Once again, this is why we must as faithful disciples of our Lord support our Parish family and its mission of not only leading its families to holiness and so to heaven. We begin to fulfill this great mission by our sacrificial gift of our time, talent and treasure. But not only for ourselves and families' own spiritual well being, but so that we can faithful to the other part of our mission as a Parish family, which is to bring the love and truth of Christ, we receive in the Holy Eucharist, out into our world, and share with others, through our holiness of life. We are to be other Christ's not only to one another but to all we come into contact with in our daily lives.

At this Holy Mass, which is the Sacrament of Charity, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who is Mother of all the poor, to pray for us and help us to more fully accept in faith, God’s gift of the Holy Eucharist. Blessed Mother, help us to realize that because we have Jesus in the Holy Eucharist we are truly the richest of the rich. Feeding on this Sacrament of Charity at the Holy Mass, help us to first love Jesus over and above all things by offering ourselves fully and completely to Him. And then, being filled with the richness of His love, help us to share His love with the truly poor around us, whoever they may be, leading them to feed as well on the feast of God’s love, the Wedding feast of the Lamb, in which Jesus the Bridegroom gives Himself as our food in order to be one with us; He living in us and we in Him. Amen.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

We must do everything for God’s glory and for the salvation of souls—“Even in eating and drinking do everything for God’s glory.”

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 19th, 2010

Today, Jesus keeps on the theme of faithful discipleship. He tells us a very interesting parable about a dishonest steward; however the situation is not so cut and dry. Our Lord here isn’t necessarily condoning the steward’s behavior; He is however, emphasizing and praising the steward’s shrewdness and effort; the steward tries to derive maximum material advantage from his “soon to be” former position as steward.

Let’s take a closer look in order to see more clearly just how shrewd was this unfaithful steward.

In the ancient Greco- Roman world, the rich man was most likely an absentee landowner, who owned the land as a business. He was most likely a foreigner from a country who had conquered the land he now owned. These foreign landowners would make loans to the local conquered people in order to make money off of them, charging them exorbitant interest, such as large measures of oil or wheat. The people basically had to pay to work the very land that used to be their own, becoming debtors in the process.

The steward’s job then was to make as much money for the landowner as possible, no matter what it took. So this steward in our Gospel was probably guilty of not exacting a great enough interest on the people in order to maximize profits. Because usury, that is interest on loans, was forbidden in the Jewish Law, this steward was in reality actually dealing somewhat fairly with the local people; this is probably what got him trouble.

The news of his leniency would have, of course, made it to the ears of the unjust landowner and infuriated him. In order to secure his profits, the landowner would come and remove the steward in order to replace him with someone who would maximize the profits by more effectively oppressing the poor borrowers with unjustifiably high interest. The steward knew then that he was about to lose his job and so he went around discounting even more the amount owed. In this way he was prudent and wise- both for trying to not exact high usury in the first place, and then for trying to gain even more friends who he would need when he was out of a job.

The people who listened to Jesus in today’s Gospel would have understood Him well; They were really in the same situation as the steward and the debtors of the parable, because they were a conquered people, conquered by the Roman’s who occupied their country. They would have sympathized with the steward because he was treated in an unjust way; after all he was just looking out for himself and his family. They would also have understood why the landowner recognized the shrewdness of the steward.

Jesus then addresses this crowd. He knew the thoughts of their hearts. It would seem that many of them would have actually have liked to be the rich landowner. In their desire, they had avarice in their hearts that is, a sinful desire and love for wealth. Perhaps, there were some that were even trying to justify their own unjust dealings with others. Either way, they had their hearts set on wealth as an end in itself; they thought the sole purpose in this life was to use one’s talents to obtain material goods and comforts. They wanted to be freed from Rome’s rule over them; however, not in order to serve God and neighbor more freely, but instead to be able to obtain more material goods and so live the good life of pleasure, comfort and ease. In other words, they wanted to use their freedom for themselves. In this, they were the dishonest servants because they failed to see that their refusal to serve God and neighbor in love, is the worst kind of slavery.

Jesus reminds the people and us, that we must serve God and neighbor with the gifts that come from God. He is pointing out that His gifts are not ends in themselves and that we are not to make them our end goal, or our gods. We are to use them primarily for God’s purposes in loving service to Him the giver of the gifts. This proper use of our gifts from God in service to Him has both a material and spiritual aspect. On the material side, we should use our resources to care for the poor, by working to bring about peace and justice in our society...this begins first of all in our parish family, for charity-love, begins at home and flows out to the wider community. On the spiritual side, we have to make a heroic effort to love and serve God totally and absolutely so that we can eventually be with Him for ever; then because we love God, we are to love and serve our neighbor, helping them to love God and be with Him forever as well...this too begins in our parish family, where we receive what we need to grow in holiness and love in order that we can be used to save others by leading them to God in the Holy Eucharist-Love in Person.

The Lord wants us to make as our primary concern, our growth in intimacy and friendship with him, better known as holiness and sanctity. And then in sanctity and holiness, living our lives in order to lead others to Him and His love, in order that they may be not only saved but enter into a loving union with Him as well, now and for all eternity. We engage in this service of love, with at least the same level of determination as that with which others engage in worldly concerns. And more, because, if you really think about, nothing on this earth is more important that saving our souls and being used to save the souls of others, both those we love and those of our enemies. All of our talents, all that the Lord as given to us, should be used primarily for this to lead others to the God who is Love.
God has given us all so many gifts and He waits patiently to see what we will do with them. Will we treat them as ends or will we use them as means. “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon." We must serve Him with all our heart, using all that He has given to us, whether it be our treasures, our talents or our time. We must direct everything toward Him: our work, our plans, our leisure, without holding anything back. Even the ordinary mundane duties of everyday life must be done for God, nothing is considered inconsequential.

The faithful steward is not one who lives with his head in the clouds, but the one who loves God and neighbor by struggling to be faithful in the little details of everyday life; it isn’t that He is perfect but that he is, with the help of God’s grace, striving for perfection, the perfection of love…to be perfect as Your Heavenly Father is perfect. Even little things if done for love of God become powerful and useful for our salvation and that of our neighbors; in fact, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” We must do everything for God’s glory and for the salvation of souls—“Even in eating and drinking do everything for God’s glory.” Our every thought, word and action must be directed to the glory of God and the spread of his Kingdom.

Jesus asks us this week to take an honest look at what we do and how we use our time, talent and treasure. Do we hide them and hope that no one will notice us? Do we week after week keep our gifts to ourselves and use all we have selfishly. Do we think, “Well, I really do not have the time to do anything for God or for neighbor, but after all, I do show up for Mass.----And what about the Parish family? Let's examine this more closely. Do I really help out in making our parish family a strong, active and loving place? Or do I just think that it's up to someone else to do it? Do we just take from our parish and not give of ourselves in return.
Because of our parish, our children are baptized, becoming beloved Children of the Father; our Christian Families are born through Holy Matrimony, marriage; our dead are given a Holy Funeral Mass for the repose of their souls and then buried with Christian dignity through the rites of the Church; and, we are given the greatest gift of all, the Holy Mass, which is the source and the summit of all grace, for the Christian life and for the life of the whole world.

In the Holy Mass our God gives us the gift of Himself. How can we not, in return to such a loving God, offer the gift of ourselves to Him in return. Love demands a response; answering this response fulfills the deepest aspirations of the human heart. This gift of ourselves is offered here at Holy Mass by and interior act of our will, in which heart speaks to heart. But then we must live that offering by our lives for others for love of God. This life offering begins with the little things, how we offer ourselves in love for our families, but most especially our parish family. This is shown by our actions, it begins by being faithful to Jesus by being faithful to our parish even in the little things. "The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

Let us then offer everything we have at this Mass, especially ourselves in order to adore and love God. Let us acknowledge our failure in the past to serve Him as we ought; let us thank Him for all the many blessings that He has given to us, especially the blessing of our parish family; and let us ask Him at this source of all graces-the Holy Mass, for the grace and the strength to serve Him single mindedly and faithfully all the days of our lives. Holy Mary, Mother of the servants of God, Pray for us sinners. Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Our sharing in God's search and rescue mission for lost souls is known as the apostolate.

Luke 15: 1-32. Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Sept 12th, 2010
The Parable of the Prodigal Son

The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son are all very familiar to us. The parable of the lost sheep and prodigal son are so popular that you can see in many people’s homes pictures of Jesus with a sheep on his shoulders or the Father receiving the prodigal son. We have read some fairly difficult Gospels the last few weeks on discipleship- topics like humility two weeks ago, and last week's taking up your cross each day, are not easy.

Certainly, many of us have tried to respond anew, and with greater intensity to Jesus’ call and have started to put into practice what he asks- like giving God the first part of our day and making an act of adoration the first thing we do in our day. Perhaps you made a resolution to do this, and low and behold, you missed a couple of mornings. It is certainly hard to develop new habits or virtues, and we can easily become discouraged and disheartened. Even though in our hearts we long to follow Christ fully and to do the right thing, we know we are very weak and live in world where it is so very difficult. And so, it’s really easy to become discouraged in our efforts and say, “Oh, what’s the use- I’ll never get this right!”

Well today, through the readings, God speaks to our discouragement. He desires to help us to be faithful in our desire to be good and faithful disciples. He wants us to know that he is merciful God, a God who is patient and kind. He is a generous and understanding God; quick to forgive those who are contrite of heart. He is a God who never keeps score or tallies our iniquities. No, He is not a scorekeeper but a promise keeper. Being well aware of our human weakness, He prefers not to condemn us; after all He has presented us with his greatest gift imaginable, the gift of His only Son for forgiveness of our sins. Our reception of this forgiveness by our repentance and the sincere confession of our sins is the cause of true freedom and the cause of great rejoicing in heaven.

In each of the parables in the Gospel today, the central figure is God Himself. He is God who is on a search and rescue mission. A God who does everything He can to recover those of His children who have succumbed to temptation and so separated themselves from Him.

God is the Good Shepherd who misses the sheep gone astray by sin, seeks him out in order to bring him back to the fold. Once he has found it, He carries it on His shoulder since it is trembling and weak from its disobedience and the great burden of its sins. God also seeks us, similar to the actions of a woman who having lost a coin of great value, lights a lamp and searches the whole house diligently and patiently until it is found. As well, God is seen as a loving father who longs for the return of His son, going out daily, scanning the horizon to see if His son is coming so that as a Father He can run to His son and throw His arms around him and cover him with kisses.

These beautiful images of God are given to us to encourage us in our struggles, but at the same time they are given to us as an example to follow in our discipleship. They let us know that discipleship involves taking into our hearts the qualities of God himself. We are to have a merciful, forgiving heart who like God desires that none be lost, that all be found and saved.

If we are to take on the qualities of the Father's heart, true discipleship then, includes a sharing in God’s own mission, which is a search and rescue mission. It is a sharing in the mission through the Sacred Heart of the Son in finding the lost sheep and bringing them back into the one fold.

The second Vatican council applies the image of the Good Shepherd especially to priest when it states: “They should be mindful that by their daily conduct and solicitude they display the reality of a truly priestly and pastoral ministry both to believers and unbelievers alike, to Catholics and non-Catholics; that they are bound to bear witness before all men of the Truth and of the Life, and as good shepherds seek after those too who, whilst having been baptized in the Catholic Church, have given up the practice of the sacraments, or even fallen away from the faith.”

But the second Vatican council doesn’t limit this rescue mission merely to priests. It reminds us that we have all been the lost sheep at some time in our lives. And because we have all been searched for and found by the mercy of our God, we are now all call to imitate God in His search and rescue mission by answering the call to discipleship from our Lord. With full, active, conscious and fruitful participation we are to seek out the lost and rescue them by our lives of holiness bringing them the light, love and live of Christ alive in us.

Our sharing in God's search and rescue mission for lost souls is known as the apostolate. This is what Vatican II said is the true role of the laity. And this role of yours begins and has its source and summit here at Holy Mass. All of us are called to take a full, active, conscious, fruitful participation in the Sacred Liturgy of the Holy Mass. What does these mean? We are to participate with mind, heart, body and soul, with our whole being in the once and for all offering of Jesus Christ the High Priest to the Father made truly present here. How do we do this? By placing our self as a victim on the paten as an offering to God the Father, so that along with the bread that will be change in to the Divine Victim, the very Person of Jesus, His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, we too will be transformed, changed through holiness into another Christ for the renewal of the world.

Here at Mass all of us are to understand (conscious participation) that we are to offer ourselves, both as individuals and as a parish family, by an interior act of our will, to the Father, in union with the Son, by the Power of the Holy Spirit. In this act of sacrificing of ourselves to God, (again not to be destroyed, but to be one with Christ, the body united to the head), we offer the Father perfect praise and adoration in Christ. We then become more and more in union with God, one with God, and are transformed more and more into His image and likeness and become, not just channels of grace for the world, but reservoirs overflowing with grace for the world.

In other words, we become divinized, we become "other Christ's, active and full members of His mystical body," who take what we have been given, literally the love of God, God Himself alive in our hearts, out into our world to the lost and forsaken sheep.

The truth is, is that it is only the Holy Mass, which is the action of the Head, Jesus Christ in union with His body, all of us and the Church around the world, that can save our world and the souls in it. The Holy Mass is the source of all, all the graces which come into the world. But this grace must flow out into the world through us, through our lives of holiness and faithful discipleship. This is the universal call to holiness. Holiness is not just for ourselves, but it is the means by which God desires to seek and rescue and so to save lost souls.

In the Holy Mass, through the Son in the Holy Eucharist, the Father embraces each of us in love and covers us with His kisses; but then He calls us to go out and bring other sheep to Him, here at the Holy Mass, so He can embrace them as well with His divine love and life. And then, because our brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'" we will with him celebrate and rejoice here, in praise of our God, at this sacred feast, the Holy Mass in which heaven and earth unite, eternity breaks into time, and Man begins to share already in that for which he was created, in the Oneness, in the Love, in the very Being of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the glory of God and man fully alive.

Holy Mary, Mother of the lost and forsaken, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Help us to become one with your Son and lead others to share in the oneness of love.