Saturday, January 29, 2011

Just as nothing on earth can give us the happiness that every man seeks, if we are united to God nothing can rob us of it

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. January 30th, 2011

Today in our Holy Gospel we hear the teaching of the Beatitudes from our Blessed Lord. The Beatitudes are the very conditions Jesus lays down for entering the Kingdom of heaven. The Beatitudes take the negatives commands of the Ten Commandments-“Thou shall nots,” and they elevate and present these demands of Jesus on his followers in a positive way, “Blessed are they who do these things.” For the fullness of love of God consist not merely avoiding things, like sin but in doing things, in backing up our words of love with deeds of love.

The Beatitudes are a promise of salvation that extends, not to just to particular kinds of persons, such as the poor or rich, but to everyone whose religious dispositions of heart and moral conduct meet these great demands of Jesus. In other words, salvation is promised to all of those who are poor in spirit, who are meek, who mourn, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, are merciful, pure in heart, are peacemakers and those who suffer in their search for holiness. And so these differing demands of the Beatitudes cover everyone, no matter what their position in life might be, every one who wants to be a true disciple of Christ and inherit His promise of Salvation, which is union with God forever.

Last week I spent the weekend with the youth in Washington D.C. at the March for Life; An event that I wish you could all experience. This event and others like it, remind us how our love for Jesus must move us to protect and defend and witness publicly to the dignity of human life from conception until natural death. And beg out Lord in the Holy Eucharist for the graces of conversion of our country and our world. Only when more Catholics do these acts of love will we defeat the culture of death, and turn it into a culture of life, a culture at peace, where we are all truly blessed.

Perhaps, we can better understand the Beatitudes if we compare them to the corresponding attitudes currently found within the culture of death, which is sadly so prevalent in our world today.

1) Where Christ advocates poverty-being poor in spirit, the culture of death in the world despises the poor, not just the physically poor but also especially the spiritually poor; and instead it canonizes those who are rich and famous, movie stars, politicians and sports figures, no matter how they live their lives.

2) Where Christ praises gentleness always seeking the good of others by serving instead of being served, the world belittles meekness and extols those who succeed by using or removing anyone, even through murder, that stands in the way; using people as means to get what they want; Non-Servium! I will not serve.

3) Blessed are those who mourn:--Where Christ encourages mourning and sorrow for our sin and penance as a way to atone for sin in order to show God we are sorry.-- the world instead revels in pleasure, comfort and the noise of empty laughter. The world here refuses to see the suffering in this world as a consequence of sin and refuses to repent of its crimes, seeking forgiveness and the grace to amend one’s life.

4). Where Christ promises true Joy only to those who seek justice and peace by seeking holiness, that is those who accept the truth and strive to conform their lives to it, the world and it’s culture of death offers satisfaction in the enjoyment and pleasure of sin and so living one’s life in accordance to lies.

5) Where Christ bids us forgive and show mercy to those who have offended us, to forgive just has the Heavenly Father does to our offenses when we ask for forgiveness; the world for it’s part will not let go of the past, it seeks vengeance, and its law courts are filled with demands for retribution.

6) Where Christ blesses those who are pure of heart and promises that they alone shall see God, the world scoffs at chastity, makes a mockery of purity and makes a god of sexually immorality.

7) Where Christ tells the peaceful that they shall be rewarded, the world teaches just the opposite in constant rebellion, disobedience, violence and massive preparation for war.

8). Where Christ teaches the incredible doctrine of accepting persecution and resignation to God’s Holy Will. The world dreads nothing more than criticism, rejection and loss of human respect, which means acceptance by society and one’s peers is the moral norm without any concern for what God thinks.
In all of this we come to understand that striving with the help of God’s grace to live the Beatitudes is the only way to sanctity, happiness and life. The Beatitudes are Jesus’ promise that there will be no obstacle to happiness and joy for those who truly seek to follow Him, not just in sweet words but most especially in deeds. He says to us, even if men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account, instead of sorrow, rejoice and be glad, your reward will be great in heaven.

Just as nothing on earth can give us the happiness that every man seeks, if we are united to God nothing can rob us of it. Our happiness and our fulfillment come from God alone, the God who became man to share in our in our existence, to share in both the happy and sad moments of our life. One saint put it this way, “Oh you who feel the weight of the cross bear more heavily on you! You who are poor and forsaken, you who mourn, who are persecuted for the cause of justice, you who pass silently by, who suffer pain unknown to others, take heart---You are the best loved in God’s kingdom, the kingdom of hope, of goodness and of life. You are brothers of the suffering Christ, and together with him, if you wish, you can save the world.”

When in our search for happiness we men attempt to follow other ways, other than those willed by God—other than those marked out by the master, we instead find only loneliness and sadness. In other words, apart from God and His ways, there is no lasting happiness, but only loneness and death, the source of our current culture of death. Contrastingly, those who trust in God and humbly pray to Him especially during times of despair and anguish move His divine heart to compassion—God then accompanies them in every instant of their lives.

Even in times of great distress, natural disasters and wars, the person that turns to God’s ways and walks humbly in His paths of righteousness, discovers the loving face of God before him. Before God’s continence this man joyfully discover that God never abandons those who love Him, but guarantees that, notwithstanding trials and tribulations, in the end good always triumphs over evil, life over death; in other words all things work out for the best, for those who love God.

Holy Mary, Mother of the beatitudes, at the end of our life, we will be judged on our love, pray for us so that we may be blessed in the eyes of your Son and receive the reward of eternal life. Help us in faith to see the source of our eternal happiness and so our eternal beatitude is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. You told us at Fatima that by coming on bended knee before this God hidden in the little with host, and adoring and loving Him there we could bring peace upon the earth. So help us dear Lady, to live your Message of Fatima, which is the message of the Gospel, all the days of our life, and so turn our culture of death into a culture of life by praying for the conversion of poor sinners everywhere, those in our own homes and in our own families, most especially that sinner who looks at us each morning in the mirror. Amen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This Weekend I am in D.C. for the March for Life. Below, In place of a homily, I thought I'd share my bulletin Article for this weekend.

My dear parish family,

As you read this bulletin article this Sunday, I will be with the youth from our parish participating in the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. You will undoubtedly hear very little about the March on T.V. And this very limited coverage is always quite bias. Sadly, last years coverage on the major media networks was nothing more than a travesty.

Sadly this year will probably be no different. You will hear very little about the March. Or the media will cover only the small, very small group of Anti-lifers (they are called by the Media, Pro-Choice or Abortion right proponents, while the pro-lifers are called anti-choice or abortion right opponents. A man being trained to write for a local newspaper told me just the other day that he was instructed to write with this language when referring to the pro-life moment. He was told basically to use negative language when referring to the pro-life movement and positive language when referring to the anti-life movement). In fact, last year one couldn’t find any pro-death supporters. However, even so the media was able (and they really had to look) to find one small group of them (about six of them). Even so, the picture of this small group holding pro-death signs were plastered on the front page of many newspapers and magazines across the country with no accompanying picture of the more than 350, 000 pro-lifers that were marching. Why doesn’t the media have the courage to cover this annual event honestly?

I wish everyone had the opportunity to march in the PRO_LIFE crowd, of mostly young energetic and joyful people. One media outlet said last year that the crowd was made up of mostly people over the age of sixty and that in a couple decades all them will be dead. Another said that what was obviously missing from the “protesters” were young women. While I was there, and any one in our group can tell you, that the majority of the participants where not over 60, but under 30 (and probably under 20). And, there where more teenage girls and young woman than any other demographic group present at the march. Why does the media have to lie? What are they afraid of? LIFE???

It is interesting that during the Civil Rights time in the 60's the media covered "the largest march in history" when Dr. M.L. King spoke his famous speech. It was the biggest media blitz ever. There were only 250,000 there. Yet, at the Pro-Life march on Washington last year over 350,000 people were there but no media cameras and not a word on TV news? One media outlet showed a picture of a sparse crowd taken either way before the march began or after many of the marchers had dispersed.

Please keep our young people in your prayers as they courageously and publically stand up for life. Also watch the coverage on EWTN if you want to get a true picture of this momentous event that takes place every year, and yet is ignored for the most part, or given mere lip service by the media and our government. Eventually, the Pro-life movement will when if not simply by attraction. The pro-deathers are either killing their babies or avoiding them by contracepting; while the pro-lifers are allowing all of their children to live and are remaining open to all the life, the babies, the human persons, that God wishes to bless them with. However, how many souls will be lost in the meantime until the culture of death dies?

We are on the side of life and so we are on the winning team!!! Let us pray and do penance that every single Human person would be defended and protected from conception to natural death. Let us especially spend time before LIFE Himself, Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist, begging Him to convert our current culture of death into a culture of life and holiness.

*I want to share with you a response of Cardinal Canizares Llovera when He was ask about the connection between life and Belief, adoration, hope and love for the Holy Eucharist. The Cardinal began by saying, “ There is no doubt about the connection.”

He went on to say, “To recognise what is the Eucharist is to recognise Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of God that became man. Christ is the most absolute 'yes' of God to man. He is the revelation of God and the revelation of the truth about man. Man cannot be separated from God; man was created in the image and likeness of God.

In creation, God manifests Himself as love in favour of man. In His Son, the true image of the Father, we have been created in the image of the Son. For that reason, all human beings have a greatness and a dignity that cannot be separated or violated.
Jesus Christ shows the face of God that loves man to the utter extremes. The biggest demonstration of this love of Jesus for Man is seen on the cross, dying for man. But this love could not be destroyed or chained by death. It has triumphed over death. The love of Jesus, Son of God, brought to an extreme on the cross, shows how all men are loved by God with a love from which nothing and no one can separate us. Each man has been saved or repurchased by the blood of Christ, which is the blood of God. This is how much every human being is worth, the blood of God.

For that reason, between the Eucharist and the defence of life there is a link that cannot be separated. To live the Eucharist, is to enter in communion with Jesus Christ and as a consequence with His love. This is a communion of life and makes us participate in the life, which is Christ. Divine life, eternal life, but at the same time it makes us be givers or carriers of love and defenders of life.

If the Christians would live all that the Eucharist means, we would be defenders of life in every moment. (My emphasis !!!)

Formerly Archbishop of Toledo, Spain, Cardinal CaƱizares is the current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, that has competence over the way in which Mass is celebrated throughout the world. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Our Lady of Fatima showed the three children hell and told them that in our age souls where falling into it like snowflakes.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. January 16th, 2011.

Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We recalled that Baptism is one of God's most beautiful and magnificent gifts because it is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives us access to the other sacraments. This is why baptism is necessary for salvation.

Today we begin ordinary time with the same event, but this time from the Gospel of St. John. The Church has done this quite deliberately—to get our attention on how important Baptism really is. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons and daughters of the all mighty and every living God. By our baptismal grace we become members of the family of the Most Blessed Trinity; and we become members of Christ, are incorporated into His Mystical body the Church, are made sharers in the Church’s mission of the salvation of souls, and we incredibly actually become partakers of the Divine Nature of God.

With the joy of Christmas still fresh in our minds and hearts, last week we also spoke about being faithful to our baptismal graces. The eternal life we all received at our baptism will remain ours only if are faithful and obedient to these graces by being faithful to the Catholic Church and her teachings. God’s promise to us will remain valid for us, in other words, if we bring the purity of our baptismal souls, unstained to that day when we stand face to face with Jesus our redeemer--the day of our judgment, the most important day of our life.

If this is all so, and it is, then we should often reflect on our own faithfulness to our baptism. This week let us take a deeper look at our faithfulness by asking ourselves some very important questions. First, have we been faithful to the graces we have received at our baptism? In what ways have we not been faithful? Have we in the sacrament of confession frequently asked our God for forgiveness for these sins and with the help of His grace repented of them and struggled to amend, that is change our lives for the better?

These questions remind us that losing the gift of our eternal life is really the only thing in this life that we should ever fear because it is to be separated from God forever in the pains of hell. Yes, to live out or not to live out our Baptismal graces each and every day has major consequences, even eternal ones. We cannot be lulled into thinking that once we are baptized, we are automatically going to enjoy heaven for eternity. For by being unfaithful we show our rejection of God, we make our choice against Him and He will not interfere with our free choice.

I recently read an article in Homiletic and Pastoral review, a very reputable Catholic magazine. The article spoke about the denial of many of the possibility of ever losing the gift of eternal life. This article pointed out that there are many Catholics that don’t so much deny the existence of hell, but they deny that there are any human beings there or that any human beings can go there. To put the matter in another way, many Catholics now believe that every one is saved, that all go to heaven. This belief is often referred to as “universalism”; perhaps we could call it “salvation universalism.” Either way the Church from the beginning has condemned it.

This article went on to point out that ideas have consequences in peoples lives and in our world. Catholics who think that no one will go to hell will ultimately have a lax view of morality. As a result they will not work out their salvation with fear and trembling and they will definitely not be concerned about converting non-believers to the Catholic faith. For if all are saved, what does it matter what you do, why confess your sins, do penance and amend your life--why pray, do penance and sacrifice for those who are apart from God and His Church. The truth is however that this is not being faithful to our baptismal graces, and it is not fulfilling our part in the Mission of the Church to cooperate in the salvation of souls.

If a Catholic, or anyone else for that matter, thinks that no one is in hell and that no one will go there, it will have a profound effect on his view of morality and the Ten Commandments and so will effect how he lives his life. All of us are subject to temptations, and a strong and good motive for resisting temptations to lust, envy, revenge, theft, etc is the fear of going to hell. Our blessed Lord actually mentions Hell in the Gospels at least 30 times; there are only a few things he mentions more often. St Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises recommends the fear of hell as a good motive for avoiding sin, if one’s love for God is not strong enough to resist temptation. Also the existence of Hell is a unanimous teaching of all the early Church Fathers. While the Church has never definitively said that a certain person is in hell, she as definitively stated that are souls right now in hell. The Church teaches infallibly, that is with the authority of God Himself, that the souls of those who die in personal grievous sin descend immediately into hell, where they will be tormented by the pains of hell—that is the pain caused by eternal separation from our all loving God.”

By the way, Our Lady of Fatima showed the three children hell and told them that in our age souls where falling into it like snowflakes. She said that many souls go to hell because there is no one to pray for them. She then told the children to pray much for sinners, to fast and do penance for the conversion of poor sinners. She also pointed out that sin, that turning away from God has dire consequences for our whole world. She said, “If mankind does not turn away from its sin and stop offending God who is already grievously offended, the world would descend more and more into hell. Isn’t this happening to our world troubled by so many problems- abortion, promiscuity, divorce, all kinds of discrimination, social injustices, great violence (a member of congress shot in the head, along with ten other injured and six killed including a nine year old girl) terrorism, war and general unhappiness and despair. This is not an accident-the world is more and more rejecting God and it is slowly is being transformed into a “hell”. In the end our Blessed Mother said God would intervene and would if necessary purify the world by fire. In in the end, she said, her Immaculate Heart would triumph, but not before much suffering and misery and loss of life, both physical and eternal.

Let’s look at the issue of Hell practically. If heaven is to spend all eternity in an intimate embrace with the object of our faith, Jesus Christ and through Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit (to be wedded to God), how can anyone expect to enter into this embrace when they have not cultivated an intimate friendship throughout their lives with Jesus by doing what Jesus Himself said one must do be his disciple, his beloved friend? Some believe that they will just repent at the end of their lives and choose Jesus then. But how can one chose Christ at the end of his life, if he has never chosen him throughout His life? This would be like a man saying to a woman, “I never talked to you; I treated you poorly when I spent time with you; I messed around with other women all the time. In my actions I never showed you I loved you, now let’s get married.” Love just doesn’t work that way.

The article in Homiletic and Pastoral review goes on to mention that the notion of universal salvation has invaded the Catholic Church on all levels and that maybe this is one of the main reasons the Church is in such a state of crisis at the present time. It reminded that it is a constant teaching of the Church that Hell exists and that those who die in the state of mortal sin will condemn themselves to hell for all eternity, whether they are catholic or non-catholic.

It is interesting that in many countries, including our own, Catholics are leaving the Church in droves to join Evangelical Churches, which preach regularly about the existence of hell, demons, & Satan. While it is true that many times these Churches don’t speak enough about the mercy of God, is it not also true that maybe these people are leaving because they don’t hear enough about the justice of God in our Catholic Churches and that there are consequences to ourselves, others and our world because of our sins.

By the way, speaking of evangelicals, I once heard an Evangelical preacher on the radio that was reminding his congregation that all of us like to come to church to feel good, to listen and sing to the music, to meet our brother and sister, to embrace them and pray with them. However, He said that sometimes we need to be reminded about things we don’t like to think about or talk about. And then he told them that a fireman would not be much of fireman if he didn’t warn people about fire, or a doctor would not be much of a doctor if he didn’t warn people about disease, and that he as a preacher sure wouldn’t be much of preacher if he didn’t warn his people about hell; nor by the way, would he, would I, be loving them the way we should.

How many loves have been lost because the lover became careless and he neglected and ill treated the one he loved because of complacency, never believing he could ever lose the love of his life? It is not true that we can only realize the great gift of our baptism, if we believe that it is possible for us to lose it if we neglect it? Let us not make that mistake; let us never be complacent in our love for the greatest Lover the world has ever seen, Jesus Christ, who wills all men be saved. Let us beg Him at this Holy Mass for his grace to not only remain faithful, but to become more faithful to the grace of our baptism. Let us beg Him in the Holy Eucharist for his help to believe, adore, hope and love Him more.
God doesn’t want us to love Him just because we fear hell; He wants us to love Him because He is worthy of all our love; He wants us to be saved and spend and eternity of loving bliss within His eternal embrace, a joyful bliss which can begin on this earth; this is why He sent His only Son to die for us in order to be able give us Himself in the Holy Eucharist. But we for our part must chose Him, and we do that by being faithful to Him and to His Holy Catholic Church.

Let us trust in His mercy and His love, by leaving sin behind and turning to Him completely, so that on the day of judgment we may hear those most blessed of all words, “Well done my Good and faithful servant enter now into the joy of your master house.”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jesus was manifested to reveal to us that we are called through our baptism to participate in the Divine life and love of God Himself.

Baptism of the Lord January 9th, 2011

This Sunday, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, marks the end of the Christmas season. It is also the last of the three feasts, which celebrate three manifestations of our Lord, Christmas, Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. And at each of these three manifestation of Jesus there is testimonies given by reliable persons to the fact that Jesus is the invisible God made visible in the flesh; in other words, that Jesus is the Son of the Living God…God Himself become man.

On Christmas, Jesus the mighty one was made manifest in the flesh when he became visible to the entire world as a humble, poor, defenseless little child. This manifestation of God in the flesh was testified by an Angel who said to poor shepherd “for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Then on epiphany, this savior was revealed and manifested as the light of the nations. This was testified by the adoration of the three wise men and their gifts all of which pointed to the divinity of the Christ child. And then on this great feast day, the Baptism of the Lord we really have the greatest manifestation of Jesus because of Who it is who testifies to the identity of Jesus. And who testifies is not angels, nor wise men, but God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Theirs’ is obviously the definitive testimony of the person of Jesus Christ because it is the definitive testimony of God Himself.

These three manifestation of Jesus to the world testify to the truth of the incarnation: that in the person of Jesus Christ, God came in the flesh, that Jesus is the Son of God become Man, the invisible God became visible as one of us. But these testimonies were given not only to manifest to the world who Jesus is, but in the light of Jesus’ identity who we are as well; to manifest our great calling and vocation as baptized Christians. Jesus was manifested to reveal to us that we are called through our baptism to participate in the Divine life and love of God Himself.

At Christmas, Jesus the love of the Father came down from heaven to earth in order to raise us up to the love of heaven and unite us to the Heavenly Father. This is what the incarnation of Jesus, that is His coming in the flesh, is really all about. The divine came down from heaven as a man in order to lift men up to the divine. St. Leo the Great put it this way, "The Son of God ... joined himself to us and joined us to himself in such a way that the abasement of God to the human condition became a raising of man to the heights of God."

Our Holy Father pointed this out in Rome last Wednesday during his weekly audience with Pilgrims of Rome. Benedict declared that Christmas must be rescued from an "overly moralistic and sentimental mask. He said that "The celebration of Christmas does not propose to us only examples to imitate, such as the humility and poverty of the Lord, and his benevolence and love for men," he said. "But it is rather an invitation to allow oneself to be totally transformed by him who entered into our flesh."
Christmas is an invitation to a total transformation wrought by participation in divine nature of God, which because of Christ’s coming we can enter into and participate in here and now. And so, Benedict says that when we celebrate Christmas we don’t just remember the birth of Jesus and his incarnation, but we experience a mystery present to us here and now, a mystery to experience and be transformed by here and now.

Our Holy Father points out the fact that in the liturgical celebrations of these holy days of the Christmas season we live in a mysterious but real way the entrance of the Son of God into the world and we are illumined once again by the light of His brilliance. Benedict said that each celebration of this Holy Season is an actual presence of the mystery of Christ and in this mysterious presence is prolonged the history of salvation.

And so, our Holy Father said that God's manifestation has its purpose in our participation in divine life, in the realization in us of the mystery of his Incarnation. This mystery is the fulfillment of man's vocation. Man is called to share in the life of God, not just in heaven, but even now here on earth.

On this feast of the baptism we discover that Jesus didn’t receive baptism for his sake, for He was God without sin, but Jesus was baptized for our sake. By his own baptism he imparted to the waters of baptism the power not only to wash away sin, but to rebirth or regenerate the Children of men in to the Children of God, partaking in the divine life and love of the Family of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Each one of us, through the waters of our baptism made holy by Jesus own baptism, have now become adopted Sons and daughters of the Father being able to call him Abba, or daddy. The baptism of Jesus manifest that we are children of God and so we are! We hear this so many times, we say the Our Father so many times, that we can easily become complacent to what it really means to be a Child of God-image we are children of the almighty and all-powerful God-Creator of all things!

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Just as the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and produced in her the God-man-Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit now descends on the Church and produces in her maternal womb, which is the baptismal rite, the rebirth of the children of men into the children of God. By the waters of baptism God fills each one of us with his own supernatural love and by doing so he raises our human love to a divine level and imparts to us divine life, eternal life.

We are not only reconciled to Him, we now have new life, which is a share in his very life. We become divinized, we become like God, we share in His divine love and life, and so share in His own eternal happiness. We are also empowered to share that love and life with others around us by living our baptismal promises.

Through our baptism, we are also members of God’s family on earth, the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. As a result, our baptism opens up for us the sacramental graces we need to be nourished in order to grow and reach maturity. Fed by Jesus’ own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist at Holy Mass, which makes present for us the birth of Christ and all the mysterious of Christ life, we begin to be transformed more and more into His image and likeness, and thus begin to already here on earth share in His Divine glory.

O’ Christian soul realize you dignity, realize your great worth and realize you great responsibility to live like the child of God that you are. St Leo the Great put it his way, “Recognize O Christian, your dignity, and, made participant of the divine nature, be careful not to fall again, with unworthy conduct, from such greatness into primitive baseness.'"

It is possible for us to lose the graces of our baptism and so lose our friendship and eternal life with God. If we are children of God we must not commit any acts that go against our adopted divine nature. When we purposely, intentionally and with full knowledge commit serious sin, mortal sin, the divine life within us actually dies. And lesser sins, although not destroying, damage this life and so our closeness to God. God the Father has chosen us His beloved Sons and daughter, and so we must choose Him by our love for Him by avoiding anything that offends Him and doing those things that please Him.

At our baptism we were given an incredible gift, but one in seed form. It is up to us whether that seed, the seed of eternal life and happiness dies within us or whether it grows to the maturity of holiness and eternal life forever in union with God and the saints. Lets us ask God for forgiveness for our failures to live our baptismal promises. Let us implore the mercy of God by making frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession, which restores us to our original state of baptismal purity if we have lost it through mortal sin, heals it if we have damaged it with venial sin and strengthen us to live more deeply our baptismal promises.

Let us turn to our Blessed Mother for help. Blessed Mother, Queen of the Angels, please help us to become like children because children are poor and humble. And when we are poor and humble we can then truly adore and love Our Heavenly Father and Jesus his only Son whom He sent to redeem us all in order to be united with them both, the Father and the Son in the Love of the Holy Spirit. O God, creator of our souls, Father of our soul, we adore you we love you, help us to love you more, fill us with your love; we are your children, help us to be with you both now and forever. Amen.

Friday, January 7, 2011

We like the wisemen need to turn to the Star of the East, Mary...

Epiphany January 3rd, 2011

Today we continue our Christmas celebrations with the feast of the Epiphany, which means manifestation. We know it more commonly as the day of the visit of the three wise men to the house at Bethlehem. The word epiphany derives from a Greek word for an official state visit: the formal appearance of a king in an outlying district. The Epiphany in our sense is when the King of all kings, the King of heaven and earth made His formal appearance to the outlying district of the world and to all of its inhabitants.

The story can be rather fascinating; as we can speculate much about who exactly were the three wise men or what actual star did they see. Have you ever wondered why only the three wise men recognized the significance of the star and so followed it? No one else in the area could recognize the star, not even the ones who were supposed to be wise; nor did they follow it to find the Truth that lie beneath it. We read today that Herod and his court were thrown into confusion over the arrival of these three men with their caravans. So why did they not recognize the star and to Him whom it pointed? The scriptures are silent on this point in today’s passage. The Dead Sea scrolls incidentally contain a star-chart predicting the Savior’s birth. Some think this might contain a key to the mystery of the Magi; perhaps they were astronomers who had the same chart. Maybe so, but we can conclude for sure that the main reason why the Magi recognized the meaning of the star and Herod and his supposedly wise court did not, is because of faith; the Magi were open to it, Herod and His court were not. To see in the Christ child the divinity of God is an act of faith.

Herod and the court, as well as most, saw Jesus as a political rival; they lack faith. Herod professed to be a religious man, a Jew; however, he expected the Messiah to be manifested with great spectacle and power when He came. As a result, because he did not want to give up his kingdom and power, he tried to have Jesus killed, demonstrating of course, his lack of faith.
The wise men however did demonstrate faith. As an act of faith, they brought to the Holy Child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh: gold- the offering to a king; frankincense- the gift given only to Divinity, and myrrh- the spice of burial. Faith alone allowed them to do this; the gifts represented them giving themselves and all they had in adoration to the God Child there before them.

If then we want to find a practical lesson today, the message and the meaning of the star is foremost. Jesus Himself said: “seek and you shall find.” God sees to it that people who really care, who are really looking for right answers with a sincere, humble and open heart will find him. For the person of good will, who really wants to know where Jesus is, where he or she can find Jesus, God will send them there own personal “ time of the star” to find Jesus through the eyes of faith, just as through faith the Magi found the star to lead them to Him. God will help anyone find Jesus, believe in Him and follow Him if they will seek with their whole heart and mind.

A Second lesson is that like the star in the heavens, God makes Himself available from every corner of the earth, from the darkest recesses even of every human soul. Which is to say that his Gospel of truth, love, forgiveness and redemption reaches out to all people everywhere who are of good will. God will provide the means for every person to reach the truth they need to be saved, and he will also provide the grace that person needs to live their lives in accord with that truth in order to attain their salvation. The person for their part however must be of good will in order to both know the truth and accept it by changing and living their lives by the help of God’s grace in accordance to the truth they have received-they will then be able to receive the peace promised by the angel to all men of good will.

A third lesson is that we who have experienced the time of the star in our own lives can help others to do so as well. So many only look for Jesus in the spectacular instead in the ordinary simple ways He manifests Himself to us. We can in a sense by our faithful witness, kindness and service help others to see the star of Christ in their own lives, to find Christ who comes to them in the simplicity of a poor manger. Our very stance as a Catholic can shout out (as today’s reading does);

In a sense this third lesson is most relevant of all today. All around us, in our neighborhoods, in the offices, factories, stores, schools, or hospitals in which we work and move, there are scores of people who, for various reasons, have never taken the time to look up to see if there is a star in the heavens for them. Our joy in Gospel living, our fidelity to Christ and to His One True Church, our service to others, the very way we speak or act, can help these people “look up.” We call this evangelization: drawing others to search for, and to experience, the light and warmth of the Star of Bethlehem.

However, I speak not only about the non-believer but about so-called believers as well; remember Herod professed to be a Jewish believer and still missed the meaning of the star. How many there are today, who while they say Jesus’ name and profess to believe in Him, nonetheless deny Him on His altar. How many Catholics have left the Church to “find” Jesus, not realizing that they had His true physical presence all the while right before them in their Catholic Churches, on her altars and in her tabernacles? They have failed to realize how close our Lord is to their lives because God presents himself to us under the insignificant appearance of a piece of bread, because he does not reveal himself in his glory, because he does not impose himself irresistibly, because he slips into our life like a shadow, instead of making his power resound at the summit of all things. How many souls are troubled by doubt because God does not show himself in the way the expected! They have looked for Him in the spectacular and in the emotionally charged, but there in the Eucharist He waits in a greater simplicity, silence and poverty than in the crib of Bethlehem. Perhaps they never knew, maybe no one told them, maybe they only think God will be only be found in vibrant and emotionally charged worship services and so miss His bodily presence in the Holy Eucharist; We can’t however assume they are not open to the truth. It is up to us to manifest to them the truth; that the God-man is still with us, along with his sacrifice offered in love for us at every Holy Mass. It is up to us to tell others that the star given to us today from our Heavenly Father is the gift of faith--faith in His Church, faith in the Eucharist only available in His Church and faith in the truths God gives us through the same Catholic Church and her teachings, which we faithfully live out in our daily lives with the help of God’s grace.

And so we if we are to lead others to the star of Christ we must first in imitation of the wisemen come in faith before the newborn king reborn on the crib of the altar of the Holy Mass. And there, just like the wisemen as well, we too in an act of faith are to bring our gifts of gold, incense, and Myrrh. In our case though, our gold is the treasures of our heart to be offered to Jesus made present to us in the Eucharist. The Incense we are to offer is the sweet fragrance of our good works, of our little acts of love done each day for the Love of God, and as our witness to others of our love for God. And what of the Myrrh? The myrrh is the very sacrifice of ourselves, our hearts, all that we have and are, offered to the Heavenly Father as an oblation of love in union with the sacrifice of His only Son made truly present by the power of the Holy Spirit before us on this and every altar where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered by one of Christ’s priests.

But the sacrifice of our gifts, of ourselves, isn’t the end. When we leave our gifts before Jesus newly born on the altar, He, never being outdone in generosity or love, repays the sacrifice of our gift with something not even the wisemen were able to experience. Jesus leaves the crib and offers us the gift of Himself in Holy Communion. And through our communion with Him, if we open our hearts in faith and allow ourselves to be changed by Him, He will possess our hearts and consume us in love. Then we can take the gift of faith out to others and lead them to Jesus by the witness of our love for Him. But he can only remain in us, if we leave all our earthly treasures behind, just as did the three wisemen, which is why they are called wise.

We like the wisemen need to turn to the Star of the East, Mary and ask her to help us lead others to Jesus who waits in with simplicity, poverty, humbleness and silence in the Eucharist. His is the antidote for all our anxieties and fears, including pain and death. He is the Bread of Angels that removes our pains, our cares, our worries; He alone brings joy and peace to our soul, he alone satisfies our whole being. Holy Mary, stella Maris, stella orientis—Holy Mary, star of the sea, star of the east pray for us, lead us safely to Jesus. Amen.