Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Give Me a drink!"

Third Sunday in Lent March 27th, 2011

“Give me a drink.” This simple statement begins the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman in our Gospel today. This simple statement, “Give me a drink” reveals a lot about Jesus, and how he draws this woman into a new and profound relationship with God. Conversely, the way in which Jesus deals with this woman can also teach us a lot about how Jesus deals with us; that is, how He constantly tries to draw us into a deeper friendship, love and deeper union with Him.
As we begin the story, it is important to note a couple of important details: John tells us it was midday- the start of the heat of the day. “Respectable” people just didn’t go to the well at the midday. For one thing, it was too hot. So you’d always go first thing in the morning or closer to sundown; it was cooler then. You’d only go at midday if you wanted to avoid others, that is, if you had a reason to hide, which is another reason why respectable people only went in the morning.
And so, the fact that the Samaritan woman comes at this time reveals to us a lot about her. It reveals that she is definitely has something to hide, has a reason to hide. First, she was a Samaritan, hated by the Jews, living in the midst of Jews; second, she was a woman, and as such considered beneath a slave; and third, she was living in sin and so committing public scandal. With all this being the case, how does Jesus deal with the situation…deal with her?
To begin with, Jesus takes a bold step here even speaking to a Samaritan woman, not to mention one who is trying to hide. A Jewish man would certainly not address a woman in public; and certainly would not address a Samaritan woman, not even to mention a Samaritan woman living in public sin! No wonder why the Samaritan woman is totally surprised by Jesus; but she was about to be surprised even more.
Jesus then says to her, “Give me a drink.” Unthinkable! If he accepts a drink from her a sinner, a Samaritan, and worse a woman, he will surely become unclean according to Jewish law. Yet, Jesus is poor; He has no bucket. He has no vessel to drink with, but He’s really thirsty- it is noon and he has been walking in the heat of the day. But is his thirst really just for water, or is it a thirst for something more, much more?
And so, Jesus asks her for water, yet He will say that He Himself is the source of a new type of water—“Living Water” that will satisfy unlike anything she might have drunk before. Jesus uses this simple request of water to get at something much deeper- a deeper thirst that Him Himself has; He thirsts for her love, for Her heart, for her soul, FOR HER;
Ands so Jesus asks her for water. Yet as he does so, his request reveals something else to this sinful woman. She begins to see her need as she comes into contact with and experiences the divine person of Jesus, the very source of the living water, of new life – She realizes that she is the one who is really thirsty and so she ends up asking Jesus for "living water." And then this woman begins to taste, to drink in the gift of faith that is being offered to her by the one who thirsts not for water, but for her. She begins to experiences the waters of His divine grace, life and love.
The story continues with another request from Jesus to the woman- “go and call your husband.” This seems to be quite a jump; yet, in the way Jesus was leading her,” it was the perfect next question. Once Jesus had made a personal contact with her, his divine presence and His thirst opened up in her, her desire for the love of God. However, Jesus saw the big obstacle in her life, which was keeping her from true happiness, keeping her from intimacy with God and His love—that obstacle was her sin and the consequences of her sin. This woman was living in adultery as a result of being married before five times.
Through grace, Jesus gently brings her to acknowledge truthfully her sin, yet it was not a condemning way, but very gently in order to heal her soul and begin to quench its thirst for holiness. No doubt, she knew what sin was and she certainly knew the consequences of the sin, for she had been deeply wounded by the failed marriages. And her current situation surely couldn’t be called love, by living together with a man who was not her husband, she was basically being used-true love only comes from a life-long commitment of love within the sacred bond of marriage.
And so, she was full of guilt and was so ashamed, that she did not want to even show herself in public. She came to the well at midday because she had really lost all self-respect; she had lost hope because she had lost her trust in love. She had been looking for love in all the wrong places; she had given up true love for pleasure
But now she realized Jesus loved her…God loved Her! So she went to confession. We don’t know all of what she confessed to Jesus, but she told the people- “He told me everything I have done.” Jesus told her the truth, and the truth set her free. He read her soul and forgave her of her sins. He healed the shame she felt, healed her heart and soul, He flooded her soul with the waters of his grace, which cleansed her of her guilt. The joy of repentance and forgiveness was so strong, that she went and told everyone in her village about Jesus, her new love, and her one true love. With her burden lifted and her hope renewed, they believed her and so she evangelized them to the forgiveness and healing of Christ and to His love for which they too were thirsting.
Jesus brought to this woman the great gift of faith. He healed her by forgiving her sins and placing His love in her heart. And then He renews her hope by showing her what or better yet, Whom to place her hope in, by showing her the source of all love, human and divine. In other words, Jesus showed her that seeking human love alone, apart from God, only leads to thirst, deep unquenchable thirst that effects the soul. Humans thirst for the God who remarkably thirsts for them.
Today we realize that we are so often in the same position as the woman at the well. We are burdened by the struggles, trials of life; this life is so full of struggles and we’re sometimes so tired. Through out our Lenten practices, if we have really been doing them, we can see ever more clearly the degree of our defects and our sins in this life. It can seem that we’re not making any real progress; we may even want to imitate the woman at the well and just hide; or worse we may just slip into denial…I’m not so bad.
And so, like the woman, we can be discouraged and so begin to lose hope. So often and in so many ways, we have in our lives placed our hope in the wrong things, instead of in Jesus and His love. So often we have sought only human love alone, and failed to seek the love that is above every other love…God’s love-So often, we have fail to seek out, with every fiber of our being, The God who is Love! We must love God first!!!!
Today at this Holy Mass Jesus comes to us as well and he tells us that He thirsts. And then he points us, as He pointed the woman at the well, to the source of living water and how we can come in contact with it. And how we come in contact with the Living Waters of God’s love, is adoration of God. Adoration of God is where faith and hope opens itself to love. Jesus is God on earth and His is the only source of this living water. We only lose hope and become discouraged when we don’t look at Jesus, when we don’t adore Jesus and place our trust in Him first and foremost above all else.
Another name for a failure to adore and trust in Jesus is sin. Sin is when we adore ourselves—we trust in our selves, love only ourselves by putting our will before the will of God; we put our truth and our reality before THE TRUTH and before the way things really are, before the reality that God has created. Yes we get our own way, but sadly we create our own hell in the process, life without God and his love; we then begin to die of thirst and don’t even realize it.
But if we are to truly adore Jesus in Spirit and in truth, we must trustingly give ourselves completely to Him and experience Him through faith-we must put Him first. To do so, we begin by first opening our hearts to His grace by confessing our sins as did the woman; when we experience His forgiveness and mercy, Jesus for His part pours into our hearts the grace of his love and the grace of a deeper conversion to Him.
We must drink deeply from the only well that can quench our thirst and that well is the Heart of Christ. Drinking from any other well will leave us dying of thirst. Yes, we must seek human love, human love is good, (we’re not angels), but we cannot seek human love apart from Divine love, the love of God, we can put human loves before God. And we must drink always from the well of divine love, which is the Heart of Christ.
And the Heart of Christ is the Holy Eucharist; however we can only experience Christ in the Holy Eucharist if we have faith that He is really and truly there, if we believe that the Holy Eucharist is Christ and so is God. And if we believe it then our actions must correspond with what we believe. And so we must not only receive Jesus once and while but often-weekly, even daily, with a pure heart cleansed by frequent confession; but we must not only receive Him, we must also most especially adore Him both within Mass and outside of the Mass at Holy Hours.
Only when we adore God in Spirit and in truth by believing the Eucharist is really Jesus, our lives cleansed by His forgiveness in confession, and entrusting ourselves totally to Him by offering ourselves and all our love to Him at Holy Mass, only then will we begin to experience and quench our thirst for love….both authentic human love and even more importantly, God’s infinite love, God Himself through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Oh Heart of Jesus, from which Blood and Water gust forth as the source of the Sacramental life of the Church- as a fount of love and mercy for us and for the whole world, I trust in Thee. Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph pray for us.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

By seeing Jesus’ glory through the eyes of faith, we can be strengthened just as were the disciples.

Second Week in Lent. March 20th, 2011

I am sure that all of us have been deeply affected by the incomprehensible tragedy we have been witnessing in the country of Japan. Almost 8, 000 dead so far, more than 10,000 still missing; human suffering beyond imagining. A humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, one that has been sending shock waves around the world, affecting the entire world, even the global markets. Things look to get worse before they get better. Our thoughts prayers and support continue to go out for the all the people of Japan. We pray that God would grant them the grace of consolation in this unprecedented tragedy and loss.

The great human suffering and tragedy in Japan reminds us that for us as Christians, who are people of Hope, we must see all things through the eyes of faith. This is the message of today’s Gospel. Today, we hear Peter, James and John witness the great moment of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. The disciples hear God the Father Himself proclaim, with thunderous power, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” By these words we have God the Father Himself witnessing that Jesus is God the Son. And since we have the testimony of the Father, who is God who can neither deceive nor be deceived, we should never doubt the divinity of Jesus and so never doubt the power of Jesus and His love.

At the same time they hear the voice of the Father, the disciples see a hint, just a tiny hint of the glory of Jesus’ Divinity shining through His humanity. Yet even that tiny glimpse made the disciples speechless. They had seen a peek at that which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even enter into the mind of man… Is it any wonder that Peter did not want this moment to end—he was content to stay on that mountain forever? I am sure he felt he was in heaven itself; no wonder, for he had peered into heaven itself.

But Peter and the other disciples had to eventually come down from that mountain—led by Jesus they descended to what was waiting for them—a time when their faith would be tested as never before; a time when their hearts would be pulled asunder, a tragedy, greater and more horrible than any the world had ever seen, or will ever see—they would witness the terrible passion and death of Christ— deicide-the killing of God. And if that wasn’t enough they would experience their own weakness and sinfulness in their failure to remain faithful to Jesus even, even when they now knew Him to be the true and living God.

By His divine foreknowledge Jesus knew only too well, how badly His disciples’ faith was about to be tested and their hope shaken, as Jesus embarked on His journey to Jerusalem to be condemned, mocked, scourged and crucified. In their fear and weakness they would abandon Jesus in His hour of need. And so Jesus wanted to give them a reason not fall into despair when this happened so they would be able to eventually repent and turn to Him for pardon and strength.

In their future struggles as well, and even in their own future passion and death, Jesus wanted them to know that in His love for them, He would always be with them supporting them with the power of His divinity, with the power of His divine love. And if they would but remain faithful by relying on His divine power, and not their own, they would share one day in the fullness of Jesus’ glory in heaven, that glory on which they glimpsed on that mountain. This would help to maintain their hope throughout their life so that they could persevere to the end; and so they did.

The Transfiguration informs us as well, that in our own struggle we should never forget that the Jesus whom the three Apostles were with on Mount Tabor is the same Jesus who is daily at our side. Jesus knows how much we are going to be tested by the struggle and the crosses in our lives, the ones we may be carrying now or the crosses to come. Jesus knows how weak we are, how weak is our hope. In His compassion, He desires to give us grace and strengthen our hope even in the midst of our darkest fears and sorrows.

The truth is, is that we like the disciples have so many times abandon Jesus and failed to faithfully follow him; nevertheless, He doesn’t want us to fall into despair but instead to turn to Him for pardon and strength. And in our future struggles, failures and even in own future passion and death Jesus wants us to know that in His love for us, He will always be with us to support us with the power of His divinity. And if we but call upon His help and remain in His love, we too will come to share in the fullness of Jesus’ own glory in heaven, a glory that even now we can get a glimpse of through the eyes of faith.

It is here at the Holy Mass that we, like the apostles, are able to get our glimpse into that which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even enter into the mind of man. And so, we need to desperately ask for the grace to be like St. Peter and not want this incredible moment to end, being content to stay on this mountain forever. We need an increase of faith to realize that time as no place at the Holy Mass, just as time as no place in heaven.

At the transfiguration, Peter only got a tiny glimpse of heaven; but, at the holy Mass where heaven and earth unite, we are actually more in heaven than we are on earth. Jesus’ gift of allowing the apostles to be present at the transfiguration doesn’t compare to His gift to us to be able to present at Holy Mass—Our gift is much greater, infinitely greater. Here at Mass, Jesus transforms in front of our eyes with a greater glory than even at the transfiguration. This is why we can’t see look upon it with our human eyes but must see it with our eyes of faith, for no one can see the face of God and live. By seeing Jesus’ glory through the eyes of faith, we can be strengthened just as were the disciples.

The transfigured, glorified Jesus in all of His glory and with all of the power of His divinity becomes present to us in the Holy Eucharist as the priest pronounces the words of consecration. His sacrifice on Calvary becomes present as well along with its power to save us and save the world. This power is offered to us and we can receive it into our lives if we but in thanksgiving offer our lives in return, by dying to sin and selfishness and turning to and living totally for Jesus.

As the priest raises Jesus up for us to adore, we too, if we listen, can hear the words of the Father, “Behold this is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” Like the apostles, this is what gives us the strength we need to face our own trials and sufferings that await us; this what will help us to get back up when we fail in our efforts to follow Jesus; this is what will help us see that the struggle and what ever we have to sacrifice or endure in this life for love of Jesus is worth it, by far.

The glory of Jesus in the Eucharist has the power to renew us, if we let it by turning our lives to Him and offer our lives to Him.
It is good for us to be here at this Holy Mass and every Mass where we can ourselves come to Mt Tabor. It is good for us to be able to come anytime to sit before the glory of Jesus hidden in the little white host contained in the Tabor-nacle. The more we behold Jesus in the Eucharist and the more we believe, adore, hope and love Him there, the more our faith is strengthened, our hope renewed and our charity increased. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus comes to us, touches us and say, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”

In a few moments, we come to the altar to receive Christ, not only transfigured, but also truly risen and glorified. Like the apostles had to eventually come down from that Mountain of Tabor, we too will have to come down from the mountain of this Holy Mass and so go out and face the events and crosses of our daily lives; but, as the remembrance of the Transfiguration strengthened the apostles to face the struggles and fears of the rest of their lives, the Holy Mass is that principle source of divine grace that will provide us what we need to face the struggles and fears that lie ahead in our own lives. With Mass attendance at an all time low, and understanding and belief in its mysteries at an all time low, and that it is being celebrated in so many cases unworthily and with so many liturgical abuses, no wonder suicide rates continue to climb…

In the Holy Mass alone, we discover that the sufferings of this present life are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us, and so the Mass also strengthens us in the midst of all the horrors and fears found in our world today. The Holy Mass is the source of our hope in this valley of tears, for the it makes present Jesus Who is our Hope; and Jesus is the Hope that never disappoints. Our Lady, Mother of the Eucharist help us to see Jesus transfigured, risen and glorified in the Holy Mass, in the Holy Eucharist so that we may share in His glory both now and at the hour of our death. Amen. St. Joseph pray for us.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lent is really a season for a radical change of heart.

First Sunday in Lent. Marcy 13th, 2011

As we begin our Lenten season, we recall that this season is a call to radical repentance and deep conversion. (As we spoke last week), often times we approach this season as the season to give up something for 40 days: we struggle for 40 days not to eat chocolate, but then on Easter Sunday, smug with our success, we eat a full 5 lb. box of chocolate and end up committing the sin of gluttony. So what good did it do us? In the end, all we can really say is, “I gave up chocolate for forty days.” But did we change for the better; did we become holier and so closer to God and to our brothers and sisters, in our family and in our parish family?

Lent is really a season for a radical change of heart. And so it is a privileged time of grace offered to us to assist us in our intense efforts to become a better, more faithful intimate follower of Christ. Lent is a time to strive, with all our might, to love God and neighbor more through acts of penance and self denial, which are meant to help bring about this radical conversion within us through a dying to selfishness and self-centeredness, to egotism and sin in order to live a more virtuous life of grace.
This radical conversion through our penance is, of course, not an easy task; it includes nothing less than the cross, upon which we nail our self-wills and upon which we die to self in order to live more fully true life in Christ. In the process we can expect to, if we are serious about it, experience not only our weakness, but also outright temptations from the devil, himself.

During Lent, most of us really do desire to love God more by praying more; and for love of God, to love more our family members, parish family members, our neighbors or even that very difficult person in our life. It seems however, the more we try, the more we struggle, the more we find it to be so very difficult; in fact, it can seem so hard that we begin to question whether its worth the effort. We can even begin to even question our good intentions for the Lenten season.
Seeing his opening through our discouragement, the devil seizes his opportunity and comes to tempt us. As a result, we can end up saying, “Oh, I’ll never change; why try.” Far from getting better, my life seems to be heading in the wrong direction; things seem to be getting worse instead of better.” In this, we discover the nature of the devil’s temptations. He wants us to give up already here in the first week of Lent.

The good news for us today is that our Blessed Lord has gone before us and not only gives us an example to follow, but gives us extra mercy, the grace of His love during this season of conversion. By looking at Jesus and studying his own temptation in the desert we can see clearly that even though we may fail in our Lenten resolutions, we should never succumb to the devil’s temptation to give up or lose heart. Instead, we should get up and try all the more intensely to persevere; just like a child trying to learn how to walk.

But if we are to do so, we must first understand the devil’s tactics. In our first reading we read about these tactics of satan as used in his first temptation of man. As the devil tempts Adam and Eve, it is important to note that there is a progression in the temptations; they actually become more serious as they go on. The devil first begins by tempting Eve to eat the fruit; it seems like such a little thing, after all its good fruit. The devil here plants the seed of doubt that perhaps this is not such a big sin, after all God put it in the garden and everything in the garden is good. It looks so sweet and juicy, so why not eat it? God can’t really mean it. It can’t be a mortal sin if I it eat, but maybe just a little sin of gluttony. Surely God won’t send me to hell for enjoying a little apple, or…enjoying a little meat on Friday or a little bit of what I gave up; or giving in a little to that vice I am trying to get rid of or failing in showing kindness to others or gossiping about them.

Next, the devil tempts Adam and Eve to a greater sin by saying eating would make them enlightened- “your eyes will be opened.” They could be wise and better than other creatures and closer to God if they would just eat the apple. This is the sin of vainglory. Adam and Eve now want to be wise and not only look important in each other’s eyes but important in the eyes of all those who would come after them. At this point it becomes all about them, an all about me attitude, they no longer care about what God thinks or about His glory and His honor, but only about their own. This is a further step the devil plants in the minds of Adam and Eve.…look how good I am; I don’t need to do Lenten penance to change, I am already a good person, I’m already a good person, surely I will go to heaven; it’s the rest of the world that needs to change; if they could only be more like me; look how wonderful I am). Already, the devil has led Adam and Eve down a path towards yet a more serious sin, a deadlier sin; the sin of pride.

And so the devil at last lays on them the grand finale, “You shall be like god.” In other words, “if you eat the fruit you’ll know good and evil; in fact be like God and so be able to create your own good and evil, your own truth, what’s personally true for you. This is sin of intense pride in which we creatures think we don’t need God and we don’t need to be obedient to Him and His commands and His teachings, which are the teachings of His Church. “If you just eat the fruit, you can follow your own conscience apart from the tyranny of God, apart from the oppressive rules and teachings of God found in His Catholic Church and her teachings”…I’m Catholic but…I am personally opposed to abortion but I acknowledge a woman right to choose…to choose what…to choose to kill her child… and so we now play God.)

In the end, by a progression of sins resulting from giving into at first small temptations and then greater ones, Adam and Eve end up separating themselves from God; they ruptured their relationship with God and are destined for death. Their sin has now become our sin and we their descendants inherited from them a propensity to sin. What seemed so small at first ended with the greatest sin and death enters the world.

This is the way the devil always tempts; he starts with a minor, little offense toward God, and then it grows into a temptation to more serious sin, to mortal sin, which when knowingly and freely committed, kills the very life and love of God in our soul; this is better known as spiritual death and it is the worst kind of death which if un-repented leads to eternal death and damnation. In this, we quickly discover that we need to be faithful to God beginning with the seemingly small things.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus faces this same progression of temptations, but instead of succumbing, He conquers. Our Lord has fasted 40 days and no doubt was hungry. The devil tempts Him to do a miracle to satisfy His hunger—seems reasonable. But Jesus responds by saying that what is more important than physical food is the Word of God—the truth that comes only from God through His Church, truth which when lived in our lives becomes our true spiritual food—the Will of God. And for this to happen, it takes more than bread for our belly for this to happen, it takes the true Bread from Heaven, the Holy Eucharist.

Second, Jesus is tempted to vainglory- look at me. If He would throw Himself off the Temple, the angels would save Him. He would instantly become the talk of Jerusalem and win the people over to himself. Salvation without sacrifice; love without the cross. Jesus responds by saying simply that we should never be presumptuous of the mercy of God and never put Him to the test; in other words, for our part we should always realize our personal need for repentance and conversion and don’t presume we’ve already made it; love never stops at good enough; love goes all the way to the cross.

Third, Jesus is tempted for riches and wealth- things apart from God, as they are worshipped rather than God: the sin of pride and of worshipping God the way we want to not they way He demands. Jesus, here teaches us that we need to approach Holy Mass and the worship of God with great humility, reverence, devotion and love, realizing that we are here to adore God, not ourselves; it’s not about making the Mass for our entertainment or enjoyment in order to feel good, but it’s about giving God His due in Justice, thanking Him for all He as giving us, which is everything, by adoring Him in love by offering ourselves in return for the offering of Himself for us.

In the end, Jesus rebukes Satan. He would not be lead down the path of the temptation of false love. Jesus would conquer by the cross in order to offer all men, including us, the grace needed to be able to conquer satan in our own individual lives. But to accept this grace, to open our hearts to it, we need to turn to Jesus through our repentance, calling upon His Holy Name in prayer and through the sacraments in order to convert our lives more deeply to His and so grow in our loving and intimate union with Him.

In our time of Lent, temptations come because the devil knows we all desire to become more Christ-like. And so, we will always face the progression of temptation, but let us not try to rationalize away our sins and faults or become discourage in trying to overcome them; let us not blame others for them either. As we face the temptation to give up trying to become better, holier Disciples of Christ, let us put our confidence in the power of the Divine grace and Divine mercy of our Lord Jesus to sustain us.

Our Lord Jesus faced the temptations and was victorious, only in His victory will we find our own. Because Jesus has experienced our temptations in His, He alone knows them and so He alone can give us the knowledge and the grace we need to fight them this Lent and all throughout our lives. He is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, may we turn to him there and call upon Him to help us this Lent to truly love Him more deeply and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, or better yet as He loves them; especially the members of our parish family.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

To be known by Love!

Matthew 7: 21-27 Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. March 6th, 2011

Over quite a few weeks now we have been hearing the complete teaching of the Sermon on the Mount; and today we continue with more of this teaching from Jesus. If you remember weeks ago we began with the actual listing of the beatitudes and have worked our way through many of the teachings that are included in this whole discourse, which spans many Chapters in the Gospel of Matthew.

Last week’s Gospel from this discourse pointed out the fact that Jesus considers us infinitely lovable, as we are more precious than even the birds of the air or the flowers of the field. However, this week in his teaching Jesus, I believe, is basically asking each one of us a very interesting and unnerving question. In todays teaching Jesus is basically asking us, “Do I know you?” Think about this. Jesus is asking each one of us personally, if He knows who we are.

How uncomfortable do we feel when someone comes up to us, greets us and begins talking to us; and for the life of us we cannot think of whom this person is or what their name might be. When this happens we’re generally quite embarrassed and feel very foolish. We search our memories trying to figure out how we know this person or how they know us; Or, “do they really know us, or are they confusing us with someone else?”

Many times we may even try to pretend like we do know them. And we become especially anxious if they come right out ask us if we know them. Very few of us, I would think, come right out and ask them, “Do I know you?”

I have to admit, that this experience may happen to us priests more than anyone; we meet so many people and have to try to remember so many people. It is certainly not purposeful that we forget people, but when you only have one contact personally with someone, or only hear their name once or twice, it is hard to remember. And when someone asks us if we know them, we don’t want to hurt them by saying, “I don’t remember you, I forgot who you are, I don’t know you.”

Yet here today, it is Jesus who is asking if He knows us. Jesus is God, and yet He is asking us if He knows us! This seems odd, especially if you recall in last week’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowd and us that we are more precious than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Recall also that it is God who has created us in His image and likeness and desires for us to receive His love so that in turn we can love Him in return. So why is Jesus asking us if he knows us?

Well, today I believe, Jesus is addressing all the “good people,” in the world. They may have even done mighty deeds in His name; yet, Christ tells them that He does not know them. They might respond to Jesus by saying, “But Jesus we were good how can you not know us!” But Jesus tells them in a very direct and one might say harsh manner- “I never knew you; depart from me you evildoers.”

Please note here that Jesus doesn’t say, “You don’t know me.” He says that He does not know them. I think the key to understanding this very direct and perplexing question to us from our Blessed Lord is that by this question Jesus is telling us that we must allow ourselves to be known by God. The question becomes for us then- do you let God know you?

This question is even harder to answer, as we may assume that God knows us, after all we think we have been good; hasn’t he come to know us by the good thing we have done? Doesn’t he know that we are good people? Also we might also think that in His divine knowledge God knows us even better than we know ourselves. But the answer to this question isn’t really a matter of intelligence; it is a matter of love.

I think something that might help explain what I mean is to use the wonderful example of this marriage. I remember while I was in seminary, I was part of a team of couples who prepared engaged couples for marriage. At the end of our day, we asked the couples for their opinion of our day. The couples and I would review the comments, some helpful and constructive and others rather revealing. I recall one couple said in their comment section that they did not anticipate any major problems in their marriage because they really knew each other. One of the married couples sighed and said, “Boy; are they in for a big surprise!”

I also have worked with a group called Retrouvaille, which is a group for married couples that are struggling. These couples, many of whom have been married for many years, will often say, “I woke up one morning and realized that I did not know the stranger sleeping next to me; and they didn’t know me.” Sadly, they had lived in the same house, sometimes for years, yet they “did not know” each other.

These couples had stopped communicating; they had stopped growing in their love because they had stopped growing in the knowledge of who each of them really were; Sons and daughters of God created in image and likeness, infinitely loved, infinitely loveable, able to love each other infinitely by their love and knowledge of the Creator. Thankfully, though the grace of Christ, their relationships can be healed and these folks can get to know each other again and so “rediscover” their love for one another.

The point is, is that knowledge of another requires the giving and receiving of love. To love a person is to not only know that person but to be known by this same person by our love for them. This is particularly true in our relationship with Christ. Do we let Christ get to know us through our daily prayer? Do we take the time each day to adore Him and struggle to give Him glory in everything we do, no matter our small and insignificant the task at hand may be? Do we examine are consciences at the end of the day and make an act of contrition for our failures in love of God and neighbor? In all of this, “Do we let Christ know us by our love for Him, and our love for others for love of Him?”!!!!!

And, so do we regularly allow an intimate encounter with God in our lives by frequenting the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Holy Eucharist and Confession? This, I think, gets to the very hear of the matter, to the answer of Jesus” question to us, “Do I know you?’ You see, ultimately, the Lord knows us through our union with the Church. Only in the Church can we have an intimate union with Him through and in the Sacraments.

It is the grace of the Sacraments that, if we open ourselves to them, transform us and strengthens us in love in order to more and more fulfill the Father’s Holy will here on earth as it is in heaven. And what is the Father’s will, “to love as we are loved, to be known by love!” And when we do the Father’s Will we become like His Son; He then knows us, and we know Him, because we become united to Him in Love. The Sacraments are the very means to be known by God because they are the means to be transformed not only in the knowledge of God’s love for us but by experiencing and being consumed by that love, in order to be united to God in a union of love.

In the end, God know us by our love, by our Charity, which is much more, infinitely more, than just knowing us by our “good” works…even the pagans can be “good.” But the pagans can’t love through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, as Jesus loves. And so, today we discover that we are not called to just “be good” but to be holy, that is to do God’s will in order to know God and be known by Him in order to be one with Him in a union of love, now and forever. God of course is a Trinity of persons and we are called to believe in Him, to trust in Him, to adore Him in Spirit and in truth in order to love him, to love like Him and so be “known” by him. I think that this really sums up the essence of the message of our parish mission given this past week by Father Wade Menezes.

As you know, we enter the season of Lent this week and the first thing that people begin to consider is “what am I going to give-up for Lent?” I think that we should reflect on this question this week with the question we asked earlier- does Christ know me? In other words, will my Lenten observance bring Christ knowledge of me and through Christ and in Christ allow the Father and the Holy Spirit to “know me” by my love? Will it allow me to receive His love, forgiveness and mercy and so place all my trust in Him?

Too often we take what I call the coffee and chocolate course through Lent; that is, we give up coffee and chocolate for 40 days, but in the process we’re miserable and often in a bad mood and so fail in charity to others, especially with our family. Then after the 40 days, we just resume our consumption of coffee and chocolate. The only thing we can say at the end was we were able to give up these things; but it really doesn’t change us at all. I think we’d do better by just eating the Chocolate and drinking the Caffeine and being happy…and fat!

So perhaps instead this lent, you might “do” something instead of “giving up” something and maybe failing in charity. Perhaps this Lent you can commit both as individuals and families to spending one hour each and every week in adoration before the Holy Eucharist apart from the Holy Mass. There, in the physical present of the divine and human Jesus, the God who is love incarnate still among, you can allow the Rays of Jesus’ love and mercy to penetrate your heart, to transform it; there you can allow your God to love you in order that you would be known by Love Himself!