Sunday, September 28, 2014

In our first reading today we hear from Ezekiel, one of the Old Testament Prophets who lived in the sixth century B.C. The word “prophet” refers to one who is chosen to speak for God, on God’s behalf. The prophet speaks the truth in words and in deeds in order to point the creature-man, back to his Creator. By his faithful witness, the prophet reminds man of his responsibility to respond to the Creator’s call, and then the prophet shows man how to respond and so how to find his way back to or to a fuller intimacy with God.
Responsibility was a recurring theme not only of Ezekiel, but also of all the Old Testament prophets. And so, is it not predicting the future that is the essential element of the prophet, but that of reminding man of his grave responsibility to God and of fulfilling that responsibility, by repenting; that is, by turning away from sin and back to God. Turning back to God entails being obedient to God’s Truth, to His Holy Word and to His Holy Church, and then struggling with the help of God’s grace in living that truth out in Charity-love, thus being obedient to God’s Holy Will. Simply put the true prophet shows the way to the Face of God by giving God’s people the truth…Hence, many times the prophet is not considered a nice guy…and is usually persecuted by some of those God has called to be His own.
Ezekiel’s message, as does the message today from St. Paul, focuses on this mystery of man’s responsibility. This same message of our first and second reading--responsibility, in fact personal responsibility, is also found as well in today’s Gospel: the parable of the two sons, asked by their father to perform a certain task, and the two sons’ differing replies or responses to their father’s request. In their differing responses, we discover the meaning of responsibility.
Responsibility comes from two words, “response” and “ability.” It literally means a capacity for replying to someone to whom a reply is due. For anyone with faith, for anyone who believes that man is God’s creature called to live with God forever, responsibility has to do with man’s reply to His Creator to Whom a reply is definitely due; in justice as well as in love. Responsibility as to do with God’s Holy Will for man, and man’s reply or response back to that Will as shown by man’s obedience, not only to God directly but also to the prophets that God sends.
In this loving response to God and His Will, we can discover, if we are of good will, that God’s will for us is not just a set of commands for command’s sake or rules for the sake of rules. No, God’s will for us is about a set or a body of directives all pointing to what is best for our welfare. It is a set of guiding principles and truths that actually point the individual to God, or better yet allow the individual the freedom to respond or reply to God’s initiative; for it was He who first called us; it was He who first loved us, not the other way around.
As you know, Christian responsibility is not always easy for the disciple of Jesus. Sometimes being responsible for right actions before God entails carrying a cross, even to the point of martyrdom if necessary. Such is thrust of today’s Second Reading, from St. Paul to the Philippians. Here we are reminded that Christian responsibility is a service to others, a suffering service, carried out in the footstep of the Suffering Servant Himself, Jesus of Nazareth. This is known as the martyrdom of love, were a man lays down his life for the sake of his friend, the first friend being, of course, Jesus-God Himself.
This martyrdom of love, while it can be expressed by the shedding of one’s blood, is mostly lived out fidelity to our ordinary daily duties, both materially and spiritually. Doing all, even the seemingly insignificant things, for the sake of and for the Love of God first, and then for neighbor for love of God; never living for one’s own sake but for the sake of and the good of the other. In this dying of self by dying to our self-will and selfishness in all things, do we alone find authentic freedom, authentic love and the fullness of life, for a martyrdom of love, leads us to the abundant life, life lived in union with God…..To he who is faithful in small things I will entrust larger ones…in this we discover we are all, by our baptism called to be prophets of God…
It’s important that we remember that we can only begin our grave responsibility to God (and neighbor) by our adoration of God—first things first!!! Adoration is the only proper reply that us creatures can give in response to God, in response to all that He has given to us, which is of course everything, even our very existence. We do not and cannot in any way fulfill our responsibility to God (and neighbor) without first adoring God…true religion is primarily about adoring and worshiping our Creator. This is why we must attend Mass which is the perfect act of Adoration because it is the adoration of God to God, Jesus to the Father on our behalf. If we don’t attend Mass we fail at the very deepest level in our responsibility to God. In fact, the Holy Mass is the primary source of “our ability” to give our response to God thus fulfilling our responsibility.
At Mass, through grace, we must trustingly offer to God in love, all that we are and all that we have. It is our responsibility, the responsibility of love, to do so, this is true adoration, a self-oblation before the Lord, not to be destroyed but to be assumed up into God’s love, becoming one with Him. In the Mass, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is re-presented to us; that is, made present for us today, here and now.
For our sake not for His, Jesus in obedience offers everything, his very life to the Father on the wood of the cross out of love for us; and then the Father through Jesus in the Holy Eucharist offers us His all, His everything to us by giving us the fullness of His Divine Son. We celebrated this, a couple of weeks ago at the feast of the Triumph of the cross. Jesus not only gives us the perfect example to imitate in order to carry out our responsibility, but also provides us with the wellspring of mercy and grace by giving us His very own Sacred Pierced Heart. And if we open our hearts and minds to It, To Him, by His gift of the Holy Spirit, we can be transformed into living images of Jesus for the world, giving our all for the Glory of God and the salvation of souls, in this we begin to truly serve our fellow man and “feed” the poor.
We in the manner of Jesus on the cross, make His prayer our own at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer. The priest says, “The Lord be with you.” And you respond, “and also with you.” Then he says, “Lift up your hearts.” And you respond, “We lift them up to the Lord,” that is we offer them (Our hearts) to the Lord in adoration and in response to His great love for us. Finally, the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” You respond, “It is right and just to give him thanks and praise; in other words it our responsibility in justice and love to give Him thanks and praise by offering ourselves in love, giving our “I do” in response to His “I do”. With this prayer, we offer to God all that we are and all that we have—our whole heart, uniting ourselves to the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary which becomes truly present before us on the altar, responding to Father’s love by giving our all our very self back to Him through His Son, with His Son and in His Son, thus carrying out our primary responsibility to the Lord. This is the first, most profound and most personal act of adoration we can do; this is the primary source of the strength to love God and then to love our neighbor for love of Him.
We have all, at one time or the other been one of the two sons in the parable. Either we say we are disciples of God; that is, we say we will do what He demands; but instead, we do our own thing. Or we don’t do what we should, but hopefully repent and in the end do so. Today, let us be the third son not mentioned, the one who like Jesus, understands his great responsibility to his Father, and responds immediately by doing what is asked of Him. Love is always shown by deeds; that is, in loving obedience, doing the will of God, of following His Commandments and the Teachings of His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, without hesitation and without counting the cost. Adoration of God is our primary duty, and from it flows the grace, love and mercy to carry out our second; that is, to love our neighbor by serving him or her in and with the truth that comes from God and is given to us through His Catholic Church, and doing so with sanctifying grace, that is with, in and through Jesus and with His love alive in our hearts.
Today in the Holy Eucharist, God knocks at the door to our heart; let us discover that adoration is the key to unlock the door of our hearts to Christ; it is only through obedience to our responsibility that we can open our heart to Him. The Holy Eucharist is Jesus who longs come into our hearts, from Him alone we receive the capacity to be fill with His Love, which is His very Self. He alone is the source of our ability and capacity to “respond” in love to the call of our God, who is the God who is Love. To respond can only mean we offer our hearts in response to the God who offers us His Sacred Heart pierced for love of us and truly present and beating for love of us in the Holy Eucharist…Let us ask the Virgin to help us lift up our hearts; that is to, through her, offer them completely in love to the Lord…Amen.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Virgin Mary is the perfect vine in the Lord's vineyard. From her there grew the blessed Fruit of Divine Love—Jesus, Our Savior. May she help us to respond always and with joy to the Lord's call, and to find our happiness in the possibility of toiling for the Kingdom of Heaven. (Pope Benedict’s Angelus Message September 21, 2008.

Matthew 20, 1-16 Twenty-four Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 21st, 2014

Today in our first reading God, through the prophet Isaiah, invites us sinners to gaze at the sky and see how far it is above the earth. Isaiah today is pointing out the reality that even vaster than the reaches of the universe, God’s ways are above our ways. So much is this true, that we are unable to grasp the infinite ways of God who continually invites us, and all sinners, no matter how big, to receive His forgiveness and His unearned, infinite, merciful love. Today’s psalm goes on to tells us that God is near to all who call upon Him.

In light of last week’s Gospel in which God our Lord commands us to forgive “always,” even those who most terribly trespass against us-sin against us, we can easily agree with Isaiah. So far are God’s ways above ours. This past week we of course celebrated the feast of the “Exultation of the Holy Cross.” This feast points out to us that God’s ways are definitely not ours.

We have a God who became man in order to suffer and die in order to forgive sins, to forgive even the worst sins and save even the most harden and evil sinner. Although the most innocent of all men, He allowed himself to suffer the most horrible torture and death by these same sinners, crying out to the Father, “forgive them for they know not what they do!” Here, Jesus, was not just speaking of those who tortured and killed him, but of all sinners throughout the ages, including you and me, all whom He would die for in order to offer the possibility of salvation, of eternal life, “by His stripes we have been healed.”

I think this, God’s merciful love, is the way to understand the parable in this week’s Gospel, which is by the way, I think, one of the hardest parables to accept. This parable seems to goes against our sense of justice, our sense of fairness! But when you look at it in terms of salvation it makes perfect sense. The “day” that the parable speaks about is really the day of a lifetime. Origen, one of the Father’s of the Church, said, “For the whole of this present life may be called one day, long to us, short compared to the existence of God.” To us life seems so long, but it is really just a “day” in the eyes of the Lord.

Our Lord desires that all men be saved, and so his patience is directed toward salvation. As long as one lives, God offers His Divine Mercy and love to the soul; and so even though, through the repentance of its sins, the soul comes to Christ late in life, God will, still draw near and take the soul to Himself; even though, the soul may need further purification of its selfishness. Every soul is precious in the eyes of the Lord.

With all that being said, this parable is also a warning for those of us in the Church already, for God’s Mercy is not separate from His Justice. Jesus is saying to us, “You have received the great privileged of having come into the Church already. In later days others will come in, but you must not claim a special honor and a special place because you came before them.” Again, all men, no matter when they come, are equally precious to God. This points out another deeper warning.

While we have to be in the vineyard, that is, in the Church in order to be with Jesus, we also have to toil in the vineyard, producing the fruit of leading souls to God through our faithfulness and holiness of life. We can’t be idle within the vineyard. Here’s what Pope Benedict said about this very parable:

It is clear that that denarius {used in this parable} represents eternal life, a gift that God reserves for everyone. Indeed, precisely those who are considered "last," if they will accept it, become "first," while the "first" can run the risk of becoming "last." The first message of this parable is in the fact itself that the owner does not tolerate, so to speak, unemployment: He wants everyone to work in his vineyard. And in reality, being called itself is already the first recompense: Being able to work in the Lord's vineyard, putting yourself at his service, cooperating in his project, constitutes in itself an inestimable reward, which repays all toil.

The Holy Father goes on to say:

But this is understood only by those who love the Lord and his Kingdom. Those who, instead, work solely for the pay will never recognize the value of this priceless treasure (Pope Benedict’s Angelus Message September 21, 2008.

To work for “pay” only, that is what we are going to get out of it, leads to seeing God’s great generosity of bringing souls into the vineyard and giving them the same pay and friendship with Him only as unjust or unfair.

If we are practicing stewardship, that is, giving of ourselves, our time, talent and treasure for the Kingdom of God, which subsists fully in the Catholic Church, of giving ourselves in its work of saving souls, living for love of God and neighbor for love of God, far from being jealous of new comers we will welcome them as members of the family, members whom we ourselves have worked hard to bring in, in order to join in the labor for other souls. It goes without saying then how much faithful stewardship has to do with the very essence of what it means to be Christ’s “faithful stewards.” Not to practice stewardship will ultimately lead us to becoming last in the Kingdom, not matter when we came in, and we will lose our eternal reward.

In the end justice will be fully served and we will receive our recompense for what we have done or, and especially, for what we have failed to do. Only those who come into the Kingdom and work and sacrifice themselves and their selfishness in the vineyard for love of God and for love and for the salvation of souls out of love for Him, only these will share in the fruit of the final harvest. And that fruit is eternal life, unbelievable happiness immersed in the eternal Family of God, in the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit along with all the angels and saints. No wonder St. Paul was caught between going home to be with the Lord, which is far better, or staying in the flesh to continue to help in the vineyard for the Glory of God and the salvation of souls.

"The Virgin Mary is the perfect vine in the Lord's vineyard. From her there grew the blessed Fruit of Divine Love—Jesus, Our Savior. May she help us to respond always and with joy to the Lord's call, and to find our happiness in the possibility of toiling for the Kingdom of Heaven." (Pope Benedict’s Angelus Message September 21, 2008.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we allow ourselves to be, along with the host, transformed into love, by Love in order to share Love, God’s love, God Himself with our World, transforming it and saving souls. Amen.

John 3; 13-17. Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 14th, 2-14

Today we celebrate the triumph of the Holy Cross. The cross was once the greatest symbol of shame. It was the instrument of the perfection of torture. As a consequence, Roman citizens could not be crucified. No, death by crucifixion was reserved for the lowest of criminals; in fact, for those who were deemed less than human; (isn’t it interesting that we always have to deny it’s a human person with inherent dignity in order to justify taking human life). And so, Jesus who was a fully divine came to earth as one of us; He became fully human in order to obtain our eternal salvation by dying the ignominious death, death on a cross; “This is my body, given up for you…).

As a result of His obedience to the Father’s Holy Will even unto death, Jesus turned the symbol of shame and suffering into a sign of everlasting hope. On the cross, He has taken on our sins so that we might be freed from the slavery and death of our sin; by his stripes we have been healed (cf. Is 53;5, 1st Peter 2;24). And as a result, death has now been destroyed and the symbol of the cross has now become for those who believe, adore, hope and love in Him the symbol of hope; because, the cross is the promise of sharing already in the victory that is now Christ’s. This is on of the reasons why us Catholic have and image of Jesus on the cross.

The cross is for the believer then, also the sign and symbol of authentic love: First, because Jesus’ Cross, makes visible the love of the God Who is Love. Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross makes visible the unfathomable love that each member of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has for one another. While His death on the cross did nothing new with regards to how the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity live their intimate life together, it mysteriously made this Trinitarian love visible for us to behold.

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross, that complete offering of Himself for His friends, shows to us how the members of the Blessed Trinity give of themselves completely for one another eternally. Father, Son and Holy Ghost live totally for the other; sacrifice themselves in an oblation of love, a love that exists totally for the sake of the other. They live only for the other; and so, their love is so perfect, so complete, that it unites them in perfect unity, a unity of perfect Oneness. Love unites and so perfect love units perfectly. This Trinity of Persons is actually a family; in fact, The Family, perfectly united in love, the source of all Love.

The cross is for the believer, the sign and symbol of authentic love secondly, because as it makes visible to us the perfect love that each member of the Trinitarian family has for one another, it also makes present the love that the members of the Trinity have for each one of us. The Cross is then the visible sign of the invisible Trinitarian God’s love for each one of us. “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son… God who is so far beyond us, so beyond our comprehension and our reach, now draws near to us in love; in fact in the Son, condescends Himself, to become one of us, for our sake not His. And not only did He become one of us in Jesus, He did so in order to experience our human condition with all of its joys, struggles, and sufferings; and even to experience our death. And by Jesus’ death, death on a cross He, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, most especially shows us, proves to us and makes visible to us, His incredible love for us.

And finally, the cross is for the believer, the sign and symbol of authentic love because as it makes God’s love visible to us, it also calls us, invites us to participate in this Divine Love, first by our loving God above all things, and then by loving one another as God as loved us. In this we imitate and participate in God’s Trinitarian family, in Its inner Life and Love. This is what Jesus meant by following after Him. Picking up our cross means to imitate Jesus and so imitate God’s love, by offering our lives, our sufferings; all we say and do, our dying to self and selfishness; and finally, offering of our death with all of its pains and sufferings for love God, and because we love God for love of our neighbor and for our neighbor’s salvation, whether he be our friend or enemy. This is the perfection of love, perfect Charity; existing for the love of the other, for the good of the other, that is for God and for every single human person and doing so in Christ and in through and with His Divine Love which unites us to the Father in the Love of the Holy Ghost.

When we give of our self sacrificially to one another, first to God and then to neighbor, with the help of God’s grace and mercy, we partake in the very love of God, we continue to make God’s love visible in the world, as Jesus did, and we bring the unity of love to fruition. In a world that is hell bent on financial success at any cost, on comfort, ease, and personal gratification, especially with regards to sexuality, and finally hell bent on the acquisition of power and control over others, this is a hard message not only to hear, but also to accept. For this reason, St. Paul said, “The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those who are headed for ruin, but to us who are experiencing salvation, it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). And the Power of God is the Power of Love which is defeats all sin and evil, and even death.

If the Cross of Jesus is a sign of love, God’s love, His inner love, His love for us and the love He calls us to, the reality of that love is the Holy Eucharist. I believe it was St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta who once said, “When we look at a crucifix we see how much God loves us, when we look at the Holy Eucharist we see how much God loves us now.” In the Holy Eucharist, through faith, we see the face of Jesus, the face of God. The Holy Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the Sacrifice of Jesus, the Sacrament of His true bodily presence and the Sacrament of our Communion with God, as a three-fold Sacrament, It makes the Holy Cross of Christ truly present in the world today, in our midst today. The Holy Mass makes it possible for you and me to be present, sacramentally, but literally and truly, at the foot of the cross along with the Blessed Mother and St. John.

It is here at this Holy Mass that we can come, as individuals united in a family of faith and love, before the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and share in its victory. It is the Holy Mass that makes truly present for us the Cross, because it is Jesus’ once and for sacrifice on Calvary, the sacrifice that made and makes visible to us the invisible love of our God. The Holy Mass makes visible to us now here in this place and time, the invisible love of God because it makes present for us the fruit of the Cross, the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the Love of God for it is the God who is Love. Jesus died on the Cross in order to give us Himself, who is the fullness of God’s love, of God’s self, in Holy Communion. The Holy Eucharist is the complete gift of the Father, because it is the gift of His Love in the gift of His Son.

It is from the Mass which is the cross of Christ that we can draw from the unity and love of the Holy Trinity in order to live that love out in our families, parish families and in our World. It is in and through the Holy Eucharist the God first loves us and draws us into His love, for it is in the Holy Eucharist that Jesus is lifted up in our own age drawing all men to Himself. In fact, it is at the Elevation of the Holy Eucharist at Mass, after the words of Consecration, it is to this very moment that Jesus refers to in today’s Gospel so that anyone who believes in the Holy Eucharist will be saved...

With the Holy Eucharist Who is Jesus, we can with Jesus and for love of Him, if we have faith and desire it, carry our cross and continue to make visible the love of God to the world, and so continue the victory of the cross in the hearts of those who come to believe through our own sacrifice of love united to His. If at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth…what about before the very Person of Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist….Venite Adoremus Dominum…Come let us adore the Lord on bended knees and bended heart, let us open our hearts to His Divine love, to His Divine Heart by offering our hearts in return.

Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. Let us ask her for help. Let us pray: “Our Lady of Sorrows always united to the crucified Heart of your Son, help us to love Jesus with your love and so love one another as God as loved us. Help us, as you help St. John, to be and remain at the foot of the cross and there offer our heart, our very self and all that we have, on this altar, as victims of love to the Father in union with Jesus and His Sacrifice by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary stationed at the foot of the cross, may we allow ourselves to be, along with the host, transformed into love, by Love in order to share Love, God’s love, God Himself with our World, transforming it and saving souls. Amen.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Our Blessed Lord in our readings today points out our binding responsibility to our brothers and sisters, by first telling us of our need to give fraternal correction. Far from telling others what they are doing wrong, fraternal correction is that need for mature believers to give sound witness, guidance and direction to one other and to others, especially to the most weak and vulnerable. The underlying reason for this is God’s Holy Will, binding all believers, that the protection of the sheep, whether they be believers or not, should be a collaborative effort by all. In other words, every one of us has a responsibility to help and support each and every human person and to protect each and every human person. This is a matter of grave charity binding especially on all believers. For those who are not of the fold or for those who have scatter from the fold, for all of those who are discouraged or confused, they should have the good example of all us, of our holiness of life, drawing them to or keeping them in the true fold.

As mature believers, we must realize that our Catholic faith, lived in fidelity, can help support others. And, on the other hand, our lack of faith by our infidelity can be a factor in the falling away of others or whether or not others are found. And so we need to develop and maintain a mature faith, which is enlightened by study, enthusiastic with joy, sound and persevering with trust, so that our every expression or act of belief might reflect the interior commitment we treasure. We need to live what we believe so that we never ever become a reason for someone to fall away or stay away from God and His Holy Church.

I remember hearing a story about a man who wanted to see if Catholics really believed that the Holy Eucharist was truly Jesus, God in the Flesh. He decided he would put the priest of the parish to the test, to see if the priest really believed or if he merely genuflected toward the tabernacle when he could be seen. He waited one day in the choir loft for the priest to come in to get Holy Communion to take to the sick. He thought to Himself. I’ll see if the priest genuflects when nobody is around. When the priest walked in and, without knowing anybody was watching, made the most reverent and sincere genuflection, the man became a believer in the Holy Eucharist by the witness of the priest. The Gospel is best preached by actions than by words.

We are bound to one another by love, St. Paul reminded the early Roman Church in today’s second reading. Love of neighbor is primarily a commitment to justice, which is giving to the “other” what is due to him or her, this is the fulfillment of the law. This of course begins with God. What we owe to Him in justice is to love Him by worshiping and adoring Him. This is principally done at Holy Mass, but not only by just attending Holy Mass, but by in love offering ourselves, our whole hearts, minds, bodies and souls to God at Holy Mass. This self-offering is then lived out by loving our neighbor for love of God, being concerned for our neighbors well-fare, not by just doing do evil to him, but by defending him or her in justice, or in other words, by loving our neighbor as ourselves and showing them the Love of God.

Our love of God and our love of neighbor for love of God is especially shown by our living all of the truths of our Beautiful Catholic Faith, especially the truth of the Holy Mass which makes truly present, through the Holy Spirit working through the Sacred Priesthood, the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary and His Body, Blood, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist so we might be enter into a Holy communion of love with God and our neighbor, so that all may be one. This brings up another aspect of today’s message.

We are to worship God not only as individuals but also together as community. Our act of adoration of the Father through Jesus while being our most intimate and personal act is at the same time also our most communal act. It is the most important act we do as a community together because we worship our God as a community, better yet as a family. Our individual worship of God is bound to our worship of Him by our coming together at Holy. Holy Mass is truly where two or more can gather in the name of Jesus, that is in the presence of Jesus. It is here where we can agree on, that is have faith in, the truth that comes from God, that is the truth that Jesus came to give us through His Catholic Church, the truth that brings true unity and love, the truth that has the power to renew the world, the truth that saves and sets souls free.

Let us agree in faith, so that what we ask will be granted to us by our Heavenly Father; but let us first at this Holy Mass harden not our hearts, but open our hearts to God, by offering our hearts totally to Him. Then we can receive fully the heart of Christ who gives us His own Sacred Heart in Holy Communion so that we would be enable, empowered to love one another with our heart united to His, with our love elevated and united to His, fulfilling the law of Charity, the law of Love. Let us ask the Virgin, whose Immaculate Heart is one with His, to help us. Let us, in love, give our hearts to her so that she can give them as an acceptable offering to her Son. Amen.