Saturday, April 30, 2016

if you want truly peace, come in silence before the Holy Eucharist and in faith adore and love the living resurrected Jesus silently but really present there.

John 14; 23-29. Fifth Sunday in Easter. May 1st, 2015

The last few weeks we have been speaking about the deepest form of love known to man, that of Agape love. Agape love is a sacrificial love, a human love elevated to the divine. Agape love is only possible in a human heart to the degree that that human heart offers itself in love to the God who loved us first- this begins at our baptism and grows through worthy reception of the other Sacraments, along with intimate daily prayer and the living out of our beautiful Catholic Faith.

Our Gospel today shows us how God loved us first. Our Lord here, is preparing to enter into His passion and death in which he would prove his love for us with the greatest act of agape love the world as ever seen. Jesus in divine love would totally pour Himself out sacrificially for love of each one of us on the Cross-God would die on the cross for us.

And so, it is in the preparation for His passion that Jesus says to us, “If a man love me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” Loving Jesus first and foremost and above all else is the key to the Father’s Love.

But this love for Jesus must be shown and expressed through action. After all, love is shown in deeds, not in sweet words. And so as Jesus says, love for Him is shown in obedience to God's Holy Word. Obeying God’s Holy Word means keeping His commandments and living according to His teachings, which come to us through His Holy Catholic Church. It is in and through the Church that we have been promised the Holy Spirit to help us understand this truth and to be our Diving Helper in living it in our lives. If we do our part, the Holy Spirit will help us to learn and understand the Church’s teaching so we can apply them in everyday life.

It is this obedience to the truth in our lives that brings us the peace that the world cannot give. Because the world rejects this truth and refuses to live in obedience to God’s Truth, the world has no peace. Rejection of the truth is ultimately a refusal to love God, by refusing to live one’s life in obedience to the truth that comes from God. The result is a lack of peace. And if there is one thing that defines our world today, it is a lack of peace; not just exterior peace but most especially inner peace, peace of soul.

I think it was Pope VI that once said; “Peace is much more than just a lack of conflict or war.” Many people in the world mistakenly think that all of our advancements in technology are going to give us peace and make us happy. Instead, in the last thirty to forty years the increases in the amount of crime, violence, and moral degradation in our society have surpassed what many of us ever dreamed possible, not to mention the fear of terrorism and war. Peace is more elusive than ever. And what takes its place is a general feeling of insecurity and outright fear. Everyone deep down knows things are not as they should be, and this leads to an even greater increase of fear, fear of what the future may hold.

As result, we see a fear of giving oneself in agape love to another, especially to God. We see this manifested in fear of making lifelong commitments to one’s vocation, whether in marriage or the religious life; fear of bringing new life into the world; and above all, fear of not being loved. Psychiatrists and other therapist are literally swamped with clients, depression is rampant, and suicide is on the increase, in fact epidemic especially among our youth, who have more material goods than any other generation in history.

And what is the remedy that most turn to in order to alleviate this fear, fear which stems from a lack of peace? Diversion; noise, lots of noise, TV, music, sex, computer games, pornography, drugs- baseless entertainment and amusement, the list is long. Our generation craves diversion, because it lacks peace. What is the solution?

The solution is to turn back to the love of God. This begins by setting the diversions aside, especially the diversion of noise and returning in silence to the One who speaks in silence…the living and true God. In silence, alone with oneself and alone with God, we can hear the voice of God who speaks in the silence to our heart; and we can respond to Him still small voice with ours through intimate prayer, heart speaking to heart; heart giving itself to heart.

A few years ago, you may remember there was an interesting movie that was all about silence before God. It was actually entitled, “Into the Great Silence.” This three-hour movie about the lives of Carthusian monks in the French alps had hardly any spoken words at all, and yet, the movie was a surprise hit. What is it that made this movie about silence so appealing to such a noisy world?

One of the comments about the monks in the movie is that they live in no fear…they live with peace, the peace that they have acquired through the years of silently nurturing their relationship with God. They have deepened their faith that they are indeed sons of a loving Father who loves them, each of them with a unique unfathomable love. If we only knew what it means to be a beloved
son and daughter of God we would have no fear only trust.

In their faith in Jesus Christ and their striving to live in obedience to His words found in Sacred Scripture and interpreted by the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church, the monks have found that solace that the human heart looks for, the solace that comes from living the world behind and living for love of God alone. And this is really the test in this life isn't it?; whether we turn to human beings and to the things of this world for our solace, or turn to God…Jesus I trust in you.

I am not suggesting we become Carthusian monks, but we do enter more into silence in the presence of God, and we have to have the living obedient faith of Carthusian monks. In other words, we need show our love for Jesus by obeying His words, His commandments and teachings and trusting in Him alone.

And like the Carthusian monks, we need to come in contact whenever and however much we can with God in silent prayer before God in the Holy Eucharist both at Holy Mass and whenever we can before His physical presence in the tabernacle. The Holy Mass is the Sacrament instituted by Christ in order to bring the world peace because it makes truly present in the Holy Eucharist the One who is the King of Peace, along with His sacrifice of Agape love for us.*(see note below).

In reality, the more that faith in the Mass and the Holy Eucharist is lost, the more the Mass and the Eucharist is ignored or treated as a time for feel good noisy entertainment, instead of a time for a silent intimate reverential encounter with the living God in adoration and worship, the more we will lack peace and live in fear. This is why the Church has reminded us over and over again to make ample time for periods of sacred silence during Mass. But so sadly us moderns often try to fill every moment of the Mass with noise.

Thomas Merton summed this all up nicely when he wrote, “Silence is not a virtue, noise is not a sin, it is true, but the turmoil and confusion and constant noise of modern society are the expressions of the ambiance of its greatest sins—its godlessness, its despair. A world of propaganda, of endless argument, vituperation, criticism, or simply of chatter is a world without anything to live for…Mass becomes racket and confusion; prayers—an exterior or interior noise” (Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas).

Therefore if you want truly peace and to live without fear, come in silence before the Holy Eucharist and in faith adore and love the living resurrected Jesus silently but really present there. It’s hard for us to do this because of the silence. The Eucharist makes no earthly noise, it is true, but it is in that sacred silence before the living God truly present in the Holy Eucharist that we will find the peace that we are looking for, the peace that the world cannot give because it is in the Holy Eucharist that we will find the strength to love God with deeds, in obedience to His truth. And then, then we will be able to love Him with an agape love and love others with a agape love for love of Him, for He will come and make His Home in us, and place His own love alive in our souls and in our hearts; then and only then will we truly have peace.

I want to end with a saying from Mother Theresa of Calcutta. She learned agape love in adoration, in silent contemplation before the Eucharist. There she learned to see the true face of God in every suffering human being and showed her love for God by obedience to His word which resulted in her life of peace, lived in service to God and neighbor. Mother of Theresa said…

The fruit of silence is PRAYER.
The fruit of prayer is FAITH.
The fruit of faith is LOVE.
The fruit of love is SERVICE.
The fruit of service is PEACE.
And I would dare to add, the fruit of peace is complete trust in and abandonment to God and His Holy Will without fear!!

*By the way, this is what is meant at the sign of peace during the Mass. The sign of peace is not just about us sharing our peace with one another…it is about receiving Christ’s peace. The priest looks down at Jesus truly present in the Eucharist (or at least he should) as he says, “Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, I leave you peace my peace I give you…and then the priest receives it from the Eucharist and offers it to the people whose hearts are open to receive it, by saying, "the Peace of Christ be with you…(literally)". He then invites those present to share Jesus' peace (they have just received) with one other.

The Holy Father once reminded us that this action is not meant to be a free for all…first and foremost we are sharing Jesus peace with one another, not our own peace. For this reason the sharing of the peace of Christ is to be done in a subdued manner with person next to you, who passes it on…it is not suppose to be an attempt to shake every single person’s hand around you. It’s not about us, it’s about Christ; the peace comes from Christ, not from each other and so our attention should stay on the Eucharist, not on each other.

The peace of Christ that comes to us is an assurance of spiritual, saving strength that goes beyond a simple gesture or simple words. The peace of the Lord is not given as the world gives peace. Christ’s peace is not an absence of conflict or suffering. It is a peace that comes from knowing that we are God’s children who depend totally on Him for everything-everything and that we will never have true peace until we turn to him for everything and love him above everything, above everything this world has to offer. It is a peace that comes from loving God and showing this love by living in obedience to his commandments and His Catholic Church.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved, he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture.” Let us at this Holy Mass through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, offer our Hearts fully and with complete trust to the One who offers His Sacred Heart fully to us in the Holy Eucharist.

Fourth Sunday in Easter-Good Shepherd Sunday.

Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. Without doubt one of the most popular images of Jesus Christ is that of the Good Shepherd. It is an image that is easy for us to understand especially when we are depressed and sad. It is an image that is very consoling especially when it feels like God has abandoned us. And for some of us, it was a consoling image when we ourselves had strayed away from God. A God that actually leaves the other sheep for the sake of “one,” is a God that is not so frightening, but very compassionate, very merciful to the sheep who but turns to Him for forgiveness and confesses its sins. Jesus as the Good Shepherd is an image of God that makes the person who has strayed, actually want to be found.

Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd who freely chooses to lay down his life for his sheep.” Jesus has laid down his life for His sheep. And it is only because of Jesus’ own suffering and death that we can be saved. His sacrifice is how He saved us when we were lost sheep. His sacrifice is how we are still being saved and protected while we are in the unsafe pastures of this world. And His Sacrifice is our hope of final salvation in order to reach the eternal pastures of heaven.

And His once-and-for-all Sacrifice is being re-presented, that is made truly present, at this and every Holy Mass in order to continue to save and protect us. This means that the Holy Mass is the very same Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary made present in our midst and in our time, alone with Its saving power. This brings us to the deepest meaning of Christ the Good Shepherd, one that many may not have heard before.

The very idea of shepherd in the Old Testament and the New was always connected to priestly service. In other words, shepherding in the biblical understanding was priestly work. The priest is one who offers Sacrifice and worship on behalf of the people, interceding to God for the sake of the people.

Jesus was and is the true priest who offers the perfect sacrifice and so perfect worship and adoration on behalf of the people. It is perfect because Jesus is God who offers Himself to God—God adores God. Jesus offers Himself on our behalf to the Father, in order to take away our sins and to provide for us the grace needed to union with God now and in the life to come.

Jesus is also the perfect priest as the One who offers and at the same time the perfect victim, the One Who is being offered. Only through His perfect offering of Himself to the Father on our behalf can we or anyone be saved. In the Holy Mass, Jesus the God-Man offers to God the Father the one perfect and so acceptable act of adoration for the salvation of the world, the self-same act on the cross. The Holy Mass is then the source of all the grace, ALL GRACE, that comes into this world.

Jesus the Good Shepherd continues to carry out His saving work as the Good Shepherd in the Sacred Liturgy. Therefore, the work of the Liturgy is first and foremost the work of the Good Shepherd (It is only secondarily our work. In fact, we can only do our work of adoration and worship in union with the perfect worship and adoration of the Son present at every Holy Mass). We must always remember that it is really Jesus Christ who offers the Holy Mass in the person of the priest. Jesus in other words, carries out his shepherding in and through the Sacred Liturgy, which includes the Holy Mass and all the other sacraments, which flow from It.

This means then that Jesus the High priest carries out His priestly work of Shepherding through the Church and it's Sacred Priesthood. When the Sacraments are offered it is really and truly Jesus Himself who baptizes, forgives, confirms, heals, marries, ordains and as I said, offers priestly sacrifice. To carry out His saving priestly work, Jesus the Good Shepherd actually depends on other shepherds who He has given a share in His priestly office. And they for their part, place their voice, their hands, their bodies, themselves at the disposable of the Good Shepherd. Through the Church, they are to shepherd God’s people in Christ's name and with His own Divine Power by offering sacrifice; and so, they shepherd in Christ stead, by sanctifying, teaching and by governing the sheep all with the divine authority of the Head, Jesus, in whose Name they have been called and ordained.

Through the ordained priesthood, Jesus the Good Shepherd is always with us, as close as any Catholic Church, were he waits on our sacred altars and in our tabernacles night and day for any lost sheep who but calls out for him. He gives us His Holy Church led by His Pastors, a Church whose teachings are the very voice of the Good Shepherd. “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I will give them eternal life...”all through the Holy Eucharist.

Jesus’ love for his sheep is a sacrifice of love; it is agape love to the ultimate extreme. And so, we learn from Jesus what love really means; love ultimately means sacrifice laying down ones life for one’s friend; and Jesus has laid down His life for His friends, you and me, and literally continues to do so at the Holy Mass, to provide us with the means to love like Him.

Jesus continues to shepherd us through the priesthood of His Church that he founded and through which he continues to bring his work of redemption into every age including our own. Jesus shepherds us through His shepherds the priests, in whose person HE continues to lay down His life for us through them. In the Holy Eucharist made present by the Priest and the Holy Spirit working through the priest, Jesus give us, offers us His own divine Love and Life in the Eucharist so that we can love with his own heart, that is so we can love with the very love of God, a divine love know as Charity. But for our part we must open our heart to His; that is, offer our heart in response to the offering of His. The Holy Mass is truly meant to be the place on earth where not only heart speaks to Heart, but where heart offers to Heart.

“If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved, he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture.” Let us at this Holy Mass through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, offer our Hearts fully and with complete trust to the One who offers His Sacred Heart fully to us in the Holy Eucharist. Through the Holy Eucharist, Who is the Good Shepherd in our midst, let us enter into His Love so that we may by the Power of the Holy Spirit, take on in our self, in our lives and for our world the image of the same Good Shepherd, being used by Him to seek out the lost and becoming united to Him, and through Him with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit along with all the angels and saints, forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

We have to love what the Son loves, we have to love the Virgin, she will help us to Love her Son by giving our selves more fully and completely to Him.

Third Sunday in Easter. John 21; 1-19. April 10th, 2016

Today we read the wonderful account of Jesus’ appearance to the apostles at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This account is a real turning point in the apostles’ love for Jesus. Even though they had seen the risen Jesus twice, they still didn’t seem to get it; and so as result, they return home to Galilee. Eventually, they would get it, and so come to understand fully their vocation or mission; however, this would come later on the day of Pentecost. But for now, in the mean time, they would go back to what was natural to them; in other words, they go fishing…sounds good to me???

Surprisingly though, in today’s Gospel we hear how these experienced fishermen after spending all night, didn’t catch a thing. There is an important message here that goes beyond their fishing ability. First they couldn’t really go back to a normal life after their true encounter with the Risen Jesus; they just were not the same men as they were before.

But an even more important message is that in their new mission, their natural abilities would just not be enough. If they needed Jesus to succeed even on a natural level of catching fish, how much more did they need Him to catch fish on a supernatural level, that is to catch the souls of men in order to lead them to love of Jesus and so salvation.

At dawn, we are told, Jesus appears on the shore, but interestingly the apostles do not notice him. They are in the midst of their ordinary routine and so don’t expect the Risen Christ to appear in the ordinary. Unrecognized, Jesus asks them if they had caught anything- even though proud fisherman, they have to admit their failure honestly- “No,” they yell back. And so, Jesus calls them to cast their nets off the right side of the boat. Naturally, they were unable to catch fish, but now at the command of Jesus, the apostles cast their nets into the deep. Perhaps they thought they had nothing to loose- but the power of God working through them, suddenly put 153 fish in the nets. With their success, the disciples began to learn that they had to rely on Jesus in everything, rather than merely on their own power.

Because he loves Jesus with a purer love it is St. John, who recognizes Jesus first. And so it is he who tells Peter, “It is the Lord.” At these words, Peter recognizes Jesus as well; and in great abandonment, jumps into the water and swims to Jesus.

Once on shore after finishing the breakfast Jesus had prepared for them, Jesus still next to the fire begins to question Peter, and in a way reminiscent to how Peter was questioned in Jerusalem when before another fire he denied Jesus. A three-fold denial at night, is now to be atoned for by a three fold profession of love in the day. There is even more going on here however, than meets the eye.

Our English translation of the Bible has missed an important element in this passage. If we could read it in the original Greek it would be much clearer. In Greek there are four different words for love. Two of these words are used here. The first word is philia, which is a brotherly love, or a natural human love. The second word is agape. Agape is more than natural human love, it is a sacrificial love, in which a man, is not only willing, by lays down his life for his brother or friend. The New Testament writers borrowed the Greek Agape in order to try and describe a natural human love, which in, through and with Jesus and His grace, is elevated to a Supernatural level.

With an agape love a man can actually love his brother and his God not merely with a human love, but also with the very love of God alive in his heart; in other words, with a divine love. Agape is human love infused, elevated and united to the supernatural level or to the divine level; this is known as Charity and it is the deepest longing of the human heart. Charity is to love God and to love one’s brother with both a human and a divine is to love one’s friend not only for Love of Jesus but with the Love of Jesus, united to Jesus.

And so Jesus begins. “Peter, son of John, do you agape love me, do you love me with a supernatural divine love, in which your give me your all, even your life?” Now Peter, perhaps still with the image in his mind of that penetrating gaze of Jesus given to him after denying Jesus, was not about to make the same mistake twice. Remember Peter at the Last Supper impetuously said, “Lord I will follow you even to the death. And yet when it came down to it, Peter failed to even admit he knew Jesus (the other disciples didn’t do much better, they all ran in the Garden, only St. John returned to the foot of the cross—because when he ran, he ran to Mary). In his denial, Peter had learned the hard way that alone He could not love Jesus with an agape love. And so Peter responds reservedly, “Yes, Lord, you know that I philia love you, that is I love you with merely a natural human kind of love.”

And so Jesus asks Him again, “Peter son of John do you agape, love me?” Again Peter, again responds reservedly, “Yes, Lord you know that I philia, Love you.” And finally Jesus asks Peter, “Peter, Son of John, do you philia love me?” Do you even love me with a natural human love?” Peter was of course distressed, some translations say, “cut to the quick” because Jesus questions whether Peter even loved him with a natural human kind of love.

With this question Peter realizes that without Jesus, not only is it impossible for him to agape, that is to love supernaturally—divinely, but it is also impossible for him even to love with a natural human love. In other words, Peter learned that we need Jesus to help us love authentically, to love as we have been created to love.
We are made to be fully human, and to be fully human means to love not only with a natural human love alone, a philia love, but to love with an agape love, that is to love with God’s own love alive in us. We have been created for Divine love and to love divinely is to love fully human, to love the way for which we have been made. And so if we don’t love with God’s divine love alive in us, not only can we not love divinely, we cannot even love with a true human love, we cannot love fully human.

Our world thinks that it can somehow be fully human without Jesus Christ; it is sadly mistaken. We all have a fallen human nature and have lost the ability to love, as we ought, as we were created to love. And as a consequence, the more we turn from God, from His Church and from His commandments of love, the more we become less than human, and so the more we no longer love fully human. As a result, the more we become a culture of death. The more our society turns from God’s love the more we act inhumanly, the more we stop living authentically human lives.

Today in our Easter joy, let us be encouraged by Peter. Peter, who had once in darkness failed so miserably to love, now by his repentance and confession, opened his heart to receive the very light and love of Christ and it slowly transformed him. Remember today’s Gospel ends with the prophecy of Peter’s martyrdom. In the end, Peter indeed would fully agape love Jesus- he would receive the grace to give his life in a sacrificial offering, in imitation of Jesus, truly becoming a fisher of men.

We too, like Peter are so weak. We fail so often in love. We are afraid to give Jesus everything. Nevertheless, like Peter, we have to tell Jesus we love Him, we have to confess the darkness; that is our failure to love Him totally. And we must confess our sins in the darkness of the confessional in the Sacrament of confession. But confess them in order to come into the light of Christ’s mercy and open our hearts more fully to Jesus and His unfathomable love for us.

The Easter season is here to say our failures do not have to have the last word; if we only repent and confess, Christ’s victorious love will have the last word in our lives. At Holy Mass we can literally receive this victorious love of the Risen Jesus who is truly present in the holy Eucharist, Body Blood Soul and Divinity; it is He who turns our darkness into day—it is He who can transform us as He did with Peter. The Holy Eucharist contains the depths of the very Love of God, for it is truly the God who is Love. With the Holy Eucharist, that is with Jesus we can do all things, provided we truly believe that the Holy Eucharist is the Risen Jesus, adore Him there as the true and living God, trust in Him completely in order to love Him enough to offering ourselves totally to Him.

With the Eucharist, and only with the Eucharist, we can agape love Jesus and others. The Eucharist is the means, the source for us to love fully human, to love with our love elevated and united to Jesus’ divine love, in order to be able to bring others to Jesus, so that they may be saved along with us. But we have to, like Peter, trust more and jump out of the boat and swim to our Risen Lord who waiting for us on the shore…that is to Jesus who is waiting for us at the sacred agape meal of the Holy Mass and in the tabernacle in order to transform us as He transformed Peter. Let us turn to the Blessed Mother for help, she was always faithful. We have to love what the Son loves, we have to love the Virgin, she will help us to Love her Son by giving our selves more fully and completely to Him.