Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Gospel last week reminded us of our need to pray and so Jesus taught us the “Our Father.” Prayer is the breath of our soul. Prayer is the source of all true power—the power of love, for prayer puts us into contact with Love Itself—God, the Most Blessed Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

But we for our part must not only pray, but also pray with humility, persistence and trust, which comes from the realization that our heavenly Father loves us as His beloved Children—and so we are. He already knows what we need and so will only give us the good things we need, not necessarily the things we want, and at a time that is best. And for our prayers to be answered we need to forgive others, to show mercy if we are to receive Mercy.

The Line of the Our Father which says, “give us this day our daily Bread,” reveals the secret of prayer. Our “Daily Bread,” refers primarily to the Holy Eucharist (this is why for centuries in the Liturgy the priest look at the Holy Eucharist as he prayed the “Our Father”). The secret of the prayer of the saint, (that is, the one who is the most intimate friend of Jesus), is prayer in front of the tabernacle, prayer in front of the Holy Eucharist, Who is Jesus. The Eucharist is literally Jesus in His human body with His human heart. And the Human heart of Jesus is the way to the Father’s heart, and so the Father’s mercy and love.

Today the Holy Spirit wants to slap us out of our complacency. In the words that the Holy Spirit, Himself inspired, we hear that all things in this world are vanity. The wise man writing in our first reading is confronting the evils of this life- in particular suffering and death. And it all makes no sense to him. The author has long observed that both the good and the evil man will face suffering and death. This is why he can conclude that the pursuit of earthly things is vane. All is vanity.

What he is really trying to point out is that all the things of this earth that takes us away from an intimate relationship with God are worthless. All the things in this world will have to be left behind, including those we love—so why do we strive to make this world our permanent dwelling especially when it is such a vale of tears…in this life all must suffer both the good and the bad.

In this life then, we must strive for the higher things, the things of the Spirit; it is this Spirit that the Father wishes to give to those who ask (cf. Lk 11;13) Our earthly desires and passions will only take us away from our heavenly calling if we seek to fill them with created things instead of God. Comfort and pleasure, not to mention sinful pleasure, are obstacles for us to reach God if we set our hearts on them. Our hearts are made for God, not for things of this world, whether it be the riches of this world or the comfort or pleasures of this world. Only God can fulfill the deepest desires of our heart, of all hearts. And so our heart will never rest until they rest in our God alone.

It is this wisdom of our first reading that Jesus, in our Gospel today, uses in His advice to the man who approached Him. The death of a father had just taken place and the two sons were arguing over the inheritance. The reality of death confronts them, not only their father’s death but their own, and yet the one wants more of the inheritance than what he has received. He appeals to Jesus to intervene on his behalf- after all it’s only fair…This is a familiar situation. How many families are torn apart by fighting over the inheritance after a funeral (and sometimes even before the funeral, even before death)?

Jesus reads this man’s heart- and finds there, greed. In the face of his apparent suffering from injustice, this man thinks that more material goods will fill the void in his heart. And so Jesus responds to the request by telling him a parable. “Where is your treasure?” Jesus asks. Is it in the things of this world or the things of heaven…are you worried more about possessions than you are about your eternal salvation…are you worried more about money than obtaining the greatest of all treasures, Jesus Himself.

Jesus here want us to seriously reflect that this life is short and heaven is long, eternally long; are our hearts then really set on obtaining heaven...are we really taking our conversion and salvation seriously enough? Death comes for us all sooner or later (sometimes sooner), then judgment, then heaven or hell. Are we willing to risk living an eternity separated from the Love of our heavenly Father by taken it all for granted.

And so, Jesus again speaks of the necessity of prayer, the necessity of forming that intimate union with our God—our life does not consist of possessions, but in obtaining and possessing God and being possessed by Him.” If we instead make the object of this life the values and things of this world, our relationship with Christ, our lives will lose meaning. With our hearts set on things we slowly become stupefied in the sleep of indifference. And in this indifference we will no longer be able realize the greatest gift in this life is the Holy Eucharist which is Jesus, the way to the Father.

If we don’t center our lives on Jesus in the tabernacle we may think that we are living good Christian lives, but we are not living Holy Christian Lives. We will take our eternal salvation for granted; we will even presume every one goes to heaven when they do not. Away from the Holy Eucharist, and belief, adoration, trust and love in the God who is present in the flesh there, we will become slave to our senses—wanting only comfort and pleasure; we will think only of the things of earth and not of the things of heaven. We will want for only material things and so will become attached to the created things of this world instead of the Creator of the world. In the end, all will be vanity, for we will have sought in created things that which they can not give and we will lose hope, and all will be vanity.

Let us realized that if we are going to bear fruit in our lives, the fruit of salvation, for ourselves and others, then we must place our hearts often next to the tabernacle, which is under the cross. The Holy Eucharist is Divine; it is a Divine Person; it is Jesus; it is God. Therefore, the Holy Eucharist is not only the secret of prayer; it is the one and only door way to Our Father who Art in Heaven; in fact it is Heaven for it is Jesus—The Eucharist is then the greatest of all Treasures; it is where our heart should be; better yet, He is where our heart needs to be, now and forever.

Before the Holy Eucharist alone will we find the consolation we desire and the strength in the Lord we need to survive the trials of this life. There alone will we find fulfillment to the deepest desires of the human heart and reach a union forever with the God who is love.

Only Jesus in the Holy Eucharist knows how difficult it is for us to leave this world behind, only He knows our weakness, only He knows our heart. Let us turn to Him in a greater way at this Holy Mass. May we pray today for the grace of heeding the words of Jesus. Let us pray for the grace to discover that our hearts will only be satisfied with union with our Lord. May our Holy Communion today be an occasion where this union with our Lord grows and is perfected. May we be one with the Holy Eucharist and so one with Jesus and so begin to obtain heaven already here on earth.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Last we spoke of the importance of prayer; especially contemplative prayer—sitting, like Mary, at the feet of Jesus, looking lovingly at His face and silently listening attentively to every word He speaks. The readings today continue with the importance of prayer in our lives. Prayer is literally the breath of our soul. In our first reading we hear Abraham, praying and interceding to God about the fate of Sodom, whose people were guilty of accepting the grave sin of sodomy. And in the Gospel, we read Jesus teaching the apostles (and us) how to pray…for we know not how to pray as we ought. And so Jesus gives them (and us) the “Our Father.”

All these readings remind us that we must approach God as our Father, better yet, as our daddy. We are to speak to Him humbly, as a child speaks to its daddy whom the child loves with his whole heart; we are to speak to Him with the simplicity of a child that trusts that the Father always hears him and will answer him in a way and time that is best for the child; and finally, speak to Him with the purity of a child that respects the father so much that the child would never do anything to intentionally to offend the father but only strive to please the father. …”

Purity and childlikeness helps us to make sure that we never say the “Our Father,” or any other prayer to God, without the realization that it is God the Almighty that we are speaking to, the Creator of heaven and earth. Intimacy and reverence must always go together in addressing our prayer to God. He is the source and Creator of everything we are and have, even our existence—(God for Himself, does not just exist He is existence Itself. And it is He who willed us into existence, and it is His love that keeps us in existence (if you ever wonder if God loves you, grab you arm and see if you still exist…if you do He loves you!!!). And so our prayer must be reverent and said from the heart to a all holy Father who Loves us so much.

Because God love us so much, Jesus instructs us that our prayer to the Father should also be a trusting prayer, one that realizes that the Father already knows what we need even before we ask, and so will only give us the good things we need; however, not necessarily the things we want. Along with the Father giving us only the good things that we need, He will also give it in a way, and at a time which is best for us. He answers all prayers, but according to His Holy Will, not to our own, for He alone knows what is best for us.

For our prayer to be heard we must then humble, “for every one that exalted himself will be humbled and he that humble himself shall be exalted.” So we must also never approach God with the heart of the Pharisee but always with the humble heart of the publican…saying, “O God a humble heart of Lord you will not despise”…so be merciful to me a miserable sinner, have mercy on all mankind for all are sinners in equal need of Your mercy.” In this we recognize that any good in us is not of ourselves; nor is it given to us because of what we done…it is from the Mercy and goodness of God.

This brings up another point Jesus that teaches about prayer, and that is, for God to listen to our prayer we must, must first be reconciled with Him, with His Church and with our neighbor. We do this primarily by regularly receiving forgiveness for our sins in the Sacrament of Confession, honestly admitting those areas in our lives that are not lived in righteousness; in other words, that are not lived according to God’s teachings, which come to us through the Church. Always remembering we will only be forgiven to the extent we forgive others. As the Our Father says, to receive forgiveness, we must forgive others who have sinned against us—we must show mercy to receive mercy.

Along with the grace of confession, we can’t live lives of righteousness—being right with God and neighbor, without the grace that comes from prayer before the Holy Eucharist—the Holy Eucharist is our Strength and our Salvation. We just can’t go to the Father in prayer except through the Son and the Son is the Holy Eucharist. If we are going to be counted among the ten righteous needed to spare our modern age from God’s promised chastisements then we must spend more time humbly, trustfully and with childlike purity in adoration of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist begging God’s pardon and mercy on us and on our sinful world. This grace and mercy can transform us into other Christ so that everything we do, everything no matter how small becomes a prayer, a sacrifice, and act of penance, in order to merit grace for the conversion and salvation of souls.

Thankfully there are many people throughout the world today, both religious and lay faithful alike, who make weekly, even daily Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament. "Thank God, there are those who pray each and every day with the faith of Abraham from the heart. It could be their persevering prayer before for the tabernacle that as so far saved our sinful world from God's divine justice. They are the modern day Abraham's dialoging with God, imploring His mercy and forgiveness for the sins of the modern cities of our world.

But are there enough souls praying before the Eucharist? Remember Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, there just weren't enough people--ten--reaching out to God. (If we compare the population of Sodom and Gomorrah with the United States, in ratio, we would need 300,000 righteous people). And so, will you and I also be one of them that will on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, reaching out to the Father through the Son on behalf of others, so that our world may be converted and so souls be saved?

In prayer, speak to the Father today from your heart. Beg his mercy for our fallen cities and country while the Father is still preserving in his mercy, beg His mercy for yourself and others. Persistence prayer to Our Father God will begin to end the persistent sin and un-forgiveness in our world and in our own life, it will bring us and other to an intimate union with Our Father who art in Heaven.

Let us at this Mass and every Mass, as we offer ourselves along with Jesus in loving sacrifice to the Father, ask our Blessed Mother to help us make this offering fully and completely, better yet let us make this offering through her Immaculate Heart so that she herself can place it in the Sacred Heart of her Son…Surely He will accept it from her hands! Let us ask her to obtain for us the grace to live this offering so that every thing we do in our daily lives can become a sacrifice, an act of penance, for love of God Our Father and for love of neighbor.
In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus at the home of Lazarus, where his two sisters are doing apparently very different actions. It would seem a very familiar scene in any household especially at the holidays- one person is stuck doing all of the work, while others sit and visit and do nothing to help. In our account, Martha for her part does what is customary; she is so absorbed in making sure everything is perfect- actively attending to so many details- is there enough bread? Have we prepared enough meat? (On and on).

Mary, on the other hand, it would seem, sits passively in silence doing nothing at the master’s feet. Mary is not helping Martha with all the chores. Now, out of justice, we might think that Jesus should say to her- “Mary please help your sister-Martha, she is anxious and worried about so many things;” but he does not. Jesus instead turns to her sister and says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about so many things and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.”

After we recover from our natural shock from Jesus apparent failure to act in justice, we have to consider what all of this means. For the Fathers of the Church this passage has been seen as showing the two essential aspects of Christian life-prayer and service; Mary representing prayer; and Martha-service to others. Now often, these two aspects are seen in opposition to one another; however, nothing can be further from the case; they are intricately bound.

Every Christian, even the most recluse hermit, even the pope, must live these two aspects of the Christian life- prayer and service; both are needed to authentically follow the Master. Now most of us understand the need for service. But the prayer dimension, and in particular the silent contemplative prayer type, is often put in second place or even omitted in our world today (not to mentioned mocked). For many, prayer, especially silent contemplative prayer is seen as being merely passive-doing nothing, accomplishing nothing. But the fact is, we can only live lives of faithful service to our brothers and sisters when we first come to Jesus in prayer, listen and seek a loving Union with the Creator. Contemplative prayer then is primary; it is the best part. We must first come before we go, we must first be filled with God’s love before we can share that love with others. IN the gospels, before Jesus ever said go to His disciples, He first said come, come to me.

Why is that prayer, and again especially contemplative prayer, which could be defined as sitting silently at the feet of Jesus in order to listen to His words, why is prayer so undervalued in our world today and dare I say in our Church today? Why has it become secondary to so call active service, or even omitted. I believe one of the main reasons prayer is undervalued or left out of the Christian life is time. We all have such packed calendars. Modern technology may make the organization of our packed calendars easier, but all we have accomplished is to just put more things into our day. We become absorbed by the clock. We have a clock on our wrist, on our cell phone, Blackberry, or IPhone. Clocks are everywhere to remind us that time is short, so we must get busy, busy, busy. As we sit in the traffic jams, we are scheduling and checking email, multitasking, and yes, texting. We are frustrated because we are late to a meeting-(the person in the other vehicle can be seen not as a human being but merely as an obstacle getting in our way). We have to finish everything in order to pick up the children from school and get them to soccer practice and then on to their music lesson. Somewhere in there, we’ll try to grab some fast food and chow it down as we drive. We have been trained to think that we only have a good day when we accomplish a great deal. I think this is a pretty accurate description of our hectic life these days.

We have the temptation as well, to bring this busyness into our spiritual life. We are rushed for time, so when we look at where time will be spent in the presence of our God in intimate prayer, we say to ourselves, “I Only have a couple of minutes to pray today- I’ll try to get some more time later, but today, I need to accomplish something.” The ‘more time later’ however, never seems to come, and eventually we become too busy for even a couple of minutes, prayer can be omitted altogether. And if we do find time for prayer, our minds can be filled with so many anxious concerns that our prayer life too, becomes just a matter of getting things done instead of a matter of intimate love with the divine Lover-Jesus—we can end up saying many things but never really sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His words; we do all the talking.

And so what are we to do? The fact is we can never really be too busy for prayer, never too busy to sit at the feet of Jesus and look at His face, never to busy to sit silently as well in order to hear his voice. So first, our minds have to undergo a conversion about time. Love never counts time when together, only when apart, for those in love can’t wait to be together again and when they are together they never want time to end. Time spend with Jesus is not wasted time. Time with our Lord is the most loving and indeed most effective and active way of living the Christian life; it is far from sitting before Jesus doing nothing—being with our beloved is never doing nothing. It is a matter of being, not doing; to sit in the presence of the one we love and attempting to united ourselves with them in love; yes, speaking to them but at times saying nothing just staring into their eyes. This, THIS is the most active activity—contemplative activity.

Second, we must make changes in our calendar. Personal prayer should be a scheduled event in our day, we should add it to our smart phone’s calendars. Our day should start firstly with prayer on our knees, even before we get dress and then we should end our day with a prayer. In between, we need to schedule time for prayer, perhaps a rosary walk, stopping into the church a few minutes, even attending daily Mass. We need to be still too whenever we can and know that He is God and listen to Him.

We also need to practice the awareness that God is with us all day long even as we work, play and relax; we should pause before each new activity of the day and place ourselves in the presence of God, that is realize that God is presence with us as we fulfill faithfully our daily tasks offering them to Him in love through the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our ordinary daily tasks then become a prayer in of themselves, they then bear great spiritual fruit in our lives and in our world—they become a way to the Lord for us and for others, instead of getting in the way.

Next, speaking of the Holy Mass, we need to make Holy Mass the most important event of our lives, revolving our lives around it, not the Mass around our lives. In other words we need to put the Mass always first. To help us we should consider putting in extra time for Mass on Sunday- arrive early in order to properly prepare for Mass and spend a few minutes afterwards in Thanksgiving to God for being giving the awesome privilege and blessing to even have been able to be present at Mass, not to even mention receiving God Himself into our body and soul.

At Holy Mass we also must be careful not to be too much of a Martha, having to “do” something. The highest form of activity at Mass again is not doing something or even saying something, but in being… sitting at the feet of Jesus and silently allowing ourselves to bask in the rays of His love for us. We accept the offering of His love and then we try with the Virgin Mary’s help to offer our love in return. Holy Mass should be about the action between two hearts who are growing in love with one another-who seek union with one another; our heart and Jesus’ heart; cor ad cor loquitur--heart speaks silently to heart. We should look into His eyes by staring at the Eucharist and know that He too is looking into our eyes with unfathomable love.

By our loving unrushed presence at Mass we are like Martha and Mary welcoming into our home-Jesus, who is truly on the altar and in the Tabernacle. When we are before the Holy Eucharist we are literally, not figuratively, but literally at the feet of Jesus. (To help us better realize the infinite value of the Mass and the Eucharist, we could also come before the tabernacle outside of Holy Mass to sit at the feet of Jesus, to experience His loving Gaze and be filled with His Love and Mercy and in the silence hear His voice in our hearts. In doing this, we are choosing the better part.

The more you and I make time for Jesus by intimate prayer in our daily lives, the more we make time for Jesus by coming into His true physical presence in the Holy Eucharist at Holy Mass and whenever we can, at least one hour a week outside of Holy Mass, the more we are able to experience his tangible presence in our lives and in our everyday relationships, the more we experience his Divine love acting in our world. By being in His presence we experience the power of His Divine Love and receive the bliss that it promises and then the more we become transformed and empowered to in service share more fully that bliss with those in the world around us. Contemplative prayer must always be primary in our life. Jesus will reward the generosity of our time spend with Him in love, just has he rewarded Martha and Mary’s time with Him, by later raising their brother Lazarus from the dead. Jesus can never be outdone in generosity.

As we finish this time of prayer, let us ask the Blessed Virgin to grant us the diligence of Martha as well as the awareness of the true presence of God of Mary. Let us daily as individuals and families pray her Holy Rosary. The Rosary is a Eucharistic Prayer. In it we ask the Blessed Mother to help us in our busy and hectic lives make time to pray and to sit silently at the feet of Her Son in contemplative prayer. The Rosary is a prayer to lead us to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus in order to allow the Power of Its Love to be active in our daily lives and in our World; This is the greatest service we can perform. Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Pray for us. Amen.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Holy Mother of God, true and faithful mother, Mother of the Church and so mother of all the disciple of Christ, Pray for us; help us leave behind whatever our hearts are set on beside Jesus and cling to Him alone.

Luke 10; 1-12,17-20 Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 3rd, 2016

Today we continue our readings from St. Luke’s Gospel on discipleship. Last week, Jesus told us that the cost of being a disciple is high; we must give up everything to follow Him. Recall that Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead,” and “no one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.” The disciples of Jesus left everything to follow Him; they left their families, their jobs, their possessions and even their comfort zone to follow him, but in doing so they found that peace that the world cannot give.

Today, we hear Jesus sent out his disciples on a mission. Jesus gives them great authority- to preach, to teach, to heal and even to expel demons in Jesus own name. They are to go with nothing extra. We heard that they took no moneybag, no sack, and no extra sandals into a hostile world; they were like lambs amongst wolves. The disciples are to depend on Jesus literally for everything. This may seem to be rather extreme for us; but as we heard in the Gospel, the results were amazing, and the disciples rejoice because they had seen the divine power of God working through them in their human weakness and emptiness.

You might be thinking, if this is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, I don’t think I want anything to do it. After all, we certainly cannot give up everything-our homes, our jobs, and all of our possessions to follow Jesus. And being sent without any supplies? Think of how we pack for a trip- of course we pack and prepare for every possible contingency. When we travel, we have to make sure we have extra money or least have all of our credit cards ready. So, how in the world can we possibly live this message of discipleship in our day?

To get over our fear, we first start by realizing that Jesus is indeed calling each one of us to be His disciples in order to send us forth to preach the Good News, that is, the Gospel with our lives. With His help received through daily prayer, we slowly detach ourselves from those things that interiorly, that is within our hearts, that we have place before Him, those things that are keeping us from growing in deeper intimacy Him. Our heartfelt desire to begin to live totally attached to Jesus, then grows and grows.

It is not that we all must physically get rid of all that we possess, but that we must free our hearts from of all that we have placed before Jesus. We no longer live just to obtain things, but now we live to obtain the One thing we can't live without, the Creator of all things, Jesus and His Love. With this freedom, we can more and more abandoned ourselves trustingly into His loving arms and into His Holy Will.

Here we must mention a couple of things that our hearts cling to even more than physical things, and which prevents us from attaching ourselves more fully to Jesus, and these things are sin and error. We must, in our hearts and in our lives detach ourselves from sin and accept the truth no matter how difficult. Sin and error make us fearful to give ourselves totally to Jesus. Sin and error make us count the cost, only thinking of what we must give up instead of what we gain—Jesus Christ and all things beside. Sin and error make us think we lose something of ourselves when answer Jesus call and forsake all to follow Him.

In order to let go of our sin and error, we reach out for Jesus' divine help, which comes to us through Holy Mother Church. She is Jerusalem mention in our first reading today. It is in her arms that we are comforted with the fullness of truth. It is from her that we can receive the spiritual “milk” we need to grow in love and in strength to be faithful and effective disciples of the Lord. We receive this “milk” first of all by our full, active, conscious and fruitful participation in the Sacred Liturgy; that is the Holy Mass and the other Sacraments.

In her healing Sacraments, of confession, the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Anointing we are freed from sin, healed, saved and raised up. With her teachings we are given the truth that frees us and sets us free. But again, we for our part must repent and convert our lives. This means we do the hard work of changing those actions in our lives that are not in accord with God’s divine Will. When we more and more conform ourselves to the teachings of His Holy Catholic Church, living them out in our daily lives with the help of the grace of the Sacraments, then we are given peace and can share that peace with others.

Let us turn to Our Lady for help. Holy Mother of God, true and faithful mother, Mother of the Church and so mother of all the disciple of Christ, Pray for us; help us leave behind whatever our hearts are set on beside Jesus and cling to Him alone. Help us at this Holy Mass to boast only in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ by abandoning ourselves and our lives into the Arms our Heavenly Father, exulting with Holy Mother Church by sacrificing all we have and are on this altar of sacrifice so that we may receive more fully Jesus, your Son in the Holy Eucharist and so be transformed bearing the marks of Jesus on our own bodies for the world to see. Then we will be Jesus' faithful disciples, instruments of His Love and Mercy bringing His peace into the world, into our families, all for His Glory and for the salvation souls. God Bless you all, and have a Happy and safe Fourth of July!