Saturday, August 27, 2016

It is at Holy Mass that we can approach without terror and trembling but nonetheless with great humility “Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering (Heb. 12;22.

The readings today speak to us about an important virtue-the virtue of humility. It was the Blessed Mother who said to St. Faustina, the apostle of Divine Mercy, that the three most important virtues in the Christian life are: number one-Humility; number two-humility; number three-humility.

However for the most part, it seems humility is not a very popular virtue these days. In fact, I wonder if most view humility more as vice, as a type of weakness. In other words, the more humble we are, the more others will take advantage of us. Surely, in our world there are many people trying to take advantage of us (fraud is a common crime these days), but true humility is not this. Humility is not being a floor mat; it is not a weakness, but instead a great strength.

Humility is of course, the virtue that opposes pride in our heart. Humility comes first and foremost with our correct relationship with God and then flows out to our correct relationship with others and then ourselves; it is knowing the truth about ourselves and about God.

Simply, Humility recognizes that God is God and we are not. He is our Creator and Lord, and as such we must come to know Him in order to love Him by serving Him so that we may be happy in this life and in the life to come. This begins by knowing and obeying His Commandments and His teachings in our lives. And perhaps most difficult, to be humble we are to obey those whom God has placed in legitimate authority over us, as well as serve and love others for Love of God whoever they may be.

Perhaps to better understand humility we can compare it with its opposite-the vice of Pride. While humility is the truth, pride is a lie. Pride can manifest itself in a couple different ways.

First, pride can lead us to think ourselves above God and that we know better than God. We place ourselves above His Commandments and the teachings of His Son, Jesus. There are of course innumerable ways people justify this, like saying God doesn’t exist, or the Commandments are just a religion thing so don’t push your beliefs on me, or the Church needs to get with the times; after all, everyone is doing it.

In this first manifestation of pride, it is the self that becomes the determinant of the truth. But in the end, it is an act of pride, because it is lie. This was the real temptation in the garden, the devil said, you will know the difference between good and evil, in other words, you can choose for yourself what is true and false what is good and evil apart from God and His truth which is proclaimed by His Church.

The truth is of course that God is the only one who determines truth and He has revealed it to us in its fullness through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word of God, and so He is Truth Itself who continues to speak to us through the teaching office of the Church He founded. And so, humility recognizes that Right is right even if no-one is doing it, and wrong is wrong even if every is doing it.

The other manifestation of pride is the opposite of the above; it is when we judge ourselves to be less than the dignity that God has given to us as His beloved child made in God’s own image and likeness and redeemed by the precious Blood of His Son. This type of pride can come out like this, “how could God ever love me, I did this terrible thing and He could never forgive me.” Or “The teachings of the Church are too hard to follow, so why even try.” This manifestation of pride is a type of false humility in which we look at our weakness more than we look to God’s mercy and His grace in order to over come our weakness. This can also lead us to deny any good work that through grace, God has accomplished through us or can accomplish through us.

In contrast, true humility recognizes that we have all sinned, and we continue to sin and so fall short of the glory of God in our thoughts, words and deeds. We are all too weak on or own power to live our lives according to the truth, but we are indeed nevertheless loved by God more than we can imagine. He desires to forgive us of any or our failure to live the truth—our sins, if accept His mercy by truthfully, sorrowfully and humbly ask for His forgiveness by confessing them fully before His personal representative in the Sacrament of confession as we make a firm purpose of amendment with the help of His grace to sin no more. And God is always ready to give us the strength we need to humbly follow Him if we but, in humility call upon His Holy and Powerful Name through prayer and the Sacraments of His Church, which are the sources of grace for us.

Pride in all of us can be very strong. Just when we think we have lost some of our pride, it is then when pride can be the most powerful in us. Those who don’t think they are prideful are in fact the most prideful. Humility is the only antidote to pride. Humility is truth; it is being truthful about ourselves, both in what is good about us, and in what is bad about us. As someone once said, “True humility is being aware of our self worth, but not our self importance.”

Humility is actually an internal choice we make in the silence of our hearts. The essence of this choice & act of humility is adoration. We bow ourselves under the hand of the Creator, we submit our wills to His, we die to our self, that is to our self-will, our self-reliance and to our own ideas. We have received everything we are and everything we have from God, so we desire to offer it all back to Him in a loving sacrifice of thanksgiving. We bow our hearts, minds, and yes even our bodies, bending our knees before the majesty of the Almighty, all Powerful, and ever-living God—this is humility!

Humility then, always starts with what is most basic, adoration. The deeper our adoration of God, the more we realize our complete dependence on God, the greater we grow in our relationship with God & hence the more we grow in humility. This brings us to why we need the holy Mass.

It is at Mass that we can approach without terror and trembling but nonetheless with great humility “Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering (Heb. 12;22) . However, just like we can’t not pray as we ought with out the Holy Spirit, so too without Him we cannot adore the Father as we ought without the Holy Spirit.

At Holy Mass, Jesus-“the mediator of the new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel” (Heb. 12;24), through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the sacred priesthood, Jesus comes down onto the altar anew and offers His self-same sacrifice of Calvary to the Father as a perfect act of adoration on our behalf. We for our part, with the power of the same Spirit can offer ourselves in an imperfect act of adoration to the Father, through, with and in the perfect offering and adoration of Jesus. Let us turn to the spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin, to help us place our hearts humbly, that is, totally, completely and with great trust and love on the paten at this Holy Mass.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Peace is always the fruit of accepting the truth—while rejection of the truth, ultimately, is the source of all division and disunity.

Today, Jesus seems to be saying to us some very divisive and even intolerant words. He tells us to strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will try to enter and will not succeed.” He says, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!” and “Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth…” Jesus words seem like swords to our modern age of tolerance, as well as disrupting to our apparent peace; after all, “can't we just get along!” But here again, Jesus speaks the truth, the hard truth and yes the sometimes-divisive truth. Remember last week He said, “I have come to bring division…”

When hearing the tough truth of the Gospel, we can have the tendency to want to soften it, to remove those things that seem to us to be difficult--divisive or intolerant. Like parents who don’t want to destroy the peace by correcting their children, we can begin to think that to bring people together in peace and unity we should just drop the teachings of the Church that seem to lead to division and so a lack of peace. But it never works trying to preserve the peace by denying the truth; it may give us a false sense of peace, but only for a while because it is an illusion. Peace is always the fruit of accepting the truth—while rejection of the truth, ultimately, is the source of all division and disunity.

A good example of this false notion of the preserving the peace and so preserving a false perception of unity has been seen in the last fifty years in the Ecumenical dialogue trying to reunite Christian communities and Churches. After many early successes in ecumenical dialogue after Vatican II, the “spirit of the age” has rendered it for the most part uninspiring and unfruitful. Why? Because too many Christians, especially Catholics involved in the discussions are afraid of offending, “better to get along.” And so, much of the effort has been spent in trying to reach the goal of "getting along".

Now, it’s good for us to want to “get along,” of course; however, the trouble is when getting along is the main goal, many of our significance differences are ironed over and ignored and the fullness of the truth is set aside. Many of our separated brothers and sisters, not to mention many Catholics, even some priests and religious, have frankly abandoned the full truth of the Gospel for a political correctness, teaching incorrectly for example that abortion and contraception are morally correct or that traditional marriage should be abandoned, and divorce and remarriage, or even so-called homosexual "marriage" should not only be allowed but embraced.

More and more Christians are abandoning faith in the Gospel and its unchanging Truth. So many try to cover up this lack of faith and acceptance of grave errors under the umbrella of “tolerance or inclusivity.” But this rejection of God’s truth, and this rejection of reality and the way God has made it, does nothing but lead to a false sense of unity and peace and to just more division, and eventually to outright chaos and destruction.

A few years ago there was an instruction that came out from Rome, by Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI; It was entitle, "DOMINUS IESUS"
OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE CHURCH. When released it cause a huge backlash in the Christian Church and beyond. In this instruction, the future Pope pointed out why the fullness of Christ Church and so the fullness of Christ’s truth--God’s truth, subsists only in its fullness in the Catholic Church.

Afterwards, as you could image, many commentators condemned Pope Benedict for being divisive and hurtful, and for damaging the efforts to “get along” with others. Surprisingly, (or not surprisingly) some of the harshest critics of the future Holy Father were so-called Catholic Theologians. They claimed this instruction “set-back” the efforts to unite the other Christian “churches” by decades, not to mention the damage, they claimed, it cause to unity with the other non-Christian faiths. But in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

In the instruction from the future Pope, far from condemning the other Christian communities, merely proclaimed to them the truth in love in order to bring about true unity and true peace, not only among all Christians but also among all men of good will. He wasn’t trying to say that other Christians were evil or that they had no truth; nor, was he saying that there was no way they could get into heaven. No, Benedict, was only saying that they were and are missing some of the vital necessary truths that Jesus Christ came to give us in order for us to be able to succeed in entering through the narrow gate into life. And the most vital of these necessary truths that is missing, leading to serious defects within these communities, is a correct understanding and so belief in the Holy Eucharist.

Only the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches claim to have, and truly have, the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus who is the True and Living God among us. All the other Christian communities believe the Eucharist is merely symbolic or spiritual or that Jesus is somehow present among the elements of bread and wine, but not as the Catholic Church believes, that it is truly the flesh of Jesus, the fullness of His human nature along with the fullness of His divinity truly present in the world in His resurrected body.

Even if some Christians claim to believe in the Eucharist in the correct way, according to Catholic teaching and the reality of the situation, it would not be possible for them to have the Eucharist-Jesus the incarnate Lord. Why? Because only the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have, claim to have, and can claim to have, Apostolic Succession.

Apostolic Succession is the truth that the divine power to confect the Holy Eucharist was given to the Twelve Apostles, and only the twelve, at the Last Supper when Jesus literally laid His hands on them and ordained them priests and bishops, telling them to do this, “in commemoration of me.” In this “laying on of the hands true power, the power of God Himself was placed into their very person. No Christian denied this perennial truth of our Faith until the Sixteenth Century, but now sadly millions do.

This divine power to make present the sacrifice of Calvary and the true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and so Holy Communion with God possible, this power was then passed on to the successors of the Apostles also by the Laying on of the hands. Only the Catholic Church and orthodox Churches have keep intact Apostolic Succession and so have, in reality, throughout the centuries passed on this divine power of Jesus. As a result, only the Catholic Church can claim to have the Holy Eucharist--Jesus in the fullness of His Divinity united to the fullness of His Humanity. And so as Pope Emeritus Benedict proclaimed in his instruction, the fullness of Christ’s Church and the fullness of His truth subsists only in the Catholic Church because only She has, truly and really, the Holy Eucharist, which is, better yet, Who is Jesus, Who is the Truth, the Way and so the Life.

Jesus in our Gospel today and through the teachings of the Church is giving us the hard truth, but only because He loves us and wants our salvation and our happiness, not our condemnation or the condemnation of any man—God desires that all men and women be saved. The truth matters with regards to our eternal salvation, especially the truth of the Holy Eucharist. Only the Person of Christ can save us and, the Eucharist IS the Person of Christ available to us on earth. So, how can we as Catholics possibly say, as did Pope Emeritus Benedict, that other Christian faiths who do not have the Eucharist are not defective; how can we in order to just get along, say they are not missing something vital to life?

Only through an honest and straightforward dialogue about our differences with other Christian communities and people of other beliefs can we ever hope to have unity and peace. Even more, if we love other Christians and even people of other non-Christian faiths, our own children and family members who have left the Church (and even those in the Church who no longer believe), how can we not want them to have the truth of the Church's moral teachings which give life, how can we not want them to have the truth of the Holy Eucharist, which is not only necessary for salvation, but which is Jesus Christ, God in the flesh still among us, Love itself still among us, in order to Love us, help us, heal us, to save us...

Today, Jesus tells us that only through our acceptance and living the truth will we finally enter into the Kingdom of God in heaven. Jesus makes it clear however, that to accept the full truth of the Gospel is hard, and to conform our lives to it is even harder; it is the narrow way…this is especially the case with regard to the truth of the Holy Eucharist.

Again, last week Jesus said He has come to bring division. The Holy Eucharist is primarily how Jesus in our day continues to bring division. It’s is not that the Holy Eucharist—Jesus causes division, but that division is caused because so many reject or don’t know the truth that the Holy Eucharist is Jesus in the flesh still among us—In other words, lack of faith in the Holy Eucharist is the cause of division in our world. However, the Good News for us today is, is that contrary is even more true.

Our Faith in the Holy Eucharist can and will bring unity. True faith in the Holy Eucharist will, as the Blessed Mother said at Fatima, establish peace in our hearts, in our families, in our Churches and in our world. It is through our faith in the Holy Eucharist that you and I can receive the Power, the power of Jesus to be enabled to enter through the narrow gate and actually become a way for others to enter in as well. At this Holy Mass let us again offer ourselves totally to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist by offering ourselves totally to Mary, so that we may used as her little ones to convert the whole world to authentic faith in the Holy Eucharist thus bringing it mercy and love, and true unity and peace. Amen.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

We continue today with our theme of prayer and it’s urgency for our lives. Last week a man approached Jesus to settle an argument he was having over the inheritance. Jesus pointed out what was most important- an intimate relationship with God. Nothing and no one is more important than possessing and being possess by the God who is Love. And so, Jesus makes it even clearer to us in our Gospel today- “sell your belongings- for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus then tells a couple of parables to emphasize this sense of urgency.

One of the main truths of our existence is that we are only here on earth to learn how to love, to learn how to love as God loves us so that we might be intimately united with Him here on earth and forever with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom. Live is very short, and so more than anyone or anything else, is our heart set on the One thing that matters…Jesus and an intimate self-sacrificing relationship of love with Him? Is our heart set on Him alone or is it divided?

Jesus knows us well and so today He starts His words to His disciples and to us with “Do not be afraid.” There is a great temptation- to withdraw from God because we are afraid, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the future, afraid of what all out love of God may cost us, afraid to offer everything to God because He might take it.
And so today, Jesus again is asking us a very important question - are we really ready? Have we really taken the time to examine our readiness? Are we truly, truly ready to meet him when we die? Do we love Him enough to want to right now, spend an eternity intimately united with Him. If He came for us tonight or even at this Holy Mass, would we really want and even desire to go with Him?

Sadly, many souls live their lives in denial of the reality of death, whether from fear or presumption. As a result, they fail to take seriously the Four Last Things; that is, Death, then Judgment, then Heaven or Hell. They naively and ignorantly believe that everyone goes to heaven, even though many there are who do seek the truth--do not seek Jesus and so do not find Him, come to know Him and love Him. But, how can anyone possibly expect to spend forever intimately united with Jesus in love, in an eternal marriage of their soul with God, if they have not have not strived for an intimate relationship with Him here on earth?

A while back a priest I know share with me of a man in his parish who happened to be rather obnoxious during Mass one Sunday. During his homily, which was about being prepared for death by loving God now, this person caught the priest attention because he talked with his neighbor throughout the whole homily and as he did so even grinned in mockery at the message of the priest. He came up to receive Jesus at Holy Communion with the same mocking attitude, grinning, really more like sneering at the priest. Apparently he didn’t like the priest or more likely didn’t like the message. That very night the priest was called to anoint this person. He had electrocuted himself with a hair dryer and he was dead. Was this person ready to die?

Another priest friend told me the story of another man he knew. This man tried to live his Christian life with much fervor out of love for Jesus. Two of his sons became priests. After the death of his wife, he joined his sons in the monastery. On Christmas day, he was at Holy Mass. He received Holy Communion and returned to his pew for his thanksgiving prayer to tell the Jesus truly present in soul how much he loved Him. He died right there in the pew with Jesus still bodily present in his soul.

Which of these two men were really ready to die—which one of these were ready for a eternal marriage with God in Heaven?...

Now I am not saying we have to join a monastery, but the point is we do have to be ready. So then how do we know that we are ready? Well, Jesus gives us clues to the answer to this question in the first part of the Gospel today. Jesus tells us we should not be afraid, fear is actually a sign that we are not ready. We heard these same words of Jesus repeated by our St. John Paul II, immediately after he was elected Pope—“Be not afraid!” John Paul knew then and we know now that we truly live in a world of fear.

We truly have much to fear in our day and with good reason. Everything from crime, to economic uncertainty, from continued terrorist attacks to a priest getting his throat slashed during Holy Mass; these things blanket the newspapers and television today. What will happen next? This fear touches our lives very deeply, whether we want to admit it or not—“what will happen to our families, our children?” And so it is very easy to fall into despair, overwhelmed by feeling afraid; it is very easy to bury our heads in the sand so to speak to the reality around us. While it is true that we need to be cautious because of the very real dangers we face, we cannot however have the dread of this fear dominate and control our lives and take our trust in God away.

So too, when we hear the seriousness of the words of Jesus spoken directly to each one of us today, they are serious words, words warning us to be ready to meet him. Upon hearing these words we can become even more fearful. We fear not being ready to meet Christ--We fear the judgment day. While this can sometimes lead to an irrational fear, fear of Judgment is normally a good thing because it can knock souls out of their complacency and turn them back to God saying, “I am sorry because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.”

A good fear of judgment St John Paul II wrote, is a sincere and reverential feeling that a person experiences before the tremendous majesty of God, especially when he reflects upon his own infidelity and the danger of being "found wanting" (Dan 5:27) at the eternal judgment which no one can escape. The believer goes and places himself before God with a "contrite spirit" and a "humbled heart" (cf. Ps 50 [51] :19), knowing well that he must await his own salvation "with fear and trembling”.

Jesus however, desires us to even rise above this type of reverential fear of God and His divine Judgment. He wants us to fear, not so much hell, but instead fear offending the Father because we love Him even more than we love ourselves…I am sorry most of all because by my sins I have crucified my loving Savior, Jesus Christ and offended Thy infinite mercy. Jesus desires our salvation because He loves us so much. He wants us to fear hell, not so we will be forced into loving Him out of fear, but only because it would be an eternity away from Him and intimacy with Him. Jesus wants us to know that united with Him in Love we have nothing to fear in this life or in the life to come, for nothing can separate from the love of Christ. Without Jesus however, sin and fear dominates and controls our lives. But with Jesus there is no fear only love, and “…perfect Love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4;18)

It is for this very reason Jesus comes to us in and through the Holy Eucharist, which is…Who is, the fullness of the Kingdom the Father is please to give us. In the Eucharist, Jesus our Lord and God is intimately with us in order to ease our fears by helping us to become prepared for anything this world has to offer. But we for our part must have faith.

Faith is believing in that which we cannot see, and being certain it is there. We cannot see Jesus in the Holy Eucharist with our human eyes, we can only see Him through the eyes of faith, and faith brings us certainty that He is truly there—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. And His True Presence there enlightens the darkness of our journey here on earth. Faith in this presence of Incarnate Love brings with it an increase of…Hope!

And so, along with faith, we must not only receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, but we must offer ourselves totally to Him with great trust and love. Only in this way can He work in our hearts to rid them of all fear and fill them with His love instead. And so to the degree we Believe, Adore, Trust and Love Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, giving ourselves and everything we have totally to Him at Holy Mass, to the degree we do this, is the degree we will be ready to meet Him when He comes for us.

Let us ask in today’s Mass, for our Blessed Mother to obtain for us from the Holy Spirit the “Gift of Holy fear” in order to move us to a stronger belief, adoration, love for and trust in Jesus. Let us ask the Holy Spirit, to slowly but surely, take away all the other treasures we cling on to, particularly the treasure of our own wills and sin, so that for us our only treasure is to be one with Jesus and His Sacred Heart truly present in the Holy Eucharist. And where our treasure is, so to will our heart be and nothing on this earth will our hearts cling to, and we will trustingly place everything, lovingly sacrifice everything, offering it all to God on the paten at this Holy Mass. Then instead of being full of fear of death, we will be ready, actually longing for our last day on this earth in order that we can finally be with our beloved Jesus. When He comes for us we will not be afraid, but will run into His arms and be united fully to Him, and with Him to the Father and the Holy Spirit along with the Virgin Mary our Mother, St. Joseph, our guardian angel and all the Angels and Saints forever. Amen. God Bless you.