Sunday, October 16, 2016

we can say without qualification that, “God is constantly with us”; He never leaves us and longs to enter into intimate conversation with us, not just once in while, but always.

Luke 18; 1-8. Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 16th, 2016

In our readings, the Holy Spirit speaks to us today about the need to pray constantly and to preserve in our prayers in order to maintain our Faith, our hope and to grow in our love of our loving Father God. We are told of Moses and how as long as his hands were held up in supplication toward our God, things went well in the heat of the battle.

In our Gospel, Jesus uses the image of a widow in great need; she persistently bothers the unjust judge who because of her constant supplication finally gives into her request. Jesus makes a contrast here between the judge and our Heavenly Father; if even this unjust Judge will grant the widow’s request because of her perseverance, how much more will the Just Judge, Our Father in heaven who loves us, grant our requests when we persevere in our prayer to Him. The lesson is of course this, we must pray constantly, without ceasing or becoming weary trusting always that God hears and answers every one our prayers, even when it seems He is delaying doing so.

At the end of our Gospel today, Jesus questions whether He will find any faith on earth when He returns in glory. Without faith, hope and love we cannot make it to heaven. And there is a direct connection between the level of our faith, hope and love and the amount we pray. This is so because the source of these supernatural virtues is of course God Himself. Prayer is that action which put us into direct Contact with the living God. And by the greatest act of prayer, our adoration, we acknowledge our awareness that God is the Source of our being and hence we acknowledge at the same time in humility that every thing we need depends on him (we are like the widow really in great need, whether we know it or not).

God has allowed difficulties in our lives for this very reason. When we are in times of need, especially great need, we realize much more deeply, than when everything is going well, that we need God and his grace to help us in these trying times. The more we turn trustingly to him and petition Him with our prayer the more we see more clearly that his is a trustworthy God, always reading to answer those who but call out to him with constant prayer.

Saint Paul instructed echoing our Lords words in today Gospel, “pray without ceasing.” (1 THess. 5:17) But how does one pray without ceasing? What does the Holy Spirit mean by “pray without ceasing?” Let’s take a look at some ways we can pray ceaselessly.

Ceaseless prayer is simply living in a personal, constant union with God. It doesn’t mean spending all day in church, and it certainly doesn’t mean neglecting our daily duties of life in order to pray. No, ceaseless prayer is fulfilling our duties with out mind and heart centered on God and on our love for Him and His love for us; in this our daily duties, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, become themselves a prayer offered to God.

Ceaseless prayer has to do with the desire of our heart. It’s not about calculating the time of prayer; does a mother ask how often she should love her child, or a friend how often he should love a friend? St. Augustine says that the essence of prayer is desire. If the desire for God is constant, so also is prayer, but if there is no interior desire, then you can howl as much as you want – to God you are mute.

Jesus himself gave us the example of unceasing prayer. Of him, it is said that he prayed during the day, in the evening, early in the morning, and sometimes he passed the whole night in prayer. Prayer was the connecting thread of his whole life. In his humanity Jesus shows us definitively that pray consists in love for the Father.

But Christ’s example tells us something else important. We are deceiving ourselves if we think that we can pray always, that we can make prayer a kind of respiration of the soul in the midst of daily activity, if we do not set aside fixed times for prayer, times when we are free from every other preoccupation. And so, part of our ceaseless prayer are those specific times of our day which should be devoted to contemplation and private prayer; It is during these times that we come to know God’s will for us and are strengthened to perform our daily duties in a way that is pleasing to Our Lord, as well as being redemptive for ourselves and others.

Prayer then should be the first act of our day and the last of act of our day, along with times in between to pray as well, especially before and after meals, even in public. Also an essential part of our scheduled daily prayer is the prayer of the Holy Rosary. Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Rosary, in its own particular way, is part of this varied panorama of ‘ceaseless’ prayer. On Thursday we celebrated the 99th anniversary of the last apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal. There the Mother of God asked us to pray the rosary daily. The three little shepherds (at Fatima) understood the value of the Rosary as a call to prayer and an easy way of responding to Jesus’ call to us to pray always. Sister Lucia, one of the visionary of Fatima wrote,

“Those who say the Rosary daily are like children who, every day, manage to find a few moments just to be with their father, to keep him company, to show him their gratitude, to do some service for him, to receive his advice and his blessing. It is an exchange of love, the love of the father for the child and the child for the father; it is a mutual giving.”

In the Rosary, Our Mother leads us by the hand to a deep intimate loving encounter with her Son, Jesus. And so, the Rosary is really a Eucharist prayer; if it is prayed correctly and with love and devotion it leads us to Jesus in the Eucharist, and the Holy Eucharist is the most essential part of our ceaseless prayer. And so in our prayer of the Holy Rosary, we discover that ceaseless prayer is absolutely impossible without the Holy Mass.

And so it is essential for our prayer that we set aside, as the Church as always done, a special day dedicated to worship and prayer: Sunday. In light of our present day persecutions, we modern Christians should take our inspiration from the words that, in 305, St. Saturnius and his fellow martyrs addressed to the Roman judge who had them arrested for participating in the Sunday Mass: “The Christian cannot live without the Sunday Eucharist. Do you not know that the Christian exists for the Eucharist and the Eucharist for the Christian?

We have to end by saying that daily prayer is hard, praying without ceasing takes effort and the devil tries to keep us from it, especially our prayer at Holy Mass. John Henry Newman, the great convert from Anglicanism, says: “Nothing is more difficult than to be disciplined and regular” in our prayer life. It is easy to be religious in fits and starts…at times we “feel” spiritual, but to be regular at prayer is a trial, he says because we are so weak and inconstant. Newman stresses that Satan “perceives well that daily private prayer is the very emblem and safeguard of true devotion to God.” and of maintaining us in a course of good conduct, of holiness of life. That is precisely why the Devil will use any and every means to prevent us from praying regularly.

Perhaps, we can take a lesson from St. John Vianney; The Cure of Ars (Doctor of souls) taught: it is not surprising the devil does everything in his power to get us to lessen the time of our personal dialogue with the Lord or to do it poorly. Look at the senseless set of reasons the enemy gives you for abandoning your prayer. ‘I have no time’ – when you are constantly wasting it. ‘This not for me.’ ‘My heart is dry…’ Prayer, St John Vianney says, is not a question of what you say or feel, but of love. And you love when you try hard to say something to the Lord, even though you might not actually say anything.” And when you love you want to be with the one you love constantly.

Many of our difficulties in prayer disappear when we pause to consider that we are in the presence of God. He is at our side as much as with the ones who heard and spoke to him in today’s Gospel. In fact we can say without qualification that, “God is constantly with us”; He never leaves us and longs to enter into intimate conversation with us, not just once in while, but always. Let us turn to our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary to help us to pray. “Lovely Lady dressed in blue teach us how to pray, for God was just your little boy tell us what to say.” Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

In our first reading today, we heard the words of the prophet Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” But you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?” These lines from Sacred Scripture seem to be written for our own day.

In these our times, we are experiencing violence on a level never seen before in the history of the world, never seen before! We see increasing terror attacks. And shootings are in the headlines every day; 19 homicides already this year here in Rockford surpassing all of last year; in Chicago, last years total number of shooting homicides, 509 was surpassed already as of September 1st. Currently it stands at 565 dead.

It is clear that our world is descending more and more into a world of incredible violence and misery, producing so much ruin and leaving so many victims in misery. It is clear to see that the life and dignity of the human person is no longer respected, but is now easily discarded, the result, as Pope Francis said, of a “throw away society.”

On this Pro-life Sunday, we acknowledge all of those who have worked so hard to end the threats against life, even through it seems the threats grow stronger and even more violent. Those who truly understand the importance of the Prolife movement know that the escalation of violence in our society will only continue to increase until the life and the dignity of ALL human persons is upheld and protected; this is especially true with regards to the life of the unborn person. Violent begets violence and there is nothing more violent than abortion (the dismemberment and the ripping out of unborn baby from its mother’s womb); not to mention, the great wounds and scars it causes to lives of the women and men who participate in it, albeit sometimes desperately.

In light of the ever-increasing violent threats against life, it is easy to become discouraged, easy to lose hope that things will ever change. Our efforts to defend and promote the life and the dignity of every human person can seem to be having no effect. We, like Habakkuk, can want to cry out to God, “Violence, but You do not intervene!”

Today, God doesn’t want us to become discourage by our seemingly lack of success in the pro-life movement, for we see in the readings of today’s Holy Mass the unstoppable power of Faith, Hope and Charity. The prophet Habakkuk, who was so despairing, receives a wonderful vision from God- faith is not without hope. “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” In the end, it is not just that Love will triumph, but that the Love of Jesus will triumph over our culture of violence, over our culture of death!

In this month of pro-life activities, we are reminded as Pope Francis once said, “always have hope in Christ!” Our hope in Christ points, not only of physical life, but to spiritual life as well – to our life in Christ that has the power to transform us; and through us, to transform our culture and world. It is the power, the power of Divine Love, to heal and to save lives, not just earthly lives but more importantly eternal life-souls for all eternity.

By opening our own hearts more fully to His love and mercy, we let Christ dwell in us more powerfully, and we see then more deeply the intricate and unique beauty of each person, made in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the most Precious Blood of Jesus who is God Himself. And through our holiness of life, through our faithful discipleship, others will come to see more deeply this perennial truth as well. They will see the sacredness of every human life, no exceptions.

And so God will surely act, but we need to do our part, for it is God’s desire that we become his faithful disciples. And faithful disciples are those who are His faithful witnesses to the truth about the value and worth of each and every human person no matter their particular situation. And so today, we need to, in an ever-deeper way, ask Our Loving God what He wants from each one of us in order for life to become sacred again in our land.

Allow me to offer some suggestions:
To start with, we can make an effort to come to know our faith better in order to give a more effective witness of our Christian life. We need to know our faith better in order to live it and so witness to it. Too often, we can only think about nourishing our emotions and feelings and fail to do the hard work of continuing to form our intelligence and our conscience by the Teachings of the Church, which are literally the Truth that comes from God. Learning the truth is hard work, and it isn’t always enjoyable, yet, it is vital for us in order to be effective and to bring the light of Christ to the world and to the poor souls who have been affected by it’s darkness.

Better understanding of our faith helps us to defend its unchanging truth and live it more fully in our lives. Our words testifying to the value of all human life do no good if we are not living our lives in witness to this value. This witness is shown in our own marriages and families by our openness and generosity in the number of children we bring into the world, by our practice of the Church’s moral teaching with regards to the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act, by our refusal to use artificial contraception which divides these two essential elements of God’s plan for sex, and by using Natural Family Planning only in cases of serious reason. We have to always keep these two aspects, unitive and procreative, intact. And so, we also show our openness by our refusal to use In-vitro Fertilization, surrogate mothering and other practices, such as homosexual acts and so-called homosexual “marriage” which also go against God’s natural and moral law. The teachings of the Catholic Church give an absolute clear defense of life, but they must, if we are to have life, they must be believed and understood, celebrated, and with the help of God’s grace, lived in our daily lives as a witness to their truthfulness and life-giving-ness. In this we become faithful witnesses to Life!!!

The second thing we can do is to offer acts of atonement and reparation for all crimes against the human person, those just mentioned, as well as for poverty, false accusation and for all forms of murder and violence. We can offer everything we do each day to Jesus in love for Him and for souls. We can make spiritual acts of reparation every day, little acts of love we perform each day to try and repair the damage done by all sins, especially ones so heinous as crimes against the human person.
We can offer our daily sufferings, big or small, in atonement for those who commit the sins against life, crimes that cry out for vengeance before the Almighty God.

This brings up another suggestion on how we can carry out God’s will for us to be effective witnesses to life. And this is by humble heartfelt prayer, especially before He who is Life Itself, Who is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. This type of prayer is essential. It is in our personal time in faith before our Eucharistic Lord that He Himself nourishes and renews our faith and hope, so we can “always hope in Christ;” and it is before Him that we can beg Him who is the Fount of Life and Unfathomable Mercy to envelope the whole world and open Himself out upon us.

Before Jesus truly present in the most Blessed Sacrament, we can beg our Lord for the conversion of all those who desire to destroy life, destroying themselves and our world in the process. It is there that we can bring all that we are and have and offer them to God in supplication for what we need and desire. It is also before Jesus in the tabernacle that we can obtain grace, the grace of conversion to change our sinful world steeped in a culture of death. There we can open our hearts to the Divine Mercy of God in Person, and become instruments of that mercy to others so they too can see the unique beauty of each person; in this, we can be used
to transform our culture to a culture of life.

Before the living Jesus, hidden in the little white host, we can as well call down graces and mercy upon all of those who have been involved in crimes against life in order to shower them with the love of God and the Mercy of God so they can seek the forgiveness of God through their sincere repentance. When was the last time you and your family prayed on hour before Jesus in the tabernacle asking, begging, for an end to the crimes against life in order to destroy our culture and death and turn it into a culture of life?

God in His divine providence has allowed us to be alive at this place in human history, where human persons are thrown away at will. He offers us an opportunity to show Him our faithfulness and love by doing all that we can to end all the crimes against life most especially through our spiritual acts of prayer. This Friday October 7th, is the feast of “Our Lady of the Rosary.” The original title of this feast day was, “Our Lady of Victory.”

The feast of Our Lady of Victory, celebrated the Holy Roman Empire’s great and miraculous naval victory over the vastly superior fleet of the Ottoman Empire. It was one of the most spectacular conflicts in naval history. In this battle known as the Battle of Lepanto, the Christian fleet of the Holy Roman Empire was outnumbered three to one by the Ottoman Empire’s mighty navy; it should have been a complete slaughter. Had the Christians lost they would have lost control of the Mediterranean, and the Turk’s boast that he would make a mosque out of Saint Peter’s Basilica—as his forebears had done with Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia—could have become a definite reality; the stakes couldn’t not have been higher.

The Dominican Pope, Pope St. Pius V, saw the seriousness of the situation clearly and so instructed all the Churches of Italy to pray the rosary as the battle began. Through the faithfulness of so many Christians praying the most powerful spiritual weapon of the Rosary, a miracle occurred which allowed the Christian fleet to win an absolutely impossible battle. The pope, correctly attributing the win to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory the following year, which would eventually be renamed the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.

Our present day battle for life, like the Battle of Lepanto, seems to be against invincible forces. This brings up my final suggestion: In our Pro-life efforts, let us invoke our Lady under her title, “Our Lady of Victory.” The Virgin Mary is described in one biblical verse, “as she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” If enough Catholic Christians would unite in prayer under the banner of our Lady, if the parish church families and individual families of our Country would together pray her Rosary, most especially before the Blessed Sacrament, we would quickly win this present day battle; which by the way, makes the Battle of Lepanto look like children playing in a swimming pool.

We like Pope St. Pius V, need to see clearly the seriousness of our modern day situation and like the faithful of Italy, act decisively with faith; the sakes could not be higher, literally million of souls hang in the balance. In this great modern day battle, which is the battle for life itself, our faithfulness and steadfastness will not decide the outcome of the battle, for battle for life will succeed, but our faithfulness will decide the outcome of the destiny of our country and the eternal destiny of millions and millions of souls.

In the end, the Blessed Mother has promised us that her Immaculate Heart will triumph over our culture of sin and death, and an era of peace will ensue. For the triumph of the Immaculate heart will be a triumph of love, a triumph of love brought about by those faithful sons of daughters of God who pray the rosary with devotion, and wear the brown scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel as a sign of their consecration, that is as a sign of our setting aside, of their hearts and their wills to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with the Chaste Heart of St. Joseph.

Like the prophet Daniel, let us, at this Holy Mass, cry out before the Lord, “We have sinned against you!” We may not be directly responsible for the crimes of our day, but here we can implore God Divine Mercy to forgive these sins by sending His graces of conversion on those who have committed them so that they may be reconciled with God and with the human race. “Eternal Father, I offer to Thee the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, along with the offering of my own heart, body, blood and soul on the paten at this Holy Mass, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”