Saturday, February 18, 2017

Matthew 5;38-48. Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. February 19th, 2017.

When we hear the demands of the Gospel it’s easy to become discouraged. Today’s Gospel is no different. The demands of Holiness, if not looked upon through the lens of love, can seem to be an insurmountable Mountain. We can see a person who appears to be very holy, and think to ourselves, “Oh I could never be like that. I am so far away from what they are.” From there we can say, “I might as well give up.

The fact however is, that there are as many paths to holiness as there are individual souls. One persons path is not another’s. God has tailered a personal path of holiness for each person, for you and for me. And what’s more, He will, through His Holy Church, provide the means for us to travel this personal path of holiness in order to reach that pinnacle of love which is intimate union with Him. There are no exemptions, everyone of us is called to perfection, for nothing is impossible for God.

Every one of us can become as holy as God wants us to be, provided we turn to Him in Love, and have recourse to the Divine Power of His Sacraments—the Sacraments of His Holy Church (I always tell my patients; “If us Catholics realize what we are dealing with in the Sacraments, we could change the world over night)-- the Sacraments of baptism, confirmation, freqent confession, along with the anointing of the sick for those who need it, the Sacrament of Marriage for the married, the Sacrament of Holy Orders for the priest, and especially the Holy Eucharist, which is the Most Blessed of all the Sacraments because it is literally Jesus Himself and His Sacred Heart living and beating full of love for us-for this reason we can say the Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament of Holiness; it is the Power of Divine Love; it is the Sacrament of Love, for It is Love Himself.

Having said all of this let’s return to back to today’s Gospel. The demands of Jesus found here are some of the most difficult to carry out in all of the Scriptures. We can look to the lives of the saints to give us an example of how to live this Gospel, assisted with the grace of the Sacraments. Let’s look at the St. Therese of Lesiuex, for example.

St. Therese the little Flower had in her convent a certain sister whom she did not like and could not stand to be around. However, St. Therese prayed and begged God to grant to her the divine grace to love this annoying sister who was in a sense her “enemy.” Therese went to confession many times to ask forgiveness for her failures in kindness and in order to obtain the supernatural grace she needed to truly love this sister who was unlovable, at least to Therese. When receiving Jesus in Holy Communion she asked Jesus to make her heart like unto His own.

Through all of this, and through of lot of work and self-denial, Jesus granted St. Terese His divine grace to go beyond her feelings and emotions, so that she could choose to love this sister in small and simple ways. For example, Therese would thread the sewing needle for this sister; and in discussions about this sister, Therese always referred to this sister as being better than her.

As a result of Therese’s heroic kindness, assisted by the grace of the Sacraments, this annoying sister actually came to believe that St. Therese was her best friend. In fact, at one point the sister asked St. Therese, “Sister, what is it that attracts you so to me?” This belief of the sister, that she was St. Therese best friend, was the result of St. Therese’s human love being perfected and united to Christ’s own divine love in and through the Sacraments of the Church, and especially, through prayer before the Most Blessed of all Sacraments the Holy Eucharist—it wasn’t a lie or put-on, Therese truly came to love this sister as if she were Jesus Himself.

And so, the example of St. Therese and all of the saints along with all of our readings today offer us plenty to reflect upon in terms of proper Christian attitudes. They offer us a standard of forgiveness to which we may not be accustomed. They offer us a standard of ethical behavior that is opposite of what our society would have us practice.

We would not be surprised to hear Jesus tell us in our Gospel to love our neighbor, or to be charitable to those in need, or even to forgive those around us. But today Jesus says, "Love your enemies," "Do good to those who hate you;" "Bless those who curse you, Pray for those who mistreat you." These certainly are opposed to human nature and are not something that we feel comfortable with. Again, left alone our human nature tends toward aggression; it seeks to get revenge, or to get even. This begins early in childhood.

Even early on, if someone pushes us, our natural reaction and emotional response is to push back. In fact at times human nature tempts us past the point of getting even, to the point of wanting to get ahead. At times it even takes pleasure in hurting others. This is not God’s way however, that is not what Jesus taught, and Jesus makes this very, very clear when he says, "love your enemies." "Do good to those who hate you." Jesus is not talking about any ordinary kind of love here. He is talking about Christian love-Charity—a supernatural love.

Our Western culture tends to romanticize all love in terms of warm emotional feelings for another person or personal gratification. But true Christian charity is what Jesus calls all of His followers to live, it goes beyond feelings and emotions. Formally defined, Christian charity means to will the good of another, no matter what the circumstances. As Jesus put it, it means to act well towards even those who hate us, even to the point of not just praying for them but even suffering for them, suffering for them even to the point of dying for them—loving them with Jesus’ love.

Again, to act well towards those who hate us is not a natural human response. Like St. Therese, we will not have good emotional feelings for the person who wrongs us--if someone puches us in the gut it hurts, of course. However, through an act of our will, assisted by God’s grace, our attitude can be one in which we truly want the best for our persecutor to the point that we ask God to bless them. It doesn’t mean we don’t protect and defend ourselves and others, or that we become a welcome mat for others to step on us; it does mean that even to those who mistreat us, we know that Jesus died for them as well as for us and so we ultimately we are about the business of their conversion and salvation.

St. Stephen the first martyr blessed those who were about to stone Him. And in doing so, he earned the grace of conversion for Saul who was leading the stoning…Saul of course later became St. Paul.) Thousands of Christians in our own time, like St. Stephen, are being persecuted by the enemies of our Holy Mother Church. These modern day martyrs too are dying, not only for their witness to Jesus Christ, but are dying for the very ones who are killing them, their enemies. May we too, love like them, love our enemies, and so be children of our Heavenly Father, perfect in Love, perfect in Charity.

Since we earlier spoke of St. Therese the Little Flower I thought I would end with a beautiful letter from her to her mother superior, which very eloquently speaks of true Charity:

“This year, dear Mother, God has given me the grace to understand what charity is; I understood it before, it is true, but in an imperfect way. I had never fathomed the meaning of these words of Jesus; “the second commandment is LIKE the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I applied myself especially to loving God, and it is in loving Him that I understood my love was not to be expressed only in words, for: “It is not those who says: ‘Lord, Lord! Who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven.” Jesus has revealed this will several times or I should say on almost every page of His Gospel. But at the Last Supper, when He knew the hearts of His disciples were burning with a more ardent love for Him who had just given Himself to them in the unspeakable mystery of His Eucharist, this sweet Savior wished to give them a new commandment. He said to them with inexpressionable tenderness: “A new commandment I give you that you love one another: THAT AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, YOU ALSO LOVE ONE ANOTHER. By this will all men know that you are my disciple, if you have love for one another.”

Sunday, February 5, 2017

we Catholic Christians are called to be salt and light to the world; we are called to give the hungry of the world some of our bread

Matthew 5; 13-16. Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time. February 5th, 2017

Today’s Gospel follows on the heels of last week’s Jesus teaching of the Beatitudes. It reminds us that living the beatitudes is not just for our own spiritual well-being, but for the well-being of other souls as well. Other soul's eternal well-being actually depends whether you and I live the Beatitudes.

Every single Christian is called to strive for holiness by living the Beatitudes in order to be a witness to the whole world of God’s truth and so His Divine Love and Mercy. In other words, by our lives of holiness we are called to seek not only our own salvation but also the salvation of others. As one Jesuit priest put it, “Either we seek the salvation of others or we will not be saved ourselves.”

We are to be witnesses throughout the earth by living the beatitudes in order to lead others to God so that they may to Him in order to be saved and so enter with us into an eternal union of love with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is living our lives for love of God, and for love of neighbor for love of God, consists primarily in working to save our neighbor, even to the point of giving our lives if necessary for the sake of their salvation.

Today, Jesus teaches us this great truth by using the images of salt and light. In the old days, as my mom as told me many times, there were no refrigerators, or freezers, the only way meat was kept from spoiling was to store it in salt. Salt preserves food from spoiling; it also brings out the flavor of food and makes its more pleasant.

The world then is only kept from spoiling by us Christian Catholics being the salt of the earth. If we live our Catholic faith authentically, then we live the Beatitudes and as a result, we give flavor to life in this world. We remind the world and it’s inhabitants of the true meaning and goal of man’s existence. Man has been created by God, for God—Man has been created for Beatitude—which is life lived with, in and for the Most Blessed Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The world is indeed God’s good creation; it sprung forth from the Eternal Word of God, and through that same Word it is redeemed and called to return back to the Father God, from which it came. This Eternal Word is Christ the Head. But we are His Body, the Church. And it is through the members of the Church, His Mystical Body on Earth, that Jesus continues His redeeming work. Jesus could do it without us, but nonetheless, He has divinely ordained that His grace and Mercy only goes forth from His Sacred Heart, through the Members of His Mystical Body the Church, that is through you and me—we are the salt, that is if we are in the state of grace.

Jesus reminds us however that salt can lose it taste; it other words, if we fail to grow in holiness, if we fail to be witnesses to the world to what is Good, True and Beautiful, then what are we good for, but to thrown out and trampled under foot. And so, if it is possible for us to lose our flavor, our Divine Grace, and to be thrown out, how then to we guard from losing our taste, the taste of holiness? And as well, how can we keep from hiding our light under a bushel basket? How can we give the hungry bread to eat? How can you and truly be the salt and light for our world?

It is by the Holy Eucharist, and only by the Holy Eucharist, received and adored with faith weekly, and if possible even daily, that gives flavor to our lives and that keep the salt from losing it taste. It is the holy Eucharist approached with love and devotion that helps our light shine before Men, for our Light is Jesus, He who is the Eucharist—He alone is the light of the world and our lives must shine forth His life.

The Eucharist is our daily bread, better yet our super-substantial bread, the Bread of Life, Jesus Himself. Only by feeding on Him in faith, trust and love, can we then truly feed the world by leading them to this Bread of whomever eats shall not die but live forever. The world is hungry for the Eucharist, starving for the Eucharist. And as Jesus said before He gave His teaching on the Eucharist in John Chapter 6, when the thousand gathered around Him and the disciples were hungry… “Give them something to eat yourselves…”

The Father’s of the Church wrote that Faithful Catholics who participate fully, actively and consciously in weekly Mass, and receive the Holy Eucharist worthily and in the state of Grace are the anima Mundi, that is, the “soul of the world:” It is them that feed the world! In other words, the “Father’s of the Church taught that, “the world would die in its sins if not for Catholic Christians with the life of Christ, Christ Himself-the Holy Eucharist, alive in their souls.” This life is called charity and we are to share it with the entire world in order that it too might be saved in and through our lives—this is the source of our Beatitude, the strength we need to live the Beatitudes—and this is how we are enabled, empowered to let our light shine before men, the light of Christ.

What I am about to say is not easy to say. As I just said, we Catholic Christians are called to be salt and light to the world; we are called to give the hungry of the world some of our bread. If our world is falling into darkness, the problem is not with Governments, politicians, the economy, the terrorists, or some other great power in this world; no, the problem lies with us Catholics. We have lost our taste, and who can restore it? Only Jesus, Jesus Truly Present In the Holy Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar can; Jesus who truly continues to offer Himself on the Sacred Altar of every Mass, while at the same looking for those who will give themselves to Him, offer themselves totally to Him, in order that He can transformed them into His other selves and so live again in them, using them to continue his saving work out in the world by leading souls back to the God from Whom they came, who loves them beyond all telling and who bids them to return to their Father’s House, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

Let us Pray:

Dear blessed Mother at this Holy Mass we offer to Your Immaculate Heart, our heart—totally and completely, please take it and placed it into the Sacred Heart of your Divine Son which is about to become Truly Present in the Holy Eucharist. Help us to receive more fruitfully this same Sacred Heart at Holy Communion, so that by your Divine Spouse—the Holy Spirit, we might be more and more transformed into instruments of God Mercy and Love, for the sake of the whole word, transforming the darkness into light and helping to bring about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Amen.