The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
Acts 13, 14.43-52; Ps 100, 1-2.3.5.; Rev 7, 9.14-17; Jn 10, 27-30.

Recognizing the Shepherd's voice

Years ago a Broadway play, called “The Royal Hunt of the Sun”, dealt with Spain’s conquest of Peru. In one scene a Spaniard gives an Incan leader a Bible, saying that it is God’s word. Filled with curiosity, the leader raises the Bible to his ear and listens attentively. When he hears nothing, he slams the Bible to the ground, feeling that he has been made the butt of a joke.

The sheep listen to and recognize the voice of their shepherd and that is why they continue to follow him rather than another. It is important for us also to recognize the voice of Jesus as it comes to us in our daily life. And, in our Christian life, the voice of Christ can take many forms. Most of the time, it is in the voices of those people who come into our daily lives. If we do not recognize Christ in the voices we hear, we are likely to get lost and, perhaps, many do lose their way. They do not know where their Shepherd is - or perhaps they do not have shepherds. It is thus necessary to ask myself: “Who is my shepherd? How do I listen to the Word of God?” It is easy for us to have a "supermarket" mentality towards society and towards the Church. We expect our governments to provide all kinds of services without our having to pay our share in having those services provided. We often talk about an entity called "the Church" which is supposed to provide: priests, sisters, churches, schools and the religious, educational, spiritual, sacramental and social services we want and need. But we need to remember that that "Church" is not something "out there"; it is you and me. It is we and only we who, by pitching in together, can provide the service personnel and the operations, the 'hardware' and 'software' by which our Church community can continue to function. And –what is more important- we have to be aware that church is not the supermarket or enterprise but we, the church, are the flock and we have to listen to the voice of our divine Shepherd.

We live in a world where, on the one hand, we have governments which tend to take charge of many social needs, but do not always do a very good job where those in greatest need are concerned. On the other hand, we also live in a highly competitive society which drives home the message that one has to devote all one's energies in taking care of oneself and one's family. If we take such a situation for granted as being the "normal" state of affairs, it will not be easy for us to see what active role there is for us to play. Even where our Christian faith is concerned it is easy for us to adopt a passive attitude - "pray, pay and obey". We can see our faith as expecting conformity in certain fringe areas of our life such as attending Mass once a week. But even that attendance can be a very passive experience - we endure the homily, we let the priest "say" the Mass for us and the choir sing for us and a commentator to pray for us. We may arrive late and leave early. Is that how I live my Christian vocation, my participation within Christ’s flock?

And this brings us to Good Shepherd Sunday, which is also Vocations Sunday. In particular we are asked to pray that more people will consider whether they are being called to join the ranks of priest-shepherds or the dedicated life of brothers and sisters. Without these people, without those who will dedicate themselves totally to the service of God and God’s flock, we can be lost like sheep without a shepherd.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Third Sunday of Easter – 22.04.07
Acts 5, 27-32. 40-41; Psalm 30; Revelation 5, 11-14; St. John 21, 1-19

When Peter and the other disciples in the boat behind him came upon Jesus, they found him sitting at a fire. He offered them breakfast. Jesus was not a ghost, but a real human being. He ate with them.

Then we come to that wonderful dialogue between Jesus and Peter demanding the triple affirmation from Peter as a negation of his triple denial on Good Friday. “Do you love me, Simon Peter?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Then feed my sheep.” Peter has learnt his lesson. The bravado is gone. He does not dare to compare himself with his fellow-disciples. Now he only speaks for himself: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Three times Jesus is asked the same question just as three times Peter had denied. It hurts him and finally he says: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."

Jesus was not about to let Peter wallow in his own guilt and self-pity. OK, he had done a terrible thing. He had denied the Lord. But, to Jesus, there were more important things to consider: Peter, as head of the apostles, would be the point man in the establishment of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Church.

In the first reading for this Sunday, Peter happily accepts being flogged for the sake of the Word of God. In a complete reversal from the coward who lied on Good Friday, Peter tells the Sanhedrin that he will listen to the Lord rather than them. We know from early Christian writers that Peter would eventually go to Rome and, as the Roman historian Tertullian states, endure a passion like his Lord’s.” The Christian theologian, Origen, and others testify that Peter was crucified, head downward. This happened in the Ager Vaticanus, the area on the west bank of the Tiber where Nero had constructed an arena. Christians would eventually build a Church over the burial spot, and then a basilica. The truth of Jesus would continue to nourish the people from Peter and those who stood in his place, the popes.

This all happened because Peter accepted the forgiveness of the Lord and moved on with the Lord’s business. That’s the main message for those of us who have also have sinned and then sought forgiveness. We cannot allow ourselves to be mired down in the past. Jesus has far more important things for us to do then wallow in guilt

Let me tell you a story of a typical woman whom Jesus would not allow to remain stagnating in her own guilt.
This woman was forced to make a horrible decision and she allowed the life within her to be destroyed so many people whom she had respected told her what was the best thing for her to have done, however, they wouldn't have to live with the result. Perhaps these authority figures in her life carried a greater responsibility than she did for what had happened, but she was the only one who suffered the consequences. She was the one who could not think about a child without being immersed in pain. She was the one who was in turmoil.

She sought forgiveness through confession and healing through Project Rachel. She learned that Jesus had work for her to do. She could form a positive out of the horrible negative of her life. Pope John Paul II actually wrote to her and those like her. He wrote the she could become stronger than before because she now recognized the value of human life.

To quote the late Holy Father once more: you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life. She could live in peace. She must live in peace. God had work for her to do.
Jesus will not allow us to be mired down in our guilt. He has too much work for us to do. His work.

We are all human beings in need of the forgiveness of God, but once we have been forgiven, we need to get down to work. “Show your love for me, Simon Peter, by feeding my sheep,” the Lord said. Jesus has too much work for us to do. His work.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Second Sunday of Easter, Cycle C


There is a story about a climber who was determined to reach the summit of a high mountain. After years of preparation, he began his adventure, but he journeyed all alone because he wanted all the glory. He began his ascent, and as daylight faded he decided to continue climbing. Night fell. The night fell heavily and he was overcome by total darkness. The moonlight and starlight were hidden within the clouds. There was zero visibility. He was only a few meters away from the summit when he slipped as he was climbing a ridge and fell off, falling at frightening speed.

While falling he could only see shadows like figures in the darkness and felt the tug of gravity sucking him down. In those anguishing moments he saw his life pass before his eyes. He thought death was near when suddenly he felt the tighting of the rope around his waist that tied him to a nail embedded in the rock wall of the mountain.

In desperation, suspended in mid-air he screamed:- God, please help me!
Then unexpectedly a deep voice from heaven responded: - What would you have me do?

- Save me!
- Do you really think I can save you?

- Of course my Lord!
- Well then, cut the rope.

There was a moment of silence, and then the man tightened the rope around his waist saying:
- Are you joking with me?

The mountain rescue team reported that they found the man frozen to death, his hands wrapped firmly around a rope tied to his waist…


So ... How tight are your ropes? Would you let go?

“I am the Lord your God, who holds your right hand, and I tell you ‘don’t be afraid. I will help you.’” (Is. 41:13)
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

"Divine Mercy Sunday" was officially established for the universal Church on May 5, 2000 by a decree of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship.

God shows us His infinite Love and Mercy in different ways. The only concern and problem is: “are we able to believe, to trust Him?” or we are rather firmly gripping the security rope like "Doubting Thomas"? To see and know Jesus in our lives is to recognize where he comes to us in the day-to-day events and to trust Him even if it is against our reason.
The Divine Mercy Sunday

Powerful King Milinda said to the old priest: "You tell me that a man, who has committed all possible sins during his lengthy lifetime, will live in heaven if he relied on the Divine Mercy of God and sought forgiveness before he died; whereas somebody who committed only one sin during his lifetime and didn’t rely on the Divine Mercy will end up in hell. Is this just? Does it mean that one sin is more serious than hundreds or those a hundred sins are less serious than one?

The old priest answered the King," If I take one small stone and I put it on the surface of the lake, will it sink or will it float?"

"It will sink", answered the King.

"And if I take a hundred big stones, put them in a boat, and push the boat out into the middle to the lake, will they sink or will they float?"

"They will float".
"Then a hundred stones and a boat are lighter than one stone?"

The King did not know what to answer so the old priest explained: "So, powerful King, the same happens to men. A man, even if he has made mistakes throughout his whole life, but relied on Divine Mercy will not go to hell. Whereas a man, who did only one bad thing, but didn't turn back to Divine Mercy, will be condemned".

"Divine Mercy Sunday" was officially established for the universal Church on May 5, 2000 by a decree of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. According to St. Faustina, Our Lord promises to those who go to confession and communion on this day, the remission of the guilt and the punishment of sins.

On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. (Diary of Sr. Faustina, 699)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord - Cycle C

I heard of a TV reporter interviewing a group of understandably excited youngsters in New York City's Rockefeller Center. He chose one six year old and asked patronizingly, "What does the Easter bunny mean to you?" The boy without a second's hesitation replied, "Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the dead."

The stuttering reporter quickly asked, "But what does that have to do with the Easter bunny?" The boy said very resolutely, "Nothing."

The question of the reporter can be changed and we can ask: “What does the Resurrection of Christ have to do with my life?”

Will the answer be a similar reply of “absolutely nothing”? Jesus Christ is risen, but in my daily life He has been already dead for a long time.

Our faith is deeply rooted and finds its real meaning in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

St Paul says that, if Christ is not risen, then all our believing is in vain.

This is certainly the central truth of Christianity. But are we as resolute and sure as the boy was when he responded at Rockefeller Center?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Thursday – April 5th 2007

“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. … (J 13,1

on the night he was handed over, he took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”( 1 Cor 11:23-24)

John Paul II begins his Encyclical Letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” with the statement:

The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. (n. 1)”

And he continues:
“The Church was born of the paschal mystery. For this very reason the Eucharist, which is, in an outstanding way, the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the centre of the Church's life. (n. 3)”
I ask myself, as well as I also ask you: “Is the Eucharist really the center of my life? What is the meaning, the significance of this Sacrament in my Christian life?

The Pope further wrote:
“Even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. (n. 8) The Eucharist, as Christ's saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history. (n. 9) The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious– among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of Himself, of His person in His sacred humanity (n. 11)”

Do we realize, do we understand the depth and the meaning of these words? Are we really aware of the greatness of the gift we are receiving in the Sunday Eucharist?

Pope Benedict XVI, in the apostolic Exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis”, writes:

“The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God's infinite love for every man and woman. This wondrous sacrament makes manifest that "greater" love which led him to "lay down his life for his friends" (n. 1)

Jesus in the Eucharist does not give us a "thing," but Himself; He offers His own body and pours out His own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love (n. 7). In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. (n. 10)”

"The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving." (21) Jesus "draws us into Himself." (22) The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of "nuclear fission,” to use a term which is familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all. (n. 11)”

These are the deepest dimensions of the Most Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament which we are celebrating today- in a very special way re-commemorating the very first Eucharist celebrated by our Lord and Savoir, the very night preceding His betrayal, passion and death.

The bread in front of the altar is only a symbol because Jesus Himself decided to use daily bread as the matter, the substance of the Eucharist. He was born in Beth le hem (in Hebrew it means the house of bread), many times He multiplied bread, and He choose the breed as the most powerful sign.

However, the bread which will appear on the altar is not only a symbol. It is really “Christ's saving presence” among us.

Today is perhaps the best opportunity ask oneself some fundamental questions:
- What is my attitude toward this Most Sacred Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ?
- Do I recognize Jesus’ real presence in this Sacrament?
- Do I prepare myself to be as worthy as possible to accept it in communion?
- Or do I maybe neglect it and am not truly attentive to this Mystery?

When the communists took over China in the late forties, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory. Looking through the window, he saw the soldier enter the church and break open the tabernacle, scattering the Blessed Sacrament on the floor. The priest knew the exact number of hosts: thirty-two.

Unnoticed by the soldiers, a young 11 year old girl had been praying in the back of the church and she hid when they came in. That night the girl returned, spent an hour in prayer, then entered the sanctuary where she knelt and bent over to take one of the hosts on her tongue. She actually licked it off from the floor. In those days communicants did not receive the Eucharist in their hands, but only on the tongue.
The next night she came again and did the same despite knowing soldiers were there guarding the imprisoned priest. The girl came back the following night and the next and each night throughout the whole month. She would spend an hour in prayer and receive Jesus by picking up a sacred host with her tongue. The thirty-second night, after consuming the final host, she made an accidental sound, awakening a soldier. He ran after her and when he caught her, he struck her with his rifle butt. The noise awoke the priest – but it was too late. From his house, he saw the girl die.
Bishop Fulton Sheen, who related the story, said that when he heard about this, it inspired him so much that he made a promise that he would spend one hour each day before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He always said that the power of his priesthood came from that daily holy hour and veneration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

One Solitary Life
(the original version by Dr James Allan Francis (1864–1928) in the book "The Real Jesus and Other Sermons"):
Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never owned a home.
He never had a family.
He never went to college.
He never put his foot inside a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born.
He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.
He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of His divine manhood.
While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him.
His friends ran away.
One of them denied Him.
He was turned over to His enemies.
He went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying—and that was his coat.
When he was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.
When I try to sum up his influence I will say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.