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

Sunday, June 24, 2007

June 24, 2007 St. John the Baptist - Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary C

Readings: Isaiah 49: 1-6; Acts 13: 22-26; Luke 1: 57-66

JOHN THE BAPTIST played an exceptional role in the history of God's people. He acted as the bridge between the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. He basically belongs to the former, was present at the beginnings of the latter, and yet he died before Jesus had completed his work and before the Church came into existence.

Jesus praised his greatness but at the same time said that even the least in the Kingdom was greater than he. While he knew and proclaimed Jesus as the one that all were waiting for and the thongs of whose sandals he was not worthy to loose, he never knew Jesus as his Risen Lord, a privilege granted to the very least of the baptized.

His primary title is Precursor. His mission was to go ahead of the Messiah and proclaim his coming. As he himself modestly said, Jesus must increase while he himself must decrease. The success of his mission would eventually make him redundant. And that is still the role of the missionary today - to plant the church and then withdraw, leaving it in the hands of the new local community.

John was the last and in some ways the greatest of the Hebrew Testament prophets. As the preface for today's Mass says he was chosen "from all the prophets to show the world its redeemer, the Lamb of sacrifice". It was he, who in John's gospel, pointed out Jesus to his disciples as the "Lamb of God".

Apart from preaching a message of repentance and conversion to the large number of people who came to hear him, he "baptized Christ, the giver of baptism, in waters made holy by the one who was baptized".

He is presented as a man of total honesty and integrity but also a man of loyalty, courage and authenticity. Perhaps it was this which attracted so many to come and hear him. And because of this he ultimately lost his life when he denounced King Herod who had married his brother's wife. He was "found worthy of a martyr's death, his last and greatest act of witness to your Son".

John the Baptist's life has a special meaning for all of us. We are, through our baptism, also called to be precursors of the Lord. Our baptism imposes on us an obligation to share our faith and to give witness to the Way of Jesus, both in word and action. There is no other way by which the average person can come to know and experience the love of Christ.

Let us ask John the Baptist today to help us; by the way we live our lives, to clear a path which will draw people closer to knowing and experiencing Christ. We need sometimes to be “politically incorrect”, to be faithful to Jesus Christ. We need sometimes to be able to name evil as evil and to avoid deceptive “political politeness”.


Thomas More “I die the loyal servant of the King but God’s first”.

We need some courage and examples of loyalty …

We are very often searching for comfortable and easy Catholicism but the people like John the Baptist and Thomas More show us that faith and loyalty to God cannot be taken at ease.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sunday 17th June 2007 - Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 12: 7-10, 13; Galatians 2:16, 19-21; Luke 7:36 - 8:3

In the Creed we very clearly proclaim, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”. This is basic Catholic doctrine, we believe in forgiveness. And forgiveness is what Christ is all about; he came to bring us forgiveness.

We have two great examples of forgiveness in our readings today. In the first reading God forgave King David for his great sin. David had put Uriah the Hittite into the line of battle so that he would be killed so he could take his wife for himself. David was caught up in lust for Bathsheba and this led him to do away with Uriah so that he could possess her. The Prophet Nathan was the only one brave enough to face the King with the accusation of murder and David saw that he had sinned and repented.

In the Gospel we have the story of the woman we generally call Mary Magdalene, although in the text she is not in fact given a name. One interesting thing is the reaction of Simon the Pharisee who says to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is.’

What wonderful irony: Jesus knows the woman far better than anyone; yes, he knows her sins but he knows far better the depth of her repentance.

But he also knows Simon far better than Simon would like. He knows his pride and his self-righteousness which Jesus judges far more harshly than the woman’s so-called moral lapses.

Simon had invited Jesus to this supper in order to interrogate him, to sit in judgment of him. That’s why he didn’t give Jesus water to cleanse his feet or give him a kiss of greeting or give him oil to honor him.

An interesting point of comparison in the two stories is the actual moment of forgiveness. David is forgiven the moment he expresses repentance.
In the case of the woman, it is not recorded that she had ever spoken to Jesus before, yet she felt cleansed before she even came into the house. Jesus says to Simon, ‘Her sins must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love.’

She was forgiven the moment she repented and Jesus confirms this by saying, ‘Your sins are forgiven, your faith has saved you.’

Repentance, the admission of guilt, is crucial; it is the necessary precondition of forgiveness. We can imagine God waiting for us to repent so that he can pour out upon us a great wave of mercy. He, like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, is ever waiting for us, ever longing for us to return to him so that he can bestow on us his unlimited mercy and forgiveness.

God will not force his mercy upon us; he waits only for the first glimmer of repentance, the first acknowledgement of our need for forgiveness.

The Second Reading, from Paul's letter to the Galatians, touches on the heart of today's Mass. "What makes a person right with God is not obedience to the Law but faith in Jesus Christ." That was the difference between the Pharisee and the woman who was a prostitute. Simon based his goodness on the mechanical observance of laws and regulations. He judged others by the same standards. In his book, there was no place for someone like the woman in the story. The woman, however, in the presence of Jesus throws herself at his feet and surrenders entirely to him. He accepts her totally. Far from being scolded, she is rewarded for her faith.

By gathering around this table we are implicitly admitting that we seek God’s forgiveness and that we hunger and thirst for his unlimited fountain of mercy. All that is left for us is to name our sins and to claim his mercy.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

10.06. 2007 Corpus Christi Sunday
Introduction: Jesus, who fed the crowds with bread, feeds believers now with living bread of His Body and saving cup of His Blood. So to be worthy to accept these divine Gifts let us recognize our sins and failures and ask Him for pardon and forgiveness

Penitential Rite: Lord Jesus, you feed us with finest wheat. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you quench our thirst with finest wine. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you satisfy our every hunger and thirst. Lord, have mercy.

May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and brig us to everlasting life. Amen.

Intercessions: As people come to Jesus in hope of healing and being nourished so we ask God to heal our illnesses and to satisfy all our needs and hungers.

Loving Father, you give us our daily bread. Hear us and answer our prayers but especially teach us how to share our bread and all we have, and how to help the others who have less than we. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110,; 1 Cor 11, 23-26; St. Luke 9. 11-17

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord was established in the thirteenth century to promote respect and reverence for the Eucharist. Today’s solemnity has retained this purpose. We need to stop today and consider our reception of Holy Communion. We need to ask God to rekindle in us and in all our people the awe, the respect, and the reverence that is fundamental to understanding the reality of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we say: “I believe in God and that is all that matters." But the problem with this argument is that there is no place for God’s greatest gift, the Eucharist, in our lives. The awe, the respect, the reverence for the Eucharist is –very often- missing from our lives.

But I do not have to look to others. There are times that the reverence for the Eucharist is not all it should be in my life, as perhaps also in yours. Too often I prepare for Mass focusing on the homily while not remembering that far more important than the homily is the reception of the Word Made Flesh in Communion. Perhaps, too often you join the line to receive Holy Communion without taking the time to consider what you are doing or Whom you are receiving. Too often people receive Communion and they don’t even know that instead of saying “Thank you” they have to say Amen. Too often people receive Communion and they then head for the doors to beat the parking lot traffic. It's too bad, but that is the reality we very often see here.

The lack of reverence for the Eucharist is rooted -most probably- in our lack of reverence for our daily bread. How many times we can see the bread, or the food in general thrown out into the garbage, despised, disrespected … How often we don’t respect what we have, but instead we starve for more money, for more luxurious things? Maybe the lack of reverence for the Eucharist is rooted also in our lack of reverence and respect for others. Maybe we don’t respect the Eucharist because we do not respect our brothers and sisters, our neighbors?

Or there is maybe another, more direct cause of the lack of reverence for the Eucharist? It is maybe the fact that actually we don’t believe that this white piece of bread is truly the Body of Christ. In such a situation it will be perhaps better to read the continuation of today’s second reading from the 1 letter to the Corinthians, where St. Paul writes very clearly: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourself, and only then eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body and blood, eats and drinks judgment against himself.”

Some years ago Eucharist magazine carried an article by a 20-year-old cerebral palsy victim, Skeeter Rayburn. Skeeter could not speak or use his hands or legs. He communicated by means of an electric typewriter, which he operated by a stylus attached to his head. Pressing one letter at a time with the stylus was a slow, tedious process. In his article written in this way, Skeeter described how receiving Jesus in the Eucharist gave him the strength to carry his crosses.

He writes:
“One of the crosses . . . is cerebral palsy’s jerkiness. . . . My muscles have spasms and my arms and legs jerk wildly until I think I will go mad. “At these moments, I remember Jesus’ torturous writhings on the cross. He had horrible muscle spasms which convulsed his entire body. . . . But he endured it silently. “Can I do less with my little contortions with Jesus living within me? “Another heavy load Jesus helps me carry is requiring someone to care for my every physical need. “Having watched my mother collapse from taking care of me, I know the feeling of being a burden and wanting to die. . . . However, I recall that God humbled himself by being born a babe, and if almighty God stood helplessness, I can stand it too. “Another cross is waiting for things. I have to wait to go to the bathroom; wait to have my nose cleaned out when I can hardly breathe; wait to be covered when I am cold. In these periods I recall how patiently Jesus suffered on the cross. “With Jesus’ endurance within me, can I do less for Him? I am able to go through all this only thanks to the Eucharist, which is my daily bread, thanks to the fact that Jesus is giving Himself as my most precious and most cherished food’.

John Paul II writes in his Encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia”:

Allow me, dear brothers and sisters, to share with deep emotion, as a means of accompanying and strengthening your faith, my own testimony of faith in the Most Holy Eucharist. Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine, vere passum, immolatum, in cruce pro homine! (Welcome most precious Body born of the Virgin Mary, truly mortified and offered on the cross for humans.) Here is the Church's treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfillment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns. A great and transcendent mystery, indeed, and one that taxes our mind's ability to pass beyond appearances. Here our senses fail us: visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, (vision, taste, touch are failing) in the words of the hymn Adoro Te Devote; yet faith alone, rooted in the word of Christ handed down to us by the Apostles, is sufficient for us. Allow me, like Peter at the end of the Eucharistic discourse in John's Gospel, to say once more to Christ, in the name of the whole Church and in the name of each of you: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Holy Trinity – C
Proverbs 8, 22-31; Psalm 8, 4-5.6-7.8-9; Romans 5, 1-5; John 16, 12-15

There’s an ancient story you have probably heard many times. It is so appropriate for the feast that we are celebrating today that I’d like to repeat it. Legend says that Saint Augustine of Hippo was walking along sandy seashore meditating on the Holy Trinity. All this genius was getting for his efforts was a severe headache. Finally he thought he was coming close to breaking the code of the mystery. He was about to shout, "Eureka!"

Suddenly at his feet was a boy of five. The bishop asked him what he was doing. The youngster replied, "I am pouring the whole ocean into this small hole." Augustine said, "That's nonsense. No one can do that." Unintimidated by the towering giant above him, the child replied, "Well, neither can you, Bishop Augustine, unravel the mystery of the Trinity." Then he disappeared.

Mystery is a term which seems to threaten us, to challenge our technological mind and scientific approach of reality. We are not able to recognize that something can or may be hidden to our minds that something can or may exceed the capacity of our understanding.

On the one hand, as human beings we want to understand, to find meaning in things and we should always try to go as far as we can in making sense of our faith. On the other hand, there are many things in life which are, and probably always will be, far beyond our understanding. (Recently, the famous scientist, cosmologist Stephen Hawking, said he had given up his dream of finding a single mathematical equation that would ultimately explain the existence of everything, the famous TOE. That does not mean we deny their truth or their existence. Even human life itself, even our own lives, our very identity as persons is something we never fully grasp. Does it mean that we are intimidated or that the reality doesn’t exist? There is some kind of boldness or rather pride, haughtiness and arrogance in the attitude of denying the possibility of mystery.

One hears it said sometimes that science has removed all the mysteries from life. Nothing could be further from the truth. The more that science discovers about our universe, whether at the atomic or galactic level, the more questions, the more mysteries emerge.

Life is full of mysteries, including the mystery of my own self and there is no need to be discouraged by that fact. If the material world can be such a mystery, it is hardly surprising that its Creator should not be an even greater mystery too.

Instead, then, of trying to indulge in theological acrobatics or worrying about orthodox formulations, let us instead try to enter into a relationship with these three Persons, through whom God is revealed to us. "The love of God," says Paul today in the Second Reading "has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." That is what it is all about.

The mystery of the Trinity is more than an esoteric doctrine of faith. It is a model for the Christian lifestyle. We are called to be in the world, intimate, yet not of the world, transcendent.

It is important to be aware that when we say the Trinity is a mystery we are not saying that it is just an impenetrable puzzle, still less a contradiction in terms (3=1). The word "mystery" when used in the Christian Testament rather speaks of something that was previously unknown but is now revealed to and shared by a privileged group of people. The membership card to this privileged group is faith - faith in God as Father, faith in God as the Son whom he sent to us as Jesus Christ, and faith in God as the Spirit that teaches and guides us here and now.