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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

22 Sunday in Ordinary Time – C (August 29 – 2010)

Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29; Psalm 68:4-7,10-11; Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24a; St.Luke 14:1,7-14

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable.
"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.
But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

I will dare to say that today’s readings are insulting and offending our culture and our common sense. Even more …

à when we read seriously the first reading and the Gospel we can see that these readings which claim to be the Word of God are totally ridiculing our school systems, our formation and education and the network of our social relations.

The whole of our contemporary world, to totality of our culture is centered on “I”. The economy, the market, the leisure, the technology, the entertainment industry, the fashion, the whole of our culture … everything is focused on me, on my exceptionality, on my self-importance, my vanity and my selfishness, on my uniqueness. We have the IPhones, IPads, IPods, IMacs … everything seems to be necessary called “I” in order to be sold, to be popular, to be accepted. TV chains are unceasingly bombarding me with commercials assuring strongly and convincingly that I am in the center of the world that my pleasure, my needs, may wishes and caprices are the most important and the most essential. If you can see this whole civilization from a certain angle or point of view, you will agree that the whole of our civilization is built up upon the fundamental principle: pleasure for all and everybody. YOU ARE THE CENTER OF THE WORLD.

And In the middle of this brainwashing formation of my “EGO”, comes the Word of God, in today’s readings openly denying and contradicting this kind of self-indulgent mentality.

In the first reading from the book of Sirach we read: “My child, perform your tasks with humility … The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself.” (Sirach 3.17-18)

Who among us can understand these words? Who among our relatives is able to take these words seriously?

And in the Gospel Jesus is emphasizing even stronger statement: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Who –in our contemporary world, full of arrogance and self-importance- will seriously consider following a teacher who is proposing such a stupid and senseless style of life?

Who -in our proud, pleasure-seeking and self-indulgent contemporary world- will be able to accept such teaching???

We are formed to be the best, the first, the most important, the greatest, the most successful members of the society. And Jesus is proposing us the HUMILITY??? Is He serious? Is He not kidding? He created me for my happiness, for my pleasure … and talking about humility must be a mistake, an error of interpretation, a humbug, a real nonsense!!!


"Pride of life" is as grave a sin as those of the flesh or of avarice. Pride is the beginning and the root of all sins; pride is the original sin of Adam and Eve.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew we have Jesus saying: “In truth I tell you, unless you change and become humble like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Pride, lust and avarice; all are classed as forms of concupiscence. St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence:
· lust of the flesh,
· lust of the eyes (greediness or avarice), and
· pride of life or lust of meaning or glory.

The most dangerous and the fundamental is the pride, the lust for meaning and glory. I am the first, I am the most important, I am the center of all and everything, I have the rights, I am in need of this, and that, I I I I I I endlessly repeated I ….
In a book a read a short story of a man telling about his two meetings:

“Recently I met two men whom I had not seen in some time. The first breathlessly exhausted himself and me with the interminable length he spent in talking about himself and his health. He never had the time to even quickly ask me, "How are you?" Given the time his monologue had consumed, I secretly was just as happy, that I had another appointment.

The second told me that he was flattered that I had remembered his name. I told him the college where he used to teach still talks about the numbers of students who chose to take his course. The eager pupils sat on the floor when there were no more desks.
He turned away the praise by telling me how much he had enjoyed some articles I had published.

The second man was hardly in need of today's Gospel. The first decidedly was. More importantly, which one of them is a type for our own selves?

Some years ago I was introduced to Mother Teresa by a friend. She refused to talk about herself. She wanted to know of the work I was involved in for New York's Catholic Charities.

The same modus operandi was followed by Archbishop Helder Camara of Brazil when I met him. The word "I" did not seem to be in their vocabularies. All these people were walking studies in humility. They had learned the lessons of today's Gospel.”

What we can see from this short story?

But how have I learned the lesson of today’s Gospel? I fear I did not. Have you? You must answer that question for yourself.

Glue this prophet's advice on your bathroom mirror. "Knowing God makes us humble. Knowing ourselves keeps us humble."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time “C”

It is God’s will that all people should be saved. They should be saved because by Jesus’ death and resurrection the gate to heaven has been opened.

A man came to Jesus and said “Sir, will only a few be saved”?

Jesus’ response is addressed to all of us. “Strive to enter by the narrow gate,” He says; “for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.”

Now what did Jesus mean by that? Strive to enter by the narrow gate.

Jesus is saying that we should exert much effort to enter through this gate, for the majority of people, a large indefinite number, will make an effort to enter but will not be able to do so.

Today’s Gospel is a warning against presumption. Jesus does not want us to presume that we are already or automatically saved. We cannot save ourselves. Our salvation depends on the favour of God and the honest struggle on our part to follow Him.

“Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able”.

And for married couples, what is the "narrow gate" ?

On July 25, 1968 His Holiness Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” on the transmission of Human Life. 
 It reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching of Jesus Christ that each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. Artificial contraception will always be a sin and an evil which could not be changed in spite of dissenting and popular opinion to the contrary.

Some people have said that they have tried to fulfill their duty with regard to this encyclical but have found it impossible to do so. Having more children or any children at all would simply place too big a burden on them.

They believed that they had the right to decide for themselves in good conscience how many children they could afford to have.
Unfortunately, artificial contraception or sterilization seemed to be the only a viable option for them as a means to end the possibility of unwanted pregnancies.
Those who have tried sincerely, but for whatever reason without success, to keep the teaching of the church on the transmission of human life believed that they may then deviate from it in good conscience.

Unfortunately, in taking that decision, there is a rejection whether knowingly or unknowingly, of the sufficiency of God’s grace in their lives.
The church has always taught with St. Paul and the Church Fathers that God’s grace is always sufficient for us to do what Christ commands us to do. We are therefore obliged to properly form our consciences to conform to God’s will for our lives.

For them to reject the church’s teaching  in this encyclical was like saying “Yes, we know there are 10 commandments and we as a couple have tried to follow them but we find that the 6th commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery” in our particular circumstance is impossible for us to keep without incurring great difficulties. “

“In our situation faithfulness is just too difficult for us to cope with. Therefore in good conscience and according to the advice given to us by our confessor and our bishop we can now both of us have affairs with others as they present themselves and still remain members of good standing in the Catholic Church.”

The truth is, yes, every person has a right to follow his or her conscience. The Church teaches conscience is the "secret core" and "sanctuary'. of the person. No one may force or coerce anyone to act against his or her con­science. A person is duty-bound to follow his or her conscience.

But the Church also teaches every believer must take responsibility for informing and shaping his or her conscience in the light of God's law and Church teaching.

This requires study and examination of Church teachings and the profound, time-tested reasons for her teachings in light of the Scriptures.

 We then apply these teachings to the concrete circumstances of our lives, using prudent judgment.

Our problem often is trust. Do we trust God with our lives?

In today's world, the authentic Catholic must be careful not to form their conscience according to the beliefs espoused by Hollywood, by pop cul­ture, by afternoon talk shows, by dissenting clergy, religious or theologians, by the popular press or by the standards set forth by the federal government.

Given the human propensity for twisting the truth, Jesus Christ has given His Church shepherds and teachers to guide believers to the full­ness of the truth in faith and morals.

Remember Jesus said “Whoever hears you, hears me”.

The Pope and those bishops who are in union with him constitute the Magesterium.

The shepherds of the Church, as the Magisterium, are not democratically elected politicians who test the winds of popular opinion.

As individuals bestowed with divinely ordained authority, they work in the Church, for the Church, in the service of the Word of God, in the service of Jesus Christ Himself.

If this is not true, then the Church has no power, no authority to teach or to guide anyone to the truth of faith and morals.

Make no mistake, God will hold us all accountable for negligence, lack of effort or flat-out unwillingness on our part, for whatever reason, to fail to form our consciences properly in the light of authentic Church teaching, which is the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Sin has the tendency to distort and darken our vision, to make us see things in a twisted way. This mindset, of course, under­mines the Church's authority, rooted in her founder, Jesus Christ.

With centuries of teaching and reflection behind her, the Church is a wise mother, always ready to correct her sons and daughters by giving them the authentic teaching of Jesus Christ.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is saying that many in the world presume they will enter heaven.

Jesus says “Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able”.

We would do well to heed His words.

We can’t take anything for granted. We mustn’t feel that all we have to do is show up and in we go to heaven. We might be in for a surprise.

In fact, the Gospel tells us that many of us, in fact the majority might be surprised.

The gospel says that we will stand outside and knock at the door, saying “Lord, open to us” ( in other words we expected to get in otherwise we wouldn’t be knocking) but the Lord will say ”I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers”.

How many will enter the Kingdom of God? Will it be, as the Jews believed, only a chosen few?

Certainly not. Jesus says that anyone who is prepared to enter by the narrow gate will enter the Kingdom of God.

But that’s the key! Are we prepared to enter?

We have to remember that at the end of the day we cannot force our way into heaven. We cannot save ourselves.

We must strive to enter by the narrow gate by following Jesus.

To whom does the Kingdom of God belong then? Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not stop them for it is to such as these that the kingdom of Heaven belongs”.

Unless we become like little children we cannot presume that we will enter the Kingdom of God.

Salvation is a gift from God. Jesus opened the Kingdom to sinners but it is only through humility and repentance will we be allowed in. Think of the thief on the Cross. A sinner all his life but at the very last he repents and begs forgiveness.

Do we have something in our lives, in our past, that we still need to repent of?
We should do this before it is too late.

Through our baptism we are members of the new chosen people. We are members of His church. We are insiders. He has given us our faith. He has given us the Catholic Church to guide us.

Do we listen to Holy Mother Church?  Do we let her guide us remembering that she speaks the words of God.

“Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able”.

We pray that by the grace of God we will not be one of those who are in for a surprise.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15 -2010

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; 1 Cor 15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56

On November 1, 1950, Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” The Pope proclaimed this dogma only after a broad consultation of bishops, theologians and laity.

What the pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Catholic Church.
We find homilies on the Assumption going back to the sixth century. In following centuries the Eastern Churches held steadily to the doctrine, but some authors in the West were hesitant. However, by the thirteenth century there was universal agreement. The feast was celebrated under various names (Commemoration, Dormition, Passing, Assumption) from at least the fifth or sixth century.
Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Nevertheless, Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil. Many see this woman as God’s people. Since Mary best embodies the people of both Old and New Testament, her Assumption can be seen as an exemplification of the woman’s victory.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul speaks of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Since Mary is closely associated with all the mysteries of Jesus’ life, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit has led the Church to belief in Mary’s share in his glorification. So close was she to Jesus on earth, she must be with him body and soul in heaven.

In the light of the Assumption of Mary, it is easy to pray her Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) with new meaning. In her glory she proclaims the greatness of the Lord and finds joy in God her saviour. God has done marvels to her and she leads others to recognize God’s holiness. She is the lowly handmaid who deeply reverenced her God and has been raised to the heights. From her position of strength she will help the lowly and the poor find justice on earth and she will challenge the rich and powerful to distrust wealth and power as a source of happiness.

The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) from Vatican II sums it up well when it says: “In the bodily and spiritual glory which she possesses in heaven, the Mother of Jesus continues in this present world as the image and first flowering of the Church as she is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, Mary shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come (2 Peter 3:10), as a sign of certain hope and comfort for the pilgrim People of God.” (68).
Conscience …

Each person must follow his conscience, but at the same time a proper formation of the conscience is needed. 

“An upright and true moral conscience is formed by education and by assimilating the Word of God and teaching of the Church”

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (# 374).

If the conscience of a murderer or thief says that everything is OK, does it mean that really everything is OK?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time August 08, 2010 - Cycle C
Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48

Homily I

Sigmund Freud, a famous Austrian neurologist, had a favorite story that touches on the point of preparedness. The story concerns a sailor who was shipwrecked and washed ashore on a South Pacific island.

He was greeted enthusiastically by natives. They clapped and sang, hoisted him on their shoulders, carried him to their village, and sat him on a golden throne. Little by little, the sailor learned what was going on. The islanders had a custom of occasionally making a man king for a year. During his kingship he could order his subjects to do anything within reason, and they would obey him without question.

The sailor was delighted that he had been chosen to be the king. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. Then one day he began to wonder what happened to a king when his year of kingship ended.

That’s when his excitement and enthusiasm came to an abrupt end. He discovered that at the end of his kingship, he would be banished to a barren island, called King’s Island. There he would be left to starve to death as a sacrifice to the gods. After the sailor recovered from his shock, he slowly began to put together a plan. As king, he ordered the carpenters of the island to build a fleet of small boats. When the boats were ready, he ordered the farmers of the island to dig up fruit trees and plants, put them in the boats, and transplant them on King’s Island. Finally, he ordered the stone masons to build a house on King’s Island. In this way, the sailor prepared carefully for the day when his kingship would end and he would be banished to King’s Island.

That story makes a good illustration of what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel.

In the words of Jesus, elsewhere in the gospel, he is telling us to “save your riches in heaven, where they will never decrease, because no thief can get to them, and no moth can destroy them.” He’s telling us to do what the sailor did.

Today’s gospel invites us to ask ourselves how well we are preparing ourselves for that day when, like the sailor in the story, our life on this planet will come to an end. It invites us to ask ourselves, “If we were to die tonight, how ready would we be to face God?’’
And if our answer to that question leaves something to be desired, then we can be sure
that Jesus is speaking to us in a special way through today’s gospel. He is saying:

“Be . . . like servants who are waiting
for their master to come back. . . .
And you, too, must be ready,
because the Son of man will come at an hour
when you are not expecting him.”

Homily II
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….”

“Do not be afraid, little flock….Sell your possessions, and give away money to the poor.” But if we were to do that (I say to myself) wouldn’t we have even more reason to be afraid? Our greatest fear is that we will be left with nothing.

Still, money doesn’t bring happiness, everyone agrees. But then we go straight back to pursuing it as if it did. How is that? While perhaps not expecting it to bring us happiness, we hope it will at least take away our misery. But it doesn’t. It only enables us to be miserable in comfort - then we can really concentrate on our misery.

Be alert, be ready, be waiting: that is the advice given in today’s reading. “Be like those who are waiting for their master to return…. Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." A full purse, like a full stomach, makes you want to go to sleep. You become oblivious to everything except the stock market or your business - and that is a kind of sleep. All great religious figures kept shouting, ‘Wake up!’ It is not that everyone was dozing in the sun; no they were not: they were making money.

In an organised society money is necessary to live. It is a great convenience. It is about shortcuts. Instead of being a hunter-gatherer yourself, you pay someone to do your hunting and gathering for you, while you do some other useful thing. But we also know from experience that a shortcut can be the longest distance between two points. Some shortcuts lead you into the middle of a bog. Money is seductive because it appears to be the key to everything and everywhere: it is nothing in itself (it would be useless to you on a desert island), but it carries a promise of everything. Even when it fails you, it just changes its face (it has no face of its own) and seduces you in a different way. It lives on promise; it is a promissory note. And it has this additional quality: just as it never shows you its real face (because it has none), it never shows you yours. Instead, it flashes an image before you of what you could be. It never warns you that when you are rich you will still be just a poor man with money.

There was once a wealthy man who decided to donate a large amount of money to a monastery. To his great surprise, the abbot said, ‘No thanks, we have enough at present.’ The rich man pressed him to take it anyway, but he refused politely. Suddenly the rich man began to weep. ‘You have made me realise how poor I am,’ he said, ‘I have nothing to offer you except money.’

Jesus gave many warnings about the seductions of wealth. There is nothing wrong with the material things of the world in themselves. It is our greed that makes them seductive. If my purse is full, I will think about getting a bigger purse; and it will fade gradually from my awareness that half the world is hungry. And I may also fail to notice that I am hungry myself, because my heart is empty. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If money is my treasure, there will be nothing in my heart except money.