Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels; watch over us we pray

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thes. 4:16

Today the church recalls the archangels Raphael, Gabriel and Michael. These mighty messengers from God have a very special purpose in God’s plan of salvation and divine revelation for us. We too have our own guardian angels that work on our behalf. All three religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity recognize the concept of angels and their importance (Hopler, Whitney. “Angels According to Multiple Religions.” Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, learnreligions.com/who-are-angels-123812.).

I myself can recall those times in my life where nothing other than a miraculous encounter from God & message was sent such as driving a 6 hour stretch from college and instances that kept me awake & guided me on my path. So too, does Raphael, Gabriel and Michael hold a special place for us as Christians.

Michael Rev. 12:7 “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.

Gabriel Lk. 1:26-28 “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Raphael Tobit 12:15-17
“I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord. Greatly shaken, the two of them fell prostrate in fear. But Raphael said to them: Do not fear; peace be with you! Bless God now and forever.”

If we saw an angel, we would probably faint or be taken aback since they are beings directly from the heavenly abode. As St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, there are different classifications of angels with Archangels following in three ranks with principalities and angels.

Retrieved from https://bartholomew.stanford.edu/onangelsranksthomas/intro.html

From the entrance collect (prayer):

O God, who dispose in marvelous order ministries both angelic and human, graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister perpetually to you in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen

Intentional Christian Communities & a Reflection on the Life of St. Vincent de Paul

Image by George Prout (1913-2016) within the Vincentiana Collection at the Archives and Special Collections Department of DePaul University

Be united with one another, and God will bless
you. But let it be by the charity of Jesus Christ,
for any union which is not sealed by the blood
of Our Savior cannot perdure. It is therefore in
Jesus Christ, by Jesus Christ, and for Jesus
Christ that you ought to be united with one
another. The Spirit of Jesus Christ is a spirit of
union and of peace. How can you attract people
to Christ if you are not united with one another
and with him?
St. Vincent de Paul
(Abelly, book II, c. 1, 145)

On this memorial of St. Vincent de Paul who is the patron of charitable organizations and co-founder of the Congregation of the Mission and Daughters of Charity, we recall God’s greatest gift to us in our life which is one of service and stewardship to our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and God our Father. Growing up as a peasant with a lowly life with many siblings, St. Vincent had a unique intellectual ability and saw the role as a future cleric as a means for a better life. He was declared a saint under Pope Clement XII and Pople Leo XIII declared him patron of all charitable causes.

Unbeknownst to this lowly servant of God, Vincent was moved in working with the impoverished in the 17th century in small French parish towns and hearing confessions where his charism in serving the most needy was enlightened by the Holy Spirit to start a great movement that is thriving today. Vincent himself in first becoming a priest at the age of 19 had no idea how his life would change from his early preconception of obtaining a better life with the comfort of an educated scholar and cleric. In ministering to galley slaves and poor peasants during much of his ministry, the call to service of God’s most needy was brought to fruition. There is some legend according to Vincent himself that he was enslaved for a short period by Barbary pirates in his travels and was indebted due to some expenses owed.

relics of St. Vincent de Paul in the chapel on Rue de Sevres

In many respects, the passage from the Book of Acts is a good passage to reflect upon regarding living in an intentional Christian community:

Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common, they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need” (Acts: 2:43-45).

How do we live the Christian life today? Do we donate our unwanted possessions to the St. Vincent de Paul charity or do we make an extra effort to do more? Living as Christians within an intentional Christian community context requires extra effort. As James’s epistle reminds us of, “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change” (James 1:17). Living as intentional Christians and having intentional Christian communities require us to step out of our comfort zone to do more and recognize Christ Jesus in our neighbor regardless of our station in life or theirs.

Open my eyes

Open my eyes that I may see the deepest needs of men, women and children
Move my hands that they may feed the hungry;
Touch my heart that it may bring warmth to the despairing;
Teach me the generosity that welcomes strangers;
Let me share my possessions with people in need;
Give me the care that strengthens the sick;
Help me share in the quest to set prisoners free;
In sharing our anxieties and our love,
Our poverty and our prosperity;
We partake of your divine presence. Amen.

(http://vincentians.com/en/prayers-for-the-st-vincent-de-paul-society/).

Sources:

https://aleteia.org/2014/09/27/feast-of-st-vincent-de-paul-patron-of-all-charities/

https://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1108&context=vhj

https://school.stvincentla.net/vincentian-tradition

St. Pio of Pietrelcina O.F.M. Cap., Pray for Us

Image retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20020616_padre-pio_photo.html

About Padre Pio: https://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20020616_padre-pio_photo.html

Letter from Padre Pio To Raffaelina Cerase, May 19, 1914

Stones of the eternal dwelling

With unceasing blows of healing chisel and careful stripping away, the divine Artificer seeks to prepare stones to build an eternal dwelling – as our mother, the holy Catholic Church, full of tenderness, sings in the hymn of the office for the dedication of a church. And that is true.

  Every soul destined for eternal glory can be considered most aptly as a stone for building an eternal edifice. The builder who seeks to put up a dwelling in the best way should first polish the stones that will be used in the construction. He does this with blows of hammer and chisel. In the same way, our heavenly Father works on chosen souls who, from all eternity, by his supreme wisdom and providence, have been destined for building up the eternal dwelling.

The soul, if it wants to reign with Christ in eternal glory, must be polished with hammer and chisel strokes, which the divine Artificer uses to prepare the stones, that is, the chosen souls. What are these hammer and chisel strokes? Darkness, my sister, fears, temptations, sadness of spirit and spiritual fears, which reek like a sickness, and bodily discomfort.

  Give thanks to the infinite piety of the eternal Father who, in this way, leads your soul to salvation. Why not glory in these benevolent conditions from the best of all fathers? Open your heart to the celestial doctor of souls and, full of confidence, surrender yourselves into his most holy arms: as a chosen one, he leads you to follow Jesus closely on Mount Calvary. With joy and emotion in my soul I ponder how grace is working in you.

  Do not forget that the Lord has arranged everything your souls experience. Do not fear causing God harm or injury. It’s enough that you know that in your whole life you have never offended the Lord who, on the contrary, has been honoured more and more.

  If this benevolent Spouse of your soul hides from you, he does so not, as you think, because he wants to take revenge on your wickedness, but because it tests your fidelity and constancy even more, and, besides, heals you of some diseases not considered as such by carnal eyes, that is to say, those diseases and faults to which not even the just person is immune. Indeed, Scripture says in the book of Proverbs: “Seven times a righteous man falls”.

  Believe me, if I did not see you so afflicted, I would not be as happy, because I would think that the Lord wanted to give you fewer gems. Get rid of, as temptations, the doubts that assail you. Also expel the doubts with regards to the purpose of your life: to do that is not to listen to the divine summons, and to resist the sweet invitations of the Bridegroom. All these things do not come from a good spirit but from a bad one. These are diabolical ploys that try to separate you from perfection or, at least, hinder the journey towards it. Do not lose heart!

  Whenever Jesus shows himself, give him thanks. If he hides, give him thanks: all are touches of his love. I wish you to give up your spirit with Jesus on the cross, when he says: “It is accomplished”.

(retrieved from the Divine Office of Readings Universalis site to be used as prayerful reflection https://universalis.com/readings.htm)

St. Matthew, Apostle, & Gospel Writer

Image Retrieved by https://catalogueofstelisabethconvent.blogspot.com/2016/11/holy-apostle-matthew-tax-collector.html

Mt. 9:9-13 As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

It is remarkable that the apostle and gospel writer, St. Matthew, would mention his profession & humble call to follow our Lord. The synoptic gospel writers St. Mark & St. Luke also mention the call of Levi or Matthew in their accounts. St. Luke adds a further detail noting that a banquet in St. Mathew’s home was given:

Lk 5:29 Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.

As St. Bede mentions regarding the banquet that St. Matthew held, “he not only gave a banquet for the Lord at his earthly residence, but far more pleasing was the banquet set in his own heart which he provided through faith and love” (Bede, the Venerable, Hom. 21: CCL 122, 149-151, excerpt from Office of Readings of the Divine Office).

In many respects, the taking & giving of earthly wealth and the occupation of a tax collector were not professions of prestige. St. Matthew knew from the invitation to follow Jesus that he had to act. How do we act and respond to God’s call in our life? Is there some earthly fear holding us back? The lure and temptation to allow mammon to become our “god” by accumulating power and wealth is a real temptation to those of us who are sinners & sick among us in need of healing. As our Lord reminds us in another account, when responding to the Pharisees in paying the census tax we should “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt. 22:21). The gospel also reminds us of the insurmountable and eternal truth of God where heaven and earth may pass away, but the words of Jesus shall never pass as a reminder to all of us (Mt. 24:35). Matthew heeded the words of Jesus to come & follow him.

While we may stray from the path and allow temptation & other worldly concerns to separate us from God’s invitation to follow Him, let our hearts be ready for the banquet for the Lord to enter where our faith & love are present.

St. Matthew, pray for us.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ by Salvador Dalí. Image © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

Lk. 14:27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

1 Pet. 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Gal. 6:14 “But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which* the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

From the office of readings, A Discourse by St. Andrew of Crete:

Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.

Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honourable.

The Dignity of Labor

Retrieved from https://www.jeanmillet.org/biography.html The Angelus 1857

In the United States of America, Labor Day is acknowledged as a national holiday in which President Grover Cleveland signed the act into law in 1894 (https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history).

From scripture, we are reminded of God’s plan and work in the creation narratives with the role that man plays toward this goal.

Gen. 2:3 “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”

Gen. 2:5: …there was no field shrub on earth and no grass on the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground.”

Gen. 3:19 “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken…”

It is oftentimes easy for us Christians to lack empathy and find meaning in the dignity of our labor. Do we simply work for a paycheck, for our own prestige, or vainglory? As 1 Cor 12:20 reminds us there are many parts but the same body regarding imagery about the various tasks and talents God has given to us in building up the one body. So to is our labor from the lowly office clerk in a cubicle to the person sweeping the floors. Our work has meaning and dignity not just from our labor, but from our interactions made with others in which we are made in His image. In Friends Of God, St. Josemaría Escrivá states that “in our inner life, in our external behavior, in our dealings with others, in our work, each of us must try to maintain a constant presence of God…(Friends of God Homilies, Scepter Publishers, Princeton NJ 1981, p.23)

The earliest monastic tradition and motto of the Benedictines of Ora et labora or prayer and work is also a great reminder of what labor means for us as Christians. Joan Chittister, OSB describes Benedictine spirituality in this manner in which work doesn’t define the Benedictine charism. She states that a Benedictine quest and single minded search for the Divine is what defines such a vocation where “creative and productive work are simply meant to enhance the Garden and sustain us while we grow in God (p. 214).” “In today’s culture in which people are identified more by what they do than what they are, this is a lesson of profound importance. Once the retirement dinner is over and the company watch is engraved, there has to be something left in life that makes us human and makes us happy or life may well have been in vain (pgs. 214-215).” (Chittister, Joan, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality For The 21st Century, Crossroad Publishing, New York, 1992).

The noontime & evening bell and recitation of the Angelus prayer is a good tradition to take up as our labor should always be mindful of the sanctification for which God glorifies us (see history of the Angelus https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/short-history-of-the-angelus-9114). After all, Mary’s fiat and perfection at saying yes to God’s work of bringing forth our Savior & Lord Jesus is a great prayer devotion to practice…

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LET US PRAY
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Let us give thanks to the Lord God this day for the dignity and sanctity of our labor. As Paul so eloquently reminds us of in his communication to Timothy, so to can the verse be applied to us where “the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil & bring us to life everlasting. Amen.

Memorial of the Queenship of Mary, mother of God…Maria, Regina pacis, ora pro nobis!

The Coronation of Mary depicted in mosaic tile the Rosary Walk and Garden from The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception https://www.nationalshrine.org/blog/celebrating-marys-queenship-of-heaven-and-earth/

In his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the memorial of the Queenship of Mary following the 8th day after the feast of the Assumption (https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_11101954_ad-caeli-reginam.html).

Hail, holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Narrow Gate: Our Path to Heaven

Image retrieved from https://catholicconvert.com/i-choose-the-narrow-gate-wanna-join-me/

What is the narrow gate? Jesus clearly speaks of a consequence for our actions where the saving grace and heavenly promise of being with Him in paradise is not a choice for everyone.

Our personal encounter with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, show us that our God is merciful in many encounters. Why is Jesus displaying a contrary image that is difficult for many to grasp? I am reminded of the story preceding this week’s gospel passage in Luke chapter 10 of Martha and Mary. Martha was concerned about the earthly affairs & preparations for Jesus’s entrance. Mary recognized the divinity of Jesus in her midst & wanted to sit before the Lord & listen. While we can all be like Martha at times and be anxious about our earthly affairs, we must be more inclined to be like Mary & have a personal encounter with Jesus to sit before Him and listen in prayer.

This week of carrying my cross proved to be difficult due to some painful joint & mobility issues. My desire to serve where my spirit was willing but my flesh was weak proved to be a major roadblock. The narrow gate that Jesus speaks of seemed out of reach, but even in the midst of my pain the Lord was wanting to reveal Himself to me. Why some have a harder time & are prone to more earthly suffering than others is the continuous reminder that God wishes for us to go before Him in prayer. The same can be true where life is going well and everything is in sync and the narrow gate is difficult to spot. Our forgetfulness of the need to go before the Lord in thanksgiving for all that we have received is a conundrum of the spiritual life.

It is quite easy to give lip service and punch our weekly worship time card. As Mark’s gospel reminds us, the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath (Mk. 2:27). We must allow the day of the sabbath to permeate our very being and continually seek out our Lord in prayer, in our family units, and workplaces each and every day.

The narrow gate is only narrow because the sheep don’t recognize what is on the other side. While the grass may look greener at the entrance to the wider gate, it can be tempting to not want to enter or seek out the narrow gate. The narrow gate path is less appealing with roadblocks, less than pleasant greener pastures along the way and a more obscure entrance. However, it is that difficult Christian journey as disciples where ours is not one of convenience or leisure. The promise of love & life saving nourishment of the greener pastures beyond the narrow gate is one that our Lord wishes us to enter. It’s quite easy to compartmentalize aspects of our life including a place for having a relationship with God. Christian discipleship is an ongoing commitment that require us to be prepared for being able to seek the narrow gate when it is our time to be called before the Lord at the end of our earthly life. The carrying of our earthly crosses is not easy, but the reward for entering through the narrow gate instead of the easier and wider gate will be worth it. Turn to the Lord this day and always. Let us ask Jesus for guidance, wisdom & perseverance at being able to recognize the path to the narrow gate.

Gospel

Lk 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

Turn to the Spirit

Retrieved from https://quotefancy.com/quote/1709832/Isaac-of-Nineveh-The-wisdom-of-the-Holy-Spirit-is-much-greater-than-the-wisdom-of-the

As I contemplate the world’s turmoil today and the increase of so many societal issues, it is undoubtedly due to our inability to listen to the third person of God, the Holy Spirit. Per the Greek for pneuma, the imagery of a gentle breath from God in the silence to give us new life and our inability to allow His presence to enter is the conundrum for many issues we face today.

We have turned away from God and allowed idol worship of something other than God to permeate our very being. It is unfortunate that the Covid lockdown increased our thirst for increased technology as a means of pleasure and entertainment versus true family time and prayer centered activities.

The second component is the degradation of society where the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth are more prevalent than ever before. Conversely, the seven capital virtues of chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, patience & humility are worth taking up. Our road as Christians is an arduous one and I am certainly a sinner that wishes to be a saint in the making that is writing this blog reflection.

Self care of our soul is needed now more than ever.

My men’s faith sharing group is covering Acts. The disciples of Jesus were doing the same miraculous acts of Jesus. We too can receive that same spiritual gift to not only go & follow Him but allow miraculous encounters of God to work through us and in us.

We must ask the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit to breathe new life in our souls. We must abandon our vices and turn to those virtues worthy of our mission as human beings made in His image.

One cleric in his homily provided the image of an altar candle being extinguished by removing the chemical reaction of oxygen and candle wax extinguishing the flame. Our souls are candles from God that need the Holy Spirit’s oxygen to avoid being burnt out. Will you turn to the Spirit to keep your soul’s flame bright this day?

A good prayer attributed to St. Augustine is the following:

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer Reflection

“Grace,” the Minnesota state photograph, taken by Eric Enstrom c.1920 and colorized by Enstrom’s daughter, Rhoda Nyberg. Retrieved from https://www.mnopedia.org/multimedia/colorized-grace

The ‘Our Father’ prayer is a common prayer we say all the time when we gather in communal worship and with each other. The Our Father is our Christian calling card and is the great ecumenical prayer uniting many Christians despite differences in theological interpretations. Such a prayer reminds us of our need to follow His will be done before being granted our petition for our daily bread.

When we draw closer to the Lord and acknowledge His holy name before all else, our hearts and souls will benefit. As the catechism 2761 of the Catholic Church indicates, the Lord’s Prayer is the summation of the whole gospel (https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P9W.HTM). The acknowledgement of the doxology ending with granting God power for His is the kingdom, power and glory is mentioned in the Didache and was part of the rite early on per catechism 2760 https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P9V.HTM#-2QP). The doxology of the Lord’s Prayer also reminds us of David’s prayer in which David blesses the Lord God recognizing that all riches and glory are from God (1. Chron. 29:10-13).

As St. Thomas Aquinas acknowledges in the Summa Theologiae, (ST IIIa, Q21) “prayer is the unfolding of our will to God, that He may fulfill it” (https://aquinas101.thomisticinstitute.org/st-iiia-q-21#TPQ21OUTP1). Such is the awesome promise found in Luke’s gospel 11:9 about asking and receiving, seeking and finding, knocking and having doors opened.

Does the power of prayer grant us everything we desire or should our prayer be about what we desire for God’s will working in our life? Our communal mission we are on as Christian disciples is about bringing forth His will & kingdom in the here & now vs. waiting for the Parousia (2nd coming) to take place. Fundamentally the Lord’s Prayer is about placing our trust in our God & allowing His kingdom to flourish within our daily lives. As John’s gospel reminds us, He is the living bread come down from heaven (Jn. 6:51) and He is the living water (Jn. 7:37).

The most difficult aspect for many is being dependent on His will vs. our own per the first part of the Lord’s Prayer. The other most difficult aspect of this prayer is the forgiveness of not only our trespasses, but those who trespass against us. After all, our hearts must be hearts of flesh not made hard as that of stone per the prophet Ezekiel (Ez. 36:26). Being able to forgive and become dependent on something other than our sense of self or ego is a difficult task, but one only needs to gaze upon the corpus of our Lord Jesus hanging upon the cross to be reminded of the great sacrifice. It was He who knew no sin that became sin for our sake that we might become “the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

As our Lord reminds us, some of the best prayer times are in the silence of our rooms with only us and God where we are sincere (Mt. 6:6). Today, let us more profoundly reflect on the Lord’s Prayer and let His will be done both on earth as it is in heaven.

The Eric Estrom photograph showing the humble man that posed for the photo Grace in the small mining town of Bovey, Mn. would become Estrom’s greatest work (https://gracebyenstrom.com/story/). For me, such a portrait symbolizes the Our Father.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

Solemnity of St. Peter & Paul

O Peter, who were named by Christ 

The guardian-shepherd of his flock, 

Protect the Church he built on you 

To stand unyielding, firm on rock.

Apostle of the gentiles, Paul, 

The greatest witness of them all, 

You turned to Christ, the risen Lord, 

When out of light you heard him call.

Unseen, eternal Trinity, 

We give you glory, praise your name, 

Your love keeps faith with those who fall: 

Through time and change you are the same.

(Hymn retrieved from Lauds Divine Office per the Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal)

The Sacred Heart of Jesus & A Heart for Life

Sacratissimum Cor Iesu

On this day of the solemnity of the sacred heart of Jesus, we are reminiscent of the love the Son of Man has for all of creation. The filial love of the persons of the Father & Son bring forth the life giving Holy Spirit that is bestowed upon all of God’s creation. From what started in the medieval period with devotions to the memory of the passion & suffering of our Lord & His most precious wounds to the focal point of the life giving organ of the heart allowed this memorial to come to fruition. The mystical experiences of those such as St Gertrude the Great and St. Margaret Mary paved the way for this memorial of the sacred heart of Jesus. Led by the Holy Spirit, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the church to the most sacred heart of Jesus in his encyclical of a holy year in Annum Sacrum in 1889 (https://www.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_25051899_annum-sacrum.html).

We are reminded in John’s gospel of a detail not mentioned in the other synoptic gospels where blood & water flow from the side of our Lord at being pierced by a lance (Jn. 19:34). As Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, it is blood that purifies & without blood that is shed there is no forgiveness (Heb. 9:22). The life giving water that nourishes us & cleanses our death from sin in the sacrament of baptism is a reminder of the water that flows from the side of our Lord. Per the story of John the Baptist who baptizes us with water while Jesus baptizes with the fire of the Holy Spirit (Mk. 1:8) reveal an important Christological reflection about the fullness of Jesus’s humanity and divinity. God became one of us where his human flesh becomes a sacrificial offering of pure love to intermingle with His beloved human creation made in His image.

Today also marks a U.S.A. Supreme Court decision where the law of abortion & taking of life is questioned by jurists in robes of honor. No matter what side of the political fence one is on, we must all admit that life is a precious gift when seen within the lens of a loving & compassionate heart of God in the person of Jesus. John’s gospel reminds us that “there is no grater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend” (Jn. 15:13). We must and should do better as Christian disciples. Much of society is a consumeristic & narcissistic society. We hold that life is about convenience and blissful hedonistic tendencies where we ignore our elderly, impoverished & weakest among us in order to achieve self-love. We are all about having choices, free will & reign of our very being and bodily form until we come to the stark conclusion of our need for dependence toward something greater than ourselves. We may preach about the sanctity of life until we are repulsed by our neighbor that holds a different view than ours. We may be likened to the parable of the Good Samaritan where we can easily cite our platitudes and rules for how we ought to live life instead of how we should live our life. It is easy to scoff at the misfortune of our fellow man while following the “law” where we are akin to the priest & Levite passing by the half dead victim in our midst that was robbed on his way to Jericho (Lk. 10: 29-37).

We must have a heart for all life from womb to tomb. Do we truly commemorate the sacred heart of Jesus by carrying our daily crosses and being dependent upon His agape love? This love of Jesus is meant to be shared with everyone for we are all formed and knitted in our mother’s womb and are wonderfully made (Ps. 139:13-14).

Let us unite our hearts to His most sacred heart & cherish all life by our actions, prayers & very being to live more piously and humbly this day.

Retrieved from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit-blog/prayers-to-the-sacred-heart

Corpus Christi…the Body of Christ

Jn 6.35: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

In a world that is longing for more and that is seeking real nourishment, our spiritual food is found with the reception of holy Eucharist. Jesus reminds us of such a gift in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel chapter 6. Jesus reminds us that anyone who partakes of His flesh and blood remains in Him & He in them (Jn. 6:56).

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2nd edition states, the reception of holy Eucharist completes our initiation into the church where we as a community participate in our Lord Jesus’s sacrifice (Catholic Church 1322). The reception of holy Eucharist is more than a symbolic gesture for us Catholics. As St. Pope Paul VI in Lumen Gentium proclaims, the sacrament “is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life” (LG 11).

The convert and theologian to Catholicism Scott Hahn reminds us that the participation at Mass is more than the quality of music, preaching, or liturgical style and is a “heaven on earth” experience (Hahn, 1999, The Lamb’s Supper The Mass As Heaven On Earth. Image, imprint of Crown Publishing Group p. 5).

Just like Thomas’s faith at seeing the risen Lord, our bold proclamation at receiving Jesus’s body and blood should be “my Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28).

How do you view this most sacred gift in receiving Jesus in your life, or is the reception of Holy Communion simply a symbolic gesture?

The Gospel from Luke chapter 9 at the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish reveal an important aspect in which almost five thousand men were fed – they were all satisfied. Will you be like one of those hungry individuals in Luke’s gospel and come away satisfied after receiving holy communion?

Jesus is the new manna (Exodus) that came down from heaven. He wishes to dwell in us each and every moment we attend the Mass and boldly proclaim Amen at the response of receiving the Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to life everlasting.

O Most Holy Trinity, Undivided Unity

Jerónimo Cósida (1570), The Holy Trinity (located Cisterian Monastery of Tulebras, Spain)

The unique renaissance fresco painting of Jerónimo Cósida’s The Holy Trinity capturing the face of Jesus with three faces symbolizes the mystery of this occasion. The Latin message for ‘non est’ or ‘it is not’ followed by the unique centering of ‘est’ for ‘it is’ in the above image portrays such a mystery of our faith. Oftentimes, we can get caught up in the logic of the Holy Trinity and how it is even possible for the Lord to reveal such a nature for our limited human understanding to grasp. Such questions were posed to the early church and addressed during various church councils. Those such as Pope St. Damasus I with his tome of the Holy Trinity in fully embracing the mystery of the Triune God is one example. Such theological disagreements and schisms concerning the filioque theology of from where the Spirit comes and ensuing disagreements (https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/filioque) in the eastern and western churches further occurred over time.

From the beginning of the creation story, we see the unity and plurality of the interchange of language connotations being used with the use of El and Elohim. In Genesis, the singular El in which God did various things compared to the symbolism of the Trinity in Genesis 1:26 in which Elohim is used is presented in the following verse in “let us make man in our image” is given. The hermeneutical debate over such translations and the intent of language in the scripture (https://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/db2296/elohim-is-a-plural-do-not-translate-it-with-god-an-interview-with-mauro-biglino/) will continue to this day. In other Old Testament readings such as in Exodus 3:2, we see the natures of Father & Spirit taking the form of a fire in the bush in which reason and logic defy any human understanding. Moses could not grasp how a bush was not consumed by fire, hence the spiritual revelation of God as a burning bush is made. How can Moses directly set his sight on God without being struck down in fear? How are we to understand such events or even begin to ponder God’s nature?

With the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan in which the Spirit comes down upon Jesus, the mystery of the revealed triune God is made manifest. The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus and the voice from the heavens proclaims, “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). Such a moment reminds us of our baptismal call as Christians in which we are sealed by the mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that removes the stain of sin on our heart.

In order to fully embrace such a mystery of the Trinity, we should look to our own self and the mystery by which we are created in God’s image. We are told various lies about how we are defined by our skin color, allegiance to a political party, allegiance to a certain nationality, or to our own sexual identification to fully identify with who and what we are. While such external components and characteristics are important for living an earthly life; they are only a mere facade that separates us from our true ontological destiny. We are even told that we must use certain gender pronouns in order to feel complete and be made whole as if it would change our human nature.

What if such external traits and characteristics didn’t matter in light of our true destiny of being reunited to our Triune God? Perhaps we should let go of our distractions and roadblocks in life to seek the awe and wonder of the mysterious and holy trinitarian Godhead? By rediscovering the ousia (substance, being, essence) of the reasons we were made in order to more fully appreciate the mystery of the Trinity is a first step in such a faith journey. The Gospel of John speaks of the Spirit of Truth coming to the disciples at the appointed time.

When will the Spirit of truth come to you and overshadow you so as to reveal His nature and purpose for your life, or will you be caught off-guard? Fundamentally in seeking out the nature of the revealed persons of God in understanding the Trinity is about our relationships we form with others. It is clear that Jesus intends for us to be action makers and difference makers when the Spirit of truth may come upon us. The early church was met with much adversity and most were martyred for the faith that led them to start this Christian movement (Jn. 15:13…no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend).

Oftentimes, our blindness due to sin and various imperfections allow us to lose sight of such mysteries of our faith. Our minds wander and our logical and inferential brain can interrupt our quest in wanting to try and decipher God’s very nature instead of having an introspective look at our own nature. We think we can conquer the greatest heights and unlock the various mysteries of the earth in which we assume we are the masters of our own fate. The commemoration of the Most Holy Trinity is about remembering God’s nature revealed to us in every sacrament, word and deed in which we are sealed by the trinitarian Godhead. In all that we do, both in liturgy and in life, we are blessed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each and every time we remember to mark ourselves with the sign of the cross, the sign in which God sends forth His only begotten Son to save all of mankind and pour forth His Spirit of truth is our mystery we recall today. Such a mystery of our faith journey is one of love, dependence on God’s mercy, and petition to align our life to recalling His very nature as being three in One in undivided unity per the liturgical song O God, almighty Father. (See composition and history by Irvin M. Udulutsch http://www.catholicnewsworld.com/2021/05/one-of-most-beautiful-and-famous-hymns.html). It matters not if we will ever make sense of the Trinitarian mystery of God’s nature, but only that we continue on our journey of faith in how we resemble God’s love in our personhood to others. God is still guiding us through our earthly pilgrimage toward our heavenly destiny. We should attempt to resemble our best self just as the Triune God resembles His loving presence to us throughout salvation history to the present.

From the Collect prayer in the missal used today:

God our Father, who by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pentecost: A reflection on the Holy Spirit

Depiction taken from St. Peter’s Basilica by Peter Gallo courtesy of https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/36152/everything-you-need-to-know-about-pentecost

Pentecost is Greek which means the “50th day” after Easter in the church calendar. Such a festive occasion recalls the “birth” of the Church. Holy scripture in Acts chapter 2 in the New Testament recalls the coming of the Holy Spirit enabling those disciples that were gifted with tongues of fire to proclaim a language the devout Jews were able to understand. The Jews questioned how these Galileans, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, et. al might speak a language that could be universally understood.

One may reflect on Old Testament writings in Genesis, chapter 11, in which the Lord God didn’t like the tower being built to the heavens. God confused their language to cast misunderstanding to the people so that the tower would not come to completion. This tower is Babel for which we have the definition of confused noise. One might attribute such an occurrence to “baby babel” in which God our Father had to intervene for His children.

Comparing these two scripture accounts has a theme of communication and revelation. It is that filial love relationship between God the Father & God the Son that creates that outpouring of the Holy Spirit to reveal His saving mission to us in the world. The Holy Spirit was made manifest after God revealed Himself in the second person of Christ Jesus to show us the way to salvation.

As I reflect on this idea of communication and revelation I am left with the following: we can’t necessarily see the Holy Spirit, yet know that the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is made manifest to us in the sacramental life and works of God (Opus Dei). For myself, I recently had some strange coincidental situations where I was in prayer asking for guidance. Only later did God reveal the help I needed through the works of others in a subtle manner that can be attributed to divine providence and grace working in my life.

Have you ever had that moment that made you think and wonder about how miracles or situations occur during trying times only to attribute such an instance to fate or good luck? Perhaps, you may be looking for signs from God and fail to hear the gentle whisper of the Spirit because you are busy creating your own Tower of Babel?

Recently, I attended a perpetual Eucharistic adoration for a few hours only to be emboldened and energized by such an amazing turnout at my local parish. It was great to see so much fervor. My wife, Angela, was also was spiritually energized by such a turnout. Those humble moments spent on our knees in prayer during the quiet times of contemplation are the workings of the Holy Spirit to help us decipher and revel in the spiritual noise and music of our Lord! Let us not question the noises of the Spirit like the Jewish skeptics but prepare our hearts and souls for those moments when tongues of fire might enlighten us. Veni Sancte Spiritus!

May the Lord bless you and keep you this day and allow His Spirit to dwell in you as being made in His image.

God’s Mercy Endures Forever

Image retrieved from https://www.joydigitalmag.com/burning-issues/good-versus-evil-the-fight-of-our-lives/

There was another mass shooting that took place today here in the States that appeared to be a racial hate crime with 10 souls having perished and left this earthly life. May God bless them & keep them, and bring comfort to their families as they mourn their tragic loss.

Catholic churches have also been desecrated with one parish in Tx having had their tabernacle stolen with the sacred hosts of Christ Jesus being lost. The tense battle with the pro life vs. pro choice movement & Roe v Wade abortion legal debate has intensified. The Russian-Ukraine situation, rising inflation, baby formula shortages and other worldly matters are a lot to bear. There is definitely a lot of anger, fear and turmoil in the world today and one may wonder what can a Christian do during such times? Psalm 136 reminds us that God’s mercy endures forever. It’s definitely difficult to find that mercy in troubling times and one may even doubt His existence.

I can recall instances in my life where I even questioned God’s existence because it seemed that I was lost in a spiritual desert. I can also recall those times in which there was a competing dualism of wanting to do good, but turning to evil habits, vices or sins because they were “easier” than following the other path. I always recalled that when I atoned for such sins, God’s presence of peace, goodness & love were still waiting for me. The sense of a spiritual battle and ability to re-channel my very being when my crosses to bear and graces to share were (are) struggles that were made manifest. At one point in my life, I remembered reading Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” which is an excellent read for an eternal pessimist seeking to be an optimist. Such a work encourages one to change their mindset.

Nevertheless, it was not until I discovered centering prayer techniques that help tremendously to this day. While we can change our thought processes, oftentimes we must suspend such thoughts for true contemplative & centering prayer to occur. Letting go of one’s thoughts, fears and worldly temptations to reflect, meditate and enter into deep contemplation is a powerful practice. By focusing on the silence and seeking to be in union with our majestic & overpowering God is the goal.

Oftentimes we can become apathetic to our surroundings without taking time to “smell the roses” or enjoy those moments that make us see God’s presence working in our life.

As C.S. Lewis once mentioned, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship” (The Weight of Glory).

As John’s gospel chapter 13 reminds us, Jesus gives us the new commandment to love one another as He has loved us to make our presence known as Christian disciples.

When the world is crazy, and turmoil in our own life is weighing heavily upon our soul; turn to the silence. We must not lose sight of our mission to go out and be another Christ (anointed servant) to others. Bringing God’s love & mercy to those among us that we may not necessarily like or agree with is our mission. To the driver of the car that cuts in front of you in traffic; to person that cuts in front of you in line…bless them with your kindness. To the one that curses you with vile language; to the one that steals from you or does harm to you; bless them with your kindness. Turn thy cheek when life deals you a difficult deck of cards. Vengeance & hate are contrary to the teachings of the Torah as found in Leviticus 19:18 in which scripture reminds us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and not hold a grudge against anyone.

As another passage from John’s gospel reminds us of, we must be bearers of good fruit for all of us have been appointed to go out and bring His message of mercy (love) enduring forever to others.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us everlasting life.

St Mark the Evangelist

Image from Emmanuel Tzanes, c 1657

Today in the Catholic church’s calendar, St. Mark the Evangelist is recalled in prayer today. History indicates that his gospel may have been one of the earliest writings completed sometime around 70 ad (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Gospel-According-to-Mark).

When I was to be confirmed and had to choose a saint name, it was Mark that I chose. Some attribute his name to John Mark (Acts 12:25) The image of the strength of a winged lion representing this saintly man (imagery is also taken from Ezekiel’s prophetic account in 1:6-10) was a choice any young man might pick for a saintly confirmation name.

It was not until later that I began to enjoy the simplicity of this gospel’s message that are full of climactic moments in the life of Jesus. The literary style of Mark’s gospel are definitely way different with much more detail given than the other synoptic gospels of Matthew and Luke’s gospels.

St. Mark is also the patron of Venice Italy. It is believed that on his journey, he made it to the shores of Venice. Legend states that upon his arrival he was greeted by an angelic messenger whom stated “Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum” (Peace be with you Mark my evangelist, here your body will rest) (https://imagesofvenice.com/the-lion-of-st-mark/).

The reading from 1 Peter 5 describing Mark’s encounters with Silvanus are interesting to note :

A prayer on this day from the collect of the Roman Missal:

O God, who raised up Saint Mark, your Evangelist,

and endowed him with the grace to preach the Gospel,

grant, we pray,

that we may so profit from his teaching

as to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Christ.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

One God, for ever and ever.

St. Mark, pray for us.

Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Alleluia!

Resurrection by Andrea Mantegna (1457-1459)

Our hope in Jesus Christ our Lord has come to fulfillment for He has conquered death & vanquished our sin & rose from the grave. While we may at times lose hope, and fall into sin, we have the promise that we too may have life eternal if we turn to our Lord. As Pope St. John Paul II once proclaimed, “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”

Let us rejoice today for Jesus shows us the hope for eternal life if we place our trust in Him! Let us roll away our own stones that block the love for our God to shine in our life. Let us go rejoicing and spread the good news for today Jesus Christ is risen today, He is truly risen!

Good Friday

Image from National Gallery, Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens
Image caption: Andreas Pavias, Icon of the Crucifixion

“He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Is. 53:5).

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper by Peter Paul Rubens

Today marks the beginning of the Triduum (the 3 liturgical days of our church year) and God’s eschatological plan of salvation for us. His unconditional agape love for us from the washing of the feet of His disciples to the institution of the Eucharist marks that great moment where He gives us Himself in the form of bread & wine becoming truly present. Jesus is the true manna come down from heaven (Jn. 6:33-35).

Today, let us recall that everlasting gift that Jesus gives in this great agape meal as we enter into recalling His paschal mystery. The start of this holy liturgical celebration that is brought to fulfillment today with a new command or “mandatum novum.” Jesus asks us to do this act in memory of Him for this sacred liturgy shows us that He is always present in the gift of the Eucharistic meal we will share together that gives our soul true nourishment. Come to the banquet of life and love one another as He has loved you.

Spy Wednesday

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Pact of Judas (1308-1311)

Are we like Judas in our life by valuing money, or our selfish inclinations above our love for God & our neighbor? Today during Holy Week is Spy Wednesday for it recalls the scripture account in which Judas secretly betrayed Jesus by collecting 30 pieces of silver from the Jewish high priests.

Our Procession into Holy Week

‘Livre d’images de madame Marie,’ Hainaut or Brabant ca. 1280-1290 ( Nouvelle acquisition française 16251, fol. 29r) Palm Sunday
The Entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, (1844 by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin).

As we process with our Lord Jesus upon His entry to Jerusalem, how do we view our spiritual journey during this Passion week? Perhaps, we are like the colt that is “tethered upon which no one has sat” per the gospel of Luke. Such an animal doesn’t know what is going on & knows only one mission in life – to transport things upon their back. The colt only knows that its mission per Luke’s account is to transports Jesus, God’s son, to that destination where He will give us life eternal upon that cross! We too may be like that humble colt in transporting our very self with Jesus, not exactly knowing the exact destination or true nature of the mission, but we simply carry out the task that we are accustomed to doing. Perhaps, we are the crowd waving the palm branches proclaiming, “Hosanna in the highest!”? Maybe we have been blessed with a miraculous encounter or had a good Lenten season with our Lord and our faith is strong as we approach this Holy Week? Maybe we will have our faith shaken & deny Jesus like Peter through that selfish desire, habit or sin that separates us from being strong in our faith this week?

Perhaps, our faith is not strong due to a loss, particular suffering or tragedy that has occurred that makes us question where God is with our hardship and sorrow?

Turn to our Lord in prayer today and let us proclaim, “Hosanna in the highest”! It is Christ Jesus, He who saves, that will cast aside our transgressions if we place our trust in Him & atone for our sin this Holy Week. A good practice this week may be to reflect and pray concerning the wounds of Christ. Perhaps, you will attend or perform the stations of the cross within your family home, or attend a veneration of the cross service? Commit to the Lord this week in prayer & ask Him to rid those items in your life that can’t be brought forth in His glory on our resurrection day.

Holy Wounds prayer link: https://catholiccurrent.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/TWIM-4-13-Prayer-Resource-Five-Wounds.pdf

Stations of the Cross: https://mycatholic.life/catholic-prayers/stations-of-the-cross/

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

Undergoing the Test as Christian Believers

Image retrieved from https://churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/395663-leading-your-heart-through-spiritual-battle.html

We’ve all been in that place where trying times may test our very soul & shake our faith & belief in all that is good and of God. I myself have encountered those difficult moments that make me question God’s existence in a crazy & messed up world. Faith and fortitude are difficult virtues to keep in such an unforgiving & politicized world. We find alter egos of human imperfection running rampant that detract in our ability to trust in God during trying times. The gift of silence and hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit (Elijah, 1 Kings:19) is a difficult feat to master in our 21st century global economy where everyone is “connected,” or disconnected for that matter. We oftentimes see apathy being the norm with much of society not caring about one’s condition. Mankind was meant to be in communion with our Father God, and our fellow human being, and not isolated.

For myself, the discernment of leaving Catholic seminary formation was a difficult choice. Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” was a memory in which I tried to seek wisdom from such a decision being made. The choice one makes at the present moment does not come to fruition until later and must be viewed with a lens of retrospection and interior self-awareness. The spiritual test of discernment and choice I made brought about goodness in my life as a Christian disciple. In answering the call of service as a married man, I was blessed to have found my amazing wife, Angela. It was God’s grace that made finding my soulmate possible. It is through that spiritual choice that we make in communion with our God that allows our best self to shine. My daughter Abigail was a blessing for my wife & I. Abigail is a Hebrew name meaning “my father’s joy.” God definitely allows beauty & goodness to shine through trying times when being faced with making a choice under His guidance.

Another instance I can recall in my life’s spiritual journey is in having a major medical incident occur as a newlywed within a year of marriage. We also had a newborn child that made the timing inconvenient. I questioned why our Lord would take me away from my family with an illness that I didn’t think I deserved. Oddly enough and by some wondrous circumstance was a book by St. Josemaría Escrivá left in my hospital room entitled “The Way, Furrow & The Forge.” St. Josemaría also created the Opus Dei movement, or “Work of God.” This movement looks at the charism of the Spirit being present in all facets of our daily life. After all, the Creator truly works among all of us as we are all created in the image & likeness of God (Gen.)

While I am always trying to ward off those demons & encounters that seek to vanquish my soul & relationship with our loving God, I am reminded of the following image from scripture in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 4. Jesus calms the storm despite our own fears of facing chaos in troubled waters. His disciples, while in the actual presence of the Son of Man, still had great fear. No matter how bleak our situation may be, God’s outstretched arm, with the gift of peace & mercy are waiting for us.

Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” (1633).

As we await the Easter miracle & continue our spiritual battle to seek that which is good & pleasing to God; let us call to our Lord who seeks to be present on our journey to overcome those moments in which we turn away from His presence.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

Anima Christi

Crucifixion by Andrea di Bartolo

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary – March 19 Reflection

Image retrieved from https://mycatholic.life/saints/saints-of-the-liturgical-year/march-19-saint-joseph-husband-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary/

Ancient legend and folklore states that Joseph may have died on March 19th. Various traditions and devotions recalling the life of St. Joseph go back to as early as the 4th century. It wasn’t until 1480 in which Pope Sixtus IV elevated March 19 to an official liturgical feast in the church (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/liturgical-holidays/solemnity-of-saint-joseph–the-spouse-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary.html).

My sister Emily will be professing her vows of matrimony when she is betrothed to her soul mate Cody on the feast day of St. Joseph. Through the intercession of Saint Joseph, pray for them and all married couples.

As a Christian husband and father, I am reminded that Joseph was a humble man that didn’t have much written about him per the gospel writers. Joseph was a man of action that didn’t question his dream and took action despite life’s obstacles. The importance of the angelic messenger coming to Joseph in a dream shows us that Joseph must have been a man of faith to actually carry out his part of God’s mission for His plan of salvation history. Undoubtedly, Joseph’s many nicknames as “terror of demons,” is quite appropriate given his role as a stalwart of the holy family. After all, this is a man who fled with Mary and Jesus from the throes of danger from Herod’s slaughter of the holy innocents to Egypt. Joseph continuously did the Lord’s will without complaint as a pious and devout servant that he was.

For myself, Joseph holds a special fondness and place in my heart as not only a saintly role model, but one in which my father’s side of the family had a history with as well. My great grandparents helped to build a church named after the saint in Rhineland, TX. My wife and I were also married at St. Joseph in another city in a Texas town. I also had the opportunity to play this saintly man in a living nativity one year surrounded by actual livestock (luckily it was a silent part and true to the man who didn’t have much to say in holy scripture).

St. Joseph, Rhineland, TX

As we prepare to recall this saintly man of humble and pure heart this coming March 19, let us pray the Litany of St. Joseph and ask for his intercession to always be a dreamer and a person that takes action with our faith no matter how difficult the task.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

This Is My Chosen Son, Listen to Him (Lk. 9:35)

Image from Rafael Sanzio, The Transfiguration (1516-1520)

The story of the Transfiguration moment for this Sunday’s gospel in which Jesus takes Peter, John and James up to the mountain to pray is reminiscent of another account in Luke’s narrative in Luke chapter 22 of the Agony in the Garden narrative. In both accounts, the disciples fall asleep while praying.

How often do we also “fall asleep” and fail to grasp who this Jesus is in our own life? What will our moment look like when we awaken from our slumber and God reveals to us that moment of transfiguration for us? Will we be able to awaken from our slumber to recognize our relationship with Jesus as God’s beloved Son, or will we still be asleep?

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen

Lifting One’s Mind to God & Suspending Judgement

Image retrieved from https://blessedcatholicmom.com/prayer-for-lent/

Have you ever viewed an image of Jesus on the crucifix or seen a work of religious art and wondered why Jesus, or one of the many saintly figures have their eyes fixed in an upward direction? There is an ancient practice of suspending one’s judgement that we should re-examine this Lenten season. Eyes and minds fixed toward a heavenly direction should be the consideration.

We are all familiar with the Gospel account of the “stop judging that you may not be judged” (Mt. 7:7) imagery. Removing a splinter from our own eye before we can judge our fellow man is a huge obstacle in the spiritual life. However, what does this really mean in the Christian life, especially during Lent?

Oftentimes, we make many judgement calls during the day as part of our work, personal life and leisure time. We are exposed to various opinions and pre-conceived judgements that distract from our calling as Christians. The bombardment of voices we hear on television and social media form implicit biases that remove the dignity and respect for our fellow man. During the political season we receive numerous flyers and messages regarding platform campaign messages that add to distractions in which we let our reptilian brain take hold, thereby adding to the allegorical meaning of Plato’s cave imagery.

The early church doctor, Thomas Aquinas had something to say about our mind and intellect in his Summa Theologiae. Aquinas states, “I answer that, In the present state of life in which the soul is united to a passible body, it is impossible for our intellect to understand anything actually, except by turning to the phantasms” (https://ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa/summa.FP_Q84_A7.html).

St. John Damascene and the 2nd edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2559) has a beautiful quotation that reminds us that “prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God” (https://www.usccb.org/sites/default/files/flipbooks/catechism/614/).

Therefore, in order to venture out into the desert mystical experience this Lent, we must cast aside our anxious thoughts, worries, and mental distractions. Our inability to continuously go before the Lord in prayer when our thoughts separate us from the transforming grace of God are roadblocks in the spiritual journey.

St. Teresea of Avila speaks of the necessity of mental prayer in The Way of Perfection. Those holy men and women that have gone before us had the same struggles that we do today in the Christian life. However, our 21st century problems and concerns are definitely more manifest and troublesome with all of the distractions that we must cast aside.

One can associate suspending judgement with the following imagery: A stained glass window in a church is not illuminated unless the light shines to illuminate the glass. The same can be said with a dirty windshield while driving at a certain time of day in a particular direction where the road ahead is not as clear as it should be. Our minds are similar components in living out our Christian faith. How can the mind and heart turn to God unless we cast aside those thoughts that don’t allow the light and grace to transform our very being? As Jesus reminds us, He is the light of the world that shines in the darkness (Jn. 8:12). We must not let the petty distractions of our thoughts cast us into the darkness where the light of Christ Jesus wishes to dwell in our minds and hearts.

Let the crown of thorns that our Saviour was adorned with bless our minds and hearts to more heavenly matters this day. Let us set aside this day those cognitive distractions to re-center ourselves in prayer by His saving and merciful presence.

As Paul’s epistle to the Romans states, “do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen

ECCE AGNUS DEI – A Reflection for our Lenten Journey

Image taken from artist rendering for St. Paul Church, Richardson rendition of sanctuary space

John’s response as one of the first disciples utters a bold proclamation in the portrayal of the account of the gathering of the first disciples of Jesus. John states, behold the “Lamb of God.” (Jn 1:36) is a truly remarkable account of what our mission can be for us this coming Lent. The writer then states that the two disciples who heard John issue these words of acknowledgement at being able to recognize the divinity of our Lord Jesus, then decide to follow Him as well. The above image was taken from St. Paul Church in Richardson in which our Lamb of God was slain for our transgressions. It is a great image that reminds us to always look at the corpus (body) of the crucified Christ before we can turn to the image of our risen Lord. The reason why we must acknowledge our suffering and pain and the hardship of the Christian life is because we can never know change. The transformation of love and joy, or the ability of the miracle of grace to transform our minds and hearts to turn back to God is an amazing moment that allows us another view outside of our own independence to a place of dependence. Turning to our Lord when life is easy without hardships is oftentimes taken for granted for, we are great about asking God for things in petition, but not so great about thanking God for those blessings. Christian suffering is the great paradox for it can lead us to a better place if we allow it to permeate our very being.

This Lent will no doubt usher in a different experience. From a worldly experience in having gone through a major pandemic with much illness and death to a conflict with Russia and Ukraine to other events in our lifestyle is quite a lot to deal with. One always has to ask, why does our Lord God allow suffering, chaos and turmoil to occur? Such a question has been asked since the dawn of age. Much of human suffering can be attributed to the suffering we put on our fellow man instead of placing our complete trust and dependency in our Lord God. Why is there evil in the world? Is it the devil or some diabolical figure? For rabbinical Jewish scholars, the concept of ‘Yetzer hara,’ or the ‘evil inclination’ for us to turn away from the will of God is the reason for much of our misery.

Another parable we may wish to reflect on is the healing of the centurion’s servant in Matthew chapter 8. The centurion reminds us that we should place our trust in Jesus in which he remarks, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8:8). Another component of human suffering is that sometimes we don’t know the reason why nor the time according to our schedule for when such trials and hardships will occur. Ecclesiastes chapter 3 is a great reminder regarding the seasons of life to take to reflection during this Lenten season.

Let us cherish these seasons of our life no matter how difficult. When we are able to have the faith of John in which he proclaims, behold the Lamb of God, the same Lamb of God who has removed the stain of sin, suffering and death can we come to a place of peace, hope, love and joy. Let us listen to the Lord in the silence and speak when it is necessary to speak.

Our Lord Jesus Christ wishes to be with us this Lenten season and we must place our trust and guidance in His compassionate mercy when our own cross of life becomes too heavy.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen

The Wedding at Cana

The events in the first few chapters from the Gospel of John show us that it is necessary to reflect on our own eschatological plan for salvation as it relates to the high Christological foundation that Jesus has in our own life.

Starting with the baptism of Jesus, we are reminded that his participation in our humanity requires his full participation in God’s ability to partake of those spiritual moments to become part of our human condition as beloved adopted sons and daughters of God. The mystery of being cleansed by our own baptismal holy water and removing the stain of sin remind us of the importance of the sacrament of baptism. The wedding at Cana miracle from the set of readings on this second Sunday in ordinary time is a foreshadowing event that is a reminder of water being used as a sign of our baptism and the wine representing our Lord Jesus’s blood that was shed for the sin of mankind. During the holy mass and before the gift of wine is transformed, the deacon or priest quietly recites the prayer after placing a drop of water into the wine in which he prays “by the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in His divinity who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” This mysterious hypostatic union event and mystery where God is needed to walk among us to share in our human condition by ultimately suffering for all of mankind on the cross at Calvary is a great reflection to ponder in prayer.

When we think about a wedding party, we oftentimes forget of the importance in continuing to support and pray for the couple as they fulfill their sacramental obligation of service to each other. Perhaps as an alternate wedding gift, we can also pledge a bible, or offer to pray for the newlyweds as they begin their spiritual and earthly service to one another.

Saving the best for last wine in the gospel of John’s story is more than living in the moment, but it is about the totality of the marriage bond and covenant throughout the entirety of the couple’s life together. After all, the marriage encounter reminds us that both the groom and the bride will have those challenging moments where they are called to be strong Christian witnesses in their bond to each other. Any good marriage will have crosses to bear and graces to share. Saving the best wine for last reminds us of our mortal quest to become eternal sons and daughters of God in heavenly paradise as the ultimate goal. Some may say that after the first few years of marriage, the blissful love dwindles, and the spark goes out. Any good marriage will recall that the love of Jesus and His example as the ultimate bridegroom should serve as an example to our own marriage. As a husband, if I am not striving for my spouse to one day see the face of God and become one of the many saints in heaven, I have failed in my duty for I should constantly strive to be a model that leads her closer to Christ Jesus.

As St. Paul reminds us in the 1st book of Corinthians, chapter 13, love is patient and kind and is always one of self-sacrifice. I was reminded by my pastor recently about the mystery of why God gives us the gift of free will. Why would God allow us to choose the good and the bad? Why would man or woman be able to choose adultery, hate, jealousy, or finances over the love of the marriage covenant to each other? Divorces are more commonplace than they were previously, and it is something we must work to overcome as a society. My pastor stated that if we don’t know how to sin and fall in order choose the bad, we will never know what it means in order to love God and choose the good. The parable of the prodigal son in which the son is ashamed by his transgressions of squandering his inheritance and eating filth with the swine is one that we should recognize in the marriage bond where the sin of the spouse and shortcomings of one another as being united in holy matrimony will always come to light. I should have no secrets when it concerns my wife, for we are one. Learning to forgive one another and have the wisdom and fortitude to return as a couple to the Lord in prayer should be a healthy action of any marriage bond.

Returning to the mystery of the wedding at Cana and the countless times that my wife has journeyed with me on the road to Calvary where we both have endured some sacrifices; I am deeply humbled. Her forgiveness of my transgressions where I fell short with my words or actions in performing the duties of my marriage covenant are one example that reminds me of the love of Jesus the Christ. No matter what happens, Jesus will always give us the best wine no matter how bleak and miserable things may appear. The wedding party at Cana reminds us that the Lord’s love endures forever, and we should be ready to receive the best wine when it is our time.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

In His Love & Light

Our Calling Card as Christians

Brother Solanus Casey, by Doris Faulkner

Have you ever received a Christmas card or other greeting card in the mail and not really paid attention to the message? Have you ever let those humble saints that walk among us pass you by without taking notice? After watching the recent Christmas special of The Chosen in “The Messengers” (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt15772866/) and reflecting on the way they portrayed Joseph as a humble servant of God and Mary in their dialogue with each other, it is apparent that oftentimes we miss the message God gives us.

Recently, I learned that my step-grandmother Doris had passed. What I fondly recall about her was her kind heart and humility. When I would visit my grandfather who would have the occasional noontime nap and wait for him wake up from slumber, I would spend time chatting with my “Memaw” Doris. I recalled that she seemed to have a good soul and spirit about her as I reflect back on our conversations about everyday life. When my first “MeMaw” passed, Doris was there to continue to serve as a great matriarch to both families. Her ability to send out greeting cards and remember small occasions such as birthdays was a fond memory. She was a woman of great talents who could quilt, paint and had a love for many crafts and hobbies that would keep her busy. My wife Angela, a fellow quilt maker, loved her soul and spirit as well. Doris enjoyed life to the fullest and was kind enough to give me one of her art pieces of Blessed Solanus Casey, a Capuchin servant of God (https://www.solanuscasey.org/).

Most of all, my grandfather Jack found her after his wife Thecia passed. Doris brought many years of great joy to his life as demonstrated with the great dance picture from my wedding. They traveled together and had many great adventures in their twilight years.

Dance for Joy

The one message that I always took for granted was the simple signatures in the cards I received where she would sign “Love & Light.” This Christmas season is one of love & light where God humbles His very essence to bestow on us the gift of Jesus, the Son of God made light for all the world. (Jn. 1). We will enter into this Christmas season where we reflect on the Visit of the Magi (Mt. 2) and their visit to the newborn king where they saw his star at its rising.

Next time you receive that Christmas card, stop and look for the message that makes you ponder our earthly blessings we have received as disciples of our Lord. Let us slow down and reflect on those moments that make us want to dance for joy. Your servant Doris reminded us of this during her earthly life. May His “love & light” bring you peace and consolation this season.

Third Sunday of Advent & Our Lady of Guadalupe Reflection

Miracles occur each & every day. Four years ago, my wife & I closed on a house that was a closer commute to our church we were married in. Our house faces east in the same direction of the location of the church in which the congregation faces toward Jerusalem & the holy sacrifice of the mass. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe ruega por nosotros. #Joy #3rd Sunday of Advent. Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, pray for us. This is the miracle regarding the intercessions of the saints, including our blessed mother intervening for us on our behalf. By their grace and guidance they turn us toward and prepare our joyful hearts for the coming of our Lord Jesus. May we always be ready and watchful.

May the Lord Bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to eternal life. Amen.

Advent Reflection – Preparing Our Hearts for the Lord

Retrieved from https://visuallyexplained.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/advent.png

Oftentimes in life we are a society that is rushed for time. We let the secular calendar and anxiety of life creep up on us like a thief in the night, taking away our sense of purpose and belonging in this world as human beings created in His image.

We are also an advanced human species having such luxuries with the false notion that we can be the masters of our own fate. We oftentimes forget or take for granted who is in charge of our true destiny as Christians. It is easy to think that we can plan and prepare for any outcome that may come our way and trust in our own self to be prepared. Sometimes we might try to look for signs, or question events in our life without seeing the small miracles of the Holy Spirit that are there for us in the quiet and stillness of our soul.

The advent season (Latin for coming) and advent wreath is a recent tradition coming from the medieval ages. Such a tradition used to symbolize the pagan sun god to return during the winter solstice. Christians utilize the symbolic wreath as a tradition in which the circular evergreen represents eternal growth and life for which God’s plan of salvation has no limit. The purple candles and vestments represent prayer, penance and a call to be ready for the royal King of kings to come. The lighting of each candle allows us to recognize God’s plan for salvation both in the first coming with the miracle of the Incarnation of His Son Jesus and the second coming for which He will come again (Hope of the world/Prophecy candle). The other respective candles symbolize Love (Bethlehem Candle); Joy (Rose for Shepherd’s candle); Peace (Angel’s candle); and an optional white candle for the light of Christ (Jn. 1:5).

During this Advent season let not the anxiety and secularism of Christmas as a season creep up on us. We should commit to not let our lives be one of “drowsiness” or “drunken stupor” and allow His coming to catch us like a trap and be surprised by His return. Luke’s gospel reminds us that we should always remain vigilant & prepared when the Son of Man might come again. For Jesus to truly come into our life this Christmas season we must empty our hollow shell to make our mangers of our heart ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must get rid of the “flashy lights” and secular idols that clutter our soul. Being able to acknowledge our complete dependence on the mystery of a lowly baby born in a manger who came to save His people as God’s son made flesh for the world is contrary to our own definitions of independence. After all, this baby would come to save His people by becoming a sacrificial and saving victim for the sin of all mankind. In order to truly prepare for the mystery of this season, let us acknowledge our weaknesses and human fragility. Let us be awake and vigilant for coming tribulations and trials that may occur in our life.

We are a people of hope who have great faith that the light of Christ may illuminate the darkness of our very soul and of the world. Take hope, for this light of Christ Jesus is brighter than any secular “Christmas” light bulb. This season, may our soul and entire being recall the gifts of hope, love, joy and peace which are symbolic of Christmastime and the coming of Jesus, the word made flesh.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Retrieved from https://corjesusacratissimum.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/christ-the-king.jpg

Who is the ruler and king of your life? Is it a particular vice or action or sin that keeps your eyes closed from seeing the true beauty and goodness of our Lord and King Jesus who came to rule in a different kind of way? If we recall, the greatest commandment that Jesus gave us while on earth when answering the teachers of the law is to “love the Lord your God with all your soul, mind and all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Today the Catholic church recalls Jesus Christ as being the Lord and King of the Universe (both earth and heaven). It is so easy to get caught up in the limited vision of life here on earth and forget our true calling as disciples of Jesus. Life can be messy and is filled with strife, anxiety, vice/sin, and a world that is far from perfect. Being able to prepare for the feast of the Advent season that follows where we empty ourselves and reflect on the 1st coming of Jesus as a lowly baby born in a manger is quite a different perspective compared to our typical image of earthly kings. After all, Jesus was not born to a wealthy earthly king in a castle crib, but to a carpenter from Nazareth, and to a lowly woman named Mary who was chosen to bear the new ark of the covenant. The ending of this great story of our salvation is also remarkable in that this God made man king was brought forth to suffer, and die for our transgressions having shed his blood for the salvation of all mankind.

On this day, let us humbly and prayerfully reflect on how we can ask Jesus to come into our life and be the ruler of our heart and very soul. May we be transformed by our King’s ruling benevolence and love He has to bring about peace and joy to his chosen people.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen

Are You Prepared for the final hour?

Retrieved from https://i2.wp.com/www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/largest.jpg?fit=1200%2C675

The lectionary reading from the Gospel of Mark for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time before the feast of Christ the King is a great foreshadowing of apocalyptical literature. As Mark’s gospel chapter 13 verses 24-32 indicate, no one knows the day, or hour for which the “great tribulation” will appear except for the Father.

Coincidentally, in the Book of Daniel, chapter 12, Michael the guardian angel and great prince will arise during a time of great distress. Those “who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace (Dan. 12:2)”

We as Christians should not fear the second coming and final judgement. Anxiety and worry does no good unless our life is not rooted in knowing our loving and benevolent God. During the month of November where the Church recalls the saints in glory who have gone to heaven and those souls that have gone before us that may be awaiting heavenly paradise; we must take heart from Daniel’s passage where we are awake and fully conscious of our life here with God while on earth.

I oftentimes ponder that the final judgement will be one of choosing a false façade of those empty sins and temporal luxuries that are an allusion as compared to choosing that which is of God. We must always be ready to empty ourselves, acknowledge our shortcomings, and be prepared through prayer, charity and fasting for when the time will come. The last part of fasting not only includes food and nourishment for our bodies, but fasting from those actions that separate ourselves from the love of God and our neighbor or family. We can fast from technology that separates our relationship with others. We can fast from using unwise words that hurt others. We can fast from the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.

Let us not worry about when the time will come, but be awake, and ready to recognize our most loving God when it is our time. May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

Reflection on the Sacrament of Matrimony & Christian Mission of the Church

The cycle of readings in scripture takes its selection from the new testament of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians chapter 5 in regard to the symbolic relationship of a husband being head of his wife just as Jesus Christ is head of the church. As such, a husband’s role is to care for his spouse through selfless acts of love and acknowledgement just as the wife is to do the same.

“A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” is a great passage from Paul. The mystery of the hypostatic union of God becoming man in the person of Jesus is comparable of when man and woman create a life through a sacred act of love. The Sacrament of matrimony is also a covenant moment where the two become one in the eyes of God and the church.

It is oftentimes easy to let the newlywed experience become a thing of the past and let that love dwindle. The promises of fidelity, chastity and selfless sacrifice should always be the ultimate goals of any marriage. As a Christian married man, I have oftentimes fallen short in such commitments to my wife. It is only by ridding myself of the sins of pride, selfishness and other desires that weaken the marriage bond that make a marriage work. I take solace in acknowledging that Jesus is the perfect bridegroom example. The ultimate mission of marriage is to lead each other to heaven with our loving God. May the Lord bless all married couples as they seek to model the sacred gift that is symbolic of Christ being head of His church.

The Bread of Life & Gift of the Eucharist

image retrieved from: https://olgcommunity.com/holy-eucharist

The nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary time continues to take the cycle of readings from John’s Gospel, chapter 6 with an excerpt from the Bread of Life Discourse. Last week, there was the story of the multiplication of the loaves. This week, we have the bold proclamation from Jesus revealing His divine nature in which he remarks “I am the bread that came down from heaven (Jn 6:41).

The old testament reading from the first book of Kings chapter 19 has Elijah the prophet giving up hope and wanting to perish under a broom tree for lack of hope. Strengthened by a hearth cake, a jug of water and appearance from an angel, Elijah is commanded to eat such nourishment, but decides to lay back down. Only with the prodding of an angel does he eat and drink again to miraculously venture out to Mt. Horeb for 40 days and nights.

The old phrase we are what we eat holds true for our reflection on the Eucharistic miracle every time we partake of Jesus’s body and blood made holy for our commemoration feast acknowledging the bread of life come down from heaven at every mass we celebrate. In some ways, the duty for us to go out on mission after receiving such life giving food is found with the prophet Elijah when he goes out on his journey after partaking on such holy food and water a second time.

Oftentimes, I am inclined to take such holy nourishment after receiving holy communion for granted without thinking about how such heavenly food that enters my body and very soul can transform my daily life and Christian mission. Just like Elijah, some days it is easy to just want to sit under a broom tree and “wait for the pangs of death.” However, our hope is not lost with the sacrament of the Eucharist where Jesus comes down and is truly present in the bread and wine that becomes His body and blood. We must always be ready to give thanks after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, but also remember that to go forth and do the work of the church in our homes and communities is part of receiving such divine nourishment.

A good prayer that I have found helpful in my own journey after receiving the Eucharist is the Anima Christi (Soul of Christ).

(Prayer retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/devotions/anima-christi-384)

May we always be ready to be thankful for such a gift we receive at every mass where heaven comes down to earth. After receiving holy communion, let such spiritual food empower and enkindle in us the mission to go forth and proclaim the good news by our thoughts, words and actions in our homes, communities and workplaces.

May the Lord bless us, and protect us from all evil this day. Amen.

The Transfiguration of our Lord

Image retrieved from https://pilgrimcenterofhope.org/the-transfiguration-makes-a-way-for-the-cross/

Oftentimes in life we don’t have the full and complete picture and are oftentimes blinded by our human condition. I imagine that Peter, James and his brother John had no idea who Jesus really was as portrayed in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9 verses 2-10 when being led up to the mountain only to see Jesus’s clothes become dazzling white.

Having Elijah and Moses appear alongside Jesus by symbolizing the prophets and the law respectively show us of the importance of such an occasion. Peter provides the classic reply and must have been dumbfounded at such an event as he remarks it is necessary to make three tents for Elijah, Moses and Jesus.

The cloud that comes down and casts a shadow over them with the Lord God’s voice saying “this is my beloved Son, listen to him” is a powerful statement that acknowledges our own limited human senses. How often do we take time out of our busy day to really listen to the Lord in prayer? Are we blinded by the distractions of the world where we fail to hear, see and discern that transfiguration moment acknowledging the need for God’s grace in our own life?

Let us ask the Lord to help us to acknowledge the Son of God and His saving presence on this day. The miracle of the Transfiguration and Jesus’s fully human and divine nature has been made manifest in our own life and eschatological plan of God’s saving grace for us. May we awaken our senses in prayer and conversation so that we may not be caught off guard.

St. Joachim & Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Image retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saints-Anne-and-Joachim Caption credit: Lippi, Filippino: The Meeting of Joachim and Anne Outside the Golden Gate of Jerusalem
The Meeting of Joachim and Anna Outside the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, tempera on panel by Filippino Lippi, 1497; in the National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen.
Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark); http://www.smk.dk (Public domain)

What is a grandparent and what role do they play in the faith of their children and grandchildren? Not all are blessed to have known their grandparents, however yesterday was the church’s newly minted World Day of prayer for Grandparents and the elderly (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2021-07/world-day-for-grandparents-and-the-elderly-is-the-ultimate-gift.html). Such a day of prayer and remembrance also coincides with the memorial of the saints, Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Not much is known about Joachim and Anne other than from folklore and apocryphal writings. What we do know is that God’s plan of salvation history and the ability for all of us to become saints one day is shaped and molded in our hearts by those who surround us. The parents of Mary and her ability to say yes to God’s will must have had a profound impact in her upbringing. Oftentimes, we as a culture are not able to cherish the importance of our grandparents and elderly among us, oftentimes casting them aside as a burden when they are not able to care for themselves later in life.

Today, let us ask God to bless our grandparents and elderly among us so that they may show us the way to God. One fond memory I had of my late grandfather was his carrying of his daily missal to mass (with the bible readings for the Sunday), which was a reminder to always prepare for each and every mass with fervor and preparation.

Saint John Damascene offers this reflection on the parents of Mary, the theotokos (God-bearer) of our Lord Jesus:

Joachim and Anne, how chaste a couple! While safeguarding the chastity prescribed by the law of nature, you achieved with God’s help something which transcends nature in giving the world the Virgin Mother of God as your daughter. While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is. Girl of utter beauty and delight, daughter of Adam and mother of God, blessed the loins and blessed the womb from which you come! Blessed the arms that carried you, and blessed your parents’ lips, which you were allowed to cover with chaste kisses, ever maintaining your virginity. Rejoice in God, all the earth. Sing, exult and sing hymns. Raise your voice, raise it and not be afraid. (Retrieved from the Office of Readings in the Roman Breviary and Orat. 6 in Nativitatem B. Mariae V. 2, 4, 5, 6: PG 96, 663, 667, 670).

St. Anne and Joachim, pray for us and enable in our grandparents and elderly among us the same chaste and fervent example you bestowed upon your daughter, Mary.

St. Mary Magdalen: A Reflection

Image retrieved from: https://www.holytrinitystore.com/resurrection-of-christ-with-mary-magdalene-ir-884.html

Today the Roman Church remembers the life of St. Mary Magdalene, formerly a person whose title was associated with the “penitent.” It is reported that St. Thomas Aquinas gave Mary the title of “Apostle of the Apostles” (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/07/22/st–mary-magdalene–disciple-of-the-lord-.html). On July 22 of 2016, Pope Francis elevated the day to a Feast to “stress the importance of this faithful disciple of Christ” (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/07/22/st–mary-magdalene–disciple-of-the-lord-.html).

In Mark’s Gospel chapter 16 verse 9, the evangelist indicates that Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.” In John’s Gospel chapter 20, we have the image of Mary appearing early outside of the tomb while still dark before the other disciples. We know that Mary holds an important status for Christian salvation history as presented in the story of Jesus’s appearance to her before the others. Simon Peter and the other disciple were only able to view the burial clothes, but did not quite have a sense of what occurred. Mary, on the other hand, does not leave but stays weeping and mourning for our Lord. Two angels appear to Mary and state” Woman, why are you weeping?” Her reply is classic based on our limited perceptions of God’s will in which she replies “they have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him” (Jn 20:14). After such a moment, Jesus appears to her and questions her weeping. Mary for a second time does not understand and assumes such a character is a gardener with her reply “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” The third occurrence Jesus just has to state her name for her human nature to see the divine person of Jesus in which her reply is “Rabbouni” or teacher.

It is remarkable that Mary of Magdala is the ultimate message bearer of our salvation and hope in the Lord. Jesus sends her on the church’s first mission to proclaim the good news to the other disciples in which he states “go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'” (Jn 20:17). Mary, although a person with a troubled past and a sinner like all of us, is a remarkable saint to reflect on. Culturally speaking, Jesus gives such an important task to a woman which was not reflective of the time period’s societal decorum. During this time period, women did not possess the same stature as the male dominated society. Secondly, Mary’s revelation of seeing our risen Lord and her encounter at the tomb shows us that possessing a deep love for our Lord can only come from someone that wears one’s emotion on their sleeve. We must soften our hardened hearts and become dependent upon His great agape love to not only weep when necessary, but also to stay vigilant in our faith at all times. Mary’s deep faith and love for our Lord is something for us to consider this day as we try to stand watch and seek the risen Lord who shows us the way to our Father.

May the Lord Bless us and protect us from all evil this day. St. Mary of Magdalene, pray for us. Amen.

When I am weak, then I am strong

The second letter to the Corinthians chapter 12 verses 7-10 today has a reflective image from St. Paul in which he acknowledges that God’s grace is sufficient for us despite our weaknesses and “beatings” from Satan.

In a sense, on this sabbath day and remembrance of our independence as a Nation, we should strive for this deep-seated reflection of God empowering us and our Nation with grace that should be fervently asked for in prayer each day. The Gospel passage from Mark chapter 6 verses 1-6 has an interesting paradox in which the people question the works of Jesus and Jesus’s response of “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” The lessons from scripture teach us that we should never strive to live within our comfort zones in order to receive the graces and gifts from God. As an American nation in these great United States, oftentimes we become accustomed to certain luxuries and levels of comfort we take for granted, especially in our surroundings we know.

On this day, let us ask God to continue to not only bless our Nation, but give us the grace to go forth and proclaim the good news both within our community and beyond. Comfort and the status quo don’t coincide with the needed spiritual mission we should undertake in order to bring Jesus into not only our own hearts with our weakness, but outside of our homes in ministering to others. If the Son of God was looked with skepticism and lack of trust by those he grew up with in His home town of Nazareth, then we should take note to always be ready to not lose sight of our own spiritual mission despite earthly tendencies and feelings. by family, friends and neighbors. On the US currency is the caption “In God We Trust” that should always be on our hearts, minds and sleeves each day. Paul was fully aware of placing his trust in our Lord despite his previous life of sin and persecution of the Christian people. We should always be ready to fulfill our mission as Christians and as those who live within the increased secularization of our world and Nation to always be ready to answer the call to proclaim the good news to others whenever possible.

May the Lord bless us and protect us from all evil this day. May our United States of America continue to represent the ethical and moral obligation to the weak and impoverished. May we as citizens of the USA, but more importantly citizens who long for a place in Heaven who are made in His image with unalienable rights and duties endowed to us by our Creator seek to answer the call to mission and service no matter how difficult it may be.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Image retrieved from: 5 Beautiful Prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Every Catholic Should Know | (churchpop.com)

Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Lord, have mercyLord, have mercy
Christ, have mercyChrist, have mercy
Lord, have mercyLord, have mercy
  
God our Father in heavenhave mercy on us
God the Son, Redeemer of the worldhave mercy on us
God the Holy Spirithave mercy on us
Holy Trinity, one Godhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, Son of the eternal Fatherhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Motherhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, one with the eternal Wordhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, infinite in majestyhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of Godhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most Highhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heavenhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, aflame with love for ushave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, source of justice and lovehave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and lovehave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, well-spring of all virtuehave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, worthy of all praisehave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all heartshave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, treasure-house of wisdom and knowledgehave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, in whom there dwells the fullness of Godhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father is well pleasedhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, from whose fullness we have all receivedhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, desire of the eternal hillshave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, patient and full of mercyhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, generous to all who turn to youhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holinesshave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, atonement for our sinshave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with insultshave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, broken for our sinshave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, obedient even to deathhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, pierced by a lancehave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolationhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrectionhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliationhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, victim of our sinshave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, salvation of all who trust in youhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, hope of all who die in youhave mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, delight of all the saintshave mercy on us
  
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the worldhave mercy on us
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the worldhave mercy on us
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the worldhave mercy on us
  
Jesus, gentle and humble of heart.Touch our hearts and make them like your own.

Let us pray.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that we, who glory in the Heart of your beloved Son
and recall the wonders of his love for us,
may be made worthy to receive
an overflowing measure of grace
from that fount of heavenly gifts.
Through Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen.

Prayer retrieved from Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus | USCCB

Holy Trinity Sunday

Image retrieved from on May 30, 2021: https://www.archgh.org/news-events/news/texas-catholic-herald/texas-catholic-herald-news/texas-catholic-herald/garcia-luense-the-meaning-of-the-most-holy-trinity/. “Mosaic tiles depicting the Most Holy Trinity and various saints are seen in the Trinity Dome at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. CNS photo.

Today, in the Church, we look at the nuisances of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and reflect on our own ontological nature as being made in His image as human beings. While it is impossible to fully understand the mystery of the Trinity and God-head that are one in three, yet three in one through their filial relationship to one another; we can learn the lessons from scripture.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans chapter 8 verses 14-17 indicates that we are called to share in the adoption of the Spirit of God by being “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” The mystery of Jesus’s hypostatic union of human flesh being joined together with God the Father is another mystery that bears some fruit. It is through the culmination of His passion, suffering and resurrection made manifest by His paying the ultimate sacrifice on a cross that reflects our own human creation mystery story. As human beings, we may recall the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis with the first and second creation stories. We know that our imperfect human nature and fall from His grace resembles our own mystery that should be sorted out. Paul does not shy away from the fact that the Christian life is one that is not easy with trial and tribulation being a given in order to share in that adoption of God the Abba (Father).

The Holy Trinity as expressly mentioned Matthew’s Gospel chapter 28 recalls the mission for the 11 disciples to go out to all nations “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In order for us to truly understand the mystery and divine nature of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, we should turn to ourselves to understand our place within the area of salvation history and revel in who we are as human beings. The image of the Holy Trinity mosaic as displayed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has an image of God the Father offering an outstretched hand to Jesus, His Son, with the image of the Holy Spirit pouring forth above them in the image of a dove.

In some sense, we must offer our outstretched hand to God the Father in times of trouble. We must always remember as Catholic Christians to never shy away from the sign of the cross as a mystery that is inclusive of our mission to partake in that mystery of His infinite and filial love as displayed with His Son who taught us what such a mystery was all about.

In Saint Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem Father Son and Spirit section number 9, we see that with this mandate to baptize others with the Trinitarian formula, “it gives sanctifying grace as a supernatural gift to man.” “Through grace, man is called and made capable of sharing in the inscrutable life of God.” (Retrieved May 30, 2021 https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_18051986_dominum-et-vivificantem.html).

Let us always try to acknowledge and be accepting of such graces that may come to us in our life and cherish the Sacrament of our own baptism and baptismal promises. We should never lose sight of the fact that through this great mystery of the Holy Trinity is the knowledge that the mysterious relationship of three persons in one is love made eternal for each and every one of us no matter what crosses we bear on this earthly realm.

7th Sunday of Easter or Feast Day of Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ Reflection

Image retrieved from the Laudario of Sant’Agnese; Pacino di Bonaguida (Italian (Florentine), active about 1303 – about 1347); about 1340; Tempera and gold on parchment; Leaf: 44.4 × 31.8 cm (17 1/2 × 12 1/2 in.); Ms. 80a (2005.26); No Copyright – United States (http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/)

The popular praise and worship Gospel Song, Lord I Lift Your Name on High by songwriter Rick Founds encompasses the totality of God’s plan for salvation history in a great song that one can teach their young children, especially as we explore the mystery of Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven. Our end goal is of course to recall the mystery and miracle of Jesus’s ascent to go and be with His Father, which is also our ultimate goal while here on earth. Jesus did indeed come to the earth to show us the way to His Father God and “from the grave to the sky, Lord I lift your name on High” is a message that we Christians should always boldly proclaim on our life’s journey (Lord I Lift Your Name On High | Divine Hymns Contemporary Songs).

Florentine artist Pacino di Bonaguida’s image is a great reflection piece that portrays our own sense of mission as followers of Jesus with His apostles having their eyes fixed to heaven. Our own human condition reveals that same imagery as our ultimate eschatological and ontological goal as being made in the image and likeness of God is to always yearn for the day that we ultimately be in complete communion with God in heaven one day.

Our choice through our very will is to either praise His mighty works as exemplified in Psalm 47 in which “God mounts the throne amid shouts of joy” or to turn our eyes elsewhere toward those things in life that are not of God.

The optional lectionary reading from Ephesians chapter four proclaims our mission in which some our called through the grace of Baptism and our calling in life to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip holy ones to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12). The Good News from Mark’s Gospel, is a great Gospel passage that firmly states our sense of mission, purpose and urgency. In the Great Commissioning of the Apostles, Jesus the Christ states the following, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16: 15-16).

By our very free will we have the option of having our body and soul glorified with our merciful God and Father in Heaven, or we can choose the path of condemnation and a potential life without God. It is our choice and responsibility to use His grace and His love which are gifts given to use and His love is unlimited no matter where we are at in life. It was by His ultimate sacrifice in which His blood was poured out for us as an expiation for the sin of all mankind by acknowledging we are finite creatures dependent on a higher power and higher calling. Our call of course is to always have our eyes fixed upon Heaven as our final destination on our journey as spiritual human beings.

Let us remember that no matter how difficult our life may be while here on earth, we must remember that Jesus, God’s Son made flesh for the world, gave His life over to Sin and defeated such destruction. He showed us the way as a reminder that we will never be abandoned and should not lose hope. His kingdom is both on earth and in heaven and one day we should anticipate His coming and most benevolent judgement. We are an Easter people and a path to mercy and salvation is open to us through the mission of the Church which is each one of us through our calling as a Christian people. We must be good stewards of His earthly kingdom, ushering in a call to conversion, repentance and action-filled relationships with our Lord. We don’t want to be caught off guard and not recognize the Son of Man when he comes again. It is through prayer, reading of scripture and the seven spiritual and corporal works of mercy that will more closely unite us with our beloved Lord as most in life truly yearn for His loving embrace.

As Saint John of The Cross proclaimed so eloquently in his writings”

As each soul nears heaven differences will dissolve to such a sublime extent that when the heart looks upon any object in this world it will cry ‘Beloved’ and passionately run into an embrace with me (Editor Starr, Mirabai (2008). Devotions, Prayers & Living Wisdom Saint John of the Cross. Boulder, CO: Sounds True Inc.).

The popular Gospel praise and worship song

The Spirit of Truth

What is the Spirit of truth that Jesus speaks about in John’s Gospel?

When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears and will declare to you the things that are coming.” Jn. 16:13

The foreshadowing of the ascension of Jesus to Heaven and message to his apostles reveal a startling acknowledgement that we as a Christian people must always be watchful and ready, despite not having the existing sensory perception to distinguish His will at the present moment.

As Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 2 verse 14-15 acknowledges, “Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can judge everything, but is not subject to judgment by anyone.”

We as a Christian people must always be ready to equip ourselves with prayer and spiritual armor to be on guard to await the times in our life when the Spirit of truth may speak to us. We must strive to be a spiritual person instead of a natural person per Paul’s classification of our end goal in his epistle to the Corinthians. It is oftentimes easy to get caught up in the distress and temptations of the messed up and fallen world we find ourselves in. For those that are hearing impaired that use hearing aids to listen to the sounds around us, we too must use our own spiritual “hearing aids” to listen to and prayerfully discern the Spirit of truth that may come to us when we least expect it. How can communication with our Lord occur if our spiritual ears, mind, heart and soul are not experienced in learning to be in communion with our God? Speaking to our Lord and listening to His voice each day through prayer, biblical and spiritual reading reflections and other acts of contemplation are needed so we are not caught off guard by our limited understanding of the spiritual realm. Prayer and the spiritual exercises of increasing the fortitude of our souls is oftentimes a lost art in our world today.

In many respects, what will the sound of the Spirit be like? Perhaps, it will be like Elijah’s experience in the reading of 1 Kings, chapter 19 in which our Lord is not present in a mighty wind, earthquake, or fire, but in a whispering sound?

As Jesus lets us know in John’s Gospel, the Spirit of truth will glorify Him and “take from what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:15). Let us prepare for the graces and gifts that our Lord may provide us with this day and each moment we have while on earth. We must always be thankful for the gifts, relationships and moments we have each and every day despite our not being able to understand the Spirit of truth in our limited human understanding.

Come Lord Jesus and come Holy Spirit into my very being and senses this day so that I may be always attentive for the moment that your grace may empower me to comprehend the Spirit of truth.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Good Shepherd Sunday: Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Image retrieved from: Jesus: The Good Shepherd (op.org) “The image above is from the stalls of the Thisle Chapel in Edinburgh’s St Giles Cathedral. “

Today’s readings in the Catholic church during this Easter season are oftentimes known as “Good Shepherd” Sunday per the selection from sacred scripture. Today is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We must always remember to pray for our men and women called by God that receive the spiritual call to imitate Jesus as the Divine Shepherd.

In the Gospel passage from John, chapter 10 verses 11-18 Jesus proclaims the following:

“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”

The message from John’s Gospel is a great reminder that we must all unite behind the common goal of bringing others closer to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Oftentimes, as human beings, we are much like sheep. We tend to lose focus of the important aspects of our Christian life and wander off into danger. We let the petty distractions of the world and vainglory dull our senses and higher calling of being an Easter people with eyes always pointed to God and the Parousia or second coming. We are one Christian church despite the many rites, denominations and faith traditions that should always seek the goal of evangelizing others as our primary call. Bringing our fellow “sheep” closer to knowing who our great and awesome God is through the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, should be our ultimate task. Today, as we reflect on the good news, are you like the hired shepherd that wishes to flee and run from danger? Perhaps, we are not ready to have steadfast courage to face the many wolves in our life and possibly lay down our very own life for the “sheep”, or our brothers and sisters in need of His saving mercy in distress or danger?

Let us pray for those who work in the Lord’s harvest, that they may fully imitate our Good Shepherd, who bring life to others in a troubled world. Let us examine our own Christian worldview and take up our mission to not only serve others, but to boldly and courageously fend off the wolves that distract us from our mission. May we bring our brothers and sisters closer to knowing Him through our very actions, words and deeds this day for Jesus is our Good Shepherd.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

Friends of the Holy Land

By Brendan Metcalfe

The goal of Friends of the Holy Land is to secure a resilient and enduring Christian community in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan. The pandemic has hit hard in this area as around 70% of Christians rely on tourism for a living. For a second year there have been no pilgrims visiting at Easter, in fact many in these vulnerable communities have been without income since March 2020. In response we have recently launched our Pentecost Challenge, a virtual pilgrimage from Bethlehem to Nazareth which allows participants to fundraise as they discover rarely visited Christian communities in the West Bank. You can find more information at: www.friendsoftheholyland.org.uk/pentecost

I was hoping that you would share news of this event among your network of friends and family. Perhaps you can get a team together? Participants will discover ancient Christian communities rarely visited. Also, if you click on the link below and provide your information, I will make sure to keep you up to date with our news. I hope we can see better times soon as we gradually emerge from lockdown through the summer.

Keep well. Best wishes, Brendan Metcalfe http://bit.ly/FHLnews

No Vaccine for Martyrdom

By Tom Grossman, Jr., Special Contributor

I thought it important to use my friend Tom’s testimony who agreed to be a guest contributor to this blog site. God bless, Eric – The Street Evangelist.

No Vaccine for Martyrdom

Image taken from: https://miro.medium.com/max/2400/1*8R7o5qYvZ3U-1Cd4Y_ZrNQ.jpeg

In the Gospel for this past Sunday, we see that Jesus comes to the disciples as they are in a sense quarantined in fear of death! Jesus in His power comes to give them the strength of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. He breaths on them and says receive the Holy Ghost! Jesus does not allow them to remain gripped by the fear and the threat of death. This however was a very true threat; the pandemic of martyrdom would eventually wipe out over 90% of Jesus’ first apostles.

Unlike with our current crisis the likelihood of them dying was almost guaranteed! The only cure for this martyrdom was to deny Christ and pinch incense to false Gods. The disciples were at first terrified by the possibility of loosing their lives. However, after this interaction with Jesus in the Gospel and the decent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the threat of death was not as concerning to the early church as saving the souls of the world.

These weak and doubting disciples were transformed into powerful pillars that stood not afraid to lay down their lives for the sake of the one that gave His life for all. Fast forward 2000 years and the church and its leaders are faced with a similar fear of death. What is our response? Do we shut down, abstain from mass, deny the faithful the sacraments? Surely now is time to rise up and face the Son. Let him breath on us!

Death where is your sting?

When we move to a place where we do not fear death because it has been defeated, only then will we truly operate as the glorious saints of old, ones that loved not their lives so much as to shrink from death. Those who love their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives for His sake will find life eternally!

If you want to follow Him pick up your cross! Lose your fear and get infected by the Holy Spirit!

We can’t put our hope in the government, a vaccine, or doctors who won’t save our souls. We have to turn from our sin and fear, for the kingdom of God is truly at hand! Are you ready to stand courageous (Romans 8:18-19)? For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us. For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God

The five truths of human existence and a reflection on Divine Mercy Sunday

Mercy is one of those words that holds a certain esteem for the definitions according to Merriam Webster resembles a sacred complexity. Number three is especially true for how often do we “show compassionate treatment of those in distress”? Let us reflect on the definition and sacred aspect of Mercy as Christians this week.

Awhile back, a homilist reflected on the four truths of our existence as God’s creations within this context: 1. We will die. 2. There will be judgement. 3. We may go to heaven. 4. We may go to hell. The homilist then mentioned that the choices we make in whether to follow God and carry our crosses with him were the groundwork for the Christian life.

The Catholic Church believes that the graces we receive from God and the faith we hold should bring about good works. St. Jame’s scripture of “faith without works is dead” (James:2:14-26) demonstrates such an idea in which Christianity is not a passive affair. After all, Philippians 4:13 summarizes our inheritance in this divine plan in which it is God who strengthens us. As Paul so eloquently puts it we are all spiritual adopted beings per Romans 8:14-17. I posit that the fifth truth that we should reflect on as spiritually adopted sons and daughters of our God, is the quality of mercy.

In the 1930s, a young humble Polish nun Sister Faustina, who was in the convent of the Congregation of Divine Mercy was reported to have received various visions or mercy experiences as mentioned in Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. In 2000 Saint Pope John Paul II proclaimed Sr. Faustina a Saint and moved the liturgical season of the second Sunday of Easter a day of divine mercy. In the Gospel reading from John’s gospel chapter 20 verses 19 thru 31, it tells the story of the doubting Thomas called Didymus. The apostles and Thomas are debating about the Lord’s appearance from his resurrection experience. Thomas states that he must not only see the nail marks in his hands and see the wound in his side, but he must touch them to believe. After Thomas’s experience at seeing Jesus appear and His invitation to not only see His wounds, but to put his hands into the nail marks of Jesus is a profound encounter in which Thomas states, “my Lord and my God!” Jesus’s mercy and appearance to Thomas shows of our mission as Christians to reach out to those lacking faith, hope or belief. Today, divine mercy is about recognizing the five truths. The five truths are: death, judgement, heaven, hell, or mercy. It means nothing to carry our crosses and avoid the near occasion of sin without mercy. It means nothing to attend church more than others, to pray more than others, to act more influential than others without the needed quality of mercy. The divine healer and our Lord Jesus that cared for the outcast, cured the sick & bore the weight of sin for all mankind displays that level of mercy to the doubting Thomas.

Of course even if one does not believe in the tradition of the divine mercy devotion (given the devotion and works of Sr. Faustina were placed on the church index of banned works at one point in time), a reflection on the sacred heart of Jesus may be appropriate as well.

The Acts of the Apostles is a great account of what life was like for an early church community of believers. The early Christian community claimed no possessions and shared all in common. One might assume that such a movement was a form of communism. That assumption would be mistaken for under communism such a movement creates societal class warfare and creates gaps in the ruling oligarchy and the other citizen class that is subject to one rule. Such a system of government is not merciful. Instead, the writer of Acts describes how there were no needy among them and that any house or property owners would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale to put them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed according to need. We learn that from Thomas, that God will come to us and comfort us and take off the blindfold. It is not our eyesight of seeing it through our lens, but seeing our very life and existence through God’s eyesight and His lens. Mercy is that great agape love experience. Our choice of heaven and it’s promises will be extended to us if we allow His mercy to enter our very core. This is our choice, to radically allow the blood of his wounds to not only wash over us and cleanse us, but to allow the Holy Spirit to move us to show others His mercy and His grace filled love. Saint Maria Faustina, God’s “apostle of Divine Mercy” who lived during a time before the rise of fascism & communism & the start of World War II is that example where God blesses us with those gentle reminders to do more with our life with the graces we receive. Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus reminds us not to keep our light hidden under a bushel basket, but to display it on a lamp stand to light the whole house is a good reflection (Mt. 5:15).

Today, let us reflect and pray for God’s mercy to enter us and transform us as we minister to our fellow man/woman on this Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus I trust in you to come fill my heart and soul this day with your mercy. Transform me and lead me to bring that mercy to others. For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.

Responding to Receiving by Peter Cao, devoted husband & father

Responding to Receiving

By Peter Cao, devoted husband and father

I found writing the last reflection piece in the evening such a wonderful way to use time I would otherwise have spent preoccupied with my future financial state of affairs, or anxiously mulling over my day after I had already completed a thorough nightly examen. Fr. Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges profoundly asserts in The Intellectual Life that “To speak is to listen to one’s soul and to the truth within it. To speak alone and wordlessly, as one does by writing, is to listen and perceive truth with a freshness of sensation like that of a man who rises early morning and holds his ear to nature”1 and I would add “to God.” What is it about cultivating this intellectual life that is so appealing? After a year of really diving into our rich Catholic faith during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am convinced that in order to develop our relationship with God, we need to seek Him through not only what He has revealed to use through Divine Revelation but also to seek Truth through avenues like the beautiful works of His faithful. This should be one of our responsibilities in responding to the gifts we have been bestowed with. In my first reflection, I wrote about ways that we can be more open to receiving; I want to take this time now to write about what this should motivate us to do.

Responsibility to Seek the Truth

One of the marvelous things about the Catholic faith is that in addition to Sacred Scripture, we have the Sacred Traditions to draw from. St. Irenaeus once wrote “When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth, which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whoever wishes draws from her the drink of life.”2 In addition to the teachings of the early Church Fathers, we also have contributions from saints, philosophers, theologians, religious, and more modern Catholic writers throughout our rich history that can nourish our hearts, minds, and souls; but only if we are receptive. Making the time to sit still, intentionally reflect and meditate, and truly open our hearts and minds to the Truth; can be a difficult endeavor in the noisy world we live in. But it can bear much fruit, allowing us to wield them as tools to mold a more humble heart and follow a more virtuous Christian lifestyle. It will also open our eyes to the wonders of God’s creation and his presence in everyone and everything around us. I remember diving into some of G.K. Chesterton’s works starting with Orthodoxy and then being totally engrossed in Dale Ahlquist’s The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton, savoring each and every chapter line by line. Initially, I thought I was attracted to the wisdom and clarity of writing. I have come to believe that going past the superficiality of the style of writing, I was attracted to Truth and that this search has brought me closer to God.

How does one get started then? I am embarrassed to admit that I fit the stereotype of the Catholic who is fairly ignorant of Sacred Scripture. I have read through plenty of commentary about the Bible like for example the works of Professors John Bergsma and Peter Kreeft, but have skirted around the actual Word of God. It took me 36 years to finally make a serious attempt at reading through the Bible. This is not to say I have not tried to do so in years previous. Since the rekindling of my faith about 5 years ago, I have picked whichever books that interested me at the moment. This usually meant I stuck with the more relatable New Testament readings. I labored through these books using the Ignatius Study Bible, which was filled with insightful footnotes that linked to other parts of Sacred Scripture, included allusions to Sacred Tradition with quotes from the early Church Fathers, and also tied in teachings from the Catechism, remaining faithful to the Magisterium. I would also have weekly discussion meetings with our parish’s men’s group where we would go through a few chapters at a time. Surely, this period bore much fruit, but it felt like a slog at times, where I focused not so much on God’s Word and how it was speaking to me during the pertinent season of life, but became too much of a purely intellectual exercise. And in staying away from what I perceived was the less relatable Old Testament, I was also missing the big picture in seeing Sacred Scripture through the lens of Salvation History. With this conviction, this year I discovered Fr. Mike Schmidt’s The Bible in a Year podcast where he uses the The Great Adventure Bible timeline to go through the Bible in 365 days. In addition, since the birth of the Church a little over 2 millennia ago, we have at our disposal so many great spiritual works to deepen our faith and fuel our love for Christ. A great resource that compiles many of these works is Mike Aquilina’s A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living.

What I have discovered recently is that you may not be in the right stage to dive through some of these works. For example, I can say that currently in my state of life as a relatively new father, I am reading through many books that encourage me to step up into the role of leadership and embrace the true masculine role that God has called me into. Such books include Joseph’s Way: The Call to Fatherly Greatnessby Devin Schadt, St. Joseph and his World by Mike Aquilina, Leaving Boyhood Behind by Jason Craig, and Fire and Light: Learning to Receive the Gift of God by Fr. Jacques Philippe. On the other hand, there are a few books that I just could not enter into, but that I could imagine later enjoying as I spiritually mature in life – namely, the autobiographical works of St. Theresa of Avila and St. Therese de Lisieux. In addition to choosing well, Fr. Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges also admonishes us to read little – to read intelligently, not passionately, that “the passion for reading which many pride themselves on as a precious intellectual quality, is in reality a defect; it differs in no wise from other passions that monopolize the soul, keep it in a state of disturbance, set up in it uncertain currents and cross-currents, and exhaust its powers.”1 This passage struck me deeply, as it came during a time when I was voraciously seeking out intellectual material to fill the time that was now available during my Exodus 90 adventure, when the ascetic practices freed me from previous attachments like social media. However, I soon found myself anxiously reading through Peter Kreeft’s philosophical Socrates’ Children and eventually with a copy of Plato’s Five Dialogues lying on my bookshelf, likely never to be read. Indeed, it is important that one reads to think, in other words “the reader, if in a certain way he must be passive in order to open his mind to truth and not to hinder its ascendency over him, is nevertheless called on to react to what he reads so as to make it his own and by means of it to form his soul.”1 It is important to realize that in seeking the Truth, we are not only responsible in finding opportunities to do so, but also in the way and method we employ to go about doing so.

Responsibility to Be Generous with our Neighbors

Our response to receiving gifts should be one of gratitude, and that gratitude should be reflected in our generosity with our neighbors. This notion was not received openly during my early adult years. I developed a habit of taking, amassing, hoarding – feeding the never-ending depths of my ego. A veritable Ebenezer Scrooge with avarice as my right-hand man, I entered into utilitarian relationships and thought only of how I would benefit. What a rude awakening I was in for when I entered into the role of husband and father, where space both physical and emotional was now shared. Enter our Catholic faith, and we are called into the sacrificial role as disciples of Christ and servants to our family. Mother Teresa once said that “I must be willing to give whatever it takes to do good to others. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”3 To combat my inner selfishness, I had to work hard to develop the virtue of generosity. This does not mean carelessly throwing away money, which can lead into the vice of prodigality. In Dante’s Inferno, the greedy occupy the 4th circle of Hell, where they are encumbered by heavy weights and spend an eternity trotting along a circular path colliding and arguing with the spendthrifts before turning around and repeating the same at the other end.

What are some practical ways to exercise generosity? The answer to this question lies with the proper orientation of how we view our current resources. If we accept the truth that everything we have is ultimately from God, we then should view ourselves as being stewards of these resources. The resources include not only our material property but also our time and our talents. Ordered properly, the exercise of generosity should be willingly undertaken in a spirit of what we have borrowed and been given, rather than what we have achieved or produced ourselves. Again, this notion was difficult for me to accept because in my formative years, I was very proud of my achievements, many of which were done at the expense of people around me. But this search for more honor and more money left me unsatisfied, not at peace. I learned early on that volunteer experiences during my teenage and young adult years made me feel good in the moment, but it was not sustained because sometimes it was done with the wrong motive or was done from a place of comfort. I was chasing a feeling, and the opportunities to do so were far and few between. Reflecting over the past few years, I think some of the genuinely joyful moments were those when I made small sacrifices for those around me, when I said a little word of encouragement or went out of my comfort zone so as to make someone else more comfortable. I am reminded of the Little Way of St. Therese. We do not need grand gestures to live the holy lives of saints. Fr. Lawrence Lovasik writes that “the little acts of kindness, the little courtesies, are the things that, added up at night, constitute the secret of a happy day.”4 During my nightly examen, if I can identify a moment when I was generous, I consider it a day well spent. In addition to our time, we must too strive to be generous with our money, to tithe appropriately to our parish and help those who are less fortunate. And we must strive to be generous with our talents, to nurture the talents we possess so that we can build up the Kingdom of God. I would hope that my writing will be used for the glory of God, keeping in mind that despite the difficulty at times to get the words on paper, “To father some intellectual work is to sow a good and fruitful seed. Every work is a wellspring!”1

He is Risen!

The weeks leading up to Holy Week, culminating in the glorious Easter Sunday, have been such a blessing to me and my family. I have observed some changes for good but also realize that this is a work in progress. The virtuous life requires practice and a breaking of old habits. One of the core sins of mine is pride, the roots of which have grown deep. Developing the exercise of seeking Truth and generously giving has guided me towards the path of humility, whereby I can properly view my relationship to God and to Neighbor. These two exercises are by no means mutually exclusive either – in our habitual pursuit of learning, we enter into a depth that transforms us by its shaping of our moral lives and lives with others. Professor Zena Hitz points to Dorothy Day as a prime example of this transformation – “Her sympathy for human beings depicted in books has transferred into real people, not automatically – for…alternative paths were possible for her – but because of her hard thinking about her own life and the lives of others, thinking driven by her deepest desires.”5

I think of this process as a way to fortify my faith, so that in Christ I will not only survive but continue to thrive during the many inevitable trials of life. However, this requires much dedication, as St. Clement of Alexandria once wrote “Some people who think themselves naturally gifted don’t want to touch either philosophy or logic…[or] natural science. They demand bare faith alone – as if they wanted to harvest grapes right away without putting any work into the vine. We must prune, dig, trellis, and do all the other work…I say you’re truly educated if you bring everything to bear on the truth. Taking what’s useful from geometry, music, grammar, and philosophy itself, you guard the Faith from assault.”6 Let us therefore approach the Easter season with hope that God will grant us the grace to die to our old selves and be transformed into true soldiers of Christ.

Footnotes

  1. Sertillanges, A.G. (1992). The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods. Catholic University of America Press.
  2. St. Irenaeus (c. 130-200 AD). Against Heresies.
  3. Mother Teresa (1997). In the Heart of the World. MJF Books.
  4. Lawrence, Lovasik (1962). The Hidden Power of Kindness. Sophia Institute Press.
  5. Hitz, Zena (2020). Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life. Princeton University Press.
  6. Aquilina, Mike (2010). A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living. Saint Benedict Press.

Good Friday: The Defeat of Sin and Fulfillment to New Life

Image taken from https://stmichaelsabbey.com/saint-dismas

Oftentimes, as I ponder over the meaning of Good Friday when reflecting on the mystery of the cross as our instrument of salvation, I can’t help but think about the two that were crucified alongside with our Lord and Savior on that hilltop known as Golgotha or “Place of the Skull” in Hebrew. Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24 verses 39 to 43 has the image of both the impenitent and the penitent sinners being brought to justice alongside our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

How often do we view ourselves as that impenitent person that refuses to let our past go and learn how to forgive and love as Jesus did while on earth? How often do we refuse to let God’s grace transcend our very being and permeate our entire core? The penitent sinner in Luke’s Gospel asks Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. How often, do we lay down our own thoughts, desires, temptations and idols to follow Jesus more closely not only on Good Friday, but all days that our Lord has blessed us with while we are on this earth?

I oftentimes ponder if the Christians of today would recognize the Christians of the past? The Christianity of today is more simple in that one can pick and choose such tenets of faith to abide by that don’t necessarily require the same sacrifice of martyrdom as seen with the early Christian community. In order to be bold and proclaim the Good news of Jesus Christ on this day and all days, we must be willing to be like the individual hanging next to Jesus. We must be willing to lay down all of our fears, worries, misgivings, temptations, idols and other earthly possessions that hold us back to follow Jesus more closely. As disciples of Jesus, we must be willing to not only seek out the lost sheep, but also till the soil for the fruits of the earth that will bear forth life in His bountiful love.

Let us remember a hymn attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas on this day: “O Saving victim, opening wide the gate of heaven to man below! Our foes press in from every side: Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow!” (Thigpen Paul Manual for Spiritual Warfare North Carolina: Tan Books, 2014, p. 214).

Today, let us draw near to the Lord and ask Him to give us the strength and the grace to turn to Him always and during our last hour, whenever that hour might be.

Holy Week: Acknowledging Our Weakness to Follow Him and Lift up our cross to new life

This week marks the greatest week in the history of the Christian church. From the Judeo celebration of Pesach marking the Exodus event, the Seder meal commemorates the paschal full moon starting on March 27 sundown and ending Sunday April 4 to the start of Holy Week this week. We see the plan of God’s salvation history and saving grace to the nations through the fulfillment of both the old testament and new testament in that great filial love between the Father and Son that brings forth the gift of the Holy Spirit on our churches this week.

Recent weeks have brought forth much tragedy with mass shootings, renewed debates in regard to man’s innate desire to defend oneself and other liberties. Nation states and global powers are more divided than they ever were before and as a Christian or other spiritual follower, one must question how we survive in such a world? The Hindi sage Sri Ramikrishna once remarked that we are like many paths leading to the same summit. In many respects, the culmination of salvation history has unfolded within the Christian milieu and tradition with the readings in the Catholic rite from Mark’s Gospel with Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and His last trial and tribulation of asking His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that He might not undergo the test. With Jesus, we not only see his full humanity, but also His full divinity in the fulfillment of our true eschatological self and dueling sense of being made in the image and likeness of God, yet turning against His will and being dependent on ourselves. The Jewish rabbinical texts from Genesis as seen with the creation story, the testing of Abraham, Noah, and killing of Abel by Cain leads us to believe that all is lost. However, the idea of “yetzer herah”, or evil inclination per the Hebrew transliteration speaks volumes for our human condition when Peter slices off the ear of the centurion for his continued doubts in our Lord’s ability to save us and transform our human condition and fragility.

We must always remember that Jesus’s message to His apostles and disciples of this present age can be seen with the passage from Johns gospel chapter fifteen, verses twelve and thirteen in that
“the greatest commandment is to love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”

We must always be able to be open to change within our spiritual journey and look at the power of the cross and vanquishing of sin and death before looking to the mystery of the Resurrection and being brought to new life. With the gift of God’s grace comes great responsibility to transform not only ourselves, but the world we live in. How will you conquer the power that binds you this week in the crosses that you bear in this life?

We must remember that before we approach the miracle of the Resurrection of our Lord during the Easter season, we must remember to put aside our dependence in our human ego and pride and truly follow Him by being dependent on His love and transforming power as His gift of the paschal lamb come down from heaven in the second person of the trinity. Come and follow the Lord no matter what difficulties, anxieties or problems you have faced and He will give you rest. Pax Christi. Lumen Christi. Jesus I trust in You.

Come Holy Spirit into my heart and soul each and every day so that I may be radically transformed by your grace which is enough for me. Amen.

The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah chapter 7 verses 10-12 has an interesting conversation between the King of Judah Ahaz and the Lord in which Ahaz decides to not follow through on his hearing of the Lord’s voice to ask for a sign for his people in which he remarks “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” Verse 14 of chapter 7 in Isaiah has a wonderful image about what will come for our salvation history in which the vision of Mary’s yes to the Lord is made manifest with the foreshadowing event in which “a virgin shall be with child and bear a son and shall name him Immanuel.”

In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 1 verse 26 we see where in the sixth month the messenger of God, Gabriel, is sent to Mary in the town of Nazareth. Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph with lineage to the house of David. Obviously such a lineage and betrothal were sacred customs according to Jewish law. Mary is perplexed in the angel’s proclamation that she will be the theotokos or God-bearer and be with child since she had no relations with man (Lk: 1:34). Mary’s great fiat and yes to God’s work of salvation history is made manifest with the greatest statement of all time. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk: 1:38).

Thomas Merton’s No Man Is An Island discusses the will of God in our lives in which he remarks that one can “judge the invisible reality of His will by the visible and sometimes contemptible signs which show us where His will is found” (Merton, Thomas. No Man Is an Island New York: Harcourt, 1983, p. 61). Today, as a church, we remember God’s plan for salvation history in our lives. While we may not see the signs granted to us by our God in our lives, they are there, oftentimes hidden from us due to our sin, shortcomings, and ways of the world as not being fully aware and open to His saving and perpetual grace in our lives. Today, let us be open to God’s grace that we might say yes to God and transform our very hearts and souls to do His will. Take courage and take heart for Mary is our example of casting aside all doubts and being radically dependent on where God’s will might be found. God bless and peace be with you.

Being Present for Others and Having the heart and mind of Christ in our world amidst violence, destruction and death

A great friend and fellow Knights of Columbus, “Sir Knight” Isaac, passed away recently from my home parish that I attend due to Covid-19 complications. I have a relative that is a Benedictine monk that resides at the Cistercian Abbey in Subiaco and thought to myself that a mass remembrance memorial seemed like the appropriate condolence card to send. After all, as Catholics, we not only view the Mass as a simple memorial feast, but the living bread come down from heaven that nourishes our very bodies and souls. It is said that choirs of angels and saints come down to earth to rejoice in such a memorial service and miraculous sacrament in the Eucharist (which means Thanksgiving).

What do you say to a grieving widow? What do you say to family members whom lost their loved ones in an act of evil motivated by mental illness, and the plight of the world and the hate and vengeance being driven by Satan in our world seems to be prevailing each and every day? What do you say to a family member whom was denied admission to a hospital due to healthcare governmental safety precautions and measures where they could not grieve and say goodbye?

We are reminded in Holy Scripture in John’s Gospel that Jesus wept when his dear friend Lazarus died before performing the miracle to raise him to new life. We must remember that Jesus was not only fully God, but also fully human. A devoted servant of Jesus Christ and priest in my Diocese, Fr. Jacob, reminded me via social media that it is always important to have the image of Jesus with a smile on his face. Holy scripture proclaims Jesus stating a fondness for the inner beauty and innocence of the little children coming to Him. Dallas Jenkins’s The Chosen series reveals a very human, yet divine Jesus. We too must model that innocence and remember to have the love, the heart and the mind of Jesus in all that we do and all that we proclaim.

The book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, verse 4 reminds us that there is “A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…

Let us always remember to weep and to find joy in the simple moments in life. We must always remember that life is precious. When I opened this card, I cried, and then I laughed when remembering Isaac’s legacy and mission as a strong faith filled follower of Jesus that he was. After all, the Hebrew transliteration for the etymology of Isaac is “He laughs.” Go in peace good and faithful servants, and until we meet again in the arms of our creator. Amen.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

fyi – my almost 7 year old daughter Abigail (Hebrew – my father’s joy) was holding the Ipad for this video blog (hence the reason I am leaving as is). Happy Feast of St. Joseph, spouse of the Virgin Mary. Grant, we pray, almight God, that by Saint Joseph’s intercession, your Church (and domestic church) may constantly watch over the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation, whose beginnings you entrusted to his faithful care. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and regins with you in the unity of the Holy SPirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (from the collect of the mass for the day).

Learning the Art of Receiving

Fr. Jacques Philippe wrote that “it is vitally important to learn to receive, to receive one’s very own self along with everything from God. To the extent we learn to receive everything from God, we can give to others the best of ourselves.”1 Indeed, it is written into the nature of being Christians that we must sacrifice as Christ did, to give of ourselves generously and freely; but as St. Therese of Lisieux once said “The merit doesn’t consist in doing nor in giving a lot, but rather in receiving, in loving a lot.” This idea of learning to be a good receiver rather than merely a good giver, was something of a foreign idea to me. Growing up as a perfectionist with OCD tendencies and an extreme desire to please others, I relied heavily on my own ability to get things done myself, excluding others in my never-ending endeavor to garner praise for my achievements. My self-worth was tied to my productivity; however, in doing so, I fell into a selfish abyss. Only after rediscovering the value of relationships was I able to climb back onto the surface. The quest for joy and peace ever elusive became approachable as I entered into relationships. Entering into relationships challenged my natural tendencies – it required sacrifice, compromise, investment, reaching outside one’s comfort zone. But all this giving is only one side of the equation. It also required a dose of humility – to understand that we cannot thrive without the assistance of others, without the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I would like to take this time to elaborate on two specific ways I have adopted to nurture along this art of receiving.

Being Open to the Holy Spirit

I grew up a cradle Catholic and my initial experiences with prayer were that of rote memorization of the Our Father, Glory Be, and Hail Mary. During what I would call my desert wandering years, I would employ prayer when I sought for God’s help with pursuing my wants and desires. A professional crisis precipitated a renewal of my faith life, and I soon found myself at the door of the Sword of the Spirit charismatic movement in our Church. Admittedly, I entered the room cautiously and was a bit uncomfortable with the outpouring of praise during worship of our Lord. It took a surrender of my will to open my heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And this Holy Spirit has emblazoned me with a courage that I thought I never could possess – a courage that welled up from the darkness that was social anxiety and public speaking phobia, allowing me to speak openly about my faith to my spiritual fraternity groups, to my patients in my medical practice, to complete strangers who are enrolled in Catechesis or Baptism class. Calling upon the Holy Spirit prior to these interactions and surrendering my expectations to the glory of God has been life-changing.

This is not to say that it is always clear whether the stirring of the heart can be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Discernment of the spirits requires a diligent practice of the faith and regular time in prayer. In this day and age, it is all so easy to become too comfortable with our way of life; to believe that it is by our own doing that we have achieved all we have around us. St. Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). What an exhortation! – to rejoice always even when there are trials and struggles, when the Evil One knocks at the door and seeks to steal our souls. I recently discovered Fr. Walter Ciszek’s story about his 23 agonizing years in the Soviet prisons and Siberian labor camps after having been convicted as a spy during WWII. In his response to his suffering and the problem of evil, he writes: “Mysteriously, God in his providence must make use of our tragedies to remind our fallen human nature of his presence and his love, of the constancy of his concern and care for us. It is not vindictiveness on his part; he does not send us tragedies to punish us for having so long forgotten him. The failing is on our part. He is always present and ever faithful; it is we who fail to see him or to look for him in times of ease and comfort, to remember he is there, shepherding and guarding and providing us the very things we come to count on and expect to sustain us every day.”2 We must therefore continually approach the Holy Spirit with an open, humble, obedient, and faithful heart. We must then exercise the virtue of prudence in putting into action what our intellect has reasoned to be good. Too often, I have failed to ask for help when needed. One fairly recent example involved removing Christmas lights that had been hung along my roof line by a professional who was no longer available. I had a ladder, legs, and a lofty sense of self-reliance; but what I did not have was stable grounding, a strong spotter (my 4 year-old), or a sufficient supply of humility. Ultimately, I made the prudent decision to call upon my Christian brothers for help, and my body was glad that I did. By opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit and to our neighbors, I believe we can unlock the best version of ourselves so as to be a holy gift to others.

Embracing Leisure

The idea of receptivity can be most visible in the way we approach leisure. I have often struggled to truly relax and be refreshed when spending time away from work. This issue becomes even further magnified when it comes specifically to vacation; my productivity mode would continue to operate and what typically has happened is that I will tire and frustrate my family to no end, dragging everyone mindlessly from one activity to another. I still very vividly recall specifically doing so during my European honeymoon. Nothing screams stupidity like deciding against sleeping and instead coaxing my exhausted wife to humor me by joining me on a late-night subway train in Barcelona, in order that I fulfill a desire to capture a quick snapshot of a half-lit Guadi-inspired building. I am struck with the following words of Dr. Michael Naughton – “When we take by force those things that should only be received, we violate the divine image within us.”3 This overvaluation of work comes at a tremendous cost in our relationship with others; but also more importantly, it can lead us down a dangerous path where we may begin to think we can control our destiny and can write our own moral laws rather than embrace the natural moral law that has been given to us by God.

So how can we cultivate this sense of leisure? Two ways are through silence and through feasting. In the very loud and distracted world we live in, silence is very difficult to maintain. Silence can be found in experiencing nature in solitude. Developing a sense of awe for the beauty around us is a wonderful way to practice leisure. But we cannot always escape into environments of silence. Interior silence is also very necessary. To this effect, Cardinal Robert Sarah wisely states “Our world no longer hears God because it is constantly speaking, at a devastating speed and volume, in order to say nothing.”4 I am currently going through Exodus 90 and the one practice that is most difficult for me to maintain is the 15-minute silent prayer time, a time to be spent in quiet adoration in the presence of our Lord. How easy it is for my mind to drift off to things that need to be attended to; perhaps my body’s tendency to fall asleep during this time is the repose that my mind and soul really yearns for. In the same vein as developing a relationship with Christ, silence is also critically important in our conversations with others; as Jesuit moral theologian James Keenan puts it, allowing ourselves to “enter into the chaos” of another being is how one can truly love them in a merciful way.

When it comes to the topic of feasting, our Catholic faith gives us the wonderful opportunity to rejoice throughout the year, whether it is through the various feast days or indeed through each and every Sunday. Approaching the Sabbath as a day of feasting and celebration of the marvel of God’s creation did not come easy to me. Like many, it was the day you caught up on homework or chores, the anxiety-ridden day before the start of another stressful week. Once again, it was all about my doing, my productivity, my striving; rather than true rest, true leisure, true reception. It necessitated much planning beforehand, but incorporating nature walks and family-prepared dinners have been instrumental in creating this time and space for true rest. As I reflect on the times when I am most present and not worried about what I ought to be doing, I think about the times when my wife and I would host dinner parties – how our bodies and minds would synchronize as we served all those who have gathered. The isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough for us as a family because it truly has robbed us of moments where festivity would thrive. We look forward to the day when friends and family can all commune together without fear, to once more joyfully celebrate the goodness of life.

Year of St. Joseph

I have taken this year to consecrate my life to St. Joseph, this year 2021 that Pope Francis has called to be the year of St. Joseph; in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church (Apostolic Letter “Patris corde”). In regards to the theme of receptivity discussed in this reflection, we can look to St. Joseph as the model of humility, who was willing to step out of the limelight so that the glory could be due to God and reverence given to our Blessed Mother. He allowed God to use him as part of the Divine Plan; and in so doing, as Fr. Donald Calloway puts it “the greatness of St. Joseph is that he was willing to become a homeless wanderer out of love for God and Mary.”5 As I strive to become the husband and father that God has created me to be, I earnestly beseech the intercession of St. Joseph, that I may be led in the ways of holiness by the Holy Spirit; and that at the end of my time in this world, I may attain a happy and holy death and reside in eternal repose and festive celebration within the Kingdom of Heaven.

Joseph Most Just, Pray for Us

Joseph Most Prudent, Pray for Us

Footnotes

  1. Philippe, Jacques. Fire & Light: Learning to Receive the Gift of God. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2016.
  2. Ciszek, Walter. He Leadeth Me: An Extraordinary Testament of Faith. New York: Image, 2014.
  3. Naughton, Michael. Getting Work Right: Labor and Leisure in a Fragmented World. Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2019.
  4. Sarah, Robert. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2017.
  5. Calloway, Donald. Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father. Stockbridge, MA: Mairan Press, 2020.

St. Patrick, the Trinity and the “Luck of the Irish”

retrieved from http://stainedglass.llgc.org.uk/image/4761

On March 17, the Christian church recognizes the feast of St. Patrick whom was a 4th century bishop and missionary (slave that was captured and brought to the Irish isle) and brought his experience of Christianity to the Celtic peoples (see more about the life of Patrick: Who Was St. Patrick? – HISTORY) at the History channel).

When we think of St. Patrick’s day, our secular thoughts oftentimes turn to green beer, chasing leprechauns and finding pots of earthly treasure at the end of the rainbow. We wear green laden apparel and are in search of the “lucky” 4 leaf clover. However I encourage us to examine the Celtic cross and the nature of the Trinity. The circle represented the sun god for the Celtic peoples as well as the Romans. For us Christians, the circle represents eternity through God’s continuous plan of salvation history as it relates to our eschatological journey to one day become saints in heaven. The green of the Irish isle represents the growth and continuous love of God in our life. Of course, we must not forget the mystery of the Trinity. In a short summation, the filial love of the Father and the Son that brings forth the types of graces received by the Holy Spirit (sanctifying & actual grace see CCC 1996… Catechism of the Catholic Church – Grace and justification (vatican.va) are great gifts for us to behold. Grace, of course comes from the Latin gratia meaning quality, favor or thanks. Let us ask for the intercession of St. Patrick to pray for us and hope that we might become saints in heaven one day living with our merciful and loving Father. The breastplate prayer of St. Patrick is a good prayer to behold and some of the inspiration can be found from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in putting on the armor of God. May the “luck” of the Irish Christian culture be upon you this day…

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against every knowledge that corrupts one’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

Retrieved from the Columban Sisters website: St. Patrick’s Breastplate. A Shield for Divine Protection. | Missionary Sisters of St. Columban (columbansisters.org)

Lumen Christi

The most profound statement in all of the Gospels and in Christian tradition can be summed up with the reading from John’s gospel today that proclaims “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). The old testament reading from 2 Chronicles chapter 36 reminds us that God’s messengers and prophets were often mocked and despised due to the continuous nature of man’s fall from grace with “infidelity upon infidelity.” From the Assyrian to the Babylonian captivities, one may question how God could allow such atrocities to occur? However, as Psalm 137 verse 6 notes, our tongue should be silenced if we forget the Lord.

The gospel passage from John chapter 3 prepares the way for our Christian call to discipleship. Do we compartmentalize our faith and simply check off certain boxes in life? Are we like the Pharisee Nicodemus whom visits Jesus under the cover of darkness because our fortitude and courage to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior may not be popular or appear to be countercultural by today’s standards? Perhaps, we are like the ancient Israelites who hear the message, but refuse to let it take hold in our hearts? Whatever the case may be, our resolve should be to expose our fragility and brokenness from sin to the light of God. We should commit ourselves daily to strive to live in the light of Christ so that our “works may be clearly seen as done in God” (Jn.3:21).

As our entrance antiphon notes, “Rejoice, Jerusalem” for we are reminded that we our illuminated by His grace and love each and every day, and each moment God gives us on this earth should be one for rejoicing. As Thomas Aquinas once reflected in looking at the dichotomy between being a contemplative to that of our call to apostolic mission, he stated in the Summa Theologiae that it is “better to illuminate than merely to shine…” (ST Ia-IIae, q. 188, a.6). How will we radiate the light of Jesus Christ in our troubled and dark world this day?

Unite and Trust God

The Gospel reading from Luke chapter 11, verses 14-23 speaks of Jesus having cast out a demon from a mute man. Once the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke to the crowds and were amazed. Naysayers and skeptics who saw the miracle were puzzled and asked if it was by the power of Beelzebul that Jesus cast out the demon from the mute man. Jesus boldly proclaims that “if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” is the message we can take away from this passage. After all, how often do we forget to put our trust and unity in God for not only the trials in our life, but for the good works and gifts we receive?

Jesus’s message to us this day is to not let the divisions of this present day age and time separate us from the love of God. After all, it is Satan and His works that wish to separate our families and our society. We must be strong and always acknowledge through word, action and deed that our foundation comes from God. As Psalm 95 proclaims, let us not harden our hearts to the voice of the Lord. A good prayer for us to remember when in doubt and when being tempted to follow that which is not of the Lord is the Litany of Trust…Jesus, I trust in you.

Righteous Anger & Temple Cleansing

In the Gospel of John of the second chapter, verses 13-25, we see a very human Jesus that is quite angry for the temple being used as a marketplace for the exorbitant sale of sacrificial offerings. In Leviticus 14:22 we see that a poorer person can purchase 2 turtledoves or pigeons which are more affordable where one is used as “a sin offering and the other as a holocaust.” Strangely enough, in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells those who were selling doves to “take these out of here and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Foreshadowing to Psalm 69:10 in regard to zeal for one’s house is mentioned as it relates to John’s Gospel. Of course, the second cleansing of the temple during Passion week as mentioned in Matthew’s gospel chapter 21 is quite a bit different. Remarkably, what we can learn from this passage and from Jesus’s righteous anger is that we too should be angry with events that don’t show the love and compassion of the Father. Jesus knows full well that human nature is flawed, thereby relying on that which is not perfect and dependent on God. Jesus knows our own human condition too well in his justified response in which he drives out the money changers from the temple so as to show us the need to purify our own houses of worship not only in our churches, but also in our homes. How often do we have preconceived thoughts and ideas of how things should look according to our own false sense of what we think God would want versus what we want?

Let us remember the words from the book of Psalms, 51:11-12: “Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my guilt. A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.” Let us always be ready to come before the Lord with a sense of humility, righteous anger and dependence. May we always have the mindset to be open to the transformation of the new temple that is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our savior. In Him alone will our zealous human nature be overturned so that the humility and love of God our Father take hold in the new temple dedicated to His saving grace.

The Cross Leads us to New Life

The cross is the great paradox of being a Christian disciple. It is through the cross, which is an instrument of suffering, pain and sacrifice that we will come to new life with a merciful and loving God. As Jesus proclaims in Matthew’s Gospel, anyone that wishes to follow Jesus “must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). Christianity oftentimes focuses on the “feel-good” aspect where self-sacrifice and giving of oneself are not always mentioned in performing the mission and acts as Christian disciples in a 21st century world. We have an age where information and service of food and goods delivery are instantaneous and leads to immediate gratification. What are your crosses in life, and how can you take up new crosses in order to have the heart, and mind of Jesus? As St. Paul states in his letter to the Romans, one must “not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). It is through the blood of Jesus Christ and His example of taking up the cross that we will rid ourselves of all that separates us from His love. How will you take up your cross this day and follow Him more closely?

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification.
Body of Christ, be my salvation.
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins.
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains.
Passion of Christ, my comfort be.
O good Jesus, listen to me.
In Thy wounds I fain would hide,
N’er to be parted from Thy side,
Guard me, should the foe assail me.
Call me when my life shall fail me.
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen. (Retrieved from: The Anima Christi – Prayers – Vatican News)

Prayer

Oftentimes, I find that if I don’t start my day in prayer, or include prayer in my day; the problems of the world and life in general can become quite messy. It is important to quiet ourselves when we pray and give all of our troubles and worries to God. Prayer will bring us joy, peace and the ability to face any challenge that comes our way. “Pray about everything, worry about nothing.” Phil. 4:6.

Evil, suffering, and God’s divine plan

In the 14th century, Italian author Dante Alighieri wrote his Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso political allegory revealing the vile acts of those nefarious individuals living during his time. His various nine circles of Hell represented an increased level of wickedness and strife ranging from the following: those in limbo who were unbaptized Christians and virtuous pagans, lustful individuals, gluttonous individuals, greedy sinners, wrathful sinners, heretical sinners, violence and malicious sinners, those who commit fraud and those who commit treachery. Such a poem, while unlikely in terms of the reality of Hell, is nevertheless our call as Christians to realize that such a place is real. The cycle of readings from the lectionary today come from Deutoronmy 9:4-10; Psalm 79 and Lk 6. The old testament reading speaks of a great and awesome God who keeps His merciful covenant to those who love Him and observe His commands. The writer from Deuteronomy acknowledges that the God from the old testament is one of compassion and forgiveness. The psalmist notes that we should be pardoned from our sins. Meanwhile, the Gospel from Luke asks us to “stop judging” so we will “not be judged” and to “stop condemning” so we “will not be condemned.”

Why does a merciful God allow bad outcomes to occur is the question asked by many atheists and Christians alike. When one sees such destruction and violence, especially toward the pure and innocent, even the most devout faith going Christian has to ponder such issues. These are all great questions to ask ourselves while on our faith journey. Ultimately, tragedy is the great paradox of God’s mercy and love. Would we question such matters if the world were perfect and we were still living in a garden of Eden with a God that had provided all the necessities of life? In a sense, the stain of original sin and our concupiscence or ability to choose that which is contrary to our unordered reasons and desires not of a dependence on God is why tragedy occurs. In the Judeo theology, the concept of yetzer hara, or an evil inclination of humanity that goes against God’s will is seen in such rabbinical texts. Overall, I have contemplated such visions of Heaven, Hell and judgement whenever the time comes through deep contemplative prayer and meditation. I truly believe that when we go before the throne of God to make our choice, we may be left with a choice that is an empty façade of our ability to choose the idols we worship here on earth. The seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth may resemble our choice to become dependent on God’s love and mercy, or dependent on our disordered desires to turn away from an infinite love versus a temporal love. Heaven, on the other hand, replaces those temporal idols with a greater infinite love as in 1 Jn. 4:8, the author states that those “without love does not know God, for God is love.” Let us start prayerfully turning to God now in our daily encounters before we are not able to recognize who God is when we shall be unable to recognize Him once we pass away from this earthly abode. Pax.

Encounter Our True Self

Today marks the second Sunday of Lent and the readings in the Catholic Church come from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9 verses 2-10. The transfiguration moment that startled Peter and the disciples had to be a powerful moment to behold. The combination of the old testament and fulfillment of the new testament as portrayed with the appearance of Elijah, Moses and Jesus together was an awesome experience that the human persona could not yet understand. The fulfillment of the prophetic line as represented with Elijah and the code of law as represented by Moses see the culminating spiritual manifestation event come to fruition with Jesus’s transfiguration and anointing of the Holy Spirit as represented in Mark’s gospel. Jesus’s clothes become intensely white where “no fuller on earth can bleach them” and the “cloud overshadowed them.” At what point in our lives do we recognize the stain of sin that blurs our vision and prevents us from seeing not only how to forgive ourselves, but how to forgive others? Will we recognize our Lord should the Holy Spirit come to us, or will we simply let such an event pass by? What will you do today to recognize that moment of transfiguration in your life, and will you be like Peter, not quite alert, but ready to make three tabernacles, or booths for any visitors that may come your way? Don’t lose sight of the moment and the fact that we must always be ready and prayerfully alert for when we might expect an unexpected visitor.

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