Adult Faith Formation Column for the Sunday Bulletin of St. Michael Parish, Livermore, California

This weekly column is a short meditation on the Bible readings of the Sunday Mass. The meditations are direct quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals, writings of the Saints, and similar orthodox sources.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunday 25 December 2011, The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Pope's Three Christmas Wishes

    On December 7, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI turned
on the lights for the Vatican's Christmas tree.  Referencing the
tree and its lights, he expressed his Christmas wishes.

    "My first wish... is that our gaze, that of our minds and our
hearts, not rest only on the horizon of this world, on its material
things, but that in some way, like this tree that tends upward, be
directed toward God.  God never forgets us but He also asks that
we don't forget Him.

    The Gospel recounts that, on the holy night of Christ's birth,
a light enveloped the shepherds, announcing a great joy to them:
the birth of Jesus, the one who brings us light, or better, the One
who is the true light that illuminates all....

    My second wish is that we recall that we also need a light to
illumine the path of our lives and to give us hope, especially in this
time in which we feel so greatly the weight of difficulties, of 
problems, of suffering, and it seems that we are enshrouded
in a veil of darkness.

But what light can truly illuminate our hearts and give us a firm and
sure hope?  It is the Child whom we contemplate on Christmas, in a
poor and humble manger, because He is the Lord who draws near
to each of us and asks that we receive Him anew in our lives, asks us
to want Him, to trust in Him, to feel His presence, that He is 
accompanying us, sustaining us, and helping us.

    But this great tree is formed of many lights.  My final wish is that
each of us contribute something of that light to the spheres in which we
live:  our families, our jobs, our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. 
That each of us be a light for those who are at our sides; that we leave 
aside the selfishness that, so often, closes our hearts and leads us to think
only of ourselves; that we may pay greater attention to others, that we
may love them more.  Any small gesture of goodness is  like one of the
lights of this great tree:  together with other lights it illuminates 
the darkness of the night, even of the darkest night."

                    -- Vatican Information Service
                        9 December 2011

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
                                                          -- Isaiah 9: 1

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sunday 18 December 2011

Fourth Century Advent Hymn

    Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
    Come testify thy virgin birth:
    All lands admire, all times applaud:
    Such is the birth that fits our God.

    Forth from his chamber goeth he,
    That royal home of purity,
    A giant in twofold substance one,
    Rejoicing now his course to run.

    The Virgin's womb that glory gained,
    Its virgin honor is still unstained.
    The banners there of virtue glow;
    God in his temple dwells below.

    From God the Father he proceeds,
    To God the Father back he speeds;
    Runs out his course to death and hell,
    Returns on God's high throne to dwell.

    O Equal to thy Father, thou!
    Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
    The weakness of our mortal state
    With deathless might invigorate.

    Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
    And darkness breathe a newer light,
    Where endless faith shall shine serene,
    And twilight never intervene.

    All laud, eternal Son, to thee
    Whose advent sets thy people free,
    Whom with the Father we adore,
    And Holy Ghost, for evermore.

            -- Saint Ambrose (334-397 A.D.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sunday 11 December 2011

Prayer to Mary Immaculate

To Mary Immaculate, Mother of Our Advent
        Hail!
        Blessed are you, O full of grace.
        Today with the greatest veneration, the Church recalls
the fulness of this Grace, with which God filled You from the
first moment of Your conception.
        The Apostle's words fill us with joy, "Despite the increase
of sin, grace has far surpassed it" (Rom 5:20).  We are glad at
this particular abundance of divine grace in You, who bear the
name of "Immaculate Conception," Mother.
        Accept us, just as we are, here by You.
        Accept us!  Look into our hearts!
        Accept our cares and our hopes!
        Help us, You, full of grace, to live in grace, to persevere
in grace and, if it should be necessary, to return to the grace
of the living God, which is the greatest and supernatural good
of man.
        Prepare us for the advent of Your Son!
        Accept us with our daily problems, our weaknesses and
deficiencies, our crises, and our personal, family and social
failings.
        Do not let us lose good will!  Do not let us lose sincerity
of conscience and honest of conduct!
        Obtain justice for us through Your prayer.
        Save the peace of the whole world!
        Be with us, You the Immaculate.
        Be with us.  Be with Rome.  Be  with the Church, and with
the world.  Amen.

                                -- Blessed John Paul II
                                   8 December 1979

        My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
                my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...
                                        (Luke: 1:46-47)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sunday 4 December 2011

Everyone Shall See the Salvation of God
  
        "All mankind shall see the salvation of God" (Lk 3:6).

    God's salvation is the work of a love greater than man's sin.  Love alone can wipe out sin and liberate from sin.  Love alone can consolidate man in the good; in the unalterable and eternal good.

    It is exactly this God of our Advent:  the Creator and Redeemer, who makes this profession of such love for man, for man the sinner:  "Though the mountains leave their place, and the hills be shaken, my love will never leave you" (Is 54: 10).

    Let us make straight the paths of the Lord.  And let us get ready for the meeting with this love which will reveal itself, during the night of the birth of the Lord, in the shape of a shelterless Child.  Let us remember once again that this saving love, coming to man during the night of Bethlehem, and revealing itself in the Cross and the Resurrection, remains incessantly written in the Church's life as the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood as nourishment of souls.

    Each time we receive this Sacrament, whenever we accept this food, we prepare the way of the Lord, we make straight his paths.  May we always have hunger and thirst for this nourishment, above all in the period of Advent!

    May we, through the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood, build the way along which God will come to us in the mystery of his majesty.

                            -- Blessed John Paul II
                                16 December 1982

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
            -- From the Liturgy of St. James (4th century)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sunday 27 November 2011

The Grace of the Coming

    Christian expectation:  Perseverance in faith and in struggle.

    Advent makes us see that salvation has been given to us through the grace of the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Let us open our hearts afresh so that the grace of this year's Advent may work in us with the fullness of its riches and depth.

    Advent is the period of waiting:  of Christian waiting and perseverance in faith and in struggle, by virtue of Christ's grace in us..  Advent opens a new chapter every year in that book of salvation which God writes in the Church through the story of man.

    It is necessary to be humble to receive the divine teachings; there is need to be humble so that divine grace may operate in us, transform our lives and bring out the fruits of goodness.

    Elevation of the soul is accomplished through knowledge of the Lord and His ways:  Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me..." (Ps 25: 4-5).

    As you see, it is not a matter of abstract knowledge but of knowledge having influence upon life.  "Teach me your paths" means teach me to live in conformity with God's will

    In this internal effort it is given to us to discover once again and convince ourselves that "the Lord is good."

                        -- Blessed John Paul II
                            28 November 1982

                Rouse your power,
                    and come to save us.
                        (Psalm 80)

Sunday 20 November 2011

When Everything Is Subjected To Him

    Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love, and peace.  According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by "distress" and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days.  It is a time of waiting and watching.

    Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment on the Last Day in his preaching.  Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.  Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be condemned.  Our attitude about our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.  On the last day Jesus will say:  "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

    Christ is Lord of eternal life.  Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world.  He "acquired" this right by his cross.  The Father has given "all judgment to the Son."  Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.  By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.

     -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
        paragraphs 672, 678-679

Prayer of Repentance

    I am the lost sheep wandering in the desert.  Search for me, Good Shepherd, and bring me home again to your fold.  Do with me what you want so that I may live with you all the days of my life and praise you for all eternity with those who are with you in heaven.

     -- Saint Jerome (342-420 AD)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sunday 13 November 2011

Blessed are Those Who Fear the Lord

    Sacred Scripture affirms that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning
of wisdom (Ps 110 [111]: 10; Prov 1:7).  However, what kind of fear does
it mean?  It certainly is not that "fear of God" which causes people to
flee from every thought and memory of him, as something or someone who
disturbs and upsets.  This was the state of mind which, according to the
Bible, made our first parents, after their sin, hide "themselves from
the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Gen 3:8).  This was also the
sentiment of that unfaithful and wicked servant of the gospel parable
who hid in the earth the talent that he received (cf. Mt 25: 28, 26).

    However, this type of fear is not the true concept of the fear which is
the gift of the Spirit.  Here it is a matter of something much more
noble and lofty; it is a sincere and reverential feeling that a person
experiences before the tremendous majesty of God, especially when he reflects
upon his own infidelity and the danger of being "found wanting" (Dan 5:27) at the
eternal judgment which no one can escape.  The believer goes and places himself
before God with a "contrite spirit" and a "humbled heart" (cf. Ps 50
[51]: 19), knowing well that he must await his own salvation "with fear and
trembling" (Phil 2:12).  Nonetheless, that does not mean an irrational fear, but a
sense of responsibility and fidelity to the law.

    All this is what the Holy Spirit takes up and elevates with the gift of
Fear of the Lord.  It certainly does not exclude the trepidation that
arises from an awareness of the faults committed and the prospect of divine
chastisement, but mitigates it with faith in the divine mercy and with
the certitude of the fatherly concern of God who wills the eternal
salvation of each one.  With this gift, however, the Holy Spirit instills in the
soul most of all a filial love which is a sentiment rooted in love of God.  The
soul is now concerned not to displease God, whom he loves as a Father, not to
offend him in anything, to "abide in him" and grow in charity (cf. Jn
15: 4-7).

                        -- Blessed John Paul II
                            Angelus, 11 June 1989


            Blessed are you who fear the Lord,
                who walk in his ways!
            For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
                blessed shall you be, and favored.
                        -- Psalm 128

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday 6 November 2011

Rising from the Dead

... In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human
body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion
with its glorified body.  God, in his almighty power, will definitively
grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls,
through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.

... All the dead will rise, "those who have done good, to the
resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection
of judgment.

Christ will raise us up "on the last day"; but it is also true that,
in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ.  For, by virtue of the
Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the
death and Resurrection of Christ:

        And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you
        were also raised with him through faith in the working of
        God, who raised him from the dead ....If then you have
        been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,
        where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in
the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains "hidden
with Christ in God."  The Father has already "raised us up with him, and
made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."  Nourished with
his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ.  We we rise
on the last day we "also will appear with him in glory."

                    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                        paragraphs 997- 998, 1002-1003


Prayer of Saint Gertrude

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son,
Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the
holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal
church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday 30 October 2011

The Word of God

   Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:

       You recall that one and the same Word of God
       extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and
       the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths
       of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the
       beginning God with God has no need of separate
       syllables; for he is not subject to time. (St. Augustine)

   For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body.  She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body.

   In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God."  "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children and talks with them."

   Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book."  Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, "not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living."  If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures."

                       -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                           paragraphs 102-104, 108


           In the beginning was the Word,
               and the Word was with God,
                    and the Word was God.
                           -- John 1: 1

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday 23 October 2011

The Commandment of Love

    The Gospel passage on which we are focusing makes clear that being disciples of Christ means practicing his teachings, which can be summarized in the first and greatest commandment of the divine law, the commandment of love.  Even the First Reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, insists on the duty of love; a love witnessed concretely in relationships between persons, which must be relationships of respect, collaboration, generous help.

    The neighbor to be loved is the stranger, the orphan, the widow and the needy, in other words, those citizens who have no "defender".  The holy author goes into details, as in the case of the object pawned by one of these poor persons (cf. Ex 22: 25-26).  In this case God himself is the one to vouch for the neighbor's position.

    In the Second Reading, we can find a concrete application of the supreme commandment of love in one of the first Christian communities.  St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, leading them to understand that, while having known them for such a short time, he appreciates them and holds them dear in his heart.

    Because of this, he pinpoints them as "a model for all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia" (1 Thes 1: 7).  Weaknesses and difficulties are not lacking in this recently founded community, but it is love that surpasses all, renews all, conquers all:  the love of those who, knowing their own limits, docilely follow the words of Christ, the divine Teacher, passed down through one of his faithful disciples.

    "You, in turn, became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word despite great trials, with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit", the Apostle wrote.

    The lesson that we can draw from the Thessalonians' experience, and experience that is truly common in every authentic Christian community, is that neighborly love is born from docile listening to the divine Word.  It is a love that will even withstand difficult trials for the truth of the divine Word, and in this way true love grows and truth shines in all its splendor.  How important it is to listen to the Word and incarnate it in personal and community life!

                            -- Pope Benedict XVI
                                Homily, 26 October 2008

Act of Charity

    O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love.  I love my neighbor as myself for love of you.  I forgive all who have injured me and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday 16 October 2011

Giving to God What Belongs to God

    "All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what
concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it
as they come to know it."  This duty derives from "the very dignity
of the human person."  It does not contradict a "sincere respect"
for different religions which frequently "reflect a ray of that truth
which enlightens all men," nor the requirement of charity, which
urges Christians "to treat with love, prudence and patience those
who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith."

    The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both
individually and socially.  This is "the traditional Catholic teaching
on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion
and the one Church of Christ." By constantly evangelizing men, the
Church works toward enabling them "to infuse the Christian spirit
into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities
in which [they] live."  The social duty of Christians is to respect and
awaken in each man the love of the true and the good.  It requires
them to make known the worship of the one true religion which
subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church.  Christians are called
to be the light of the world.  Thus, the Church shows forth the
kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human
societies.  

    "Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is
anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience
in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association
with others, within due limits."  This right is based on the very nature
of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the
divine truth which transcends the temporal order.  For this reason it
"continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation
of seeking the truth and adhering to it."

      -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
         paragraphs 2104 - 2106



    "I die the King's good servant and God's first"

      -- Saint Thomas More,
         on the scaffold, July 6, 1535

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday 9 October 2011

"My God Will Fully Supply Whatever You Need"

    God is the sovereign master of his plan.  But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation.  This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness.  For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan.

    To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of "subduing" the earth and having dominion over it.  God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors.  Though often unconscious collaborators with God's will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers, and their sufferings.  They then fully become "God's fellow workers" and co-workers for his kingdom.

    The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator.  God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes:  "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."  Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this truth enhances it.  Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom, and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes."  Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace.

    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
       paragraphs 306-308

Christ has no body now on earth, but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world.  Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.  Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.           

    -- Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Symbols of the Church

        In Scripture, we find a host of interrelated images and figures
through which Revelation speaks of the inexhaustible mystery of the
Church.  The images taken from the Old Testament are variations on
a profound theme:  the People of God.  In the New Testament, all these
images find a new center because Christ has become the head of this
people , which henceforth is his Body.....

        "The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God.  On that land
the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in
which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about
and will be brought about again.  That land, like a choice vineyard, has
been planted by the heavenly cultivator.  Yet the true vine is Christ
who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who
through the Church remain in Christ,, without whom we can do nothing.

        "Often, too, the Church is called the building of God.  The Lord
compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was
made into the corner-stone.  On this foundation the Church is built by
the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity.  This
edifice has many names to describe the house of God in which his family dwells;
the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling-place of God among men;
and, especially, the holy temple.  This temple, symbolized in places of
worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without
reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.  As
living stones we here on earth are built into it.  It is this holy city that
is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made
anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

       -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
          paragraphs 753, 755, 756

October 2nd is traditionally celebrated at the Feast of the Guardian
Angels (when it doesn't fall on Sunday) and so we pray:

       Angel of God, my guardian dear,
       To whom God's love commits me here,
       Ever this day be at my side,
       To light and guard, to rule and guide.  Amen.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday 25 September 2011: The Feast of St. Michael the Archangel

The Obedience of Faith

        By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will
to God.  With his whole being man gives his assent to God the
revealer.  Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God,
the author of revelation, "the obedience of faith".

        To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to "hear or listen to") in
faith is to submit freely to the word that has ben heard, because
its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself.  Abraham is the
model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture.  The
Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment.

        Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for
our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.  "Since
'without faith it is impossible to please [God]' and to attain to the
fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever
attained justification, now will anyone obtain eternal life 'but he
who endures to the end.' "

        Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man.  We can
lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: "Wage
the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.  By rejecting
conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith."
To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must
nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase
our faith, it must be "working through charity," abounding in hope,
and rooted in the faith of the Church.

                                        -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                                                paragraphs 143, 144, 161, 162

Prayer to Saint Michael

        Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our
protection from the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May
God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the
heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and
all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of
souls.  Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday 18 September 2011

Seek the Lord While He May Be Found

    Talk with God with the thoughts of which your heart is full.
If you enjoy the presence of God, if you feel drawn to love him,
tell him so.  Such sensible fervor will make the time of prayer fly
without exhausting you, for all you will have to do is to pour forth
from your abundance and say what you feel.

    But what, you ask, are you to do in times of dryness, inner
resistance, and coldness?  Do just the same thing.  Say equally
what is in your heart.  Tell God that you no longer feel any love
for him, that all is a terrible blank to you, that he wearies you, that
his presence does not even move you, that you long to leave him
for the most trifling occupation, and that you will not feel happy till
you have left him and can turn to thinking about yourself.  Tell him
all the evil you know about yourself.

    See, how can you even ask what there is to talk to God about?
Alas, there is only too much!  But when you tell him about your
miseries, ask him to cure them.  Say to him, "O my God, behold my
ingratitude, my inconstancy, my infidelity.  Take my heart, for I do
not know how to give it to you.  Give me an inner distaste for
external things; give me crosses necessary to bring me back under
your yoke.  Have mercy on me in spite of myself!"  In this way, either
God's mercies or your own miseries will always give you enough
to talk to him about.  The subject will never be exhausted!

    In either of these two states I have described, tell him without
hesitation everything that comes into your head, with the simplicity
and familiarity of a little child sitting on its mother's knee.

                    -- François FĂ©nelon (1651-1715)
                        Talking With God, Chapter 1

            The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
                            (Psalm 145)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday 11 September 2011

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

    This "as" is not unique in Jesus' teaching:  "You, therefore, must
be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"; "Be merciful, even as
your Father is merciful"; "A new commandment I give to you, that you
love one another, even as I have love you, that you also love one
another".    It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment
by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital
participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and
the mercy and the love of our God.  Only the Spirit by whom we live
can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.  Then the
unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves "forgiving
one another, as God in Christ forgave" us.

    Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the
end, become a living reality.  The parable of the merciless servant,
which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with
these words:  "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you,
if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."  It is there, in
fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. 
It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that
offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the
memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.

    Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring
the disciple by configuring him to his Master.  Forgiveness is a
high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can
receive the gift of prayer.  Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world,
love is stronger than sin.  The martyrs of yesterday and today bear witness
to Jesus.  Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation
of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.

                        -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                            paragraphs 2842-2844


The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
                                    --     Psalm 103

Archive: Weekly Reflections on the Gospel and Bible Readings of the Week (Spring & Summer 2011)

4 September 2011, Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bible readings

"Go and Tell Him..."

Fraternal correction has the savour of the Gospel: the first
Christians practiced it frequently, just as Our Lord had established
it, "Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone", and it
occupied a very important position in their lives. They were very
much aware of its effectiveness. Saint Paul writes to the faithful
at Thessalonica: "If anyone refuses to obey what we say in this
letter ... Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a
brother." In the Epistle to the Galatians the Apostle says that this
correction has to be made "in a spirit of gentleness." In the same
way, Saint James the Apostle encourages the first Christians,
reminding them of the reward that God will give them: If anyone
among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back,
let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of
his way will save his soul from death and (this) will cover a
multitude of sins." It is no small reward. We cannot excuse ourselves
and repeat once again the words of Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Amongst the excuses that can lodge themselves in our mind
so that we do not make or so we put off making, fraternal correction,
is the fear of offending the person we have to warn. It seems para-
doxical that a doctor should not fail to tell a patient that if he wants
to be cured he must undergo a painful operation, and that we
Christians should be reluctant to tell people around us that the health
of their soul -- of how much greater value this is than bodily health --
is at risk!...

Whenever we make a fraternal correction we have to practice
a series of virtues, without which it would not be an act of true
charity.
"That is why when you have to correct, you should do so with charity,
at the opportune moment, without humiliating. And you must be ready
yourself to learn and to improve in the very faults you are correcting."
This is how Jesus would practice it if he were in our place, with the
same delicacy and with the same fortitude.

-- Francis Fernandez
In Conversation with God (3:24.3)

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95)




28 August 2011, Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bible readings


Sharers in the Suffering of Christ

... [T]he witnesses of the New Covenant speak of the greatness
of the Redemption, accomplished through the suffering of Christ. The
Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his
own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that
suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is
called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has
also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through
suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the
Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a
sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ....

... St. Paul speaks of various sufferings and, in particular, of those
in which the first Christians became sharers "for the sake of Christ."
These sufferings enable the recipients of that letter to share in the work
of the Redemption, accomplished through the suffering and death of the
Redeemer. The eloquence of the cross and death is, however, completed
by the eloquence of the resurrection. Man finds in the resurrection a
completely new light, which helps him to go forward through the thick
darkness of humiliations, doubts, hopelessness and persecution.
Therefore the Apostle will also write in the second letter to the
Corinthians:

"For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we
share abundantly in comfort too." Elsewhere he addresses to his
recipients words of encouragement: "May the Lord direct your hearts to
the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ." And in the letter
to the Romans he writes: "I appeal to you, therefore, brethren, by the
mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and
acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

-- Blessed Pope John Paul II
"On the Meaning of Christian Suffering"
(Salvifici Doloris), V

O Son of the eternal Father, Jesus Christ, our Lord and King of all.
What have You left behind You in the world, that we, as Your heirs, could
inherit from You? What did you possess but sorrow, pain, ignominy and a
tree on which You suffered a most bitter death? We, Your true children,
O God, will abandon our inheritance; we shall not flee from suffering. Amen.

-- Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)






21 August 2011, Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082111.cfm


"The Keys of the Kingdom"

From the beginning of his public life Jesus chose certain men,
twelve in number, to be with him and to participate in his mission. He
gives the Twelve a share in his authority and "sent them out to preach
the kingdom of God and to heal." They remain associated for ever
with Christ's kingdom, for through them he directs the Church....

Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;
Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from
the Father, Peter had confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the
Living God." Our Lord then declared to him: "You are Peter, and on
this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not
prevail against it." Christ, the "living stone," thus assures his Church,
built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he
confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His
mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen
his brothers in it.

Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the
keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall
be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed
in heaven." The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the
house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd,
confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." The
power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sine, to
pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in
the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the
ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of
Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church
paragraphs 551-553


Lord, your love is eternal;
so not forsake the work of your hands.
-- Psalm 138




Sunday 14 August 2011, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Bible readings

"That He Might Have Mercy Upon All"

At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does
what is right has been acceptable to him (cf Acts 10:35). He has,
however, willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals
without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into
a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness. He
therefore chose the Israelite race to be his own people and established
a covenant with it. He gradually instructed this people -- in its
history
manifesting both himself and the decree of his will --and made it holy
unto himself. All these things, however, happened as a preparation
and figure of that new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in
Christ, and of the fuller revelation which was to be given through the
Word of God made flesh. "Behold the days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house
of Judah ... I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon
their
hearts, and they shall be my people ... For they shall know me from the
least of them to the greatest, says the Lord" (Jer. 31:31-34). Christ
initiated this new covenant, , namely the new covenant in his blood
(cf. 1 Cor. 11:25); he called a race made up of Jews and Gentiles which
would be one, not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit, and this
race
would be the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who
are reborn, not from a corruptible seed, but from an incorruptible one
through the word of the living God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23), not from flesh,
but
from water and the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 3:5-6), are finally established
as
"a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation ... who in times past
were not a people, but now are the People of God" (1 Pet. 2:9-10).

Vatican II, Lumen Gentium
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Section 9

"Mary has gone to heaven in both body and soul, and the angels
rejoice. I can imagine, too, the delight of St. Joseph, her most chaste
spouse, who awaited her in paradise. Yet what of us who remain on
earth? Our faith tells us that here below, in our present life, we are
pilgrims, wayfarers. Our lot is one of suffering, of sacrifices, and
privations. Nonetheless, joy must mark the rhythm of our steps.
"Serve the Lord with joy' -- there is no other way to serve him."

-- Cause of Our Joy"
CPB, 177




Sunday 7 August 2011, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bible readings

Praying for Those Who Don't Know Christ

"Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related
to the People of God in various ways."

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When
she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in
the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, "the
first to hear the Word of God." The Jewish faith, unlike other
non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in
the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the
covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh,
is the Christ"; "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."

And when one considers the future, God's People of the Old
Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals:
expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits
the return of the messiah who died and rose from the dead and is
recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of
a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the
latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of
misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the
Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church.
The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and
salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark
which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy
Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to
the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves
from the flood.

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church
paragraphs 839, 840, 845

Let us pray for those who do not believe in Christ, that the light of the Holy
Spirit may show them the way to salvation. Almighty and eternal God,
enable those who do not acknowledge Christ to find the truth as they walk
before you in sincerity of heart. Help us to grow in love for one another, to
grasp more fully the mystery of your godhead, and to become more perfect
witnesses of your love in the sight of men. We ask this through Christ
our Lord.

Amen.

-- Celebration of the Lord's Passion, Good Friday





31 July 2011, Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Bible readings

Loving the Sacred Heart that Loves Us

    [The] search of man's heart ends when one discovers God's
Heart.  On this topic, St. Augustine says:  "You made us for yourself,
Oh God, and our heart is restless until it rests in you".  The concern
to which St. Augustine refers is the difficulty we all have in attaining
true Love as a consequence of our condition of creatures; we are
finite; moreover, we are sinners.  Over and over again we run into the
difficulty of our selfishness, the chaos of our passions, that throws away
this true Love.  Man's heart "needs" a heart at his same level, a heart
that can enter into his history, and, on the other hand, an "all-powerful"
heart that can take him out of his limitations and sins.  We can say that
in Jesus Christ, God has met mankind and has loved us with a "human
heart".  In the encounter of man's heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
the mystery of salvation becomes real.  "In fact, from the infinite horizon
of his love, God wished to enter into the limits of human history and
human condition.  He took on a body and a heart.  Thus, we can contemplate
and encounter the infinite in the finite, the invisible and ineffable
Mystery in the human Heart of Jesus, the Nazarene" (Benedict XVI, Angelus,
6/1/2008).

    The most perfect revelation of this Love is the Cross.  In the Cross
God's love for us has reached its limit with the donation of His life.
The biggest expression of how much and in which way God loves us, is the
open heart of Jesus on the Cross, as a consequence of the wound on His
side with a spear.  As the Pope states in his message; "it is from Jesus'
heart, pierced on the Cross, that this divine life streamed forth" (WYD
message).  Thus, in the Cross, Jesus changes our "heart of stone"
wounded by sin, into a "heart of flesh", like his:  he gives us his Love and,
at the same time, he enables us to love with his same love.

    The fountain where man must drink in order to satisfy his infinite
demand for love and being loved, flows from Jesus' Heart, alive and
risen from the dead....Holiness is an immersion in the flow of love that
springs up from the Sacred Heart of Jesus......

                            -- Preparatory Catechesis for the
                            Consecration of the youth of the
                            world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
                            Christ during Wold Youth Day, Madrid, 2011

Heart of Jesus, Fountain of life and holiness, have mercy on us!


24 July 2011, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bible readings: http://usccb.org/nab/072411.shtml


The Pearl of Great Price

Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either
accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The
New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the
final encounter with Christ i;n his second coming, but also repeatedly
affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance
with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the
words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New
Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul -- a destiny which
can be different for some and for others.

Each man receives his eternal retribution in him immortal soul
at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers
his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven --
through a purification or immediately, --or immediate and everlasting
damnation. "At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love."

Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly
purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for
they "see him as he is," face to face....

This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity -- this communion of
life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all
the blessed -- is called "heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and the
fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme,
definitive happiness.

To live in heaven is "to be with Christ." The elect live "in Christ,"
but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.

"For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life,
there is the kingdom"

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church
paragraphs 1021 - 1025

Lord, I love your commands.
(Psalm 119)



17 July 2011, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bible readings: http://usccb.org/nab/071711.shtml

Kingdom of God FAQ

Who is invited to come into the Kingdom of God proclaimed and brought
about by Jesus?

    All are invited by Jesus to enter the Kingdom of God.  Even the worst
    of sinners is called to convert and to accept the boundless mercy of
    the Father.  Already here on earth, the Kingdom belongs to those who
    accept it with a humble heart.  To them the mysteries of the Kingdom
    are revealed.

Why did Jesus manifest the Kingdom by means of signs and miracles?

    Jesus accompanied his words with signs and miracles to bear witness
    to the fact that the Kingdom is present in him, the Messiah.  Although
    he healed some people, he did not come to abolish all evils here below
    but rather to free us especially from the slavery of sin.  The driving out
    of demons proclaimed that his cross would be victorious over "the
    ruler of this world"  (John 12:31).

In the Kingdom, what authority did Jesus bestow upon his Apostles?

    Jesus chose the twelve, the future witnesses of his Resurrection, and
    made them sharers of his mission and of his authority to teach, to
    absolve from sins, and to build up and govern the Church.  In this
    college, Peter received "the keys of the kingdom" (Matthew 16:19) and
    assumed the first place with the mission to keep the faith in its integrity
    and to strengthen his brothers.

            -- Compendium, Catechism of the Catholic Church
                Questions 107 - 109

Merciful Father,
in the beginning you created us
and by the Passion of your only Son
you created us anew.
Work in us now, we ask you,
both to will and do what pleases you.
Since we are weak and of ourselves
can do no good,
grant us your grace and heavenly blessing
that in whatever work we are engaged
we may do all for your honor and glory;
that being kept from sin
and growing in doing good
so long as we live on this earth
we may serve you;
and after our death
we may be forgiven all our sins
and attain eternal life.


        -- Saint Anselm (1033-1109)
 


Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 10, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/071011.shtml

Bearing Fruit in the Kingdom of God

Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced
to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to
accept men of all nations. To enter it, one must first accept Jesus'
word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which
is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and
are numbered among the little flock of Christ have
truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power,
the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.

Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of
parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his
parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also
asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give
everything. Words are not enough; deeds are required. The
parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth
for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received?
Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly
at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is,
become a disciple of Christ, in order to "know the secrets of the
kingdom of heaven." For those who stay "outside." everything
remains enigmatic.

The Decalogue, the Sermon on the Mount, and the apostolic
catechesis describe for us the paths that lead to the Kingdom of
heaven. Sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we tread them,
step by step, by everyday acts. By the working of the Word of
Christ, we slowly bear fruit in the Church to the glory of God.

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church
paragraphs 543, 546, 1724

The seed that falls on good ground
will yield a fruitful harvest,
(Luke 8:8)



Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 3, 2011

Bible readings: http://usccb.org/nab/070311.shtml

"I Give Praise to You, Father...."

Why is there a universal call to prayer?

Because through creation God first calls every being from nothingness.
Even after the Fall man continues to be capable of recognizing his
Creator and retains a desire for the One who has called him into existence.
All religions, and the whole history of salvation in particular, bear witness
to this human desire for God. It is God first of all, however, who ceaselessly
draws every person to the mysterious encounter known as prayer.

How does Jesus teach us to pray?

Jesus teaches us to pray not only with the Our Father but also when he
prays. In this way he teaches us, in addition to the content, the dispositions
necessary for every true prayer: purity of heart that seeks the Kingdom and
forgives one's enemies, bold and filial faith that goes beyond what we feel
and understand, and watchfulness that protects the disciple from temptation.

What are the essential forms of Christian prayer?

They are blessing and adoration, the prayer of petition and intercession,
thanksgiving and praise. The Eucharist contains and expresses all the
forms of prayer.

Is it possible to pray always?

Praying is always possible because the time of the Christian is the time
of the risen Christ who remains "with you always" (MMt 28:20). Prayer
and the Christian life are therefore inseparable:

"It is possible to offer frequent and fervent prayer even at the
market place or strolling alone. It is possible also in your
place of business, while buying or selling, or even while
cooking." (Saint John Chrysostom)

-- Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Questions 535, 544, 550, 576


I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.




The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi, June 26, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/062611.shtml


What Does Corpus Christi Mean to Me?

What does Corpus Christi mean to me? It does not only
bring the liturgy to mind; for me, it is a day on which heaven and
earth work together. In my mind's eye it is the time when spring
is turning into summer; the sun is high in the sky, and crops are
the crops are ripening in field and meadow. The Church's feasts
make present the mystery of Christ, but Jesus Christ was immersed
in the faith of the people of Israel and so, arising from this
background
in Israel's life, the Christian feasts are also involved with the rhythm
of the year, the rhythm of seedtime and harvest. How could it be
otherwise in a liturgy which has at its center the sign of bread, fruit
of the earth and heaven? Here this fruit of the earth, bread, is
privileged to be the bearer of him in whom heaven and earth, God
and man have become one. The way the Church's feasts fit in with
the seasons of the year is therefore not an accident. Consequently
we must go on to discover the inner rhythm of the Church's year and
see the place of Corpus Christi has within it.

First of all, clearly, it grows out of the mystery of Easter and
Pentecost: it presupposes the Resurrection and the sending of the
Spirit. But it is also in close proximity to the Feast of the Trinity,
which reveals the inner logic in the connection between Easter and
Pentecost. It is only because God himself is the eternal dialogue of
love that he and speak and be spoken to. Only because he himself
is relationship can we relate to him; only because he is love can he
love and be loved in return. Only because his is threefold can he be
the grain of wheat which dies and the bread of eternal life.
Ultimately, then, Corpus Christi is an expression of faith in God, in love,
in the fact that God is love. All that is said and done on Corpus Christi is
in fact a single variation on the theme of love, what it is and what it
does. In one of his Corpus Christi hymns Thomas Aquinas puts it beautifully:
nec sumptus consumitur -- love does not consume: it gives and, in
giving, receives. And in giving it is not used up but renews itself.
Since Corpus Christi is a confession of faith in love, it is totally
appropriate that the day should focus on the mystery of
transubstantiation. Love is transubstantiation, transformation.
Corpus Christi tells us: Yes, there is such a thing as love, and
therefore there is transformation, therefore there is hope. And hope
gives us strength to live and face the world.....

-- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI)
Feast of Faith, pages 136-137.

He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
-- Psalm 147



The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 19, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/061911.shtml

A God Merciful and Gracious

After Israel's sin, when the people had turned away from God
to worship the golden calf, God hears Moses' prayer of intercession
and agrees to walk in the midst of an unfaithful people, thus
demonstrating his love. When Moses asks to see his glory, God responds
"I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you
my name 'the LORD [YHWH]." Then the LORD passes before Moses and
proclaims, "YHWH, YHWH, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and
abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness"; Moses then confesses the
LORD is a forgiving God.

The divine name, "I Am" or "He Is," expresses God's faithfulness:
despite the faithlessness of men's sin and the punishment it deserves,
he keeps "steadfast love for thousands." By going so far as to give up
his own Son for us, God reveals that he is "rich in mercy." By giving
his life to free us from sin, Jesus reveals that he himself bears the divine
name: "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will realize
that 'I Am.' "

God, "He who is." revealed himself to Israel as the one "abounding
in steadfast love and faithfulness." These two terms express summarily
the riches of the divine name. In all his works God displays not only
his kindness, goodness, grace, and steadfast love, but also his
trustworthiness, constancy, faithfulness, and truth. "I give thanks to your name for
your steadfast love and your faithfulness." He is the Truth, for "God is
light and in him there is no darkness"; "God is love," as the apostles John
teaches.

God's love for Israel is compared to a father's love for his son. His
love for his people is stronger than a mother's for her children. God
loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be
victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious
gift: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church
paragraphs 210, 211, 214, 219

Glory and praise for ever!


Pentecost, June 12, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/061211.shtml

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

Who is this Holy Spirit?  He is God himself.  The third Person
of the Blessed Trinity.  He is sent to each of us by the Father and
the Son.  He is their greatest gift and he remains constantly with
us.  He abides in us.

    The clearest description of the work of the Holy Spirit has
been given by Saint Paul, who said that the Spirit produces
"love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity,
faith, mildness and chastity (Gal 5:22).  Qualities such as these
are ideal in every walk of life and in all circumstances:  at home,
with your teachers and friends; in the factory or at the university;
with all the people you meet.

    The Prophet Isaiah also attributed special gifts to the Holy
Spirit:  "a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel
and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord" (Is 11:2).
Saint Paul is right in saying:  "Since we live by the Spirit, let us
follow the Spirit's lead" (Gal 5:25).

    With gifts and qualities such as these we are equal to any
task and capable of overcoming any difficulties.  Yet our lives
remain our own, and the Spirit acts on each of us differently, in
harmony with our individual personality and the characteristics
we have inherited from our parents and from the upbringing
received in our homes.

    Because he is so near to us, yet so unobtrusive, we should
turn to the Holy Spirit instinctively in all our needs and ask him
for his guidance and help.  The Spirit comes to help us in our
weakness.  What more could be done for us?  What more can
we expect of God than that?

                    -- Blessed John Paul II
                        31 May 1982

    Come, Holy Spirit, Creator come,
    From your bright heavenly throne!
    Come, take possession of our souls,
    And make them all your own.




The Seventh Sunday in Easter, June 5, 2011
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/060511.shtml


On the Meaning of the Ascension

...In the Scripture readings the whole significance of Christ's
Ascension is summarized for us. The richness of this mystery is spelled out in two
statements: Jesus gave instructions, and then Jesus took his place.

... The instructions indicated, above all, that the Apostles were to
wait for the Holy Spirit, who was the gift of the Father. From the beginning,
it had to be crystal-clear that the source of the Apostles' strength is the Holy
Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in the way of truth; the
Gospel is to spread through the power of God, and not by means of human wisdom or
strength.

The Apostles, moreover, were instructed to teach -- to proclaim the
Good News to the whole world. And they were to baptize in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, they were
to speak explicitly about the Kingdom of God and about salvation. The Apostles
were to give witness to Christ to the ends of the earth. The early Church
clearly understood these instructions and the missionary era began. And
everybody knew that this missionary era could never end until the same Jesus, who
went up to heaven, would come back again.

And the second reflection on the meaning of the Ascension is found in
this phrase: Jesus took his place. After having undergone the
humiliation of his passion and death, Jesus took his place at the right-hand of
God; he took his place with his eternal Father. But he also entered heaven as
our Head. Whereupon, in the expression of Leo the Great, the glory of the
Head became the hope of the body. For all eternity Christ takes his place
as the firstborn among many brethren: our nature is with God in Christ. And
as man, the Lord Jesus lives for ever to intercede for us with the Father. At the
same time, from his throne of glory, Jesus sends out to the whole Church
a message of hope and a call to holiness.

-- Blessed John Paul II
Homily, 24 May 1979.

For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
-- Psalm 47





The Sixth Sunday in Easter, May 29, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/052911.shtml

"Then They Laid Hands On Them..."

In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of
the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.
The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was
the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.
He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole
mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom
the Father gives him "without measure."

This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's,
but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several
occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which
he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.
Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim "the mighty
works of God," and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the
sign of the messianic age. Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and
were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.

From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ's will,
imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the
Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the
Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of
hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The
imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as
the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way
perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church
Paragraphs 1312-1314

Come, Holy Spirit

... On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.




The Fifth Sunday in Easter, May 22, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/052211.shtml


To Be a Holy Priesthood...

The baptized have become "living stones" to be "built into a
spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood." By Baptism they share
in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They
are "a chose race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own
people that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who
called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light." Baptism
gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers.

Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church
"a kingdom, priests for his God and Father." The whole community of
believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal
priesthood through their participation, each according to his own
vocation, in Christ's mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the
sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are "consecrated
to be ... a holy priesthood."

The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests,
and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, "each in its
own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ." While being "ordered
one to another," they differ essentially. In what sense? While the
common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal
grace -- a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit --,
the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It
is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The
ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up
and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own
sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church
paragraphs 1268, 1546-1547

"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith in me."


The Fourth Sunday in Easter, May 15, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/051511.shtml

Jesus' Flock is His Church

It was the Son's task to accomplish the Father's plan of
salvation in the fullness of time. Its accomplishment was the reason
for his being sent. "The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by
preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God,
promised over the ages in the scriptures." To fulfill the Father's
will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. The
Church "is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery."

"This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the
works and in the presence of Christ." To welcome Jesus' word
is to welcome "the Kingdom itself." The seed and beginning of
the Kingdom are the "little flock" of those whom Jesus came to
gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is. They form
Jesus' true family. To those whom he thus gathered around him,
he taught a new "way of acting" and a prayer of their own.

The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure
that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else
there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head.
Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation
stones of the new Jerusalem. The Twelve and the other disciples
share in Christ's mission and his power, but also in his lot. By
all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church.

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church
paragraphs 763-765

Prayer for the Pope

Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to Your shepherd
Benedict a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge
and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care may
he, as successor to the apostle Peter and vicar of Christ, build Your Church
into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world.

We ask this though our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and
reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, on God for ever and ever. Amen.



The Third Sunday in Easter, May 8, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/050811.shtml

Seeing the Risen Lord

    .....Not everyone saw the Risen Jesus.  Why not?
Why did he not go in triumph to the Pharisees and Pilate
to show them that he was alive and to let them touch his
scars?  But in asking such questions we are forgetting
that Jesus was not a resuscitated corpse like Lazarus and
the boy of Naim.  They were allowed to return once more
to their erstwhile biological life, which sooner or later would
have to end, after all, with death.  What happened in Jesus'
case was quite different:  he did not return to the old life but
began a new one, a life that is ultimate, no longer subject to
nature's law of death but standing in God's freedom and
hence final and absolute.  A life, therefore, that is no longer
part of the realm of physics and biology, although it has
integrated matter and nature into itself on a higher plane.
And that is why it is no longer within the ambit of our senses
of touch and sight.  The Risen One cannot be seen like a
piece of wood or stone.  He can only be seen by the person
to whom he reveals himself.  And he only reveals himself
to one whom he can entrust with a mission.  He does not
reveal himself to curiosity but to love; love is the indispensable
organ if we are to see and apprehend him.....

    There is another important aspect:  Jesus shows himself
in the act of departure.  This is clearest in the event of Emmaus
and in his meeting with Mary Magdalen.  He summons us to
go with him.  Resurrection is not an indulgence of curiosity:
it is mission.  Its intention is to transform the world.  It calls for
an active joy, the joy of those who are themselves going along
the path of the Risen One.  That is true today too:  he only shows
himself to those who walk with him.  The angel's first word to the
women was, "He is not here, he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him" (Mk 16:6).  So, once and for all, we are
told where the Risen One is to be found and how we are to meet
him:  he goes before you.  He is present in preceding us.  By
following him we can see him.

                    --Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
                       Seek That Which Is Above
                        p. 63-65

I have set the Lord ever before me;
    with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

                -- Psalm 16


Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/050111.shtml

Discovering His Mercy

    It is precisely because sin exists in the world, which "God
so loved ... that he gave his only Son," that God, who "is love,"
cannot reveal Himself otherwise than as mercy.  This  corresponds
not only to the most profound truth of that love which God is, but
also to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which is
man's temporary homeland.

    Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also
infinite.  Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father's
readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home.
Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow
continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son.
No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it.  On the
part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness
to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in
obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the
witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.

    Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion.
Conversion to God always consists in discovering His mercy,
that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind as only
the Creator and Father can be; the love to which the "God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is faithful to the uttermost
consequences
in the history of His covenant with man:  even to the cross and to
the death and resurrection of the Son.  Conversion to God is always
the fruit of the "rediscovery" of this Father, who is rich in mercy.

                    -- Blessed John Paul II
                        Dives is Misericordia, 13
                        (On the Mercy of God)

Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of
your  dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our
sins and those of the whole world.

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us
and on the whole world.

                -- Chaplet of Divine Mercy prayers



Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/042411.shtml

Who is this Jesus Who is Risen?

    We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son
of God.  He is the Eternal Word, born of the Father before
time began, and one in substance with the Father, homo-
ousios to Patri, and through Him all things were made.
He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the
Holy Spirit, and was made man:  equal therefore to the
Father according to His divinity, and inferior to the Father
according to His humanity; and Himself one, not by some
impossible confusion of His natures, but by the unity of
His person.

    He dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.  He pro-
claimed and established the Kingdom of God and made us
know in Himself the Father.  He gave us His new command-
ment to love one another as He loved us.  He taught us
the way of the beautitudes of the Gospel:  poverty in spirit,
meekness, suffering borne with patience, thirst after justice,
mercy, purity of heart, will for peace, persecution suffered
for justice sake.  Under Pontius Pilate He suffered -- the
Lamb of God bearing on Himself the sins of the world, and
He died for us on the cross, saving us by His redeeming
blood.  He was buried, and, of His own power, rose on the
third day, raising us by His resurrection to that sharing in
the divine life which is the life of grace.  He ascended to
heaven, and He will come again, this time in glory, to judge
the living and the dead:  each according to his merits --
those who have responded to the love and piety of God
going to eternal life, those who have refused them to the
end going to the fire that is not extinguished.

    And His Kingdom will have no end.

                    -- Pope Paul VI
                    Credo of the People of God.

Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
    Exult, all creation around God's throne!
    Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
    Sound the trumpet of salvation!

                    -- Easter Exsultet

Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/041711.shtml

Recognizing the Face of God

In Greek and Latin, the two international languages of the time, and in Hebrew, the language of the Chosen People, a sign stood above the Cross of Jesus, indicating who he was:  the King of the Jews, the promised Son of David.  Pilate, the unjust judge, became a prophet despite himself.  The kingship of Jesus was proclaimed before all the world.  Jesus himself  had not accepted the title "Messiah", because it would have suggested a mistaken, human idea of power and deliverance.  Yet now the title can remain publicly displayed above the Crucified Christ.  He is indeed king of the world.  Now he is truly "lifted up".  In sinking to the depths he rose to the heights.

Now he has radically fulfilled the commandment of love, he has completed the offering of himself, and in this way he is now the revelation of the true God, the God who is love.  Now we know who God is.  Now we know what true kingship is.

Jesus prays Psalm 22, which begins with the words:  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:2).  He takes to himself the whole suffering people of Israel,  all of suffering humanity, the drama of God's darkness, and he makes God present in the very place where he seems definitively vanquished and absent.

The Cross of Jesus is a cosmic event.  The world is darkened, when the Son of God is given up to death.  The earth trembles.  And on the Cross , the Church of the Gentiles is born.  The Roman centurion understands this, and acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God.  From the Cross he triumphs -- ever anew.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, at the hour of your death the sun was darkened. 
Ever anew you are being nailed to the Cross. 
At this present hour of history we are living in God's darkness. 
Through your great sufferings and the wickedness of men,
the face of God, your face, seems obscured, unrecognizable. 
And yet, on the Cross, you have revealed yourself. 
Precisely by being the one who suffers and loves, you are exalted. 
From the Cross on high you have triumphed. 
Help us to recognize your face at this hour of darkness and tribulation. 
Help us to believe in you and to follow you in our hour of darkness and need. 
Show yourself once more to the world at this hour. 
Reveal to us your salvation.

-- Twelfth Station, Vatican, Vis Crucis, 2005


The Fifth Sunday in Lent, April 10, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/041011.shtml

Resurrection of the Body FAQ

What is meant by the "resurrection of the body"?

    This means that the definitive state of man will not be one in which
    his spiritual soul is separated from his body.  Even our mortal bodies
    will one day come to life again.

What is the relationship between the Resurrection of Christ and our
resurrection?

    Just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and now lives forever, so he
    himself will raise everyone on the last day with an incorruptible body:
    "Those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who
    have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:29).

What happens to our body and our soul after death?

    After death, which is the separation of the body and the soul, the body
    becomes corrupt while the soul, which is immortal, goes to meet the
    judgment of God and awaits its reunion with the body when it will
    rise transformed at the time of the return of the Lord.  How the resur-
    rection of the body will come about exceeds the possibilities of our
    imagination and understanding.

What does it mean to die in Christ Jesus?

    Dying in Christ Jesus means to die in the state of God's grace without
    any mortal sin.  A believer in Christ, following his example, is thus able to
    transform his own death into an act of obedience and love for the Father.
    "This saying is sure:  If we have died with him, we will also live with him"
    (2 Timothy 2:11).

            Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
                    Questions 203 - 206.

God, from whom to be turned is to fall;
to whom to be turned is to rise;
and in whom to stand is to live forever:
grant us
in all our duties your help,
in all our problems your guidance,
in all our dangers your protection,
in all our sorrows your peace,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

            -- Saint Augustine (354-410 AD)

Fourth Sunday in Lent, April 3, 2011

Bible readings: http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/040311.shtml

Faith Gives Sight to the Blind

    Consider chapter nine of St. John. 'And Jesus saw, as he passed on his way, a man who had been blind  from birth.  Whereupon his disciples ask him, Master, was this man guilty of sin, or was it his parents, that he should have been born blind?'  These men, even though they were so close to Christ, could still think badly about that poor blind man.  So do not be surprised if, as you go through life seeking to serve the Church, you also come across disciples of Our Lord behaving in a similar manner towards you or towards others.  Don't let it worry you and, like the blind man, take no notice; just place yourselves wholeheartedly in Christ's hands.  He does not accuse, he pardons.  He does not condemn, he forgives.  He is not cold and indifferent towards illness, but instead cures it with divine diligence.

    Our Lord 'spat on the ground, and made clay with the spittle.  Then he spread the clay on the man's eyes, and said to him, Go and wash in the pool of Siloe (a name that means, Sent).  So he went and washed there, and came back with his sight restored.'

    What an example of firm faith the blind man gives us!  A living, operative faith.  Do you behave like this when God commands, when so often you can't see, when your soul is worried and the light is gone? What power could the water possibly contain that when the blind man's eyes were moistened with it they were cured?  Surely some mysterious eye salve, or a precious medicine made up in the laboratory of some wise alchemist, would have done better?  But the man believed; he acted on the command of God, and he returned with eyes full of light.

                    -- Saint Josemaria Escriva (1902-1975)
                        Friends of God, # 192-193

O God, you are the hope of the hopeless,
The savior of the troubled,
The healer of the sick.
Be to us all things for all
For you know each one singly, the prayer and need of each,
The home of each.  Amen.

                -- Saint Basil (330-379 AD)


Third Sunday in Lent, March 27, 2011
Bible readings: http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/032711.shtml

Harden Not Your Hearts

Hear His voice today:  "Harden not your hearts" (Ps 95:8).

This prayer is relevant and necessary, but it is particularly recommended in the course of these forty days that we hear the voice of the living God.  It is a penetrating voice, when we consider how God speaks in Lent not only with the exceptional richness of His Word in the liturgy and in the Church's life but above all with the paschal eloquence of the Passion and Death of His own Son.  He speaks with His cross and with His sacrifice.  In a certain sense, this is the last discourse in His dialogue with man, lasting centuries, a dialogue with his mind and with his heart, with his conscience and his conduct.  The heart means man in his inner spirituality, the very center, so to say, of his likeness with God.  The interior man.  The man of conscience.

Our prayer during Lent aims at awakening of consciences, arousing them to the voice of God.  In fact, the diseases of consciences, their indifference to good and evil, their errors, are a great danger to man.  The are indirectly a menace to society as well, because the level of society's morals depends in the ultimate analysis on the human conscience.

A man who has a hardened heart and a degenerate conscience is spiritually a sick man, even though he may enjoy the fullness of powers and physical capacities. Everything must be done to bring him back to having a healthy soul.  "Hear today his voice ... harden not your heart."
                                                --Pope John Paul II
                                                15 March 1981

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the Lord who made us.
                                           -- Psalm 95