Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TEN WAYS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE BIBLE!


 

At the end of September, the very last day of the  30th, the Church always celebrates the memory of SAINT JEROME. Born a saint, he was not!  A fiery and explosive temper that brought him many enemies, fierce and long temptations against chastity that he battled with prayer and prolonged fasting, and long prayer vigils—this was Saint Jerome.

Despite his temperamental defects and frequent assaults from the enemy, Jerome had a keen intellect, a love for study, but especially a love for the Bible, the Word of God.

The Church owes a huge debt of gratitude to Saint Jerome especially for his great love for the Word of God and his work in studying it. However, most important is that Saint Jerome, after many years, finished translating the Bible from Greek and Aramaic into the Latin—which we call the “Vulgate” and from the Latin Vulgate the Bible would eventually be translated into our own languages—English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, etc.  All thanks to the strenuous work of Saint Jerome.

The Second Vatican Council published four famous Dogmatic Constitutions, the pillars of the Church in the Modern world: Sacrosanctum Concilium, Gaudium Spes, Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum.  In the later, Dei Verbum, which deals with Divine Revelation and the Word of God, Saint Jerome, is cited.  This has become one of the key citations in this Document and a key for appreciating the importance of the Bible, the Word of God. Here it is:  “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”  How true!  If we do not read the Bible, especially the Gospels, then we cannot know who Jesus is; then we cannot really love Him; then consequently it will be hard to follow Him as His friend and disciple.   With this being said, let us offer our Lord homage, love and respect for His Word the Bible, by carrying out and implementing at least some of the following.
                  
1.    PURCHASE A CATHOLIC BIBLE.  There are many Bibles, but you should try to purchase a good Catholic Bible. A suggestion?  The Navarre Bible or the Jerusalem Bible are two Bibles with excellent translations. Check them out and buy one of them; maybe buy two!

2.    GIVE A CATHOLIC BIBLE AWAY! Weddings, Birthday parties, anniversaries, Confirmations, family gatherings—why not give a Bible, the Word of God? What could be better?

3.    BLESSING.  Take the Bible to the priest and let the priest, who represents Jesus, to bless it. This will be your friend and companion the rest of your life. Your Light, your shield, your Rock—good names for the Word of God.

4.    REVERENCE AND RESPECT. Enthrone your Bible in a special place. Never treat it irreverently. This means, never throw it, place it on the floor, place a beer mug on top of it. Remember!  This is the Word of God and should be respected with the greatest of reverence.
              
5.     READ AND MEDITATE.  The Bible is not a Christmas decoration or a collector’s item, or a souvenir!  Quite the contrary: the Bible is meant to be read, meditated, day and night. Remember Psalm 1:  Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in the company of scoffers. Rather, the law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law (Bible, Word of God— my own interpretation) they study day and night.” (Psalm 1: 1-2). May we cherish reading and meditating on the Word of God day and night!
            
6.    MEMORIZE KEY VERSES!  Jesus is our example!  Fasting for forty days and nights, the devil tempts Jesus. The first of the temptations of the devil was to turn stones into bread. Jesus responded with these words: “It is written: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4).

7.    DEFEND YOUR FAITH WITH THE WORD OF GOD.   Saint Paul says that the Word of God is like a two-edged sword separating bone from marrow. Obviously, Saint Paul means that the Word of God, the Bible, is powerful and should be used for spiritual warfare to fight the enemies of the truth- Satan and his minions and those who promote lies! Read Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Summa Theologica and how this great saint defended doctrine relying heavily on the Word of God!

8.     HOLY MASS AND THE WORD OR GOD.   Attend Daily Mass—the greatest prayer underneath the heavens! The Dogmatic Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium—which explains the Mass and the Liturgy, states that there are two tables that nourish us at Mass: the table of the Word of God and the Table of the Body of the Lord—namely, the Eucharist! Go for this double nourishment—indeed a heavenly banquet!

9.     SPIRITUAL EXERCISES AND THE WORD OF GOD.  When you have the chance, try to make the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. This might be the retreat lasting a month, or eight days, or a weekend, or what is common today, retreat in daily life which can last from six months up to a year, done with an able Director. The bulk of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola is the meditation or the contemplation of the Word of God!  Try it! You will never regret it!

10.MARY AND THE WORD OF GOD.   Finally in your growing pursuit of love for the Word of God never forget to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary carried the Word made flesh within her sacred womb for nine months. But the New Testament teaches us that Mary meditated upon the Word of God in her Immaculate Heart. After the Shepherds came to visit her Infant Child, the Evangelist points to a key activity of Mary: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Lk. 2:19). May Our Lady encourage us to do the same—to daily meditate upon the Word of God in our hearts by reading the Bible, praying over the Bible, assimilating the Bible and like Mary living out the Word of God!

Monday, September 29, 2014

ARCHANGEL GABRIEL: “The strength of God”.




Loneliness? Many in the modern world complain and suffer due to an intense loneliness.  This crushing loneliness has often led many to the brink of despair and ultimately suicide! This loneliness has been so intense and pervading that life seems excruciatingly unbearable—better not to live and have existence then to live in a world all alone, all alone, all alone!!!

Wrong perspective of reality!  We are never alone even a second of our existence—not even a split second! Why are we never alone? The response is very simple: God as well as His works of creation that we call angels are always with us!

Saint Paul, in the Acts of the Apostles, quotes one of the poets with this immortal phrase:  In Him we live and move and have our being.” Some of God’s primary attributes are the following: His omnipotence, omniscience, eternity and infinity and also God’s omnipresence.

Actually we can never escape from God’s presence. The Psalmist attests to this by saying that if we go to the heights of the mountain, God is present. If we go to the depths of the sea; God is present. Even in the depths of  utter darkness, God is present as if it were the noon-day sun!

In addition to God always being present in every breath we take and every heart-beat of our entire life, He also becomes acutely present in His creation—especially through the presence of His angels! Let us mention one of these great angels—actually Archangels—that God has created to be with us now, and the hour of our death and even into heaven for all eternity.  This angel is the Archangel Gabriel.

Meaning of the name Gabriel?  In the Liturgy of the Hours for the Feast day of the three Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael, on September 29th every year we read and meditate a spiritual masterpiece written by Pope Saint Gregory the Great. This saintly Pope calls Gabriel “The strength of God”. In other words, God is omnipotent (All-powerful), but He manifests His power in creation and in the Archangel Gabriel. Through this Archangel Gabriel may God grant us power to overcome our human weaknesses, frailties and sins!

Where in the Bible can the Archangel Gabriel be found? It is very interesting that the Archangel Gabriel can be found in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In the Old Testament he can be found in the Book of the Prophet Daniel---chapters 8 and 9. He comes to the aid of Daniel to help him to interpret a vision!  Let us pray to Gabriel also so that he can help us to penetrate the deep meaning of Sacred Scripture and put the Word of God into practice!

In the New Testament the Archangel Gabriel is found two times, back to back! First, he appears in the passage Luke 1:5-25.   In this passage Zechariah is carrying out his priestly duties in the temple offering incense. The Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. He announces to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child whom, they would name “John”.   He will be a source of great joy to both Zechariah and Elizabeth. However, Zechariah doubts and due to his doubt he is chastised by being struck dumb. 

There are some very important messages in this encounter between man and angel.

1.    Good News. God sends his angel as a source of great and joyful news. The Angels of God are present to console us in our moments of desolation and crushing loneliness. We are never alone, but in communion with our angel friends, especially Gabriel!

2.    TRUST.  God wants us to trust His plans even though we cannot always understand them completely. Our God is at times a very mysterious God, but he always works for our good and eternal salvation.

3.    CONTROL TONGUE.  We learn a hard lesson here!  We should always consider thinking before we speak.  Saint James reminds us with these clear and cutting words: “We should be slow to speak, but quick to listen.” The Imitation of Christ asserts: “There are very few who regret remaining silent, but many for having spoken when they should not have.”
 

The most important presence of the Archangel Gabriel is of course the passage of the Annunciation or sometimes called the Incarnation, which is the first Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. (Lk. 1: 26-38)

This encounter between the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary can be considered one of the most important encounters in the History of all of humanity—world-changing, until the end of time, the effects felt even into eternity!

This passage, most likely, is familiar to many of us. However, at times some of the most sublime and sacred of events can easily be skipped over, read flippantly or superficially without giving too much thought or importance to it. This should not be the case with the account of the Annunciation of the Archangel to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us beg for the grace to never trivialize the sacred! May God save us! Let us unpack the eternal importance of this life-changing, historical event  that took place in the humble abode of Nazareth.

1. MARY’S FREEDOM. Mary is free to accept the offering of God or she is free to say “No” as did Eve in the very beginning. Mary teaches us to use our freedom properly and to say “yes” to God and His divine plan of redemption.

2. GABRIEL—GOD’S AMBASSADOR. God chose to send one of His ambassadors from Heaven to announce the Good News of salvation.    Saint Paul says that we are also “Ambassadors of Christ”.  Through Baptism we are sons and daughters of God, but also ambassadors who represent the King of King and Lord of Lords.” We should always strive to live up the heights of this call from God!

3. GREETING OF ARCANGEL GABRIEL.   The Archangel cordially greets Mary:  “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…”  We eternally thank the Archangel Gabriel for this greeting because this is the very first part of the prayer that Our Lady loves most the Hail Mary…. May we pray the Hail Mary with greater attention, love and devotion through the intercession of the Archangel Gabriel.

4. HOLY NAME OF JESUS.  It was the Archangel Gabriel who was sent by God the Father to announce the Good News to Mary that she would be the Mother of God, but also even to announce His NAME.   It was the Archangel Gabriel who actually gave the Holy Name that Mary would give to her child, the Holy Name of JESUS! At this name every knee will bow in heaven, on earth, and even under the earth…” May we learn to have the greatest respect for the name Jesus. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that saying the Name of Jesus with reverence and faith is already a prayer.

5. SALVATION.  Gabriel even explains the meaning of the name of Jesus—“He will come to the people to save them of their sins!”   What an important message: explaining that all of humanity would be saved by this Heavenly Child with the name of JESUS—meaning Savior! Come Lord Jesus, come, come and save us!

6. VIRGINAL CONCEPTION.  Mary had made a vow of virginity and asks the Archangel Gabriel how she would become a mother if she had no relations with man. Once again, it was the Archangel Gabriel who was chosen to explain to Mary the means by which she would maintain her vow of virginity and still have a child and actually be the Mother of God.

7. HOW?  The Archangel Gabriel gives a sign, actually a miraculous sign. Mary’s elderly cousin Elizabeth—way beyond the age of child-bearing—was already in her sixth month because nothing is impossible with God! The virginal conception would come about through the overpowering of the Holy Spirit. How sublime and wonderful this announcement made by the Archangel Gabriel!

8. OUR GOD IS A GOD OF POWER AND MIRACLES!  As was just mentioned the Archangel Gabriel said: “Nothing is impossible with God.”  Our God is a mysterious God, but also a God of power and miracles! Through the intercession of the Archangel Gabriel may we carry out the miracles in our lives that God may ask each and every one of us!

9. ANGEL’S SILENCE AND WAITING FOR MARY’S CONSENT.   The Archangel Gabriel after delivering this heavenly message of Good News waits in silence for Mary to think, ponder, reflect, pray and respond. May this holy angel grant us the grace to think and pray and then respond like the Blessed Virgin Mary! May we have a contemplative spirit and be “contemplatives in action.”

10. MARY’S YES!  Mary responded to the Archangel Gabriel and to God the Father with her “Yes”—this YES of Mary would change the history of the world. Indeed this moment of Mary’s YES was one of the most important moments in the history of the world. Mary said: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to thy word.”   In that moment Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Yes! Jesus descends from heaven into the womb of Mary. The consequences of this “Yes” of Mary--- SALVATION!!!         Through Mary’s “Yes” Jesus comes into the world, lives among us, suffers, dies and is buried and is raised from the dead—the gates of heaven are burst asunder and we can be SAVED!!!!! Heaven can be ours for all eternity. Thanks be to God! Thanks be to Mary!  Thanks be to the GOOD NEWS announced to Mary through the Archangel Gabriel. For that reason Pope Paul VI named the Archangel Gabriel the Patron of Communications. Why? Because he communicated the most important Good News of our salvation: the Incarnation and birth of JESUS, Our Lord God and Savior.

Conclusion, we hope and pray that you have met a new friend, an angel friend, an Archangel friend—THE ARCHANGEL SAINT GABRIEL. We pray and hope that this great angel will empower you to avoid sin and practice virtue. We pray that he will help you to understand and live Sacred Scripture.  Furthermore, we pray that he will help you to be thankful to God for the Good News of salvation come about through the mystery of the Annunciation and the Incarnation. Also we pray that he will help you to be a true herald of Good News by your words and life. Of course never forget that when you feel sad, depressed, in a state of deep desolation to turn to your Archangel friend and he will walk with you, talk with you, console you and help you realize that your are really never alone in life! Finally, may the Archangel Gabriel inspire you to love the HAIL MARY. It was Gabriel that gave us the first words and part of the Hail Mary. May he be with us in this life and all eternity to praise the Trinity along with the angels and the Queen of Angels—Mary most Holy, the Mother of God!

 

Monday, September 22, 2014

RAPHAEL: OUR JOYFUL ANGELIC FRIEND!

Raphael is companion in life
Couched in between the Book of Nehemiah and Judith can be found an endearing, heart-warming, uplifting and inspiring short Book of the Bible with the title Tobit.  Composed of only fourteen short chapters, the story runs smoothly and quickly with simple but profound messages for the whole world and at all times. The Word of God is like a two-edged sword that pierces bone from marrow. Jesus reminds us that man does not simply live on bread alone but on every word that issues forth from the mouth of God.  The Psalmist calls our attention to the fact that the word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.

In this short essay we would like to focus upon one person present in this brilliant Biblical short-story and literary masterpiece—the person of an angel, whose name is Raphael.  Our prayer and hope is that after reading and prayerfully  reflecting upon the Book of Tobit and becoming familiar with this simple and humble composition, that you will be comforted with meeting, knowing, and loving a new friend that already knows you and loves you—the Archangel Raphael.

Indeed this Archangel greatly desires to walk with you, accompany you in this life so that he will be present with you for all eternity, absorbed in the love of the Blessed Trinity for all eternity.

TWO SERIOUS PROBLEMS: GOD’S POWERFUL INTERVENTION THROUGH AN ANGEL….

Raphael and healing of the blind Tobit
The Book of Tobit presents us with two very serious problems from the outset! Two families are suffering excruciating pains that do not seem to have an easy solution!

PROBLEM ONE: in the family of Tobit.  There are two Tobits—the father and son.  The father is a very good man! During a meal, he leaves the table to help to bury the dead. But as it happens, exhausted due to his strenuous work of burying the dead, he falls asleep, but with his eyes open. Unfortunately, birds passing left their droppings that fall into his eyes. To make a long story short, despite the intervention of the doctors and their various remedies, the poor man ends up blind—not able to see the light of the day, the color of the rainbow or the smiling faces of his family members. Imagine his suffering and all because he sacrificed himself to exercise a corporal work of mercy—to bury the dead!

Prayer before marriage consummation
PROBLEM TWO:  Not too distant from the residence of the two Tobits lived Sarah, a distant relative to the family of Tobit. The suffering of this young woman was beyond limits! Her most earnest desire was to marry a young man and to form a wholesome and God-fearing family. However, the devil, whose name was Asmodeus, intervened in a terrible fashion. Every time that Sarah would marry, the wedding night Asmodeus would visit the room and slay her new husband, leaving him dead and the poor young woman a widow.  This did not happen once or twice, but six times! The end result for Sarah was nothing less than total despair! The thought came to her that the best solution would be to simply go up in the upper room, get a rope and hang herself to end her endless misery!

Therefore, we are confronted with two very serious family problems; on a human level, seemingly beyond solution!  However, all things are possible for God if there is faith. Indeed God can even move mountains. God will intervene in a surprising, but very powerful way, not directly, but indirectly through the mediation of one of His chief emissaries—an angel, better yet an Archangel, whose name was Raphael. Actually the translation of “Raphael” could be rendered “Medicine of God or “God heals”.

In short, Raphael is sent by God to accompany the younger Tobit to the home of Sarah for the purpose of sealing a marriage and avoiding future tragedies. On the way to the home, Tobit Jr. being led by Raphael, as they walk along the shore of the sea, they grab hold of a fish and cut out the liver of the fish which Raphael insists be brought with them to the home of Sara and her parents—which is done!

Raphael watches over couples
Upon arriving Tobit asks for the hand of Sarah in Holy Matrimony. The parents consent to giving up their beautiful daughter, who has suffered so much for having lost her previous six prospect husbands. However, before retiring that night and consummating the marriage, both Sarah and Tobit burn some of the gall of the fish—to ward away the evil spirits. But even more important, they both pray that God will protect them and bless their marriage. This being done in the name of God, the two are united in holy Matrimony and the evil spirits take flight. Most likely the other prospects died because they sought her for lustful motives rather than noble motives of pure love!  A great message today for our youth!  Thanks be to God and thanks be to the intercession of the Archangel Raphael, “God Heals”, Sarah’s problem was brought to a successful conclusion.

Raphael as patron  of eyesight
Now what about the problem of the elderly blind man—Tobit Sr.? Upon returning from his wedding and arriving home with his wife, accompanied by the Archangel Raphael, the angelic doctor insists on prayer and also to taking the fish  gall that was used earlier before the wedding night, but this time to apply the fish gall to the eyes of the  blind—father. Done with humility and obedience something consoling happened to the father of Tobit.  Something like scales that were covering his eyes peeled off and he was able to see once again! Another major victory and triumph over human evil—sickness, manifested by blindness! How kind, loving and good God truly is!

Therefore, before our eyes this Biblical passage manifests God’s loving and healing presence in healing two families with almost unsolvable predicaments—blindness and the loss of prospect husbands. Sadness to the point of despair was transformed into overflowing light for the eyes and joy to the young romantic hearts! 

We would invite all of you to choose today a new friend—the Archangel Raphael, “God heals”.  We will present a list of the specific areas that this great angel can help you, come to your aid and lead you on to the path that leads to holiness, happiness, and heaven!

SAINT RAPHAEL, THE ARCHANGEL AS PATRON OF:

Raphael walk with us too!
1.    TRAVELLERS.  He led young Tobit safely to the home of his future bride and spouse Sara. May Raphael accompany us and save us from the many dangers we experience on our journey to heaven.

2.    FUTURE SPOUSES.  It was Raphael that brought both Tobit Jr. and Sarah together as future spouses.  Today more than ever let us consecrate our young people to Raphael so that he might help them to make the right decision with respect to their marriage vocation. One wrong choice can prove catastrophic. May this holy Angel give them light and wisdom on this all-important choice.

Raphael as patron of the engaged
3.    PURITY.  Before they married they prayed together, expressing their desire not to marry due to lust but for the noble purpose of forming a family. May our young people, through the intercession of Saint Raphael, pursue holiness of mind, feelings, body, thought and action!

4.    HAPPY MEETINGS.  Furthermore, St. Raphael is the patron of happy meetings or encounters.  He was the one that presented the young couple to each other by travelling with Tobit Jr.  How often do we have meetings and encounters on a daily basis?  How often these meetings start with tensions and end worse? Why not make it a common practice to invite the Archangel Raphael to be with you in your daily encounters with people.  Beyond a shadow of doubt the meetings will be more peaceful and bear more abundant fruit. Try it!

5.    JOY!  Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, insists on being missionaries to the whole world, in bringing the Good News of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to all people. However, the Pope insists that we cannot be walking around with a funeral face, but must radiate the joy of the Risen Jesus! The Archangel Raphael, by his powerful intercession and will of Almighty God, transformed tragedy and utter despair into an overflowing and exultant joy! Blindness into sight and death into the joy of married love! May you choose the Archangel Raphael to be your travelling companion in life and he will preserve you in a constant state of joy of heart. Saint Paul exhorts us:  “Rejoice in the Lord; I say it once again: rejoice in the Lord!” (Phil. 4:4)

Raphael means God heals!
6.    PATRON OF EYES.  It was through the intercession of the Archangel Saint Raphael that this poor blind man, Tobit Sr. recovered his sight, by the application of the remains of the fish. How important today in our modern society to consecrate our eyes to Saint Raphael, Saint Lucy, and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In a pornographic society where so many people are addicted to the impure image—TV., internet, movies, indecent magazines, billboards, etc.—we must have some powerful intervention. May Saint Raphael help us to walk on the path of holiness and purity. May he help us to avoid the near occasion of sin; may he help us to control our eyes which are truly the mirror of our soul. May this great angel help us to live out the Beatitude:  “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

7.    PATRON OF PRAYER—THANKS AND PRAISE.   At the end of this heart-warming story, the Archangel Raphael does not attribute the triumphs and successes to himself. On the contrary, the angel points to God and praises and thanks God and invites Tobit, the family as well as all of us to render praise and thanksgiving to God who is the author of all good gifts—sight, health, healing, marriages and vocations. May this Glorious Archangel foster in our hearts an attitude of perpetual gratitude and a desire to constantly praise the good God for all the gifts He has so generously bestowed upon us.

Raphael teach us the art of prayer
In conclusion, you are never alone! Starting today, why not embrace a new friend, and angelic friend, an Archangel—Raphael. Ask him to walk with you, to accompany you, to be with you, to guide and protect you, to fill you with both purity and over-flowing joy. He longs for your friendship. If accepted he will be your strong and faithful friend on earth in time and for all eternity in heaven. Saint Raphael, be with us; walk with us; pray for us; be our dear and constant friend!

Our Lady as the Queen of angels

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ME BECOME A SAINT, WHAT????


How many of these saints can you name?
 

As a young priest, starting out my ministry in Buenos Aires Argentina—the terrain of Pope Francis, I remember once challenging a woman with noble spiritual aspirations with this statement:  “You are called to become a saint!”  I remember her reaction was of shock and she almost fell off the chair that she was sitting on!

This reaction with respect to the call to sanctity, to really become saints is not uncommon even among very good Catholics!   Why such a startling, even shocking reaction? For the simple reason that most people have an erroneous concept of sanctity.

In a Catechism class I asked this question:  “How many of you want to go to heaven?”  All the hands shot up immediately—without any hesitation!   Then the following question was:  “Now how many of you want to become saints?” Not a single hand for the showing.   I then pointed out the bare truth! All of us are called to become saints because in heaven God is present, the angels are present, the Blessed Virgin Mary is present. Finally, to go to heaven you must become a saint—there is no way around it.  There are two categories of saints: the canonized who have been officially proclaimed saints by the Holy Father, after approved miracles attributed to them after their death. Then, the huge majority of saints are the “anonymous”- the so to speak, “uncanonized, but still they are saints!

Once again, how many of these saints can you name?
Let us give a few concrete proofs that we are all called to become saints.   The essence of sanctity, holiness, becoming a saint is simply and ardent desire and decision to follow in the footsteps and to imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “The Holy of holies”. All of our holiness flows from union with Christ, the grace that flows from Christ’s Paschal mystery—His Passion, death, and resurrection, and the imitation of Jesus Christ. These graces flow most abundantly through the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church and the sacramental life, especially the most Holy Eucharist which is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  All of the virtues that constitute the essence of holiness are truly present in every consecrated Host because it is Jesus Himself.

Other proofs for the universal call to holiness.    In the Sermon on the Mount, in one of the Beatitudes, Jesus challenges us to desire holiness, with these words: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness, (another translation, “justice”) for they will be satisfied.” (Mt. 5:6)  In the same context of the Sermon of the Mount Jesus launches a command, in the imperative tense of our obligation to become saints, asserting:  “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.” (Mt.5:48) This is not the conditional tense, but it is an IMPERATIVE—meaning, Jesus obliges us or commands us to be holy!

This modern saint, you can surely name????
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta reaffirms this commitment in these unequivocal but potent words:  “Holiness is not the privilege of the few, but the duty of all.” The same saint insisted that any young woman who wanted to enter into the convent to be a future Missionary of Charity had to have an ardent desire to become a saint.

Finally, one of the most important Documents of Vatican II,  a Dogmatic Constitution, titled “Lumen Gentium”, chapter V,  is nothing other than “The Universal call to holiness”.  This means that holiness is not just for a select group of elite individuals, but it is universal--- meaning that all, that is to say, all are called to become saints.

Our Lady is the Queen of all saints!
Let us beg Our Lady, the Holy Mother of God, that all of us might have an earnest yearning to become saints and to implement the words of Jesus Himself: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

LOVE MEASURED BY WILLINGNESS TO SACRIFICE!


The power of the Passion  of Jesus

One of the clearest signs of true love is the willingness to both sacrifice and suffer for the loved one. By far the greatest true lover that ever existed in this world was Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus manifested His love for all of humanity,  through His Incarnation and Birth in Bethlehem, through His many Miracles, by His Sacred Doctrine and teaching, but even more so by the way that He chose for all eternity to die and end His short earthly stay—which lasted a short thirty three years!  Jesus chose His painful Passion and death on the cross to say to all of the world--- “I love you and want you to be with me forever in heaven.”

If Jesus has loved us so much by shedding every drop of His Precious Blood for us on Good Friday by being nailed to the cross, then what should I be willing to suffer and sacrifice for Him?  In this short essay we will offer three  concrete and practical suggestions to implement in our lives so that we can respond to the love of Jesus by the love in our own hearts!

St. Jose Maria Escriva Balaguer-- Founder of Opus Dei
 
1.    THE HEROIC MOMENT AND MORE!  The Founder of Opus Dei, Saint Jose Maria Escriva Balaguer, invites us to conquer ourselves from the outset in what he calls the HEROIC MOMENT.  Meaning? As soon as you hear your alarm clock in the morning then dart out of your bed, hit the floor with your knees and offer the day that is just starting to Jesus through Mary. Why not tomorrow morning go beyond this by rising five minutes earlier—a small sacrifice. Remember the words of Jesus:  “He who is faithful in the small will be faithful in the larger things.”  The Little Way of Saint Therese is precisely that: “Do the ordinary things of daily life with extraordinary love.”  This is the key of the saints! A good start will often pave the way for a successful ending!

St. John Paul II and the power of his sufferings offered to God
 
2.    OFFER UP YOUR SUFFERINGS. How many people suffer and complain about their suffering. Consequently, they lose all of the merits and graces that come with suffering.  Recently, I suffered from a somewhat painful infection—not death-threatening, but very irritating. I made a decision, why not take advantage of this moment of personal suffering so that God could send many graces upon me and others.  That Sunday, I was scheduled to celebrate three Masses, with the attendance of probably close to 2,500 people. I decided that I would offer my Mass for these people and their families, for their conversion, sanctification and for their eternal salvation. However, this time, I would place my suffering and sickness on the altar and when I offered up the Sacred Host and Precious Blood, I would be offering prayers for all these people, but also uniting my own small sacrifice(sufferings) for their spiritual advancement! My point is the following: suffering has value only inasmuch as we unite our sufferings to the sufferings of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, especially in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Next time the Lord sends you some form of cross and suffering, do not waste your suffering but unite it to the suffering of Jesus and it will have infinite value. In the Diary of Saint Faustina there is a number where she mentions the fact that the angels have a holy jealousy for us and for two reasons: 1) we are able to receive Holy Communion in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and they cannot! 2) We are capable of suffering and the angels are not! Why the jealousy over our suffering?  For the simple reason that suffering accepted and united to Jesus’ cross brings down from heaven a deluge of graces!
Blessed Francisco and his sister Blessed Jacinta-- seers of Fatima (1917)

3.    VICTIM SOULS.   A victim soul is one who voluntarily offers himself to the Lord, accepting all the sufferings that God decides to send him. Why take on suffering as such? For various reasons: 1) many today sin and sin and sin and have no intention to stop sinning. The victim soul countermands in justice the sinful choices of so many souls. 2) Reparation.  Sin demands in justice that there be due reparation. Sin damages, prayer and sacrifices heal the wounds. 3) Console the wounded Heart of Jesus. Every time we sin we are wounding the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For that reason mystical art depicts Jesus’ Sacred Heart surrounded by sharp thorns and the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced by a sword. Our sacrifices, acts of penance, and prayers serve to console the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. 4) CONVERSION AND SALVATION OF SINNERS.  If we truly love God then we should love what God loves most in His creation and that is, of course, the salvation of immortal souls.  Every soul has infinite value because it was saved by the Precious Blood that Jesus shed on the cross, that first Good Friday. A victim soul often has in mind and in his intentions the conversion of sinners and the salvation of immortal souls who will be with God for all eternity, being saved from the stark reality of eternal damnation!  A model for us!  Why not take as a model one of the youngest and endearing modern saints: BLESSED JACINTA MARTO!  In her beatification ceremony Saint Pope John Paul II actually called Jacinta “A little Victim soul” and her brother Blessed Francisco Marto was called “A little mystic”. After the July vision of Hell, in which Our Lady showed a graphic vision of hell, fire, the souls in torment with the devils, Jacinta was radically transformed, and lived heroic virtue from that moment on.  This “Little victim soul” Blessed Jacinta Marto could not offer up enough sacrifices, especially for the purpose of the conversion of sinners and their immortal salvation. The following are a few of the sacrifices carried out by Blessed Jacinta: Praying of many Rosaries and many more prayers, sacrificing eating her favorite food, sweet grapes, giving up one of her favorite past times, that of dancing, giving her lunch to the poorer children, wearing an uncomfortable rope around her waist, offering up drinking water on hot, humid and blistering summer days in Portugal, and even offering up her headache—all were done as a sacrifice to Jesus and Mary for the conversion of sinners and their salvation of their immortal souls.
A great lover of Mary-- Pope Francis!

CONCLUSION. Most of us are not called to be victim souls like Blessed Jacinta Marto or Saint Padre Pio. However, all of us can and should make it a frequent habit of offering up our crosses, sufferings and our sacrifices to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the salvation of souls. One soul is worth more than the whole created universe. Let us work with generosity in this short life of ours so as to reap and abundant harvest of souls for all eternity!

 

PARENTS AND THE SALVATION OF THEIR CHILDREN


 

The primary obligation of parents towards their children is to pave the way for the salvation of their immortal souls.   Jesus pointed this out very clearly:  “What would it profit a man if he were to gain the whole world and lose his soul in the process. What can a man exchange for his very soul?” This Biblical passage was instrumental in the conversion of the great missionary, Saint Francis Xavier.

In this short essay, we would like to pinpoint five concrete decisions and practices that parents can undertake so as to pave the way to heaven for their children. Never forget parents: your primary obligation is to bring every family member to heaven, to be with God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels and saints for all eternity!

1.    BAPTISM.  Provide for the Baptism of your child as soon as possible. During the course of the pregnancy good parents can do all the prior preparations so as to have the child baptized rapidly. Baptismal talks, papers, godparents, etc. can be prepared and ready even before the child is born. Remember the words of Jesus, referring to the small child; “Let the little children come to me because as such is the kingdom of heaven.”

2.    PRAYER IMMEDIATELY!  A child can be compared to a SPONGE!  The nature of a sponge is to absorb, especially liquids and usually water. However, if one puts dirty water into the sponge, then dirty water will be wrung out; clean, then clean water will be wrung out.  A three year-old child can watch TV. and repeat dumb, offensive and vulgar words or songs. If this is the case, why should parents not fill the mind, heart and lips of the child with prayers to the Guardian Angel, to Mary, to the Trinity, to the Heavenly Father.  Why allow the child to be filled with junk, better, to fill him/her with beautiful prayers!

3.    OFFER IT UP.  Parents, we invite you to teach your children the short but all important phrase:  “Offer it up!” What this really means is to take advantage of daily sufferings and crosses that God sends to adults as well as to children. Much suffering is wasted because it is not offered up to God. Why not teach children, even when they are small, to offer up the headache, toothache, hot or cold weather, the fall and bruise and the cut, so that these sufferings will have infinite value! Mom and Dad, you are the first teachers, especially in the area of faith!  Be faithful to your marriage vocation!

4.    LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU!   The Last and greatest commandment of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was that of love—to love all as he loved us. Parents who are blessed by God to have more than one child should make a concerted effort on their part to love their children and their immortal souls. However, the devil always seeks to sow the seed of discord, confusion, jealously, rivalry, comparisons, and suspicions. Parents must strive with all of the energy of their wills to foster mutual respect, humility, love and harmony among their siblings. At all costs parents must avoid the “Cain-complex”. What is the “Cain-complex”? The Cain-complex consists in pitting one sibling against the other. It results in the ugly fruits of comparisons, rivalries, jealousy often leading to envy and fights and hatred and killing, if not physically at least in the heart. How can the “Cain-complex” be avoided? A simple remedy! It is all related to union with God in prayer, the three dimensions of family prayer. Parents should pray for their children; parents should teach their children to pray; finally, parents should pray with their children.  If done, this will prove to be one of the most efficacious remedies to avoid the ugly, but all too prevalent “Cain-complex.”

5.    THE REAL PRESENCE.  Good Catholic parents, we warmly exhort you to teach your children, as soon as possible, the meaning of the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Mass, Consecration, Holy Communion. Furthermore, parents should teach their children, even the little ones, where Jesus is truly present in the Church.  How is this to be done successfully by parents? Various suggestions! 1) Parents work on growing in your own faith in Jesus present in the Eucharist--- Nobody can give what he does not possess personally. 2) HOLY MASS! Explain to your children that the most important event every week is attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday, but also participating fully, consciously and actively. 3) REVERENCE.   The modern world has lost the sense of the sacred in the churches today. Parents must teach their children that the Church is the House of God and a sacred and holy environment. Therefore, in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, there should be cultivated silence, that fosters both prayer and reverence. 4) GENUFLECTION. Parents should execute the genuflection properly, right knee to the ground with hands folded over heart, and explain why this is done. Simply!  It is done to adore the Lord of Lord and King of Kings who is residing in His little Palace or Castle in the Blessed Sacrament.  The Kings prostrated themselves before the Child Jesus in Bethlehem; we prostrate ourselves by a reverential genuflection. Remember that Jesus, now present in the Blessed Sacrament, is still Lord of Lords and King of Kings and still worthy of worship and praise. This is done by the genuflection. 5) VISITS TO THE BLESSED SACRAMENT.  One of the first little poems I remembered learning as a child was the following related to Eucharistic visits:  “Whenever I see a Church, I stop to make a visit, so that when I die the Lord will not say, who is it?”  Parents should form the habit of now and then stopping to visit Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. Even though the visit might last five minutes, this is very pleasing to Jesus whose Sacred Heart rejoices every time we visit Him and remember Him!

In conclusion, if parents can take seriously their obligation to be a Saint John the Baptist and point the way to Jesus and the Highway to heaven, then the parents will strive to implement these five practical points of advice: 1) The graces of early Baptism; 2) Prayer  which is the key to heaven; 3) The value of offering up and suffering for a purpose; 4) Love, living out love in family; 5) The Eucharistic Lord, growing in faith, knowledge and love for Jesus the Bread of Life, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church and our Heavenly Mother attain for us extraordinary graces through her all-powerful prayers!