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!

Monday, September 8, 2014


FIVE GIFTS TO GIVE TO MARY FOR HER BIRTHDAY
 

Birthdays are times of celebration in which we bring gifts to the “celebrated one.” The two most important birthdays in the history of the world are Jesus, the Son of the living God that each year we celebrate on December 25. The second most important person that came into the world is the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church and our Mother in the order of grace. The day that we celebrate Mary’s birthday is less known—it is September 8th.   This is exactly nine months after we celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception—December 8th.

Therefore to show our love, gratitude, respect and the highest honor to Mary we would all like to give hers some Birthday gifts; there are many that we could give to our Heavenly Mother, but let us mention just five.

1.    OUR SENSES.  Let us give to Our Lady our senses so that they would be used to glorify God in all times and places.  Our eyes so that with Mary we might contemplate the beauty of God in natures, persons, places and circumstances. Our ears so that we might be always attentive to listening to the Word of God that is spoken to us in so many different ways. Our tongue, so that we might, like Mary, proclaim the greatness of the Lord and praise God as Saint Ignatius teaches us. Let us offer out tongue that we might taste and see the goodness of the Lord—that we might have a taste and hunger for Jesus, the Bread of Life every time we receive Holy Communion. Finally, our smell that we might sense the good and be attracted by it and that we might be, in imitation of Mary, the sweet fragrance of Christ.

2.    OUR TIME- past, present and future.  Let us give all of the time that God has given to us to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  With respect to the past, let us entrust it to God’s mercy and the merciful heart of Mary; the future, let us entrust all the years, months, days, and hours to Divine Providence and Our Lady’s loving guidance and protection. Finally, the present, let us live intensely the present moment—that is all we really have. St. Catherine of Siena comments:  “The two most important moments of our lives are now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

3.    FEARS, DOUBTS AND ANXIETIES.  In a world filled with so many fears, doubts, confusion, tensions, war and strife, where can we turn? Why not place all of the fears and anxieties bottled up in your heart and deposit them in the depths of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Remember the prayer of Saint Bernard:  “Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to your help was left unaided.” In the midst of fear and confusion Our Lady stands out as a shining beacon, a shine star—the Stella Maris—the star of the Sea to guide us safely to the port of salvation.

4.    TEMPTATIONS AND SINS.  Why not say it!  Let us run to Mary in the midst of our temptations. Life indeed is a battle field! And if it does happen that we fall into sin, let us turn to Our Lady of Mercy who will lift our eyes to Jesus, the King of Mercy and God the Father always ready to receive the Prodigal Son or daughter into His loving embrace. (Lk. 15—Parable of the Prodigal Son)  A Mother always loves her child, but especially when the child has fallen into the mud or fallen off the bike and scraped his/her knee and sees in bleeding. Jesus and Mary do not love us less when we sin. They love us so much that they want to embrace us in Mercy.

5.    PRAYERS/ROSARIES/CONSTANT CONVERSATION.  What Mary ardently desires from her children are prayers.  Prayer is simply talking to God, the angels, the saints and to Our Lady. At Fatima Our Lady six times told the children—Jacinta. Francisco and Lucia—to pray the most Holy Rosary. Saint Pope John Paul II insisted that the Rosary be prayed, especially in the family, for world peace as well as for the salvation of the family. Evert time we say the Hail Mary it is as if we were saying “Mary I love you.” Our Lady never gets tired of hearing over and over again the HAIL MARY!

In conclusion, let us wish Our Lady a very happy birthday by offering her five special gifts: 1) Let us consecrate our senses to Mary; 2)Let us give our time to Mary—past, present and future; 3) Let us cast our fears and doubts and worries in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a refuge solid and secure; 4) Let us even give Mary our moral struggles and failures; 5) Finally, let us generously and constantly give Our Lady our prayers and especially our HAIL MARYS and Rosaries. Happy Birthday Mary! Receive our humble gifts!

Monday, September 1, 2014

WORKING WITH MARY---WHAT JOY!

Jesus, Mary and Joseph at work
For most of us when we think about Mary, meditate on her and contemplate her glorious, majestic and all-inspiring person, we probably see her in the posture of prayer. This is more than logical, correct and worthy of praise and promotion! Nonetheless, it is also true that Mary had a very active life.  This is easy for us to forget.

MARY OF NAZARETH. In Nazareth we could call Mary the perfect “Contemplative in action”.   This means in concrete terms that Mary was a woman of the most profound prayer life—she was constantly in deep union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Still, in the family life of Nazareth Mary was very active.  For this reason, Mary can be the model for so many people, but especially workers and most especially home-makers.

The fruit of Mary’s prayer life, her deep contemplative union with God, was poured out like a libation in service to the two persons that she loved most on earth—her husband and Son, Saint Joseph and Jesus. Likewise our prayer life should over-flow and spill over into our active life of service, especially to those who are closest to us—our family members!  Remember: charity begins at home!

Holy Family as model for work
Now, in this short contemplation, let us try to imagine what might be a typical day in the life of Mary of Nazareth. Imagine it and how do you think it was like? Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises encourages us to contemplate the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the family life of Nazareth. Let’s try it!

MARY’S FIRST FRUITS.   I cannot imagine Mary “sleeping in” ever, can you? Very early in the morning I imagine Mary, upon waking, immediately giving her first-fruits to God by praising Him and thanking Him for another day of existence. So should we start our days!

FAMILY WORK. Possibly afterward, try to imagine Mary preparing a frugal breakfast for these hard-laborers that we call “Carpenters”.  Mary was always thinking of how to please God in serving others—what an example for all of us!

WATER.   We take so many things for granted and one of these is the availability of running water or if you like bottled spring water. Not so in the time of Mary! Running, faucet water did not exist. Rather, the acquisition of water was a real chore, hard work, to say the least. WELLS!   Women had to travel on foot to wells with a jug that they would carry and often on their heads.   No air-conditioned cars and easy service!  Upon arriving at the well, most likely there were other women there for the same purpose—to draw water for the needs of their families.  This meant that Mary most likely had to wait on line and she did it with the greatest patience. Are you patient when you have to wait? Then after drawing the water from the well, Mary had to carry it home, most likely with the jug on her head!

At the Carpenter shop
CLEAN HOUSE.   Her home would obviously be exposed to the entrance of dirt, dust, and debris. Therefore, on a daily basis Mary would carry out the mundane duty of sweeping her home. This was done with joy and no complaints; it was done methodically and orderly and it was done with love because she wanted a clean home to which Joseph and Jesus could return after a hard-days’ work.

WASHING AND DRYING. Back then electricity did not exist and therefore, washing machines and dryers, which facilitate our modern society immensely, these modern luxuries did not even exist and would not exist for centuries into the future.  It is easy for us to take for granted what we have and what they did not have.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph in nature
COOKING.  Eat and run, fast food services, and gourmet Restaurants are all modern realities. Mary had to cook to feed her hungry husband and son after their hard day work in the carpenter shop of Nazareth. Carpentry was a hard and demanding profession and of course demanded energies and calories. With the utmost attention and love, Mary prepared the evening meals for Joseph and Jesus. Everything Mary did was done with love, care, attention and perfection. Of course Mary always had the most noble of intentions—love for God in the humble service of her neighbor, even more important, her husband and Son.  How easy it is for the modern mother, wife,  and home-maker to become bored, jaded, and even angry at times over the simple fact that she has to prepare the dinner meal for her family!  If only these home-makers could contemplate the example of Mary and the great love that she had in her daily chores—cooking included—then their lives would be much more enthusiastic, energized and life-giving! May our Lady help us!

Joseph teaching Jesus to read
WASHING AND CLEANING.   I cannot imagine Mary insisting on Saint Joseph and Jesus “doing their part” in having them wash the dishes and utensils after the meal was concluded. On the contrary, Mary cooked the meal, prepared the table, had a warm and loving meal with her husband and Son, but was then the first to lift the table and clean the dishes—all done with gratitude for God’s gifts, with love and with overflowing joy and simplicity. How much we indeed can learn from the family at Nazareth and the shining example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the “Contemplative in action.”  Indeed Mary had a deep contemplative prayer life and union with God. Still, Mary put into practice the fruits of her prayer life in loving service to her beloved husband and Son, Jesus the Son of Mary and of the carpenter.

CLOSING SUGGESTION.  Why not start today to upgrade your own domestic life and chores?  Why not do a meditation on a typical day of Mary, the house-wife, home-maker, wife and mother at Nazareth. Then, starting now, offer your work to Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a gift of love.   Finally, as you go about your daily chores, why not ask Our Lady of Nazareth to be with you, to accompany you in your daily chores, in every little action. Holiness does not depend so much on the greatness of the action, but in the love that accompanies every little action. Holiness, in imitation of Mary of Nazareth, depends on doing the ordinary things of daily life with extraordinary love.  Our Lady of Nazareth pray for us and inspire us to be truly “Contemplatives in action.”

 

WORK TO SANCTIFY AND SAVE YOUR SOUL!


Example of the Holy Family
Work is good for us! Why? Jesus taught us the importance of work by spending most of His time on earth in Nazareth with Mary His Mother and Saint Joseph, His foster-father. Among the many activities that Jesus carried out was that of WORK.   True!  Saint Joseph taught Jesus the hard and demanding work of a carpenter. No electric helps back then!  Nailing, and sawing and sanding and adjusting wood to construct tables, doors, chairs, etc. This indeed was hard-work.

In my private meditations I have often imagined Jesus and Saint Joseph arriving home after a hard-day’s work. Imagine them. Exhausted, drenched with sweat, their hair filled with saw-dust, their hands grimy and calloused. This was not on occasions, but day after day!

This being the case, in a world where the importance of the work-ethic has largely gone by the wayside, where many choose the easy-path of not working or cutting corners, where laziness and indolence is all the more prevalent, we would like to present positive reasons why we should truly value work in its many dimensions, shapes and forms and embrace the work ethic all the days of our short lives on earth. St. Paul says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.”  Saint Albert Hurtado stated:  “There are two places to rest while on earth: the cemetery and heaven.”  Let us work hard in this short stay on earth and then we can rest forever in heaven with Jesus, Mary and good Saint Joseph!

Following are some reasons to motivate us to embrace a more serious work ethic so as to perfect our lives on a human level, but even more on a spiritual level. Here are five specific points to motivate us.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph at work
1.    IMITATION OF JESUS, MARY, AND ST. JOSEPH.   At Nazareth, where Jesus spent most of His life on earth, He lived the family life, which consisted of loving and obeying His parents, prayer to His heavenly Father, but also Jesus worked and He worked hard—that of a carpenter. Therefore, one very clear reason for work is to imitate Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph; they are our models in everything and that includes dedication to work.   The three of them worked hard, orderly and methodically and for the honor and glory of God! Such should be our work ethic!

Mother Teresa and a work of love
2.    CHARITY TOWARDS OTHERS. Another reason and positive effect of work well-done is that it can be turned into a service of love towards others. An industrious mother and wife that spends long hours in the kitchen both cooking, preparing and cleaning can indeed be very hard work, but it can also be an act of service towards others as well as an act of charity. Saint Paul reminds us to purify our motives: “Whether you eat or drink do all for the honor and glory of God.”

You thought your day was tough?
3.    AVOID MANY TEMPTATIONS TO SIN.  Saint John Bosco, the well-known patron of the young, experienced a mortal fear every year at the same time.  Vacation time for the young!  Why? For the simple reason that many of his young would leave the Oratory, where the young worked hard all year at study, sports and other activities, and now they would return to a home where they had too much free time.  The proverb rings so true: “Idleness is the workshop of the devil.”  If the young person does not have anything to do then the devil will give him a lot to do in great abundance. Hard work and diligence in work is a key means to conquer the devil and his allies!

St. John Bosco teaches them to work
4.    ETERNITY AND ETERNAL RECOMPENSE.   The Word of God teaches us constantly that we will get our reward or punishment on the quality of our lives and how we utilize out time, treasures and talents. Look at the lives and the example of the saints and how hard they prayed, but also how hard they worked. The motto of Saint Benedict was “Ora et Labora”—translated—Pray and work!   The great Doctor of the Church and patron of moral theologians and great lover of Mary, St. Alphonsus, made a private vow which consisted of simply this: NOT WASTING A MOMENT OF HIS TIME! Honestly, all of the saints strive to live the spirit of this private vow of Saint Alphonsus. Life is short and time indeed is of the essence.  A modern Chilean and Jesuit Saint, who died in his early fifties of pancreatic cancer, Saint Alberto Hurtado expressed it succinctly:  “There are two places to rest: the cemetery and heaven.”

Learn from the hard-working ant!
5.    GOOD EXAMPLE TO OTHERS.  We all know how true it is that we often follow the example of others, be it for good or be it for evil. The Hispanics have a proverb: “El ejemplo arrastra”—translated: “Example drags or pulls!” I remember as a child SATURDAYS!  I actually hated Saturday mornings for the simple reason that my father made me, my older brother and then eventually the younger ones work and work hard.  I indeed hated Saturdays. However, I do have to admit that the boys worked hard but saw the harder work and example of Dad! In all honesty, he worked harder and better than his sons.  In other words, he preached the ethic of work, not so much by many words, but by the power of example, his own hard work-ethic!

Monday, August 25, 2014

UPSET AND TURNED UPSIDE DOWN!!!


 

Has it ever happened to you that your plans were all set for the day, all organized down to the most minute detail and then out of the blue someone or something totally upset everything? Maybe somebody, some person appeared on the scene that you had not expected in a blue moon.  What was your reaction to this?   Did you get upset, angry, irked and you let the person know by word and gesture!  Maybe your thoughts ran as such: I have my plans, my goals and my objectives to accomplish and they have to be carried out and that’s it!

There is nothing wrong with order, method, long-term planning and even short-term planning and goals. If not the world would be in total disarray and disorder, no doubt!  Even St. Ignatius of Loyola states that one of the primary purposes of going through a series of Spiritual Exercises is for the purpose of ordering the disordered.

However, to live our spiritual journey with the Lord we must accustom ourselves to expect surprises, contradictions, upset plans and let’s say it, the reality of the cross--- not to do our will but the will of God!

Where are we heading with this short reflection? Very simply this: our God is a mysterious God and a God of surprises. God will send many surprises to you during the whole course of your life. Many of these surprises consist of God intervening to upset your well-ordered plans.

Therefore, how can we react towards the intervention of surprises and the apparent upsetting of our well-ordered plans and projects?   We should have a strategy and here it is.

1.    BE PREPARED!  Be prepared right now for surprises and the contradiction of your well-thought out and well-prepared plans. If you are vigilant and prepared for the inevitable: the surprise contradiction of your plans, then you will not lose your peace when it happens.

2.    GOD’S DIVINE PROVIDENCE.   Even though our plans may be brilliant and well-thought out, God’s mind and His will far transcend our mental projections!

3.    CONTRADICTIONS ARISE?   Instead of giving into your normal and inherent impulsivity and impetuous nature, stop and pray and reflect on the reality of God intervening with another plan which is better than yours!

4.    LOOK AT THE CROSS. When the contradiction of your plans, the upset nature of your projects weighs down upon you, then look up at Jesus as He hangs on the cross and remember His last words shortly before He gave up His spirit:  Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus hanging on the cross, shedding every drop of His Precious Blood, how counter-cultural that God would decide upon this means to save the whole created universe. He ends by breathing forth His spirit into the hands of the Father.

5.    HUMILITY.  Our pride can very easily get the best of us!  One manifestation of pride is that we can convince ourselves that our persons, projects and ways of doing things are superior to the others that surround us. God can intervene to contradict our plans for the simple reason to lower our pride and help us to grow in that virtue so pleasing to Jesus—meekness and humility.  Jesus once described His personality, the disposition of His Heart with these words:  “I am meek and humble of heart.”

In conclusion, none of us like to be upset and turned upside down by others who contradict our plans, purposes and goals.  But let us stop the next time and reflect: maybe this contradiction comes from God Himself. Then, no doubt, His plans far exceed ours.   May our prayer be:  “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….”