Monday, April 20, 2015


FALSE CONCEPTS OF GOD AND THE TRUE!

Once Jesus asked who people said He was and there was a wide diversity of opinions: Elijah, one of the prophets from of old, even John the Baptist who had returned from the grave.  Finally, the Prince of the Apostles and he who would become the 1st Pope—St. Peter nailed it: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

Today, floating in the theological circles of speculation, are many views of God. Our vision of God obviously will affect our relationship to Him as well as our relationship to others.  The following are among the most common erroneous visions of God and then briefly we will specify the TRUE GOD!

First, THE GOOD-NATURED GRANDPA IN THE SKY!   What is this false concept? Well, it is simply this!  Many believe that God is like a doting and indulgent and rich grandpa type in the sky who is always ready and willing to cater to our capricious desires immediately and abundantly.   We might even call this vision of God the “Glorified Bell-hop!”  You know that well-groomed and ready worker in front of the expensive Hotel that is ready to cater to you upon demand, of course expecting a generous tip!  Or you might even see this vision of God as SANTA CLAUS.  There He is in heaven ready to shower you with gifts—as soon as you want and as many as you like. Finally, this God can be compared to the GENIE IN THE BOTTLE.  If you rub then the genie will come out and grant you your wish!  This can be seen in many who make Novenas to God, Mary and the saints; then they expect on the 9th day that what they have been praying for will be granted on that day.   If it does not happen then they doubt both the goodness of God and even His mere existence!

Second, ANGRY AND VINDICTIVE GOD.  Years ago there was the Protestant hell and brimstone preacher Jonathan Edwards.  He preached a vindictive God ready to condemn and chastise upon the slightest fault or transgression. He depicted the human person like a spider hanging from a mere thread and hanging over a fiery pit. Upon the first transgression this small thread would be broken and the spider (really the human person) would precipitate into the fiery pit of hell for all eternity.  In other words, this is a God of strict and cold Justice—no mercy to say the least!

Third, DEISM: THE IMPERSONAL GOD.   The God of the deist is one who launches the world into existence and leaves it there to fend for itself. Therefore, the human person is part of the cog in the wheel of the impersonal universe. However, God is totally impersonal. He will never intervene to help the human person even in his must personal and desperate need.  The great Greek philosopher, Aristotle called God THE UNMOVED MOVER.

Fourth, ISLAM VISION.  God is the supreme MASTER and the human person is a mere slave. There is no real personal and tender relationship between this God and man.

Fifth, THE GOD OF WEALTH AND PROSPERITY.  This is a most prevalent vision among many Protestants. One of the surest signs that we are on God’s side and He is on our side is that of prosperity.  The making of money and the accumulating of material possessions are all very clear signs that God’s blessings are definitely upon us.   In other words the more money you make and the more money you have saved in the bank, then the more clear it is that God is pleased with you.

Having briefly summarized five erroneous visions of God, let us portray the true vision of God. The way we think, act and become depends directly on “who” God really is for us!

God is both one and three and very personal. We believe in one God, but three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  What then is our relationship to these three distinct but equal Persons that we title the Most Blessed Trinity?

FATHER.  God is a loving, tender, caring, concerned and compassionate Father to us. His love never changes even despite our many sins and failures.  On one occasion an Indian Moslem was converted to Catholicism. What moved this convert most was the fact that God was not a distant master and slave-driver, but rather a tender and loving Father that could even be called in the most tender fashion DADDY! In other words a God that we can cuddle up to His Heart and embrace Him and he embraces us--- Remember the most famous Parable in the world: the Parable of the Prodigal Son or we might even call it the Parable of the Merciful Father. (Luke 15: 11-32). This Father was willing to embrace, kiss, and shower down mercy upon is repentant son!

SON.  Not only is God the Father, but He is also God the Son and His name is Jesus! The relationship of Jesus to us is that of an ELDER BROTHER.  However, He is the best of all brothers, having a love for us that goes beyond our wildest imagination. This was proved by His willingness to be nailed to the cross and shed every drop of His precious Blood to save our souls for all eternity.  Jesus is the best of Brothers and he is always at our side to walk with us through life as was witnessed by the disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-25)

HOLY SPIRIT.  Who then is the Holy Spirit in our lives?  Many titles can be given to the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, but we would like to offer the following—OUR BEST FRIEND!  In a world in which so many people suffer a desperate and a crushing loneliness. At times we might feel as if we are all alone and nobody real understands us and much less cares for us, there is great hope: the presence of the Holy Spirit and the ever-present and welcoming FRIEND! He is a Friend that is ever present and willing to console us in the dark moments as we walk and stumble through this valley of tears.

OUR LADY. May Our Lady who is the Daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son and the Mystical Spouse of God the Holy Spirit intercede for us so that we might have an ever-deepening, personal and loving relationship to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Monday, April 13, 2015

COME HOLY SPIRIT, COME…


The Holy Spirit and the seven Gifts
 

The Sanctifier, the Consoler and Counselor, the Paraclete, the Gift from God most high, the Finger of God, the Interior Master of the soul, Uncreated love, the mutual embrace between Father and Son, Faithful Friend, Sweet Guest of the soul, Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Fire, Light, Window, Wind, both gentle and powerful—all of these are titles that have been given to the Holy Spirit through the ages! Let us get to know the Holy Spirit, love the Holy Spirit, be docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and become a pliable and most useful instrument in His hands for the salvation of countless immortal souls!

The following are practical and concrete ways that we can incorporate the Person of the Holy Spirit in the center of our thoughts, decisions, words and actions. In a word, may we be totally possessed by the Holy Spirit!

St. Teresa of Avila and the Holy Spirit
 
1.    PRAYER.  Get into the habit of praying to the Holy Spirit with greater frequency! Especially before important decisions and actions we should invoke the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.   The radical transformation of the Apostles came about only after the Apostles, in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary, made a powerful charismatic retreat. This retreat was characterized by silence, fasting, prolonged prayer. The net result produced wind, fire, shaking of the place where they were united and finally the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire. (Acts of the Apostles 2) Then and only then were the Apostles spiritually equipped to preach the Word of God throughout the entire world, convert countless souls and all of them with the exception of the Beloved Apostle Saint John, terminated their lives by imitating Jesus by shedding their blood as martyrs!   All of this can be attributed to the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.  All of us a need a powerful Pentecost experience to transform our lives.  A short prayer that all of us can memorize even now is the following:  “Come Holy Spirit, come, through the heart of Mary.” May we breathe this prayer so as to receive the Breath of God—the Holy Spirit!

Pentecost and Our Lady's presence
 
2.    DOCILITY.  Another name for docility is that of being opened to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Jacques Philippe in his masterful work on the Holy Spirit, The School of the Holy Spirit, cites an example from his life as retreat master. He recounts that on one occasion he returned from a retreat drained of strength. However, he felt the inspiration—from the Holy Spirit- to go to the chapel and to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament before retiring for the night. After an initial resistance he capitulated and made the short visit to Jesus who was waiting for him in the Blessed Sacrament. The visit mas not long but it was very meaningful towards Jesus and important for Fr. Jacques.  Consequently he retired to his room slept well and experienced the consolation of the Holy Spirit.  What would have happened if he were to have resisted that inspiration from the Holy Spirit? Possibly he would not have slept well that night, gotten up tired and possibly out of sorts the following day!    All depends on listening interiorly to the Sweet Guest of the Soul—the Holy Spirit—and responding with our “Yes!”  This is the secret to living in constant peace and joy!  Remember the words of the Psalmist: “If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts.”(Psalm 95)   Another is that of young Samuel in the temple: “Speak O Lord for your servant is listening.”(I Samuel 3)

St. Stephen's death-- strength from the Holy Spirit
3.    ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.   During the course of Easter Season which culminates on Pentecost—the Feast of the Holy Spirit par excellence—the First Reading in the Mass is taken from the Acts of the Holy Spirit. This can be considered the action book of the Bible; written by Saint Luke it is also known as the “Gospel of the Holy Spirit.”    Consisting of twenty eight chapters, the book is marvelous and for many reasons. One of the primary reasons for the beauty, the appeal and the fascination of this book is the pervasive presence of the Holy Spirit. Starting with Pentecost (Acts 2) to the person of Philip the Deacon (docile to the max to the Holy Spirit), moving on to Saint Stephen the Proto-martyr, manifesting the eloquence and courage, the obvious working of the Holy Spirit, and page after page, this is an excellent way to get to know better the Holy Spirit and His action on the primitive church. May the Holy Spirit start to act in our persons and lives all the more powerfully right now!
               
The Sailboat as image for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
 
4.    THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  Today very few followers of Jesus know anything about the powerful Gifts of the Holy Spirit, much less the purpose and action of these Gifts on the soul.  The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are seven: Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.  The Fathers of the Church give the analogy of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit related to a SAILBOAT. Follow this simple but beautiful analogy!   The SAILBOAT is our soul; the seven sails are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The powerful wind is the breath of God or the Holy Spirit. Finally, the shore towards which the Sailboat is heading is our heavenly home.   The key, however, is this: the sails must be wide opened so as to catch the wind. Our souls must be opened so as to catch the wind—the gentle but insistent inspirations of the Holy Spirit. If done on a constant basis we will reach the shore which is eternal life with God in heaven.

Our Lady and the Blessed Trinity
5.    MARY AND THE HOLY SPIRIT. Years ago Cardinal Suenens was invited to celebrate Mass and to preach in Duquesne University. The Mass had to be celebrated in an outdoor stadium due to the numbers of those charismatics participating in the event. As it turned out the day was overcast, cloudy and starting to drizzle; possibly the Mass would have to be cancelled! However something extraordinary happened!  When the Cardinal got up to preach his homily he said this:  “Do you want to know the true secret to union with the Holy Spirit???” Silence!  Then the Cardinal responded to his own question: “Deep union with the Holy Spirit will come through deep union with Mary!” In that moment there was thunder and lightning and the clouds dissipated and the sun broke forth on all in the stadium! God through nature was proving His love for Mary!   Saint Louis de Montfort asserted:  “Those who love Mary, the Holy Spirit flings Himself into their souls.” The same saint highlights Mary’s presence in the Blessed Trinity. Mary is the Daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son and she is the Mystical Spouse or Bride of the Holy Spirit. May we all experience our own personal Pentecost, outpouring of the Holy Spirit. ‘Come Holy Spirit, come through the Heart of Mary.”

Monday, April 6, 2015

SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY


 

We are all encouraged by the Lord, especially by reading and meditating on Mt. 25:31-46, to practice the Corporal works of mercy—to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome the foreigner, and to visit both the sick and the imprisoned.

In sum, our Final Judgment will be based largely on love of God but manifested on our love for neighbor. Indeed, using the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “We must find Jesus present in the distressing disguise of the poor.” St. Vincent de Paul, known for his great love for the poor, actually called the poor “his masters”.

Corporal works of mercy done with the most noble of intentions pleases the Heart of Jesus immensely. However, it is equally important, better said, even more important, the SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY!  The reason for this proper order or hierarchy is that the body indeed is very important, but the soul prevails over the body.  Jesus said point blank:  “What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and loses his soul in the process. What can a man do in exchange for his soul?”  Pope Francis lamented in “The joy of the Gospel” that one of the most common and grave neglects is the failure to preach the Word of God to the poor. First, fill their hungry stomachs. But then, fill their souls with the Bread of the Word of God and the Bread of Life which is Holy Communion.

In this short essay we would like to go through the seven spiritual works of mercy and give some ways we can implement these all important spiritual injunctions!

First of all the spiritual works of mercy are the following: 1)Admonish the sinner; 2)Instruct the ignorant; 3)Counsel the doubtful; 4)Comfort the sorrowful; 5) Bear wrongs patiently; 6) Forgive all injuries; 7) Pray for the living and the dead. There we have the seven spiritual works of mercy! Let us take them one at a time!

 


1.    ADMONISH THE SINNER.   Easier said than done!   To do this can be extremely difficult, but it is exceedingly necessary now more than ever! Why is it so difficult? For the simple reason that we are born proud and do not desire to give up easily old and engrained habits, and if they are bad habits they are called “vices”.   We often cling to the evil, the dirty, the ugly, the impure, the unhealthy, and the sinful!!! A  common  example merits our intention.  Those who cohabit are living in sin and somebody should tell them and give clear reasons why this is wrong? What might be some reasons to explain why it is wrong? Here are some!  Premarital sex or fornication is a mortal sin. You deprive yourself of the Sacraments, both of Confession and the Holy Eucharist. If children are born then it is a scandal, meaning that you are giving them bad example. You are giving public scandal, even if many are doing it now. Majority does not make right in the eyes of God. You erode your conscience. Finally, you are crucifying the Lord Jesus by living in mortal sin and if dying in this state you could lose your immortal soul for all eternity! God so highly prizes admonishing the sinner and bringing him back on the right path that He promises salvation and the expiation of many of our personal sins by simply bringing back one straying sinner.  Read the words of the Apostle Saint James: “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”(Saint James 5: 19-20)

2.    INSTRUCT THE IGNORANT.  We all have heard the proverb: “Charity begins at home.”  This is true especially in the formation of children and adolescents. By choosing the married state, husband and wife profess to be open to life through procreation. That is just the very first step! Next it is incumbent upon parents to teach their children all that refers to God, the Commandments, the Sacraments, prayer, Marian devotion, and much more… The primary responsibility of parents bringing children into this world is to bring these children into heaven.   The school is not the first teacher, nor the catechism teacher, nor even the Pastor or priest. No! The first teachers must be Mom and Dad.  This necessarily implies the process of ongoing or permanent formation on the part of the parents. Another proverb is worthy of injecting here: “You cannot give what you do not have.”  One field that parents must master, in the realm of education for themselves as well as their children, is that of sexual morality. Parents must strive to know the Biblical and Church’s teaching on purity, live it out in their own lives and then teach it with the utmost clarity to their children!

3.    COUNSEL THE DOUBTFUL.  Much can be said on this Spiritual work of mercy, but we will briefly mention one: the importance of solid spiritual direction!  Both Saint Teresa of Avila as well as Saint Faustina Kowalska and to mention a third Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque all were strongly dependent on spiritual direction so as to discern God’s will in their lives!  They all are canonized saints and one of the reasons was that they humbly admitted that they were ignorant in many ways, had many doubts and had to submit their judgments, inspirations and thoughts to a higher authority—their Confessors and Spiritual Directors.  Given there is a shortage of priests as well as spiritual directors, still it is incumbent upon us to find some way to have periodic spiritual direction so as to expel the many doubts that can easily cloud our mind and blur our judgment and corrupt our actions. Saint John of the Cross put it wryly: “He who has himself as spiritual director has an idiot as his spiritual directee!” In other words we all have blind spots that can only be enlightened by proper spiritual direction.

4.    COMFORT THE SORROWFUL.  This is extremely important!  Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his rules for discernment, outlines the strategy on how to act when we are in a state of desolation.  In desolation we feel sad, depressed, nobody really cares for us, life seems useless and without meaning.  We all go through this state at times; it is part of being human. However, when you are aware of somebody going through this state, do all you can to be a source of encouragement. How? First, pray for the person. Second, a warm smile can go a long way! Third, say a word or two of encouragement. Fourth, offer a compliment on some good quality the person has. Fifth, maybe even recount a humorous story or anecdote to pull this person out of the pits. This is very pleasing to God. We become like Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus to carry His cross!

5.    BEAR WRONGS PATIENTLY!  Once again, easier said than done!  In this we need grace and a lot of grace! Maybe at work we have been wronged by a boss or by a co-worker.   Changing jobs is unthinkable due to the economic situation. Both the boss and co-worker are not going anywhere! The most pleasing attitude in the eyes of God is simply to return to work with great humility and trust in Divine Providence. Trust God!  He will be there with you to help you to patiently carry the cross. Of immense help could be to meditate upon Jesus carrying His cross heading towards His crucifixion. Even though Jesus fell three times, He still got up with the weight of the sins of the world on His weary and blood-beaten shoulders! We should always have Jesus before our eyes as our model and example, Indeed Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

6.    FORGIVE ALL INJURIES. May God help us! We have arrived at the heart of mercy in our dealing with others. Mercy is a two-way street!  If we want to receive mercy from God, then we must be merciful and forgive those who have done us wrong. Biblical verses on this topic are many, very many…

·       “Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful…

·       “Vengeance is mine: I will repay, says the Lord.”

·       “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”

·       “Forgive us out trespasses as we forgive  those who trespass against us…”(The Our Father)

·       “I tell you not 7 times, but 70 times 7 times… you must forgive…”

·       “Leave your gift and first be reconciled with your brother…”

·       “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

·       “Amen I say to you: today you will be with me in Paradise.”

One hint in the area of forgiveness.  Accept the fact that all of your life people will hurt you. The most common place that we are wounded is in the context of our family, with family members. The key is this: forgive immediately! As soon as anybody hurts or wounds you, then pray for that person and forgive immediately. If done you have won a major victory over self and shown God how much you love Him by practicing mercy.

7.    PRAY FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.  Jesus told Saint Faustina that He desires that we practice at least one act of mercy every day. He specified that mercy can be carried out in one of three manners: 1) by kind words, 2) by kind deeds, 3) by prayer! One of the greatest acts of charity we can do in our lives is to simply pray for others both the living and the dead. With respect to the living, there should be a hierarchy of importance. If married and with a family this should be the order: first spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, friends, co-workers and associates, and we should also pray for those we do not like and even for our enemies! Then with respect to the dead, we should pray constantly for the dead. Saint Francis de Sales emphasizes the fact that this is one of the greatest acts of charity that we can do. Why this?  For this simple reason: they are totally dependent on the mercy of God and on our prayers, almsgiving or charity, as well as our sacrifices. The Gregorian Mass of a month’s consecutive Masses came about because Pope Saint Gregory the Great had to pray thirty consecutive Masses so as to free his deceased friend from the fires of Purgatory. A common error today is in funeral Masses where the deceased person, despite his many moral failures, is being unofficially canonized in the funeral homily as well as in the eulogy. True, we should be compassionate towards those who lose their loved ones. Still, we should not canonize and jump the gun before time. Only the Pope has the right to canonize anyone! The Bible teaches clearly and unequivocally that only the pure and without blemish can enter the Kingdom of God.

CONCLUSION.  Ask yourself in humble pray which of these Spiritual works of mercy you believe the Holy Spirit is inspiring you to undertake right now. Look at your concrete living condition and surely the Holy Spirit will pinpoint persons and areas where you will be able to implement with great generosity of soul one or more of these spiritual works of mercy. Never forget the inspiring and challenging words of Jesus: “Whatsoever you do the least of my brothers that you do unto me.” (Mt. 25:31-46)

Monday, March 30, 2015

PLUMB THE DEPTHS OF THE PASSION OF CHRIST


 

Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, in the third week of the month retreat which is dedicated to the contemplation of the Passion, suffering and death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ accentuates the fact that Jesus suffered all in His Passion for me…  This is very intimate and personal!

In other words instead of viewing the Passion from afar, 2000 years back buried in history, Saint Ignatius brings it to us right now.  Jesus suffered all of the details of His bitter passion for me.   The Agony in the Garden, the scourging at the pillar, His crowning with thorns with the insults, spitting, buffeting, punching and pounding, the carrying of the cross, the brutal crucifixion, the hours of agony as He hung on the cross, the profuse loss of His Precious Blood and suffocation—all of these excruciating sufferings and many more, He suffered for me!

If that were not enough, if you and I were the only person in the entire world, Jesus would have become Incarnate, lived and died accompanied with all of those gruesome and excruciating details and just for me and just for you! Still more Jesus would be willing to do it over and over, simply for love of me! How great is the love of Jesus for all, but especially for you and for me.

Saint Faustina highlights in the Diary that love can be measured by one measuring-rod—the willingness to suffer for the loved one!  No greater love ever existed than the love that Jesus manifested that Holy Thursday night and Good Friday—the day of His passion, crucifixion and death on the cross.

In moments of desolation it is very propitious for all of us to recall how much Jesus really does love us by reflection on His Passion that he underwent for me individually. Furthermore, most salutary is the contemplation of Jesus shedding His Precious Blood for the salvation of my immortal soul.

How precious and valuable is your immortal soul!  Saint Peter reminds us with these penetrating words:

That you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless, unblemished lamb.(I Peter 1:18-19)

Your immortal soul was saved by Jesus and the Precious Blood that He shed especially as He hung on the cross that Friday that we call “Good!”  Overwhelmed by the awesome and fathomless reality of the Passion, suffering, shedding of Blood and death of Jesus, we might ask ourselves how can we plumb the depths of the greatest love story ever penned, not with regular ink, but with the Precious red Blood (INK) of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Time and time again Jesus invited Saint Faustina Kowalska, if she really wanted to plumb the depths of the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, then to contemplate the Passion of Jesus. “No greater love has a man that to lay down His life for the ones He loves.”

The following are ten helpful suggestions so that we can at least start to plumb the depths of the love of Jesus who died on Good Friday for love of you and for me and for the salvation of my immortal soul!

1.    READ THE BIBLICAL PASSION ACCOUNTS.  First of all we should become familiar with the Biblical narratives of the Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; there are four and each one of the accounts has specific details that differentiate them one from the other.   They can be found in two chapters of the four Gospels:  Mt. 26-27, Mk. 14-15, Lk. 22-23, and finally Jn. 18-19.  Read them; meditate on them, learn them; assimilate them and take them to heart! Let them transform your life!

2.    CRUCIFIX.  Spend some time in silent reflection and contemplation before a graphic and moving crucifix. An important difference between most Protestants and Catholics is that the Catholics emphasize having the Corpus or Body of Jesus hanging from the cross. Look deeply into Jesus eyes, wounds and Sacred Heart pierced with the lance and derive abundant spiritual fruit. He died for you and me!

3.    WAY OF THE CROSS.  Make the pious practice and devotion that is called the WAY OF THE CROSS.  Jesus suggested to Saint Faustina in the Diary that if her obligations did not block it that at 3:00 p.m. every day (The Mercy Hour) that she make the Way of the Cross.  The past Popes have given public witness to the Way of the Cross by making them in the Coliseum in Rome on Good Friday.  Slowly and prayerfully move from one station to the next (there are 14 in total) and talk to Jesus as your best friend; accompany Him as did His Mother Mary. Help Him to carry the cross like Simon the Cyrene. Wipe Jesus’ tired and dirty face as did the valiant Veronica.  Be a real and active participant in the Passion of Jesus through the pious practice of the WAY OF THE CROSS!

4.    SORROWFUL MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY.   Always and at all times that we are free for a few minutes it is very profitable to pray the most Holy Rosary. Especially important is it to pray and meditate the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, especially the five Sorrowful Mysteries in Lent and Holy Week. They are: The Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion of Jesus.   Right now, which of these mysteries touches your heart and life most? Talk to Jesus about this; He is waiting for you!

5.    GOOD CONFESSION.  Making frequent and heart-felt confessions is a common practice among the saints and all of us are called to become saints. Jesus said: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.” However, Holy Week is a most opportune time.  Saint Pope John Paul II was seen often in the confessional reconciling sinners to God especially on Good Friday.  The Sacrament of Confession is a clear and practical means to apply the Passion, Precious Blood and death of Jesus to our own lives. Why?  For the simple reason that by making a good confession we die to sin and rise to the new life of grace; also it is the Precious Blood of Jesus that He shed for us on Calvary that first Good Friday that washes and cleanses our soul from the dirt and ugliness of sin!

6.     MEDITATE ON THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, for many years preached on the seven last words that Jesus uttered from the cross.  Sheen, with his typical eloquence, stated that Jesus ascended the pulpit of the cross to preach His best and most eloquent sermon.  Do you know the seven last words of Jesus from the cross? If not, now is the time to make an effort to memorize them…
         
1.    “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

2.    “I thirst.”

3.    “My God, my God why have your forsaken me?”

4.    “Woman behold thy son; son behold thy mother.”

5.    “Amen I say to you: today you will be with me in Paradise.”

6.    “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

7.    “It is finished.

Which of these words or short sentences that were the last words that Jesus uttered from the pulpit of the cross seem to touch you most? Enter into a deep conversation with Jesus over these words; He is longing to talk to you!

7. The Passion of the Christ.  View the classic film by Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ.” This film has turned out to be one of the greatest classics of Hollywood.  View this film, but not simply as a Hollywood rendition, but rather as if it were a contemplation, a deep prayer. As Saint Ignatius would suggest, try to enter into the Composition of Place and truly be present. Be not present simply as a passive spectator, but rather as an active participant.   If you like, accompany the Blessed Virgin Mary during the whole trajectory of the Calvary climb. Walk with Jesus; console Jesus; have compassion on Jesus and love Him who loved you so much that he went through all the bitter moment so His Passion for love of you and me!

8. PENANCE.   Given that Jesus sacrificed and suffered so much for you, why not offer up some form of sacrifice even if it be something very small. Jesus does not look so much at the exterior greatness of the action but in the love that accompanies even the smallest of actions. The love of the sacrifice of Jesus demands love on our part! What are you willing to give the Lord?

9. GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY. Participate fully, actively and consciously in the moving Liturgy and ceremony of GOOD FRIDAY.  There is no Mass, but there is a moving and profound Liturgy that can be divided into three parts: 1) The Reading (like on Palm Sunday) of the Passion of Jesus, from the Gospel of Saint John; 2) The veneration of the Holy cross. Draw close to the Holy Cross and reverentially kiss it as a sign of your gratitude and love for the suffering that Jesus underwent for the salvation of your immortal soul; 3) Holy Communion. The most important part of the ceremony of Good Friday is the Rite of Holy Communion. If you are well-disposed, receive Jesus into the depths of your heart with burning love!

10.  OUR LADY AND THE PASSION/OUR LADY OF SORROWS. Of enormous help in plumbing the depths of the Passion, suffering and death of Jesus is the person and the presence of Our Lady of Sorrows. Aside from Jesus Himself, nobody ever suffered or loved as much as Our Lady. There she was “Stabat Mater”, the Mother who stood valiantly at the foot of the cross as she watched her Son, shed every drop of His Precious Blood that she gave to Him in His humanity. She heard and meditated on His last words. She saw Him die and breathe forth His spirit into the hands of the Father. Our Lady even saw and experienced the piercing of His Sacred Heart from which flowed Blood and water—the birth of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.  Beg for the grace to be able to contemplate the Passion of Jesus through the eyes and heart of Mary, our life our sweetness and our hope! May our meditation on the Passion, suffering, and death of Jesus transform our whole lives and being into a living sacrifice of praise to our all-loving Savior and Redeemer!

 

Monday, March 23, 2015

REJECTED FOR LOVE AND FOR OUR SAKE


 

Being forgotten, snubbed, ridiculed and derided, pushed aside and discarded as an object, being the butt of a sarcastic joke, treated as a buffoon, forced into oblivion, treated as if valueless—all of the above have one thing in common: rejection!

Strange and shocking as it may seem, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Wisdom of God, the Logos/Word through whom the whole world was created, the Master and Teacher of the world, Jesus Himself, suffered constant, painful and unthinkable rejections. Rejected not once or twice, but during the whole course of His life, Jesus most willingly submitted to the will of His heavenly Father: “Father, If it be possible, let this cup pass me by; however, not my will by your will be done.”

A most fruitful and efficacious meditation/contemplation especially in the context of Holy Week, would be to call to mind, pray over and plumb the depths of the REJECTIONS of Jesus.   The Imitation of Christ, Thomas Kempis, highlights the fact the entirety of the Life of Christ, from cross to tomb was a cross. A clear manifestation of the cross is the reality of REJECTIONS! Let us prayerfully contemplate Our Lord’s rejections.

Before delving into Jesus’ rejections, it must be emphasized the fact that Jesus willingly suffered rejections to submit to the will of His Heavenly Father, but also because of His great love for you and me! Paradoxically stated, Jesus willingly underwent constant rejection so that we could be received by Him now and for all eternity!  How great is the love of Jesus even in His humiliating rejections for love of you and me.

Furthermore, when we suffer rejections, and this is part and parcel of life, we can unite our rejections to Jesus and these painful situations can be a source of infinite growth in holiness! Indeed Jesus was wounded for our sakes and by His wounds we are healed.

 


1.    BETHLEHEM.  St. Joseph travelled with his pregnant wife Mary to Bethlehem, the city of David. Upon arriving, the entire Holy Family was rejected. Joseph knocked at the door and there was no room for Joseph, or Mary, or Jesus in the Inn. (Jn. 1:11) In a certain sense we can even state that Jesus experienced the pain of the aborted babies. Because in this rejection Jesus was not yet born, but in the womb of Mary and indeed He was rejected! May the rejected unborn Jesus convert us from the evil of rejecting unborn babies through abortions!!!

2.    PROPHECY OF SIMEON.   One of the seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Prophecy of Simeon. As the elderly prophet holds the Child Jesus in his arms he utters a prophecy of Mary’s future sufferings, but also the future rejection of Jesus, with these words: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.(Lk. 2: 34-35) This sign of contradiction would be the contradiction of the cross bars on Calvary.

3.    FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.(Mt. 2:13-18)  Moved by the ugly spirit of envy, insecurity, and a desire to dominate and rule, King Herod sets out on a rampage to kill all of the innocent male-children two years and younger. His intention was not only to reject Jesus, worse yet, to slaughter him. Imagine the fear and terror that must have invaded the heart of Mary as well as St. Joseph as they flee to a foreign country to save the life of their innocent Child. In all of these rejections Jesus purposely submits to them to accomplish the will of His heavenly Father, but also for our sanctification and salvation. How grateful we should be for Our Lords’ love for us even in His bitter rejections!

4.    FIRST PREACHINGS.(Lk. 4:16-30) Jesus returns to His home town after His Baptism and temptations and preaches. He levels His message against them and their hardness of heart. Cut to the depths of their proud and resistant hearts, they purposely force Jesus out of the synagogue and lead Him to the brow of the hill with the intention to throw Him headlong and end with Him. Jesus for His part walked through their midst because His hour had not yet come! How often in the lives of God’s friends, the saints, they have received bitter treatment and rejection for the simple reason that they preached the truth!

5.    JEWISH HIGH PRIESTS.(Mt 27:41-42)  Given that Jesus had no formal training as did many of the Scribes and Pharisees, given that Jesus came from an unimportant place called “Nazareth”, given that Jesus’ parents were simple people, his father a mere-carpenter, several of the High priests took offense and were scandalized by Jesus. This young man, son of a carpenter, had developed a huge following; many people loved Him and especially the poor and rejected of society and His preaching were so inspiring that multitudes would follow Him. Filled with envy, that led to anger and even fury, their only solution was to reject Jesus and to have Jesus put to death.

6.    HIS FRIENDS. (Mt. 26:31-35) Jesus chose a small band of followers called the Apostles. He chose them to be His followers, collaborators, but especially His dear friends. “I call you friends…” As Scripture points out they failed Him. This failure on their part can be put in the category of rejection. At the Last Supper Jesus said that the Shepherd would be struck and the sheep scattered and they would all leave Him alone, abandon Him. They all protested as to their faithfulness. Upon Jesus’ arrest they fled. Jesus knew it and prophesied it, but still this must have pained the Heart of Jesus.

7.    PETER’S TRIPLE DENIAL. (Mt.26: 69-75) Peter professes his faithfulness, but Jesus makes the prophecy that before the cock crows Peter would deny Him three times. After Jesus arrest, Peter drags his feet; warms himself by the fire and three times, the future Prince of the Apostles denies that he even knows Jesus. This was a rejection on the part of Jesus’ good friend Peter. Of course later one Peter would reaffirm his love for Jesus three times. Nonetheless, this does not negate the fact that Peter did deny Jesus three times, a form of rejection. Indeed the rejection on the part of loved ones can be the most piercing and painful.

8.    JUDAS BETRAYS JESUS. (Mt. 26: 20-25) Another painful rejection was on the part of Judas Iscariot. Jesus chose Judas not to be a traitor, but to be an Apostle and friend. Moved by greed and having fallen out of love for Jesus, Judas willingly decides to reject Jesus for thirty pieces of silver—the price that was paid to purchase a slave in the times of Jesus.

9.    PONTIUS PILATE. (Mt. 27:15-26)  We pray in the Creed at every Sunday Mass that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Pilate indeed was a coward as well as a “people-pleaser” rather than a “God-pleaser”. His wife Claudia had a dream in which God revealed to her that Jesus was indeed innocent. Even with this forewarning from God through his wife, Pontius Pilate rejected Jesus and sentenced Jesus to death by means of the cruelest, and most humiliating means of the crucifixion.
    
10. GOD THE FATHER.(Mt. 27:46)  One of the most mysterious passages in all of Sacred Scripture is one of the seven last words that Jesus uttered as He hung on the cross: “My God, My God, why have your forsaken me.”  Jesus was quoting from Psalm 21. How could it be that Jesus felt as if He were even abandoned by His loving Father??? How curious! How mysterious! How painful!  How extraordinary!  The Son of God willingly experienced the distance of His loving Father in the bitter moments of His passion, shortly before Jesus will breathe forth His spirit into the hands of His loving Father!

When all is said and done, it would be remiss on our part if we did not make a modern application to the present rejections of Our Lord and savior Christ! Many are the definitions that we could offer for what sin indeed is. However, related to our present topic, a very pertinent and apropos definition of sin could be the following: “Sin is rejecting the love of the Heart of the Father for us.” This rejection can be partial or total. Partial rejection would be venial sin; total rejection would be that of mortal sin.

It might be easy to point the finger at the many people who rejected Jesus during the course of His brief Public life which lasted about three years. However,  every time somebody willingly misses Mass on Sunday, commits adultery or fornication, views pornography, abuses drugs by taking or selling, and many other serious sins, the rejection of Jesus is perpetuated!

Our desire should be to repair for the many rejections of Jesus, 2000 years ago, during the course of the past 2000 years up to the present. I would humbly like to offer five simple ways that we can console the rejected and sorrowful Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

1.    NO TO SIN!  Let us make a firm proposal in our lives to fight against sin in our lives. Indeed by saying “No” to sin we are saying “No” to the cycle of rejections of Jesus and “yes” to His love and Friendship!

2.     READING: CONSOLING THE HEART OF JESUS.  Why not find some time to read and meditate the spiritual masterpiece of Father Michael Gaitley on “Consoling the Heart of Jesus”.  This spiritual masterpiece and best-seller can offer you abundant food for thought and practical ways on how we can avoid rejecting Jesus, repair for those who reject Jesus and crown Jesus as the King of our hearts!

3.    LOVE AND DEVOTION TO OUR LADY—MOTHER OF DIVINE MERCY!  Many have been the rejections of Jesus for hundreds and even thousands of years. However, there was one person that God created who never once, not even in the smallest way ever rejected Jesus even in the slightest way: this was His Immaculate Mother Mary! Get to know Mary; cultivate devotion to Mary; love Mary; make Mary known and loved. She will always bring us to the Heart of Jesus and help us to reject Jesus less and receive and love Him all the more!  Sweet Heart of Mary be my salvation!

4.    HOLY HOUR OF REPARATION.  Another superb practice that we can undertake to counteract the rejections of Jesus would be to make a Holy Hour of Reparation. Spend an hour before the Eucharistic Lord Jesus, and read through the following rejections in Sacred Scripture, present rejections of Jesus due to sin and even your own past rejections due to personal sin and console the Heart of Jesus. Tell Jesus how much you love Him, how much it pains your own heart to contemplate Hos many rejections. Then promise the Lord Jesus that you will try to imitate Our Lady in saying “yes” to His love always starting right now!

5.    MASS AND HOLY COMMUNION. Finally, and not of least importance is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the reception of Holy Communion. By far the greatest gesture that a human person can carry out is to receive Jesus (not reject Him) in the worthy reception of Holy Communion. Holy Communion is truly and substantially the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How many Catholics today reject Jesus in the context of Mass and Holy Communion! Many Catholics no longer attend Holy Mass, thereby rejecting Him. Many have changed religions, thereby rejecting Him. Others attend Holy Mass but neither receive Him nor even pay attention to what is transpiring in Holy Mass—this is rejecting Jesus. Worse yet, there are many Catholics who approach the Eucharistic Lord and receive Jesus in the state of mortal sin and as such they are rejecting Jesus and crucifying Him again. For this reason we must form and army of zealous and ardent lovers of the Mass and the Eucharistic Lord to receive Him with a burning love, a burning passion, a lively faith and limitless confidence. This indeed will console the rejected Heart of Jesus beyond the mind can possibly comprehend. Let us all receive Jesus with love starring right now so that Jesus will receive us into Heaven for all eternity!