Monday, December 15, 2014

HUMILITY THROUGH HUMILIATIONS!


 

Humility is one of the most important virtues in the spiritual edifice. Actually it is the foundation of the spiritual life. All of the saints did indeed strive for humility of heart.  We all should yearn and desire to grow in humility, but it costs and it costs very dearly!

Saint Teresa of Avila says that humility is simply this—THE TRUTH.  It is the truth about who we are—not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God. Another definition of humility might be the following: “Recognize that all the good I have done in the past, are doing in the present and can possibly do in the future is due to God’s goodness to me; whereas, all the evil I have done is my own fault.”

On one occasion Jesus described a key attribute of His Sacred Heart, using two words:  I am meek and humble of heart…”(Mt. 11: 28) If Jesus is meek and humble of heart and He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and our model to follow, then we should try to imitate His sublime humility.  

To truly be humble is easier said than done! Many would like to be humble in a vague, abstract, and theoretical way, but they are not willing to count the cost for such a key virtue. Without true humility our spiritual life will be side-tracked, if not paralyzed.

Once Saint Augustine was asked what virtue to practice? The great saint replied: “Humility and humility and humility…”  This great saint was bitterly humbled by a life of sin and slavery to sin into his early thirties.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
In the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, the one who went away justified and praised by God was not the Pharisee who seemed to be doing at least exteriorly all things well—praying, fasting and observing the Law. The one justified and praised by Jesus was the Publican. The reason is clear: humility.  He would not even lift his eyes and simply begged to be forgiven because he was a sinner.   Read and meditate upon this wonderful Parable on Prayer (Luke.18:9-14); to pray well we must have a deeply humble and dependent heart—indeed to rely totally on God. Another short definition of prayer might be: “God-reliant and not self-reliant!”

The following are ways that we can strive to acquire the all-essential virtue of humility.

1.    BEGGARS.  Saint Augustine, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that we are all beggars before God.

“Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God." But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or "out of the depths" of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought," are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God."  (2559  # CCC)
           
See yourself as a crippled beggar before God
2.     This means that we are totally dependent on God as beggars are towards their benefactors for their daily sustenance!  We must beg from the Lord for humility of heart. Why not pray the traditional short aspiration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with fervor and trust: “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.”   Remember that once you never existed and God gave you life and constantly maintains your whole being in existence!
Blessed Mother Teresa serving, loving and humility

3.    CHARITY.  Once Father Benedict Groeschel was asked how to grow in humility and he responded that the best way to grow in humility is to practice the virtue of charity. What does this mean? Simply this!  When I go out of my way to help, serve, give, pour myself out for the good of my brothers or sisters in need, not only am I practicing charity but I am also practicing humility. Another definition of humility might be simply this: Putting others above myself!

4.    HUMILIATIONS.  Beyond the shadow of a doubt being humiliated in any time place or even by any person is exceedingly difficult. When humiliated by someone, there are two options: to seek out a way to get even or revenge toward the person that humiliated me—which is the easiest path.  Or, instead of seeking out revenge, I could forgive the person that humiliated me and hurt me and imitate Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who suffered so much for me and my salvation. Why not imitate Jesus and the saints and accept humiliations and unite them to Jesus, especially in His Passion and death.
The Crowning with thorns of Jesus

5.     HUMILITY OF JESUS.  In one of his brilliant talks Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen discoursed on the humility of Jesus, and in three different ways.  1) INCARNATION.  In Jesus’ Incarnation, God became man; this was an enormous lowering or humiliation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Sheen draws this analogy. Imagine that you a human person were transformed into a dog with a dog’s body but still maintaining your intellectual capacities and then the dogs of the street turned on you and ruthlessly killed you. This is a pale image of the humiliation that Jesus underwent to achieve our salvation. 2) The Passion of Jesus. View the film of Mel Gibson—how many humiliations Jesus underwent for our salvation, submitting to all like a lamb led to the slaughter. 3) Finally, until the end of time, Jesus is undergoing almost unspeakable humiliations in His Mystical Body the Church, in a special way in His Sacramental Presence, most specifically in the Eucharist! All too many Catholics fail to attend Sunday Mass—what a humiliation and monstrous act of ingratitude towards Jesus. Others attend Mass and simply play the “bench-warmer” and fail to receive Jesus with love—another humiliation! Worse yet, there are those who both attend Holy Mass and approach Holy Communion, but unfortunately they receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin, thereby crucifying Jesus upon their reception. Of all the humiliations, this is the heights of all humiliations!   Therefore, meditating upon the constant and profound humiliations of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, can serve as a most powerful means to help us, at least to a small degree, to imitate Our Savior and grow in that indispensable foundation of the spiritual life—the virtue of HUMILITY!

 

May Our Lady, the humble handmaid of the Lord attain for us true humility of mind, heart, soul and life. “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.”   

Monday, December 8, 2014

CHRISTMAS PREPARATION: THE LORD IS COMING!


 

The secret to the success of the party is the prior preparation; the better the preparation, normally, the better the celebration. This we should apply to preparing for the coming of Jesus. Many go over-board in the details done to prepare for Birthdays. Should not our preparation for the most important Birthday be enthusiastic and extensive?

Therefore, we will offer clear, concrete and practical ways that we can prepare for Christmas- the Birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Indeed, His birth into time changed radically the face of the earth and the history of the world!

1.    GRACES AND INSPIRATIONS.   “If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts as they did in Meriba and Massah.”(Psalm 95) As we draw closer to God, the Holy Spirit sends His heavenly inspirations to our minds—these we call actual graces. Our freedom must choose to follow these inspirations. As a result, God will fill us with peace in His presence.  “Speak, O Lord for your servant is listening.”

2.    SILENCE.  Step aside from the boisterous and clamorous noise that bombards your mind and soul and relish SILENCE.  Indeed God speaks to the contemplative and silent heart as he did to the Prophet Elijah on the mountain(I Kings 19) as well as to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Annunciation.(Lk.1:26-38)

3.    LIGHT TO THE WORLD.   In our homes and the Parish we light the Advent candles as we start a new week. Jesus is the Light of the world, but you are called to be a light in the world. Jesus tells us: “Let your light shine forth to the world so that by seeing your light others might give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  As we draw close to Jesus the LIGHT, who will be born for us why not cast from your life anything that still radiates as darkness. Sin is darkness. Judas left Jesus and entered into the darkness of the night.

4.    FRUGALITY AND SIMPLCITY.  One of the hallmarks of the personality of Pope Francis is that of frugality and simplicity. For that reason, the present Pope chose as his papal name FRANCIS.  Saint Francis of Assisi lived a life of great simplicity, detachment and evangelical poverty. May our celebration of Jesus’ birthday not be suffocated by excessive buying, possessing and materialism. Jesus warns us that we cannot serve God and money at the same time.

5.    JESUS IN THE POOR.  Saint Martin of Tours saw a poor, half-naked man, shivering in the cold. Moved to compassion, Martin, the soldier and future saint, took his cloak and with his sword cut it in half giving half of his cloak to the poor man.  In his dream that night, Martin saw that it was Jesus who was wearing the cloak that Martin had given away. Jesus was born in poverty, but also Jesus can be discovered in our brothers and sisters but especially the poor, abandoned, marginalized and forgotten members of society. Let us pray for eyes of faith and charity to see these special ones of the Lord!

6.    MERCY AND FORGIVENESS.  If it is such that you are harboring some form of resentment towards some person, holding back forgiveness, and allowing the bitter herb of vindictiveness dominate your soul, now is the time to practice mercy and to forgive. By doing so you will set the captives free; that captive is your very self!  How many people in the world are slaves to their own lack of forgiveness?  Remember the words of Jesus: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” As well as these words from the most well-known prayer in the world (The Our Father):  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Mercy is a two-way street!  If we desire God’s forgiveness, then we must forgive those who have offended us.

7.    PRAYER.   Jesus challenges us with these words:  “Pray always without giving up hope.” (Lk. 18:1) The Holy Seasons of Advent and Lent should be times in which we pray more and intensify our prayer life. Find time, place and good will to enter into dialogue and communication with God. We should long for a deeper prayer life.  As air is to the lungs so should prayer be to our souls.  The Psalmist expresses it this way:  “As the deer yearns for the running waters, so my soul longs for you O Lord my God.” Prayer attains for us the greatest of all gifts—the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “The Gift of Gifts.”

8.    MASS AND HOLY COMMUNION.  The Liturgy teaches us that there are three comings of Jesus Christ: 1) Historically, when He was born in Bethlehem; 2) At the end of time when He will judge the living and the dead; 3) Now through grace.  Every time that Holy Mass is celebrated then Jesus is born in the hands of the priest and in the hearts of the faithful who receive Him in Holy Communion. Why not make a concerted effort as we prepare for Christmas to go to Mass and receive Jesus in the Bethlehem of your heart?

9.    CLEAN THE CAVE.  Your heart can be compared to a house or even to a cave. If you were to invite guests to your home you would most likely clean your house so as to give a good reception to your guests. Now is the time to make a good Sacramental Confession. By doing so you will be cleaning out the dirt, cobwebs, dust, debris, and trash in your heart.  Then Jesus who is to be born will come with greater joy and fill you with joy. “Lord create in me a new heart… A humble and broken heart O lord you will not spurn…” (Psalm 51—Act of Contrition of King David.)

10. MARIAN BUMBER-STICKER.  I was once captivated by a short Marian one-liner; then I made this into a bumper-sticker for my car. It reads as such: “Wise men still find Jesus in the arms of Mary.”(Mt. 2:1-12—the Magi) As the day of Christmas quickly approaches, let us anxiously await the birth of Jesus with Mary. She carried Jesus in her womb for nine months. Why not beg through the most powerful intercession of Mary for the grace to truly dispose your heart so that Jesus will truly be born anew in the depths of your soul. “Come Lord Jesus, come, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Monday, December 1, 2014

SAINT JOSEPH AND LIVING OUT ADVENT


Saint Joseph, pray for us
 
Saint Joseph can help us to live a most fruitful Advent, and for many reasons. Let us quietly meditate upon five extraordinary virtues of this greatest of all saints so that we can live a most fervent Advent season and allow Jesus to be born in the depths of our hearts this Christmas!

Silence lead to prayer
 
1.    SILENCE. Not once in the Bible do we hear a word from the great Saint Joseph. This silence of Saint Joseph is very eloquent. It teaches us a fundamental attitude to enter into deep prayer: SILENCE. If we are constantly bombarded by noises then it is impossible to hear the Word of God, the Holy Spirit that speaks to us in the gentle breeze of silence. Also the silence of Saint Joseph teaches us the importance of example. We must prove our authenticity by words, but also by our actions. Saint Joseph taught the world by the holy way that he lived. May he be an example for us.

St. Joseph, teach us to pray
 
2.    PRAYER. Saint Joseph was a man of prayer. What an extraordinary role he played in the history of salvation. He was both the spouse of  Mary the Mother of God as well as the foster-father of Jesus the Son of the living God. Saint Joseph actually taught Jesus to speak and to address God as “Abba”—meaning “Daddy”. In a certain sense Saint Joseph taught Jesus to use the human words to talk to the Heavenly Father—this is prayer. Therefore, if Saint Joseph taught Jesus how to pray, how much could he teach me how to pray if I simply ask for his help.  Start now: Saint Joseph, teach me how to pray!

Saint Joseph and the Flight to Egypt
 
3.    COURAGE AND MANLINESS.  In a society where too many men shirk their obligations toward their wives, children and family and turn to vices and the easy life when confronted with difficulties, Saint Joseph shines as a model of courage and fortitude. He travelled the many miles in the cold and wind, only to meet rejection. He found refuge in an  animal shelter for the birth of Jesus. He arose early to flee into Egypt saving the Child Jesus from the vicious and murderous threats of King Herod. Faced with so many difficulties, Saint Joseph stood tall and confronted the obstacles with manly courage. May the men of the present generation lift up their gaze to the gentle but courageous man of God—good Saint Joseph.

Saint Joseph the worker and provider
 
4.    PROVIDE AND PROTECT.  Saint Joseph both protected and provided for the Holy Family. He was a hard worker—exercising the trade of a Carpenter. He earned the bread that he made with the sweat of his brow. He thought not of himself but of how he could best provide for and protect the family that God had entrusted to his care. As we draw close to Christmas let us beg good Saint Joseph to provide and protect our spiritual lives. Materialism, consumerism, hedonism are the gods of the present culture. These actually suffocate spirituality. Saint Joseph’s prayers can help us to look beyond the buying, having, and possessing. He can help us to realize that true joy and happiness does not come from having things, but in possessing God. To hold the Child Jesus in our arms and in our hearts is worth more than all of the money and possessions of the entire world. Good Saint Joseph can teach us this simple but profound lesson!

The Holy Family and Bethlehem
 
5.    SAINT JOSEPH, OUR LADY AND JESUS.   To arrive at a true and authentic devotion to Mary, good Saint Joseph can serve as a powerful bridge. Aside from Jesus Himself, nobody on earth knew, understood, cherished and loved the Blessed Virgin Mary more than good Saint Joseph. Turn to Good Saint Joseph and beg him for the grace of greater knowledge and love for Mary, his beloved spouse. Your devotion to Mary will make a huge jump! Then turn to Saint Joseph and beg him for the grace of intimate knowledge of Jesus that you will love Jesus more ardently and follow Jesus more closely. Aside from Mary nobody knew Jesus better on earth than good Saint Joseph. The Holy Family is complete only when the three members are recognized, honored and loved.  May the prayers of good Saint Joseph open your hearts to the immense treasures that God has in store for you this Advent Season. Then may Jesus be born in the depths of your heart this Christmas day!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

ADVENT: FIVE WAYS TO LIVE OUT THIS HOLY SEASON


 

Advent has arrived which means time to prepare for Christmas—the birth of Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  The joy of Christmas depends on the intensity with which we live out the Season of Advent. Let us follow these concrete suggestions and live out this Season of Advent with great joy, prayer, love and intensity. Let us live out this Advent as if it were to be the last in our lives. Indeed it could be! Jesus constantly reminds us to be alert, awake and to be ready and prepared for His coming because we know neither the day nor the hour.

1.    SILENCE…. Remember the Prophet Elijah and his experience with God in the silence on the Mountain.(I Kings 19: 11- 13) Try to eliminate unnecessary noise in your live!  We suffer from “noise Pollution”.

2.    PRAYER. Find more time to pray in this Holy Season. The Church encourages us to increase and intensify our prayer life.  Forms of prayer are many. The list might be among the following: a) Liturgy of the Hours, b) Psalms—the prayer book of the Bible; c)Holy Hour and the Word of God; d) Lectio Divina and following the classical steps: lectio, meditacio, contemplacio, oracio, accio, and finally transformacio… Pope Benedict XVI in his writings on the word of God “Verbum Domini” strongly recommends this; e) Holy Mass—the prayer “par excellence”; f) Vocal prayers prayed slowly and with great attention and love; g) Examen of Conscience(strongly recommended by Saint Ignatius); h) Holy Rosary—possibly the Scriptural Rosary; i) Contemplate the Crib/ the empty crib, the Shepherds… It could be very helpful to supplement your prayer, to read a good book on prayer; there are many, but find and good one!

3.    THE POOR.  Perhaps in this Season of Advent you can find some way that you can serve Jesus in the poor. Remember that Jesus manifests Himself in the poor. Blessed Mother Teresa said that we should discover Jesus in the “distressing disguise of the poor.” Read Mt 25:31-46—the Parable of the Last Judgment. Jesus points out that our final Judgment will be based on how we treat the poor.  Never forget this challenge: charity begins at home with our family members!

4.     HOLY MASS AND ADVENT. Try to go to Holy Mass every day in Advent. If you already attend daily Mass then go a step or two beyond what you are doing. Try to come earlier before Mass to prepare yourself better to receive Jesus into your “Bethlehem”—House of Bread, meaning your own heart. Also try to encourage and bring all the family members and friends that you can to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist. As St. Andrew brought people to Jesus, you are also called to bring people to Jesus, the Savior! Indeed Jesus is the pearl and treasure of infinite price. Share Him with others!

5.    IMITATE OUR LADY. In the Marian classic written by Saint Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, the saint under the category of marks of authentic devotion to Mary, highlights Mary’s ten most exalted virtues.  They are: deep humility, lively faith, blind obedience, unceasing prayer, constant self-denial, surpassing purity, ardent love, heroic patience, angelic kindness, and heavenly wisdom. (True Devotion to Mary, # 108). Why not choose one or two of these virtues of Mary, beg through her intercession the grace to imitate them and then during the course of Advent make a concerted effort to live these virtues out more fully in your life? Mary is the shortest, quickest, and the easiest path to arrive at the Heart of Jesus.

 

 

JESUS IS BORN AND LIVES AMONG US


Jesus born in Bethlehem
 
 
There are many ways that we can interpret the Birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The most obvious is of course His birth about 2000 years ago in the cave of Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. This we celebrate every year as the culmination of the Advent Season. However, there are many other spiritual and mystical ways that we can allow Jesus to be born in our world, in our communities, in our parishes, in our families and in our own hearts. This birth of Jesus can be as often as our hearts are willing to receive Him. More than an essay, we offer you ten points to meditate upon to enrich your understanding of the Birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May Jesus be born in your heart in time and for all eternity!

1.    INCARNATION & BIRTH. Jesus came into time about 2000 years ago through the consent of the Virgin Mary—and the Word became flesh and lived among us.  THE REASON?  Love for all of humanity and for all of us individually. Due to the Original sin of our 1st parents—Adam and Eve—the gates of heaven were closed. Therefore Jesus and Mary, the 2nd Adam and the 2nd Eve, came into the world to repair the sins of our 1st parents and to open the gates of heaven so that we can be saved. The name of Jesus means “Savior”; He came to save us of our sins.

Jesus born of Mary in poverty
 
2.    BIRTH.  In poverty, humility, simplicity, and obedience to the will of the Father Jesus was born. Enemies to living out the Birth of Jesus now this Christmas is materialism that leads to consumerism and hedonism and slavery to the created things and forgetting the Creator of all things. Ven. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen reminds us: “The creator of the universe had no place to be born in His own creation.”

3.    CHURCH IS “MATER ET MAGISTRA”—Pope Saint John XXIII.  This was an encyclical of this newly canonized Pope. As Mother, the Church brings forth new children. Many say that they love Jesus but that they do not like, nor can they even stand the church.  Wrong reasoning! Jesus said that He would be with us always even until the end of time. (Mt. 28) He is present with us in His Mystical Body now in the Catholic Church.  Therefore, Jesus is born in time through grace through the workings of His Mystical Body: the Catholic Church.  

The Sacraments flowing from the opened side of Jesus
 
4.    SACRAMENTAL LIFE.   This bringing forth Jesus in new life is especially expressed in the administration and the worthy reception of the Sacraments—the most powerful and efficacious means of grace. There are seven and they can be divided into three categories: 1) Sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation; 2) Healing: Confession and the Anointing of the Sick; 3) Service—the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony.

5.    BAPTISM.   Talking to Nicodemus at night Jesus says that man must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus has a too natural interpretation of the Words of Jesus and believes that he has to enter the womb again of his mother. Jesus clarifies this by saying that man must born again of water and the spirit. (Jn. 3:1-15  )  This passage and conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus points to our 2nd birth of water and spirit and this is the Sacrament of Baptism.   This was truly our 2nd birth. It might not be a bad new custom to establish in families to do this: celebrate two birthdays—one’s; natural birth and his spiritual birth or Baptism. Buy the cake and ice-cream and candles twice a year! Parents can use this as a catechetical tool to educate their children on the importance of Baptism, its meaning, its serious character, and the obligation to live out one’s Baptismal commitment. This means in concrete that the baptized person must renounce Satan and all of his pomps and pursue a life of holiness. Indeed Baptism demands that we pursue holiness of life; all of us are called to become saints!

Born in grace through confession
 
6.    CONFESSION/PENANCE/RECONCILIATION.  The two greatest tragedies that could befall the human person are the following: committing a mortal sin and worse yet would be to die in mortal sin. Good news! If we have the misfortune to fall into mortal sin there is always hope and trust in the infinite mercy of Jesus.   This becomes a reality through Sacramental Confession. Mortal sin is the death of the soul. Sacramental Confession is being born through the grace of God and cleansing from the Precious Blood of Jesus.  The Doctor of Grace, the great Saint Augustine who lived many years far from God, stated that a good Sacramental Confession is a “Lazarus experience”. (Jn. 11) Lazarus was dead for four days and buried in the tomb. Jesus approached the tomb and cried in a loud voice:  “Lazarus come out!” This dead man came out of the tomb alive and was given back to his sisters Martha and Mary.  This was an anticipation of the Paschal Mystery of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus would die on the cross, but rise to new life and give us new life and life in abundance. Saint Thomas Aquinas asserted:  “The return of a sinner to the state of grace is greater than the creation of the whole natural universe.”   A wonderful proposal for Advent and Lent would be to make a good confession, to bring our whole family to make a good confession, to bring some wayward soul back to confession, and to become an Apostle of the Confession.  Preparing well this Sacrament and receiving it well indeed is the birth of Jesus in the depths of our souls.

Sheen-- It takes three to get married: the husband, wife and Jesus
 
7.    SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE.  Unfortunately, due to paganism, secularism, moral relativism and the presence of the devil, many couples today start to live together. This has many names: cohabitation, free-union, trial-marriage, “Shacking out together”, married civilly.   For two baptized Catholics to live in this state is to be living in the state of mortal sin and to be jeopardizing one’s eternal salvation. Therefore, a couple who decided to take the necessary steps for Sacramental marriage and then to get married will be experiencing the birth of Jesus in their hearts, souls, lives and families the day of the wedding.  We should all promote traditional marriages, getting married in the church and encouraging the many couples today who live in free union to have their union blessed by the presence of Jesus who rejoiced with the married couple in Cana. It was here where Jesus did His 1st Public miracle in changing water into wine through the intercession of Mary, His Mother. (Jn. 2: 1- 12)

St. John Paul II consecration...
8.    MASS AND EUCHARIST.  In a very special way Jesus is born at every Mass. Actually the word “Christmas” means the Mass of Christ. Jesus was born in Bethlehem which means the House of Bread. Jesus is born in the hands of the Ordained Catholic priest at the moment of consecration.  Still more important: the moment of Holy Communion.  The most sublime moment in the life of the human person is the moment when he receives worthily Holy Communion. Indeed in that moment, Jesus is born in his own interior Bethlehem. The heart and soul of the communicant becomes the place that Jesus is truly born. For that reason it is so important to prepare our souls well to allow Jesus to be born in our hearts in Holy Communion. This indeed is Christmas. Christmas can be every day that we attend Mass, participate fully and receive Jesus with great purity, love, humility and confidence.

Jesus as Preacher-- priest is called to preach
9.    PREACHING AND THE BIRTH OF JESUS.   The Church teaches that one of the primary duties of the priest is the preaching of the word of God—how important this task! How is this carried out? Let us try to follow this dynamic! When a holy priest meditates on the Word of God, then that Word goes from his eyes into his heart and lives there. Jesus has been born in the heart of the priest through mental prayer. Then the task of preaching follows. The priest prays over what he has meditated, begging for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Then he preaches to the people. If the people have an open heart, mind and soul then there is birth.  The priest as preacher opens his mouth and preaches the Word of God; the word goes into the ears of the listeners; from the ears it goes into the mind which contains both memory and understanding. Then from the mind the word sinks into the depths of the heart. From the heart this word is translated into the life and blossoms in fruitful actions that we call virtues. Indeed a true preacher of the Word of God brings forth spiritual life every time he sincerely preaches the Word of God.  On one occasion a woman in the crowd praised the womb that bore Jesus and the breasts that nursed Jesus.  But then Jesus praises His Mother Mary with these words: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice.” For this reason Saint Augustine teaches that Mary first conceived Jesus in her mind even before she conceived Him in her womb!

Saints! Can you name these???
10. BIRTH OF JESUS: THE DEATH OF THE SAINTS.   The Church has an interesting and somewhat paradoxical teaching. It is the following! When a saint dies, he does not really dies but is transferred into a realm of true and eternal life—this we call HEAVEN!  For that reason, the life of grace is the life of new birth in Christ. It should be our daily and constant effort to grow in grace, protect the life of grace in our souls and beg for the grace to die in the state of grace. If done, we will live forever in heaven. Let us pray to Our Lady that Jesus will be born in our hearts, today, tomorrow, and at the hour of our death.  “Hail Mary full of grace….pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Monday, November 24, 2014

THANKS FOR THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL!!!


Thanksgiving is a national Holiday that brings families together to socialize, communicate, connect emotionally, and to enjoy a good hearty meal! On this day we should never forget the primary reason we should render abundant thanksgiving; this is for God, who He is and all that He has so generously bestowed upon all of us from the moment of our conception until our dying breath.

Indeed what do we have that we have not received from His loving and bountiful Providence? Only one thing: our own sins—these we chose due to our own perverse will!

We would like to focus on one crucial GIFT that should move our hearts to overflow in gratitude not just one day a year but all the days of our lives. This is the sublime GIFT of the most Holy Eucharist. 

Of all the gifts that Jesus left us before He ascended into Heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father, this GIFT, this most sublime GIFT, this ineffable and celestial GIFT of the goodness of the most Sacred heart of Jesus merits our constant gratitude. In fact the word itself Eucharist actually means “Thanksgiving.”

Let us briefly in a quiet and contemplative fashion move through the various moments where we should recognize the GIFT of the Eucharist, adore this “Real Presence” and render abundant and overflowing thanks.

Jesus is the High Priest
 
1.    INSTITUTION OF THE EUCHARIST.  Let us thank Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because in His loving and providential care He instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. In fact the Last Supper was the first Holy Mass where Jesus instituted the gift of gifts the Holy Eucharist. When and how? When Jesus took bread and wine, blessed and broke and said: “Take and eat this is my Body; take and drink this is my Blood; do this in memory of me.” With these most sacred and profound words Jesus left us until the end of time His “Real Presence” in the Eucharist. For this we wish to thank the good Lord and million times.

Sublimity of the Priesthood
 
2.    HOLY ORDERS/PRIESTHOOD.  Furthermore, as an extension to the Institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus willed to perpetuate the Eucharist through the instrumentality of Holy Orders or the Priesthood. Let us thank the Lord Jesus for being our eternal and High priest, but also thank the Lord Jesus for instituting the Sacrament of Holy Orders or the Priesthood.  How important it is that we thank the Lord for the priesthood but also to pray for more vocations to the priesthood, as well as for the sanctification and perseverance of priests in their sacred ministry. Saint Augustin calls the priest “Alter Cristus”—another Christ. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen defines the priest as “The victim who offers the VICTIM.”

Saint Padre Pio-- center of his life was the Eucharist-- thanksgiving!
 
3.    CONSECRATION. In the context of the celebration of Holy Mass by the priest we should be acutely aware of that most sublime moment of the CONSECRATION. When the priest repeats the words that Jesus said at the Last Supper over the bread and wine and elevates both the bread and wine, then Jesus is truly with us. In a certain sense we can even say that this is Christmas—Jesus being born in the hands of the priest. Our attitude should be that of deep gratitude. In silence, during the consecration, our hearts should be lifted on high to praise, adore, worship and thank God for coming down from Heaven to be with us.

Better we prepare for Communion, the more abundant the fruits
 
4.    HOLY COMMUNION. It gets better and better!!!  Jesus does not want to stay and remain in the hands of the priest. No!  Jesus longs to find his abode in the very core of the human person, that is to say, in the heart and soul of the human person through the worthy reception of Holy Communion. While living on earth, there is no more sublime act that a human person can do than to attend Holy Mass devoutly, participate fully, actively and consciously and then to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. This is when heaven comes down to earth and descends into the human person elevating him on high. Indeed we are sons and daughters of God, tabernacles of the most High, and living Icons of God Himself. This is most true when we receive Jesus into our hearts in Holy Communion. While Jesus lived on earth people could see Jesus only on occasions and sometimes only from a distance. But now we can see Jesus every day in Holy Mass at the moment of consecration and then receive Him into the very depths of our hearts in Holy Communion. This can be done every day of our lives!  How great is our God, but how abundant should be our thanksgiving to such a loving God.

O come let us adore Him!!!
 
5.    TABERNACLE/MONSTRANCE/BLESSED SACRAMENT.  Before ascending into heaven Jesus left us the most consoling words: “Behold I will be with you always even until the end of the world.”(Mt. 28:20) If Jesus indeed did ascend into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father then where is He to be found on earth? The response! In every Catholic Church, after the celebration of Holy Mass, the remaining Hosts are reverently deposited in the Tabernacle; this we call “The Blessed Sacrament”. What is His purpose in being in that Tabernacle? There is a double purpose. First, Eucharistic ministers can take the Lord Jesus to the sick and home-bound so that they can receive Jesus even in their physical infirmity. Second, the consecrated Hosts—the Eucharistic Lord Jesus, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings—is patiently waiting and longing for His friends to come to pay Him a visit.  He rejoices when His friends spend an Hour in His Divine Presence. Archbishop Fulton Sheen calls this “The Hour of Power.” Jesus patiently waits for all men and women of good will to come to visit Him, talk to Him, console Him, adore and worship Him but also to THANK Him!

In conclusion, Thanksgiving Day, as a civil Holiday comes once a year. However, for followers of Jesus the Lord, thanksgiving can and should be every day. This is expressed in the most profound and sublime manner by our loving reverence of what happened at the Last Supper, in the person of the priest, in the moment of consecration, in the most sublime of all moments when one receive Holy Communion reverently; finally, this is prolonged in our Eucharistic visits. May Our Lady who said “Yes” to the Lord and the Word of God took flesh within her sacred womb attain for us an eternal attitude of gratitude.  May our words be the words of the Psalmist: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

FIGHTING FOR FAMILY FAITHFULNESS


 

The family is under violent attack! The stability and the future of the society depend on the stability of the family. God created man and woman to fall in love with each other, to cement their love and union with the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and then the most exalted gift of Holy Matrimony is the birth of the child.

Parents collaborate with God in bringing forth new life; this we call PROCREATION.  God indeed is the Creator and Lord of the universe. However, He calls man and woman to be united in Matrimony to collaborate with Him in bringing forth this new life. In the moment of conception God Himself intervenes infusing an immortal soul in that new human being that will live for all eternity. How sublime and noble is the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the formation of the human family!

We would like to offer a few concrete and concise suggestions so as to foster Holy Matrimony—between man and woman until death do they part. We hope and pray that Traditional marriage and family as ordained by God would receive renewed vigor and hope for the future of the child, the society and the salvation of the world and large.

1.    PREPARATION.  Athletes prepare before entering into performance. Future Doctors spend many years in preparation for their mission of sustaining life and healing sicknesses. Future priests spend long years in the Seminary studying Philosophy and Theology and Church discipline. Future Olympians prepare years before the Olympic Games actually start. Should not future married couples spend time and effort in studying the nature of marriage, the family, possible obstacles in the path so as to live out to the fullest extent possible their vocation of marriage? Parishes should provide for their prospect couples three invaluable tools: 1) Marriage-mentoring couples to give them spiritual and practical advice of how to live out marriage. 2) (NFP) NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING.  Couples should learn seriously the method and technique of Natural Family Planning. One of the principal reasons for tension in marriages, a dying of love and eventually separations is the contraceptive mentality. A woman who is forced by her husband to use contraceptives often feels used as an object and this causes much tension and bitterness in her heart. Couples should definitely learn NFP—the natural means to avoid children only if they have just and sufficient reason as Blessed Paul VI reminds us in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. 3) ENGAGED COUPLES RETREAT.  Making a weekend Engaged Couples Retreat can prove exceedingly useful for future marriage and family.  If this retreat is well-organized and well-done, then the couples will be given the tools to live out their marriage peacefully, faithfully, harmoniously and with abundant blessings upon their children.

2.    GENERAL CONFESSION.   Highly recommended for a couple shortly before receiving the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is to make a General Confession of the sins of one’s whole life.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola strongly exhorts those making the Spiritual Exercises to make a General Confession of one’s whole life. Equally important is that of a couple about to make the most important decision in their lives to start with a clean slate by confessing all of their sins, purifying their consciences, immersing themselves in God’s infinite mercy and experiencing the peace that goes beyond all understanding. New beginnings and a new life can be experienced by making a General Confession.  What a tragedy indeed it would be for a couple to receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in the state of mortal sin! Many marriages most likely experience constant tensions due to the couple starting off on the wrong foot by not being in the state of grace!   The Father of the Prodigal Son is always waiting for us with His arms opened!

3.    CHRISTOCENTRIC COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen of happy memory was one of the first tele-evangelists in the United States.  A great preacher and teacher he was; furthermore, Sheen was a prolific and profound writer. One of his classics on marriage is titled “It takes three to get married.”  Who are these three? Quite simply they are the husband, the wife, and the third and most important is Jesus. Jesus is the super-glue that holds all marriages together.

4.    SACRED-HEART TRANSPLANT.  Next, married couples should have frequent recourse to the Sacraments, but especially the greatest of all of the Sacraments—the Most Holy Eucharist.  In every Eucharist, consecrated Host, Jesus is truly present in His totality---Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In the Body the noblest organ is the heart. Therefore, every time we receive Holy Communion we receive the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is a spiritual HEART-TRANSPLANT. There is no more efficacious manner to fortify love between a married couple then to receive Holy Communion together--- if at all possible, even on a daily basis! If done both husband and wife can love each other with the love of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. How sublime but how true!

5.    CONSECRATION TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY.  Man and woman that make the decision to marry until death do they part and to be open to having children and bringing them to heaven should invite Our Lady, Mary most Holy, the Mother of God, to be constantly present with them! They should consecrate their purity and their courtship to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On the day of the wedding they should present the bouquet of roses before the image of Mary and consecrate their marriage and family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Then during the whole course of their married life they should make the firm decision to pray the most Holy Rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary every day of their family life. Saint Pope John Paul II in his spiritual masterpiece “The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary” exhorted forcefully that the most Holy Rosary be prayed especially for two intentions: 1) World Peace, 2) For the Family.  The famous “Rosary priest” Father Patrick Peyton coined these immortal sayings:  “The family that prays together stays together…” and “A world at prayer is a world and peace.” In conclusion, let us do all we can to foster matrimony and family. The future of the world passes through the family. May the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph be our guide and strength!