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….”

SANCTITY IN THE SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT.


The poor widow's offering
 
 
As Jesus watched at the entrance of the Temple the money being thrown into the treasure-box, He did not pay so much attention to the rich and their large sums that they threw in. Indeed they wanted to be seen and applauded for their abundance given ostentatiously.

Then a poor widow threw a few small coins in the treasure box barely amounting to anything! This was the person that Jesus looked at with great love and approval. Why? Not for the economic substance of her offering—it was barely anything. Rather, Jesus read the depths of her heart. She was giving generously all that she had to live on.

The message is the following.  Man can see and judge from mere appearances. But Jesus reads the inner movements of the human heart.  What often is worthy of praise in the eyes of the world, Jesus despises.  On the contrary, what the world deems as insignificant, Jesus highly approves and praises.

St. Therese doing the ordinary
St. Therese and her Little Way can be our way and the way and path to holiness! Holiness does not depend simply on the greatness of the action, but rather on the intensity of love that accompanies the action.

In other words the secret to holiness is on a daily basis trying to do the ordinary things of daily life with extraordinary love.  That is the key! So much so that St Therese was known to say:  “Pick up a pin for the love of God and you can save a soul.”  Picking up a pin, physically speaking is no big deal!  However, if this action is done in the Presence of God, for the intention of pleasing God and with great purity of intention, then indeed, it has infinite value in the eyes of God.

Most of us are not involved in monumental and monolithic activities that will make the front page of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. On the contrary, many of our actions are the most ordinary and mundane. But they can have infinite value if we know the secret of offering it up to God.

A Mom doing it with joy and love
A HOMEMAKER’S ACTIVITIES.  Most of the normal activities of a homemaker do not make the Newspaper or the 6:00 p.m. news.  Sweeping the floor, taking out the garbage, buying, preparing, serving meals and then after cleaning pots, and pans and dishes—all of these are the glorious routine of thousands of home-makers and Moms.

If the Mom does this all with an attitude of complaining, with a scowl on her face and playing out the role of the poor victim, then her merit in the eyes of God is reduced to almost nothing.

However, if this Mom rises in the morning offering her day to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, willingly offers everything she does to please God, to  sanctify her family and to save souls, then her action has great value.

What can be of infinite value for the sanctification of the daily actions are two specific intentions and actions. Do our actions through the powerful intercession of Mary, “God’s masterpiece of creation” and uniting our actions to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

St. Louis and his love for Mary
First, the importance of going to Jesus through the intercession of Mary.  Mary is the short-cut to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  St. Louis de Montfort paints this image. A poor man wants to give a bruised apple to the King.  No way will the poor man have access to the King; much less will the King receive the apple, especially a bruised apple. However, if the poor man knows the Queen and the Queen has a real affection for this poor man. Then the Queen can take the apple, clean it, polish it, and place it on a golden platter, next to a beautiful rose.  The King, loving the Queen, receives the apple most willingly; not because of the quality of the apple but because of the person who gave him the apple, his lovely bride the Queen.

Therefore for us it must be the same! Our actions are like the apple. In and of themselves our actions are often tainted and spoiled by our enormous self-love and egotism. However, if we can give ourselves and our actions to Jesus through the hands and heart of the Queen, then the King--- Jesus who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords—will not refuse it.  In other words, Mary can help to ennoble and sanctify our smallest actions.

Holy Mass as Sacrifice: returns us to Calvary
Second, we must unite our actions and intentions with Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Every Holy Mass that is offered has infinite value. Why? For the simple but profound reason that Jesus is offering Himself as Victim of expiation to the Father.  The Father looks at His Son and says: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” The Father can deny His Son nothing!

Now how is this translated from the mystical into the practical? Not too complicated! Go to Mass, but arrive early before Mass has started. Give yourself at least a good 15 minutes.

Now open up your heart to the fullest with an infinite trust in Jesus, His love for the Father, His love for you and His love for the entire world. In opening your heart place all that you were, are, and will be on the altar before Mass has even started. Your day and your activities—place them now all on the altar, everything absolutely everything—hold nothing back! Your cooking, cleaning, your battle with your teenage son, your struggle with your husband, your fear of the future and insecurities in the present, your slight headache and clouded mind! 

The key is that you want to place all on the altar even before Mass has started. You are offering yourself and all that you have been, are and all that you will be offering to the Lord in the course of the day. Every minute detail of who you are what you are about, what you would desire for yourself and your family has an infinite importance for Jesus. Nothing escapes the loving eye of Jesus. He knows even the numbers of the hairs on your head and when one falls to the ground! The Lord Jesus indeed cares for the whole world but for each and every one of us individually.

Then when Mass is being offered, especially during the Consecration of His Body and Blood, all that you have placed on the altar is being lifted on high to the Majestic Throne of the Eternal Father who sees you but in His beloved Son in whom He is well-pleased. To this Son He can deny nothing.

St. Padre Pio's Mass
Then, even more important, receive Holy Communion into the depths of your soul. If your are well-disposed with a burning heart filled with love for the Lord Jesus then there will be an explosion of graces.   Your small actions will have infinite value because your smallest of actions have been offered to the Eternal Father through the loving Heart of Jesus.

In sum, let us learn the art of sanctity. It is not so much in the greatness of the action, but in the purity of intention. However of paramount importance is learning to offer ourselves to God through the pure and Immaculate heart of Mary and through Jesus the spotless Victim offered to God the Father in the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Monday, August 18, 2014

WHY THE DROUGHT IN THE FISHING BUSINESS???


From fishermen to fishers of men
By many he was known to be the greatest towering figure of the 12th century—living from 1090-1153, admired, loved, imitated and followed—his name SAINT BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX.

When he walked down the streets many of the mothers would lock their doors and hide their children. The reason? Bernard’s magnetism! They knew that one contact with this towering cultural, moral and spiritual giant would mean they would lose their sons or daughters to the Religious life or to the priesthood.

St. Bernard-- a human magnet
Indeed among the many charismatic graces of St. Bernard was the magnetic appeal he had over the young to leave all they had for the greatest treasure—the Lord Jesus Christ. Bernard reflected the holiness, purity and magnetism of Jesus and the young simply could not resist!

Jesus, with a heavy heart complained:  “The harvest is rich but the laborers are few. Beg the Lord of the Harvest to send more laborers to work in his vineyard.” This article will highlight five of the major obstacles today that block the road of many young people from hearing the voice of the Master and consequently failing to follow Him.  Here they are!

The Rich man said no to following Jesus
1.    MATERIALISM AND ATTACHMENT TO POSSESSIONS.  This is not new!  A Rich young man approaches Jesus with an overflowing enthusiasm, asking the Lord what was required to enter the Kingdom. Jesus gave a double response!  First, Jesus stated unequivocally that to gain eternal life it was necessary to observe the Commandments.   The Rich young man, up to this point had lived an upright and moral life having observed the Commandments. Now the challenge!  Jesus loved him and wanted the young man to go beyond mere observance of the law but to give himself totally to the love of God and salvation of souls. Jesus said:  “If you want to be perfect, then go, sell what you have and give to the poor and follow me and then you will have riches in heaven.” Upon hearing these words, the face of the young man fell as well as his spirits and he got up and left Jesus never to return again. Why?  His possessions. Actually his possessions possessed him. He was a slave of his possessions which totally blinded him from seeing and hearing the treasure that he had before his very eyes—JESUS, the pearl of infinite value.  For this reason Jesus asserted:  “You cannot serve God and money.”

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
2.    FREUDIANSIM/ FALSE VISION OF HUMAN SEXUALITY. We live in a highly sensate and sexual society. To be blunt: we live in a pornographic society.  This being the case very few understand, less do they live, the virtue of chastity.  Celibacy is a gift or charism that is granted to God by some.  However, this gift must be discovered in prayer; then it must be accepted. After it has been accepted it must be both cultivated and defended against the onslaughts of modern hedonism and the imperious demands of the flesh. Freudianism would state that celibacy is impossible. However, the Word of God states the contrary; “Everything is possible with God.”   By cultivating a deep love for Jesus, Mary and the Church celibacy can be lived with joy, freedom, resulting in a most fruitful spiritual paternity or maternity.  That is to say, those who have the charism of celibacy do not deny their paternity nor maternity but sublimate it to a higher plane—becoming spiritual Fathers or Mothers to a family that has no limits!

God is always faithful to us
3.    FEAR OF PERMANENT COMMITMENT.   In a society where close to 60% of marriages end in divorce, the economy is unstable, and progress is whirling at an incredible pace, many young people are afraid to make a permanent commitment.   Why? Many have seen marriages cave in, as well as priests and religious bailing out and jumping ship. Consequently, they fear whether or not they are capable of making a full-time commitment, a decision that would last their entire life!   In the spiritual cross-country marathon, many ask themselves interiorly, can I persevere until the end.  The world says no to this, but all things are possible with God. God is our Rock, fortress, mainstay and solid foundation on which to build a secure life and future.  If you like in the words of the most famous Psalm of all times:  “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall lack.” (Psalm 23:1)

Courage of St. Peter-- his crucifixion for Jesus
4.    CRISIS IN MANHOOD. It is no surprise for those who are aware of the “Signs of the times” as well as the fall in vocations and crises in the Church, the reality of the infiltration in the Seminaries as well as into the priesthood itself of a homosexual subculture, which has seriously undermined the true, authentic and serious candidates for the priesthood. Well worth reading is the classic “Good bye, good men”, written by the journalist Michael Rose.   The essence of this book, in which he has studied seriously various seminaries over the past few decades, is that the “good men” who had authentic vocations were shewed out of the seminary.  The reason?  Well, they would pray the Rosary and visit the Blessed Sacrament, cultivate devotions and would maintain their faithful allegiance to the Magisterium and the teachings of the Holy Father.  Because of all these “antiquated and obsolete” practices they were deemed unfit to pursue their priestly vocation and were ousted and given the axe!  Whereas the effeminate, unorthodox, and undisciplined candidates were accepted, given the green light and ordained.   Consequently, what have we seen in the past few decades?  Not so much problems with molesting children—sad to say there are a few cases. However, the huge majority of failures have been due to homosexual practices among the clergy.  “Good bye, good men!” And a warm welcome in the priesthood to those who had no vocation to the priesthood and should never have been ordained!

St. Alphonsus responds to his vocation
5.    PARENTAL AND FAMILY RESISTANCE.  Not infrequently one of the major barriers of resistance to the call to the Religious life and to the priesthood are the family members of the vocational prospect.  A classical case was the vocational-priestly call of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Having received two Law degrees when only in his teens and practicing flawlessly law for several years he had an oversight in a famous case and lost it!  Divine Providence! He left the law-courts never to return, feeling he was betrayed by the world.  After prayers and fasting he reveals to his parents his desire to become a priest and his own father grabbed him by the neck and opposed violently his son’s vocation to the priesthood! Later in life Alphonsus stated that this was one of the most painful moments in his life, the fact that he had to go against the will of his father and become a priest. For this reason in his writings on the Religious Life, St. Alphonsus stated that parents can often be the best friends of their children, until their child decides on a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life and then the parents can become the worst of enemies!

In conclusion, let us listen to the Words of Jesus Himself who said:  “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few.” Let us beg the Harvest Master to call constantly, but pray and hope that many young people will generously heed the call and follow the Lord and work tirelessly for the salvation of immortals souls. May the motto of St. John Bosco encourage the youth:  “Give me souls and take all the rest away.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

FAITHFUL FRIEND FOREVER: JESUS THE LORD!


 
When I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1986 shortly after my ordination at the hands of St. Pope John Paul II, I was contemplating a compelling portrait of Jesus. It was an image of His Sacred Heart, with flames of fire radiating from His Heart. However, what seemed to really captivate me most in the moment, were six words in Spanish that have been almost a motto of my life as Catholic, Religious and priest, and follower of Christ. These words were: “Jesus, el Amigo que nunca falla.”  Translation:  Jesus, the Friend that never fails!”

Christological names are many:  The Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, The Way, Truth, and Life, the Alpha and Omega, Lord, God, Savior, Redeemer, as well as Lamb of God, Son of man and Son of God.   Each of these names, like a precious diamond exposed to the sun through a process called refraction, reflects a different glimmer of the majesty, greatness and beauty of Jesus the Son of the living God.

However, there is still another title that has captivated me for many years and hopefully will captivate your heart and it is JESUS THE FRIEND.

On Holy Thursday, as Jesus sat at the Last Supper, about to give to all of humanity until the end of time two extraordinary gifts—we call them Sacraments—Holy Orders and the Most Holy Eucharist, He also called the Apostles and us by a special name:  I call you FRIENDS!   In this most important moment in His life, shortly before being crucified for love of you and me He called the Apostles and us His intimate Friends.

Our Christian-Catholic religion has rules, precepts, orders, prohibitions, decrees and commands, this we cannot deny.  The Ten Commandments are part and parcel of our deposit of faith.  Nonetheless, if we limit our Catholic faith to nothing more than a series of rules, precepts, and mere Commandments to obey, then we have missed the boat, missed the mark, and focused on something very important but not most important and essential.

The essence of Catholicism is a LOVE-AFFAIR.   It is a deep, dynamic, and growing relationship with three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The second Person of the most Blessed Trinity is Jesus, the Son of God become man.  He came into the world to save us. But also, Jesus came into the world to establish a deep, dynamic, and permanent Friendship with us.

The Bible says that to find a true friend indeed is a treasure. We might even call it the pearl of infinite price that we should be willing to give everything else up to acquire.    Of all the friends that could exist in this world, friendship with Jesus is by far the best!  He is the Friend, in the painting of the Sacred Heart, that will never fail us in time and for all eternity.  Even the best of friends are destined to fail each other sooner or later. But Jesus will never fail us. We indeed fail Him, but he will never fail us, never….

For this reason one of the best motivations for us to strive energetically to observe the Ten Commandments is for the simple reason of desiring to establish, cultivate and grow in the dynamism of Friendship with Jesus.

For this reason Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen coined one of the best definitions of sin on the market:  “Sin is hurting the one you love.” True, sin is breaking one of the Commandments. However, above and beyond the mere breaking of the one of the Ten Commandments, by sinning seriously we are breaking the Heart of God, a God that loved and stills loves us so much that He died on the cross to prove His love and Friendship for all of humanity, but for you and me.  

If you were the only person in the created universe, your Faithful Friend Jesus would have come into the world, preached, taught, exorcised and especially this: he would have suffered all of the torments of His Passion, from the Agony in the Garden, through His crucifixion, up to the shedding of His last drop of Blood when the lance pierced His Sacred Heart. All of this Jesus, your best Friend, willingly suffered for love of you and me and so that He would be your Best Friend in time and for all eternity.

Therefore, when we examine our conscience going through the Ten Commandments, why don’t we take a fresh and new approach in preparation for Confession. And it is simply this!   Recognize that your sins, in addition to the breaking of the Commandments, is especially   the hurting of the one that loves you and the hurting of the one who wants to be loved by you!

Sin is saying “no” to the love of a God who is madly in love with you and has a burning desire for you to correspond to that love. Still more by sinning I am breaking the Heart of my Best Friend. By making a good confession, I am healing that wounded Sacred Heart and restoring the best of Friendships which will not end at the graveside but will last forever in eternity in heaven.

Therefore, by saying “no” to sin, I am really saying “yes” to the love of God and “yes” to a deep and growing Friendship with Jesus.

Face it, if sinning is simply breaking a series of cold and impersonal set of rules, then chances are we will go back to sinning. However, if we see sin in a personal light of hurting my best friend, wounding His Heart, then I will stop and think and renounce this temptation to sin.

May Our Lady and good Saint Joseph pray for us.  They were the ones who loved Jesus best, had the deepest friendship with Him on earth and now and for all eternity they will be His best of friends.

Let us pray. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, make my heart like yours. Jesus Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I breathe forth my soul unto thee. O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine. Jesus, be my best Friend now, tomorrow, and for all eternity. Amen.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE 4TH COMMANDMENT?


I will not obey!!!
A few years back I witnessed an event that caused me both great surprise and great suffering.  I witnessed a three-year old angry and rebellious boy kicking his mother.  But what was worse was that the mother practically did nothing to correct the child.

I intervened quickly and forcefully and sharply rebuked the child for having gravely disrespected his own mother.  Of the two who is more at fault, the mother or the little child—obviously both are deeply in the wrong!   A child should not disrespect his own mother. However, the mother is greatly to be blamed because she did not enforce strict disciplinary measures to correct the child.

My thoughts wandered afterward as to the future of this child and the mother.   If this child cannot respect and obey his mother when he is only three years of age, then how will he fare as a teenager or when he enters into the work-force where he will have to obey strict guidelines? Very bleak the future of this child, according to my humble prognosis!

You do not understand me!
A SERIOUS READING AND MEDITATION: SIRACH 3:1-18.    I invite all to read and meditate this key Biblical passage which is without a doubt one of the best Biblical passages commenting on the fourth Commandment:  “Honor your Father and Mother.”

Responsibilities to Parents*

1
Children, listen to me, your father;
act accordingly, that you may be safe. 

2
For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children
and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons. 

3
Those who honor their father atone for sins; 

4
they store up riches who respect their mother. 

5
Those who honor their father will have joy in their own children,
and when they pray they are heard. 

6
Those who respect their father will live a long life;
those who obey the Lord honor their mother. 

7
Those who fear the Lord honor their father,
and serve their parents as masters. 

8
In word and deed honor your father,
that all blessings may come to you. 

9
A father’s blessing gives a person firm roots,
but a mother’s curse uproots the growing plant. 

10
Do not glory in your father’s disgrace,
for that is no glory to you! 

11
A father’s glory is glory also for oneself;
they multiply sin who demean their mother. 

12
My son, be steadfast in honoring your father;
do not grieve him as long as he lives.

13
Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him;
do not revile him because you are in your prime. 

14
Kindness to a father will not be forgotten;
it will serve as a sin offering—it will take lasting root. 

15
In time of trouble it will be recalled to your advantage,
like warmth upon frost it will melt away your sins. 

16
Those who neglect their father are like blasphemers;
those who provoke their mother are accursed by their Creator. 

I will not listen nor obey you!
I will give a brief summary of the strong but very clear contents of this all too forgotten, misunderstood, or simply ignored biblical passage.  I believe all parents should read and meditate and assimilate this passage. Spouses should try to understand it and implement it in the formation and education of their children. If done, their family will experience much more peace, harmony, joy, long life, and most important eternal life.  Following is a brief summary of the most salient points of this masterful, Magna Carta for the family, enshrining the primordial importance of the love, respect and obedience children should have towards their parents.

1.    LONG LIFE!   The word of God promises children a long life if they honor and respect their parents.  This “long life” has a double interpretation: long life in this temporal stay on earth, but most important long life in Heaven.

2.    AUTHORITY.  Frequently today, due to a false interpretation of democracy, all are on an equal basis.  It is true that we are all created in the image and likeness of God and have a unique and eternal destiny, which is heaven.  However, to say that all are on an equal basis, especially in the context of the family, is simply false!  Many parents, both Mom and Dad, want to be like “Big-brothers” or “Big-sisters” or if you like simply the “Best Friends” to their children. Granted, parents should be friendly and liked and loved by their children. However, there is an intrinsically different role of a parent towards the child than his own sibling and friend.  Parents have authority over their children.  The state cannot grab this right from the parents because it comes from God, the origin of all rights and authority.   In other words parents have an innate right to command their children, oblige their children, instruct their children on how they are to conduct themselves.

I do not want to go to bed now!
3.    OBEDIENCE. Parents have a right to command their children to carry out actions and orders.  Disobedience wreaks havoc in the world but starting with disobedience in the family. There is a story of a father with his two sons who worked on a ranch on a farm where there were certain dangers. One common danger was the presence of dangerous killer-bears.  On one occasion the father strictly ordered the sons a simple command. It was to go on their horses around the hill and not over the hill. The sons drove the horses—in strict obedience—around the hill.  Great choice in obedience! Why?  Because right over the top of the hill—where the father commanded his sons not to go—there was waiting a huge, angry, hungry and ravenous bear ready to attack, kill and devour whoever came his way! This story says a million!  How many children, teens and young adults simply dismiss the advice and commands of their parents at will? How many decide to do their own will rather than the will of God that is clearly expressed through the fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.”

4.    IMMEDIATE OBEDIENCE. One of the most frustrating occurrences in the lives of many parents is what we might term “delayed obedience” on the part of their children. Examples are countless! Take out the trash! Make your bed! Turn off the T.V.! Get up for school!  Parents can recall hundreds of other commands of such nature!   What is the response of all too many children to this command?  “Yes, Mom, but wait a little!”  As simple and easy as the command may be, all too many children discard this as almost insignificant! This causes in the hearts of Moms frustration, anger, forced to repeat herself numerous times and terminating in exploding into yelling!

I have a right to these cookies!
5.    OBEDIENCE WITHOUT QUESTIONING.  I remember once as a child I was commanded to do something that, according to my limited intelligence, did not to seem very logical.  Therefore, I asked my Father why I had to carry out that order. I remember very clearly his response.  He did not give me a long-winded philosophical explanation and treatise as to the rhyme and reason behind that order. Rather his response was:  “You will do it simply because I told you to do it!” Bingo!  With respect to obedience to a command, parents are not always morally obliged to give their children an intricate explanation for all of their commands. Rather, children should obey their parents promptly, immediately, joyfully and effectively.  Remember the old saying: “If a job is worth doing then it is worth doing well.”

In all of this the best example we have is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus obeyed His earthly parents—St. Joseph and Mary. Even more he obeyed His eternal Father in allowing Himself to be crucified for love of you and me. As the Apostle Paul asserts: “He was obedient even to death and death on the cross.”

Therefore, let us renew our efforts as parents to love our children to the max and manifest this love by exercising the God-given authority to teach, govern, command and order the children for the good of their souls, the future of society and the salvation of the world!