Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holy Family

1. The family is the way of the Church. (John Paul II) It is the common experience of everyone of every vocation. It is the basic unit of society. The family, as intended by God, consists of mother, father, and child or children, and cannot really be replaced by other associations or groups that would like to be considered families. The family is the ordinary means by which God intended to increase the human race, to protect and nurture the weak, and develop each person into maturity. Those whose family is incomplete or not functioning properly, and those who have no family experience pain and loss because of their lack.
2. The family so important that God used it as the means of bringing salvation to the world. For the Son of God became part of the human family. Jesus did not just take flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary and became Man, but He entered into the experience of the family with a Mother and a Father. Although it is true that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, he exercised the authority and care of Jesus as his son, in accord with God’s plan Even Holy Scripture calls Joseph the father of Jesus for this reason.
3. The home life of the Holy Family was necessary for Jesus to become who He really was- not only the Son of God from all eternity, but the Son of Man. When Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, at that moment. He became fully human in every way, just like us. But as a human being Jesus had to grow and be nurtured (see Luke 2:40). It was in His family that Jesus learned how to talk, how to read, how to work, how to pray, probably even how to teach. In the family Jesus learned to put on, as Saint Paul says, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another (Colossians 3:12-13). It might seem to us that they had it easy. Jesus and Mary had no sin, and Joseph was a righteous man. But their relatives and neighbors were not preserved from sin. And even despite the help of God they still had to go through the difficulties of life- illness, teething, teenage years. Furthermore, they had to escape to Egypt for a few years because Herod was trying to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:13-14).
4. Though we do not hear much about Saint Joseph in the Bible, it was from him that Jesus learned how to be a man. As Blessed as Mary is, there are things that one must get from one’s father. It is said that a father is the one to teach his children how to say “no.” Such as no I will not give into the temptation to turn the stones into bread (see Matthew 4:3-4) or no, I will not call down fire to destroy the Samaritan city (see Luke 9:54-55) or no, I will not let one of my followers be arrested with me, it is not their time (see John 18:8-9).
5. Most of the life of the Holy Family remains hidden from our view (from the point of view of Scripture). But there are stories about the Holy Family's activities that give us a glimpse of what was important to them.
6. Saint Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph completed all the prescriptions of the Law with regard to Jesus (Luke 2:39). That means on the eight day after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had Jesus circumcised. In doing so, they ensured that Jesus the man was part of the covenant family that God had established with Abraham. At the same time, they were renewing their commitment to the Lord in having their child brought into the covenant. Had they failed to do so, they would have cut themselves off from God. Furthermore, in accordance with the Law, they offered the sacrifice of two turtle doves (see Luke 2:22-40). This redemption was an acknowledgment that God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and from the death of their firstborn sons in the final plague. Their son was to be consecrated to God entirely.
7. Joseph and Mary took their responsibility for the spiritual growth of Jesus as a member of the chosen people seriously. Joseph not only cared for the material needs of the family, but saw to it that they took the time to practice their religion, he did not dump that job off on Mary- and they fulfilled their religion, not merely out of a sense of obligation, but because they loved God. How else do you explain Mary and Joseph’s submission to the will of God although it was highly inconvenient for them? It was inconvenient for Mary to conceive a child before she was married. It was inconvenient for Joseph to marry a woman who had a child which was not his own. Yet they obeyed God out of love.
8. A family in which God is in the center, in which prayer, worship and the practice of religion is most important, that family is going to mirror the Holiness of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. On the other hand, the family for whom the worship of God is something you do occasionally, or when there is nothing better to do- those families are going to struggle with holiness- not only because their priorities are misplaced, but because they withhold from themselves God’s help. They are like children who refuse to come to the dinner table to eat, but who constantly complain of being hungry.
9. Of course in the New Covenant, the rituals are different. We do not circumcise, but we baptize to enter the Covenant Family of God. That is why we baptize infants. Who should wait to be part of God’s family? The sacrifice which we offer is the one commanded by Jesus when He said do this in memory of me (see Luke 22:19) - that is, the Eucharist. It is the sacrifice of Jesus Himself which establishes the New Covenant and consecrates us to God the Father.
10. The family life of Jesus with Mary and Joseph was crucial to the plan of salvation. Sin came into the world through disobedience. Jesus conquered sin through humbling Himself. Jesus’ obedience is not only the model that we must follow, but it is the source of the grace that makes it possible for us to be Holy.
11. Family is what being Catholic is all about. In our baptism we entered the family covenant with God. We received Mary for our mother and Saint Joseph for our foster father. As Joseph was given authority over the household of God in order to care for Jesus and Mary, so does he continue to care for the family of God the Church. And in the sacraments that spiritual family is increased, fed, strengthened, reconciled, and perfected. But although we are given the faith by the free gift of God, it is in and through the natural family that we really receive the faith. I could baptize many people, but if their families do not keep their promises, the children could be lost. The family is the way of the Church. And the success of our human families is dependent on how they reflect the holiness of the Holy Family.
12. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph pray for us.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joy for All the People

1. The angels appeared to the shepherds and announced to them the joy that would be for all peoples. Throughout history, even to the present day, there have been plenty of promises of joy for everyone. But in every case, whether it has been the promise of a person or a program, a philosophy or an investment or a lifestyle choice, these promises have always come up empty except for this one. That is the promise of Jesus Christ.
2. The other promises fail for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is because part of the plan is to crush or destroy someone. Not only does that not result in joy for everyone, but eventually the victims want to do the same. It’s true, Jesus did plan to destroy something: He destroyed the power of sin and death. But the lowly and the meek He lifts up. And those who are beset by sin, whether they appear mighty in the world, or lacking in power, He offers freedom from eternal death.
3. Other promises fail because they presume that happiness can be achieved through material possessions or pleasures of the body. It does not take long to learn that happiness does not come from those things. They fall apart, they break, they do not last. No matter how much you have, you want more. At the end, we cannot take them with us when we die. I have attended the deaths of many people. Not one person in that circumstance cared about their pretty things, their cars and houses and big screen televisions. They wanted to see the people whom they loved and that was enough. Maybe hold the rosary in their hands one last time. And today’s pleasures have a tendency to turn into tomorrow’s troubles - disease, illness, separation, sorrow.
4. On the other hand, the newborn King Jesus offers an eternal inheritance in the kingdom of God. These treasures awaiting those who love God and obey Him cannot fall apart, they cannot break or fail. They will not make anyone sick. To possess them will not cause us grief or regret on our deathbed, but rather fill us with hope that will not go unfulfilled.
5. Still other promises fail because they require us to become something which we are not. That is to become our own god. Maybe they are Or even worse, because they are based on the notion that joy is caused by self-fulfillment. But Jesus said Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).
6. Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that happiness consists entirely of the Beatific Vision- that is, seeing God face to face in the fullness of His kingdom at the end of the world. And in Jesus we see the face of God. As the angels announced to the shepherds, the good news of great joy for all the people (Luke 2:10) is the Incarnation of Jesus the Son of God as a human being. Jesus is the one who brings true joy. Not economic systems, not politicians and government, not money, not possessions, not pleasures, not anything else other than God. Those things can be useful, but they will not get the job done. Only Jesus can.
7. So today we celebrate His birth. Not really His entry into the world, for Jesus had been hidden in Mary’s womb for nine months. Even now as a child, although His birth is announced by angels, very few people paid any attention. Probably not the innkeeper, probably not the owner of the manger. To most, Jesus was just another poor child born among the millions of babies born each year. Even now, though we celebrate His birth, five out of every six people in the world do not even know who Jesus is. Some know His name only as a curse word. And yet, He came to suffer and to save not only us, but everyone else too.
8. It is appropriate, therefore, for us to be joyful. This indeed should be a special time of the year in which we take stock of what is really important, in which we exercise generosity for the sake of goodness, in which we seek to reconcile with and spend time with our families and loved ones. It is time for us to refocus our attention on the One who does not just make Christmas what it is (after all, it is Jesus’ birthday), but who makes everything that is (He is the Word through whom all things were created as well as the One who has redeemed Creation). He alone will give us the Joy which we desire. Merry Christmas and May God bless.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

According to Thy Word

For a few brief moments, our salvation seemed to hang in the balance. After announcing the will of God for Mary to become the Mother of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Archangel Gabriel awaited word from the young girl. How would his Queen respond? There were reasons to say no. Joseph would surely be upset. The family and the neighbors would certainly have something to say. Mary was a young girl with a good reputation and a desire for holiness. If she agreed, there could be trouble. No, there would be trouble.

And yet, the Lord had always been faithful to His people, even when they were not faithful. To turn back now when it was in her power to do God’s will would rank Mary among the ungrateful Israelites of the past. Besides, those who trusted in the Lord had never been put to shame. And God had prepared her from the first moment of her existence to say yes. Mary was and is, full of grace.

Be it done to me according to your word, Mary said. Was there any doubt that she would love God above all things?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Be Joyful!

1. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This weekend we celebrate Gaudate Sunday, that is, You, Rejoice. Liturgically, the reason for rejoicing is that the Penitential Season of Advent is over half over and the feast of Christmas is nearly here. The priests wear rose-colored vestments. The Rose color is obtained more or less by mixing the penitential color of Purple with the Feast Color of White.
2. Scripturally speaking, rejoicing is a source of strength. Although through fasting and prayer, we can obtain many blessings, in truth the purpose of Christianity is not to make fasting and penance our aim. The purpose of fasting is so that we can feast better. The purpose of penance is so that we may celebrate more. The purpose of carrying our cross and accepting a share in the passion of Christ is not so that we will suffer bitterly, but so that we may rejoice in sharing His resurrection. After all, Jesus did not stay in the tomb, but He rose and ascended into heaven. When He returns, it will not be to suffer and die, but to reign gloriously forever.
3. Because we know how things are really going to end: with resurrection and with glory, we are able to rejoice always. Even in the midst of sorrow, a Christian should carry within them a joy which cannot be taken away.
4. Last Monday, one of my friends made her vows as a Missionary of Charity (that is Mother Teresa’s group). There were eight young women making their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Present at the Mass were around 50 other sisters of the same group. Some were novices, and others fully professed nuns with years of service. What was striking about all of them was their joy. They were all so happy and smiling. Maybe they were happy because their sisters in the order were fulfilling their dream of making a serious commitment of their whole lives to Jesus Christ. Possibly, being a nun just made them all that happy. I am not sure, but I know that I have never been around so many joyful women at the same time.
5. After the Mass in which they made their commitment to Jesus Christ as a religious, they retired to their convent where they received their assignments. Within the week, each newly professed sister would be leaving the convent in San Francisco to serve the poorest of the poor in another city. I was with the families downstairs. From upstairs where the sisters were, we could hear them stomping their feet and shouting for joy at receiving their new assignments. My friend came down and breathlessly announced that she was being sent to Haiti. Now Haiti is a beautiful country, but it is beset by great suffering. Sister Esther would be going into the midst of all that. Yet her face was radiant as she announced it to her family. All the other nuns who announced their assignments were similarly happy.
6. What gave them the power to be joyful instead of fearful? It was their love of Jesus. Because of their relationship with Him, they could be just as joyful being sent to Haiti as they were getting to see their family the first time in five years.
7. That same joy is available to us. Some of you may be called to religious life, but the majority of us are not. (A diocesan priest makes promises of obedience and celibate chastity, but we do not make make vows to enter religious communities, our community is the parish and the local presbyterate). Saint Paul tells us: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks. It must therefore be possible to do these, and they are connected. If every facet of our life is saturated with prayer and gratitude, then joy will be ours even in the midst of problems.
8. I once visited a man in the hospital who had a heart attack. He and his wife were saying how grateful they were that the EMT's had arrived so soon and taken such good care of him. And how they were thankful that they were able to be in a hospital that could care for him correctly. A few days later, he had another heart attack in the hospital. I visited again. And once again this couple could do nothing but rejoice and thank God that the man had his second heart attack in the hospital, nears the nurses and doctors. Their grateful and prayerful spirits exuded joy.
9. How does one pray without ceasing? It certainly does not mean praying vocal prayers the whole time, although those are necessary. The first step of praying without ceasing is to realize that God is present in every situation. We may think that there is a part of our lives that God is not in, or a part of our house that God is not present, but He is there. Even when we sin, God is right there. He does not approve, but He is present. The Lord is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
10. The second step is to absolutely believe that through our baptism we are the beloved children of God the Father. The Father might not approve of everything we do, but He loves us and sent His Son Jesus to save us.
11. The third step is to focus our hope on the resurrection at the end of the world. All these things in the world which we like to pay attention to may be beautiful, and some may even be holy. But this world will pass away.
12. If we love Jesus in every thought, word, and action. If we do that, we will pray always. And the joy of loving Jesus will fill us to overflowing and it will not end.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Here comes with power the Lord GOD! (Isaiah 40:10).

1. Saint Peter prophesied that the world will be consumed by fire and all the elements will go up with a roar (see 2 Peter 3:8-14). This image is at least a little bit disturbing. Of course, his reason for telling us is so that we can be prepared for when it happens. When I was reading this earlier in the week, I began to think of how one might avoid being destroyed in a fire. One tactic in fighting outdoor fires is to start a small fire and burn out an area so there is no more fuel. Then you wrap up and hunker down. When the large fire arrives, it will have nothing to burn and skip over you.
2. In some ways this is a good tactic to imitate. Saint John the Baptist tells us that the Messiah will plunge us into the Holy Spirit, who is the fire of God’s love (Mark 1:8). (Baptize means plunge). At Pentecost, the disciples received the Holy Spirit which came upon them like tongues of fire. Furthermore, the faith spread like a fire throughout the world. It still does, there are people who are hungry for the Christian faith. God has prepared them to receive the faith. All we have to do is go spread it to others.
3. If we are consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit, then we do not have to worry in the least about the fire which will consume the world at the end. Now, usually, when a person has a conversion experience toward God, they can practically feel the fire of God’s love inside. It might even be easy at first to experience God’s power given to us through Jesus Christ. With time, however, our fervor may begin to falter. Sometimes it is a matter of getting tired out, or falling in love with the good things of the earth. To keep the flame of faith going, we must be careful to obey the commandments, lest sin put the fire out. And if we do fall into sin, we must be quick to go to confession, so that we can regain the status that we had when we first received the faith, and even progress in our love of God and neighbor. Like the firefighter who builds a firebreak, the fire of the Holy Spirit will protect us from the fires of Hell.
4. The image of the firebreak maybe does not fit completely when we consider that the unquenchable fires of Hell are not equal in any way to the fire of God’s love. The agony awaiting those who reject God’s love in no way measures up to the joy which await those who are consumed by His love. So maybe we should apply the image in the opposite. God’s love is everlasting and all consuming. And the only sure way for someone to avoid being caught up in it is to deliberately choose the fires of perdition. To do so makes no sense! Who would willingly choose being apart from God’s love? It seems insane. But there are times when we may have wanted to be in control of our own fire so much that we have in fact prevented ourselves from being taken up into God’s love.
5. There is a time however, in which a person can in fact be doing everything in their power to keep the fire going, and yet it seems to die out. In those times, we are like the people of John the Baptist’s time- eagerly awaiting our Lord, but not seeing Him anywhere. We are led into the desert and it may seem as if God is not speaking or listening. In those moments we must be especially careful to not permit the fire to go out. For it is a moment in which God is about to do something great, although it may seem insignificant, or be so delicate that we could miss it. It is in fact a period of testing and preparation of our hearts so that we might love Jesus more deeply. Even those blessings we have received at Jesus’ hands must be offered up so that they may not interfere with our focus on the Lord.
6. Saint Peter asks us the question what sort of person ought we to be? (see 2 Peter 3:11). Not fearful, but ones whose desire for Jesus drives everything that we do.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Joyful Hope

1. Those who had known Jesus when He walked on the earth, those who had ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead felt the desire to see Jesus once more, this time in Glory and Power. So in the early days of the Church, the whole Christian community strained each day looking forward to the return of Jesus, begging Jesus to come back.
2. Their feelings echoed the words of the prophets, like Isaiah, who longed for the Lord to come down and rescue His people from their sins. They looked at their lives and could see the same mistakes over and over again. Although Chosen by God and constantly shown His care and mercy, they nevertheless sinned and imitated the pagan nations around them. To break out of the cycle of sin, they wanted God to intervene.
3. Through the Prophets, God taught them to hope for His coming and to prepare themselves to meet Him. Still, most of the people failed to recognize Jesus when He did arrive, in spite of the many signs which He performed for their benefit. We do not have to wait for Jesus’ first coming. But like the earliest Christians, we are awaiting His return in Glory. Jesus tells us in the Gospel to be watchful and alert, ready for His coming. But what should be our attitude, and what should we be doing, if anything, to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ glorious return.?
4. As with any question, there are various opinions on how to answer it. And not all answers are equally correct. But as I learned from Father Gallagher in the seminary, even studying erroneous opinions is useful for discovering the truth. One of these errors is to think that we must do most of the work. After all, Saint Paul says in his letter to the Phillipians work out your salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).
5. This erroneous opinion more or less states that God has given us everything we need, and with it we can lift ourselves up to heaven. And many people suffer from a form of this error, even if not completely. For example, many are tempted to put off going to confession until they have conquered their own sins. But if we were able to save ourselves, why would Jesus have come in the first place?
6. Instead, our salvation is a gift of grace given to us by the Good God. He looked with pity on us and saved us because we could not do it ourselves. Yes, God gives us everything we need, but He does not leave us on our own. We do not pull ourselves up to heaven. Rather, as Hosea the prophet said: I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks (Hosea 11:4). It is the Lord who raises us up to the heavens. It is His love that has given us Salvation, the Redemption of our Souls.
7. On the other extreme, there are those whose idea of preparation for the return of the Lord borders on fervent complacency. This kind of doing nothing is not the result of laziness, but rather the conviction that nothing we could do matters anyway, that human beings are so ruined by the Original Sin of Adam and Eve that it is impossible to do good. This particular error is very popular, and it is used to convince many Catholics to abandon their faith, although thanks God few people actually act as if it is true.
8. Those who propose that human beings are totally depraved it will sometimes quote today’s first reading all our good deeds are like polluted rags (Isaiah 64:6b) Taken by itself, one might begin to think that good deeds are useless. But the author is not speaking of actual good deeds, but on the so-called good deeds of unclean people. Although Isaiah has a longing that God would find His people doing right when He comes down to the earth, the prophet realizes that they are in fact sinners. They were like the unclean, that is, those who do not know God and do not know what pleases Him. The so called “good deeds” they valued were in fact useless before the Lord. They were selfish in their pursuit of worldly goods. They were unconcerned about the plight of those with insufficient work to support their families. They ignored the cries of abandoned or rejected children. They did not care for the widows. The virtues of the day were the piling up of wealth, the experience of pleasures, and the desire for power and control.
9. It was not because people were incapable of good deeds that the prophet wrote this, it was because they could do good, but only if they turned to God.
10. The prophet does not leave us without hope. He concludes his admission of the sinfulness of his own people by recalling that God is Father, that we are His creatures. He is the potter and we are the clay (see Isaiah 64:7). If God has made us for Himself, surely He will bestow mercy on those whom He has chosen.
11. And so it is. Jesus the Son has become the means of God’s mercy for us, if only we would cling to Him. We are the clay in His hands, and He has formed us to be the beloved children of the Father. The words of Hosea describing God as one who lifts an infant up, are not just words describing the blessings that God has bestowed on us in this life, they describe what the Lord intends to do with each one of us- to lift us up to spend an eternity with Him.
12. My brothers and sisters, we cannot save ourselves, only Jesus is our Savior. Yet we cannot stand by idly, wrongly believing that our actions are meaningless in our relationship with the Living God. If we are His people, if we are His family, then we must live as His true children. Even if we must dig down and offer ourselves in the process. We must be watchful, alert, but not afraid. Rather we must wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ (priest's prayer after the Our Father in the Mass).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jesus Christ the King

1. Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world... (Matthew 25:34). Generally when most people consider the end of the world, they tend to focus on the images contained in the book of Revelation. They observe the disasters befalling people, whether they are natural or the result of violent sin and then try to interpret them in light of the apocalyptic language of the last book of the Bible. There are others, when they read these visions, become somewhat frightened and do not wish to think about them. Still others are worried about concepts which are not found in the Bible and are not part of traditional Christianity, for example the so-called rapture and possibility of being left behind when such an event is supposed to occur.
2. Focusing on the book of Revelations, however, for clues to the end of the world is not always useful. Apocalyptic literature is highly symbolic and difficult to interpret. Besides, many of the events depicted are not in the future but have already happened. On the other hand, today’s Gospel is pretty clear about what is going to happen at the end- there will be judgement. As we say in the Profession of Faith, we believe that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.
3. The purpose of judgement is to set things right, to be fair. Although judgement can be a fearful thing, Jesus insisted that He did not come to condemn the world but to save it (see John 12:47). Note that when the Son of Man returns to judge, He says to those He deems good come blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. That is, it has always been God’s intention that we would inherit His kingdom as His beloved sons and daughters. That is the plan of God. Jesus does not say to those condemned that their place of punishment was prepared for them since the foundation of the world. That is because God did not intend to punish anyone when He created them. In truth, we are in a sense predestined for the kingdom but we are not predestined for hell. God did not make anyone to punish, but He made all of us out of the goodness of His love to share His presence forever.
4. Still, it is a judgement, and since God gave us the gift of free will, He is not going to force us to spend and eternity in the house of the Father if we really do not want to be there. As Jesus indicates the possibility for eternal life as the result of our actions, He also indicates the possibility of eternal damnation based on our actions.
5. Of course, someone may question what does judgement have to do with the Kingship of Christ? There may even be discomfort in hearing about the fires of Hell. I must admit, this reading always makes me a little nervous. But it is indeed all about the kingship of Jesus.
6. When God called Abraham and his children to faith, it was to be that God would be their king. They would not bow down to earthly power or strive to impose their own wills upon one another. Rather God was to be King. Although they failed time and time again to put the Lord first, nevertheless through the prophets there was a longing for God to be King. Isaiah expresses that longing, hoping that God Himself would come down and lead them into justice and peace. It came to pass that God Himself did come down and took upon Himself our human nature. Jesus the Christ is indeed our king. But He is not the kind of king that many people had been used to. Although He is the Lord, Jesus did not “lord” it over His disciples. It is true, that Jesus sought to conform us to the will of the Father. He wanted to spread the kingdom to everywhere (see Matthew 28:19-20). He greatly desired to destroy the enemies of sin and death. But He did so by humbling Himself and offering Himself on the cross. In His passion and death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death and in His own body conformed our nature to the will of the Father.
7. To enter into the eternal life, willed by the Father and won by Jesus Christ, it is necessary to recognize Christ as our King and to serve Him. In spite of the many beautiful things the earth has to offer, we were not made for the earth, we were made for heaven.
8. For that reason, the judgement depicted in the parable is all about our relationship with Jesus, which is expressed by our relationship with one another. Eternal happiness is the consequence of serving Christ our King in every action. Eternal damnation is the consequence of failing to serve Christ our King in every action. There really is not any middle way. Jesus takes our behavior toward each other personally. And it is completely practical. If we contribute to feeding the hungry (such as in our food pantry or in another way), we are feeding Jesus. If we neglect hungry, then we neglect Jesus (and He does not like it). If we protect the vulnerable from attack, we protect Jesus. That is why the Church does not condemn membership in the military, for many have sacrificed to protect others. On the other hand, if we attack the vulnerable, or even if we simply neglect them, we do the same to Jesus. (If we neglect the elderly or the sick, or the unborn child for our own political or economic benefit, then we do so at the peril of our souls). But whatever we do for them we can be assured by the words of Jesus that He accepts our kindness as personal.
9. This reading might fill us with fear and trepidation. But although fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fear is not going to be sufficient to motivate us to do right. There is a story of Mother Theresa who was comforting a dying man on the streets of Calcutta India. The man was very sick, very thin, covered with sores and dirt. And he had the smell of death. Some businessmen passed by and one of them remarked, "I would not do that for a million dollars." Mother Theresa looked up at him and said "Neither would I." Why did she do it? Was it fear? No. It was love of Jesus. If we love Jesus, if He is truly our King, then we can truly serve Him with all our hearts. Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Come, share your Master’s joy.

1. A familiar characteristic of the scripture readings at this time of year is that they focus on the end of the world. Every week, the Gospel presents us another instance of Jesus telling His followers what to expect and what is important. For example, we can expect to be judged based on our actions. In the parable Jesus proposes today, God is like a Master wishing to settle His accounts with His servants (that is, with us). Those who have been fruitful in their labors will enter into the joy of the Master. Those who have not, will be cast out into the darkness.
2. Light and darkness are common threads that run through these stories. The wise virgins who had extra oil will go into the wedding feast. And the foolish one who did not will stay outside in the dark (see Matthew 25:1-12). The wedding guests who are properly dressed will enjoy the feast, while those who are not will be cast into the dark (see Matthew 22:2-14). The ones who obey the will of the Father will enter the fullness of the kingdom and those who do not will be left out in the darkness to wail and gnash their teeth (see for example Matthew 7:21).
3. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul reminds us that we are children of the light, children of the day (see 1 Thessalonians 5:5). We do not belong to the darkness of sin, but rather we have been illuminated by Christ to live in His light forever.
4. Another commonality of these readings we will notice is that Jesus is asking us to be prepared. Saint Paul reiterates this warning, saying : let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober (1 Thess 5:6). We do not know when the end will come. Maybe today, maybe a thousand years from now. (But whenever we die, that will be it for us with regard to our actions in this life.)
5. The best way of dealing with the end of the world is to always be prepared. If you do not want to get caught lying, never lie. If you do not want to get caught cheating, never cheat. If you want to make sure that you tell your parents or someone that you love before they die, then do it every day and you will have nothing to fear. If you are always ready, then you cannot be caught off guard.
6. What may be notable in this parable is the talents given to each servant to invest and use. In the ancient world, a talent was a monetary amount that was very valuable. A talent of silver was worth about $11k. A talent of gold was worth about $800k. That is a lot of money to be given. Generally, the word “talent” has changed from a sum of money to mean a skill or gift that someone is born with or comes by easily.
7. Why was more money given to one than another? That is a mystery. Just like it is a mystery that some of us have certain talents and others do not. I can speak in public and I do not get afraid. But I am not good at any sports. I enjoy them. I play hard, but I do not have much talent in that area. Each of you has some kind of talent or skill. Maybe you can cook, maybe you are fast. Maybe you can sing of play and instrument. Maybe you are good at science, or languages, or telling jokes, or drawing pictures. It is considered part of our Christian vocation to discover what God has given us in the way of talent. And it is not bragging or prideful to admit what you have been given. In fact, to fail to acknowledge what you have received is impolite and ungrateful.
8. What is not a mystery is that in addition to giving the talent, the Master expects it to be developed. It is not simply ours to use as we want, but rather we are the stewards of something given to us. The wicked servant knew that he had received a gift, and that the Master would expect something. Indeed, the Master’s expectations were not unusually high. Even if the servant had invested the talents in a minimal way, it would have been acceptable. But as it was, he buried them out of fear. Instead of being welcomed into the Master’s joy, he was cast out into the darkness.
9. So it is with us. Although we have to be prepared for judgement, it is not like the Lord has left us to our own devices. He has provided the means for our success. And not in any miserly way, but generously. The judgement that will come upon is not intended to be an opportunity for condemnation, rather, the Father desires that it be a moment of joy. What will ruin it for us is fear, or rather, lack of trust. The wicked lazy servant did not trust in the Master, or in the gift so generously shared. Instead he judged the Master and made no attempt to fulfill the Master’s will. He did not even beg for mercy, he just handed back unused the talent which he had received. Therefore the condemnation he experienced came from within himself.
10. What did God entrust to you? What is your talent? What blessings have you received? They might be very grand. Or they might appear very small. But our assessment of their size is not important. What we do with them is important. We have received everything from the hands of the generous and loving God. Everything in turn ought to be used for His greater honor and glory and to produce fruit for the kingdom.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Feast of Saint John Lateran

1. Today we celebrate the dedication of the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran in Rome. It is the cathedral for the diocese of Rome (Saint Peter’s Basilica is the church in the Vatican and the location of the tomb of Saint Peter). The Church of Saint John is built on the Lateran Hill. It is reputed to be on the site of the house of the family of Saint Clement, the third pope. His family was wealthy and in those days of persecution used their home as the church. Later, the property was donated for the building of a proper church sometime after the legalization of Christianity in 313AD.
2. If you have ever been to a dedication of a church it is a wonderful ceremony in which to participate. The building is anointed with holy oils, most especially the altar. And the fragrance from the Sacred Chrism used to anoint the altar and walls lasts for a long time. It is the same oil used at the ordination of a priest to anoint his hands for sacrifice. It is the same oil used to seal those receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is also used at Baptism to recall that we are all anointed to be a priestly people of God, offering our whole selves in His service. Whenever I smell the Sacred Chrism, it brings me back to my ordination and the intense desire I had on that day to offer myself as a sacrifice in the person of Jesus Christ.
3. As I said, today we celebrate the dedication of a building. But not really. The Church of Saint John Lateran is beautiful, I am sure (although I have never been there). The Church building, however beautiful, is not really the thing that we are celebrating today. For the Church is not a building in the material sense of the word. As Saint Paul reminds us, you are God’s building. We, that is, all of us, you, me, the bishop, the Pope, everyone, we are the Church. It is true that the building stands a reminder to us of God’s presence. The beauty of the church building can draw our minds and hearts to God. The church can be a place of refuge from the storms of life. But the Catholic Church existed and flourished for more than three hundred years before they ever built Saint John’s. Just as the Catholic church existed before we ever built Saint Michael’s. And if something terrible happened and the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran were to burn down or fall apart, the Catholic Church would still stand. For the Body of Christ is not a collection of stone and steel, wood and marble. It is the family of God, redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, united in the Eucharist: One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
4. That is what we are really celebrating today. In the first reading, Ezekial had a vision of the Temple of God, in which water flowed from the Sanctuary and became a great flood. This water is symbolic of Baptism. The Temple is Jesus. And as it goes forth, the gift of Baptism spreads through the whole world. And so it has happened. Look around. We have people of many different countries and cultures in our parish. And in fact, there are Catholics in almost every part of the world. We celebrate the same Mass. We hear the same scripture readings. We say the same rosary. We receive the same Precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. Although Jesus commanded His disciples to go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the success of that work is due to the power of God. God has generously given us the gift of faith, and has made us one in Jesus Christ.
5. The Gospel reading, however, does present some difficulties. How do we interpret it in the light of today’s feast? Certainly we are not used to seeing Jesus get angry and push people around. Most of the time we might be tempted to think of Jesus as being a sort of soft quiet man- maybe even a pushover. Or maybe like a statue of Buddha- smiling but silent. But Jesus was probably powerfully built- carpenters had to be muscular. He was an electrifying preacher. He exuded authority in His teaching and healing. And today He got angry and drove the money changers out of the Temple. This action was a symbolic act meant to teach His disciples something about the Temple.
6. For one thing, the money changers were there because you could not use just any money to pay your Temple tax or buy an animal for sacrifice. They did not want any pagan coins being used for that purpose. And the animals were for sale because not everyone could raise the kinds of animals necessary for the sacrifice. Surely corruption had entered into the situation and one reason that Jesus drove them out was because they were not acting in a Holy Manner, befitting the Temple of God. In a like manner, our behavior in Church ought to be of a holy manner- and not focused on worldly things.
7. But another reason this reading is included today is that in knocking over the money changers, Jesus is also in a way knocking over that which separated the peoples of the world. All the gold belongs to Him. Any coin, regardless of whose image is on it, can be used to do good in the sight of God (just like any coin or talent can be used to do evil). In other words, all people are welcome in the Temple of God.
8. At the same time, Holiness is paramount. The welcome that Jesus gives is somewhat extreme. I read this week that Jesus does what He does with us because He loves us. His love is a consuming fire, it is passionate, it is intense, it demands response. He loves us the way we are but He is not content that we should turn away from Him and look for happiness anywhere else.
9. Today’s feast recalls that Jesus’ love is for all, and that in fact it has spread all over the world. And for our part, we rejoice and we look to one another to build each other up as the building of God.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day of the Dead

This is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day (John 6:40). We have been wonderfully and gloriously made to live life eternally. Death, although it is part of the universal human experience, was really not part of the divine plan for the human race. Rather death entered through sin- through alienation from God who is Life and who gives Life. And it is through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we have received the eternal life willed by the Father in heaven.

Today we remember those who have died to this world. Most of them we do not know their names. Others are very close to us and their passing has caused us a lot of sorrow. It is true, we say that these loved ones are in a better place, and that we are glad that they are no longer suffering (which all may be true). But often times we say these things as we fight back the tears and try to come to terms with the pain of our loss. Once at a funeral of an older fellow his granddaughter wanted to sing All is well with my soul, which she did, while weeping copiously the whole time- all was not well with her soul- nor should it have been. But even if it causes a bit of pain, today is a day which we rightly should recall all those who have died and consider their plight in light of our Christian faith.

One of the stages of grief that everyone who has a loss goes through has been identified as denial. You know what I am talking about. When someone dies, we say I cannot believe it has really happened. Or noooooooo! (Remember how the Apostles did not want to think about the illness or death of Lazarus, because they were a afraid.) The reaction of denial is perfectly normal. It helps us to confront the reality of loss and change at a rate which we can more easily handle. Denial of death only becomes a problem when a person gets stuck in it (like when someone has the clocks in their house set at the time of death of their beloved).

Unfortunately, our world is largely stuck in a denial of the reality of death. For example, most of us will do almost anything to hide our age. Some people dye their hair, or use special wrinkle removing creams, or have treatments to appear younger. One of my friends loved to celebrate his birthday, but he was always deaf when someone asked his age (he lived to be 101). We use slang to avoid saying the word “death” : kick the bucket, buy the farm, shuffle off, cross the river, punch the ticket, push up daisies, etc...

In some instances, the denial is deeply entrenched and to expose it is risky. For example, when a person begins to talk about the death of the unborn in abortion, many people immediately shut their ears and hearts. (A few weeks ago I even received some negative email, although most was supportive.) Some will say it is a political issue that should not be discussed at church. Others will say it is a moral issue that should not be discussed in the political realm. They say that because they do not want to discuss the deaths of others at all. A terrible consequence of this widespread denial is that when a person loses their child to miscarriage, or when they realize that they child they aborted was in fact their own son or daughter, they often do not know how to express their grief. If anyone responding appropriately runs the risk of ending their own denial, if they have it.

In the circumstance of almost any death, not just of a child, the mourners are interiorly conflicted. Not just because of the normal tumult of emotion, but also because of the feeling of isolation even in the midst of others. People sometimes tell others not to cry. Or the mourner wonders why they still feel sorrowful after several weeks. Grieving takes years. That does not mean that we are supposed to be incapacitated for years, but rather that we should acknowledge that the grieving process can take a long time. And we cannot go through the process until we acknowledge that death has indeed happened. Then we can go forward, even though it is into darkness and unknowing.

Remembering the dead helps us through this process. Even though we might remember things that we would like to forget, by recalling the passing of those whom we love, our fear of abandonment can be lessened. Our Christian faith is particularly helpful in these times of testing and pain. We believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, completely God, suffered and died for us. Though God did not make death, He freely embraced it for our sake. The death of Jesus on the Cross gave our death and the deaths of our loved ones a new meaning. In the book of Wisdom it says: They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. Although death appears to be the end, although it seems to be alienation from the living, in fact death now is the means to entering into a new kind of life with God.

Another aspect of our remembering that can be painful is to recall the defects of the one who has passed. How did they stand before God? We do not know. But one thing that we can do is pray for them. I have heard from so many people that funerals are for the living. But I disagree. And when I die, I want all of you to pray for me. Don’t go around saying, Oh, he must be in heaven because he is a priest. No! Get on your knees and ask God to have mercy on me! That is one of the beauties of the Catholic faith. Even though someone has died, we can still pray for them, and God will listen. God’s power to convert and to heal us is not limited to this world and this life. He can do all things and He can make all things right even after our death.

If we were to read the 12th chapter of Second Maccabees, Judas Macabbeus arranged for the soldiers who had died to be remembered in prayer, that God would forgive them their sins. The author praises this action as being proof of his faith in the resurrection (see 2 Maccabees 12: 43-44). If there were no mercy available after death, why would Jesus have raised Lazarus or the son of the widow of Nain? Why would He have stayed in the tomb three days? Why would Jesus have descended to the dead as we profess in the Apostles Creed? For what purpose except to free those in the bounds of death. And if He could free them way back then, why not now?

In remembering the dead and lifting them up in prayer, we acknowledge that in God, all are alive. In meditating on the Passion of our Lord, we profess that God understands and that we are not alone. In praying for the dead, we show our faith that God’s love endures forever and His mercy is from age to age. In seeking God’s mercy for others, we expand our capacity to receive it ourselves.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints

Although I am a fan of baseball, I did not get to see the end of the last game of the World Series. But I know exactly what happened at the end. The winning team was jumping up and down in joy. They were opening up bottles of champagne. The fans of the winning team were likewise celebrating their victory, slapping each other on the back. In the other locker room, there was silence, possibly tears, as their season was brought to an end with a loss.

But how long will the celebration last? A week? A month? We all know that eventually a new season will arrive with all its changes. The rejoicing will be forgotten as many will ask themselves "What have you done for me lately?" That is the way of worldly glory. One will raise his arms in victory today. But on another day those same arms will be tired. The bright promises will be replaced by the daily grind which will wear away the shine. It is true whether it be sport or politics or any other thing. Worldly glory is a fading glory.

But there is a glory to be achieved that will not wear out or fade. There is a glory that everyone may obtain. It is not a victory that is won by trodding on the heads of enemies, engaging in character assassination or the spreading of rumors. It is not a championship in which there are 31 losers and only 1 winner. The ones who do not receive this glory will only be those who reject it. That is the glory of sainthood.

Every person who lives is called to be a saint. And it is possible, not because of our own skill or goodness, but because of the power of the One whose Love is everlasting- Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

With All Your Heart

1. Last week we heard Jesus told us to Repay to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21). And what belongs to God? Deep down we know the answer - everything belongs to God. In the Gospel of Matthew, between last week’s reading and this week’s, the Sadducees came and tested Jesus regarding the Resurrection. Like He did last week, Jesus answered authoritatively and definitively regarding the truth that there is a resurrection of the body. The resurrection will not be to the same kind of life we have now. It will be to a new and glorious life in Heaven with the Father. At the same time, it will indeed be a bodily resurrection. And everyone will rise from the dead. It is important to keep this in mind. When we stand before Christ at the end of the world to be judged, everyone who ever existed will be there also. The people we love, the people we do not love. Those whom we look forward to meeting, and those whose existence is inconvenient or whose presence may provoke us. For example, for many the unborn, the sick or the elderly are inconvenient, (just as the Jews were to the Nazis) . They will all be there, as will anyone else whose personhood was denied either by the state or by other people’s wishful thinking. But what will we do when we meet them? How will we deal with the fact that God loves each and every human being He has made?
2. Our capacity to stand at the end of the world is related to today’s question from the Pharisees. What is the greatest commandment? Jesus’ answer in this case is not all that astonishing really. A familiar prayer came from the book of Deuteronomy Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) . The second part of Jesus’ answer was not really novel either: you shall love the your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). Although many people like to quote an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24) as Old Testament justice, those scribes and Pharisees who studied the scriptures should have known well that the law required the people to look out for the good of those weak and vulnerable. (Eye for an eye etc.. in fact is the the punishment for injuring a pregnant woman while at the same time causing a miscarriage). The reading heard from Exodus exhorted the people to care for the orphans and widows and also the aliens- that is, those from other countries regardless of religion. As God had cared for them, they were to care for those who abandoned or strangers in their midst. God even threatens them that if anyone mistreats these vulnerable people, that He will let the oppressors be punished severely. The Lord’s assures them that He is compassionate and hears the cry of the smallest weakest people.
3. If we were to study the history contained in the Old Testament we would learn that when the People lost their land and went into exile, it was because of their unjust behavior. In fact, they were greedy for material goods, and many practiced child sacrifice, killing and burning their sons and daughters in worship of false gods. The Pharisees knew all this history (they were trying to avoid repeating it) and they knew that loving God is revealed in love of neighbor.
4. You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. ... You shall love your neighbor as yourself. These commandments are indeed the foundation of the whole law as stated in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the Living Law, Jesus Christ. In this particular case, there really should not have been any argument with the Pharisees. The big question comes later: who is my neighbor? The Gospel makes clear the answer to the question. Everyone is my neighbor. Not only those whom I like or agree with, but those who would be my enemy. And we must not forget that the Lord takes into special account those who are most in need of mercy.
5. Another question that arises is: what does it mean to love them as myself? The consideration that Jesus is asking for is not merely a warm fuzzy feeling, or a set of kind sounding words, or even for that matter a few actions. For we all know that love is not merely any of those things. It is entirely possible to say words or even do things with no charity whatsoever. For example, we can open our wallet and give someone something so that they will go away and leave us alone. But Charity requires more. We are called by Christ to treat them as if they were ourselves. To give them the same consideration and mercy that we ourselves desire. To see their good as our good, and what would harm them as harming us.
6. The answer to the question who is my neighbor and how am I to love them is clarified when Jesus commands us to love one another as He has loved us (see John 15:9-12). In other words, we can only obey the commandments when we love as Jesus loved. And how does Jesus love? He poured out the last drop of His blood to save us.
7. In Jesus, everyone is my neighbor. It is already true from the scientific point of view- we are all interrelated. And whatever happens to one of us, is going to affect the rest of the human race. It is especially true because of the life of Jesus. He is God who became a human being, exactly like us in every way. He did not sin, that is true. But Jesus did take upon Himself all the consequences of human sin. Saint Paul even says that For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
8. Jesus did come to save those who were mighty (for who could be considered mighty in the face of the living God?). He did not come to save those who are righteous in their own eyes, (for who can make themselves holy without God?). Jesus did not even come to save those who loved Him first. No, He came to save sinners and those who are weak. In demonstrating His authority and power, Jesus strove to remove the blinders from those who listened to Him and would propose themselves as His judges. Only in realizing our weakness, our sinfulness, our need of a savior, our inability to save ourselves, our complete dependence upon our Lord both individually, and in solidarity with those who in the world are vulnerable can we begin to receive the graces that we need to live in the hope of Jesus’ promises.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Belongs to God

This weekend the letter of the Bishop to the people was read at all the Masses. It was a letter regarding the formation of conscience especially in light of our duty to vote. In the letter, the difference between matters of prudential judgement and matters which are intrinsically evil was clarified. Examples prudential judgement are the different ways to address immigration reform or the economy or the war on terror. Reasonable people can differ in their opinions and discuss how best to proceed in these areas. On the other hand, some actions are intrinsically evil, such as abortion of euthanasia. The only reasonable and sane (and holy) approach to these evils is to confront and to oppose them.

Furthermore, as important as areas of prudential judgement are, they simply do not carry the same weight as areas of intrinsic evil. If a candidate is a supporter of something intrinsically evil, one cannot simply say that his or her opinion in that area is just one thing that can be balanced with their view on something else, like the economy.

Anyway, the letter was very good. If you would like to read it, here is a link to the full text in English.

In the evening, we celebrated what can be called an "Explanation Mass." That is, a Mass with a accompanied by teachings regarding general liturgical principles and some explanation of what is going on. It is only allowed to interrupt the flow of the Mass at certain points of the liturgy. So instead of a plethora of comments after each part, the teaching is delivered in the format of a few lectures. Of course, with a subject so profound as the liturgy, not everything can be explained completely. But the experience was well received, in spite of causing the Mass to last for two hours.

Between the Letter of the Bishop, which was certainly pertinent to the Gospel reading, and the liturgical education going on, there was not a lot of time to delve into the issues raised by the Gospel.

The cooperation of the Pharisees and the Herodians brings to mind the saying "politics make strange bedfellows." Generally, these two groups were not getting along. Yet they both had their reasons for wanting Jesus to be removed from the scene. They begin their questioning of Jesus with flattery, which was all true, but their hearts were not open to the Truth. Jesus knew their malice and uttered one of the memorable sayings of Scripture Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God (Matthew 22:21). Jesus was not interested in destabilizing the Roman Empire. After all, Jesus knew that all authority comes from above. Those in authority are permitted to do so by God. With the exercise of authority comes responsibility to serve the common good of the people governed.

At the same time, Jesus is not concerned with maintaining the status quo of the government. He was not interested in politics, but rather with salvation. Jesus was and is interested that we get our lives in order with God. We have a responsibility to the common good in the public arena. But that flows from the fulfillment of our responsibility to God. Someday, the earthly part of our existence will cease, and we will be judged for how we conducted ourselves. But our relationship with God will never cease.

In some sense, repaying Caesar what belongs to Caesar will continue onward, only because the love of neighbor we are called to exercise will continue into eternity for those who love God. But giving God what is justly His to receive will never stop, because He is eternal. All things are of God's making. Everything that is, exists because God is making it exist. There is no part of anything in which the Lord is not God.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wedding Invitation

1. The kingdom of heaven is like a wedding feast. When you are at a wedding feast, there is usually plenty of food and drink. The hosts are encouraging you to eat and have a good time. There is music, maybe dancing. As a rule, people wear their best clothes, even renting them if necessary. Even people who normally would never wear a suit or a tie or a dress will dress up. At a wedding feast you will find people of all ages young and old. It is not a time for sadness, but a time of joy to celebrate the new family which has been formed. The kingdom of heaven is like a wedding feast.
1. Now how much does it cost to go to a wedding feast? Nothing. It is all paid for. When we are the guests, all we have to do is show up and enjoy. We might have been generous donors to assist the couple and their families in providing the feast, but it does not cost anything.
2. That is part of Jesus’ point in the Gospel. The kingdom of heaven is a feast in which God our Father has already done all the preparations. It simply remains for us to attend the feast. Of course if the invited guests do not go to the feast, it does not really matter how delicious the food is, or how rich the wine is, or how great the music is, or how beautiful and pleasant the other guests are. If you are not at the feast, you get nothing. As strange as it may sound, there are people who simply do not want to attend the feast of the kingdom of heaven. They have other things to do. And they will even kill the messengers who bring the invitation, so that they do not have to even listen to what they are missing.
3. In the parable, Jesus is referring to those who did not listen to the prophets of old, but preferred to remain in sin and not turn to God. Their worldly pursuits were satisfying, so they thought, and they did not want anyone to tell them what to do. It is the same way now. When people do not want to hear God’s call they try to drown it out with other things- pleasures, work, getting their own way... There are countries where children are beaten at school simply for being Christian. And where Christians live in constant fear of being kidnapped or murdered. Or where it is illegal for a priest to celebrate Mass, which is the wedding feast on earth. In our own country, there are politicians trying to pass a so-called Freedom of Choice Act- which will make abortion a civil right that must be supported with tax money. They are hoping to force people to accept their way of thinking and silence anyone who would claim that life is precious and that the innocent ought to be protected from violence.
4. In any event, if someone does not want to go to the wedding feast of the kingdom of heaven, they do not have to go. Just like if you want to skip Mass on Sunday, you can. (Now as Catholics we are obligated to go to Mass, it is a sin to miss). But we are not going out and forcing people into the doors. If you really do not want to be here, then you probably will not show up. Of course, there are consequences. If you do not share in the feast, then your punishment is that you do not get to share in the feast. Anyway, as one of our professors in the seminary put it "if you’re damned to hell its your own damned fault"- you chose it.
5. The part of this parable which has always been the most notable for me is the part where the guest who did want to come was thrown out. He was there, he responded, yet he was thrown out for not being prepared. I do not mind telling you that this part of the parable makes me very uncomfortable. Of course, we could interpret this to mean that when we come to Mass, we should be properly attired. And there is a point to that. If you were invited to eat dinner with the President of the United States, what would you wear? If you had an interview for a high-dollar job that you really wanted, how would you dress? If you were invited to be a participant in your friend’s wedding, would you wear flip flops and shorts to the feast? I don’t think so.
6. But this Gospel is more than just about clothing. The parable suggests to us that although the feast is freely given, there is some expectation of our personal commitment beyond merely showing up. Some theologians suggest that the wedding garment signifies baptism. Others have said that it represents good deeds. Still others offer that repentance is the key to understanding. It is all of these and more.
7. You see, the King giving this wedding feast is God the Father. And the groom is also God- His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The wedding garment is important because we are not just the guests- we’re the Bride.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Biking to the Beach

Well, I am back from a few days of vacation. While I was gone, I accomplished some of my goals. For example I slept and ate a lot. I was able to play golf a few times and even got a glimpse of a professional golf tournament.

The big activity, however, was my bike ride 160 miles from San Antonio to Corpus Christi Texas. It was all part of the "Valero MS Bike to the Beach" to raise money for research for Multiple Sclerosis. The process of obtaining my ride number and participation packet was very easy. That was done the night before the ride began.

The day of the ride, my sister prepared a delicious breakfast and then she and her husband drove me to San Antonio to the ATT Center. I loaded my luggage on the truck that would take it to Beeville, the stop for the night. Then I got the bike out, made my pre-ride check and walked over to the starting area. Since it was not exactly a race (although everyone goes just about as fast as they can) starting order was based on fundraising. The biggest fundraisers got to go first, and all the others followed in waves. There were teams, usually based on fund raising, and individuals like me. The Valero team was large- hundreds of riders. I believe that they raised the most money.

It is interesting to see all the different jerseys of the riders. Some reveal their team affiliation, others simply the personal preference of the rider. There were police officers riding with special police jerseys, and EMT's with the EMS jerseys. Accompanying us were motorcycle escorts and police cruisers with bike racks on the back if someone were to get injured or be otherwise unable to continue on. Of course we were followed by the "Sag Wagons" which picked up those who determined that they needed a rest or were done for the day. I saw a police special event van and there were probably ambulances following us around too.

There were rest stops with food and drink and bathrooms every so many miles. I stopped at nearly every one of them to drink Powerade, eat an orange or other things, and refill my water bottles. I carried various kinds of energy foods. After the first hour, I ate a little something every ten minutes to keep my nutrition going.

I was impressed at the ride organization. Every town we passed through had law enforcement protecting us from cross traffic. The rest stops all had exit and entry lanes with traffic cones to assist our leaving and returning to the road. In some places, we had whole lanes to ourselves blocked off. There were motorcycle escorts and police cars going along next to us, lest any traffic get unruly. I did not hear any negative comments from people in cars or along the road. There was nothing but encouragement, even in Corpus Christi, where we had a whole lane to ourselves and the car traffic was backed up because of it. People stood by the side of the road and shouted encouragement and held up signs for the riders they were supporting.

The ride went down US 181. After lunch on Saturday, we began a climb toward Beeville. The climb would not have been all that bad, except for the headwind that seemed very strong to me. The ride Saturday was only 96 miles, so they had laid out an alternative 4 mile extra loop for those wanting to finish a century. I did the extra and for a bit, regretted it because the wind was so strong. One had to pedal in a low gear regardless of riding on the flatland or even going downhill. But after the turnaround, it was very nice riding with the wind for 2 miles.

After I finished, I went immediately to eat supper. I knew once that I had unrolled the sleeping gear, I would not be able to get up for anything. I was not really hungry, but in these cases, one must eat for the next day's activities. I was able to get a place to sleep in the gymnasium of Coastal Bend College in Beeville. I took my shower there and the water was cold. But I was so tired and in need of a shower that I did not care. After the shower and change of clothes, I found a plug to recharge my phone and spent an hour praying. Then I went to bed.

I guess I woke up about 5am on Sunday. I got dressed and packed and went to breakfast and then took about 30 minutes to go through Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. Then I put my bags on the truck and reclaimed my bike from the security area. The bike was wet because it had rained. But by 7am, it had quit and we saw no more of it, except for the wet streets. I had to wait in line to use a pump to top off the tires, but I got in line to start in plenty of time.

I was determined not to ride so much by myself as I had done the day before. My first strategy was to start spinning immediately and move up as far toward the front of my group that I could. I actually was able to bridge the gap to the previous group. My reason was that I knew I would get tired later. I wanted to have plenty of people behind me. When they passed me later, I would still have a respite from the wind and a chance to latch on to a pace line. It worked great the first 20 miles, then the paceline I was following took a break at a rest stop. I decided that I felt really good and would not stop until the lunch break at 32 miles. But I suffered greatly until I came upon a soldier (or ex soldier) riding solo. He let me draft on him most of the way to lunch. I led briefly, but the wind was too much for me. I cannot remember his name, but God bless him.

I ate lunch at 9:40am, which pleased me greatly. I planned to stay about 50 minutes, which I did. At about 10:30am, I left and was able to find a group going about my speed in just a few miles. They were from the San Antonio Express News. God bless you all too! I rode in that train for the next 20 miles, including two rest stops. At Gladys Porter High School, the last stop, they were waiting for more of their team to show up (it was a very large team). So I did the last 10 miles solo. But the wind was not bad at all. The concrete barriers effectively blocked the wind for the most part.

The last adventure was crossing the Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi. It is the steepest hill I have ever climbed. But I was able to pedal all the way up and did not get off an push. Of course, three people passed me like I was standing still. On the other hand, I passed several as well. I was looking forward to going very fast down the other side of the bridge. But the wind and my tired legs could not get into my highest gear. After the bridge, it was just a little jaunt over to the finish line.

My sister and her husband had arrived in time to see me on the bridge and cheer me across the finish line. It was a great ride.

Again I want to thank all the other riders I drafted on for two days. I especially want to thank my friends Bob and Angela, who talked me into the ride. They did it on a tandem, and crossed the bridge too!

Other memories that I like were that on Saturday, another rider drafted on me for about 6 to 10 miles. It was nice to be able to provide a similar service to another that I had received. Also, there were military vets there who were quite impressive. I mean the men with the prosthetic left arms attached to their handlebars, riding with one hand. And the rider with the prosthetic leg. I do not know what he rode, but his leg was painted crazy colors. And then there were the men with no legs and those with spinal injuries who hand cranked tricycles the whole way. And all that to raise money for other people who were suffering. They were inspirational.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Doing the Will of the Father

Today's readings
1. Which son did the will of the Father? Really, this is what it all comes down to- doing the will of the Father. That is the way in which Jesus lived and died in His earthly life- doing the will of the Father. But what does it mean, doing the will of the Father? Scripture reveals various ways to do the will of the Father. For example: to believe in Jesus, to obey the commandments, to protect and nurture the small and the weak, and to put things aside to trust in the Lord.
2. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day. (John 6:40). To believe in Jesus as the True Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, this is the will of the Father. In the Gospel we heard today, there were those who many of the religious people thought of as sinners who were entering the kingdom of heaven because they believed in Jesus on the strength of the preaching of John the Baptist. Those who did not believe in Jesus were risking their eternal souls by failing to recognize that He was the One whom God sent to save the world.
3. But belief in this context is not merely intellectual assent to a proposition of faith. Remember, Saint James told us that the demons believe that there is only One God, and they tremble (James 2:19). Rather, to believe includes turning away from sin- to repent- to change one’s life. That is why Jesus chastised the chief priests. Even if they were not sure of the message of John the Baptist, the effect it had in converting sinners should have alerted them that God was at work. As Jesus said at another time if you cannot believe in me, believe because of the works that I do...(see John 10:38). That is, believe that God is at work. And it is more than the work of God, it is God Himself entering our human condition to save us from death and sin.
4. To believe in Jesus requires the believer to change - to begin to obey the commandments, not merely to give lip service. Remember that Jesus said Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21). Unfortunately these days there are those who would promote themselves as Catholic Christians, and yet their actions and their words are false. There are even politician- public figures who recently have even misrepresented the constant teaching of the Church so that they may permit the destruction of the weak and the small. I speak of those who would continue to support abortion, euthanasia, and medical experimentation on the unborn as if the unborn were not human beings made in the image and likeness of God. Yet Jesus says that the angels of the little ones always look at the face of God the Father in heaven (see Matthew 18:10).
5. Of course, what drives many of these so called leaders into error is the same force that drives practically everyone to whatever sin we commit- and that is fear. I do not mean the “fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (see Proverbs 9:10), but rather the fear of the things that do not last. The tax collectors and the prostitutes in Jesus’ day sought security in money and the attentions of other people. The high priests and the scribes and pharisees often sought security in their religious practices. Lack of trust even caused the rich young man to turn away and leave Christ because he had many possessions. Yet those who turned to Jesus found more than enough security and joy even in the midst of suffering.
6. And so it is our task to turn to the Lord, to believe in Him, to obey Him, to trust Him- to let Him live in us. It is for just this cause that Saint Paul begs the Philippians to take on the attitude of Jesus Christ- that attitude of emptying Himself and becoming obedient to death on a Cross. For in His doing of the will of the Father perfectly unto death, Jesus has obtained for us eternal life.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vacation Coming Up!

Sunday, I am going to go take a little vacation for a few days. There will be golfing (poor golfing), running (slowly), napping (I'm very good at napping), reading (ditto), visiting friends (also good), eating (yum), sleeping late (one of my strengths), music (playing) and bicycling (which I do pretty decently).

One of my goals this vacation is to make another long ride. This time it will be the "Valero Bike to the Beach" for MS research. Although I am interested in success in the research for Multiple Sclerosis, I must admit the main reason I am doing it is so that I can go on an organized long distance ride. We will ride from San Antonio to Beeville, and the next day from Beeville to Corpus Christi- about 160 miles all together. Having finished a century already, I am feeling very confident in my abilities. But my main goal is to finish. I have only done one century, and never anything on back to back days of such magnitude.

After the ride, it will be back to napping, golfing, reading, visiting, etc for a few more days before returning to the parish. I look forward to it. And I need the vacation.

When I return, there will no doubt be one or two posts regarding my experiences on the road.

Friday, September 19, 2008

You Too Go Into My Vineyard

This weekend the deacon will be preaching, but I still wanted to comment on the Scripture readings.

The behavior of the landowner is certainly strange- paying everyone the same no matter how long they worked in the vineyard. And if we were the first ones in, we would probably feel like we had been badly treated. But there are a few things to consider. First, it really is the money of the landowner and he can do whatever he wants with it. The first workers agreed to and received exactly what they had hoped for originally. Any normal day they would have gone home satisfied that they received a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. Second, in those days a daily wage for a worker was generally tied to what it actually cost to live for a day. Whether you work or not, you have to pay your rent and feed your family. The children are not going to be less hungry because dad only worked half a day. It certainly does not pay to have a pool of available workers that are desperate and hungry men. You may have to depend on them tomorrow. If they are malnourished or ill from being homeless or preoccupied because their families are in want, what good is that for anyone? It is best for the common good to provide for all the workers. And the common good benefits everyone- landowner and worker alike.
But the Gospel is really not about vineyards, although we could learn something from the behavior of the owner. The story is really about the kingdom of God. The vineyard is the kingdom and the landowner is the Lord, and we (hopefully) are the workers.

Note that the workers may be waiting around, but they depend on the landowner to hire them. It is he who seeks them. We may think that we do this or that for God and that we are wonderful workers for the Lord (and that may very well be true). But we are all dependent on the Lord. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you said Jesus to His disciples. Sometimes we forget how utterly dependent we are. God has given us existence, which no one can obtain for themselves. For many of us, God has given us the gift of faith and even the opportunity to receive it. And if we do serve the Lord, it is at His bidding. We cannot build His kingdom apart from Him.

Furthermore, we have no control over who God chooses. It is true that the Church has been given authority to decide the suitability of ministers. But that authority is God's that is given to us. It is not apart from Him. If we choose inappropriate or unsuitable ministers who do not actually have a vocation, then the whole Church suffers. In truth, we are all called in some fashion or another to serve the kingdom of God, but our happiness and true success will result from our obedience to the Lord's call and not to our own desires or to the fashions of the times.
The reward for service is not a result of the length of service, but rather fidelity to the will of God. As workers in His kingdom, we should rejoice that others have also been called and are receiving the gifts of eternal life. If we do what we are asked to do with joy, then we will receive all we hope for and even more. There is no reason to be jealous of the gifts another has obtained, especially when all of us are dependent on the Lord.

There is one aspect which is missing from this parable, maybe it is what Jesus is getting to when He chastised His hearers for failing to convert when the tax collectors and prostitutes changed their lives and repented. Even though we are workers in the vineyard, that is not our actual position. And as long as we think of ourselves as merely servants we will miss the true blessings that the Lord wishes to bestow upon us. In truth we are not merely servants, we are even more than friends, we are children. The vineyard is not merely our workplace, but our home. Our "pay" is not the amount that is necessary to survive another day in a cruel world. Rather, our remuneration is an eternal inheritance: eternal life in joy in the home of the Father.
If we understand that we are children and not slaves we can understand the generosity of the Lord. If we are His children, it is His desire to have us share in everything. And where the love of a family really exists, it is not divided by the numbers of the members, but it is multiplied by them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Exaltation of the Cross

We praise you Oh Christ and we adore you. Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

More than 30 years ago, when I was in college the first time, one of the others students residing in the same dormitory as I saw a crucifix in my room or the room of another Catholic student. The non-Catholic scoffed at it and remarked that his Jesus was no longer on the Cross. I did not argue with him because he was a person whose mind was generally closed. But I remember thinking two things. First that I knew Jesus was not on the cross any more- it was just an image to remind me of the cost of our salvation and the love of God. Secondly, I thought of the scripture passage where Saint Paul said we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:23-24).

It is difficult for us in this time and place to understand the horror of crucifixion. The images we see are generally much milder than the actual facts. Not only is crucifixion extremely painful, but it was a form of death meant to bring shame upon one who suffered it. In the Jewish law it said cursed be the one hung on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:23) which they interpreted to mean that being hung up to die or being left hanging from a tree after death was religiously unclean. In the law it indicates that to hang someone on a tree, or to leave him there would defile the land and make acceptable sacrifice to God impossible.

The Romans practiced crucifixion of slaves, rebels and pirates, and others whom they judged to be trying to destroy the political stability. Yet they recognized how violent crucifixion was and made it illegal to crucify a Roman citizen. (Note that Saint Paul was executed by the sword- he was a Roman citizen and had rights). The ancient views of the Cross before Christ was unanimous- avoid the Cross at all costs.

Yet as Catholic Christians, we do not avoid the Cross. We glory in it. Saint Paul even says that he wants to boast in the cross (see Galatians 6:14). We decorate our homes and churches with the cross. We wear the cross as jewelry and carry them in our pockets (such as in the Rosary). We begin and end every prayer making the sign of the Cross. No blessing is complete without the Cross being invoked.

We do not glory in the Cross because we want Jesus to be suffering. Nor are we some kind of sadists who take pleasure in the pain of others. Rather, we acknowledge the Cross as the instrument of our salvation. Without the Cross, we would still be subject to death and would have no hope for eternal life.

We venerate the Cross by itself, yet the Cross is meaningless without Christ. If Jesus had not been crucified, then the Cross would be no more glorious than a hangman’s rope. Who would decorate their home with a noose or a miniature version of an electric chair? But because of Jesus Christ, this terrible instrument of death has become the instrument of our salvation. The first antiphon from the Office of Readings for Sunday week I of the Liturgy of the hours states: See how the cross of the Lord stands revealed as the tree of life.

The cross is a reminder that the things that often seem to be the worst, can be transformed by the love of God. When the people Israel were in the desert and complained against God that the Manna was disgusting food, their sin resulted in their being bitten by snakes (see Numbers 21:4b-9). When they repented, the Lord God instructed them to look upon a bronze serpent mounted on a pole and they would be healed. Not because a bronze serpent held medicinal properties, but because by placing their trust in God, they would be healed from their guilt.

Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, death and suffering entered the world. And throughout history people have suffered greatly. Even today, when one of our loved ones gets sick with cancer or suffers in some other terrible manner, or even if they have died, we can sometimes wonder what we did that led God to permit these things to happen to us or to the ones whom we love.

Yet in the glory of the Cross, we can see how Jesus, Saint Paul says, although He was in the form of God ...emptied Himself (see Phillipians 2:6-8) to die obediently on the Cross. As a result, Jesus triumphed gloriously. There is no suffering that Our Lord is unfamiliar with, and there is no sorrow that He cannot overcome with His merciful love.

In the Korean War, there was a Army Chaplain- Father Emil Kapaun. He was captured by the communists along with other soldiers. In the prison camp, he led all of them to trust and hope in God. His army helmet had a cross on it. And seeing Father wear that Cross made his captors very angry. And Father’s helmet was put in the trashpile. But all the soldiers, whether they were Catholic or not, or even Christian or not, were soon visiting the trashpile to meditate in front of that cross. After awhile, Father Kapaun was taken away and died shortly thereafter. The Communists feared his leadership and holiness. But after his death, the men remaining stuck together. One of them, who was Jewish, even carved a crucifix out of wood in memory of the slain priest. The men were reported to say that the love of God reflected in the face of Fr Kapaun. No matter what happened to him, Fr Emil always exuded love.

Saint Paul said that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). The message of the Cross is that of today’s Gospel passage- that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16). God did not do this because we were wonderful and deserving of His love, because we are sinners. God loves us because that is what He does. And no matter where we are, or how low we have fallen, the glorious cross reminds us to trust in the Lord, for He has conquered all things.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Amazing Saints

Yesterday was the Blessed Virgin Mary's birthday. I have to say that the Blessed Mother has been particularly good to me this year. Because she has been really praying for me, guess what? I ask for even more. Especially I commend to her care any who might be my spiritual children.

Today's saint is Saint Peter Claver. Saint Peter was a Jesuit priest who became a missionary to Colombia. He spent his missionary career serving the black slaves that were sent there to work on the plantations. You can read about his story online somewhere at more depth than I plan to tell. Some facts do stand out, however. Peter pledged himself to be a slave of the black slaves, to serve them above himself. He always started by taking care of their physical needs, but likewise never wavered from presenting to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, offering them instruction and the opportunity for reception of the Sacraments. As a result of his charity and patient instruction, he baptized over 300,000 individuals in his career. That's right- 300,000! What an amazing saint.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fraternal Correction, Part Two

1. Fraternal correction is an act of Christian charity. To practice it marks a believer as mature. At the same time, fraternal correction is not always easy. To take another person aside with the intent of correcting their faults is not always well received. We live in a culture in which no one really likes to be told what to do. And for many people, any form of criticism is viewed as form of hatred or even violence. Yet such a view is not really mature, even if we must contend with it.
2. To correct another person, to admonish their faults may be uncomfortable for us, but scripture indicates that it is absolutely necessary. Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord has told us that those who know better, those who have authority also have the obligation to speak the truth and to warn those who may be set on the wrong path toward sin. Which parent here would stand by calmly and silently while their infant child stuck his or her hand in a light socket or into the fire on the stove? Who here would remain silent while their best friend accidentally drank deadly poison? Would we consider silence in these circumstances as good manners? Or would a word of warning be more proper? Yet in the moral life, there is much more at stake than electrocution or even painful death by poison. There is the risk of losing our eternal soul to the second death- the fires of hell.
3. With this in mind, our Lord has told us that we are all responsible in some part for one another. We cannot control the actions of another person, but we can offer them the help of admonishing them before it is too late. Jesus said to whom more is given, more will be expected. And as members of Christ’s Body and the adopted children of God, we cannot remain silent when our brothers and sisters are risking their souls in sin. If we do, God may hold us responsible for the sins of others. (I do not know about you, but I have enough problems of my own. I do not need to be responsible for someone else’s sins.)
4. Of course, one of the problems with correcting or admonishing another person is that to be an act of charity it must be the fruit of a loving heart. And it must be conducted in a loving manner. So Jesus tells us how we are to go about it. He says, first If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. Taking someone aside alone is essential to preserving their good name and preserve their dignity before others. To correct parents in front of their children or husbands in front of their wives or vice versa or a teacher in front of the students could really damage their relationship with others. Besides, many times a person does not even know that they have done something wrong. They may have never had that intention or even been trying to avoid the very thing which they are accused of doing. There may be an explanation or a circumstance which we do not know about. If we were to first bring it up in public, it might be an injustice.
5. A couple of years ago I read a book which intended to help people say whatever was on their minds to others, even in a crucial situation. The first tenet of the author was that you had to make it safe for the person to hear. If they felt unsafe for whatever reason, they would not hear what you had to say and you would have to back track. Fraternal correction is not a place to bring up old hurts, or a list of faults, or to condemn, belittle or destroy another person. Jesus Himself said that He did not come to condemn but to save, and He is the judge of the world. Correction is a time in which someone who cares genuinely seeks the good of another and calls them to holiness.
6. Some years ago, there was some crisis or other and a parishioner called me on the phone to discuss it for an hour. Although this person made several good points and reasonable criticisms, it felt like they yelled at me. At the end of the call, I was exhausted and very upset. Just then the doorbell rang and another parishioner wanted to talk about the same crisis. As it turned out, they gave me the exact same criticism. At the end of an hour, however, I knew that I had found a friend who would always speak the truth to me in charity. To this day, the latter is a valuable friend from whom I welcome criticism. The former is someone with whom I am polite, but with whom I avoid having an extended or serious conversation.
7. Jesus continues by saying that only after a personal encounter fails are we to bring in others. And they are to be witnesses to the problem we are trying to solve. Jesus does not say it, but these witnesses also need to have charity in their hearts. If the witnesses fail to convince someone to change, then it is time to bring the problem into the public eye through the ministry of the Church- that is, into the family of the children of God who will try to resolve it as ones who are loyal to one another. Only when a person has rejected the Body of Christ which is the Church can we ignore them.
8. Sometimes it is very difficult to follow this advice. It is so much easier to drag our problems out into the open immediately without trying to resolve them in a patient manner.
9. Even scripture acknowledges that correction will not always be accepted. Even though Jesus died for all people, there were a few who did not seem to want to hear His words, even though they meant eternal life. And so it will be the same with us. Not everyone will appreciate our desire for their good. There are even places where free speech is curtailed if it is in the least in disagreement with certain lifestyles and actions.
10. But there is one place in which we can control how fraternal correction is received. And that is within ourselves. Not only do we have the duty to correct, but we also have the duty to allow ourselves to be corrected. Sometimes we are the ones who have erred, and are in need of being “won over” by another. And that too is a characteristic of a mature Christian. Humility is part of true greatness.
11. The key to correction of others which is truly fraternal is the same key to being silent and praying for someone with all our strength. And that key is the love of Christ. Each day we need to put Jesus first. We need to desire His will above our own and make loving God the center or our lives. And if the love Christ dwells in us, then whether we speak or not, it will always be the right decision.