Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sixth Sunday of Easter

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"Moses receives the Ten Commandments from Yahweh" by Cosimo Rosselli (1439–1507)

“Moses receives the Ten Commandments from Yahweh” by Cosimo Rosselli (1439–1507)

Jesus said to his disciples, and to us, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” What does Jesus mean when he says we must  keep his commandments? I don’t think Jesus is just talking only about the Ten Commandments, which is the minimum we must do to be faithful to God. Jesus came into the world so that we may have a life of God’s grace in abundance. Jesus is the way to the Father and eternal life, and to keep his commandments is to believe, accept and live all that he has revealed to us. He tells us that we cannot just live for ourselves. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. Jesus tells us we must, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and He will then see that we have all that we need. Not all that we want, but all that we need.

It is not a casual thing to place the Kingdom of God first in our lives. It takes a deliberate act of the will every day all day, because we are continually tempted to make selfish decisions or compromise our values. It is for this reason that Jesus promises that the Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to those who love him. On our own we are not able to do what we are commanded to.

As he helps us to over come sin and grow in virtue, Jesus has given us the Church and the Sacraments as the source of the grace we need to live a life close to him. It is remarkable enough that Almighty God desires to reside in us, His lowly creatures, and yet He comes to us at our invitation and our preparation.

How important is happiness to you and the people you love? God is the source of true happiness, which we can only attain in communion with Him. There are a lot of things that give us pleasure, but those that are outside of God’s plan for us do not lead to true happiness.

Our temptation is to do only the minimum when it comes to our spiritual life. Before long, we see this as a burden and we are not willing to do even the minimum required of us.

What if we applied that philosophy to every aspect of our life? What if we only wanted to do the minimum for our education, for our career, for the people we love; would that even be love?

We are human persons created in the image and likeness of God. Our most important component is our eternal soul and our spirituality; it is what shapes us. What are we doing for our spiritual well being? If all we do is go to Church on Sunday and pray occasionally we are not truly disciples. This is exactly where I was about thirty years ago. Sometimes it takes a tragedy or a sequence of failures to get our attention so that we begin to order our life toward God, but it need not be that way. Our Lord continually offers us the grace of conversion through circumstances, situations and relationships. A reference point for me was when a work associate asked me if Jesus was the Lord of my life. I had heard the phrase many times, but at that particular moment the Lord gave me the grace to see that my heart was far from Him. After a few days of reflection, I decided I needed to make some changes. I bought my first Bible, joined a prayer group with my wife, and after a month or so, I started to get more involved in our parish. Prayer became an important part of my daily routine and was beginning to influence the decisions I had to make. That was the beginning of a wonderful journey that brought me to love God and this Church He has given us, and it enabled my wife and I to discover true happiness. Drawing close to God brought new meaning to our lives and our marriage.

God has a great plan for humanity, but it can only be realized in communion with Him.

“And only when God is seen does life begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)

This is what gives God glory and brings happiness to our soul.

"Jesus Delivers the Eight Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount)" by Cosimo Rosselli (1439–1507)

“Jesus Delivers the Eight Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount)” by Cosimo Rosselli

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father will send us the Holy Spirit to be with us always, to help us to recognize His truth, so that we may remain in His love. The entire Church begins the novena to the Holy Spirit on May 30th and continues it until the vigil of Pentecost June 7th. Archbishop Gustavo is asking the whole archdiocese to pray this novena, which can be found on the archdiocesan website. Then, on the Feast of Pentecost, he will consecrate the archdiocese to the Holy Spirit.

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The Abundant Joy of God’s Love

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“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. …With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” – Pope Francis (Joy of the Gospel)

The joy of knowing God is profound and can exist in the midst of difficulties. Do people know this?

In fact, this should be essential to the Christian. Even beyond enjoying a good meal with friends or a good vacation, the happiness of Christ, the source of true peace and justice, is the gift He offers to his followers. St. Paul urges the first Christians of Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” He goes on to give the basic reason for this profound happiness: “The Lord is at hand.

St. Josemaria Escriva expands on this passage:

“What St. Paul says here is particularly impressive if one bears in mind that he is writing his letter from prison. In order to have joy it does not matter if we are living in difficult conditions. For a Christian, joy is a treasure. Only by offending God do we lose it, because it is the fruit of selfishness, and selfishness is the root of sadness.” (Christ Is Passing By, 178)

I have met many people that have made some serious, big mistakes in their lives, and when they encountered Jesus – when they realized Jesus knew them and loved them – it was the beginning of a change in their lives!

I believe the reason many people, especially women, enter the new age religion and the occult or pagan religions is because they are searching for answers, for peace, for love. Many are led into a dark pit that keeps them there unless they encounter someone that will lead them to know the true peace they are yearning for – in Christ!

As Christians, as followers of Jesus, we must try to be aware of those searching for true peace and joy. And we too must ask the Holy Spirit to ignite within our souls the fire of God’s love. Do this, and you will experience the abundant joy of His love!

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“The Life of St. Ignatius Loyola. Plate 9. After their solemn vows at the Basilica of St-Paul-Outside-The-Walls in Rome, the companions set off to help souls with unbounded joy.” by Carlos Saenz de Tejada (1897-1958)

So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

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Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Heb. 12:1)

Our lives are on display to those who have finished their course before us. They are, as it were, cheering us on. And, as we run our race, we do well to remember the stories of those who ran before us. Their legacies. Their examples. We need them for our race.

On Divine Mercy Sunday we celebrated the entry of two such great men, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, into the Communion of Saints. They join the “cloud of witnesses” that ran the race and set the example before us. Also coming to mind…

Peter – crucified upside down around 68 A.D.
James the son of Zebedee – put to death by Herod Agrippa I shortly before the day of the Passover.
Andrew – reported to have been crucified at Patrae in Achaia.
Philip – executed at Hierapolis.
Bartholomew – martyred in India.
Matthew – martyred in Ethiopia.
Thomas – lanced through in Ethiopia
James, son of Alpheus – thrown down from the temple by the scribes and Pharisees and then stoned
Simon the Zealot – martyred.
Paul – beheaded.

I’m not sure that any challenges I am enduring in my journey can begin to compare to the Great Ones who have come before me and walk among us – who carry their cross with dignity and courage. I want to thank you Holy Men and Women of God for the encouragement and inspiration you bring me and have brought countless others over the centuries. Living a life of nobility, sacrifice and service, you re-define what it means to be a human being. You set the bar high. I might be tempted to be discouraged except that I know you walk beside me and are cheering me on. I will finish the race strong.