Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We share in the Resurrection

I've had problems with the scheduling of posts. I apologize for the delays. May Christ's Resurrection bring all of you closer to the Light of the World and guide you in the path to holiness. May all of you have a beautiful, blessed Easter Season!


"When we hear this account in Saint John’s Gospel about Our Lord’s appearance to Saint Mary Magdalene, we can only imagine the joy she would have had. Consider the context: Here was a woman who had been possessed by seven demons and lived a tragic life, becoming a prostitute and doing all kinds of terrible things.

When Our Lord freed her from all of this, she was absolutely in love with Him. Not in a negative way, but truly in love with the One who freed her from the bonds of the devil. So, imagine the sadness this woman would have had. We can see the power of that love; she was willing to be there, at the foot of the Cross. All of His disciples, except Saint John, fled; and there she was with Our Lady. We see the tenacity of this lady and the sadness, the loneliness, the tragedy in the heart that she would have felt when Our Lord died.

Now, she comes to anoint His body because she did not understand what the Resurrection was all about. She figured she would come and anoint the body of the Lord. Then, she finds that the body is not there. How empty, how downhearted she must have been at that moment to see that the Lord was not present; not understanding what the Resurrection was about and assuming that someone took the body of Our Lord. She finally recognized Our Lord when He turned to her and said her name "Mary." Her heart, from being so down, must have just leapt with utter joy at being able to see the Lord and talk with Him.

Imagine the excitement she would have had in her voice when she ran to the apostles to explain to them what had happened. She had seen the Lord! Of course, we know they did not believe her because they did not believe in the resurrection from the dead; but she knew what had happened and her heart must have been absolutely radiant, pounding, without a doubt. Her heart was radiant with joy at the truth that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead. The tomb was empty, except for two angels who were worshiping the spot where the Son of God, in His humanness, had lain in death; even that she did not understand. Now she knew that the One, Whom her heart loved more than anyone in the world, was risen from the dead. The Good News was given to her to bring this message to the apostles; to tell them, even though they would not believe. It did not matter to her that they would not believe. I am sure it bothered her, but it did not matter. That was not going to shake her faith. Just as their infidelity at the Cross did not shake her fidelity, she was going to be there with the Lord, no matter what.

That is why the Lord would appear to her. We do not hear about the appearances to Our Lady. All the saints tell us that Our Lord appeared to His mother first. But Mary Magdalene, after Our Blessed Lady, is the first to whom the Lord appeared because she is the one who remained faithful. She was the one who was willing to risk her life to be at the foot of the Cross. She was the one who would be with Jesus to the end. Therefore, right at the beginning of this new life, Jesus comes to her and gives her the privilege of being the very first to bring the news of the Resurrection to those who did not yet believe.

This Resurrection is what inspires Saint Peter and gives him the grace, being one who not only did not believe but was terrified to be known as a follower of Jesus, to stand up in front of a crowd of thousands of people and proclaim his faith and the name of Jesus Christ; to tell them "God has made both Lord and Messiah this Jesus whom you have crucified. Therefore, you must be baptized into Jesus Christ."

We share that life. We share in the Resurrection already. The joy of Saint Mary Magdalen should be ours, but even in a more incredible way because we share the life. She saw it, but until she was baptized she did not share it. We do; we are baptized into the Lord. Saint Peter says, at the end of the first reading, that when we are baptized into the name of Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit, and it is in this that our sins will be forgiven. It is in this, Saint Peter tells us, that we will be saved. But our lives must change. It is not enough just to say, "Well, I am baptized now. Therefore, it is enough." We are baptized into Jesus Christ; therefore, we must live the life of Jesus Christ. We must live a life of faith, of hope, and of love. We must be filled with the same kind of love that filled Saint Mary Magdalene’s heart: We will be with Our Lord, regardless; we will not be ashamed of Jesus; we are willing to stand with Him at the moment of His death; we will be proclaiming the Gospel because of our faith in the Resurrection. That is what Saint Mary Magdalene did. That is what the Lord is asking of us.

So, we can ask ourselves today, "Are we ashamed of Jesus Christ?" Now, on one level, obviously you would not be here right now if you were. But when you go out into the world, are you? Are you willing to be known as a follower of Jesus by the way you live, by the way you act, by the way you speak? Are we willing to stand up with the Lord? Are we willing to be counted? Are we willing to be ridiculed for the name of Jesus Christ? We do not want to be like Nicodemus, a disciple in secret, who came to Him at night because he was afraid. We need to be like Saint Mary Magdalene because Jesus Christ has freed us. He has freed us from sin; he has freed us from death; he has freed us from Satan’s grasp. We, now, should be on fire with love for Jesus. We should be willing, like Saint Mary Magdalene when she saw what He did for her - she was willing to stand with Him, no matter what it might cost. She was rewarded to be the first, after Our Lady, to see the Resurrected Christ; and to be the first one to preach the Gospel message that Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead."

-- From a homily by Fr Robert Altier, ocds

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

"In the Gospels today, we hear, first of all, about the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. In the second Gospel reading of the Passion, we hear about how the whole crowd that was praising God and glorifying Him had turned so quickly against the Lord. We need to look at these different elements. Needless to say, there is so much to say about these reading that I could be here for hours, but I will spare you that; so we will just touch on a few of the points to highlight some of the things that were going on, some of the things that we might not recognize or understand immediately.

First of all, we hear Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey. We ask ourselves, "Why?" Well, first of all, there was a prophecy that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. So we say, "Okay, that needed to be fulfilled." But there was a purpose for that. Many people will say that in the time of Our Lord, the victor, the king who was victorious, would come into the city on a white horse, letting the whole world know that he was the victor. But if one was in defeat, he would come in on a donkey - a sign of humility. That is not so much the reason. It was more a matter of obedience to God. By this point, the Jewish people had become very disobedient to the Will of God. They were not following what God had required very specifically in the Scriptures. It is absolutely forbidden in the Scriptures for the people of Israel to ride a horse.

Now, on first hearing that, we might say, "Well, that’s kind of a foolish thing." But if you read, for instance in some of the books, like back in Kings at the time of David, they rode donkeys. They didn’t ride horses into battle; they rode donkeys. Now, that again seems foolish to us because donkeys don’t run and the horses are quite fast. We ask, "Why would they ride donkeys? Why doesn’t God allow them to have horses?" Because the only place in the ancient world where horses were raised was in Egypt. Egypt, of course, was the enemy of Israel and God had forbidden that the people of Israel would make a pact with Egypt in order to have horses. And so, at this point in the midst of the disobedience of the Jewish people, while they were indeed riding horses at the time of Our Lord, Jesus Himself, obedient to the Will of God and in fulfillment of the prophecy, came in riding a donkey.

We see the people shouting out their Hosannas to God. But then, within a week’s time, as I mentioned, they all turn against Him. We see those odd exchanges between Pilate and the chief priests; and between Pilate and Jesus. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us. It seems that Pilate is trying to push this away; indeed he was. The Jewish people had a concordat with the Romans. I should say that it was really the other way around: the Romans had signed a concordat with the Jewish people. The Jews had their own law. We don’t hear the Passion quite as explicitly in Luke’s Gospel as we do in the others. As the week draws on, we hear in Saint John’s Gospel on Friday, for instance, all the different elements of the law. Keep these things in mind.

The concordat that the Romans signed with Israel was that the Jews would be the ones to take care of their own people. If a Jewish person was arrested by the Romans, the Romans could do nothing. They must turn him over to the Jewish authorities, and the Jewish authorities would try the person for their crimes. The only person in history known to have been turned over to the Romans by the Jews is Jesus Christ. So, once again, that is the reason for Our Lord telling us three times that He is going to be handed over to the pagans. Why was there a whole group of people following Him, including the women crying and lamenting? Because they had violated their own law. It wasn’t merely that the Messiah was going to be killed, because many of them did not understand that. What they saw was the injustice. Why was a Jew being crucified? Why was a Jew being handed over to pagans? This violated the concordat; that is why Pilate was trying to push the whole thing away. He knew this was against the law.

But then you can look at it the other way, and you see this most clearly in Saint Mark’s Gospel. We see that Herod is in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was the tetrarch. This is not the Herod that wanted to kill Jesus when He was a baby, but rather this is Herod’s son. Herod, at this point, was the king in Galilee. He was now in Jerusalem for some purpose. Therefore, because this governor would have been there, there would have been 1,000 Roman soldiers who would have come with him. You also have at the Praetorium, another group of soldiers who would have been there because of Pontius Pilate and the whole situation as they were patrolling the area of Jerusalem. There would have been thousands of Roman soldiers who could do nothing to a Jewish person. The Jews could make fun of the Roman soldiers; they could slander them; yell at them; throw things at them; and the Roman soldiers could do nothing because, by their own concordat, they were forbidden from touching any Jews.

After all these things had gone on, now they finally had their opportunity. Here was a Jewish man, and He had been turned over to them. To take Him into the Praetorium; to flog Him; to make a crown of thorns and robe Him in purple; to abuse Him in various ways; they now had their chance. The Romans would throw people to the lions and cheer gleefully as they saw the bloodshed. This was a group of Roman soldiers who had not seen much blood for a long time. You can imagine the cruelty and the mob mentality as they went after Jesus. It wasn’t just an ordinary flogging, it was a rather extraordinary thing, even for Pilate. You see his waffling. On one level, he’s trying to sound like he is somewhat righteous; but here he is waffling and saying, "Well, I find this man completely innocent, why don’t I just have him flogged?" If He is innocent, why would He be flogged? Finally, he waffles completely and says, "Fine. Crucify him." Again, this is totally violating everything in the concordat that had been signed.

As we see these different elements, it helps us to understand the cruelty and the incredible suffering that Our Lord endured on a human level. We see in the garden what He suffered as He prayed and the wave of all of our sins came down upon Him. He was crushed. Remember, the word Gethsemane (as in the Garden of Gethsemane), means the olive press. So, the Garden of Gethsemane is the Garden of the Olive Press. It was there that they would bring the olives. A huge press they had with a huge stone would squeeze the olives and the oil would come out and drip over the sides of the press. When the olives were squeezed, the oil would come out of the pores of the olive. In the ancient world, they called that the blood of the olive. As the blood poured forth from the pores of Our Blessed Lord, He was being crushed, squeezed under the weight of our sins. The blood poured forth from His very pores. He was crushed for our offenses.

On Friday, when we read from Isaiah chapter 53, and when we hear the Passion from Saint John, these are some things to ponder and keep in mind. The intense suffering that Our Lord endured. The cruelty with which he suffered. And all of this because of us; because He loved us even to the point of death. He was obedient to His Father out of love for us. That is the thing we can never lose sight of. Jesus’ suffering, His Passion, His death, His crucifixion, is not something we can put at an arm’s distance. It is not something we can look at objectively and say, "What an unfortunate thing. What a terrible injustice that happened." Instead, it is something we need to look at subjectively and personally. As we ponder these things, and meditate upon them in this most holy of weeks, make it your own. Recognize it is because of your sins and my sins; but each one of us looking at it says, "He did this for me. He did it because of me. That suffering is because of me; I did that to Him. It’s not just the Romans, it’s not just the Jews, it was me. I’m the one who turned Him over to Pilate; I’m the one who crucified Him; I’m the one who mocked Him. It is my sins that weighed down upon Him. I’m the one who crushed Him." That is what we need to keep in mind.

Don’t leave it out there someplace as something that happened 2000 years ago and has no bearing on us. Because the Crucifixion of Our Blessed Lord is happening still. In just a few moments, on the altar, Jesus Christ will be sacrificed. Not again, but still. The exact same sacrifice as happened on the Cross 2000 years ago. He is sacrificing Himself now for us and because of us. He gives Himself to us in Holy Communion because He loves us. So, as we ponder these saving mysteries, make them your own; take them into your heart. Walk through them with Our Blessed Lord. With those women who followed Him, weep and lament for yourselves and for your children, because He did this out of love for you."

-- From a homily by Fr Robert Altier, ocds

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lent must be used for removing all our defilements

"As we are therefore, dearly-beloved, about to enter on those mystic days which are dedicated to the benefits of fasting, let us take care to obey the Apostle's precepts, cleansing ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit 2 Corinthians 7:1: that by controlling the struggles that go on between our two natures, the spirit which, if it is under the guidance of God, should be the governor of the body, may uphold the dignity of its rule: so that we may give no offense to any, nor be subject to the chidings of reprovers. For we shall be rightly attacked with rebukes, and through our fault ungodly tongues will arm themselves to do harm to religion, if the conduct of those that fast is at variance with the standard of perfect purity. For our fast does not consist chiefly of mere abstinence from food, nor are dainties withdrawn from our bodily appetites with profit, unless the mind is recalled from wrong-doing and the tongue restrained from slandering. This is a time of gentleness and long-suffering, of peace and tranquillity: when all the pollutions of vice are to be eradicated and continuance of virtue is to be attained by us. Now let godly minds boldly accustom themselves to forgive faults, to pass over insults, and to forget wrongs. Now let the faithful spirit train himself with the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, that through honour and dishonour, through ill repute and good repute, the conscience may be undisturbed in unwavering uprightness, not puffed up by praise and not wearied out by revilings. The self-restraint of the religious should not be gloomy, but sincere; no murmurs of complaint should be heard from those who are never without the consolation of holy joys. The decrease of worldly means should not be feared in the practice of works of mercy. Christian poverty is always rich, because what it has is more than what it has not. Nor does the poor man fear to labour in this world, to whom it is given to possess all things in the Lord of all things. Therefore those who do the things which are good must have no manner of fear lest the power of doing should fail them; since in the gospel the widow's devotion is extolled in the case of her two mites, and voluntary bounty gets its reward for a cup of cold water. For the measure of our charitableness is fixed by the sincerity of our feelings, and he that shows mercy on others will never want for mercy himself. The holy widow of Sarepta discovered this, who offered the blessed Elias in the time of famine one day's food, which was all she had, and putting the prophet's hunger before her own needs, ungrudgingly gave up a handful of grain and a little oil. But she did not lose what she gave in all faith, and in the vessels emptied by her godly bounty a source of new plenty arose, that the fullness of her substance might not be diminished by the holy purpose to which she had put it, because she had never dreaded being brought to want."

-- From a sermon by St Leo the Great

Friday, April 15, 2011

Personal amendment and domestic harmony

"But, beloved, in this opportunity for the virtues' exercise there are also other notable crowns, to be won by no dispersing abroad of granaries, by no disbursement of money, if wantonness is repelled, if drunkenness is abandoned, and the lusts of the flesh tamed by the laws of chastity: if hatreds pass into affection, if enmities be turned into peace, if meekness extinguishes wrath, if gentleness forgives wrongs, if in fine the conduct of master and of slaves is so well ordered that the rule of the one is milder, and the discipline of the other is more complete. It is by such observances then, dearly-beloved, that God's mercy will be gained, the charge of sin wiped out, and the adorable Easter festival devoutly kept. And this the pious Emperors of the Roman world have long guarded with holy observance; for in honour of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection they bend their lofty power, and relaxing the severity of their decrees set free many of their prisoners: so that on the days when the world is saved by the Divine mercy, their clemency, which is modelled on the Heavenly goodness, may be zealously followed by us. Let Christian peoples then imitate their princes, and be incited to forbearance in their homes by these royal examples. For it is not right that private laws should be severer than public. Let faults be forgiven, let bonds be loosed, offenses wiped out, designs of vengeance fall through, that the holy festival through the Divine and human grace may find all happy, all innocent: through our Lord Jesus Christ Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns God for endless ages of ages. Amen."

-- From a sermon by St Leo the Great

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Use Lent to vanquish the enemy

"Accordingly, dearly-beloved, that we may be able to overcome all our enemies, let us seek Divine aid by the observance of the heavenly bidding, knowing that we cannot otherwise prevail against our adversaries, unless we prevail against our own selves. For we have many encounters with our own selves: the flesh desires one thing against the spirit, and the spirit another thing against the flesh. And in this disagreement, if the desires of the body be stronger, the mind will disgracefully lose its proper dignity, and it will be most disastrous for that to serve which ought to have ruled. But if the mind, being subject to its Ruler, and delighting in gifts from above, shall have trampled under foot the allurements of earthly pleasure, and shall not have allowed sin to reign in its mortal body , reason will maintain a well-ordered supremacy, and its strongholds no strategy of spiritual wickednesses will cast down: because man has then only true peace and true freedom when the flesh is ruled by the judgment of the mind, and the mind is directed by the will of God. And although this state of preparedness, dearly-beloved, should always be maintained that our ever-watchful foes may be overcome by unceasing diligence, yet now it must be the more anxiously sought for and the more zealously cultivated when the designs of our subtle foes themselves are conducted with keener craft than ever. For knowing that the most hallowed days of Lent are now at hand, in the keeping of which all past slothfulnesses are chastised, all negligences alerted for, they direct all the force of their spite on this one thing, that they who intend to celebrate the Lord's holy Passover may be found unclean in some matter, and that cause of offense may arise where propitiation ought to have been obtained."

-- From a sermon by St Leo the Great

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Christian's armour is both for defence and for attack

"So, dearly-beloved, let us who instructed in Divine learning come wittingly to the present contest and strife, hear the Apostle when he says, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this dark world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly things, and let us not forget that these our enemies feel it is against them all is done that we strive to do for our salvation, and that by the very fact of our seeking after some good thing we are challenging our foes. For this is an old-standing quarrel between us and them fostered by the devil's ill-will, so that they are tortured by our being justified, because they have fallen from those good things to which we, God helping us, are advancing. If, therefore, we are raised, they are prostrated: if we are strengthened, they are weakened. Our cures are their blows, because they are wounded by our wounds' cure. Stand, therefore, dearly-beloved, as the Apostle says, having the loins of your mind girt in truth, and your feet shod in the preparation of the gospel of peace, in all things taking the shield of faith in which you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one, and put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. See, dearly-beloved, with what mighty weapons, with what impregnable defences we are armed by our Leader, who is famous for His many triumphs, the unconquered Master of the Christian warfare. He has girt our loins with the belt of chastity, He has shod our feet with the bonds of peace: because the unbelted soldier is quickly vanquished by the suggester of immodesty, and he that is unshod is easily bitten by the serpent. He has given the shield of faith for the protection of our whole body; on our head has He set the helmet of salvation; our right hand has He furnished with a sword, that is with the word of Truth: that the spiritual warrior may not only be safe from wounds, but also may have strength to wound his assailant."

-- From a sermon by St Leo the Great

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Each one of us is a new creation in Jesus Chris

""See, I am doing something new. Do you not perceive it?" The Lord asks this question through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading today. He tells us that we are to forget the things of the past, and we are to look ahead because there is something entirely new. The interesting thing in this is, that when He is talking about forgetting the things of the past, He is even talking about the most important events in Israel’s history. He talks about the opening of the Red Sea. He talks about leading Pharaoh’s chariots and army out into the sea and then closing the sea on them while the people of Israel entered through the sea and were freed. Yet he says, "Don’t think about that so much. Look forward. Stop looking back and look ahead." While it is important to know that God has done these extraordinary things and He is with His people, what is more necessary is to know not simply that He was with our ancestors years ago, but that He is with us now. And that He is doing something now that He has not done in the past.

So, for the people of Israel, they might fall into the trap of thinking, "Why isn’t God working the extraordinary things He did in the past?" In fact, we even see that several times we read in the Scriptures where some of the people would say, "We have heard of the things You did in the past for our forefathers. Where are You today? You did these extraordinary things: there were the plagues in Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the fire on the mountain, and the Ten Commandments. There were all these extraordinary events that took place and we are not seeing them today. Where are You, Lord?" What He is saying is that He is doing something entirely different. It is entirely new. We cannot look today to try to figure out, based on the past, what is happening now. We can’t look to the events of the crossing of the Red Sea to say, "Shouldn’t these extraordinary kinds of things be happening today?" He says, "No, I am doing something entirely different now." So we need to look in a different way.

Saint Paul picks up the exact same theme in the second reading today. He says that he no longer looks to the past, but he only struggles forward into the future. He is striving for the goal. For us, this is where we can see this newness that the Lord is talking about. The Church puts these two readings in juxtaposition for us today so that we can understand what this newness is about. It has to do with our sins. We saw last week where the Lord said to Joshua that He "has removed the reproach of Egypt from the people of Israel." He’s removed the sinfulness. He’s removed everything that Egypt stands for: the slavery to sin and all the evil. And He is doing something which is entirely new. Saint Paul is saying, "I don’t look to the past. I’ve put all my sins behind me, they are forgiven, they are gone. I now strive forward to the future. I look forward to the goal."

It is a very important thing that he points out as well, he says, "..not that I consider that I already have possession of it." It is a very important passage, if you are talking to any of your Fundamentalist friends who want to say that they are already saved. Here is Saint Paul saying, "I do not consider that I have already achieved the goal." He is not claiming that he’s already saved. He is striving for the goal. So are we. But oftentimes, what happens is that we get stuck in our sins. We keep looking backwards, instead of looking forward. It is true that what happened in the past did, in fact, happen. We keep saying, "Lord, look at what I did." We even wonder to ourselves sometimes and say, "Can God forgive this? How can I be forgiven for this?" And the devil is right there to hold our sins in front of our face and say, "Look at what you did!" He’s trying to get us to despair of God’s mercy. So like Saint Paul, we have to be able to say, "I’ve put all of the things of the past behind me and I look forward to the goal. I‘m looking ahead to Jesus; I’m looking to the Resurrection." If you have confessed your sins, they are gone. They are forgiven, they’re not there anymore. Stop looking at them and look ahead. Look to the One who has forgiven your sins.

While it is true that we have sinned, it is more true that we have been forgiven. As Saint Paul says elsewhere, "Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more." So, no matter how horrible our sins have been, the grace of God is there in abundance, not only to make up for our sins, but even to project us beyond them. The Lord makes very clear in the Gospel reading today, that He doesn’t hold these things against us any longer. When you think about what happened to this woman in the Gospel, these people actually catch her in the very act of adultery. There is no trial that is necessary, she is caught red-handed, if you will. They bring her to Jesus to test Him, to see what He’s going to do with this woman. Is He really going to follow the Law? They themselves wouldn’t. By that time in Judaism, they would not have stoned this woman. But they bring her to Jesus to see if He’s going to do this. After all, if He is a righteous teacher, the righteous one would follow the Law. So naturally, He would say, "Stone her. She was caught in adultery, stone her." That is what they were looking for: Is He really going to do what the Law says, or is He going to follow what the customs of the people were at that point and say, "Yes, I know that is what the Law says, but we won’t worry about it." Once again, He just turns the whole thing right around on them. As they walk away, He looks at the woman and says, "Where have they all gone? Has no one condemned you?" Then He says, "Neither do I."

Now put that into the context of your own self. Jesus knows the sins we have committed. We have been caught in the very act of any sin that we have ever committed. We are totally guilty. Yet, when we confess our sins He looks at us and says, "Has no one condemned you? Did that priest sitting in the confessional not condemn you? You came to him and you actually told him, ‘This is what I did.’ Did he not condemn you?" Then He looks at us and says, "Neither do I." But the next line is also exceedingly important. He says, "Now go, and sin no more."

God’s mercy is not something that we can presume upon. It’s not something that we can say, "We can go out and sin because we can just come to confession and it’s not a problem. God doesn’t care if we sin because He doesn’t condemn us anyway." That is presumption. Presumption is a mortal sin. We need to make sure we are doing what it actually says in the Act of Contrition: that not only are we going to confess our sins but we truly do intend to amend our lives, we are going to try to avoid the near occasions of sin, and we’re going to do what we can to change. Some of the Acts of Contrition put it as it was in the Gospel. They actually say: I firmly intend with Your help to sin no more.
Which is exactly what the Lord tells us in the Gospel reading today: Sin no more. That is what we need to be about. We need to be renewed in mind and heart. We need to have a change, we need to stop living according to the old way and live according to the new way. It’s not just a matter of us saying, "Let’s stop thinking about our sins." But it is a matter of changing our entire life, of putting the past behind us, of "taking on the new man" as Saint Paul says. It is a matter of dying to ourselves and to the old way and living according to the new way. This is something which is very difficult for us because we live in a world that is totally immersed in the old way.

Each one of us is a new creation in Jesus Christ. As we have seen over the last couple of weeks, the world does not want to be a new creation. But we are immersed in the world all too often. What would Saint Paul say about us today? "It’s all lost and I consider it rubbish." The word that he uses is even a little bit more rabid than that. It’s rubbish, it’s garbage! When you drive home today, look around, and when you get home, ask yourself, "Do I consider all of this lost, that I might have Jesus Christ? Or am I attached to all of these things? Am I really living my life for Jesus Christ?"

You see, if we aren’t living our life in a day to day way for Jesus Christ, neither are we going to be able to put our sins behind us entirely because they are always going to be right there. They are always going to be staring us in our face because we continue to live the same kind of life. Maybe we are not committing the sin anymore, but we haven’t fully turned our lives around, either. We have turned them to some degree, we have turned away from the sin, but we are still living immersed in the world. Saint Paul is telling us, "Put everything of the past behind." Not only the sin but the entire way that we have lived. Change, so that we’re living a new life in Christ. Consider it all lost. There is nothing in this world that is not passing. There is nothing in this world that we are going to take with us. Everything here is going to be left behind. Therefore, we need to start now to leave it behind. Look ahead, look at Jesus.

When we look at the people around us, that will change everything if we are looking at Jesus. We will begin to truly love them. Solely for their sake, for who they are. Not for us, not for what we get out of it, but for them. All the things we have, we are going to approach them in a different way. We will use what we need, because we need them. We will see the good in the things that are there and we will use them for the glory of God, not for our own selfish whims. Everything that we do will be directed toward salvation. That is the way we need to begin living now, in all things. Next time you go to the store and you are going to buy something, ask yourself, "Do I really need this? Will this thing help to lead me closer to Heaven? Or is it going to lead me away from Jesus? Is it about myself? Or is it about the good of others and true necessity?" When we look at other people, when we look at our families, we can ask ourselves, "Am I truly loving them for their sake? Am I pouring myself out? Am I serving the needs of others out of love for neighbor? Or do I look instead for others to take care of me? Is it about the self or is it about other people? Is it about me or is it about Christ?"

Do we see the surpassing value of Jesus Christ? Do we embrace that? Do we live it? That is what we need to take on: to strive for that goal like Saint Paul said. He didn’t consider that he already had it. So we are not going to walk out of here today completely turned; it is a process. It is something that we have to keep working at. But do we want to do it? This is the real question that we need to ask today. Do we want to put the things of the world, and the things of our own past behind us? Do we really want to live in Jesus Christ? Do we want to know of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ? To be united to Him, living our life for Him. Sinning no more. "God is doing something entirely new. Do you not perceive it?" He is doing it in your heart, in your mind, in your life. He is turning you around. Don’t look to the past; put the past entirely behind you. Instead, look inside and see what God is doing. Ask Him in prayer to show you what He is doing in your life, how He is changing it, how He is turning it around. Look to the future. Strive for the goal. The goal is Jesus Christ and eternal life with Him.

-- From a homily by Fr Robert Altier, ocds

Monday, April 11, 2011

Servant of God Gerome of Jesus Mary Joseph

"Jerome Nunzio Matthew Terzo was born at Noto, Italy, on May 17, 1683; his youth was spent in poverty, as he exercised the craft of shoemaker. In 1707 he retired to the hermitage of Jesus, Mary and St. Conrad, above Noto, where he took the hermit's habit on Oct. 30, 1707, and committed himself to a life of contemplation and to the apostolate, known as he was for his miraculous powers. Called in 1710 to the pass of Bove, to direct the other hermitage of St. Mary of the Stairs, he was able to transfer the ancient image of Our Lady, till then exposed to the inclemency of the weather, into the church of the hermitage. After an earthquake, in 1715 he rebuilt and amplified the church and made it a center of Marian piety. It is due to him, as the brief Scandere caelum /To ascend into heaven/ of Nov. 27, 1963, recalls, that the devotion to Mary, Stairway to Paradise, was established and diffused among the people, and that after more than two centuries the diocese of Noto asked for and obtained the Virgin, precisely under that title, as its principal patroness. This devotion had been the great devotion of the venerable Jerome.

In 1710 Providence put him in contact with the Marquis Andrew Statella of Palermo, who through his influence became a priest and then a Carmelite with the name of Salvatore of the Trinity (1678-1728). Fr. Salvatore attained a great holiness and introduced a Carmelite reform into some houses of Sicily, which was afterwards extended also to the nuns (Syracuse, 1729). This reform, which the venerable supported and guided from behind the wings, while still obeying the order of the ordinary and looking after the reform of all the hermitages of the diocese of Syracuse, was embraced by Jerome himself in 1741. This happened after he had obtained from Pope Benedict XIV, on a trip to Rome, leave to have the hermitage of the Scala aggregated to the Carmelite reform. The pontifical concession ended (though not completely) a long series of vicissitudes and sorrows that Jerome had humbly and courageously borne in his efforts to have the ancient hermitage pass over to Carmel. The trials continued even after Jerome had been vested in the Carmelite habit (Oct. 6, 1741) and had made his religious profession. Yet, endowed with great trust in God and in Our Lady, he always bore the trials with serenity, and the ancient hermitage became the heart of the reformed province of Sicily, with St. Mary of the Stairs as titular.

A man of prayer and of penance and of palpable faith, Jerome also had the gifts of prophecy, of wonders and the reading of hearts, and he worked extraordinary miracles. Full of zeal for the salvation of souls, he worked for the conversion of sinners and of the Moslems in Sicily and Malta. He was convinced of having received a heavenly communication that foretold the return of England to the ancient Roman faith. In 1743, when Messina was devasted by the plague, he worked wonders of heroic charity. He died on Apr. 11, 1758, near the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Stairs, which he had served and honored so much and where his body rests.

His fame for holiness and wonders moved the ecclesiastical authorities to begin working immediately for his canonization. His cause for beatification was introduced on May 4, 1796; after being interrupted for well-known political reasons, it was reopened in our century. On Nov. 7, 1944, the S. Congregation of Rites held a preparatory congregation for the declaration of heroicity of his virtues."

-- Biography by Valentine Macca, OCarm

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prayer to the Holy Name of Jesus

O good Jesus, according to Thy great mercy, have mercy on me. O most merciful Jesus, by that Precious Blood which Thou didst will to shed for sinners, I beseech Thee to wash away all my iniquities and to look graciously upon me, a poor and unworthy sinner, as I call upon Thy holy Name. Therefore, O Jesus, do Thou save me for Thy holy Name's sake. Amen.

Friday, April 8, 2011

We must follow our Divine Leader

"In order to reach our final goal, we must follow our Divine Leader who usually leads chosen Souls by the path He Himself has trodden and by no other; by the path, I tell you, of self-denial and suffering."

-- St Padre Pio

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Make our prayer one of friendship

"Dear brothers, the commands of the Gospel are nothing else than God’s lessons, the foundations on which to build up hope, the supports for strengthening faith, the food that nourishes the heart.  They are the rudder for keeping us on the right course, the protection that keeps our salvation secure. As they instruct the receptive minds of believers on earth, they lead safely to the kingdom of heaven.

God willed that many things should be said by the prophets, his servants, and listened to by his people.  How much greater are the things spoken by the Son.  These are now witnessed to by the very word of God who spoke through the prophets.  The Word of God does not now command us to prepare the way for his coming: he comes in person and opens up the way for us and directs us toward it.  Before, we wandered in the darkness of death, aimlessly and blindly.  Now we are enlightened by the light of grace, and are to keep to the highway of life, with the Lord to precede and direct us.

The Lord has given us many counsels and commandments to help us toward salvation.  He has even given us a pattern of prayer, instructing us on how we are to pray.  He has given us life, and with his accustomed generosity, he has also taught us how to pray.  He has made it easy for us to be heard as we pray to the Father in the words taught us by the Son.

He has already foretold that the hour was coming when true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  He fulfilled what he had promised before, so that we who have received the spirit and the truth through the holiness he has give us may worship in truth and in the spirit through the prayer he has taught.
What prayer could be more a prayer in the spirit than the one given us by Christ, by whom the Holy Spirit was sent upon us?  What prayer could be more a prayer in the truth than the one spoken by the lips of the Son, who is truth himself?  It follows that to pray in any other way than the Son has taught us is not only the result of ignorance but of sin.  He himself has commanded it, and has said: You reject the command of God, to set up your own tradition.

So, my brothers, let us pray as God our master has taught us.  To ask the Father in words his Son has given us, to let him hear the prayer of Christ ringing in his ears, is to make our prayer one of friendship, a family prayer. Let the Father recognize the words of his Son.  Let the son who lives in our hearts be also on our lips.  We have him as an advocate for sinners  before the Father; when we ask for forgiveness for ours sins, let us use the words given by our advocate.  He tells us: Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.  What more effective prayer could we then make in the name of Christ than in the words of his own prayer?"

-- From the writings of St Cyprian

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Prayer is the light of the spirit

"Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is partnership and union with God.  As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light.  I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods but continuous throughout the day and night.

Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God's love, and so make a palatable offering tot he Lord of the universe.  Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time to it.

Prayer is the light of the spirit, true knowledge of God, mediating between God and man.  The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides.  It seeks the satisfaction of its own desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.

Prayer stands before God as an honored ambassador.  It gives joy to the spirit, peace to the heart.  I speak of prayer, not words.  It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but by God's grace.  The apostle Paul says: We do not know how we are to pray but the Spirit himself pleads for us with inexpressible longings.

When the Lord gives this kind of prayer to a man or woman, he gives him riches that cannot be taken away, heavenly food that satisfies the spirit.  One who tastes this food is set on fire with an eternal longing for the Lord: his spirit burns as in a fire of the utmost intensity.

Practice prayer from the beginning.  Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility.  Make it radiant with the light of justice.  Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds.  Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity.  Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer.  In this way you will make it a perfect dwelling place for the Lord.  You will be able to receive him as in a splendid palace, and through his grace you will already possess him, his image enthroned in the temple of your spirit."

-- From a homily by St John Chrysostom

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

God continues to invite us

"[H]ow  patient God is with us! He only asks our attention. If we will attend to Him, He will do all the rest. We shall find that things begin to drop into our lap without any asking. In spite of our repeated blind refusals, in spite of our obstinancy and selfwill, up to the very moment of death God continues to invite, to persuade, to beckon.

Now there is one perfectly obvious way in which we can, or ought to be able to detect if we are travelling on the wrong - or just not on the right - path through life. If there is a recurring: 'If I were you I should' in our conversations with other people, we may begin to wonder. This persistent desire on the part of them all to tell us what they would do if they were us, can only mean one thing: whatever the facts may be, we are managing to give the impression that we are not in the right place nor engaged in the right occupation.

Of course we may indignantly exclaim that it is only the mistake of a lot of intolerable busybodies. Very well, then, so much the better. In that case it is quote easy to rectify their mass-mistake by convincing ourselves that our circumstances are just what we should have chosen. If we had all the world to choose from, and that we are doing the one thing on earth which suits us best. When we have convinced ourselves of that, we shall find that quite automatically all the busybodies will begin minding their own business again and no longer be interested in us and our occupations. It is a curious fact, but it has only to be tried to be proved.

On the other hand, let us admit that what they suggest may quite possibly be true. Perhaps we are not making the best of life; not using our gifts to the greatest advantage; we are either misfits or merely forlorn drifters, and everyone else can see if except ourselves. All we do is to grumble in general about life, without making any whole-hearted attempt to grapple with it.

For we have only to turn to God: to think of Him and of our neighbour instead of thinking exclusively along our own lines. We have only to wake up and become aware of existence as a real thing, and God as a real Person, and ourselves as His creation, and the next event in our lives will be that our vocation will come walking down the road to meet us, and bump into us so heavily that even we shall no longer be able to pretend that we do not know what it is."

-- Catch us those little foxes by A Carmelite Nun

Monday, April 4, 2011

You cannot separate the Cross and the Resurrection

"Our Lord tells us that it is when we lift up the Son of Man that we will realize that He is I AM; that He is Yahweh; that He is God. But only when He is lifted up. This is the important thing that we need to look at. Throughout history, God has sent prophets, judges, and saints. He has sent people who were able to do extraordinary things. There have also been many people who have come into the world with various claims of different types about how they themselves are indeed the Messiah. Yet, we can ask ourselves, "How do we know that Jesus really is who He says that He is? If there are other people who made that claim, how do we know that He is the Messiah?" If somebody came along today saying, "I’m God. I’m the Messiah. I’m the one that God sent into the world," how would you be able to say absolutely and definitively either: "Yes, that is true," or "No, that is not"? Our Lord told us it is only when we lift Him up from the earth. Only in the Crucifixion will we come to know that He is God; that He is one with His heavenly Father. Any of us, if we were insane or totally caught up in ourselves and wanted to lie, could say the words of Jesus. But who of us can prove it? Who can live it? So, how do we know that He is the Lord? It is only when we study the crucifix.

There are many Christians who want to remove the Lord from the crucifix. They want to say, "Well, Jesus is risen from the dead now. He’s not on the cross anymore. We don’t need to worry about that." But note the reading that the Church puts in juxtaposition to this because they recognize the importance of Moses making a seraph. When the people had been bitten, they had to look at the bronze serpent up on top of the pole in order to be healed. So too, those of us who have been bitten by the sting of the serpent, by Original Sin and by our own sins. The only way we are going to be healed is when we look at the One who has been lifted up from the earth. When we look at the One who became sin for us. When we look at the One who "became a curse for us," as Saint Paul says. He took on our sins. He took on the curse for us. He is the one who healed us when we could not be healed. It is only in that, that we come to see who He is. If we do not look at the crucifix; if we do not study the crucifix very carefully; if we do not spend time to meditate upon the Crucifixion of Our Lord, we will never come to understand fully that He is God and what it is that He has done for us.

Looking at the Resurrection isn’t going to be enough to do it. You cannot separate the Cross and the Resurrection. Looking just at the miracles and His teachings isn’t going to do it. Someone could read the teachings of Our Lord and say (as the people did in His own day), "He’s crazy! This guy is really caught up. He’s got the Messiah complex." If you go to the hospital, in the psyche ward, you are likely to find three or four people who claim to be Jesus. You are also likely to find a couple of other people who simply claim to be God. There are a lot of people who, in their insanity, make some of these same kinds of claims. So we need to look beyond simply that.

The reason we believe in His teaching is because He went to the Cross. The reason why we can look at all the other things that he does is because He went to the Cross for us. Had He not done that, we would have no reason in the world to believe that He is the Son of God. There is no way we could ever be able to say He is the one. Nothing else really, truly proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt; except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Saint Paul says, "May I boast in nothing but the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ. May I boast of nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified." It is the power of the Cross that heals us. It is the power of the Cross that sets us free. If we are really going to be the Christians we profess to be, there is no Christian without the Cross because there is no Christ without the Cross. So if we want to be healed of the bite of the serpent, we need to look at the one who has been lifted up and hung on a pole - The One who is truly I AM: Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and the only savior of the world, the One who proved it with His very life."

-- From a homily by Fr Robert Altier, ocds

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The fruit of reading holy scripture: the fullness of eternal happiness

"The outcome or the fruit of reading holy scripture is by no means negligible: it is the fullness of eternal happiness. For these are the books which tell us of eternal life, which were written not only that we might believe but also that we might have everlasting life. When we do live that life we shall understand fully, we shall love completely, and our desires will be totally satisfied. Then, with all our needs fulfilled we shall truly know the love that surpasses all understanding and so be filled with the fullness of God. The purpose of scriptures, which comes to us from God, is to lead us to this fullness according to the truths contained in those sayings of the apostles to which I have referred. In order to achieve this, we must study holy scripture carefully, teach it and listen to it in the same way."

-- St Bonaventure

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Abstinence Not Only from Food But from Other Evil Desires

"Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on these arms, let us enter actively and fearlessly on the contest set before us: so that in this fasting struggle we may not rest satisfied with only this end, that we should think abstinence from food alone desirable. For it is not enough that the substance of our flesh should be reduced, if the strength of the soul be not also developed. When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights. Let every Christian scrutinise himself, and earth severely into his inmost heart: let him see that no discord cling there, no wrong desire be harboured. Let chasteness drive incontinence far away; let the light of truth dispel the shades of deception; let the swellings of pride subside; let wrath yield to reason; let the darts of ill-treatment be shattered, and the chidings of the tongue be bridled; let thoughts of revenge fall through, and injuries be given over to oblivion. In fine, let "every plant which the heavenly Father hath not planted be removed by the roots." For then only are the seeds of virtue well nourished in us, when every foreign germ is uprooted from the field of wheat. If any one, therefore, has been fired by the desire for vengeance against another, so that he has given him up to prison or bound him with chains, let him make haste to forgive not only the innocent, but also one who seems worthy of punishment, that he may with confidence make use of the clause in the Lord's prayer and say, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." Which petition the Lord marks with peculiar emphasis, as if the efficacy of the whole rested on this condition, by saying, "For if ye forgive men their sins, your Father which is in heaven also will forgive you: but if ye forgive not men, neither will your Father forgive you your Sins.""

-- From a sermon by St Leo the Great

Friday, April 1, 2011

The fast should lead to good deeds

"Therefore, dearly-beloved, seeing that, as we are taught by our Redeemer's precept, "man lives not in bread alone, but in every word of God," and it is right that Christian people, whatever the amount of their abstinence, should rather desire to satisfy themselves with the "Word of God" than with bodily food, let us with ready devotion and eager faith enter upon the celebration of the solemn fast, not with barren abstinence flora food, which is often imposed on us by weakliness of body, or the disease of avarice, but in bountiful benevolence: that in truth we may be of those of whom the very Truth speaks, "blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Let works of piety, therefore, be our delight, and let us be filled with those kinds of food which feed us for eternity. Let us rejoice in the replenishment of the poor, whom our bounty has satisfied. Let us delight in the clothing of those whose nakedness we have covered with needful raiment. Let our humaneness be felt by the sick in their illnesses, by the weakly in their infirmities, by the exiles in their hardships, by the orphans in their destitution, and by solitary widows in their sadness: in the helping of whom there is no one that cannot carry out some amount of benevolence. For no one's income is small, whose heart is big: and the measure of one's mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of one's means. Wealth of goodwill is never rightly lacking, even in a slender purse. Doubtless the expenditure of the rich is greater, and that of the poor smaller, but there is no difference in the fruit of their works, where the purpose of the workers is the same."

-- From a sermon by St Leo the Great