Monday, December 27, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family

The Sunday Gospel [December 26, 2010]

Mt 2:13-15, 19-23

The Flight to Egypt

13When [the magi] had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” 14Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. 15He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

19When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. 23He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”

The Holy Family and the Families of Migrants

Today’s feast highlights Christmas as a celebration of the family—in both theological and socio-cultural senses. It is a theological celebration because it involves God who sent his beloved Son to “make his dwelling” among human beings, to become incarnate and, thus, to be truly a part of the human family. God is not just “the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). In sending his Son Jesus to form a family with Joseph and Mary, God has truly become a family member!

Christmas is also a socio-cultural celebration. Apart from weddings and funerals, at no other time of the year do Filipinos gather as families than at Christmas. As the season draws near, our airports, piers, and bus terminals teem with people going the same direction—home. Balikbayans are veritable Christmas trees: they come home loaded with gifts and goodies. For those who cannot come home, the season becomes particularly poignant. Christmas exposes most keenly the “lights and shadows” of Filipino families, their joys and hopes, their sorrows and anxieties.

Matthew tells us that the Holy Family also has its share of lights and shadows. The bright side comes with the arrival of the Magi who pay homage to Jesus and bring him gifts. The dark side is presented in today’s Gospel: the Holy Family is forced to flee Bethlehem to escape the murderous design of King Herod. It becomes a family of migrants.

The flight into Egypt recalls Pharaoh’s persecution of God’s people and the birth of Moses who would someday lead the people into freedom. Thus, the Child Jesus embodies and experiences the exodus story of Israel. Someday, like Moses, he will save his people—from the slavery of sin.

The experience of the Holy Family calls special attention to a particular group of families—the families of migrants. The phenomenon of migrant workers touches Filipino families because some 8 million of our people are working abroad. Newsweek (Oct. 4, 2004) refers to Filipinos as “workers for the world” and examines the cost of the absence of one parent or both parents on family life and children. While labor migration serves as an economic stopgap for our beleaguered economy, it also exacerbates the country’s social problems, including juvenile delinquency and marital breakups.

Among local migrants are the families of those obliged to be away for long periods, such as members of the armed forces and sailors. There are families with no home; families discriminated against for cultural, political, or religious reasons; and families of prisoners and outcasts.

Pope John Paul II writes in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (n 77) that the families of migrants should be able to find a “homeland” everywhere in the Church. It is the task of the people of God to look after them, and to appeal especially to government agencies to see to it that migrant workers find employment, that they are reunited with their families, that they are respected in their cultural identity, and that their children are given the chance to learn a trade and practice it.

Charity begins at home. Even as we pray and contribute our share for the betterment of Filipino migrants, let us open our eyes and hearts to the conditions of “migrants” among us. We entrust each family to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Because Jesus himself knew the vicissitudes of a family in exile, we have in him a merciful Lord who sympathizes with the plight of our families. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All!

[Diary 1437]
Christmas Eve [1937]. After Holy Communion, the Mother of God gave me to experience the anxious concern she had in Her heart because of the Son of God. But this anxiety was permeated with such fragrance of abandonment to the will of God that I should call it ' rather a delight than an anxiety. I understood how my ' soul ought to accept the will of God in all things. It is a pity I cannot write this the way I experienced it. My soul was plunged in deep recollection all day long. Nothing could tear me away from this recollection, neither duties, nor the business I had with lay people.

Source: Divine Mercy in My Soul: by Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, published by Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Stockbridge, MA 01263, USA, 4th Print 2005 ISBN 81-7109-594-1

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy" here in cyberspace.

Monday, December 20, 2010

4th Sunday of Advent

The Sunday Gospel [December 19, 2010]

Mt 1:18-24
The Birth of Jesus

18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. 19Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. 20Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. 21She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,/ and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Guardian of the Redeemer

Chosen to be the mother of the Son of God, “the Word-made-flesh,” Mary shared in the mystery of the Incarnation like no other human being. But there was someone else who shared it with her, and he, too, was involved in the same salvific event: her betrothed, Joseph of Nazareth.

Today’s Gospel tells us of the origin of Mary’s pregnancy: she was with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew, who focuses on Joseph, simply states the situation. It is Luke who describes fully and explicitly the child’s conception. The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:31-32). Without hesitation, Mary answers yes to what is clearly God’s plan (“May it be done to me according to your word”). Her “pregnancy” becomes visible to Joseph with the passing of weeks. At this point, Luke’s text coincides with Matthew: Joseph seeks an answer to the unsettling question of Mary’s pregnancy as well as a way out of what he perceives as a difficult situation.

God has shown Mary her part in the plan of salvation. Here, in the parallel “annunciation,” God introduces Joseph to the mystery of Mary’s motherhood. While remaining a virgin, she, who by law is his “wife,” has become a mother through the power of the Holy Spirit. The invitation to Joseph is to take Mary home as his wife, and when the child in her womb comes into the world, he should give it the name “Jesus.” In other words, God entrusts to Joseph the responsibilities of an earthly father as regards Mary’s Son.

“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” The “upright” Joseph who thought of divorcing Mary shows a readiness to do what God asks of him, a readiness that is similar to Mary’s. He takes Mary in all the mystery of her motherhood. Although he does not respond verbally to the angel’s announcement, Joseph manifests the same “obedience of faith” that Mary shows and that Jesus will ask of his disciples. By this obedience of faith, one commits oneself entirely to God.

Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful apostolic letter on the person and mission of Joseph. He called it Redemptoris Custos, “Guardian of the Redeemer.” Before Joseph can exercise fatherhood and guardianship of Jesus the Redeemer, he has to guard the mystery of the Incarnation—together with Mary and in relation to her. He has to be placed by God on the path of Mary’s “pilgrimage of faith.” Joseph’s way of faith is totally determined by the same mystery of the Incarnation.

References to Joseph are few. This is consistent with our picture of him as a simple and quiet man. But he is also a good and responsible guardian, and if the boy Jesus “grew in wisdom and favor” before God and humankind (Lk 2:52), it is due in no small measure to Joseph.

By his encyclical Quam¬quam Pluries (August 15, 1889), Pope Leo XIII declared St. Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church. Since then the Church has implored the protection of St. Joseph. In our days, Pope John Paul II writes: “Commending ourselves to the protection of him to whose custody God ‘entrusted his greatest and most precious treasures,’ let us learn from him how to be servants of the ‘economy of salvation.’ May St. Joseph become for all of us an exceptional teacher in the service of Christ’s saving mission, a mission which is the responsibility of each and every member of the Church” (Redemp-toris Custos, n 32).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy

[Diary 687]
Once, as I was going down the hall to the kitchen, I heard these words in my soul: Say unceasingly the chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy.

[Diary 754]
+The Lord's Promise: The souls that say this chaplet will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death.

[Diary 811]
When I entered my solitude, I heard these words: At the hour of their death, I defend as My own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the indulgence is the same. When this chaplet is said by the bedside of a dying person, God's anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelops the soul, and the very depths of My tender mercy are moved for the sake of the sorrowful Passion of My Son.

[Diary 848]
While I was saying the chaplet, I heard a voice which said, Oh, what great graces I will grant to souls who say this chaplet; the very depths of My tender mercy are stirred for the sake of those who say the chaplet. Write down these words, My daughter. Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Sunday, December 12, 2010

3rd Sunday of Advent

The Sunday Gospel [December 12, 2010]

Mt 11:2-11
The Messengers from John the Baptist

2When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 4Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. 6And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” 7As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. 9Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ 11Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Light and Hope in Troubled Times

The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of gladness and rejoicing because of the proximity of Christ’s birth. The spirit of Christ¬mas begins to fill the air as people look forward to the start of the revered Filipino tradition of Misa de Gallo. Still, our hearts are filled with a mixture of hopes and fears, of joy and sadness. We are participants, not mere spectators, in the battle between good and evil, between light and darkness.

John the Baptist, the voice in the wilderness, the voice of Advent, is being muffled. Herod Antipas has put him in prison because, true to his witness as prophet, he denounced Herod’s in¬¬ces¬tuous marriage to Hero¬dias.

Today’s Gospel suggests that John in his prison cell has heard reports about Jesus. He asks if Jesus is the Awaited One. Perhaps he himself is expecting a fiery figure.

To John’s messengers who query if he is the one who is to come, Jesus responds not with a yes or a no but with an allusion to Isaiah’s prophecy (Is 35:5-6, First Reading). Instead of talking about the fiery judgment of the expected Messiah, Jesus cites the restoration to wholeness of men and women—salvific signs that God is doing on behalf of humanity.

Despite John’s doubts about him and his works, Jesus praises his precursor. John is firm, quite unlike a reed in the wind that is all too easily swayed. He is dressed simply, unlike those with wealth and power.

As we anticipate the celebration of the Incarnation, let us take another look at the precursor. John is neither fuming about his stay in prison nor praying for deliverance. He receives news about Jesus and reflects on these. He shares with his disciples the meaning of all that he has heard. He patiently tries to discern if this Jesus is truly the Messiah. And when he receives Jesus’ reply, he spends more time pondering on what he has heard and seen.

Eugen Drewermann, a German priest and psychotherapist, muses: “Here is a man who tied himself to a way of hoping, a yearning for the future, and of proclaiming this future in the name of God, and then, when this promised future finally came, it looked completely different from what he expected. Indeed, it was hardly recognizable. This happens to us and our expectations, too. Do we have the power then to once again change ourselves, from law to grace, from morality to understanding, from human striving to simple being?… What John wanted comes to pass, but entirely from within. It is not whipped into being with the rod of fear; instead, it grows out of the power of a milder climate.”

Like John, instead of being dismayed by the situation in which we find ourselves, we could ponder on the meaning of our Lord Jesus Christ and the good news that he brings. Let us spend time questioning, listening, seeing, and remembering that Jesus, born in a manger, hanged on a cross, and risen from the dead, is alive and with our Father in heaven. God continues to rule our lives with mercy and justice, acting in his time according to his plan of salvation, despite appearances to the contrary, despite the horrors of our times. Let us act with faith, endure with hope, doing all with love. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains. You too must be patient” (Jas 5:7-8).

Friday, December 10, 2010

True Greatness is in Loving God and in Humility

[Diary 424]
In the evening, I just about got into bed, and I fell asleep immediately. Though I fell asleep quickly, I was awakened even more quickly. A little child came and woke me up. The child seemed about a year old, and I was surprised it could speak so well, as children of that age either do not speak or speak very indistinctly The child was beautiful beyond words and resembled the Child Jesus, and he said to me, Look at the sky. And when I looked at the sky I saw the stars and the moon shining. Then the child asked me,Do you see this moon and these stars? When I said yes, he spoke these words to me, These stars are the souls of faithful Christians, and the moon is the souls of religious. Do you see how great the difference is between the light of the moon and the light of the stars? Such is the difference in heaven between the soul of a religious and the soul of a faithful Christian. And he went on to say that, True greatness is in loving God and in humility.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Principal patroness of the Philippines

Lk 1:26-38
Announcement of the Birth of Jesus

26The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” 35And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. 36And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.


If you have any experience of motherhood, you know that it takes a lot of faith. In many ways, it’s something beyond your control. Suddenly you have a new life inside you. You do your best to nurture that life, but you don’t know how everything is going to turn out. You do everything you can to ensure that your child will be loved and supported. Still you have to trust God for the big picture.

As we honor Mary today, let’s remember the deep and trusting faith she had. She didn’t comprehend how she could give birth to the Messiah, but she still said “yes” to God’s plan. She was told she would suffer greatly because of her child, but she still obeyed. She faithfully took care of Jesus, endured his crucifixion and death, and stayed true to him until the end.

Mary has many things to teach us. Like her, we are called to bring Jesus into this world; like her, we too will suffer. When we face challenges and temptations, we can be tempted to forget about our walk with the Lord and just go with the flow. Or we can do as Mary did and proclaim God’s greatness, recognizing that he will look after us if we remain open to the word. “The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:53).

Mary is more than just an idealistic example of perfect faith. She is a mother, and she wants nothing more than to bring us to her son, Jesus. Quite simply, she loves us! St. John Vianney tells us, “Mary’s heart is so loving toward us that the hearts of all mothers taken together are but a piece of ice in comparison.” We can go to her, not just for our needs but to ask her help in growing closer to the Lord. In the prayers of the rosary we say to her, “The Lord is with you!” Let’s not forget Mary, who is a privileged “insider” in the heavenly court, and who is already praying for each and every one of us!

“Lord, thank you for your Blessed Mother! May I imitate her virtues and call upon her to help me walk with you! Amen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

Mt 3:1-12
The Preaching of John the Baptist

1In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea 2[and] saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ ”

4John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him 6and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. 7When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

A Man Sent from God

One of the greatest figures of the last century is Pope John XXIII. He was the one who called for and opened Vatican Council II, the ecumenical council that ushered the Church into modern times. He was beatified in 2001, the penultimate step to sainthood.

On October 28, 1958, when Angelo Roncalli accepted his election as Pope to succeed Pius XII, he was asked how he would like to be called. He answered, “John.” The choice was a complete surprise. The last Pope John who died in 1414 had been declared an anti-pope by the Council of Constance. But Angelo said “John” was his father’s name.

Angelo Roncalli proved to be a humble and loving father to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, earning for himself the sobriquet “the Good Pope.” And when people referred to the gift of his person, they would quote a passage from the Prologue of the Gospel of John (1:6): “A man named John was sent from God.” The comparison seems a bit forced. The Pope was a father-figure who conquered the hearts of people with his quiet and serene disposition. The prophet who preached in the Judean desert was an unkempt, terrible figure who forced people to accept the honest truth about themselves. Yet, in their honesty and in their dedication to their mission they were kindred souls.

The Second Sunday of Advent marks the appearance of John the Baptist in the liturgy. The Gospel situates him in the desert place, close enough to the River Jordan where he can baptize people who step forward acknowledging their sins. The core of John’s prophetic cry is for people to repent, to reform their lives. Matthew sees John as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah (v 3). The oracle was an announcement of good tidings to the Israelite exiles: God would visit them and make them return to their homeland. Here, the oracle is given a deeper meaning. God is once again visiting his people to save them. This time, his visitation will not be through the instrumentality of chosen messengers like Zerubbabel, Ezra, or Nehe¬miah. God will visit as in the person of the Messiah, the Emmanuel (Mt 2:23). John does not yet know the Coming One. He only knows that the one he is preparing for is more powerful than he is, so powerful that he considers himself unworthy of even the most humble task of carrying his sandals.

John’s message inspires joyful expectancy. God will visit his people through a divine messenger. At the same time, we are caught up in the urgency of preparing for the coming of the divine messenger. The Coming One will test our hearts with the Holy Spirit and fire. To prepare for his coming, we must deal with our false pride and self-complacency.

People are just as attracted to genuine prophets today as in biblical times. John the Baptist was a genuine prophet. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees who might have thought him “strange” were attracted to him. Herod feared him, yet liked to listen to him (Mk 6:20). Another John—Pope John XXIII—was an authentic human being, who was esteemed for his simplicity, goodness, and faith. In both Johns we have excellent models in preparing for Jesus’ coming.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Spreading Devotion to the Divine Mercy

[Diary 1075]
Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire lives as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Savior. At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except My mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of Mercy, because justice will have no hold on it.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent


The Unknown Day and Hour

[Jesus said to his disciples,] 37“For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38In [those] days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. 39They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be [also] at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 43Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. 44So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Alert and Watchful!

At the height of nature’s fury that was the typhoon called Milenyo, my friends and I watched helplessly as roaring winds tossed aside branches of trees, galvanized iron, billboards, and even pieces of heavy metal as if these were weightless objects. Someone shared that, although he was not a stranger to calamities and disasters, Milenyo shook him up. I remember his words as I reflect on today’s Gospel.

Bible exegetes tell us that the gospel scenarios are not predictions about the “end of the world.” Neither are they intended to instill fear—not even “holy fear”—in people’s hearts, as doomsayers contend. Rather, these are “elements” of an apocalyptic discourse common in the time of Jesus and of the early Christians. Apocalyptic imagery was frequently employed in describing the entrance of God onto the stage of history to “put things right,” especially for his persecuted people. Apocalyptics is really a “resistance literature,” intended to strengthen those who suffer because of their faith. It encourages them to hold on because the Lord is on their side and will rescue them.

As we open a new liturgical year, we are reminded that with Advent, we not only recall the past coming of Jesus in the flesh (Christmas) but also look forward to his coming in glory (Parousia). Because we no longer feel the tension of Jesus’ coming as the early Christians did, we usually pay only lip service to a fundamental element of our faith: Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.

But even if no one can tell when the Parousia will take place (and we should not listen to those who claim they do), to have expectations or to feel tension in our lives is necessary for our spiritual growth. Jesus exhorts us today: Stay awake! Be prepared!

“In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking” (v 38). This is the stupor of the rich and the comfortable who wallow in pleasure. They are challenged to see beyond what the eyes can. The anxieties of daily living can afflict both the poor and the rich. We are not told to forget life’s problems, but definitely there is more to life than worrying: What are we to eat, what are we to drink, what are we to wear? (see Mt 6:25). If we focus only on these things, we can easily get discouraged.

Standing before a group of persons who were feeling utterly discouraged, a motivational speaker took a large piece of white paper and made a black dot in its center with a marking pen. He held up the paper and asked, “What do you see?”

One person replied, “A black dot.”

“Do you see anything besides the dot?” the speaker asked.

The audience said in unison, “No!”

“But you have overlooked the most important thing,” he pointed out. “You disregarded the sheet of paper!”

He proceeded to share that people allow themselves to get distracted by small, dot-like failures. These monopolize their attention, drain their energy, and keep them from seeing the paper—the blessings, successes, and joys that outweigh the disappointments.

This little anecdote from God’s Little Devotional Book for Leaders reminds us of the call of Advent. We should not lose sight of the bigger picture of our faith, including spiritual realities. We should not allow the smaller view of our present concerns to blind us or make us live like “drunken” people.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

God's Great Promise to those who will Proclaim His Great Mercy

[Diary 378]
Once as I was talking with my spiritual director, I had an interior vision-quicker than lightning-of his soul in great suffering, in such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work. There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago. That God is infinitely merciful, no one can deny. He desires everyone to know this before He comes again as Judge. He wants souls to come to know Him first as King of Mercy. When this triumph comes, we shall already have entered the new life in which there is no suffering. But before this, your soul [of the spiritual director] will be surfeited with bitterness at the sight of the destruction of your efforts. However, this will only appear to be so, because what God has once decided upon, He does not change. But although this destruction will be such only in outward appearance, the suffering will be real. When will this happen? I do not know. How long will it last? I do not know.[89] But God has promised a great grace especially to you and to all those... who will proclaim My great mercy. I shall protect them Myself at the hour of death, as My own glory. And even if the sins of soul are as dark as night, when the sinner turns to My mercy he gives Me the greatest praise and is the glory of My Passion. When a soul praises My goodness, Satan trembles before it and flees to the very bottom of hell.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Solemnity of Christ the King

The Sunday Gospel [November 21, 2010]

The Crucifixion

35[As Jesus hung on the cross,] the people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” 36Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The King Who Would Not Save Himself

The passion accounts, though substantially faithful to history, were not written primarily to provide us with historical information. The evangelists wanted to show us who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Mark and Matthew underline Jesus’ silence and suffering to remind us perhaps of the Suffering Servant of God in Isaiah 53, who “like a lamb led to slaughter… was silent and opened not his mouth.” John, on the other hand, heightens the mystery and majesty of Jesus. The Son of God controls his own destiny. No one takes away his life from him, he gives it up willingly.

The crucifixion scene in Luke, this year’s Gospel for Christ the King, gives us another picture of Jesus. “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself,” jeer the soldiers who join the Jewish leaders in tormenting him. What kind of a king is this who agonizes in total helplessness on the cross? He is known to have saved others before, why can he not save himself? Is he after all but a pretender to the messianic title?

Luke, with a touch of artistic irony, tells us that even as Jesus is being mocked for his helplessness, he is actually saving people. He does not save himself from suffering and death precisely because he wants to give life to others—life beyond death. Even while hanging on the cross, he does not forget why he was sent on earth by the Father. He prays for his tormentors: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). If not forgiven by God, those who have a hand in Jesus’ death will surely be meted severe punishment. He also reassures the repentant criminal with the promise of paradise: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23: 43). Paradise, a symbolic word of Persian origin, literally means “garden, a place of exquisite beauty.” Jesus uses it in response to the criminal’s use of the word kingdom. In the New Testament, paradise is synonymous with the kingdom of God. “To the victor,” the glorified Jesus says in Revelation (2:7), “I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is the garden (paradise) of God.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant” (Lk 22:25-26). On the cross, Jesus becomes an embodiment of his teaching.

Those who occupy a position of leadership among God’s people are especially challenged by Jesus’ example. Greatness in the kingdom is not a matter of having influence, prestige, or power. It is striving to serve others, to assist them to enter the kingdom. And the sacrifice of oneself makes one’s rule truly effective.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Prayer of a Humble and Loving Soul

[Diary 320]
Jesus made known to me how very pleasing to Him were prayers of atonement. He said to me, The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of My Father and draws down an ocean of blessings. After the adoration, half way to my cell, I was surrounded by a , pack of huge black dogs who were jumping and howling and trying to tear me to pieces. I realized that they were not dogs, but demons. One of them spoke up in a rage, "Because you have snatched so many souls away from us this night, we will tear you to pieces." I answered, "If that is the will of the most merciful God, tear me to pieces, for I have justly deserved it, because I am the most miserable of all sinners, and God is ever holy, just, and infinitely merciful." To these words all the demons answered as one, "Let us flee, for she is not alone; the Almighty is with her!" And they vanished like dust, like the noise of the road, while I continued on my way to my cell undisturbed, finishing my Te Deum and pondering the infinite and unfathomable mercy of God.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Signs of the End

The Sunday Gospel [Nov. 14, 2010]

Lk 21:5-19
The Signs of the End

5While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, [Jesus] said, 6“All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

7Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” 8He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! 9When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”

12“Before the end happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. 13It will lead to your giving testimony. 14Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. 16You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name, 18but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. 19By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Jesus: Our Way of Hope towards the Future

We cannot help but look forward to the next Sunday! It will be the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical calendar! Aptly, the Church has set it as the solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the universe. With this celebration we are reminded: that Jesus is, indeed, the Alpha (beginning) and the Omega (end).

Today’s liturgy then reminds us that one of the great tensions of our earth’s journey is having to live through various “tenses” (the past, the present, the future). In fact in our Gospel, Jesus reminds the Jews who were overly taken by the adornments of the Jerusalem Temple: “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone…” The reality of earthly life is that it is never permanent... but that it is a motion into the future… and the future of the earth is an ending. Similar to what we can find in Mt 24:1-51 and in Mk 13:1-37, Jesus’ words interconnect two future endings: the more immediate destruction of Jerusalem that was set to happen in 70 AD when Rome decided to purge the Jews, and the distant end of the world which will herald the Second Coming of Jesus.

Jesus’ way is not to feed on our human curiosity about the future or to terrorize us about the symptoms of a world that will be coming to an end. His way is to assure us that God is in control. And what matters is for us to face everything with the right dispositions. No matter what views we may have about the future and the end of the world, Jesus gives us his wonderful admonitions.

The beginning of the Gospel narrative features pious Jews who came supposedly to worship God at the Temple, but they ended up being absorbed with the imposing beauty and richness of the Temple. Jesus, therefore, had to awaken their consciousness about the temporariness of the whole experience as he said: “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another…” Even among godly people, it is so easy to be taken by the legitimate goods of this life—concerns about work, family, friends, apostolates, and church affairs. Yes, our love for some ministries and church traditions may also constitute unhealthy attachments! Above all, we should remember: all things are passing, and only God is eternal. The essence of living our faith should be the continuous “surrender” of all to God.

When there is a concern about the uncertainty of the future and when present life-realities are harsh and threatening, the time is ripe for false prophets, for religious racketeers, for peddlers of false hopes. There can be a lot of hype about miracles and amazing signs. Many try to cope through religious delusions. The Christian option is always that of keeping the balance. As believers, we should hang on to faith and hope and prayer, and God’s promise. However, it is foolish to become so obsessed with Bible prophecies and with faith bordering fanaticism and naivety to the point of neglecting the practical aspects of living. In the Second Reading (2 Thes 3:7-12), the apostle Paul exhorts the early Christians “to work quietly and to eat their own food” even as they await in hope the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saint Faustina's Vision of Purgatory

[Diary 20]
Shortly after this, I fell ill [general exhaustion]. The dear Mother Superior sent me with two other sisters for a rest to Skolimow, not far from Warsaw. It was at that time that I asked the Lord who else I should pray for. Jesus said that on the following night He would let me know for whom I should pray.

[The Next night] I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames which were burning them did not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God. I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call her "The Star of the Sea." She brings them refreshment. I wanted to talk with them some more, but my Guardian Angel beckoned me to leave. We went out of that prison of suffering.[I heard and interior voice] which said, My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it. Since that time, I am in closer communion with the suffering souls.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Resurrection of the Dead

Lk 20:27-38

The Question about the Resurrection

27Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to [Jesus], 28saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. 30Then the second 31and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” 34Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. 37That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Think of the Hereafter!

The Sadducees cannot imagine an afterlife (resurrection) because of the “chaos” it will incur. How will the situation of a woman who had been married to seven husbands be entangled? Whose wife will she be up there People keep on imagining: what’s heaven like?

The Bible tells us that we will be happy. We will recline at table in God’s kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets (Lk 13:28-29). There shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain (Rv 21:4). But how will we look like—young or old? What will our “world” be after the resurrection of the body?

Other people go the opposite direction. “Imagine there’s no heaven,” they say with the late John Lennon. Heaven simply distracts us from our responsibilities here below. Heaven is the religious “opium” that prevents people from destroying the shackles that condemn them to poverty, ignorance, and other situations that enslave.

As we draw close to the end of the liturgical year, we are reminded to raise our minds to what classic spirituality calls “the last things”: death, judgment, reward and punishment (purgatory, heaven, hell). These are the things that matter. What does it profit a human being, when at the end he loses his very soul?

The word of God today invites us to transcend worldly experiences and values. The Second Book of Maccabees makes explicit the Jewish belief in the resurrection. The seven brothers prefer death to displeasing God by abandoning their religious beliefs. They give up their lives with the hope in the resurrection to life—to be given only to the just. In the Gospel, Jesus sides with the Pharisees and the majority of the Jewish people who hold that there is life beyond the grave. God is the “God of the living.” Although the patriarchs, the prophets, and the just people may have died, God preserves the existence of his faithful ones so that they are truly alive in him. Human existence does not end with death—as the Sadducees hold.

The resurrection from the dead is at the heart of the Christian faith. The proof of this is Jesus’ own resurrection. St. Paul says that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is the Christian faith (1 Cor 15:13-14). Christ’s resurrection is tied with the resurrection from the dead. And if Christ’s resurrection is but a figment of human imagination, we Christians are the most pitiable people of all. The hope to be someday with Christ is our everlasting encouragement to persevere in good deed and word (see Second Reading).

To be a Christian and not to believe in the afterlife is a contradiction. Obviously, the hope for the future life need not detract us from giving our contribution to building the kingdom of God here on earth by fighting poverty, corruption, and any situation that diminishes human dignity. And yet we cannot pretend or hope to build an earthly paradise, because paradise is destined for the next life.

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come” (Heb 13:14).

Christ’s resurrection and the resultant resurrection from the dead are like directional arrows which point to us our target: the happiness of heaven. After our earthly life, eternity opens.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Two Roads

[Diary 153]
    One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

The Sunday Gospel [Oct. 24, 2010]

Lk 18:9-14
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

9[Jesus] addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 10“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ 13But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 14I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I am a believer!

Missionaries have many stories to tell from their experiences; mission life is interesting, fascinating, and engaging, truly fulfilling and most rewarding. Here is one from a missionary who works at Tanzania, East Africa:

A woman, probably 30 or so, flagged me down for a ride as I was returning home from one of my rounds of visiting the mission outstations. I didn’t recognize her, but she told me that she was one of our catechumens preparing for baptism. “I am a believer, Padre!” she said after we had driven quietly for a while, waiting for the conversation to begin.

“What started you as a believer?” I asked. This is her story.

My brother was a teacher. He was baptized a Catholic at Teachers’ Training School. There are no other Christians in our family. My brother became sick; he tried local medicines, and then spent all of his money in different hospitals.

I went to visit him. A nurse told me, “Take your brother home. Take care of him. Wash him. Don’t be afraid! You will not get his disease. We cannot help him; nobody can.” Then I realized that my brother’s sickness was most probably AIDS.

I took him home. Nobody would see him or come near him. Everyone was afraid. Not even our parents would come. I loved my brother. We came from the same womb. I took care of him, cooked his food, and ate with him. I didn’t care if I got his sickness. I was ready to die with him.

One day my brother told me, “My sister, you are a good person. You are the only one who helps me. You must become a believer and be baptized.” He continued, “Please go to the next town. The Padres have a mission outstation and clinic there. Ask the Christians to pray for me.” And so, I went there the next Sunday when they would pray together. I told them about my brother.

That same week, a group of Catholics came to visit my brother. They brought food. They visited with him. They prayed with him. They came every week. They were with him as he died. When he died, not one of our family, besides me, came to bury my brother. No one from our village came. They were all afraid. The Christians washed his body and buried him.

Then, with deep emotion, the woman said, “I want to be one of them, Padre. I am now a believer!”

As we celebrate World Mission Sunday, we recall the words of Pope Paul VI who said that the first form of mission is Christian presence and witness of life; our daily “style-of-life” is the “initial act of evangelization” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 21). Daily activities, duties in the family and community, living together in harmony, being people of integrity, deeds of service and compassion—all these are elements of a basic “faith-witness” that demonstrates how Christian living is to be shaped by faith and neighborly service.

Wordless service, like that of the African Catholics, raises “irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live” (EN 21). Words are cheap and often ineffective. People desire and respect authentic witnesses. The late Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, known for her loving and selfless care of the poorest of the poor, is an icon of Christian presence, life, and service.

World Mission Sunday is for each Christian, missionary by virtue of baptism. To live the Christian life is to be an evangelizer, whether on the streets or in shopping malls, at home or in school, in the workplace or in the local market.

Would our lifestyle ever lead someone to the faith and cause the person to say: I want to be one of them! I saw their deeds! I am now a believer!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Saint Faustina's Dream

[Diary 150] +
I want to write down a dream that I had about Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. I was still a novice at the time and was going through some difficulties which I did not know how to overcome. They were interior difficulties connected with exterior ones. I made novenas to various saints, but the situation grew more and more difficult. The sufferings it caused me were so great that I did not know how to go on living, but suddenly the thought occurred to me that I should pray to Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. I started a novena to this Saint, because before entering the convent I had had a great devotion to her. Lately I had somewhat neglected this devotion, but in my need I began again to pray with great fervor.

On the fifth day of the novena, I dreamed of Saint Therese, but it was as if she were still living on earth. She hid from me the fact that she was a saint and began to comfort me, saying that I should not be worried about this matter, but should trust more in God. She said, "I suffered greatly, too," but I did not quite believe her and said, "It seems to me that you have not suffered at all." But Saint Therese answered me in a convincing manner that she had suffered very much indeed and said to me, "Sister, know that in three days the difficulty will come to a happy conclusion." When I was not very willing to believe her, she revealed to me that she was a saint. At that moment, a great joy filled my soul, and I said to her, "You are a saint?" "Yes," she answered, "I am a saint. Trust that this matter will be resolved in three days:" And I said, "Dear sweet Therese, tell me, shall I go to heaven?" And she answered, "Yes, you will go to heaven, Sister." "And will I be a saint?" To which she replied, "Yes, you will be a saint." "But, little Therese, shall I be a saint as you are, raised to the altar?" And she answered, "Yes, you will be a saint just as I am, but you must trust in the Lord Jesus." I then asked her if my mother and father would go to heaven, will [unfinished sentence] And she replied that they would. I further asked, "And will my brothers and sisters go to heaven?" She told me to pray hard for them, but gave me no definite answer. I understood that they were in need of much prayer.

This was a dream. And as the proverb goes, dreams are phantoms; God is faith. Nevertheless, three days later the difficulty was solved very easily, just as she had said. And everything in this affair turned out exactly as she said it would. It was a dream, but it had its significance.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

The Sunday Gospel [Oct. 17, 2010]

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

1[Jesus] told [his disciples] a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, 2“There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 3And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ 4For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 5because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’ ” 6The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 7Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? 8I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Praying with chutzpah

In his book Prayer Notes for a Friend, Edward Hays writes: “I have a saying on my desk that I wrote to remind me how to pray: ‘When you pray, howl like a wolf—don’t bleat like a lamb.’ So I ask: Are you bold enough in what you ask of God in your prayers? Do you have the daring audacity to daily beg… that you might be able to taste the Invisible and savor the Sacred, or do you only pray for practical things? Consider investing your prayers with more nerve and cheek, with what the Jews call chutzpah, pure brazenness. Be gutsy and throw your lukewarm, dishwater tepid prayers down the drain, replacing them with furnace feverish petitions.”

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples about the necessity of praying always without becoming weary. To illustrate his teaching, he describes a widow who is persistent in her pursuit of what is just. Deprived of rights after her husband’s death, she insists on the protection afforded by the Law of Moses for widows and orphans (e.g. Ex 22:10; Dt 27:19). She pesters the judge who, though uncaring about anything, feels threatened by her persistence and eventually delivers a just decision.

Jesus suggests that the disciples pray with this widow’s chutzpah, with the persistence or stubbornness springing from faith and confidence in God who listens to their prayers.

The same picture is given by the First Reading. The Israelites, having just crossed the Red Sea, battle a tribe of enemies. Moses, who persistently reminds the Israelites of what God has done for them and continues to do for them, raises his staff in prayer to God. Aaron and Hur help to keep Moses’ arms upraised till victory against Amalek is complete.

The widow and Moses stand for answered prayers. What about our own supplications? Does God really listen to us? When we are asked this question, it is easy to say yes. Yet we experience praying for a loved one to get better but the person dies, asking to pass an important exam but we do not make it, or seeking a job but do not find any. God does not seem to answer our prayers in these cases.

This is our dilemma. We know that God loves us. We know that God hears our prayers. But we also know of many times when God seems absent or says no.

Praying with chutzpah means that we continually place ourselves in God’s hands. We are so confident in God that we allow God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, to answer our prayers in the way that will be best. Sometimes that answer is yes; at other times it is no or not now. At still other times God may want us to keep our eyes and ears open for something other than what we are begging for.

Praying with chutzpah requires that we never give up. A preacher once said, “You don’t know what prayer is until you stand at the door and knock until your knuckles bleed.” This is the kind of prayer that gives us hope.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

St. Faustina's Vision of Hell

[Diary 754]
+The Lord's Promise: The souls that say this chaplet will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death.

[Diary 741]
Today, I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures I saw: the first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one's condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it-a terrible suffering, since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God's anger; the fifth torture is continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and, despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of Satan; the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of the sufferings. There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.

I, Sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell. When I came to, I could hardly recover from the fright. How terribly souls suffer there! Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners. I incessantly plead God's mercy upon them. O my Jesus, I would rather be in agony until the end of the world, amidst the greatest sufferings, than offend You by the least sin.

+ J.M.J.
Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Indigenous Peoples' Sunday

The Sunday Gospel [October 10, 2010]

Lk 17:11-19

The Cleansing of Ten Lepers

11As [Jesus] continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him 13and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” 14And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. 15And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? 18Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” 19Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Jesus Breaks Boundaries

A creative publicist finds a blind man sitting on the steps of a building with a hat on his feet and a sign that reads: “Have pity. I cannot see.” While dropping a few coins he notices that the bag is almost empty. Asking for permission, he turns the sign around, writes another announcement, and leaves. When he returns in the afternoon, he notices that the hat is now full of bills and coins. The blind man recognizes his footsteps and his voice and asks what he wrote on the sign. The publicist answers, “Nothing that is not true, I just rewrote your sign differently.” Then he walks away. The blind man does not see it, but the new sign reads: “Today is Spring, and I cannot see it.”

We are used to seeing suffering and destitution around us. Every day we pass by beggars and sick people with nary a thought of concern about their plight. We dismiss their condition as a “normal” part of life—until we ourselves become destitute or get sick and realize that we have taken our blessings for granted, or until someone makes us realize their pitiful condition. This is what the publicist does for the blind man, and what Jesus does for the ten lepers in the Gospel.

In Jesus’ time, to be a leper is to be much worse than to be blind. “Leprosy” may not be exactly what is known as Hansen’s disease. Yet the scaly condition of the skin (described in Lv 14-15) is feared—not so much for contagion as for “impurity,” requiring that the person afflicted be separated from family and community.

The purity laws of Israel deal with “boundaries” which separate outsiders from the community lest they render it unclean. The Samaritan in the story is separated by two boundaries. The social boundary prevents him from associating with the Jews who consider the Samaritans an impure breed because they are descendants of the Israelites who married pagans. (But the Jewish lepers have accepted the Samaritan among them; tragedy has brought them together.) The body boundary, on the other hand, is “pierced” by the repulsive skin disease.

Exclusion from the community aggravates the condition of the leper who suffers the deterioration of the body. Lepers can call only from a distance, and they ask Jesus to have pity on them, that is, to make them clean so that they can cross the boundary and rejoin their holy community. Their request is an acknowledgment that they believe Jesus can restore them to their family and community. People in those times believe that only God can heal; Jesus is thus seen as a gifted intermediary between God and the poor lepers.

Jesus is presented in the gospels as often challenging the existing boundaries. He is truly compassionate, that is, he “suffers with” those who are afflicted. He does not stay away from the impure. He heals them and restores meaning to their lives. He even singles out a Samaritan as the one who comes back and gives thanks, continuing his “preference” for the marginalized and insignificant people.

The nine Jewish lepers proceed to Jerusalem to “give praise” to God in the presence of the priests who will declare them clean and restore them to their community. The Samaritan knows fully well that he is not welcome at the Jerusalem Temple. There is still an existing barrier between him and the God of Israel whom he also worships as the true God. But he knows that he has Jesus to turn to. He can always thank God through Jesus.

In the end, the Samaritan is the one who is truly purified. His faith in Jesus has made him whole. He is then asked to go on his way—to recognize, from that moment on, the love of God that he, an outsider, has received as a gift. He, in turn, must give it freely and mirror Jesus’ compassion for all.