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.

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, 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.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko

[Diary 596]
Once, a certain priest [Father Sopocko [124]] asked me to pray for him. I promised to pray, and asked for a mortification. When I received permission for a certain mortification, I felt a great desire to give up all the graces that God's goodness would intend for me that day in favor of that priest, and I asked the Lord Jesus to deign to bestow on me all the sufferings and afflictions, both exterior and spiritual, that the priest would have had to suffer during that day. God partially answered my request and, at once, all sorts of difficulties and adversities sprang up out of nowhere, so much so that one of the sisters remarked out loud that the Lord Jesus must have a hand in this because everyone was trying Sister Faustina. The charges made were so groundless that what some sisters put forward, others denied, while I offered all this in silence on behalf of the priest.

But that was not all; I began to experience interior sufferings. First, I was seized by depression and aversion towards the sisters, then a kind of uncertainty began to trouble me. I could not recollect myself during prayer, and various things would take hold of my mind. When, tired out, I entered the chapel, a strange pain seized my soul, and I began to weep softly. Then I heard in my soul a voice, saying, My daughter, why are you weeping? After all, you yourself offered to undertake these sufferings. Know that what you have taken upon yourself for that soul is only a small portion. He is suffering much more. And I asked the Lord, "Why are You treating him like that?" The Lord answered me that it was for the triple crown meant for him: that of virginity, the priesthood and martyrdom. At that moment, a great joy flooded my soul at the sight of the great glory that is going to be his in heaven. Right away I said the Te Deum [125] for this special grace of God; namely, of learning how God treats those He intends to have close to himself. Thus, all sufferings are nothing in comparison with what awaits us in heaven.

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, October 5, 2010

Attitude of a Servant

The Sunday Gospel [Oct. 3, 2010]

Lk 17:5-10

Attitude of a Servant

5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to (this) mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

7“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? 8Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? 9Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? 10So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’ ”

Master and Servant—A Reversal of Roles

The movie Anak which stars Vilma Santos gives us a picture of the conditions under which many Filipino domestic workers labor in foreign shores. Some employers treat Filipino workers as servants, even making them work as if they were some kind of slaves. The dire economic situation at home pushes Filipinos to work abroad, many in menial jobs, which in turn rubs on our pride. In this context, today’s Gospel parable touches raw nerves. That people are treated as slaves is bad enough. Does God, too, deal with us as his slaves?

To begin, Jesus speaks—quite naturally—within the framework of the situation of his time regarding slavery. Slavery was a shocking and essential element in all the societies of the ancient world. Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire, had more slaves than free men and women. Israel, too, knew slavery—there were Hebrew and pagan slaves. Servile conditions, though, were comparatively mild in Israel.

The slave is a property of a master and has no personal rights. Some even would classify slaves as res, to the class of things or property. Jesus merely states the condition of a slave in his time when he says that a slave does not eat immediately when he returns from hard work. He still has to prepare the table for his master and to wait on him while he eats.

What does Jesus drive at when he states the shocking and inhuman condition of a servant/slave by way of parable? It is this: we have nothing to boast of before God. If we can delight in and be proud of something in us, it is primarily because of God. Everything is grace. Thus we have no right to claim a wage: “We have done what we were obliged to do” through the grace of God.

Does God then delight in humiliating us? Not at all! In fact, he loves us so much that he sends us his Son so that he may rescue us from our condition of slavery and raise us to the status of beloved children, free and heirs of eternal life with Christ.

But first we must see where we stand before God. That we are creatures, we are dependent on God for everything. Ancient peoples who did not have the Revelation thought that men and women were created to labor as slaves while the gods enjoy rest and leisure. Israel, instead, believed that man and woman are created in God’s likeness.

Moreover, Scriptures teach that we have strayed away from God. When God sends his Son to us, it is not through any merit on our part, but is wholly his graciousness. “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

Once we have acknowledged that we are unprofitable servants, then we see that God really has high regard for our lowliness and lifts us up. Jesus, our Teacher and Lord, does not behave like a master in the parable, although he has every right to do so. In fact, he reverses the roles. Jesus tells a parable about servants who await their master’s return and draws this lesson: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them” (Lk 12:37). This parable becomes reality in Jesus in the Gospel of John. At the Last Supper, Jesus girds himself with towel and begins to wash the feet of the disciples (Jn 13:4-5). This he does that they may be made clean. This powerful gesture is the symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, where he who is Lord, dies the death of a slave, so that he may release us from the slavery of Sin and Death, and make us free people who will sit with him at the banquet in his Father’s kingdom.

Friday, October 1, 2010

On the Blessed Virgin Mary

[Diary 1398]
"Advent is approaching. I want to prepare my heart for the coming of the Lord Jesus by silence and recollection of spirit, uniting myself with the Most Holy Mother and faithfully imitating Her virtue of silence, by which She found pleasure in the eyes of God Himself. I trust that, by Her side, I will persevere in this resolution. "

[Diary, 620]
" Mary is my Instructress, who is ever teaching me how to live for God. My spirit brightens up in Your gentleness and Your humility, O Mary."

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".