Homily February 24, 2013 Second Sunday of Lent

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on February 19, 2013

Today’s readings bring us to meet three great men of the scriptures: Abram(Abraham), Paul. and Jesus. Abram is so fundamental that he is seen as a father of faith not only in the Jewish and Christian faiths, but is also found in the Quran, an Iman or leader of faith and fidelity to God in Islam. We see his faith and allegiance which brings him to be the father of a great nation and a leader of faith to many Peoples.

Paul today speaks to the integrity of the Philippians. He speaks of the dichotomy of what we are and what we are to become. He gives himself as an example of how to live and how to perfect their lives. The conflicts of time and place made life hard and the draw of the Roman empire could make life difficult for the Philippians, leading them away from the Christian life and possibly to another preacher or follower less authentic than Paul himself..

In the transfiguration narrative, Luke seems to be preparing us for the coming passion and death of Jesus and his transformation into resurrected life. Jesus’ appearance and change and Peter’s desire to celebrate the event would seem to be premature at this point as the gospel narrative is moving on to Jerusalem and Jesus’ final days. But clearly as we move along Jesus and His father are pointing him out as the beloved and as the Messiah. Peter and the others are there to listen and learn and prepare for their own passage into resurrected life.

So, we see three outstanding men, who each stood out from their peers, men of faith, men who led by that faith. Jesus above the others stood out for his life and death and resurrection achieved for humanity what no other act or person could do. He made it possible for humanity to once again be united to God uniquely as children are to their father. This act done once satisfied for all no matter the time or place they lived or live. His word carries on and like He was transfigured, so can we be transfigured today and come into union with God. This we must not forget, what He did was for us. and so God’s abundant love is always ready for us.

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 19, 2013

15-03-03/58Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:7-15

“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus teaches us an attitude of prayer. When he invites us to not babble like the pagans, he asks us to learn the simplicity of prayer by forsaking rambling prayers that multiply words, as if somehow we need to get God’s attention with long and winding prayers that explain our needs in exacting detail. By invoking simplicity in prayer Jesus teaches us that we already have God’s our complete attention, and the task is not to beat God over the head with our needs but to enter a space where we can hear God. Prayer is the fruit an interior silence that creates room inside ourselves to listen to God when God speaks. The main task in prayer, then, is to let God reveal Godself.

Saint of the day: A native of Mianyang in Sichuan, China, Saint Lucy Yi Zhenmei was born on December 9, 1815, and was the youngest member in her family. Lucy was a very pious child who made a commitment to chastity at 12 years of age. As she matured she developed a love for reading and study. At 20 years of age, in imagesthe midst of her higher education she grew very ill. After her recovery Lucy took her spiritual life still more seriously. She devoted herself to the discipline of prayer with great devotion, assuming a way of life much like that of a religious while continuing to assist in the support her family. Her mother taught her how to spin, which also became part of her daily life.

After her father died, she lived with her brother and mother, using part of her leisure time to teach the faith to children nearby. The parish priest, who asked her to teach at the school in Mianyang, noticed her devotion and reliable knowledge of her faith. After four years, her brother went to Chongqing to practice medicine, and Lucy and her mother moved with him. In Chongquing, the priest also asked her to help teach the women in the parish. When she was offered money for her work, she refused to take it and offered her work to God.

A few years later, her brother moved back to Guiyang, during which time her mother died. Enthusiastic to spread the Gospel, she went on doing missionary work. However, for her own safety she decided to stay at the convent of lay virgins. Shortly after, her failing health forced her to move back home again. In 1861, Bishop Hu asked her to teach once more at the convent. In spite of opposition from relatives, she returned to work there.

In 1862, she went with Fr. Wen Nair to open a mission in Jiashanlong, but just then the administrator of Guizhou Province, Tian Xingshu, began to stir up hatred against Christians, which the local magistrate supported. As a result, Zhang TienShen, Wu ShueSheng, Chen XianHeng and Father Wen were all imprisoned and sentenced to death without a formal trial. On February 18, the day of their execution, they met Yi ZhenMei on the road. She was also jailed and put on trial that very day and sentenced to death because she refused to renounce her faith. The following day at noon, February 19, 1862, she was beheaded. Brave believers took the bodies of all five martyrs to the Liuchonnguan seminary grounds for burial. She and her companions were canonized in 2000.

Spiritual reading: Christianity has all too often meant withdrawal and the unwillingness to share the common suffering of humankind. But the world has rightly risen in protest against such piety… The care of another – even material, bodily care – is spiritual in essence. Bread for myself is a material question; bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one. (Jacques Maritain)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 18, 2013

Gospel reading for the day:

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the mosaic_jesusgoats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Reflection on the gospel: Should we take Jesus at his word, that what separates those who go to heaven from those who go to hell is our service to the least ones? The hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner. When a homeless man tells me he is hungry, am I Jesus’ follower when I silently walk by with surging resentment that he doesn’t have a job? Would I buy him a cup of coffee on a cold day in winter, or give him a bottle of water on a sunny July morning? Do I really call myself a Christian and want to summarily deport all the undocumented aliens across the border and, while they remain in our midst, feel absolutely no responsibility for their health and well-being? Truly? Is it possible to be a Christian and not fight for the rights of the stranger? And what about the sick? Do they remind me too much that my own time here is short and that all of this will end? And the prisoner–do I really believe that I have no responsibility for overcrowded prisons and state-sanctioned murder of felons?

What would Jesus do, is something we hear a lot. What would he do indeed? Do we see him in our minds’ eyes walking past the homeless guy without a word of comfort? Do we see him in our minds’ eyes rounding up the undocumented farm workers, locking them up, and then transporting them across the border? Do we see him in our minds’ eyes filling the prisons? Can I draw a picture in my mind of him pulling the lever to electrocute a murderer?

The parable of the sheep and the goats is not just about a radical commitment to the other. It is a call to overthrow every convention of what is acceptable and what is not. It is a demand, on the threat of losing our very selves, to dispossess ourselves of self-seeking and serve, without condition, the needs of the wounded, the broken, and the marginalized. There is absolutely nothing convenient about this passage in scripture, and we all stand condemned in the measure it promises to exact of us.

All of that being said, each of us is a sinner and falls short, and each of us is dependent on the mercy of God. But it’s better to not deceive ourselves about what Jesus really asks of us.

Saint of the day: Born in Zamora, Michoacán, Mexico in 1864, Francisco Orozco y Jimenez was the son of José María Orozco Jimenez Cepeda and Mariana Quiroz. He was baptized by his uncle, a priest of the parish of La Luz de Guanajuato. He lost his mother when he was nine-years-old. He left for Rome at 12 to study for the priesthood. He received the highest grades in philosophy among his classmates at the Gregorian University. Ordained a priest in 1887, he taught in seminaries and received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of Mexico in 1896. He knew Italian, Portuguese, French, Spanish, English, and two Native American languages, Tzotzil and Cachiquil.

5515391645_e6cb7af20dAt 38-years-old, Orozco was ordained a bishop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1902 and became bishop of Chiapas. He oversaw the construction and restoration of churches and chapels in his diocese, rebuilt the local seminary, opened an orphanage and a hospital, and invited various religious orders to come and serve in the parishes of his diocese. He had substantial personal wealth which he inherited and made a large donation to the city of Chiapas to purchase electrical lights and provide public services. Throughout his life, he gave away so much money that he died a poor man.

Orozco became archbishop of Guadalajara in 1913. Religious persecution by the government of Mexico began in 1914 and led Orozco to flee to the United States and Rome. He secretly returned to Mexico in 1916 under an alias to continue working among his people. 5515977904_09c8aed9b1The government captured and exiled him in the summer of 1918., but he returned 15 month later. The government expelled him once again in 1924 but allowed him to return the following year. Shortly after President Calles promulgated his harsh anti-Catholic laws in February 1926, government workers broke into Orozco’s home and stole valuable possessions. By October, the government ordered his arrest, and the bishop had to flee and hide, suffering poverty, privations, and sickness. Still, the archbishop never ceased to minister to his people personally and by letters. At the end of the Cristero Rebellion in 1929, the archbishop came out of hiding only to have to flee the country when the government broke the treaty and slaughtered those who opposed the government. He visited Rome and preached and lectured widely in London and the U.S. He snuck back in Mexico in March 1930 but only ventured back to his diocese in August 1934 as he felt his life beginning to slip away. He remained in hiding as he moved from place to place to serve the people of the diocese. He suffered a heart attack on February 3, 1936 and died on February 18. The entire city of Guadalajara came to the cathedral to pay their respects.

Spiritual reading: A church that doesn’t provoke any crisis, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what gospel is that? (Oscar Romero)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 17, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” Then he took Brooklyn_Museum_-_Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness_(Jésus_tenté_dans_le_désert)_-_James_Tissot_-_overallhim up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

560140_547988505235524_273501069_nReflection on the gospel reading: On this first Sunday of Lent, we remember that if we are tempted, Jesus was tempted before us. In all four of the gospels and in various epistles, a strong and consistent narrative emerges that Jesus faced tests during his ministry.

The tests we read about today go to the heart of what it means for Jesus to be messiah. The devil presents to Jesus a vision of messiah very similar to the vision of messiah that Israel, in Jesus’ troubled day, held in its heart. They are tests about the use of power to change creation for Jesus’ own pleasure, set up an earthly government to control human beings through political and military force, and demand that God protect Jesus.

In the end, though, Jesus did not change stones into bread to feed himself but instead fed the multitudes with bread. He did not set up an earthly kingdom but trusted God to use his example of service to build up a heavenly kingdom. He did not succumb to the temptation to put his life on the line to see if God would save him but remained obedient to death, even death on cross.

In the end, Jesus rejected each of act of violence that the devil presented him and instead embraced the path of peace and fashion for Israel a messianism it had never imagined.

44c03a5fe7b9d1Spiritual reading: And in laying upon us the light cross of ashes, the Church desires to take off our shoulders all other heavy burdens–the crushing load of worry and guilt, the dead weight of our own self-love. We should not take upon ourselves a “burden” of penance and stagger into Lent as if we were Atlas, carrying the whole world on his shoulders.

Perhaps there is small likelihood of our doing so. But in any case, penance is conceived by the Church less as a burden than as a liberation. It is only a burden to those who take it up unwillingly. Love makes it light and happy. And that is another reason why Ash Wednesday is filled with the lightness of love. (Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 16, 2013

christ-pantocratorGospel reading of the day:

Luke 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: It has been said that the meaning of life is in the giving and receiving of love. Jesus gives love without condition: even tax collectors, reviled and rejected within their own culture, benefit from profligacy of his love–even so far as to receive a call to follow him: to walk with him, share his table, sleep together in the same field. Levi’s capacity to receive love is witnessed by his invitation to Jesus to share a great banquet with all of Levi’s friends. This exchange between Jesus and Levi is a gift giving where the gifts are Jesus for Levi, and Levi for Jesus. The gifts Jesus gives to Levi, joy and acceptance, transform Levi by awakening in him the capacity to give joy and acceptance to Jesus in return. It is this kind of transformation–the resurrection of Levi–which lies at the heart of the Easter mystery which Lent calls us to enter.

Saint of the day: The Servant of God Stephen Eckert, OFM Cap. was born on April 28, 1869 in Ontario, Canada into a family of emigrants from Bavaria. His family fostered and encouraged his incipient sympathy for religious life which took him first to St. Jerome’s (today Kitchener) College in Berlin, Ontario, run by the Resurrectionists and later run by the Capuchins. When he was 21 years old, Stephen asked to have a trial experience at the Capuchin Friary in Detroit, Michigan. He returned a year later to become a novice. He was eventually ordained a priest on July 2, 1896.

Stephen Eckert, OFM CapHe served as a priest in New York, Cornwall Heights, and Fond du Lac, catechizing children and assisting the sick. One Sister who knew him wrote: “He was a man of prayer who tirelessly recommended the importance and need for prayer.”

Although he was prepared to work with everyone and for everyone, Fr. Stephen felt a special attraction to minister to African Americans. He asked his superior in 1903 to go to the south to work among them. Eight years later, he was sent to St. Benedict the Moor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work in an African American community there. Within two months, Fr. Stephen made contact with 450 people, going from house to house. He opened a school, which immediately drew 40 children. He organized a shoe repair shop for the boys and a sewing school for the girls, opened a nursery school to help working mothers, set up an employment agency, and made a hall available for meetings.

Fr. Stephen was unable to resign himself to the idea, broadly held in his day, that African Americans be considered inferior or be excluded from specific responsibilities due to poverty or lack of education. He said so from the pulpit, at conferences, in the pages of journals and he wrote it to his Bishop. He also created study circles and committees to work for the improvement of relationships between African Americans and White people.

Pneumonia, which he contracted after a demanding preaching session, forced him to stop his apostolate. He refused to be hospitalized as the doctor suggested and returned to Milwaukee, to the people he served, and whom he wished to greet one by one. Eventually, he was obliged to be admitted to the hospital, where he died on February 16, 1923, mourned by all the faithful of St. Benedict the Moor. The Diocese of Milwaukee initiated a process of canonization. The diocesan process concluded in 1959 and went to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1977.

Spiritual reading: The meaning of life is in giving and receiving love. (Blessed Karol Wojtyla)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 15, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:14-29

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. His own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Reflection on the gospel: Jesus said that no greater man than John the Baptist had been born of woman, and John said he was not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal. Just as John’s life prefigures Jesus’, Jesus’ life reflects John’s. An angel announces Jesus’ birth, and an angel announces John’s. While the Lord is mysteriously born to a virgin, John is mysteriously born to an older woman. Jesus’ ministry to announce the inbreaking of the kingdom of God mirrors John’s ministry to call Israel to repent. And John’s unjust murder prefigures the Lord’s unjust murder. Many of the paths we walk in our lives do not fit the contours of the roads that Jesus and John took, but we can choose to live as they lived, close to the Father’s call, just as they lived their lives in fidelity to the word they had received.

Saint of the day: Saint Claude de la Colombière, S.J., who was born in Grenoble, France on February 2, 1641, was the confessor of Saint Margaret-Marie Alacoque. His feast day is the day of his death, February 15. He was a missionary and ascetical writer, born of noble parentage.

He entered the Society of Jesus in 1659. After fifteen years of religious life in the Jesuits, he made a vow, as a means of attaining the utmost possible perfection, to observe faithfully the Rule and Constitutions of his order under penalty of sin. Those who lived with him attested that this vow was kept with great exactitude.

In 1674 Claude was made superior at the Jesuit house at Paray-le-Monial, where he became the spiritual director of Saint Margaret-Marie Alacoque and was thereafter a zealous apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1676 he was sent to England as preacher to Mary of Modena, Duchess of York, afterwards Queen of Great Britain. He lived the life of a Religious even in the Court of St. James and was as active a missionary in England as he had been in France. Although encountering many difficulties, he was able to guide Saint Margaret Mary by letter.

His zeal soon weakened his vitality and a throat and lung trouble seemed to threaten his work as a preacher. While awaiting his recall to France he was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison, denounced as a conspirator. Thanks to his title of preacher to the Duchess of York and to the protection of the King of France, Louis XIV, whose subject Claude was, he escaped death but was condemned to exile in 1679. The last two years of his life were spent at Lyon where he was spiritual director to the young Jesuits, and at Paray-le-Monial, where he repaired for his health. He died February 15, 1682 in France of natural causes. He was beatified in 1929 and canonized in 1992.

Spiritual reading: Let me show you a good way to ask for happiness, even in this world. It is a way that will oblige God to listen to you. Say to Him earnestly: either give me so much money that my heart will be satisfied, or inspire me with such contempt for it that I no longer want it. Either free me from poverty, or make it so pleasant for me that I would not exchange it for all the wealth in the world. Either take away my suffering, or – which would be to Your greater glory – change it into delight for me, and instead of causing me affliction, let it become a source of joy. You can take away the burden of my cross, or You can leave it with me without my feeling its weight. You can extinguish the fire that burns me, or You can let it burn in such a way that it refreshes me as it did the three youths in the fiery furnace. I ask for either one thing or the other. What does it matter in what way I am happy? If I am happy through the possession of worldly goods, it is You I have to thank. If I am happy when deprived of them, it gives You greater glory and my thanks are all the greater.

This is the kind of prayer worthy of being offered to God by a true Christian. When you pray in this way, do you know what the effect of your prayers will be? First, you will be satisfied, whatever happens; and what else do those who most desire this world’s goods want except to be satisfied? Secondly, you will not only obtain without fail, one of the two things you have asked for, but, as a rule, you will obtain both of them. (Claude de la Colombiere, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 14, 2013

titian-christ-carrying-crossGospel reading of the day:

Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Reflection on the gospel: When things go well, following Jesus is not hard. But the acid test is following Jesus when things are not going well–when following Jesus means we will lose friends and family, leave us with damaged or ruined reputations, become jobless or even homeless, and perhaps even die. And sometimes, even the big things are easy; as Flannery O’Connor once observed, “She thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.” Sometimes the acid test of being a follower of Jesus is keeping our cool in terrible traffic, being compassionate when our children make mistakes, or being kind and thoughtful to someone who is neither to us. Faith which doesn’t work through love, faith that sits there dumbly and blindly, faith that ignores the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the orphan, is not the faith of Jesus. Søren Kierkegaard once said that purity of heart is to will the one thing. For Christians, of course, the one thing is Jesus both in thinking as he thought and doing as he did. What distinguishes the saints from all the rest of us is their ability to lose themselves completely and will the one thing, thus losing their lives to save them.

Saint of the day: Valentine was a priest in Rome and possibly a bishop. A physician, he was imprisoned for giving aid to martyrs in prison, and while there converted the jailer by restoring sight to the jailer’s daughter. While Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome sometimes have separate entries in martyrologies and biographies, most scholars believe they are the same person.

There are several theories about the origin of Valentine’s Day celebrations. Some believe the Romans had a mid-February custom where boys drew girls’ names in honor of the sex and fertility goddess, Februata Juno; pastors “baptized” this holiday, like some others, by substituting the names of saints such as Valentine to suppress the practice. Others maintain that the custom of sending Valentines on February 14 stems from the belief that birds begin to pair on that date. By 1477, the English associated lovers with the feast of Valentine because on that day “every bird chooses him a mate.” The custom started of men and women writing love letters to their Valentine on this day. Other “romance” traditions have become attached to this feast, including pinning bay leaves to your pillow on Valentine’s. Valentine died a martyr in about 269. He was beaten and beheaded at Rome and buried on the Flaminian Way. His remains were later moved to the Church of Saint Praxedes.

Spiritual reading: The person who wills one thing that is not the Good, he does not truly will one thing. It is a delusion, an illusion, a deception, a self-deception that he wills only one thing. For in his innermost being he is, he is bound to be, double-minded. Therefore the Apostle says, “Purify your hearts ye double-minded”, that is, purify your hearts of double-mindedness; in other words, let your heart in truth will only one thing, for therein is the heart’s purity. (Søren Kierkegaard)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 13, 2013

Jesus_Crucified_AgainGospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: What we do constitutes who we are. We cannot be giving people if we don’t give. We cannot be prayerful people if we don’t pray. We can’t master ourselves if we don’t practice self-control. It’s easy to walk by homeless people without giving them something and still imagine we are loving. It’s easy to rarely if ever turn our minds to God and still fancy we are reflective. It’s easy to get diverted by every whim and still believe we are disciplined. Physical exercise, however, provides a good analogy for the spiritual life. The more we exercise, the stronger we become, the more we can endure, and the greater our flexibility. But we stop exercising, and the benefits we realized while we were working out begin to slip away. After a time, it’s almost as though we had never exercised. In the same way, it’s easy to deceive ourselves that we are giving, prayerful, self-disciplined people because we have been charitable earlier in our lives, meditated when we were young, or fasted several years ago during Lent. Lent reminds us that we are what we do: the present is where we realize ourselves. If we want to be loving, contemplative, and disciplined, we need to do things in the present that makes those things real today. What we did yesterday, or last month, or last year is not enough to make us what we want to be today. Lent is a way to focus our minds on right now–today. It is a way of reminding us that we become whole by doing wholesome things and that what we do today is the only thing that counts.

Saint of the day: Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays and the Triduum.) The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead in the sign of the cross, saying the words: “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from someone else. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.

Spiritual reading: Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast. The Paschal Mystery is above all the mystery of life in which the Church, by celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, enters into the Kingdom of Life which He has established once for all by His definitive victory over sin and death. We must remember the original meaning of Lent, as the ‘ver sacrum’, the Church’s ‘holy spring’ in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to the sacramental life in a communion with the rest of the Church. Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing. (Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 12, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said,

Honor your father and your mother, and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.

Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: It is easy to confuse pious practices that arise in historical and cultural circumstances with the will of God. At the end of the day, Jesus doesn’t care whether we abstain from meat on a given Friday in Lent if we don’t live lives of unconditional love of our neighbors. It’s not the number of Bible verses we memorize that impresses the Father but how we treat people.

Saint of the day: St. Julian the Hospitaller, or “the Poor Man,” came from a wealthy, noble family in the early 4th century and is a popular saint in Western Europe. According to a legend, Julian had just recently been married and was a jealous husband. One day when Julian was hunting, he had a vision that he would murder his mother and father.

saintj31While he was hunting, his mother and father made an unexpected visit to his castle. His wife gave them one of the best rooms. When Julian returned from his hunt and saw the two figures in bed, he assumed it was his wife with a lover. In a jealous rage, Julian killed his mother and father.

Julian was so horrified upon learning the truth that he swore to devote the remainder of his life to good works. He and his wife then undertook a pilgrimage to a distant country where he established a hospital.

The hospital was near a river that was frequently crossed by people prompted to travel by the Holy Crusades. People frequently drowned crossing this river so Julian took responsibility of ferrying travelers across and tending to the sick.

One night, thieves came into their hospital and killed Julian and his wife in the same way Julian had killed his mother and father.

“There were great miracles without end in that place and land,” discipleshiprecounts the legend. “So many that, as it pleased God, their bodies were brought to Brioude (France).”

St. Julian is considered the patron of ferrymen, innkeepers and circus performers.

Spiritual reading: What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension.

To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason.

It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God’s love, a love we don’t even have to earn. (Madeleine L’Engle)

Homily February 17, 2013 First Sunday of Lent

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on February 11, 2013

As you might recall from a few weeks ago, Jesus was baptized by John and the Spirit of God came down and proclaimed him as “My Beloved Son” and led him into the desert to begin His ministry with prayer and contemplation. For forty days He ate nothing and prayed and pondered the unfolding ministry that was to be His life. In His humanity, He pondered and prepared to carry out God’s plan that would lead to His passion and death. After forty days, He was hungry. Now we see the entrance of the devil or evil, to shape or change the course of his mission by presenting an easy way out. He is presented with what I would call the first shortcut to fulfill his mission. It was simple enough, you’re hungry, just take these stones and make bread, get rid of your hunger. He had the power, so do it. Jesus rejected this for the power was for the Word of God that filled up the real hunger of humanity and that hunger was far more immediate than the hunger in His own stomach. God;s word can cure-all of humanity’s hunger.

The second shortcut is an offer of power and politics Use popularity, power, influence and be the messianic king the people expected like a David or a Solomon. All He was asked was to worship this evil spirit or devil and it was done. But Jesus in all of His humanness, knew and understood that the use of power was corrupting of what was God’s real purpose for humanity. Worship was for God and His mission was to serve and teach and even give his life so all others could have life in the Spirit. As easy as it might be He rejected it.

The third shortcut was the big show or grandstand play. Jump off the temple and show God will save Him because He is the chosen one. This was it for Jesus as he dismissed the devil saying you do not test God. He was going to do His ministry by God’s will not His own. It would mean a daily giving of Himself and prayerful resolve. He will often go aside from the immediate surroundings to pray and contemplate God’s will.

In summing up, I think most of us have a very basic idea of what is good and what is evil. However there are times when a gray area arises and even an easy way or shortcut appears when we are forced to make choices in our life. It is so easy sometimes to say what’s in it for me and forget our call to love. Love God and love our neighbor as ourself. If we ask what’s in it for me, aren’t we forgetting that call? Remember there are really no shortcuts in loving, it is a totality of giving.