Sunday, March 18, 2018

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary - A Heroic Example

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Now this 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. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such 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. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, in spite of difficulties I trust in your love and mercy. I believe in you, I hope in you, and I love you above all things. These ingredients – faith, hope and love – will help strengthen me for today’s battle. Lord, I entrust myself to you unconditionally.

Petition: Lord, grant me a clean conscience like that of your foster father, Joseph.

1. My Situation: A danger could exist on our spiritual journey. When everything is quiet, works well and is intelligible, or when others esteem our efforts, our life seems to flourish. On the other hand, when everything is tough, humiliating or painful, a repugnance seems to cast a gray cloud over us. We may even begin to wonder if God still loves us. We need to keep our faith in God strong always. Joseph is a good example for us to emulate, for he did not become discouraged easily when undergoing trials.

2. A Clean Conscience: Joseph, a just man, wanted to believe Mary’s story, but the facts were too harsh to comprehend. He loved and cared for Mary, but he felt betrayed. Since he had a clean conscience, he tried to dismiss the perfect dream of taking Mary to be his wife and decided to divorce her quietly. God, seeing Joseph’s honesty, communicated to him the truth about Mary’s integrity. A message in a dream was enough to convince his willing heart. How willing am I to believe the works of God in my life? How willing am I to fulfill God’s will?

3. Not All Is Easy for a Just Man: God chose a man of great integrity and detail to shoulder the daunting responsibility of raising his Son. Would Joseph ever have imagined that five months after taking Mary into his home he would have to take her to Bethlehem without any comforts or security during the journey? Would he ever have imagined that he would have to flee to Egypt, dodging swords and soldiers? This was the price he paid for being an honorable man. However, the Lord rewarded Joseph with being the foster father of the Creator of the Universe, with all the blessings and satisfactions that this would imply.

Conversation with Christ: O Christ, King and Lord, your foster father Saint Joseph provides me with an example of courage in bearing serenely the weight of life’s crosses and difficulties. Help me to see the beauty of giving limitlessly and surrendering my life to you.

Resolution: I will chat with Saint Joseph at some moment during the day, asking him to teach me how to be serene in times of trial.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Fifth Sunday of Lent - Winning Souls for Christ

Some Greeks who had come up to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, my prayer time is the most important time of the day. I know that if I give myself with fervor, everything today will be blessed more deeply by your grace. Here I am Lord, confident and grateful for your paternal love for me.

Petition: Help me to be a true apostle.

1. “We Would Like to See Jesus” We are drawing near to the climax of our Lenten observance. Holy Week will soon be upon us. In the readings of this final week of Lent, we will accompany the Lord through the difficult and contentious experience of continuous controversy with the scribes and Pharisees. In today’s reading, we hear of some Greeks going to Philip to request an audience with Our Lord; we are reminded of our mission as Christ’s disciples. When people see and interact with us, our Catholic spirit must be, so to speak, a sneak preview of being with the Lord. They may be prompted to take a bigger step themselves if our lives truly reflect the goodness of Christ. They will want what we have — “We would like to see Jesus.” Hearing those words (or similar ones) from a relative, friend or coworker is one of the greatest joys of the committed Christian.

2. “Unless the Grain of Wheat Falls to the Ground…” If bringing souls to Christ is one of our greatest joys, we need to be prepared –– they don’t come cheaply. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to tell the story of a troubled soul who came to him proclaiming her commitment to a life of disbelief and depravity. That was a challenge he could not take lying down. He begged the Lord to send him crosses and sacrifices that he could offer up for her salvation. That’s a type of prayer not to be made lightly! Archbishop Sheen soon found himself suffering an incredible string of setbacks, inconveniences and downright annoyances. But he stayed patient through it all and offered it up for that soul. Later he had the consolation of pronouncing over her the blessed words of sacramental absolution. What are we willing to undergo for the salvation of souls, especially those who have a special claim on our love and concern?

3. “I Will Draw Everyone to Myself.” The salvation of souls is a task that Christ calls us to, but we are not on our own. He longs for this infinitely more than we ourselves. “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He is speaking about the power that will radiate from the cross. It will not be a merely external power; he is working on the inside of souls. His continuous urgings, at times subtle and discreet, at others vigorous and demanding, are at work opening minds and hearts to his love. Let us recommit ourselves to be the servants of his undying, ever-present love!

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you long to draw all people to yourself. I hope and pray that I can be an effective ambassador of your love. Help me to show others how fulfilling is the life that is lived purely for you!

Resolution: I will put aside my reluctance and invite someone to Mass or another spiritual activity.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent - Openness of Heart

Some in the crowd who heard Jesus speak said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But others said, “The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.” So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” Then each went to his own house,

Introductory Prayer: Christ, you are the most open-spirited person in history. You are open to all who sincerely seek you. So I seek you now, Lord, through this meditation. I hunger for your friendship and grace. I love you, but I long for my love to grow so I can be ever closer to you and more and more like you.

Petition: Lord, open my heart to you who are truth itself.

1. The Openness and Sincerity are Convincing: Just some moments prior, Christ has spoken of himself as living water (John 7:38), and some in the crowd react much the same way as did the Samaritan woman at the well. At first they thought of him as a prophet, but now they begin to believe that he is the Messiah. “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me…” (John 6:37). Even the temple guards could not bring themselves to arrest him, so compelling were his words. Christ tells his apostles not to prepare any words in their defense when they are dragged before judges and magistrates (Cf. Mark 13:11). Living in the truth is our best preparation for communicating it in a compelling way.

2. Willful Blindness: The leaders however, as Nicodemus points out, are not even willing to encounter Christ and hear him out. Their obstinacy leads them to error: “Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” (What about Jonah and Hosea?) It also leads them to malice . They are not even willing to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt that he simply might have been delusional about his identity; instead, pushed by jealousy, they have already made up their minds to accuse him of willful deception. Do I knowingly and willingly shy away from the truth, any truth? Do I realize where this could and will lead me?

3. The Truth Will Set You Free: The truth is often difficult to swallow. In particular, the truth about Christ in relation to my life—he is my Lord, he is my Redeemer, he deserves my all––seems somehow fanatic, irrational, and unnatural in a world which values technological progress, political correctness, and looking-out-for-number-one. But Christians worthy of the name, in all centuries and in all walks of life, have discovered that believing in the person of Jesus Christ, who meant every word he said, is an experience of real freedom. It is a freedom from the dead-end world of materialism, sin and death. It is a freedom to live a life of love, truly human and divine, a love like Christ’s love for me, up to death on a Cross!

Conversation with Christ: Lord, no one has ever spoken like you. You have given us your Word in the gospels. I realize that I need to have much more frequent contact with your words so as to free me from my blindness. Let my understanding of your Word never serve me as an occasion of vainglory or arrogance, rather as a tool to help others come to know you better.

Resolution: I will break down a prejudice that I still harbor in my heart against some aspect of Christ’s message.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent - Trust; A Lenten Resolution

Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret. So, some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” So, Jesus cried out in the Temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” So, they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, I truly believe and hope in you and your Gospel. You have touched me by the example of trust you had in your Father’s plan. I adore you and thank you with my whole heart.

Petition: Lord, help me to trust more in your divine providence.

1. A Way Out When Cornered: A cornered bear reacts by the instinct of self-preservation and fights until death. Christ, however, shows an altogether different attitude when challenged. He seems always to be calm and in control of every situation. He knows that not a single hair will fall from his head unless the Father deliberately permits it to occur. Many times our fears corner us to the point that we get spooked. To conquer our fears, we need to believe more, hope more, and love Christ much more.

2. The Force of Love: It is interesting to note that Jesus originally planned to stay behind in Galilee. But out of charity and trust in the Father’s will, Jesus set out on the perilous journey to Judea. Once there, he forgot the danger that loomed before him. Christ felt a renewed strength as he had compassion for the lost sheep in Judea. Nothing could diminish his resolve to feed the spiritually hungry, cure the sick, and teach the ignorant. Love gave Christ the capacity to give himself more. Love protects life from prejudices and complaints.

3. Proof of God’s Love: The soldiers tried to arrest Jesus, but they were thwarted. The Father had decided that his Son was not to be given up yet. Cancer, global warming, the nuclear bomb, terrorism and natural disasters – things that might seem to be threats to us – should not make us fearful. Trust is really trust! Jesus invites us to trust, and this is powerful. Saint Paul says, “All things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).  The important thing in life is for us to keep our thoughts and efforts focused on God’s will and to go about doing good, generously serving others. “Seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides” (Luke 12:31).

Conversation with Christ: My Lord and Savior, I know that my vision is often short-sighted. Teach me to love and to trust. Enlarge my heart so that I can endure adverse situations and predicaments for the sake of my eternal salvation. Jesus, I trust in you!

Resolution: Today when contradictions flare up at the workplace or at home, I will not sigh in despair. Rather, I will make an act of hope: “Long live Christ the King!”

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent - God’s Testimony

Jesus said to the Jews: “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony cannot be verified. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept testimony from a human being, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, the gift of faith permits me to soar higher. I believe in you! I lend myself to this intricate duty of faith, and with a hopeful trust, I leap toward your infinite love. I love you, Lord. I have come to spend this time with you just because I want to be with you.

Petition: Lord, help me to live with purity of intention.

1. Seeking Human Praise: Jesus said, “I do not accept human praise.” Why? His Father deserves all the credit for anything that exists because, after all, he created everything. Knowing and accepting this is indeed a quick path to holiness. Jesus is God, but he leaves us a splendid example of how man should search for God’s glory and not his own. When we look for our own “fan club,” we are really stripping God of the glory that he alone deserves. When we seek praise from men and work hard to be accepted by them, we are standing before a guillotine that severs a head from its body. However, by purifying our intentions and glorifying God alone through all our actions and thoughts, eternal life is merited for us and for many souls.

2. The Proper Motives for Our Deeds: Self-seeking doesn’t work. True, selfless love does. There are some advantages to living a life that seeks only God’s glory. The benefit achieved is order. We learn to maintain the proper hierarchy in our values and to keep things in their place. When parents need to punish a wayward child, their question is: “Are we punishing him because he has done something wrong and needs to be taught a lesson?” Or do they allow their anger to get the best of them, and the punishment then becomes a release valve for their fury? Likewise, in our use of the material goods we have at our disposal, do we use them out of pure love of God or only for our comfort?

3. True Peace of Heart: When children do something wrong, they usually act nervously when their wrongdoing is uncovered. However, when they are mistakenly blamed, they show a convincing innocence, and the accuser retracts in time to avoid harm. The same could be said about purity of intention. If a soul labors only for God’s glory, then a certain guarantee of fulfillment necessarily accompanies his destiny. No matter how many obstacles and misunderstandings might besiege him, the soul who follows God’s will enjoys peace.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, you teach me in the Gospel to add a supernatural dimension to all my enterprises and efforts. This mortal existence on earth is a mere drop in the ocean compared to eternity that will quickly engulf me. Help me to do all for your greater glory.

Resolution: In my conversations today, I will not brag about myself.  I will try to focus the conversation on the interests of others.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent - Greater Deeds Still

Jesus answered the Jews, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason, the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also, he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. “I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”

Introductory Prayer: Christ, I certainly believe in you, because in baptism you gave me the gift of faith. I believe for all those who do not believe in you. See my effort, Lord. I trust in your divine plan, and I hope in your saving grace.

Petition: Lord, grant me the gift of piety.

1. Like Father, Like Son: “I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does.” The relationship between Christ and his Father was one of total respect and love. It wasn’t marred by the breakdown so frequently and tragically experienced in our modern family. The intensity of filial love that Jesus lived toward his Father was so powerful that it provides a path for all of us to follow. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of piety. Piety lavishes the soul with the capacity for considering God as our Father and all men as our brothers. A forgiving heart, which prevails over any rancor for injuries received, is one of the fruits of this gift.

2. The Requirements of Piety: Jesus said, “Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.” There is no need to squander time in hatred for our brothers and sisters. Only God can judge their hearts. Our duty is to treat everyone with respect and love; this is the best way we have to foster the gift of piety.

3. Humility is The Key: Jesus said, “I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” Believe it or not, the humble are the only ones who can lead a peaceful coexistence with all and, at the same time, stalwartly uphold truths and principles. Who can imagine a sunny day without the sun? Who can imagine the gift of piety without the practice of humility? I should examine those times when I blame everyone else for my impatience. Are they not a result of the difficulty I experience in shouldering someone else’s plans over my own or in accepting God’s will at the expense of my preferences?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, so many times have I come to you on my knees. I come now, confident that you will pour into my heart an abundance of the gift of piety through the infinite merits you won for me on the cross. Help me, Lord, to see you in everyone I meet.

Resolution: I will be a pious friend and a forgiving neighbor. I will humbly offer my services to the neighbor who interests me the least.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent - The Desire to be Cured from sickness

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the Temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I look to you with faith, knowing that you are the Lord of all. I hope in your boundless mercy, since without you I can do nothing. I want to love as you deserve, so I come to you in this prayer to console you and bring you the joy of this moment together.

Petition: Lord, help me to be humble of heart so you will heal me.

1. Christ’s Power is Stronger: The man in the Gospel was ill for 38 years. His sickness serves as an example of a life of sin. In 1 John 2:16 we read about a triple spiritual sickness: “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” However, not even a sickness persisting for 38 years is able to escape Jesus’ curing power. Christ’s power is stronger still. We should therefore take hope, for no sickness, no sin – or life of sin – is too great for him to cure. All that is needed is that we turn to him with a humble and contrite heart: “Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

2. Revealing Our Weaknesses: Nothing is impossible for Christ. He can heal the sick; he can also forgive their sins, as he forgives the paralytic who is lowered from a rooftop (Cf. Mark 2:1-12). All it takes is for this sick man to reveal his weakness – and he does so with detail, like a true confession: how he has attempted to enter the pool, how as he has tried, someone else has beaten him to it. Perhaps without this detailed account of his failure, he might not have been cured. The sick man’s admitting both his personal weakness and desire to plunge into the pool moves Jesus to compassion. This is the remedy to all of our illnesses: presenting ourselves to Christ as we truly are, with all of our weakness, and thus moving him to compassion.

3. “Go and Sin No More” Jesus says,Look, you are well, do not sin any more.” It would be a pity if this man, who is deeply moved by Jesus and made whole, afterwards dedicates himself to a life of vice. From the Gospel passage, it would seem that Jesus has cured him in order to allow him to utilize his time and energy for the benefit of the Kingdom: Christ warns the sick man that if he misuses his new health, he could be worse off than before. Hopefully, his healing will produce a conversion and make him a herald of the Kingdom. This happens also in the sacrament of reconciliation: After forgiving our sins, Christ tells us, “Go in peace and proclaim to the world the wonderful works of God who has brought you salvation.”

Conversation with Christ: O Jesus, the only way that I can be like the man at the pool of Bethesda is to be grateful for the gifts you have given me, to fight against a life of sin, and to clothe myself with the “new man.” I am ready to embrace your will with love, even if this means dying to myself.

Resolution: As Easter approaches, I will humbly recognize my sinfulness and seek God’s healing grace in the sacrament of confession.