Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you. Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe in you because you are the truth itself and you reveal to me more and more the meaning and purpose of my life. I trust in you because every day you are there waiting for me, knocking at my door, always ready to forgive, always ready to draw me close to you in prayer and the sacraments. I love you because you gave your entire self for me on the Cross and taught me what it means to fulfill myself in love. Amen.
Petition: Lord, help me to appreciate that holiness and humility go hand in hand.
1. Christ is the Image of our Holiness: We all live with this alter ego, this other “perfect” self, a self that exists in the realm of imagination. That self has been with us since we were kids: that star player on our school sports team, that rock star, that Hollywood teen idol that we all wanted to become. We easily fall prey to imagining our holy self also as that perfect, faultless individual — no weaknesses, no difficulties, immaculate. It is a self that we think we could become one day if we could just get rid of so many faults. A fantasy through and through! The pursuit of holiness is not the pursuit of some ideal, “perfect” self. No. Only God knows what our ultimate holiness will be like. Our goal is not the achievement of this imagined self, but rather of Christ. He is both source and summit of our holiness.
2. Holiness is Allowing God to Take the Driver’s Seat: It is not uncommon for us to discover in the autobiographies of saints their own recollections of a kind of spiritual clumsiness, of a profound sense of inadequacy in the face of God’s call. It is not unusual to find that a growing surrender to God left them with interior confusion, uncertainty and all manner of interior trials. In modern terms, we might say they didn’t seem to “have it together.” Don’t we, especially as beginners in the spiritual life, experience something like this at times? When we give ourselves to God and decide to take our call to holiness seriously, we can’t forget to allow God into the driver’s seat.
That means we have to let go. We have to give him control in our pursuit of holiness. Then, and only then, will that pursuit be genuine.
3. The Lowly Will be Exalted: Holiness does not mean freedom from faults, or the external attainment of some supposed semblance of virtue. On the contrary, as growth in holiness brings our soul more fully into the divine light, God enables us to see our soul more and more as he does. That means we discover more areas of sinfulness, and we see the root sins of our lives (pride and sensuality) in greater, albeit disturbing, clarity. No wonder so many saints frequented sacramental confession once a week, if not more often! While holiness certainly entails growth in virtue and consistency in remaining in the state of grace, it hardly means the absence of faults, failures and venial sins of all sorts. What is fundamental is not spotlessness, but a genuine giving of self to God and to his will. Perhaps this is why St. Augustine once explained that, in the pursuit of holiness, three virtues are fundamental: the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is … humility!
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you because you have made holiness a possibility for me! Thank you because you show me, one day at a time, how to grow in your friendship. Help me to take advantage even of my falls and to use them as opportunities to grow in humility. Let me never doubt you; let me never doubt my vocation to holiness. Amen.
Resolution: Today, whether I fall in a big or small thing, I will remember to admit my fault to God (with the intention of confessing any serious matter as soon as possible), get back up quickly and keep going.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Master, Teach Us to Pray                                

Jesus said to his disciples: "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." (Matthew 6:7-15)
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I am aware that you know what is best for me, and that is why I believe in you. You are more interested in my spiritual well-being than I am, and that is why I trust in you. You always give me your loving forgiveness in spite of my sins, and that is why I love you.
Petition: Lord, teach me how to pray.
1. Prayer is the Fruit of Silence: Some people like to talk. They demand to be listened to, but they dont have the same interest in listening. However, you usually cant listen if you arent used to silence. St. Theresa of Calcutta once wrote that prayer is the fruit of silence. Jesus wants us to understand that prayer is more about listening than about talking. When you are with someone who knows much about a topic that interests you, you limit yourself to asking questions and dedicate yourself to listening. Jesus is the revealer of God the Father. That means our main interest in prayer should be asking Jesus, our Lord, about his Father and then dedicating ourselves to listening.
2. God is Our Loving Father: Jesus tells us that God the Father knows what we need before we ask him. Still, we should ask, because in asking we become aware that we have needs that only God our Father can grant us. We learn to ask God what we most need for our salvation. That is why Jesus taught us the Our Father. Praying the Our Father reminds us that he is the father of all, and therefore every human person is truly our brother. In praying the Our Father, we essentially ask for three things: that God have the first place in our lives, that he give us our material and spiritual sustenance, and that he grant us his forgiveness.

3. Forgive in Order to Be Forgiven: Jesus emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. As the First Letter of John reminds us, we are all sinners (cf. 1:8). One of the essential characteristics of Christian life is seeking to encounter Christs loving mercy. We can really experience it only when we put it into practice ourselves. We can admire a person who parachutes off a plane, but we wont understand the experience until we skydive ourselves. We grasp the true meaning of mercy when we forgive others. Our mercy will not be the same as Christs: He never sinned, and therefore he forgives us even though we dont deserve it. If Christ has forgiven us, how can we dare not to forgive others?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I thank you for teaching me to pray to the Father. I dont always pray as much as I should. Please help me to pray more and better. Please help me to want with all my heart to give God the first place in my life, preferring his will to mine. Help me to treat others as I would like them to treat me, forgiving them when they offend me.
Resolution: I will dedicate a specific time to prayer each day.

Monday of the First Week of Lent

"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 goats 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." (Matthew 25:31-46)

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are my Savior and Redeemer. I place all my hope and trust in your divine heart. United to you, all things are possible — even my holiness. With childlike faith and trusting you without limits, I know that I will experience the triumph of your grace in my life. I wish to grow in holiness today, so that I will love you, my God, above all else. Amen.
Petition: Lord, help me to appreciate that growth in holiness occurs within a Christian community.
1. Holiness is Essentially Seeking the Good of Others: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it ‘governs, shapes and perfects all the means of sanctification.’” And quoting St. Therese of Lisieux, it reminds us:
If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn´t lack the noblest of all; it must have a heart, and a heart burning with love. And I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the apostles would forget to preach the Gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 826).
In today’s Gospel Jesus grants eternal life to those who did good to others, whom he identifies as his very self. Contrariwise, he sends to eternal damnation those who did nothing to help others, whom he identifies as his very self.
2. Holiness Necessarily Entails a Dedication to the Christian Mission: Hand-in-hand with genuine charity is our sense of Christian mission. There is no genuine holiness apart from a radical orientation toward the spiritual and material good of others. In a word: there is no holiness without mission. As Pope John Paul II reminds us:
The universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to mission. Every member of the faithful is called to holiness and to mission. This was the earnest desire of the [Second Vatican] Council, which hoped to be able “to enlighten all people with the brightness of Christ, which gleams over the face of the Church, by preaching the Gospel to every creature.” The Church´s missionary spirituality is a journey toward holiness … (Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 90).
Our times cry out for this kind of holiness, one enflamed by the ardent determination to bring as many of our brothers and sisters as possible to Christ.
3. Holiness Occurs Within the Christian Community: This universal call to holiness and mission is meant to be fostered within the context of a Christian community. We are meant to spur each other on by our devotion, good example, generosity and encouragement.
Dear brothers and sisters: let us remember the missionary enthusiasm of the first Christian communities. Despite the limited means of travel and communication in those times, the proclamation of the Gospel quickly reached the ends of the earth. And this was the religion of a man who had died on a cross, ‘a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’! (I Corinthians 1:23). Underlying this missionary dynamism was the holiness of the first Christians and the first communities (Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 90).
Do I strive to build up my family and Christian community with missionary awareness? Do I value the example and help I receive, and do I strive to help others along this same path of holiness?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, make my holiness real. Let it be characterized by a heartfelt, growing and universal love for all people. Let my heart beat in unison with yours. Open my eyes to all the good that I can do for my brothers and sisters, and don’t allow me to walk away from any opportunity to show this world your love. Amen.
Resolution: I will take some time today to examine my conscience and honestly assess the spontaneity, depth and extension of my charity towards others, especially those I supposedly love the most.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Sunday of Lent

Lent: A Liturgical Season where we learn to live in the desert

When you have a debt with the bank  or with a friend and you know is time to pay, but you don’t have the money you feel anguish and fear the penalty (especially credit cards). In today’s reading though the announcement of the fulfillment of time is not negative at all, it is a joy: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:12-15). The kingdom of God has come close to us. Jesus is the horizon between the time in the Old Testament and the New Testament of The kingship of Jesus. The door to pass from one reality to the other is a word that fills all The Lenten Season: “conversion”.

Jesus brings the word “conversion” from the solitude of desert. In the silence, fasting and prayer our Lord has joined together the different pieces of our human history; He has a clear understanding of our personal drama and has found the connection with us through our weaknesses. My Brothers and Sisters, our salvation lies in defeating our pride. Jesus has come back from the desert to the city and is preaching with fire: “Believe in the Gospel”
The entire Church, especially in this time of Lent, accompanies Jesus in the desert. We know our enemy is tempting, but we also know that we have the whole company of Angels and Archangels. We know God is with us even though we can’t see Him and we love him without being able to possess Him yet. We know above all that The Church of God is walking always with the bridegroom and that He is always showing the way that leads to conversion and to The Good News.
Lord Jesus, I believe that you are leading me and that when I go astray, it’s because I take my eyes off you and cease to follow you. I know that you will never abandon me. Thank you for your unconditional and restoring love. I place all my trust in you, and I long to love you in return with all my mind, heart, soul and strength.
Lord Jesus, help me to be steadfast in moments of temptation.
Lord Jesus, I want always to choose you, but I know that I am weak. Please give me strength in my hour of temptation. Please keep me steady, and inflame my heart with love so that I choose you and your ways even though it’s costly. May the temptations I overcome become the stepping-stones to a holy life. Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

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." (Luke 5:27-32)
Introductory Prayer:  Sunny days, cloudy days and rainy days all come from you, Lord. You surprise us each day as you make each day different to bring us closer to your coming, in which we hope. Lord, your love explains everything and guides all things. I wish to respond to your infinite mercy and love by loving you more each day.
Petition:  Lord you know how difficult it is for me to forgive. Help me to do so always.
1. The Ill Need a Doctor, Not the Healthy    What a great reply: “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” It is a statement open to all humanity in need of redemption. It is an affirmation that shows us that God is not exclusive. Christ has come for all sinners, and he extends to everyone his call to repent and be transformed by his grace. It shows us that Christ wants to reach everybody and forgive everybody. He is not like us, who discriminate and hold grudges. When someone sins more, God makes particular efforts to reach that person and offer his pardon and his elevating grace. What an example for us to follow when we have difficult moments in our dealings with others! Christ teaches us patience. Christ teaches us that we must love and build bridges whenever the opportunity arises.
2. Those Who Oppose Christ Don’t Know Him  Christ sets the example and sends us to evangelize people who do not know him, or who offend him knowingly, half-knowingly, or even unknowingly. Interestingly enough, it is those who oppose Christ whom he calls the “righteous,” because they are inflexible, and their criteria cannot be bent. Christ calls us, on the other hand, to forgive, as often as is necessary (Luke 17:4).
We need to learn how to forgive in a world that tells us to be tough and not to let anything get past us.
3. From Love to Love   This Gospel reminds us of the story of the adulterous woman who was brought before Jesus. The Law of Moses was clear, yet Jesus knew that something had to be changed in order for man to be able to reach heaven. He knew that only forgiveness and love for everyone would unite all men in paradise. He knew all men had sinned, and therefore they could not accuse someone else without indirectly accusing themselves. That is why Christ answered to those who accused the adulterous woman, “Let the one who is sinless cast the first stone” (John 8:7). We are all sinners. We all need to be forgiven and to forgive one another. We all need to allow love to invade our hearts so that it may be the bond that reunites us.
Conversation with Christ:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me the solution to my life. Help me to forgive wholeheartedly those who have done me wrong. Help me to love them, pray for them and do good to them even though they hinder and harm me. Help me to strive tirelessly to bring to the world your solution to division, discrimination, hatred and war.
Resolution:  I will think of the people I dislike or am indifferent to, and I will consider at least one of their good qualities. If the opportunity arises, I will speak well of them, and if I can, I will do a good deed for them.

Friday after Ash Wednesday

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." (Matthew 9:14-15)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you know how much I need you and depend on you for everything. You know my weakness and my faults. I put all my confidence in your love and mercy. I wish to trust in your power, your promise, and your grace every day. Today I intend, with your help, to follow you along the way of the cross with love and generosity so as to draw close to you.
Petition: Lord, let me learn to embrace sacrifice as the way of reparation and purification.
1. These Are the Days: Jesus said the time would come when his disciples would fast. Now that the Lord has returned in glory to the Father, it is up to us to continue the work of salvation, “what is lacking in Christ´s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24), as St. Paul says. We join our sacrifice to that of Jesus in order to imitate him and bring grace to ourselves and to others. Every Christian life must incorporate a healthy spirit of sacrifice and self-denial. 
2. Feel the Hunger: The hunger we experience when we fast is a symbol of the deeper spiritual hunger we should feel for God and for heaven. This world often makes us all too comfortable, and we easily forget that this is not our true home. We are pilgrims traveling through a foreign land, far from our final resting place. Fasting reminds us of the longing a traveler has to reach his destination safely and finally to rejoice in being home for good. The true Christian looks forward with hope toward heaven, where he will rest with God forever in true happiness. He knows that all the good things this world offers are only shadows of the wonderful things God has planned for those who love him (cf. Romans 8:28).
3. Hunger for Souls: From the cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” That thirst was for all people to be reconciled to the Father. It was a thirst for souls to return to the love of God and find their way to the heavenly Kingdom. Voluntary sacrifice and self-denial, if we offer it for the conversion of the hearts of others, brings them the grace they need to change and turn back to God. No one can convert himself, and no one in serious sin can merit his way to the grace of God. We need to intercede by means of our personal prayer and sacrifice to gain others the supernatural grace they need to overcome their obstacles. The greatest act of charity we can perform and the greatest joy we can experience is to bring a soul back to the Lord. How many souls are waiting for our prayer and sacrifice?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, make me generous and joyful in sacrifice, knowing that sacrifice unites me closer to you and wins the grace of conversion for so many souls you love and for whom you died.
Resolution: I will choose one person I know who needs God’s grace and offer all my sacrifices today for them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

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? (Luke 9:22-25)

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, you did not flee before suffering, but did what your love for us told you to do. I trust in you. Lord Jesus, you went towards Jerusalem in the hope that we would return to the Father’s home. I hope in you, for you did not put a limit on your love. Even when you were rejected and put to death by your enemies, you prayed for them. Lord, I love you.
Petition: Lord, help me to see the redeeming power of the cross you have laid on my shoulders and embrace it.
1. Suffering: an Opportunity. Suffering is present at every turn of life. Our tendency is to flee from it, to avoid it. This holds true from the small scratch we get when we first fall off our bicycle to the profound sorrow we feel when a friend betrays us. When we feel pain, we take every means in our power to get rid of it. In today’s society, there is a medicine to alleviate any pain or suffering we might feel. Yet, in every suffering there is a lesson, and we remember the lesson better when we have suffered to learn it. Christ foresaw his rejection, suffering, and death, yet did not flee them. He embraced them as a way of showing his most profound love: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). It is what parents do when they give their children their time and attention. It is what real friends do when they serve without counting the cost. It is what we do when we help someone in need.
2. Love the Fight Not the Fall. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed. Slowly but surely, we may tire of our defects and their effects. The constant, on-going battle to follow Christ may slowly wear us down. The path to perfection in the virtues is surely full of rewards, but it has its share of wear-and-tear.
But it does not matter if we fall a thousand times, as long as we love the fight and not the fall. It therefore makes no sense to despair, especially when we fight with Christ on our side. The effort of a prolonged battle can please Christ more than an easy and comfortable victory. Christ reminds us: He will suffer greatly, be rejected and killed, and everyone who wants to be his disciple must take up his cross and follow him.
3. When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong. With the coming of Christ on the earth, suffering took on a new meaning. He gave us the possibility to give to suffering, illness and pain—the consequences of sin—the redemptive and salvific meaning of love. When the apostles asked our Lord who was responsible for the misfortune of a man blind from birth, Christ answered: “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (John 9:3). Misfortune and weaknesses made St. Paul exclaim: “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). It is through denial of self, through the recognition of our weakness, through willfully embracing our trials and sufferings, that we can show the strength of God and the wonders of God in our life.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to see all that happens to me, even pain, suffering and illness, as an opportunity to love, grow in love and offer you my love.
Resolution: Before doing something today I will pause to examine the motives for which I do it: is it for me or for God? If it is only for me, I will rectify my intentions or leave the deed aside, especially if I have the opportunity to do something else for God or to serve God in my neighbor.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday: Tear apart your hearts, not your garments... (Jl 2, 12-18)

The drastic expression "Tear apart your hearts, not your garments" in today's first reading, should be an invitation from God to all of us to remember that a broken or torn heart is always a heart that is ready for an encounter with the Lord. 

First of all it is a heart that is OPEN. We close our heart when we don't want to listen or feel or when we don't want to have compassion for someone. We seal it off when we pretend that we can solve any problem and when we pretend that we don't need God in our lives (this happens very often). A heart that is closed and hermetic is like a jail or a tomb. To open a heart that was closed and sealed is to help it breath, listen and feel. But to make it happen, especially if that heart (person) was too comfortable in its jail or tomb needs to be torn apart.
Lord, you know how much I need you and depend on you. You know my weakness and my faults. I put all my confidence in your love and mercy in my daily actions. I hope to learn to trust more in your power, your promise, and your grace. Lord, I wish to start this season of Lent with a sincere desire to grow in love, preparing myself worthily to celebrate the mysteries of your passion, death and resurrection.
Lord, help me learn to change what needs to change in my life.
Jesus, give me the grace to begin this Lent with great enthusiasm and love. Help me live it with joy, knowing that I am living it in your presence to please you and you alone.
I will make a Lenten program of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus is visible and He is the revelation of the invisible. This is a basic lesson of the New Testament that we can find in todays gospel But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth (Mk 2: 10). The cure of the paralytic, a visible fact, helped to see the forgiveness of sins that is an invisible reality.
The paralysis was not the result of sin necessarily (Jn 9: 2-3). Sin doesnt produce visible consequences (Lk 11: 44). But we can say that sin is like a paralysis, a paralysis of the soul of hope, happiness and joy. I hope this meditation will help us to see the powerful lesson in this analogy Jesus is using today.

When the paralytic came, the mat was carrying him; after the healing encounter with Jesus, its the paralytic who is carrying the mat. There are normally things that are like "mats" for us. For instance what we know as "defense mechanisms" that we use to protect a certain interior stability showing ourselves not too sensitive" or not  "too hard" or not "pretending that we don't see other necessities or problems"... Being aggressive with others also is also a defense mechanism for timid people. It serves like a "mat" that carries our paralysis, it doesnt cure us. But Jesus still heals souls, and once healed we don't need to use the so called "defense mechanisms" especially to be indifferently aggressive. Now we have power over the "mat".
On more than one occasion in the gospels we see Jesus penetrating the consciences of men and finding out their deepest thoughts and intentions. In today's passage, when the Scribes start to think: "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?"(Mk 2: 7) Jesus is showing what they are thinking before they say it. This is not just something "awesome", this is crucial to show the divinity of Jesus. In the Old Testament, only God had the power to penetrate the thoughts of men. "More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?  The LORD, explores the mind and tests the heart, giving to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds". (Jn 17: 9-10) and in Amos 4: 13 "So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! and since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel: Him who formed the mountains, and created the wind, and declares to man his thoughts; Who made the dawn and the darkness, and strides upon the heights of the earth: The LORD, the God of hosts by name".
What is interesting is that Jesus is not saying that they are wrong when they say "only God can forgive sins" (Mk 2: 5 and 2: 7). He reaffirms that He Himself forgive sins.  Jesus, first saying "But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—  I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home. He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, We have never seen anything like this. (Mark 2: 10).  Jesus is clearly revealing His divine nature with discretion but firmly.

Jesus, thank you for this time to be with you. I humbly offer you my intention to set all my distractions aside so that I can encounter you, my Lord and my God. I hope in you and know that you could never let me down. I love you and long to love you with all of my strength. Aware of my misery and weakness, I trust in your mercy and love.
Lord, increase my zeal for souls
Sacred Heart of Jesus, help me to realize more deeply that you want me involved in salvation history. Im on the front lines. You entrust souls to me, and you want to bless their lives through my prayers, my sacrifices and my work. Increase my love for these souls. They need my help and my fidelity. I dont want to let them down. Help me to be faithful.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The New Law will make us free to love

The way the lepers were treated in today’s first reading sounds exaggerated to us today, however, every society tries to protect itself and one way is to keep away the people that are a threat or danger to others because of health or behavior. The theory is, ‘if you can’t cure it, at least separate that person so they won’t pass the illness to others’. In light of this, we have prisons and hospitals. This approach has been working well for centuries.

But what happens when a cure is possible? 

Jesus is going to change our way of measuring problems and teach us that laws have qualified power. Today’s gospel is showing us this. The law of the old covenant said clearly what steps to take in the eyes of an incurable illness, but it didn’t say what we should do when an illness is defeated, a problem fixed, or a bad situation defeated by Jesus’ power to do good.

Jesus didn’t disregard the law; He commanded the leper to go to the priest as the law prescribed. But a greater good is starting.  This gospel shows Jesus in a very specific event, ‘a victory of the good’ that was not contemplated in the old law, because our laws are guided by the limits of human thinking. Laws are in a sense a canonization of what exists, without trust in the good that could happen. Faith on the other hand can see the sky above obstacles; it can create languages and ways of communication where words are not enough.

Faith is a whole new world; it is not limited by a specific healing, no matter how spectacular that healing could be. Jesus wants us to see beyond our own healing. He wanted the leper and us to see beyond the miracle in order to find the world of the abundant grace of God.

Jesus continues inviting us to learn and live the new laws of an existence lived in total obedience to the plan of God. He is going to walk before us and His hands and eyes are going to teach us this new way of living, new way of loving, serving…. to succeed always with Him.

Lord, thank you for this time together. I need you in my life and the life of my family. It is easy to let activities overwhelm me so that I lose track of you. You fade into the distance, and sometimes sin grows closer. But I know you are always there for me with your unconditional love. Thank you. I love you and long to put you first in my life.

Lord, wash me from my sins and help me to be detached from them.

I want to be free, but I need your help. Without you, I can do nothing. Help me to trust you and to turn to you. Don’t let me go off on my own as if I could keep fighting without you. Free me to love you. Free me to love others.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Mystery of the Infirmities

It is interesting that the origin of the word infirmities (illness) comes from the Latin in-firmus, one that is not firm or is without foundation. I am sure that we can all associate this etymology with some of the characteristics of sick people: weakness, suffering, lack of defenses, anguish, and sadness. The Book of Job tells us of this very well: nights with pain and nightmares, the inability to control bad things that are going to inevitably happen.

Jesus appears today in the Gospel as The Great Physician. If infirmities bring us to experience our weaknesses, the presence of Jesus brings us to experience the healing love of God.

The dedication of Jesus to sick people is visible in many ways. It helps us to remember with gratitude the many works of mercy that help ease the pain and suffering of the world; in hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, houses for refugees or immigrants. In all of these we can feel the care of the Son of God and the efficacious love of millions of people.

Today we need to pray, with love, for those who give their lives in those apostolates, especially if they are aware that they are an extension of the skin, hands and eyes of Jesus, they are in the service of the favored ones of Him: the ones with infirmities.

We can also find a connection to the second reading. Paul with specific ardor gives himself the cause of evangelization. He feels that it is his obligation, something that can't be delegated or postponed “Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them.  So I become all things to all men that I may save some of them by whatever means are posible.” (1 Cor 9,22). Here we learn at least two things. First, it is part of the mission of the apostle; the participation of the pains and sorrow of those that are going to be evangelized. The best proof and example of this is Jesus’ suffering on the cross.  Second, is the necessity of adaptation. Love won't stop after hearing “no”; it won't stop when it is faced with defeat and failure; it is always creating new ways and techniques; it is creative and incapable of giving up.

Lord, thank you for this time we will spend together. I wish to step away from the world and all its activities to be alone with you now.  You are my beginning and my end: you created me, and you are leading me home to you in heaven. Thank you for your love. I know I deserve nothing from you and that my sins compound my unworthiness, yet you would still enfold me in your unfathomable love.

Lord, increase my love for prayer and the interior life.

Lord, help me to put you first in my life by giving you the best of my time. Help me not to give into laziness, but to rise early in the morning so that I can be with you. I need you in my life. Help me to experience your love so that I can share it with others. Help me to give myself to your plan of salvation and to reach out to those who are searching for you. Help me to hunger for you alone so that you will satisfy my hunger. Amen.