Saturday, March 31, 2012

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord: Today Jesus accepted being King

In today’s liturgy, we see that our Lord "IHS", Iesus Homini Salvatori (Jesus, Man and Savior), didn't accept the acclamation of the multitudes that pretended to make Him king right after seeing the miracles that He performed (Jn 6, 15). He didn't want the crown of a king when everyone proclaimed, "He does everything well" (Mk 7, 37). He went to the mountain many times and found refuge through prayerful intimacy with His Father (Mt 14, 23). In all of these situations, where He could have easily and naturally proclaimed Himself son of David and successor to the throne that freed Israel, Jesus kept silent. He hid Himself and prayed in private; He knew how false the acclamations were.
There was one day that He accepted the applause and didn't escape from the multitudes. One day Jesus accepted His being King and in doing so He sealed His destiny, changed history and opened a future for the whole universe; all with the humble gesture that today we contemplate.
Let's look at what is happening: Jesus, the Nazarene, the King meek and humble is entering the city of David guarded by a humble court.
Why does our Lord now accept what He rejected before? Why, now, does He want to go along with the enthusiasm of the multitude? The only answer is, because He knows what is in store for Him afterwards. He knows that the same people will say something completely different in a matter of hours. We, too, do that when we let our feelings rule our decisions.
Jesus knew that those in power where by now united against Him. He also knew the love of His disciples was weak even though they swore that their love was unconditional. Jesus knew that becoming a king in that situation would awaken the passion, hatred and vengeance of the leaders against Him. We see, more than a decision to gain honor, that it was an act of mercy; a manifestation of His immense love.
The Triduum is near.
This Sunday introduces the celebration of the deepest and most beautiful mysteries of our faith; it is like a window from which we can see the great news that the Triduum will bring us. That is why the Church, right after inviting us to sing the acclamations to the Messiah and true King, also invites us in the same context to what has exactly happened so that our ears will get used to the music; the music dramatizes the love of The Passion of Our Lord.
It is good to hear the history of The Passion so that we can understand it was One specific Person who suffered and One Person who overcame death. It was One Person who carried our infirmities and guilt and One Person who paid the price on the Cross. It was One Person who defeated the enemy, One who defeated death, One who loved to the extreme, One who gave us forgiveness, peace, grace and a life that never ends. One Person, Jesus Christ, the Son of The Living God.
My brothers and sisters let us look with eyes of gratitude and listen with ears of disciples to the beautiful testimony of the Gospel. You will not find anything as beautiful in any writings on earth. There is nothing that can be compared to the great forgiveness that comes down like a cascade from the Cross, as a powerful flood, not of vengeance and punishment, but one of mercy and grace.
Only if we close our eyes to the vanities of this world, will we realize there is nothing as helpful, hopeful and engaging as The Redemption, which gives us access to the glory of our destiny in heaven.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Many of the Jews who had come with Mary [the sister of Martha] and seen what Jesus had done [raising Lazarus from the dead] began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing, nor do you consider that, so that the whole nation may not perish." He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him. So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the Temple area, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?" (John 11: 45-56)

Introductory Prayer:Almighty Father, strong is your justice and great is your mercy. Protect us in the burdens and challenges of life. Shield our minds from the distortion of pride and enfold our desire with the beauty of truth. Help us to become more aware of your loving design so that we may more willingly give our lives in service to all. We ask the through Christ our Lord.

Petition:Jesus grant me the humility to serve and defend the truth.

1. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him. They recognize the signs he is working but they will not accept him on his terms. He is unlike what they expected him to be, so they reject him … period. Their personal preferences, their likes and dislikes, have become the reference point for choosing or rejecting the truth. They have the power to influence the situation, so influence it they will. At the end of the day, truth and justice are less important than their free exercise of power. Humility is a noble virtue because it lives in the truth even when the truth is not easy to serve. Pride threatens a sincere response to the truth since the proud person is more prone to personal interests than serving objective truth. When the two clash, watch out! In our ordinary lives truth constantly presents itself to us as something to be accepted or rejected.

By way of these moral choices Jesus beckons us daily, hourly, to follow him as a witness to the truth about God, about man, about life. Do you not see what power he places in your hands by granting you reason and free will? Will you use this power to serve God or to serve yourself?

2. The Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation. The logic is easy enough to follow if we are unfamiliar with the ways of God. As reasonable as the logic seems, it leaves God out of the equation. Unfortunately they had forgotten their own history and the marvels God had worked on behalf of his people. Remember Gideon? And the young David before Goliath? How about Esther? Their history, our history, is a history of faith because God is in the equation. Faith presupposes reason because grace builds on nature. Now, faith is meant to inform reason about the things of God that reason cannot deduce without this higher source of light: for instance that God is the Trinity. So, when reason will not be guided by faith it will seldom arrive at the conclusions God would have us reach. It is a case of reason being applied “unreasonably” because it closes itself to faith. It has eyes but does not see.

3. So from that day on they planned to kill him. We marvel how they could have arrived at this point. Then again, somehow we understand. When someone refuses to acknowledge the truth, at some point all things are potentially justifiable, even killing someone innocent. Herod once sought to kill the Christ Child because he was a perceived threat to his throne. Here they seek to kill Jesus because he is a perceived threat to their nation. Whether it be the individual or the nation, both conclusions are reached because they refused to recognize the meaning of the signs presented to them – Herod did not acknowledge the significance of the Magi’s journey, and those who are plotting Christ’s death do not acknowledge the message his miracles convey. They have eyes but they do not see.

Dialogue with Christ: Lord, I want to follow you as you reveal yourself to me through the Church and in daily life. I know that I am proud and that my pride clouds my vision to the good that you invite me to choose. Help me to mature in humility so that I might be a better instrument of your grace and a better witness of your eternal truth. Mother of all Purity, make my heart only for Jesus.

Resolution: Today I will strive to heed all the promptings of the Holy Spirit that come to me through the promptings of my conscience.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, ´I said, "You are gods"´? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ´I am the Son of God´? If I do not perform my Father´s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power. He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him and said, "John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true." And many there began to believe in him. (John 10:31-42)
Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are life and truth and goodness. You are also peace and mercy. How grateful I am to have this moment to turn to you. Without you I can do nothing good. In fact, when I do good, it is you working through me, despite my failings. Thank you, Lord. Here I am ready to love you more.
Petition: Lord, help me to put my faith into action.
1. The Works Give Testimony: In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus teaches us that our faith is based not only on what God has promised, but also on what he has done. Christ points to his works as the basis for faith in him as the Son: “Even if you do not believe me, believe the works….” The greatest of all these works is his resurrection from the dead, which we will commemorate a few days from now. Works are always more powerful than words. Words may convince the mind, but works move the will to action – to decision. Jesus still continues to do the works of the Father today, especially in the Eucharist and in sacramental confession, as well in the other sacraments. Do I see these works as they really are – true actions of Christ with the power to transform?  
2. The World Needs the Testimony of Holy Lives: We can never underestimate the importance and the power of personal testimony in today’s world. We are inundated with information and external stimuli of all types. Words and images and slogans abound. Yet against this cacophonous backdrop, the works of true holiness speak louder than ever before.
Pope Paul VI said it best: “Contemporary man needs testimony more than arguments.” In our personal case, do our works match our words? Do our works speak for themselves of what we profess? Or are we “all words and no works?”
3. Let Your Light Shine in the World so that They Might Believe: God’s word has a special ability to penetrate the human heart and conscience. We need to trust the transforming ability of Scripture. When that word is assimilated in the lives of believers, its power is multiplied even more. The tremendous and even virulent opposition Jesus meets at the hands of his adversaries cannot keep others from believing in him. This mystery is repeated over and over again in the life of the Church. Where there is the greatest opposition to the Gospel message, there are also the greatest conversions. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more abundantly,” (Romans 5:20) to paraphrase Saint Paul. This proven truth should protect us from discouragement in our own efforts to evangelize.
Conversation with Christ: I believe in you, Lord, when I cast out my nets one and one hundred times,  and I draw them in wet, empty, almost broken I believe that you test your chosen ones, because when the seed is sunk down into the earth hen it can better take root in God. I want to abandon myself to you, that you may place me near you, as a seal on your heart.
Resolution: I will strive today to make my works match what I profess to believe

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death." (So) the Jews said to him, "Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ´Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.´ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ´He is our God.´ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad. So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet 50 years old and you have seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM." So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the Temple area.
Introductory Prayer: Father, let the gift of your life continue to grow in us, drawing us from death to faith, hope and love. Keep us alive in Christ Jesus. Keep us watchful in prayer and true to his teaching till your glory is revealed in us. Grant this through the same Christ our Lord.
Petition: Lord, increase my faith and grant me your life that I may truly live.
1. Whoever keeps my word will never see death. The Church glories in her martyrs since they kept the word of God, even unto death. Christ tells his disciples that “unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it remains just a grain of wheat.” Here he tells his listeners that by keeping his word they shall never taste death. Perhaps it is St. Paul who gives us the best insight into this paradoxical phrase. In his second letter to the Corinthians he refers to his sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel: “we are always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. …Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:10,16). Those who have seen Pope John Paul II in person in recent years have had a clear glimpse of this great man’s vigorous interior life contained within a frail body. His body grows older but his spirit is indomitable. He has kept the word faithfully and his example, his words, his eyes, his very person communicate life.
2. Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Abraham is dead, Moses is dead, David and Solomon are dead. Elijah was carried away in a chariot of fire. The crowd looks at Jesus and says, “Who do you think you are?”
First you tell us that we must eat your flesh and drink your blood or we will not have life. Now … now you claim that those who are faithful to you will never die. Who do you think you are, really? There are souls who want everything to be clear before they commit their lives to Christ. They listen to him much like those today who hear what the Church says but cannot grasp why it teaches what it teaches –– it simply is not practical, it is not popular, and above all it constricts my freedom and my personality…. Arguments do not convert these hearts. Personal encounters with Christ do. When Jesus announced the Eucharist in John’s sixth chapter many disciples walked with him no more. But the Twelve remained. Not because they understood the doctrine of the Eucharist, but because in their time spent with Jesus, they knew he could be trusted, that he would never deceive them. We trust the Church because we trust Christ.
3. Before Abraham came to be, I AM. Jesus Christ cannot be reduced to a moral teacher once he claims to be the Great I AM. Simply put, he is either God Almighty or he is a liar. In his discussion with his interlocutors he makes this very point. But to keep it from the level of appearing as personal aggrandizement or some form of deception, Jesus says to them, “if you will not believe my words then at least look at my works.” See the signs I perform! John the Baptist once sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he were “The One.” What does Jesus respond? The blind see, the dead are raised to life, cripples walk, the poor have the good news preached to them. He knows that in these works John will recognize the hand of God. And what about us – his disciples in contemporary society? We believe in the Resurrection, we believe he is fully present in the Eucharist. Jesus looks at us and asks, “By the way you live your life, who do you say that I am?”
Dialogue with Christ: Dear Lord, I believe in you. I do not always see clearly nor do I grasp all that you do in my life. I do not ask for comprehension. But I do ask for the grace to believe you above all things and to let my faith in you guide my thoughts and actions. Help me to live what I believe and help me to believe all that you ask of me. Mother of Purity, make my heart only for Jesus.
Resolution: Today I will make a visit to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to express my faith in his divine presence. There I will renew my baptismal promises by reciting the Apostles Creed and by rejecting sin, Satan and all his works.

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ´You will become free´?" Jesus answered them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father´s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father." They answered and said to him, "Our father is Abraham." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham´s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!" So they said to him, "We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me." (John 8:31-42)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are life and truth and goodness. You are also peace and mercy. How grateful I am to have this moment to turn to you. Without you I can do nothing good. In fact, when I do good, it is you working through me, despite my failings. Thank you, Lord. Here I am ready to love you more.

Petition: Grant me the grace, Lord, to remain in your word and to be set free by your truth.
1. A Vibrant Faith: Faith isn’t real until it touches our attitudes and, above all, our concrete choices. To “remain” in the word of Christ means to conform our lives with his life and his virtues, especially the virtue of charity, which is the very essence of Christian doctrine and morality. To “remain” in his word is, as some would say, “to walk the walk.” In another passage we are told that it is not those who say “Lord, Lord…” who will enter the Kingdom, but only those who actually do the Father’s will in their lives. Remaining in his word is the stuff of sanctity – it’s also the stuff of daily perseverance and of knowing how to get up, dust ourselves off, and begin again each time we falter or fall along the way. How well do I “remain” in Christ’s word? Could an impartial observer see from my attitudes and actions that I follow Christ?

2. A True Disciple Lives the Truth: Christ seems to imply that there are true and false disciples. There is only one way to tell the difference between the two: whether one actually embraces his word not only as an ideal, but also as a rule of life. Today a plethora of voices, even within the Christian community, would have us follow a purely “therapeutic” Christianity – a form of Christianity in which we can supposedly believe in Christ while adopting behaviors or attitudes which are totally opposed to his “way” of discipleship as taught authoritatively by the Church. The temptation to separate faith and practice is never far from us. How much have these false voices impacted my own understanding of what it means to follow Christ as a member of his body, the Church?

3. Authentic Freedom: The freedom promised by Christ to those who remain in his word is much deeper than the freedom offered by the world. Christ’s freedom is not simply a political freedom. Neither is it the ability to choose whatever I want, when I want, and how I want. The freedom of Christ’s disciple is spiritual, moral, and interior; it is the freedom for which every person longs in the depths of his heart. And only Christ gives this kind of freedom.

Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for the freedom you have given me! With it I could seek happiness in broken vessels of clay, forgetting you, the fountain of living waters. You could have made me not free.... But thus you have created me, and I want to be free. I want to know how to be free. I want to demonstrate that I am free, with the most sovereign act of my freedom: Lord, since I am free, I give my freedom, my will, to you, so that your will may be done.
Resolution: I will exercise my freedom responsibly, as Christ would have me do.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Jesus said to the Jews, "I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come." So the Jews said, "He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ´Where I am going you cannot come´?" He said to them, "You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." So they said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world." They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said (to them), "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him." Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Introductory Prayer: Father of everlasting goodness, our origin and guide, be close to us and hear the prayers of all who praise you. Forgive our sins and restore us to life. Keep us safe in your love. Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Petition: Lord, increase my faith in you.
1. Where I am going you cannot come. When Adam sinned, Paradise was closed to man. Nothing within man’s power could reverse the course of history now marred by sin. Even the greatest of the patriarchs and prophets could only “salute the Promised Land from afar”, so to speak, as symbolized by Moses who led the Israelites to the Promised Land but never entered it himself. But what is impossible for man is still possible for God. By taking our flesh, taking on every dimension of humanity, all humanity takes on a new meaning, a higher dignity. Then, the key to opening the door was placed on Christ’s shoulders in the form of a cross. As the one true High Priest he entered into the sanctuary alone to atone for our sin and the sin of the world. Where he has gone no other human can go of his own accord. But once the Son has opened the door, we, his adopted brothers and sisters, possess the hope of entering into the eternal life of God. ”In other words, through the blood of Jesus we have the confidence to enter the sanctuary by a new way which he has opened for us, a living opening through the curtain, that is to say, his body” (Hebrews 10:19).

2. If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins. Life or death, the blessing or the curse. This is the choice Moses placed before the chosen people of Israel who had consistently witnessed the saving power of Yahweh. Eternal Life is a choice, a continual decision to choose the good, to serve the truth, to do God’s will. But eternal death is no less a moral choice. Jesus brings this choice to a new level – to believe in him is to have life, to reject him is death. The faith in Jesus that leads to life is not merely a series of personal preferences. It is a matter of life or death because it assumes a genuine search for the truth about life and death. To see Jesus is to see his Father. In Jesus, “God has made himself known in the fullest possible way.
He has revealed to mankind who he is. This definitive self-revelation of God is the fundamental reason why the Church is missionary by her very nature. She cannot do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is, the fullness of the truth which God has enabled us to know about himself” (Pope John Paul II, The Mission of the Redeemer, n.5). The proper response to God´s revelation is the “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26), a personal adherence to the person of Christ as truly God and truly man.
3. When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM. Every parent knows that love is a sacrifice. The most sublime symbol of all selfless devotion is the Son of God nailed to the cross, nailed by those he came to save. It is an often-stated truth that if I were the only person on earth, Christ would have died for me on the cross to save me. The corollary to this is that, were I the only person on earth, then I would have been the one who drove in the nails and hoisted the crossbeam in its place. He came offering life and I responded with death. Yet in “lifting up” Christ, I discover the bedrock truth of his boundless love. A love that was at the beginning, is now and ever shall be. He is love. He is mercy. He is life. He is truth … all because HE IS.
Dialogue with Christ: Blessed Lord, thank you for the gift of life and most especially for the gift of faith. Help me to enter into your life by exercising my faith. I trust that you will guide my steps. Grant me wisdom and prudence in my choices, and with your grace I will strive to lovingly give you every act of my day. Mother of Purity, make my heart only for Jesus.
Resolution: Today I will look for at least three opportunities to make hidden acts of charity in reparation for so many sins against Christ’s Sacred Heart, especially for my own sins.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin´s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)
Introductory Prayer:  Heavenly Father, you have given Mary to us as our Blessed Mother. Thank you. I know that she constantly intercedes on our behalf and that you listen to her prayer. I am confident in your mercy and love. You are guiding me home to spend eternity with you. I place all my trust in you. I offer you my weak, but grateful love in return.
Petition: Lord, grant me the grace to embrace you in faith, hope, and love.
1. Sent from God  Too often we attribute too much of our achievements to our own doing. Our education, wealth, or technological ability can lead us to have a false sense of security in our ability to shape our world. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s plan for the salvation of the human race is his own initiative. He sends his Son into the world at a precise time and in a precise place. He prepares Mary beforehand with everything she will need to fulfill her mission as Mother of the Redeemer – a mission that she accepts in freedom and through faith. I do well to realize more and more that God is also the true protagonist of my own life.
2. Do Not Be Afraid  One of the constant refrains of the Gospel is Jesus’ admonition: “Do not be afraid.” When the Lord draws near, our natural tendency is to be afraid. We can be afraid of his presence. We can be afraid of what he might ask of us. We can be afraid of our own limitations in the face of the call to true conversion and holiness of life. We can be afraid of the apparent obstacles along the path of Christian discipleship.
Like Mary, we need to overcome our fear by embracing God’s will with faith and love. As our confidence in God increases, our fear decreases. As our love increases, our fear disappears. Of what am I afraid in my relationship with the Lord? Am I surrendering my fear by giving myself in faith?
3. May It Be Done to Me  What a truly incredible thing it is to make the salvation of the human race dependent upon the free response of Mary! Mary’s “yes” to God shows us the power and transcendence of personal choice. It also sheds light on the importance of our own personal “yes” to God with regard to his plan for our lives. Mary’s loving, faith-filled consent to a plan she did not fully understand becomes the model of our own daily consent to the divine will as it manifests itself in our daily lives.
Conversation with Christ:  Lord, I have remembered through this meditation that you are the one guiding my life and all of history. I need to be mindful that you always intend good for me, even if it is painful and purifying. So I should never be afraid of your hand in my life. I believe and trust in you my Lord, but increase my faith, hope and love.
Resolution:  I will embrace God’s will today as Mary did -- with faith and love.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

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. (John 12:20-33)
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: Lord, 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 a 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.

The closer we get to Holy Week it is necessary to prepare ourselves with more attention and be attentive to the mysteries that are coming to our eyes and the words that are going to bless our hearts with healing and conversion.

Today’s second reading is very useful for our purpose of preparation of the most important week of the year for us Catholics. It is like an overview to the interior mystery of Christ. His Heart is the place where He experienced fear, pain and at the same time love and obedience to His Father. This is the part of The Passion that we most need to pay attention to.  It is the same Heart of Jesus, where the drama of our own cowardice towards the seductive power of evil happens.

The “external” dimension of The Passion of Christ, we know it but do we really paying attention to the “internal” dimension of His Passion?

Now that we are talking about the Heart of Jesus and its mysteries, let us acknowledge in the supplication of those Greeks of the gospel today the same deep nostalgia of our hearts. If we make silence, at least for a moment and we separate ourselves from the tyranny of consumerism or from the slaving solicitudes of our self-pleasure, we may hear from the depth of our hearts the same request:  “we would like to see Jesus“. If we pay attention we will hear “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself”.  It is there, in the Cross, where the mystery of the love that never ends is found.

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. Lord, help me to be a true apostle. 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!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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, (John 7: 40-53)

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 22, 2012

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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. When his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but (as it were) in secret. 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 Messiah? But we know where he is from. When the Messiah 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. (John 7: 1-2,10,25-30)

Introductory Prayer:Lord, thank you for your constant love. Thank you for challenging us even at the risk of our rejecting you. Help me, Lord, to follow your example and steadfastness in bringing your message to others.

Petition:Christ Jesus, I believe in you. Increase my faith!

1. Who is the Christ I know? Where is Jesus from? Where is he going? These were the questions that Christ’s contemporaries had to grapple with—the same questions that we must ask ourselves. Is Christ a real authority in my life? Do I give him my trust? Do I always recognize him? Do I understand him? Many in Jerusalem thought they knew where he was from (Galilee) but didn’t know whom he is from (God). Is my knowledge of Christ still very superficial? Like the Jerusalemites, am I willing to give my ear to Christ just so long as he doesn’t challenge my preconceived ways of thinking and acting?

2. How does he reveal himself to me? Christ’s relatives earlier urged him, “Show yourself to the world”. Often we tend to make similar demands on Christ. “If he were to only make his presence more felt in my life,” we think, “then things would be different.” Like the apostles, we often complain to him, “When are you going to speak clearly and stop speaking in parables?” Christ decides to go up to Jerusalem “not publicly but in private”. Still, many were aware that he was in Jerusalem, although “the Jews” were not. Christ comes to make the blind see and show himself to them. Do I see him? How does he tend to reveal himself to me?

3. Do I go to the temple without encountering Christ? Every year during the Feast of the Tabernacles, the Hebrews would make a pilgrimage to the Temple, reciting: “Our fathers when they were in this place turned with their backs toward the Temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they worshiped the sun toward the east [see Ezekiel 8:16]; but as for us, our eyes are turned toward the Lord.” They journeyed for miles to celebrate their fidelity to God, yet did not recognize the One he sent, Christ who was in their midst. My union with Christ who is present should be the reason for my worship. How often do I let distraction or a “bad liturgy” rob me from encountering him. As I approach the altar for Communion, am I really aware of whom I am going to receive? Am I willing to prepare my soul’s disposition to the best of my ability so that his presence might be fruitful?

Dialogue with Christ: Lord, it is so easy to let my eyes wander away from you and to get caught up with externals. Like Peter on the sea, I need to learn that all my fears overcome me once I take my sight off you and put it on the circumstances that surround me. I will try to keep my eyes fixed on you, a gaze that lasts.

Resolution: Lord, I promise to make a visit to you today in the Tabernacle and thank you for being present to me there.