Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter "Separated From Christ"

Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for granting me the opportunity to be with you. There are things in life, Lord, that attract me, but you attract me more. I hope in you, and I love you. Maybe I don’t really understand what it means to love, and maybe I don’t love the way I should, but I do love you.

Petition: Lord, help me to grow in my interior life so I can remain united to you.

1. Forgetfulness of God: Lord, it is so easy to forget you when life gets busy. It is easy to forget you when things go well. Almost without realizing it, I begin to separate myself from the vine. My prayer time is a good thermometer: When I am separating myself from the vine, it becomes shorter and shorter until it almost fades. I go my own way. I forget to pray. However, it isn’t necessarily a question of eliminating activities but of doing all of these tasks for God and in union with him.

2. Barrenness: If I separate myself from Christ, the vine, and invest my energies in something else, I know what is going to happen. I will produce no fruit. This is my experience; it has already happened. Eventually I will wither and be thrown out like a dry branch. Lastly, these withered, old, dried-up branches will be gathered and thrown into a fire, and they will be burned. There is no way I can bear fruit if I am separated from the vine.

3. Abundant Fruit: I want to produce abundant fruit. I want to help bring about a change in this world. That is attractive to me. That means a lot to me. I have tried different ways, and I know that only united to the vine can I bear lasting fruits for Christ’s Kingdom. This is the way I will glorify the Father. In this meditation, I already sense the sap running back into my soul. My life will produce fruit for others. Lord, help me to cling to the vine. Help me to strengthen that bond of unity. Help my faith and love for you grow, for you are my all.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, it is easy to trust what I can see, feel and touch. It is wiser, infinitely wiser to trust you, even if you are hidden from me for now.

Resolution: At least three times today I will lift up my thoughts to offer one of my activities to God.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter "Danger of Slavery"

Jesus said to his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ´I am going away and I will come back to you.´ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me." (John 14: 27-31a)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for granting me the opportunity to be with you. There are things in life, Lord, that attract me, but you attract me more. I hope in you, and I love you. Maybe I don’t really understand what it means to love, and maybe I don’t love the way I should, but I do love you.

Petition: Lord, help me always to remember who I am, where I come from, and where I am going.

1. Activism: In today´s culture, many people believe, almost religiously, that what they do will eventually make them someone. They believe that from doing flows being, since their activity defines them. This makes it easy for them to be exploited. In nineteenth century America, a slave was often not told his birthday, so he could never really know who he was. He was just made to work. This same temptation exists today. Many people work such long hours — some as a means of escape from difficulties or responsibilities at home; others for the satisfaction they feel seeing a job completed; still others, just to earn more money and to be able to afford a more comfortable life. However, these are all manifestations of the same slavery.

2. My True Identity: With his example, however, Christ shows us a different way of life, a way that goes against the current. First I have to be. Then my doing will flow from my being. Christ says again and again: I am the Son of my Father. Now I will act accordingly. When Moses asked God of the burning bush who he was, he said, “I AM who AM.”

Who am I? What defines me is my relationship to God. Just imagine this: I have the privilege of being a child of God! God has loved me so much that he has adopted me as his child! This is something worthwhile. This is who I really am, and I should act accordingly, as Christ taught me.

3. True Peace: Christ´s great peace comes as a consequence of meditating on and living out who I really am. When I meditate, I discover that I am God’s creature. Suddenly, I find the strength to face reality. Others will be unable to exploit me, and I will stop exploiting others because I am – and they are – children of God. My dignity derives from this fundamental truth: I was created in God’s image and likeness. I came from God, and he is inviting me to return to him and be happy with him for all eternity.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I have the bad habit of focusing on my doing. That is why I am always anxious. I want to be like you, Lord, seeing first who I am and letting my activity flow from that. This will bring me peace. However, Lord, I need your grace. Help me to live as a true son or daughter.

Resolution: Today, I will do two kind acts to someone who is troubled in order to help them experience God’s love for them.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church "Holy Spirit"

Jesus said to his disciples: "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, "Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name-- he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." (John 14: 21-26 )

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for granting me the opportunity to be with you. There are things in life, Lord, that attract me, but you attract me more. I hope in you, and I love you. Maybe I don’t really understand what it means to love, and maybe I don’t love the way I should, but I do love you.

Petition: Lord, a lot of images distract me. Help me do something about this.

1. The Danger: It is easy to forget you, Lord, especially with all the images that are around me. Every image I harbor in my heart, every emotion I abandon myself to leaves its mark. These can come from the radio, the Internet, songs, novels… anywhere. They seem to swamp my mind and make it easier to forget you. These images and emotions can also impoverish, degrade, limit and reduce my ability to extract from life its magnificent content, usefulness and happiness. You remind me that I should use everything only in as much as it helps me to reach you, my final goal.

2. The Gift: On the other hand, I know you have sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit. As you promise in this Gospel, he will never stop reminding me of you. All I have to do is let his projector fill my imagination with images, with thoughts, with insights. Of course, I also have to use the world’s media correctly and in moderation. Holy Spirit, I know you are near; take possession of my soul and make it all your own. Guide my every decision so that I choose what is right and reject what is evil.

3. Accepting the Gift: When I do forget, the Holy Spirit will remind me of all that Christ has said. All of the emotions and thoughts you inspire, Holy Spirit, will enrich my ability to live enthusiastically and forcefully. You will fill my mind with great and powerful images. All I have to do is open myself to you.

“The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. […] To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2729).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I have the option of letting myself be consumed with thoughts of anger, lust and power—thoughts that will make me grow old and become a more intense version of myself, closed in on myself. Help me take the steps to avoid these temptations. Allow the Holy Spirit to animate my mind and my soul.

Resolution: I will clear my mind by filling my thoughts with God and his things.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sunday, 5th week of Easter "See How They Love One Another"

When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 31-33a, 34-35)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are here with me. I am privileged to have this private audience with you. Aware of my weakness, I hope in your mercy and love. I open my heart now to you, to the wisdom, mercy and good news of your Gospel, for through it you wish to guide me home to rest eternally with you in heaven. Thank you for your boundless love. Take my weak, poor love in return, as it is all I have to offer you.

Petition: Lord, help me to imitate you by accepting and forgiving others. 





1. The Sign of True Discipleship Nowadays, words alone are empty; they need to be backed up by actions. All too often we have experienced that zealous politician or marketer who makes promises that we instinctively know are too good to be true. We want to believe the good they promise, but experience has taught us to have a healthy sense of skepticism. Unfortunately, this contemporary disbelief of “too good to be true” could also be said of Christianity. Christians are to be known by their love for one another. In my marriage, with my children, and in my social circle, am I known for my Christ-like love? In particular, am I capable of accepting others as they are, of seeing their way of being in a good light? Though I set high standards, do my spouse and children truly find rest, light and solace in my company?

2. The High Standard of Love The film “Love Story” had a classic line: “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” As Christians, though, we are aware of our weak nature and tendency to sin. We need to ask pardon – frequently. More often than not, the souls we hurt are those closest to us: our spouse, a child, a parent or in-law.

The disciples, too, had their squabbles with each other. The love that bound them, exhorted them to make peace with one another as Christ makes peace with his Church: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Is my love great enough to overlook the weaknesses of those who hurt me and turn my wounded ego to compassion and pardon? To err is human, but to forgive is divine.

3. Loving from the Heart Christ told his disciples, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). This applies as well to harboring grudges in our hearts. Love goes beyond kind words and actions to the very heart of man: to our thoughts. Although it may initially cause distress to our will to think well of those who have hurt us, it is truly therapeutic! Our Lord said, “From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy” (Matthew 15:19). Likewise, a heart that actively looks for the good in others will form the habit of speaking well and acting kindly towards those who naturally are displeasing. Thinking well of others renews our faith in God’s mercy. If we are merciful, how much more we can expect Our Lord to be patient and merciful with us!

Conversation with Christ: My Jesus, your life is witness of love to me. You forgave your enemies and even prayed for them. My love is to mirror your love, but I realize I can love so much more than I have loved until now. Help me today to increase my love and let go of those remnants of egoism that hold me back from a Christ-like love.

Resolution: Today I will make a list of those souls immediately before me for whom I can do a hidden act of charity. I will pray for them, speak well of them, and look for a significant way to serve their needs as I would if they were Christ himself.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter "Supernatural Secrets"

Jesus said to his disciples: "If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ´Show us the Father´? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it." (John 14:7-14)

Introductory Prayer: Father, how empty is the life that doesn’t know the joy of Jesus your Son. I have come to this prayer today to know you and your Son better, to love you more and to imitate your perfections. Thank you for this time of prayer.

Petition: Father, help me to be aware of your presence in my soul.

1. The Father and Jesus Are One: The liturgy gives us a second look at this Gospel passage. The great truth that Jesus is sharing with Philip is that as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus and the Father are one – they are inseparable. We worship Christ. We don’t merely honor him as the best of men; he is the God-man whom we adore. What Jesus is by nature we are empowered to be by grace. With our baptism, we became adopted children of God. Brought into the family of the Trinity, the divine persons dwell in our soul as in a temple. Do we realize the dignity we have been given?

2. Doing the Same Works As Jesus: Herein lies the possibility of doing the works of Jesus. If he lives in us, he can work through us. What an opportunity to cooperate with grace! When we are loving, kind and disciplined, we aren’t merely being good. These good deeds are more than just good; they have an eternal value. After all, they are the “works of Jesus.” We receive the reward for his works. Such is the generosity of the Master whom we serve!

3. Ask and You Shall Receive: The name of Jesus is powerful. He commands us to ask in his name for the things we need so that in granting them to us, the Father may be glorified. When we kneel before the tabernacle, we must approach the Lord with total and absolute confidence. He knows that our faith will grow when we experience his power in action: “Ask and you shall receive!” (Matthew 7:7-9).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, what a consoling thought is it that the Holy Trinity dwells in my soul. I am a child of God! Help me to do the works of God! I ask this in your name.

Resolution: Because God dwells in my soul I will try to treat others as he would treat them.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter "Our Gaze Fixed on Christ"

Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father´s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way." Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:1-6)

Introductory Prayer: Father, how empty is the life that doesn’t know the joy of Jesus your Son. I have come to this prayer today to know you and your Son better, to love you more and to imitate your perfections. Thank you for this time of prayer.

Petition: Lord Jesus, grant me a greater intensity in my relationship with you, the Way, the Truth and the Life!

1. Follow Me, I Am the Way: Remember the olden days, when you would stop in a gas station and ask directions? “Follow me” was the easiest way to give directions. Something like that is happening in the Gospel today. To Thomas’ question, “How can we know the way?” Jesus gives himself as the answer. We know the way with infallible precision. A personal and passionate relationship with Christ is the sure way through this confusing world. Let us keep our relationship with Jesus always on our spiritual GPS. Whenever we have a doubt, we should ask ourselves, “How would Jesus act in this situation? What is the path he would follow?”

2. Believe in Me, I Am the Truth: Jesus gives his followers a truth so rock solid, that nothing can shake them. Just as he is the Way, he is also the Truth. “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). With the Truth of Jesus, we have the answer to basically any question we need to ask. What a comfort it is to have Jesus as the Truth in this world of jaded souls and in this climate of relativism.

3. Come to Me, I Am the Life: “He’s the life of the party” is a compliment of high regard in certain circles. He’s the spark plug, the guarantee for an entertaining evening. If he’s not there, a deflated feeling hangs in the air and everybody wonders if there isn’t a better way to be spending their time. A life lived with Jesus is never dull. He is the “Life” of more than just a party. The Christian with an intense relationship with Christ is completely fulfilled — he is never bored, nor is he boring.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. I thank you for giving me the great grace of my Catholic faith. Help me to share with others the immense joy of this personal relationship you have given me.

Resolution: I will speak to someone today about having a personal relationship with Christ.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Feast of Saint Mark, evangelist "Our Turn"

And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16: 15-20)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for taking the time to be with me. There are things in life, Lord, that attract me, but you attract me more. I hope in you because you are always faithful to your promises. Maybe I don’t fully understand what it means to love, and maybe I don’t love the way I should, but I do love you.

Petition: Lord, help me to focus on what I can do to tell others of your love.

1. Christ: When Christ blesses, it happens. When he takes yeast and kneads it with three measures of flour, it leavens the dough all through. When he blesses the bread, it multiplies. When he blesses the Eucharist, he is there for us. Christ blesses his apostles. These are not just events of the past, for God’s word is a living word. He also wants to bless me and my work. How can I draw down Christ’s blessing upon me, my family, the people I love, and the work I do? All I have to do is ask him to bless me and believe that he can and wants to. He will take care of the rest.

2. Apostles: Imagine the apostles talking after the Ascension. Andrew might say to Peter, “Peter, Christ told us to preach to all nations.” “You are right, Andrew, we need to go to the next town,” Peter would agree. “No,” would urge Andrew, “we have to go to Athens and Rome.” Peter might object, “Athens and Rome! But we don’t know anyone there.” In an attempt to persuade him Andrew would add, “Peter, Jesus wanted us to begin here in Jerusalem because this is the largest Jewish city. However, he has shown that he has also called the Gentiles to the Church. We must go to their capitals, their cities of greatest influence so that they too might hear the message Jesus entrusted to us.” Despite their fears, they obeyed Christ and proclaimed the good news in new places.


3. Us: Now it is our turn. As it always has been, being an apostle today is difficult. As we get older, it gets harder. Nevertheless, it is our turn. We live at a crossroads of history. I know Christ is blessing me. He is sending me. I feel fear, but I know he is asking me to imitate the fidelity of the first apostles. He is only waiting for me to begin preaching so that he can bless all that I undertake in his name.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for coming. Thank you for giving the apostles the strength to resist and persevere. Now it is my turn. Grant me the graces I need to proclaim the good news.

Resolution: I live life but once. So today I will analyze how I use my time and resolve to eliminate one of the bad habits that leads me to waste time.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter "The Light of Life"

Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me." (John 12:44-50)

Introductory Prayer: Father, you have blessed me with this opportunity to pray. I come into your presence to please and glorify you. I offer it up for all those who are counting on me for spiritual support.

Petition: Lord, increase my hope so that I know that you are always guiding me.

1. Our Souls Were Made for the Light: Little children are scared of the dark – after all, monsters and ghosts live in the dark. Flick on the light switch, however, and all the fears dissipate. The real world is so much less scary when the light is on. What’s true for children is also true for us – but on a different level. We have many fears, and so many of them come because we are in the dark. We don’t know the future; we can’t control outcomes. We fear spiritual darkness because our souls were made for the light. But Jesus “came into the world as light.” When we know Jesus, the light has come into our lives, the fears vanish. We don’t know the future, but he does. We can’t control outcomes, but his providence guides all. Like the little child who is relieved when Mom or Dad comes into the dark room, with Jesus we can rest assured that everything will be okay.

2. Living in the Truth: If there is one thing that we should fear, it is ourselves. It is said that Saint Philip Neri used to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “Lord, watch out for Philip lest he betray you again today.” The Lord speaks of a self-inflicted condemnation that comes from not accepting his words. When we feel the inner tug of our pride or sensuality, beckoning us to confide more in ourselves than in Christ, then we need to pause. It is like a spiritual red flag telling us that our adherence to Jesus’ words is waning. If we stick with Christ, and abhor the thought of going our own way rather than his, we will avoid that inner darkness which is far more fearsome than anything in the world.

3. The Father’s Command Is Eternal Life: The philosophy of the 1960’s has left a long trail of wreckage that persists to this day. “Do your own thing!” the Woodstock creed, would have us believe that self-assertion is the key to happiness. As counterintuitive as it may sound, obedience is really the key. Jesus was the man that could walk on water, pacify storms with the snap of the finger, and provide dinner for thousands with a few loaves and fish. Yet he teaches that happiness doesn’t lie in power. Rather it lies in obedience to the Father’s command. Obeying him is the road to eternal life: fulfillment beyond our wildest dreams.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, take away all my fears. I know that my true good is to be found in loving you and following you. Give me the strength to obey the Father and so find the eternal life that I seek.

Resolution: I will fulfill my spiritual commitments perfectly today.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter "Nobody Can Steal From Jesus"

The feast of the Dedication was then taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father´s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father´s hand. The Father and I are one." (John 10: 22-30)

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, I believe you are who you say you are. Thank you for granting me this gift of faith. You came so that we, the lost sheep, may be found. Thank you. You brought us knowledge of who we are and what we are worth.

Petition: Lord, help me to hear your voice when you are calling in the night.

1. Kept in Suspense: Suspense is a state or a character of being undecided or doubtful. How many times have we been in suspense, waiting for Christ to do amazing things in our lives, doubting that he could save such lowly sinners like ourselves? Are we undecided in believing in Christ? He has already told us and shown us through his works who and what he is. We are to be his sheep and await him; sheep know their shepherd’s voice, and they follow their shepherd. Then we can await eternal life. Suspense also means “to have a pleasant excitement as to a decision or an outcome.” What is the outcome of life? It is true salvation, and it is eternity with the heavenly Father. Today, as in every day, we should have a “pleasant excitement” in waiting for our outcome. As we go to bed at night we should look at Christ and say, “Another day closer to heaven.”

2. Spiritually Blind: Christ is always standing right beside us. What in our lives is blinding us from seeing him? In human terms, seeing comes through the senses. However, we need a spiritual connection with our Lord in order to see him: The spirit replaces human sight. Once that connection is made, we see God everywhere: in people, in charitable actions, in the beauty of nature. Then, we see him in ourselves. When we see Christ in us, we begin to have peace and assurance that we may yield abundantly.

3. Yield Harvest: Christ’s peace flows in us when we are open and begin to see the path to salvation. Think about how the water of spring rain brings forth life that yields a good harvest. We believe in living water. This living water provides us peace and harmony in Christ. It fills us and brings forth in us work accomplished in peace. Believing and abiding in Christ yield great successes, rich harvests. Let us be watered by trust and bear much fruit in the name of Christ. Come, Lord Jesus.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you have called me many times. Many times I have turned a deaf ear to you, not believing that you could carry my burdens. Help me today, Lord, to believe in you; help me to testify to you, Lord; help me to be amongst your sheep that I may follow you. When I think it is too hard, help me to seek you in prayer and see what you have told me to believe, so that I may have eternal life in you and through you.

Resolution: Today I will speak to at least one person about God’s infinite love and mercy.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter "Going Through the Gate"

Jesus said: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers." Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly." (John 10:1-10)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are here with me. This time with you now in prayer is the most important time in my day. I know that you have prepared many graces for me. I wish to take advantage of them with grateful fervor.

Petition: Lord, help me to go through the gate! May I hear no other voices but yours!

1. Jesus Is the Gate: We all want to be happy. There is no one on the face of the planet who would consciously choose to be frustrated and miserable. Yet how is it that so many people unconsciously choose to be, or are missing the boat on what really makes life worthwhile? Jesus is the gate! If we truly want to fulfill our deepest human aspirations, we have to know and love Jesus Christ. As long as Jesus is second to anything or anyone in our life, we have not fully passed through the gate. Taking the plunge and truly passing through the gate is the best decision we could ever make.

2. The Voice of Strangers: If we don’t go through the gate, we are vulnerable. Those who are not fully committed may find the offers of strangers quite enticing. But Christ’s sheep reject those voices out of fidelity to their Shepherd. Perseverance in our Catholic faith and our Catholic lifestyle requires a constant effort to refocus on the Lord. Even if we are besieged by a cacophony of competing voices, the voice of the Lord will always rise above that din. We must be faithful. Our prayer life is the privileged place to screen out the noise and truly hear Christ, which is why our prayer is the most important time of the day. How vibrant is my prayer life?

3. Abundant Life: The effort to go through the gate and to listen only to the voice of the Good Shepherd pays abundant dividends. “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” What is that life like? Put simply, there’s nothing like it. The abundant life that Christ gives us is the indwelling presence of the Holy Trinity in one’s soul. It is the love that envelops authentically Christian homes and communities. It is the peace that comes from a conscience that has experienced forgiveness and is committed to living in the truth. What could anyone give us that can possibly compare to all of this?

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I thank you for this time we have spent together. Many times I have allowed other voices to distract me from yours. I pledge to walk the path of fidelity to you. Grant me the grace to persevere always and to give others an example to help them through the gate.

Resolution: I will reach out to a relative who is estranged from the Church, reflecting some of the love of Christ the Good Shepherd with hopes it will direct him or her to the gate.

God Shepherd Sunday




The pastor of a rich suburban parish was speaking to the Sunday school kids. He told them that as the pastor he was like a shepherd and the members of his congregation were the sheep. He then put this question to them: “What does the shepherd do for the sheep?” A little fellow in the front row raised his hands and answered, “He fleeces them.” True enough, shepherds go into the business for the purpose of fleecing, milking and feeding on the sheep. But when the Bible speaks of the leaders of God’s people as shepherds, it envisions leaders who feed, protect and feel with the people as a good shepherd does for his flock.

In the New Testament, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, fulfilling God’s oath to his people. His mission is to the lost sheep of Israel. He will leave the ninety-nine in the flock in search of the one lost stray. He will lay down his life for his sheep. He will be the shepherd at the last judgment who will separate the sheep from the goats.

We saw last week how Jesus commissioned Peter to be his successor as Shepherd of the flock. (John 21:15) Today the symbol of the shepherd, the shepherd’s crook, the crosier, is used by Pope and Bishops, successors of Peter and the Apostles, at Liturgical functions. The symbol of the shepherd is also present on the Parish level in the Pastor, which in Latin means shepherd.

The people of Israel and the early Christian community cherished this image of the Good Shepherd. In Biblical times sheep were very important. They provided both food and clothing. The pastures available were such that they imposed on the shepherd the nomadic life. He had to travel with his sheep from one region to another as the seasons changed. This created a close rapport between the shepherd and his sheep. The Shepherd cares for his sheep, calls them by name, leads them to pasture and water, finds shelter for them in inclement weather, defends them against bandits and wolves, and willing lays down his life for them. The sheep have great confidence in the shepherd. They recognize his voice, obey his commands, and they follow wherever he leads them. The people of Israel and the early Christian community understood the rapport between the shepherd and his sheep. This image of the Good Shepherd does not move us as it did the people of Israel, and the early Christians. But if we really want to understand the Scriptures and to know our true relationship with God we must understand the image of the Shepherd and his sheep.

In biblical times there were two kinds of shepherds. There was the hired one for which keeping the sheep was just another job available. He could move from one flock to the other depending on the conditions of service, but he would not risk his life for them. Seeing the wolves or thieves coming he would flee for his life and leave the flock at the mercy of the invaders. Jesus said that he is not that kind of shepherd.

Then there is the shepherd-owner of the flock who grows up with the flock and stays with the same flock all his life.(we are talking about a personal God, not impersonal, a close one, not distant) He knows each and every sheep in the flock individually. He calls each one by name and could tell a personal story of each of the sheep, “when and where they were born, there problems they have in life (worries, difficulties), there personal characteristics (personalities: skills, weaknesses), etc. 
He gives personal attention to each and every one of the sheep. He knows which one is likely to lag behind after a long walk and he would go and carry that one on his shoulders (specially the little ones: it will be good for you and me to be always “little ones”). He knows which one was likely to stray from the flock and He would keep an eye on that one when they get to dangerous places. He knows which ones are pregnant and need a special kind of food, He knew which one were sick and provided medicine and care…. 
When attacked by wolves or thieves he would fight to the death to defend even one of his sheep. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

(By the way, the expression "laying down one's life" comes from the fact that the sheep were kept in an enclosed space with only an opening for the sheep to go in and out. At night the shepherd usually lay inconveniences like this for the good of his sheep. If any got lost he would climb mountains and hills looking for it and calling out its name. And whether the lost sheep had fallen into a pit or was trapped in a bush of thorns, as soon as it heard the voice of its master it would bleat and the shepherd would go and rescue it.)

Unfortunately, shepherds and sheep are not very common or relevant in our high tech, computerized world. And we do not like to think of ourselves as dumb, submissive animals. We are sophisticated human beings. We have an intellect and a free will, we go where we will and do what we want. And we don’t like sheep dogs yapping and snapping at our feet. But perhaps we are more like sheep than we care to admit. Just like sheep we seem to be oblivious of everything except the plot of grass that surrounds us here and now. We spend all of our time feathering this little nest here as if it will go on forever. Just like sheep we are not conscious of the ravenous wolves that surround us in the counter-culture in which we live. To say nothing of the wolves that comes to us in sheep’s clothing. And just like sheep we always think that the grass is greener on the other side, so we stray from the flock. Whether we appreciate it or not, the image of the Good Shepherd and his sheep is enshrined forever in the Bible and in Christianity. And in reality and truth it fits every generation, even our own.

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” (John 10: 27) We should have a quiet time each day. Turn off the radio, TV, internet, cell phone, put everything that distract you of the voice of God our Shepherd and learn to recognize His voice in prayer (come to spend one hour or some minutes in Adoration, open the Bible in the Gospels and get to know the person of Jesus-we can not love what we don’t know). What a great blessing it is to be able to recognize the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and to follow him with great joy and confidence wherever he may lead us.

As today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we need to ask ourselves two important questions. (1) Am I a faithful member of God’s flock? Only those sheep that follow the guidance of the shepherd could ever hope to arrive at the green pastures or be safe from the ravenous wolves. (2) How could I participate more closely in the work of shepherding God’s flock? Bishops and pastors, as well as Sunday school teachers and ushers – all participate in various forms of shepherding God’s flock. How can I be a better shepherd in my own state, reaching out with understanding and compassion to the weak and misguided dropouts of church and society, so that through me they may hear the loving voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd?

Lord, you are my Shepherd. With you, there is nothing I shall want. I will always keep my eyes fixed on your rod and staff. My courage will never falter if you are at my side.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sunday, 5th week of Easter "See How They Love One Another"

When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 31-33a, 34-35 )

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are here with me. I am privileged to have this private audience with you. Aware of my weakness, I hope in your mercy and love. I open my heart now to you, to the wisdom, mercy and good news of your Gospel, for through it you wish to guide me home to rest eternally with you in heaven. Thank you for your boundless love. Take my weak, poor love in return, as it is all I have to offer you.

Petition: Lord, help me to imitate you by accepting and forgiving others.

1. The Sign of True Discipleship Nowadays, words alone are empty; they need to be backed up by actions. All too often we have experienced that zealous politician or marketer who makes promises that we instinctively know are too good to be true. We want to believe the good they promise, but experience has taught us to have a healthy sense of skepticism. Unfortunately, this contemporary disbelief of “too good to be true” could also be said of Christianity. Christians are to be known by their love for one another. In my marriage, with my children, and in my social circle, am I known for my Christ-like love? In particular, am I capable of accepting others as they are, of seeing their way of being in a good light? Though I set high standards, do my spouse and children truly find rest, light and solace in my company?

2. The High Standard of Love The film “Love Story” had a classic line: “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” As Christians, though, we are aware of our weak nature and tendency to sin. We need to ask pardon – frequently. More often than not, the souls we hurt are those closest to us: our spouse, a child, a parent or in-law. The disciples, too, had their squabbles with each other. The love that bound them, exhorted them to make peace with one another as Christ makes peace with his Church: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Is my love great enough to overlook the weaknesses of those who hurt me and turn my wounded ego to compassion and pardon? To err is human, but to forgive is divine.

3. Loving from the Heart Christ told his disciples, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). This applies as well to harboring grudges in our hearts. Love goes beyond kind words and actions to the very heart of man: to our thoughts. Although it may initially cause distress to our will to think well of those who have hurt us, it is truly therapeutic! Our Lord said, “From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy” (Matthew 15:19). Likewise, a heart that actively looks for the good in others will form the habit of speaking well and acting kindly towards those who naturally are displeasing. Thinking well of others renews our faith in God’s mercy. If we are merciful, how much more we can expect Our Lord to be patient and merciful with us!

Conversation with Christ: My Jesus, your life is witness of love to me. You forgave your enemies and even prayed for them. My love is to mirror your love, but I realize I can love so much more than I have loved until now. Help me today to increase my love and let go of those remnants of egoism that hold me back from a Christ-like love.

Resolution: Today I will make a list of those souls immediately before me for whom I can do a hidden act of charity. I will pray for them, speak well of them, and look for a significant way to serve their needs as I would if they were Christ himself.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter "Supernatural Secrets"

Jesus said to his disciples: "If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ´Show us the Father´? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it." (John 14:7-14)

Introductory Prayer: Father, how empty is the life that doesn’t know the joy of Jesus your Son. I have come to this prayer today to know you and your Son better, to love you more and to imitate your perfections. Thank you for this time of prayer.

Petition: Father, help me to be aware of your presence in my soul.

1. The Father and Jesus Are One: The liturgy gives us a second look at this Gospel passage. The great truth that Jesus is sharing with Philip is that as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus and the Father are one – they are inseparable. We worship Christ. We don’t merely honor him as the best of men; he is the God-man whom we adore. What Jesus is by nature we are empowered to be by grace. With our baptism, we became adopted children of God. Brought into the family of the Trinity, the divine persons dwell in our soul as in a temple. Do we realize the dignity we have been given?

2. Doing the Same Works As Jesus: Herein lies the possibility of doing the works of Jesus. If he lives in us, he can work through us. What an opportunity to cooperate with grace! When we are loving, kind and disciplined, we aren’t merely being good. These good deeds are more than just good; they have an eternal value. After all, they are the “works of Jesus.” We receive the reward for his works. Such is the generosity of the Master whom we serve!

3. Ask and You Shall Receive: The name of Jesus is powerful. He commands us to ask in his name for the things we need so that in granting them to us, the Father may be glorified. When we kneel before the tabernacle, we must approach the Lord with total and absolute confidence. He knows that our faith will grow when we experience his power in action: “Ask and you shall receive!” (Matthew 7:7-9).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, what a consoling thought is it that the Holy Trinity dwells in my soul. I am a child of God! Help me to do the works of God! I ask this in your name.

Resolution: Because God dwells in my soul I will try to treat others as he would treat them.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Friday of the Third Week of Easter "Seeking to Have Your Heart Filled"

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. (John 6: 52-59)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here and now as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, help me to face challenges and continue to follow you in faith.

1. What is it I Truly Seek? On the preceding day Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes to feed the multitude. The Jews realize there is something special here, that Jesus may be the Messiah, or at least a prophet. They are curious enough to continue following him and asking him questions. They have liked everything he has said up till now. Some of it they have not understood completely or correctly, but it has been close enough to what they are used to hearing that it causes them no great difficulty. They continue to ask questions, looking for understanding, especially understanding they can be comfortable with. What is my attitude when I question Our Lord about events and challenges in my life? Am I seeking to understand so I can embrace God’s plan better, or does my response depend on how much I comprehend?

2. Opening Our Horizons: Now Jesus has said something truly shocking. He wants them to eat his flesh and drink his blood! Up to this point, most of the crowd has been willing to accept him as a bread-provider. He fed them yesterday. Maybe, if they hang around long enough, he will do it again. Their ideas about the Messiah are too materialistic, based only on the re-establishment of David’s Kingdom at the expense of the Romans. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to take them to a new level. He wants to take them into the mystery of the loving generosity of God. As good as the manna in the wilderness was, he wants to give something much better. As wonderful as David’s Kingdom was, he wants to give a greater kingdom. This is so far beyond what they are looking for, they will not be able to understand what he is offering. It will have to be accepted in faith.

3. Great Gifts Come in Small Packages: We can understand many things, even many spiritual things. In his goodness, God has given us intelligence so that we can understand some of the truths about him. But these simpler truths don’t reveal the full glory of God. They are not as fulfilling as some of the more important truths about him. Jesus wants to give his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. He reveals this to the crowds, and since they lack faith, they don’t understand. Some straggle off to find another “wonder-worker”. Others, looking for understanding, go off to look for a “teacher” who makes sense to them. Hopefully, some are looking for the revelation of the mysteries of God, the greatest gifts that God can offer. They are not looking to fill their stomachs or their minds. They are looking to fill their hearts. These are the kinds of gifts that Jesus intends to give – and in abundance.

Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, so often I am looking for material gifts from you. Help me to realize that the greatest gifts you give may be beyond my understanding. Yet, if I am willing to accept them on faith, they will fill my heart. Perhaps with time, it will be possible for me to understand something of them as well, but greatness of faith lies in my trusting in you.

Resolution: What spiritual gift I am most in need of? Faith? Charity? Humility? Something else? Today I will set aside some time to ask God in prayer to grant me that gift.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter "Bread for Eternity"

Jesus said to the crowds: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world." (John 6: 44-51)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here and now as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord Jesus, help me value more the gift of yourself in the Eucharist.

1. A Gift from the Loving Father: The Father is the one who sent him and who will draw souls to him. “No one can come to me unless the Father draw him.” So, those individuals who heard Christ’s words and were drawn to him that day were doing so because of a gift of faith from the Father. If we today have faith in Christ, it also is a gift from the Father, who wants to draw us to his Son. If we have doubts or weakness in faith, we should ask the Father to draw us nearer to his Son and to help us believe with our whole heart and mind.

2. The Word Was Made Flesh: Christ’s birth took place in the town of Bethlehem, which in Hebrew (bĂȘth-lehem) means "house of bread." He was also laid in a manger, where food for animals would normally be placed. Before becoming bread which would be our food, Christ first became man. Merely giving us some specially blessed bread would not be nearly as significant as giving himself. That is how God always loves: by giving himself completely and without reserve.

3. His Flesh Was Made Bread: The Gospel accounts of Christ multiplying the loaves report he did so out of compassion for the crowd: "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way" (Matthew 15:32). This same compassion moves him to give himself as our bread in the Eucharist. He does not want us to die for lack of spiritual nourishment. Christ—in the greatest gesture of humility—became man like us, the same in every way except sin. But in an even greater gesture of humility, he descended further still to become our spiritual food.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, how can I not trust in you? You have already become human just like me. Then you descend to an even humbler state of service to become food for my soul. Help me to receive you in the Eucharist with gratitude, fully aware of your loving presence.

Resolution: I will start preparing my heart today to attend Mass this Sunday and receive Christ lovingly in Communion.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter "You Will Never Be Lost Where I Cannot Find You."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day." (John 6: 35-40 )

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here and now as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, help me to have a deeper confidence and trust in you.

1. An Empty Hole the Size of Christ: “It’s like I had a big hole in my heart, and I couldn’t fill it with anything.” So exclaimed someone who recently came back to the sacraments after being away for many years. She was hungering and thirsting for Christ, and, thankfully, Christ didn’t permit anything else to fill the place in her heart where only he belonged. On re-encountering Christ—in his mercy in confession, in his nourishing grace in communion—she was able to experience the benefits promised by Christ himself: “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” Every one of us invariably finds holes in our hearts, small or not so small. Only Christ belongs there. To welcome Christ back in our hearts, we must seek out his mercy and nourishing grace.

2. Then Why Are You Afraid? If what we need is Christ and what we truly long for is Christ, then what keeps us from going to him? Sometimes it is our pride, or spiritual laziness, or maybe superficiality in our spiritual life. But behind these reasons is often a fear that if we open ourselves to Christ, we will somehow lose out. Benedict XVI addressed this fear in his first homily as Pope: “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything. When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundred-fold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life. Amen” (Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, April 24, 2005).

3. Can You Tell Me Where the Lost-and-Found Is? These are words that Christ has never spoken—nor ever will. It is his Father’s will that Christ lose none of those entrusted to him. Christ never fails in his mission. Rather, in today’s reading he promises: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” This is our guarantee that we will never be abandoned and left without his grace to support us. There will be no difficulty, obstacle, or temptation too great for him to help us overcome.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I trust in you. Despite the real struggles and obstacles in my path now, I know that you are leading me towards you. You are the only one who can fill the depths of my heart. Somehow, mysteriously, each of these trials is part of making that a reality.

Resolution: When faced with any obstacle today—even if it is small—I will say a quick prayer entrusting the situation to Christ.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter "The Unbearable Sign"

The crowd said to Jesus, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.´" So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." (John 6: 30-35)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here and now as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, increase my faith in you and in your Eucharistic presence.

1. God Sets the Table: For the Israelites in the time of Exodus, the manna from heaven was a saving gift. It descended daily from heaven so that they would not starve on the journey, but be sustained and strengthened to be able to reach the Promised Land. The passage through the desert was arduous and long, but every morning there was enough manna to collect and sustain them well for that day. The true bread from heaven that the Father gives us—Christ in the Eucharist—does just the same for our souls: It nourishes us that we might not starve here, where spiritual food is scarce. It sustains and strengthens us, so we will be able to reach our eternal promised land.

2. In the Church we are Truly Fed: Those with no hunger need no bread, so they do not ask for it. Those who are hungry make or buy the bread they need. However, every man hungers in his soul for a bread that he cannot produce on his own and that no one can make for him. His only recourse to receive this sustenance is humbly to ask the only one capable of giving it; he must come before the Lord with open hands and an open heart. “Sir, give us this bread always.” It is a bread both from eternity and for eternity. It satisfies our deepest hunger. But the “bread from heaven” is no bread made by human hands. Christ can give himself only to those who recognize their need for him and who ask, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

3. Beyond Our Wildest Dreams: Could anyone have dreamt that God would descend among us as a man? Could anyone have imagined that he would descend further still to be our bread? Is there anything left that he would not do for us? To receive this unimaginable gift of his bread requires two things: “Whoever comes to me…” and “Whoever believes in me….” Coming to Christ requires moving—getting up from where we are, going to where he is, letting go of whatever our hands clench, and turning our palms up to be filled with his gifts. To believe in Christ is to place our faith and confidence in him. It is to take him at his word and to accept in awe the truth of his real presence in the Eucharist.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, your real presence in the Eucharist is something I need to believe more with my heart. I do believe that with your bread I will never hunger and that with faith in you I will never thirst. Help me to grow in faith in your Real Presence. I know you will lead me to love you more through this precious gift of yourself.

Resolution: I will stop by a Catholic church to spend a few moments with Christ in the Eucharist, speaking with him, asking for a stronger faith in him.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Monday of the Third Week of Easter "The Sincere Search for Christ"

After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea. The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." (John 6: 22-29)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here and now as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, increase my faith.

1. Food of Eternal Life: Some television evangelists preach a “Gospel of Prosperity,” promising financial and health benefits or general well-being for those who follow Christ in their church. “Good things will come your way!” they say. While these earthly things are good, Christ shows us that his greatest gifts are not the “loaves that fill,” but the grace and eternal life that can be ours through faith. Faith is both our offering to God and his gift to us. It opens our heart to receive the gift that never perishes: eternal life.

2. No Complacency in Faith: Christ didn’t stay with the crowds, but rather he crossed over to Capernaum. The crowds, still full with the bread of the miracle of the loaves, had to figure out where Christ went, get in their boats, and find him. When Christ seems to have moved on us, we need to get into our boat and row—to look for him, to seek him in prayer, to be renewed in his sacraments. He wants us to follow him pro-actively, not passively sitting on the shore with our boat in dry-dock. We need to shove off into the waters of prayer and row.

3. What Must We Do? “This is the work of God….” Our belief (faith) in the one the Father sent is the result of both God’s work in our lives and our work to use and make that gift of faith grow. Above all, faith is God’s gift to us. But it is a gift that grows only when we exercise it, use it, and ask for more. Just as a runner must run more to be a better runner, to believe more we need to believe more. Only then is our heart open to receive the gift of greater faith.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I don’t want to settle for seeking only the “loaves that fill,” but the joy and salvation that comes from believing in you. “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Show me what I must do to follow you. Make your path clear to me, and give me the strength to follow it.

Resolution: When faced with any difficulty, obstacle, or frustration today, I will exercise my faith in God and seek to do his will.


Continuation on the Sunday Bulletin Pastor's Blog "Learning to praise and worship the Lord in The Easter Season"

Learning to praise and worship the Lord in The Easter Season

The Easter season is a continued meditation of the glory of God and Christ’s victory. The Lord lives and is raised from the dead and, as He said in John 12: 32, " when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” Christ is raised, and He raises with Him those who believe in His name. Christ is raised and His victory gives unity to all creation so that He can present it as an acceptable offering to the altar on high.

Easter is the most proper time to join our voices with the choirs of Heaven. This is our chance to ask our loving Mother to wrap up in her maternal mantle all that we are doing in our family here at St. Mark’s. We have the Centennial Celebrations events, the new baptized & confirmed members of the parish, the Bible Study, Catholic Studies @ St. Mark’s, etc. This ought to be a time when we become more aware that we only have one Church: the Body of Christ.

During Lent we learn to train ourselves in fasting and repentance of our sins. Now during Easter the Church invites us to exercise and practice praising, worshiping and thanksgiving. One thing is true: our hearts need to reject sin as absolutely evil and learn how to rejoice in the good.
The apostles certainly learned these lessons. After being punished unjustly and cruelly, as related in the First Reading this Sunday, they, fortified by the Holy Spirit, were able not only to give testimony with their suffering but also to rejoice in the midst of their suffering, which is the greatest testimony possible to the One who gave them strength and joy.
Thus we see that everything depends on the quality of love that moves us. Three times Peter denied Jesus during the scandalous Passion of our Lord; after the storm was past, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. That explicit testimony of love had one specific purpose: to heal wounds caused by fear, vanity and pride.

I want to close with one final theme of the Easter season: finding love worthy of that name. Easter is the time that connects the Resurrection of the Lord and Pentecost. These chronological boundaries have a purpose: the Resurrection and Pentecost are the greatest expressions of a love that destroys and defeats sin and death. During this time, let’s devote some of our prayer to meditating on that love.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Third Sunday of Easter "The Fisher of Men Is Not Let off the Hook"

After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee´s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will come with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No." So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord." When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you just caught." So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast." And none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, "Follow me." (John 21: 1-19)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that you are present here and now as I turn to you in prayer. I trust and have confidence in your desire to give me every grace I need to receive today. Thank you for your love, thank you for your immense generosity toward me. I give you my life and my love in return.

Petition: Lord, you know that I love you, but increase my love.

1. Peter Receives Poor Job Performance Ratings: The Lord has given Peter a job, and he expects Peter to do it. But Peter has proven himself unworthy; he denied Jesus three times in the house of the High Priest on the night Jesus was handed over. When Jesus needed him most, Peter turned away from him. What is Jesus’ response? Does he take away the leadership position from Peter and give it to someone else? Hasn’t John shown that he is better suited to be the leader of the apostles, to be the rock Jesus can build his Church on? He never ran away or denied Jesus, even when the High Priest, knowing John was also a disciple, could easily have killed him along with Jesus. Yet Jesus does not take the job away from Peter and give it to John. Rather, he turns to Peter again and expresses his confidence in him.

2. Peter Overestimates Himself through Pride: Peter had a deep love for Jesus, but not deep enough. On the night of the Last Supper, he thought he was capable of dying for Jesus, but he was wrong. When the test came, Peter came up short. Like Peter, we tend to overestimate our own readiness to follow Jesus. We do fine under ordinary circumstances, but when difficult moments come – temptations, opposition, even persecution – we fail. Like Peter, we come up short. We love the Lord, but not enough. Jesus’ reaction to us is the same: He does not lose confidence in us. Neither does he let us off the hook. He expects us to grow into the job.

3. The Job Is Yours; Keep Working on the Qualifications: What is Peter’s shortcoming? He doesn’t love Jesus enough. His love was real, but there were still things greater than his love – his fear for instance. On the night of the Last Supper, he ran away when Jesus was arrested. He denied Jesus three times. In each instance, his fear was greater than his love. To be the first Pope, he needed greater love than that. He needed a love without limits. That is why Jesus asks him three times: “Do you love me?” He is telling Peter that the qualification for the job is unlimited love. Peter has to have an unlimited love in order to be the rock on which Jesus builds his Church. Jesus is not letting him off the hook. He isn’t giving the job to someone else. Peter has to get that love, just as I have to develop an unlimited love to qualify for the tasks in life that Jesus has given me.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I know that when you gave me the responsibilities I have, you gave me the grace to fulfill them, too. Help me not to be lazy or irresponsible in serving you. Encourage me like you encouraged Peter, so I can fulfill all you expect from me in this life.

Resolution: I will work on improving myself today. Maybe I can find a spiritual book that will help me get closer to God. Maybe I can find a class or conference that will help me in some aspect of what God expects from me – parenting, prayer, charity, etc. – and sign up for it today.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter "Walking on the Water"

When it was evening, his disciples went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid." They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. (John 6:16-21)

Introductory Prayer: I come before you, Lord, poor and unworthy. Yet you welcome me with such love. With my effort during this meditation I want to make a small return on your great kindness.

Petition: May I never give into my fears, knowing that you are always at my side.

1. Rough Times: Moments in our lives can be aptly symbolized by this reading: rough waters, darkness and little headway. At times the waters of our soul are stirred up by our unchecked emotions, our pride or vanity; we lose the sense of direction and seem to be rowing with futility. Could it be any other way if Christ is not in our boat? When we are struggling, we should take a look at our prayer life. Therein, perhaps, lies the answer to some of our difficulties.

2. I AM! Jesus’ response to the fear of his disciples is a majestic word indeed. Translated here as “It is I,” literally in Greek it is “I am,” the divine name used by God when speaking to Moses from the burning bush. It is a name that speaks of presence and power. God is not watching our travails ineffectually from afar. He comes to our aid, as he does to the disciples’ in this story.

3. The Safe Port: The immediate arrival of the boat to the shore described in this passage is something very hard to imagine. For the disciples, it must have been almost like waking up from a nightmare, going from the danger of the rough waters in the middle of the sea to finding themselves already with Christ at the shore. What might this be telling us? Perhaps that once we decide to take Christ in our boat, we have, in a sense, already reached our destination.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to not to be swept away by the rough waters of my pride, vanity and sensuality. When I make no progress, whom do I have to blame except myself? Yet I trust in your mercy. Your divine presence reassures me. Lord, never leave my boat!

Resolution:I will make a visit to the Eucharist today to renew my complete trust in Christ.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Friday of the Second Week of Easter "Our Meager Gifts to God"

After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred days´ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people recline." Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. (John 6:1-15)

Introductory Prayer: I come before you, Lord, poor and unworthy. Yet you welcome me with such love. With my effort during this meditation I want to make a small return on your great kindness.

Petition: Lord, help me to understand the trials you send me and to value your gift of grace.

1. The Trials of Life: The Gospel tells us that Jesus “tests” the disciples, watching the reaction they have to seemingly impossible situations. This test in the shortage of food may well have induced a panic. As the apostles looked out at the vast crowd, they felt totally inadequate in the face of such need. Perhaps in that sense, they passed the test. Christ wanted them to experience that human ingenuity alone could not be the foundation of the Church. No matter how smart the apostles or their successors are, the needs of the souls and the world will always vastly outstrip our human capacity. So what’s the answer? There’s only one: the Lord!

2. The Insufficient Gift: While the disciples are confused, a little boy is generous. With innocence and simplicity, he walks up with his basket. With this food, the Lord will do something wonderful. Perhaps Our Lord was thinking about this boy when he said, “Unless you become like a child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The disciples are being given a beautiful lesson in this trusting child: give everything over to Christ; it doesn’t matter how little it may seem to you or others — with his divine power, great things can happen with our five loaves and two fish.

3. Let Nothing Be Wasted: It’s interesting that Our Lord sends out the disciples as a cleanup crew after this big meal. One insight that we can draw from this is the value of God’s grace. Even though the Lord’s power is infinite, we should not become complacent and view his grace as some commodity in oversupply. It is precious and should not be wasted. Yet, that would seem to be exactly what happens. We have received so many sacraments, but we are far from being saints. This speaks to us again of the marvelous patience of the Lord. Even when we don’t fully appreciate the value of his gifts, he doesn’t stop giving them.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I see the compassion in your eyes when you look out at the vast crowd. They are hungry, but I am poor and weak in the face of such need. Come to my aid! Give the grace I need to cooperate generously with you in the ongoing work of redemption.

Resolution:I will be generous in helping others, trusting more in God’s grace than in myself.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Memorial of Saint Stanislaus, bishop and martyr "Gift From on High"

The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. (John 3:31-36)

Introductory Prayer: I come before you, Lord, poor and unworthy. Yet you welcome me with such love. With my effort during this meditation I want to make a small return on your great kindness.

Petition: Help me to cooperate with your greatest gift, the Holy Spirit.

1. No Rationing: Jesus does not ration the gift of the Spirit. By and through the Holy Spirit, Christ lifts our whole life to another plane. The Lord’s generosity is amazing. Think of the Eucharist. Every time we receive the Lord, he leaves in our soul a renewal and deepening of the Holy Spirit’s presence. With every communion we are preparing our bodies and souls for the immortality of the Resurrection. Of course, such a gift invites a response. In the face of such generosity, how can we be stingy in return?

2. A Gift of Unity: The gift of the Spirit is vital for our human relationships. Jesus’ ardent prayer at the Last Supper was for the unity of his disciples: “that they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you” (John 17:21). For a unity like that, the Holy Spirit is absolutely indispensable. The gift of the Spirit, in order to be effective, provides the antidote for all our tendencies to disunity. The Spirit combats our pride and egotism by reminding us of Christ’s humility. He stirs up the realization that we have to live in charity and provides us with the strength to give without counting the cost. He enables us to persevere in unity.

3. A Personal Gift: The depths of our hearts is where we ultimately experience this gift of the Spirit. But at times we feel more like a dry well than a spring of water welling up to eternal life (cf. John 4:14). The Holy Spirit is at work — in abundance — no less in the moments of dryness than in the moments of consolation. He seeks to purify us of the petty attachments that hold us back. He directs us to seek God for his own sake and not to turn to him only as a divine dispenser of spiritual candy. But still, we should await the moment of consolation with the hope-filled knowledge that the Lord is near. When we experience this consolation, we will experience confirmation that the Lord’s gift of the Spirit is unlike any other!

Conversation with Christ: Lord, the Holy Spirit is the soul of Church. He is the gift you have given us with such generosity. Help us to live more in accord with this truth. Help us to be obedient when we are tempted to pride. Help us to love when we are tempted to reject. May your Holy Spirit constantly reinforce the bond that holds us together.

Resolution:I will foster charity by paying special attention to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter "Children of the Light"

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:16-21)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you know my needs better than I do. I turn to your Spirit to teach me what to ask for in this prayer. I want to fulfill your holy will over my life. I love you, Lord, and I place all my hope in you.

Petition: Lord, increase my faith in the power of the Resurrection.

1. God Loves the World: The tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean countries in 2004 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 provoked many people to question God’s goodness. How could he, if he is good, have permitted such a catastrophe? But what does our faith teach us? That God loves the world, so much that he sent his only Son. Evil in the world is real and present, and such massive casualties show that nature herself cooperates with the power of death. But that power is being broken. The first decisive blow to the chain that binds the world was Christ’s death on the cross. The execution of Our Lord was the greatest act of moral evil history can ever see, but through God’s power, it has become the source of eternal life for us all, as we now celebrate in this Easter season. Through the power of the Resurrection, we are journeying towards the ultimate defeat of suffering and death.

2. Sin Is the Worst Evil: The physical evil brought by a natural disaster is terrible. But sin is worse. This Gospel reading reminds us of souls who consciously choose evil. The irony is that people make this choice pursuing some form of self-fulfillment. Instead of fulfillment, they encounter the emptiness of a life that carries with it the burden of self-imposed condemnation. They live in darkness as opposed to the light. If we knew someone who freely chose to live in a darkened cave, we would think that person nothing short of insane. But where are the dark patches in our own lives?

3. Christ Leads Us Towards the Light: Christ’s body had been physically destroyed through the evil decisions and cruelty of men. When the risen Lord appeared to the apostles in the Upper Room, his new life of glory pointed in a new direction, and they were flooded with the vision of where we are heading. Through our life in the Church, we are heading to a renewal of all things in Christ, in which death will be no more, and where every tear will be wiped away. The physical evil of natural disasters and the moral evil of sin may try to challenge our faith. But they are the last gasps of a defeated enemy. Let us take heart! We are headed to the light, where Christ is King and Lord of all.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I long to live in the light. Banish from my soul all darkness of sin or disbelief. At times I struggle to see the pattern of your divine plan. But through my faith, I know that you are love and mercy and you are guiding us towards the light that will never end.

Resolution:I will renew my spiritual vision of the world by frequently lifting my mind up to God during the day.