Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday, Lent III: "the Kingdom of God has come upon you"

if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons

The coming of God's kingdom means the defeat of Satan's: "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." Jesus' exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus' great victory over "the ruler of this world". The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ's cross: "God reigned from the wood."
-- CCC 550

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday, Lent III: "Whoever obeys"

... will be called greatest

"To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to "hear or listen to") in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself.

-- CCC 144

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday, Lent III: "Do not let us be put to shame"

... but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy

God, "HE WHO IS", revealed himself to Israel as the one "abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness". These two terms express summarily the riches of the divine name. In all his works God displays, not only his kindness, goodness, grace and steadfast love, but also his trustworthiness, constancy, faithfulness and truth. "I give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness." He is the Truth, for "God is light and in him there is no darkness"; "God is love", as the apostle John teaches.
-- CCC 214

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday, Lent III: "Athirst is my soul for the living God"

When shall I go and behold the face of God?

"This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: 'Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,' that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort 'to proclaim the good news to the poor.' There is a famine on earth, 'not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.' For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist."
-- CCC 2835

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"If you knew the gift of God": our thirst is satisfied in Jesus Christ, the source of purity in faith and life

"... in their thirst for water, the people grumbled." God has made us dependent upon other sources for our lives: food, water, shelter, husbands for wives and wives for husbands, children for parents. We thirst for many things in order to be happy. Water, necessary for our continued physical existence, serves as a symbol for these many things we need in order to flourish, to be happy. When we are cut off from these sources we become unhappy, we "grumble". We also, sometimes, complain when we are told what we must do in order to be saved: when told we must go to Mass every Sunday, keep the Commandments, celebrate the Sacraments, pray.

Some Catholics leave the Church and go wandering, ending up in ecclesial groups or sects that allow them to pick and choose what they want to believe and what they want to do as if they are browsing in a cafeteria. They have forgotten, perhaps, that God reveals Himself and calls us to conform to what He reveals and, thus, it is not reasonable to demand that He conform Himself to our preferences and to our desires if we claim that it is God whom we truly want.

The "gift of God" in Jesus Christ is the one Savior, the one Source of Life who founded the Church and calls us to enjoy communion with Him and one another in the Church.

"There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit. The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become "the firstborn among many brethren," she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit. In praying "our" Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: "The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul." (CCC 2790)

In our Gospel today we meet a woman from the time of Jesus Christ who approached belief and life in much the same way as Catholics who reject the Church and her teaching authority which lead us securely in Christ to salvation. The Samaritan woman at the well is a "cafeteria believer" who follows an impure form of the true way of following God at that time as found among the Jews. And she has also strayed from living a morally upright life, for the man with whom she shares her bed is not her husband and she has married a number of men before him. But this woman has one thing that is full of promise: she listens to Jesus Christ and allows herself to be moved and changed. She is open to the Spirit of God who converts us from idolatry to the worship and life of the true God and is ready for a thirst-quenching draught of the pure waters flowing from their source in Jesus Christ.

" 'If you knew the gift of God!' The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. (CCC 2560)

When we try to make of faith a "do-it-yourself" project we end up without the source of grace which flows from the sole Savior who founded the Church as the place of Faith and the font of Baptism, the first moment when we first drink of Jesus, the bearer of the waters of life.

"The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As 'by one Spirit we were all baptized,' so we are also 'made to drink of one Spirit.' Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life." (CCC 694)

In the Eucharistic feast of His Body and Blood, these thirst-quenching waters continue to flow and to sustain the baptized believer in faith and life.

"In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a 'Baptism' with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible 'to be born of water and the Spirit' in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
"See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved." (CCC 1225)
Jesus Christ is the "gift of God"! He gives Himself, the sole Savior and the source of life-giving water in the Church. We must whole-heartedly and exclusively seek Him if we would be saved. We seek Him in regular and heart-felt prayer, that of holy Mass on Sundays and holy days and personal prayer at other times.

" 'You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.' Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: 'They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!' Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God. (CCC 2561)

Broken cisterns are the result of picking and choosing what we will or will not believe or what we will or will not do. Only seeking the whole Christ in the Word proclaimed by the Church and in the sacraments celebrated by the Church will sustain us in our desire to grow in faith and life. Only Jesus can give us in Himself the gift of God which will truly quench our deepest thirst: eternal Life.

S Margaret Clitherow, English martyr: "He redeems your life from destruction"

... he crowns you with kindness and compassion
-- Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. "Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God."
-- CCC 2473

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday, Lent II: "Blessed"

is the man who trusts in the LORD
-- Jer 17:5-10

It means trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity. A prayer of St. Teresa of Jesus wonderfully expresses this trust:

Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you
Everything passes / God never changes
Patience / Obtains all
Whoever has God / Wants for nothing
God alone is enough.
-- CCC 227

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

S Toribio de Mogrovejo: "Remember that I stood before you"

to speak in their behalf
-- Jer 18:18-20

It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity "to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice."
-- CCC 2442

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday, Lent II: "cease doing evil"

learn to do good
-- Is 1:10, 16-20

Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.
-- CCC 1777

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday, Lent II: "We have sinned"

we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.
-- Dn 9:4b-10

Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight." Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.
-- CCC 1850

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"He led them up": the journeys of life and the pilgrimage to Eternity

As the weather becomes warm again and invites us outdoors we begin to think of the journeys we might take to new places or old familiar and favorite retreats during the Easter vacation and summer months. The movement from one place to another made necessary by the goal of a vacation is filled with anticipation. I am now in my final days of training for a journey by foot of 26.2 miles in next week's National Marathon. The path that leads me to that event has taken the form of a series of smaller outings by foot up hills and down to prepare the body and mind for the daunting physical challenge ahead.

Many of our journeys promise adventure and entice us with the promise of new people to meet and new experiences to enjoy. And when we finally arrive at our destination we are sometimes tempted to leave our ordinary existence behind and to say with Peter: "this is very good; let's pitch our tents and stay a while". But, as is true of everything in this world, even the most beautiful and happiest moments of our lives are short and fleeting. Our mountaintops of joy are set off from each other by the valleys of everyday life and even sometimes by sorrow.

Some journeys take on this aspect of sorrow or can inspire fear, causing as they can a certain foreboding with their mystery of the unknown and even the potential for danger along the road ahead. When this happens we may even begin to fear the future itself. Our nation is now deploying military assets in support of the Libyan people in their journey from oppression under a murderous tyrant to a new freedom. Those involved in this mission face dangerous and even life-threatening prospects. Japanese technicians, firefighters and other emergency personnel are involved at this moment in dangerous efforts to stop a nuclear meltdown at the stricken reactors in that country. They and many of the Japanese people are on their own pilgrimage to a future that is unknown at this moment with dangers along the way which may possibly result in death or disease for many. They must combat the spectre of fear and fight to remain courageous in the days and years ahead so that their journey as a nation into the future will be a positive and tranquil one.

Our young people are on an exciting journey from youth to adulthood. Along the way they learn with their parents' help, example and prayers to more and more exercise their freedom responsibly. Sometimes they make mistakes along the way and will need help to get back up again, led upward by those who love them to greater maturity in their faith and life until that day comes when they step out into the great unknown, facing the future serenely as adults.

In these and in many other ways the Lord leads us up, just as He did for the disciples in today's Gospel, and from that high place He gives them and us a vision of Himself, transfigured by His divine glory. But, as is usual with the Lord Jesus, this moment in His life together with the disciples was not about Him. The transfiguration was about and for the disciples he had chosen and had "led up" onto the mountain, it was for them a gift and a grace to strengthen them in courage, to reinforce their Faith in preparation to face undaunted the as yet unknown temptations and the pain of the Cross, which remains a constant in the Christian life, which would arise along the path of their journey from here to eternity.

Each of you present here, families and individuals, make a very important journey every week, one that is meant to "lead you up". You leave behind the familiarity of your home, and sometimes also family members who choose not to accompany you, and you come here, away from the world for a while, to listen to the Lord and to be with Him. He "leads you up" so that you too can see His glory. He does this not for His own sake but for yours, that you may be strengthened for the journey of Faith, sometimes made more difficult by your crosses. These may include your worry about those family members who refuse to join you, who shrink from the challenge, who rely solely upon the false comforts of the many things that will one day be taken away from all of us in this world and neglect the Lord Jesus, the "one thing necessary".

Yes, you come here on a pilgrimage, and with what you gain here in Word and Sacrament through Christ you face the future with courage, even in Faith able to see beyond right here and right now, as from a mountaintop, so that you can live with serenity the everyday challenges that will last only for a time, with the contentment that comes from the Lord and His power as God, who remains and who can never be taken away from us.

"Christ's Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles' faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent on to the "high mountain" prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: 'the hope of glory' (Col 1:27; cf.: St. Leo the Great, Sermo 51, 3: PL 54, 310C)." (CCC 568)

Your "hope of glory" must be built on the solid foundation you find together with the Body of Christ, His people, worshiping here together every week. This is the Eucharist, the real Body of the Risen Lord Jesus, given to you and transfiguring you, body and soul, mind and heart. How does this change take place?

"This 'how' exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ's transfiguration of our bodies:

Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God's blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection." (CCC 1000)

S Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary: "I will be a father"

he shall be a son to me

Jesus' obedience to his mother and legal father fulfills the fourth commandment perfectly and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: "Not my will. . ." The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.
-- CCC 532

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday, Lent I: "whoever is angry"

will be liable to judgment

By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill," our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.

Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice." If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment."
-- CCC 2302

S Cyril of Jerusalem, pray for us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday, Lent I: "an evil generation..seeks a sign"

... no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.

But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: "I am the Resurrection and the life." It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood. Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life, announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the "sign of Jonah," the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.
-- CCC 994

St. Abban, pray for us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday, Lent I: "my word"

... shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

The Father's self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: "God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church - and through her in the world - leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness."
-- CCC 79

S. Louise de Marillac, pray for us.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday, Lent I: "Be holy"

... for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

"Christ, 'holy, innocent, and undefiled,' knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal." All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time. Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ's salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
-- CCC 827

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Sunday of Lent: The "tsunami" of original sin is turned back by the grace to resist temptation in Christ

A tsunami devastates everything in its path. This behemoth of destruction which can sweep away man and everything he has made as it lays waste cities, towns and countryside, is caused by a rebellion of rupture deep within the earth. Plates move, rise up, and break against all constraints, sending a shock wave through everything which surrounds them. We have seen only a few images which give us some idea of the awesome and terrible power of nature displayed in recent days afflicting the people of Japan. They remain in need of our prayers and material assistance.

There is another kind of "tsunami" which is even more devastating, however, because it reverberates through all human life, manifesting itself as a rupture deep within every human person and capable of throwing man and woman into eternal suffering, without love and without the others who make love possible.

The choice of our first parents Adam and Eve to abuse their freedom, rejecting God and His plan for them, erupted as an earthquake of sin and death with effects upon the whole human family, tearing every person away from original justice with God and tearing God away from a communion of love with all His creatures. Shock waves reverberated forth from this rebellion against God and His love which continue to affect each of us today, even after Baptism, through a darkened intellect and a weakened will. The tsunami which resulted from this moral "earthquake" we call original sin, the doctrine about which which Saint Paul teaches in today's second reading.

" 'Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history.' He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error: Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness." (CCC 1707)

We see it is true that man and woman are capable both of great good and of great evil. The suspension of 21 priests in recent days in our own country, for reasons best not discussed right here and now in detail, makes clear that our Church is affected by the tragedy of sin just as is every human reality. Persons in sports and entertainment use the media to merchandise the recycling of their rehab failures, overdoses and the other ill effects of drug, alcohol and other abuses of the human person for career-enhancing and lucrative tv shows for a glorification of evil that is very dangerous for us and for our children. The Evil One still peddles his tantalizing lie: "“You certainly will not die! ... you will be like gods".

"The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails "captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil".Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals." (CCC 407)

We need, and are meant to, live in true freedom and to help our children from their youngest years to get a first taste of its sweetness. But not accidentally. No, the grace of our Baptism strengthens us to live intentionally and purposefully for the good, for God and for authentic love for ourselves and for others.

"By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God." (CCC 1263)

Jesus Christ is the only power which can overcome the effects of original sin which remain after Baptism, weakening us in the face of the devil's wiles.

"Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning." By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert." (CCC 540)

This intentional daily living of the graces of faith and Baptism is the rejection of temptation in order to choose the Fatherhood and the family of God, to choose the love unending and eternal that is possible only with God.

"The temptation in the desert shows Jesus, the humble Messiah, who triumphs over Satan by his total adherence to the plan of salvation willed by the Father." (CCC 566)

Our sovereign freedom is exercised in cooperation with the free gift of God's grace as we choose the response of Faith over and over against every temptation to reject God and His perfect self-revelation in Jesus Christ.

"The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart: 'Apart from me, you can do nothing.' " (CCC 2732)

"When we say 'lead us not into temptation' we are asking God not to allow us to take the path that leads to sin. This petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength; it requests the grace of vigilance and final perseverance. (CCC 2863)

Even in our last life and death struggle on earth, when we are at our weakest as we prepare to meet God after our death, the sacrament of anointing seals for us the courage to live the power of Faith through the indwelling Spirit in our last moments in this world.

"A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will. Furthermore, 'if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.' " (CCC 1520)

Art: Raphael, The Fall.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday after Ash Wednesday: “Why do we fast?"

The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”
-- Mt 9:14-15

The fourth precept ("You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.
-- CCC 2043

The New Law practices the acts of religion: almsgiving, prayer and fasting, directing them to the "Father who sees in secret," in contrast with the desire to "be seen by men." Its prayer is the Our Father.
-- CCC 1969

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday After Ash Wednesday: “Today I have set before you life"

If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live
-- Dt 30:15-20

"Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" To the young man who asked this question, Jesus answers first by invoking the necessity to recognize God as the "One there is who is good," as the supreme Good and the source of all good. Then Jesus tells him: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments." And he cites for his questioner the precepts that concern love of neighbor: "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother." Finally Jesus sums up these commandments positively: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
-- CCC 2052

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ash Wednesday: "Give alms ... pray ... fast"

return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
-- Jl 2:12-18

Giving alms to the poor is a witness to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.
-- CCC 2462

"Pray constantly . . . always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father." St. Paul adds, "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints." For "we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing." This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and life-giving facts of faith about prayer.
-- CCC 2742

The fourth precept ("You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.
-- CCC 2043

Jesus' call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, "sackcloth and ashes," fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.
-- CCC 1430

S John of God. "Lavishly he gives to the poor"

his generosity shall endure forever
-- Ps 112:1-2, 7-8, 9

"The Church's love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition." This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to "be able to give to those in need." It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.
-- CCC 2444

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ss Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs: "murdered!"

So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed.
-- Mk 12:1-12

The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.

Infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even if commanded by public authority.

-- CCC 2268

Sunday, March 6, 2011

9th Sunday, OrdTime: "Not everyone ... shall enter the kingdom of heaven"

"Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7, 21)

The prayer of faith consists not only in saying "Lord, Lord," but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father. (Cf. Matthew 7:21) Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan. (Cf. Matthew 9: 38; Luke 10:2; John 4:34) (CCC 2611)

The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. (CCC 1257)

The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus. Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the "blessed hope" of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the "holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." (CCC 2016)

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved." She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (CCC 1821)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

S Colman of Armagh: "I have profited"

I will give my teacher grateful praise.

Whoever is called "to teach Christ" must first seek "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus"; he must suffer "the loss of all things. . ." in order to "gain Christ and be found in him", and "to know him and the power of his resurrection, and [to] share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [he] may attain the resurrection from the dead".

Friday, March 4, 2011

S Casimir: "When you stand to pray"

... forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance
-- Mk 11:11-26

"You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." One must appreciate the magnitude of the gift God has given us in the sacraments of Christian initiation in order to grasp the degree to which sin is excluded for him who has "put on Christ." But the apostle John also says: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." And the Lord himself taught us to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses," linking our forgiveness of one another's offenses to the forgiveness of our sins that God will grant us.
-- CCC 1425

Thursday, March 3, 2011

S Katharine Drexel: "each creature is preserved"

All of them differ, one from another, yet none of them has he made in vain,
-- Sir 42:15-25

The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:

Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design.
-- CCC 1935

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

S Agnes of Bohemia: "whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant"

whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
-- Mk 10:32-45

Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection. Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." For the Christian, "to reign is to serve him," particularly when serving "the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder." The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ.

The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ's priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?
-- CCC 786

Photo: Na Františku Convent, founded by Agnes of Bohemia, is today called St. Agnes Convent, "Anezsky Klaster"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

S David: ‘We have given up everything"

... and followed you.
-- Mk 10:28-31

The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:

He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.
-- CCC 2015
Photo: St David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, UK.