Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday, 21st Wk: "I give thanks to my God"

He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable
Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love

-- CCC 1804

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Passion of Saint John the Baptist: “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

“What shall I ask for?”
She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once
on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders
to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
-- Mk 6:17-29

John the Baptist is "more than a prophet." In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the "voice" of the Consoler who is coming. As the Spirit of truth will also do, John "came to bear witness to the light." In John's sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . . . Behold, the Lamb of God."
-- CCC 719

Art: Salome with the head of John the Baptist, Caravaggio, c. 1607. National Gallery, London.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Saint Augustine: "Behold, the bridegroom!"

'Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
-- Mt 25:1-13

The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist. The Lord referred to himself as the "bridegroom." The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride "betrothed" to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him. The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb. "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her." He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:

This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many . . . whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? "The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church." And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: "So they are no longer two, but one flesh." They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union, . . . as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself "bride."
-- CCC 796

Monday, August 27, 2012

Saint Monica: "stay awake"

... for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Prayer of intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It knows no boundaries and extends to one's enemies.

-- CCC 2647

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sunday 21B: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord".

I am delighted to be able to tell you that we will soon begin a new year of school! The school about which I am talking is our school of religious education, our weekly classes for educating our children in the Faith. Soon our young people will meet each week to deepen their Faith, to grow in love of God and one another, to think about the vocation to which they are called, and to anticipate their eternal salvation in Christ.

Registration for the classes is being held this evening until 7 pm at the hall and again tomorrow after 9 am Mass and until 11 am. All of our families are invited to take advantage of the assistance our teachers provide them for educating our young people in the knowledge of the truths of Faith and also the guidance and example necessary for living the Faith in all of our actions and decisions.

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia has described for us the gift that Catholics give to society and the honor and love we render to God when we act on our Faith in the public square:

“Our problems can only be solved by people of character who actively and without apology take their beliefs into public debates. That includes Catholics. We need to be stronger in our public witness, not weaker. If we really believe that the Gospel is true, we need to embody it in our private lives and our public choices.”

Our love for God and the way it should influence who we are and what we do is described well by Joshua in the Scriptures today: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

"This saying is hard; who can accept it?"

People do not like to be told what to do. That is just a fact of human existence; it is a result of how we are made. We are made with free will and because of our weakness remaining after baptism we are not automatically attracted to what is good and true and beautiful. This is the reason why the Ten Commandments may be the least popular part of Christianity. It is probably also the reason why they are commandments and not suggestions.

There are many people that are sure they love Jesus Christ, but just as many that are not sure they want to follow the Commandments: they do not want to be told how to love Jesus Christ and others. The Commandments are a “hard saying” and there are many who do not “accept” them. This is one of the reasons why there are so many Christian ecclesial bodies in addition to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which Jesus founded. Everybody wants religion to be like the Burger King ads some of you may remember from many years ago: “Have it your way.” Christianity however is not about “my will be done". No, it is rather, “Thy will be done”. And “Thy” in this case is not me, but God.

The Ten Commandments spell out God’s will for me and for you. When we keep the ten rules for living then we love God and worship Him, we acknowledge His existence as we should for anyone we claim to love. When we fail to keep the Commandments we render God non-existent, a figment of the imagination or a long-lost relative that we do not truly love in the most sincere way because we do not seek him out for a visit.

Our witness as Catholic Christians is both simple and at the same time profound, able to change the hearts and minds of others: Ask for time off on Sundays to go to Mass if you have to work. Pray in public with your children using the sign of the Cross. Go to Mass on Sunday also while traveling or visiting family or friends who are not Catholics. And attend Mass together, as a family. Only when we re-consecrate the Lord's Day by Sunday worship, Sunday rest and family togetherness will be begin to restore family life.

Does the Faith appear to be "for pretend" when we may or may not go to Mass, we may or may not pray, we may or may not act on our beliefs in the public square? Is it reasonable for our children to remain in the Faith if they have learned from watching our example that it is make-believe, a plaything fit only for children?

It is surely not. So let our response be like that of the people before Joshua’s witness: "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods…Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God." Said another way in the Gospel:

"Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Ss Louis of France and Joseph Calasanz; "we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you"

so that you might imitate us.
-- 2 Thes 3:6-10, 16-18

Communion with the saints. "It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself":

We worship Christ as God's Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord's disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!
-- CCC 957

Friday, August 24, 2012

St. Bartholomew, Apostle: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”

Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and guarding against duplicity, dissimulation, and hypocrisy.
-- CCC 2505

Art: St. Nathanael / Bartholomew, detail, Last Judgment by Michelangelo.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Saint Pius X: "I saw the glory of the God of Israel"

... coming from the east.
-- Ez 43:1-7ab

"In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory."
-- CCC 1090

Saturday, August 18, 2012

TWENTIETH Sunday: "how can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

Proverbs 9, 1-6; Psalm 34; Ephesians 5, 15-20; St. John 6, 51-58

"Who does this pope think he is? He's becoming a real problem! He has nothing to say to me." "Who do those Catholics think they are, trying to tell me how to live my life? It's my body, it's my decision!" "I don't care what the priest says, it's just a piece of bread!"

The Gospel of John, chapter 6, verse 52, relates that when Jesus taught the crowd that his very flesh is the true bread that has come down from heaven, the "Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'how can this man give us his flesh to eat?' " There are many who murmur today in protest, who quarrel amongst themselves and who dispute against Christ and the truth which he teaches for our salvation.

Today Christ present in his Church is attacked by the murmuring of those who have declared themselves their own magisterium, reserving to themselves the authority to decide what is true and false. Today many murmur in protest against the Holy Father, chosen by Christ and given the particular assistance of the Holy Spirit to lead us "into all the truth." And today, just as we read in the account of almost 2,000 years ago, people murmur all the same in rebellion against Christ's teaching, "the bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." Many live in ignorance of this greatest gift of God to mankind, the fruit of the sacrifice of Calvary. Many reject Christ, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

Jesus' words are clear. The people who heard his preaching at the beginning could not mistake his meaning. He meant in no uncertain terms that, if one is to receive His life eternally in the kingdom, then one must begin now to receive the Body and Blood which he poured out unto death at Calvary in the Eucharist, first instituted through the Apostles on the first Holy Thursday and faithfully handed down in the Church. And when some of his own beloved people rejected him, Christ did not change is teaching or water it down, he watched them leave with sadness. He made them free out of love, and out of love he preserved their freedom to reject him and lose their salvation.

The Church teaches today as Christ did, without change or dilution: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you." Some walk away. But the Church must remain faithful to her Lord. She cannot change the truth, and in the power of the Holy Spirit remains firm in this truth. St. Justin, of the second century, testifies to the ancient faith of the Church:

"Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist" ('eucharisted' according to an ancient expression), "we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught." (CCC 1355)

God is "with us", Emmanuel, in Christ Jesus our Lord who promises, "I will be with you always, even until the end of the world". He keeps this promise in the Eucharist. Let us praise, worship, love and adore him in the sacred Host, now in our Churches and in the sacred Liturgy, looking forward to our eternal communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit in glory.

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick

(See also paragraphs 787, 1001, 1384, 1391, 1406, 1524 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy(Publish with permission.)

Saturday, Eighteenth Wk: "Let the children come to me"

the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
-- Mt 19:13-15

Second, a humble and trusting heart that enables us "to turn and become like children": for it is to "little children" that the Father is revealed.

[The prayer is accomplished] by the contemplation of God alone, and by the warmth of love, through which the soul, molded and directed to love him, speaks very familiarly to God as to its own Father with special devotion.
Our Father: at this name love is aroused in us . . . and the confidence of obtaining what we are about to ask. . . . What would he not give to his children who ask, since he has already granted them the gift of being his children?
-- CCC 2785

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday, Nineteenth Wk: "The word of the LORD came to me"

Not all can accept this word
-- Mt 19:3-12

Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations. To enter it, one must first accept Jesus' word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.
-- CCC 543

Thursday, August 16, 2012

S Stephen of Hungary: "Take to heart these words"

Keep repeating them to your children.

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the "material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones." Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

-- CCC 2223

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: "all generations will call me blessed"

... the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
-- Lk 1:39-56

"Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.
-- CCC 966

Art: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Peter Paul Rubens

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sunday 19B: "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" Viaticum is our Food for the greatest journey of all

During the cold war, as some of you may remember, we were in a space race with the Soviet Union and they beat us. But we recovered somewhat by later sending a satellite into orbit in 1958 to do a number of things such as send and receive data. What you may not know was that this first satellite established a very important fact for later space exploration: it demonstrated that the dangerous and life-threatening heat of the atmosphere could be controlled so that that the journey into space would not be too dangerous or too much for human beings to withstand.

The journey into space, as exciting as such an idea continues to be for many of us, always ends with a return to earth, as all things that go up must come down. There is another journey we are all able to undertake, however, without the aid of science and which must always be undertaken without any help on the part of other human beings. It is the journey beyond this world to heaven and a trip that we cannot even begin to undertake without the help of God. None of us can accomplish such a superhuman task on our own:

"Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!"

At the end of our lives, the most beautiful and most perfect preparation for the most important journey of our lives is to receive “viaticum”, a Latin word meaning "provisions for a journey," from via, or "way." The Eucharist is seen as the ideal food to strengthen a dying person for the journey from this world to life after death. God’s gift of himself in the Eucharist as our foretaste and promise of eternal life:

"Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration, whether it takes place in the family home, a hospital or church, for a single sick person or a whole group of sick persons. It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord's Passover. If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ's Passover the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the 'viaticum' for 'passing over' to eternal life.” (CCC 1517)

But the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist is also, amazingly, our Daily Bread. We need to remain close to him every day of our life because the journey to God is itself a wonderful blessing and a source of joy, to know we are loved by Him who gives Himself completely as our Heavenly Food.

Tragically some remain aloof from reception of the Eucharist, sometimes even for long periods of time. This is a saddening but also dangerous reality because it places our eternal salvation, the blessed end of our life's journey, at stake.

Some do well to bring their children to Mass and to ensure that our little ones stay close to Christ in the Eucharist but, also, at the same time fail to make those changes in their lives, as possible, so that they too can receive the sacrament of Confession and return to regular reception of the Eucharist. Another effect of this all too common phenomenon is that we can end up discouraging perseverance in the Faith because, if by our example we seem to say that the Faith and its fullest practice is not good enough for our parents, how can we expect our children to believe it is good enough for them?

Although the Church sets a minimum of receiving as least once a year during the Easter Season, can real love do anything but seek greater and greater union with the one loved? Thus, frequent reception, at least every Sunday during Mass unless conscious of grave sin, is the Church's counsel.

God loves us here and now most fully in the Eucharist, a love which is foretaste and promise of the end for which we hope eternally with God.

"The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit." (CCC 1325)

Heaven is the journey's end we seek all our days and in all our ways. Say "yes" to heaven by saying "yes" to He who gives heaven by receiving Him worthily, attentively and devoutly in the Eucharist, now and always.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Passion, power and pageantry of "putting on the new" man or woman in Christ for victory greater than Olympic gold

The passion, power and pageantry of the Olympics has transfixed the world and many of us as well. The glorious human struggle to achieve the gold medal is a story that embraces the human nature that all of us share and romances our imaginations through the vision of a greater humanity that it opens to our sight.

Behind the glamor of the Olympic ceremonies, however, lies another story that we have to dig deeper to find and that is sometimes revealed to us as athletes open up and share the stories of their personal struggles. Michael fell into a depression and stopped swimming after setting records and winning gold in previous Olympics. Gabby had to leave her family and home behind and move far away to live with another family in order to have access to training; suffering and putting childish things aside to discipline herself and reach her goal, keeping this ever in mind especially when weakened by sadness and defeat. Katy, from our own Archdiocese, must have had to overcome great odds to train and win as a 15-year-old novice competing against more seasoned and intimidating veteran athletes.

Behind the glorious moment of the golden victory there is also the passion and power of putting off the old man or woman of yesterday’s defeats and depressions and putting on the new man or woman. Some athletes also reveal their personal experience of the spiritual as well as physical reality of human endeavor. And for we of faith there is no greater glory than that of God, no prize on earth more precious than His love which promises eternal life.

We train for that goal just as athletes train for Olympic gold. In order to train and win we must constantly struggle with God's help to take of the old and "put on the new" man or woman. The idea of "self" as proposed in some translations may not be helpful, as it calls to mind the type of identity we see glorified in media such as "Self Magazine" with all the worldly and mundane connotations this suggests. No, we are created in "righteousness and holiness" as St Paul describes it. This is the work of God and therefore of grace, and so not something we can do for ourselves but must receive from God.

Purity of heart is the “new” man or woman after the darkness and shame of sin, through mercy, but also to persevere in that way of life, learning to love and rejoice in the good as God always does.

One aspect of the newness of life in Christ is the great necessity of purity, chastity for every Catholic whether married or not. Temptations are peddled through many of the resources to which we turn for good purposes, whether for news, entertainment or information in mass communications. Sexual sins are certainly not the greatest of sins as are those involving a direct attack against God such as hatred of Him, blasphemy, or betrayal. But these still are mortal sins and deadly ones which hold the soul captive until death. The danger exists also for some of becoming recidivists, that is backsliders, or of falling into despair. Spiritual discouragement can also make it difficult for some, physically or emotionally, to go to Confession. Depending upon how we choose our friends these also can be sources of discouragement, offering little in the way of help or becoming an occasion of sin themselves. Family members and surrounding culture can influence our choices.

"Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Saint Paul asks and Saint John of Cross tells us that "one love is not driven out except by another love". Love of impurity can only be driven out by a love of purity--which most easily comes from learning about the lives of the Saints. It is necessary to fill our imagination and memory with the example, counsel and inspiration of the saints: the gold medal winners in the struggle to achieve the golden prize of heaven. We must with divine help turn away from intemperate use of the internet, impure films and images and instead read lives of saints and watch films that inspire us to achieve holiness.

Most important of all is the frequent use of Confession for getting up again when we fall in the struggle. The sacrament is divine assistance against the danger of discouragement and despair. A more serious and heartfelt preparation for Holy Communion is necessary, keeping in mind that it is God who gives Himself. Reverence is necessary that we do not forget and treat the Eucharist as ordinary bread, treading upon the Faith and disregarding our salvation. Lack of reverence, in some places, for Body of Christ stems from lack of purity, reverence which is an outward sign of bodily integrity. Those who believe that it is best and safest for ensuring their devotional love for God to receive Him kneeling are always welcome to go to the Communion rail and ask for reception of communion according this venerable and noble custom.

Praying the Mass in a physical way, such as bowing during the recitation of the Creed where indicated and bowing before receiving Communion in the hand are a training in Faith and require a victory over human respect in so many cases where others do not do pray the Mass in the fullest way as we continue to implement the wisdom of the Second Vatican Council in our public prayer.

Confession and Holy Communion strengthen us in grace which is not necessarily detectable by
senses, but real: strengthens us for the fight--and if (God forbid) we should fall, we will more quickly get back up. Saint Paul says "God will not be mocked" --we cannot fool ourselves into
thinking that these sins do not matter: we know in heart of hearts they do! Hence the great necessity to put off the old man or woman (self) of corruption and sin and put on the new: that is, become more truly like Christ: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God". +

Friday, August 3, 2012

First Friday, Week 17: "such wisdom and mighty deeds"

Where did this man get all this?
-- Mt 13:54-58

By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal. What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.
-- CCC 474

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

St. Alphonsus Liguori: ""The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure"

the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."
"You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor's. . . . You shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

"The tenth commandment unfolds and completes the ninth, which is concerned with concupiscence of the flesh. It forbids coveting the goods of another, as the root of theft, robbery, and fraud, which the seventh commandment forbids. "Lust of the eyes" leads to the violence and injustice forbidden by the fifth commandment. Avarice, like fornication, originates in the idolatry prohibited by the first three prescriptions of the Law. The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart; with the ninth, it summarizes all the precepts of the Law.

-- CCC 2534

"All holiness and perfection of soul lies in our love for Jesus Christ our God, who is our Redeemer and our supreme good. It is part of the love of God to acquire and to nurture all the virtues which make a man perfect." --Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Image: Relics of Saint Alphonsus Liguori at Pagani Basilica, Italy.