Category Archives: Weekdays

The Lord expects a lot from Us

Friends in Christ, at the end of the gospel of St. John, he wrote a sentence in which he tells that one could never record a complete account of Jesus’ life. He says, ‘There are many other things which Jesus did, which, if they were written down, not even the whole world could contain the books that would be written.’
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Today’s gospel is one of the proofs of that saying. Jesus says, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! ‘For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented.’
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There is no record in the gospels at all of these mighty deeds that Christ says he did in those towns. This passage shows us how little we really know of all the marvelous things Our Lord has done. The things we don’t know far outnumber the things we know. So Jesus had done amazing things in those towns, no doubt incredible miracles; yet they did not come to faith. The people in those towns had far more evidence of Christ’s divinity, his power, the truth of himself, than many other places – this is what the Lord says – yet there was more faith elsewhere.
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We do not condemn a person who is ignorant; we do not hold a child to the same standards as an adult; a person is judged by what he had the chance to know. We have been very blessed, in our formation and in our faith, and that means that Our Lord expects a lot from us. We have a responsibility to live up to everything that Jesus calls us to.

Discretion

Friends in Christ,
Our Lord tells us in the gospel that we should be cunning as serpents and innocent as doves. How are we to see this? I think this idea is summed up in a rarely considered virtue called ‘discretion,’ being discrete. If we want to transform the world in which we live – and we certainly do, we wish to transform it into the Kingdom of God – then we must do it discretely. We must work as leaven, as quiet seeds in society; this is how the first Christians did it, living discretely within the brutal Roman Empire, but they spread the faith one person at a time.
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There is a place for overt actions: picketing, and marching, and debates, and get-out-the-vote, for sure, especially in a democracy, these are important. But the conversion of the hearts of people to Jesus Christ will never be primarily by these methods, but only with friendship and discretion, one person at a time. ‘Be cunning as serpents and innocent as doves, says the Lord.
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If we befriend neighbors, and let them see the gospel in us, then neither personal vanity, nor pride, will get in the way of God’s work. People will see in us sincerity and humility.
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We sometimes encounter loud people on the street, who yell at you: ‘are you saved!!??’ Or who drill you with bible verses. Does that make us love Christ, or follow them? Not at all. The way of Christ is the way of personal apostolate.
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St. Josemaria loved always to say, that there is no better proof that you are walking in the Lord, than if you pass unnoticed. Observe that one friend in your group, who speaks little, but is always kind? That one person, in whom you could entrust your concerns – that person, whom you happen to know is a genuine Catholic, this is the person who will lead others to Christ, the one who is discrete, and sincere. And if a person is indiscrete, and in your face, and demanding to argue with you – well, Father Urteaga says: ‘An indiscrete question, deserves no answer.’  
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What we need today is a fearless honesty which refuses to compromise truth, combined with a refined sincerity and discretion. This will win souls for Christ.

The Prophet Hosea

Friends in Christ, today’s first reading is from the prophet Hosea. Hosea was one of the 12 minor prophets of the Old Testament; he lived in the 8th century BC. At that time, Israel had been tragically split into the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom; Hosea is preaching mostly to the northern kingdom, in which the people had gotten terribly involved in all kinds of idolatry, taking up the ways of the pagans.
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Hosea will refer to the Northern Kingdom as ‘Israel,’ which it was called, but he will also preach sometimes to the tribe of Ephraim, the largest tribe, sometimes signifying the whole nation.
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Hosea has been considered a ‘prophet of doom,’ and while he certainly was warning the people of the dangerous path they were on, he also has a message of hope. It is interesting, that he uses his own experiences to teach symbolically God’s dealings with his people. Hosea’s wife left him to be a prostitute, similarly, Israel abandoned the True God, and prostituted herself to the pagan gods.
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Hosea searched for his wife, forgave her, and bought her back; similarly, God would not abandon his people, but would seek them out to save them. We can now understand even more of Hosea’s meanings because we see now that Jesus, who is the Bridegroom, has come to save the Church, the Bride of Christ. And as Hosea bought his wife back from slavery, so too did Christ purchase our salvation by his death on the cross.
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Just as Hosea warned the northern kingdom to be faithful again to God, to repent, so too it is a warning to us never to forsake Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom. Hosea in his warning, was right on target, for soon after his preaching, the northern kingdom indeed, was conquered by the Assyrians, and the people were shipped off, to mix into other cultures. It was a shock to them.
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Hosea is an important warning to us today; we can see playing out before our eyes, what happens to society and souls, when Christians follow the pagan culture and give up a Godly way of life.
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We ourselves are not responsible for all the evil of the world, but we are responsible for building up the kingdom of God in our own sphere of influence: in our job, our friends, and our family. In this, Our Lord has given us much responsibility.

Judge Not

Friends in Christ, human beings are very good at automatically filling in information that might be missing. If you read a sentence, and a letter or two are missing, our mind easily fills in the missing letters – we can read it. This can happen when we are conversing with someone and we don’t know their language perfectly, we can ‘fill in the gaps’ and guess what they are trying to say.
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But this can be dangerous, if we try to fill in information too much about people, without really knowing all the facts. It can lead to rash judgment. A group had a meeting at their home, one person wasn’t there, and so there was complaining, that this person has no respect for the group or the decency to call. But in reality, the person had had a car accident and was pinned under the car.
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We often make rash judgments, without knowing all the facts. Jesus says, ‘Stop judging, that you may not be judged. We don’t want people to make false or rash judgments about ourselves; we know how it feels when someone concluded something about us, which was entirely untrue, or even told this false accusation to others.
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Our minds are weak and we often lack the patience to carefully discern the whole truth. Sometimes we commit this sin based on wounds of our past, or the climate of cynicism leads us to conclude things wrongly. The news media constantly makes quick and often false judgments about people; and they bring in ‘supposed experts’ to demonstrate their claims, which are often very untrue or taken out of context.
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We have all, at some time, been guilty of some serious misjudgment of someone, and we have all, at some time, been falsely judged. It is strange then, that we still keep doing this. Better to follow the saints, who tell us: ‘Think the best of others, presume the best in them.

The eye is the lamp of the body

Friends in the Lord, many actions that we do are moral acts; some are not moral acts, such as blinking our eyes, the beating of our heart, blood clotting – but many actions we do are moral acts, that is, there is a right or wrong in them, or a ‘best or better.’
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Deciding to sit down to watch tv is a moral act. Visiting a friend, getting up at a certain time are moral acts. The morality, or the rightness of an action depend not only on the action itself and the circumstances, but also on our intention. If we sit down to watch a perfectly good tv show, but we are doing it with the intention of avoiding helping our mother who isn’t feeling well – our bad intention turns this into a sinful action.
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If we give money to a poor man on the street, that would be a good thing – unless our intention was bad, such as doing it so that our friend will be impressed with our generosity. It is easy for our intentions to not be pure in so many events of our daily life. Our motives are often mixed.
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We do or say things for our selfish advantage or to subtly undermine another, or so that we look good. Today, our Lord says, ‘The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.’
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The ‘eye’ is the intention that we have when we do something, and the ‘body’ is the action that follows our intention. In the same way that the body follows the eyes, our works follow our intentions. Our Lord says that it is the intention which gives light to our works. And so without a good intention, there cannot be any good work. Our intention has to be pure and right, in order to do a good work, otherwise, the whole work is darkness, that is, sinful.
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The most pure and right intention we can have is to do everything for love of God. St. Josemaria says, you’ll always have purity of intention if you seek in all things to please only God. (Way, 287)

Make your decision for Christ

Friends in the Lord, today in the first reading, we see that the people of those days were lukewarm, fickle. At times they would be faithful to God, other times they would follow the pagan ways, giving their worship to the false god called ‘Baal.’
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Elijah says to them:   “How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” This calls to mind the words of Jesus, who says: ‘let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ We cannot be a disciple of Christ in a half-hearted manner. It doesn’t work. In our minds, we know this to be true. God is all Good, All Powerful, All knowing, Infinite Love – to Him therefore, as creatures, we owe our whole self.
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The people, hearing this from Elijah could feel the force of his logic: If the LORD is God, then follow him!, he says. They heard this, but they could say nothing. They were speechless, because they wanted it both ways. They wanted somehow to unite their worship of God with that of Baal; they wanted to be able to say that they were still Jews, yet enjoy the ways of the Baals, which were certainly sensuous and impure. We might say, they wanted to say they are Catholics, yet indulge in the lusts and vanities and pride of the world.
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Well, God inspired Elijah to challenge those 450 prophets of Baal. Two young bulls were obtained for sacrifice, they were placed on altars. Baal was supposed to be the god of fire, and so Elijah told them: call on Baal, to consume your sacrifice with fire. They prayed and called and nothing happened. Over and over they tried. But nothing happened – no fire to consume the sacrifice.
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Then Elijah not only prepares his own sacrifice, but pours water over it, again and again – he soaks it. Then calling on the True God, fire comes down and consumes the sacrifice. The people declare, ‘The Lord is God, the Lord is God.’ Then Elijah commanded, “Seize the prophets of Baal. And they seized them, and Elijah took them to the Kishon Valley and slew them.
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We ourselves, daily, must declare, the Lord is God. Jesus Christ is Lord of our life, no other. And then, all those temptations and demons that pull us from God? We must slay them.

His Love

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Good morning young people of St. John Vianney school.
Today is a special day, because it is not only 1st Friday, but it is actually the Feast of the Sacred heart of Jesus. We see our statue here; Jesus is showing us his Sacred Heart, it is a sign that he loves you. The heart is a symbol of love; that is why we give hearts to others on St. Valentine’s day, to show that we love someone. But love is not just cute, paper hearts or nice words, love is really caring about someone, wanting to help them, being kind to them.
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We’ve met people who sometimes say nice things, but they are not sincere, they don’t really want to help us, or care about us. But this is not the love that Jesus has for us. He is willing to do anything to help us.
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In the gospel he compares himself to a shepherd who is guarding his sheep. If one sheep wanders away, and get’s lost or get’s into trouble, this Good Shepherd will go off and do anything to find that little lost sheep. And when he finds it, he doesn’t scold it or yell at it, but he picks it up and carries him home, so happy.
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Our Lord is telling us that this is the love he has for each of us. That he wants to help us, and if we do something bad, if we are sorry, he wants to forgive us and help us to change. Jesus wants, not to carry us back to the pasture, he wants to carry us up to heaven; not to be with other sheep, but to be with the angels.
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No one in the whole world has ever shown as much love for us as Jesus Christ. We look at the cross, and we see how much he did for you; he did not just say, ‘I love you,’ he gave his life for you. And when that soldier took his lance, and speared the heart of Jesus, it was not just blood that flowed out, it was love.
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He gives his love for you, all he wants is your love back. This summer will be a beautiful time for all of you; time to play, relax, read some books, take a walk. But also a time to show love to others: in your family, at picnics, on a hike, in sports – all the time. And loving Jesus, especially never forgetting our prayers.
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And our dear 8th grade class. Your last school Mass with us, but as you go forth, not only this summer, but on to high school, may the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus be with you wherever you go.

Priesthood of the baptized

Friends in Christ, today’s first reading is from the 1st letter of St. Peter.
St. Peter says ‘let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.’ Here, when he says ‘priesthood,’ he is speaking not to ordained priests, but to all Christians. Referring to this very passage, the Catechism says that Christians, by virtue of their baptism, share in the Common priesthood of all believers. (CCC 1268) This is also called the Royal priesthood, or the Priesthood of the baptized.
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The ordained priest, shares in the priesthood of Christ the Head of the Church. All the baptized share in the priesthood in the Body of Christ. As St Peter says, we are a kingdom of priests; we are called a ‘priestly people.
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So what is a priest? Quite simply, it is a person who offers sacrifice to God. Jesus is the great High Priest – he offered the greatest sacrifice to God, himself. But if we are a priestly people, what do we offer? We offer really two things: all that we do, and all that we are.
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When we had difficulties, my mother used to say: ‘Offer it up.’ ‘Offer your trouble for the poor souls, offer that pain to God.’ This is our priestly dignity. This is what St. Peter means when he says that we are to offer ‘spiritual sacrifices.’
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We offer up the difficulties we have, the patience that we must have, to endure certain situations; we offer our prayers to God, which call down his mercy on those for whom we pray. In this we are intercessors for others. We offer our sorrows but also our joys. When something goes well, people will say: ‘Praise God!’ Yes, praise God! We offer up our joys and successes and praise, we offer our very selves. So this is our priestly dignity, as members of the Body of Christ.
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But none of our efforts, or our work, or anything, is a worthy offering to God unless they are united to the Perfect Sacrifice: Jesus Christ. And this is done at Mass. The Catechism, speaking of the Mass, says that the ordained priest at the altar, acting in the Person of Christ, unites the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ. (CCC 1566)
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At Mass, on that paten with the hosts, is not only bread which will become our Divine Lord, but quite literally we are on that paten as well with all of our acts of patience, sorrows, joys – our life. This is why the Church asks, that at least on Sunday, it is good if the faithful present the bread and wine: it is a sign of the presenting themselves too – as an offering.
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It is not only the Lord’s crucified body that we offer to God, it is his entire Mystical Body, the Church, which is offered up at each Mass. Because we are a kingdom of priests.

Don’t count the cost

Friends in Christ, when Cortez and his men had reached Mexico, he urged his men to be brave and push into the country and fight, but they felt afraid and unsure and dreamed of returning to Spain. So Cortez burned all of their ships; he closed off the path to a return, so that they would put their heart into the job ahead.
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Our Lord today urges his followers to be prepared to give up everything in order to follow him. Often this passage is applied to the call to a priestly or a religious vocation, and rightly so: ‘He who gives up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children for my sake will receive a hundred times more – and eternal life.’ St. Luke’s gospel adds ‘a wife’ as something else to give up. So it is true, that Our Lord calls some to this renunciation literally.
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But he is speaking here to all of his followers, all of us. People who become Catholic sometimes are given a lot of hassles by their family or friends, Our Lord is saying, push on, keep going! A young girl was in our RCIA class; her mother was against her becoming Catholic, but she continued and was baptized. We must sacrifice in order to follow Jesus.
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But Christ is speaking too, about daily life. In each of our lives there is some nemesis, some weakness or fault – if we identify our primary fault, we have identified our path to heaven – fighting that fault. Every day there are things in our life that we must renounce:  bad companions, bad places, bad thoughts, – there is something that each of us must continue to say ‘no’ to, in order to follow Christ. It might be gossip, it might be impure desires, it could be greed or endless television-watching…. It could be an adulterous relationship which must be permanently destroyed. It could simply be fear, which is keeping us from taking a step we know in our life what the Lord is asking us to do.
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When I was unsure of my own vocation, I heard a Religious Sister say, ‘ Don’t count the costs.’ In other words, don’t sit and weigh benefits to this vs that, but do what the Lord wants, whatever the cost. Well this is true in even our daily struggles; we must be like Cortez who burned the ships and destroyed the path of return; as St. Paul said: ‘Forgetting what lies behind, I strain forward to what is ahead, I press on towards the goal, life on high in Christ Jesus Our Lord.’

Ordinary Time

Friends in Christ, these weeks we have returned to what is called ‘Ordinary Time.’ This is from Latin which really means ‘Counted time.’ Vestments and the veils, are green.
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Green is for growth. Plants grow, trees grow – so do souls. This is time for us, having finished the seasons of Lent and Easter, having meditated on the marvels God has done for us – this is now a time to return to the day-by-day effort to become better Christians.
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St. Paul often compares the Christian life to that of an athlete, competing in the Olympics. My nephews and niece are also really into sports. They have had their intense trainings for games and meets this past year, and the glory of the tournaments and even trophies; but now summer comes, and for them it is a period of toning up and polishing their skills: Jogging and swimming to develop themselves, so that next year they might compete at a higher level. So too Ordinary Time in the spiritual life.
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Christmas was the birth of Christ, Lent was Christ’s life of suffering, Easter was Christ’s time on earth in his resurrected body, until his Ascension. But then comes the period of his Mystical Body, the Church; now the Spirit of Christ lives in us, and in this time after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit wants to work in us, to coach us; not building a pre-fab mansion in us in a week, but rather a gradual growth, like a plant, which becomes a tree. 
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Ordinary Time is the growth of the Church on earth and growth of holiness in us. The only way this can happen is by our daily prayers. We rise and offer our day to God. Lord: ‘I offer everything today to you, for your glory.’ We pray each time we eat, and we think about the Lord during the day. The Angelus at noon, try to say the Rosary. At night, we kneel and thank God, confess our faults; ‘Help me to give you more glory tomorrow Lord.’
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Today, Christ tells the young man to follow him, totally. That man could not do it. But the Lord’s invitation remains, for each of us. Ordinary time is a time to do just that: follow Christ, especially in the day to day details of ordinary life. But there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about Ordinary time.