Category Archives: Latin Mass

The Temperament God gave you

3rd Sunday of Lent (Latin Mass)
Beloved in the Lord,
In 1935, when St. Josemaria Escriva was starting what would be a new movement in the church: Opus Dei, he invited a young man to join in the cause whose name was Alvaro del Portillo; Alvaro would become an essential advisor and confidant. History shows that the movement might never had come to fruition, if both had not been together.
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Josemaria had a firey Basque temperament, which, when tempered with charity, had the power to spread to the whole world, the message of sanctifying our daily life. Alvaro however, was a quiet and unassuming person who was able to deal deftly with many problems behind the scenes, and insire some powerful people by his kind manner to be faithful and influential Catholics; he would later become the Prelate of Opus Dei, with great effect. Of these two men, one would be canonized a saint, the other beatified. Two holy men – but two completely different temperaments.
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Friends in Christ, all the way back to the ancient Greeks it has been known that there are 4 basic temperaments among people, and everyone’s temperament is raw material for them to become a saint, for as Thomas Aquinas says, ‘grace builds on nature.’
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The 4 traditional temperaments are: the Choleric, the Sanguine, the Phlegmatic, and the Melancholic. A person’s personality is the result of environment – how one grows up, experiences – plus one’s temperament. The temperament is what we are born with, it’s in our genes. We may have already noticed our own, personal temperament. If we reflect on our life regularly, especially in prayer, we can hardly fail to consider why or how we have acted on a given day or situation, and perhaps we’ve recognized the patterns that come from our temperament.
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Spiritual masters have long had the slogan: ‘Know thyself.’ To grow in holiness, we need to know the truth of ourself, and the truth is, that there is usually an internal war going on inside of us; the good aspects of our temperament help us be good, the dark side of our temperament pull us toward the bad.
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In the Gospel today, Our Lord says: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and house shall fall upon house.’ He tells how a person can have their house clean and swept and in good order – that is, a pure soul, a state of grace – and the next thing, the Enemy returns with 7 evil spirits. As St. Paul says, I end up doing the very thing I did not want to do. If we are trying to follow Christ, then we each have an interior war going on, the type of war usually depends on our temperament.
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The Choleric person has a strong will, a type ‘A’ personality, he has to be in charge, likes to be in charge, gets things done, reacts quickly, decisively, self-confident, independent. These are good attributes for a leader. St. Ignatius Loyola was surely a choleric. Certainly St. Paul.
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But such a person has a dark side that must be resisted: easily angered. quick to judge; stubborn; imprudent, denies their mistakes, hides insecurity by blaming others, impatient, can use people to get the job done. It is said, the choleric person would rather die than humble himself.’ So there is an interior war – and this is the battle of the spiritual life.
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The Sanguine person is friendly, outgoing, communicative; fun-loving, creative, looks on the bright side, emotional, notices details, has many friends, seeks adventure. St. Philip Neri probably was sanguine, who was a practical joker. Sanguine people are usually happy people, but they have an interior war also. They can desire to be the center of attention, or are tempted to vanity, or ready to give up morals or faith in order to be liked; they can act rashly or be frivolous or superficial or follow the crowd. St. Peter was probably Sanguine – he was impulsive, one moment ready to die for Christ, the next a coward – he spoke first and thought later; So the Sanguine has their own struggle.
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Now the Phlegmatic person is prudent, reserved, sensible, and dependable. He is attuned to his own feelings and those of others, he is not easily provoked to anger, he is easy going, very loyal; the phlegmatic is punctual, thrives on routine, good with detailed work, he has good judgment, is objective; he is agreeable and tolerant, but with a strong underlying backbone. A dry sense of humor. The monks that painstakingly copied manuscripts were probably Phlegmatics, St Thomas Aquinas was.
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But the Phlegmatic has an interior war too. Temptations to avoid manual labor, laziness, sensuality; not persevering in prayer, unmotivated; and the phlegmatic might give in to peer pressure to avoid conflict, which he hates.
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Finally, the Melancholic temperament. The Melancholic values the ideal, seeks perfection in everything. He is skeptical about overly simplistic labels, tends to be quiet and reserved, holds thoughts to himself. He is studious and orderly, attentive to detail; can be thoughtful and pious and compassionate, and is upset when he sees injustice. He prefers solitude and reflection and is very faithful in relationships and is good at planning things, and in detail. St. Edith Stein was surely a Melancholic.
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But Melancholics have a war going on also. The Melancholic can be prone to brooding or sadness, or dark critical thoughts. He can suppress anger for a long time, and then – blows up!’ Everyone wonders why. He was stewing and ruminating on something a long time. The melancholic can presume motives in others that do not exist and fume silently over perceived slights, and be unforgiving. His pride is not about wanting recognition like the choleric, it’s about fearing failure; wanting to be perfect, his pride fears disgrace. For him, caution can lead to a lack of courage and action. A melancholic’s idealism can lead him to be impractical and indecisive, and not always a team player. So – they have spiritual combat going on inside too.
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But this is the adventure of the Christian life – a war! It is not new. St. Paul says the exact same thing: ‘I see a law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin. Unhappy man that I am, who will deliver me?’ And then he answers it: Who will deliver me? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
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We each have an interior war, usually between the best of our temperament and the worst; but we cannot fight our war without God’s help. And also, let’s ask Mary to aid us; O Virgin most powerful, O Virgin most faithful, help us by your prayers, to win our daily, interior battles for Jesus Christ.

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{Entrusted to the prayers of St. Camillus]

No one left Behind

3rd Sunday of Epiphany
Beloved in Christ, on Nov. 13, 2004, Chris Marquez was on standby, part of a Marine quick-reaction force. He was getting ready to take a nap when the call came for help.
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Members of a platoon had been ambushed and were pinned down inside a house; Sergeant Bradley Kasal joined the squad that went to rescue. Entering the house, and as he moved toward the wounded in the next room, he and another Marine were raked in the legs by rifle fire. Then the grenades rained down.
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The men formed a plan: two would shed their gear, including rifles, then run in and out of the kill zone, extracting casualties one by one as other Marines provided cover. It was crazy, but maybe a way to get the wounded home. Bullets rained down, everybody was shot up pretty bad. “He had lost so much blood,” Marquez said, he looked like he was going to pass out.” But Kasal refused to leave until everyone else was out.
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Friends in Christ, one of the watch phrases of the military, is ‘No Man Left Behind. It is the confidence that every effort will be made to get you out, if you are hurt or in trouble or captured. Why is this so important? Because of the effect it has on morale.
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One of the most dangerous missions of the Vietnam War was the attempt to rescue 65 American POWs held at the notorious Son Tay prison. A 116-plane armada flew hundreds of miles over mountainous territory at treetop level to the prison camp. As it turned out, the prisoners had been moved. They had to return empty handed. Yet, when the POWS learned of the attempt, “morale soared.” They no longer felt abandoned or forgotten.”
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Friends this is very noble and heroic, but these efforts are focused on the value of our earthly, physical life. Of much greater consequence is the salvation of souls, and the rescue of others from Eternal damnation. The Centurion in the gospel today is very noble; he is seeking help from Jesus for his slave. A slave was nothing. A thing. A tool, in those days. No one would have such compassion for a slave, and so Jesus can perceive the goodness in this Centurion.
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Yes, Christ heals that slave, he healed the leprous man, and so many others. But what he is really interested in, is saving souls. We ourselves admire a Marine who gives everything to rescue his buddy. No man left behind. But the question we can pose to ourself can be: Is this my attitude toward others? That no one will be left behind? We hope to save our souls; we work for that, we pray for that. But what about the others? Can we say in our heart, we wish that no one will be left behind? Do our prayers and actions and words reflect this? It is said, you can’t get to heaven if you don’t bring someone with you.
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Our Lord will say in the gospel, Two will be working in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two will be grinding meal; one will be taken and the other left. two will be in bed; one will be taken and the other left. Our own motto must be, no one will be left behind. Not one of our family members, not one of our neighbors.
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It’s true, the Enemy is raining down bullets and grenades on people today – many people we work with or know, are pinned down by the Devil’s hellfire. But we want to save them, we want to rescue them. St. Francis de Sales so passionately wanted to save a group of heretics, that he crawled on a frozen log over a chasm every day to preach to them.
‘Lord, give us this passion for the salvation of souls.’
‘Lord, make our hearts the hearts of apostles.’
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Now we are not faced with a frozen log, nor with bullets or grenades. The task for us is more subtle, and as the Lord will say, we must be cunning as serpents and innocent as doves. What we need, is a powerful attractive force, to bring wayward souls to God. And that attractive force is two-fold: prayer, and human virtue. Under the influence of prayer, it is usually human virtue by which we attract a wayward soul.
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Jesus did this. We see how he shows compassion, healed bodily ills: the leper, the Centurion’s slave. His person was attractive, people wanted to be near him – He did the human things that people would respond to, so that they would come to him to be healed in their souls. We must use human virtue to attract souls.
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When we are known in the office as responsible, hard-working, amicable – people see that. The wayward soul sees that; the atheist notices this. And they notice our sincerity, our fairness, and good humor. Our wayward adult son or daughter – they see our love, our faithfulness, our kindness; yes, sometimes they hear us speak about faith, but what penetrates over time is our human virtue.
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With this kind of soil, we can plant a seed – it may not be we who see the harvest, in this life; but with prayer, the harvest will come.
May the Blessed Virgin intercede for us; Mary, pray for us, that we will seek lost souls for Christ, so that no one will be left behind.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas]

Don’t Resist God

2nd Sunday of Advent
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
It is said, that in heaven there will be two types of people there: the innocent, and the repentant. The St. Theresa’s and St. Agneses, who seem to have led a pure life from birth; and the sinners, even great sinners who repented and finally gave their heart to God. These two groups will praise God together, with no hint of difference between them, because God’s greatness is seen in both.
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Something else that these two groups share, is that ultimately in their lives, they no longer resisted God, no matter how hard that was. Today we encounter John the Baptist in the Gospel. From his birth, John did not resist God, but followed the WAY marked out for him. It was not easy. We find him in the desert living on the land – – and not much to live on in the desert.
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St. Neilos says, John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, dressed in camel hair and survived on locusts and wild honey. Yet all the people, even dressed in silk, and from luxurious homes went out to see him. He says, ‘there were many rich and famous people in those days, proud of their glory, and yet today they are all forgotten. It is John the Baptist who is remembered.
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John the Baptist did not resist God; he followed the Lord’s call wherever it took him, even to the desert, to prison, even to death. But that is how he came to be a saint in heaven. He did not resist God. I am reading a book called ‘Resisting Happiness.’ It speaks very well, about how we try to do so many things our own way, the wrong way – knowing that we are supposed to do it ‘the right way,’ and in this, we not only resist God, but end up unhappy or less happy.
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We resist doing things we know are good for us; we resist the things we know are right; we wish to cut corners. But it never ends well. We have an inclination to do the things that are not good for us, and to delay the things we ought to do. When the alarm goes off in the morning, if we resist, and delay, and put off getting up – it affects the whole day. We set goals and then don’t go after them. We procrastinate, and end up doing things in a hurry, or poorly.
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Advent is a time to prepare for the holy day of Christmas; it is a time to seek peace in our soul, and to change our bad habits into good habits. But the devil prevents improvements in our character by means of resistance. Resistance wears a thousand masks. Laziness, procrastination, fear, doubt, instant gratification, self-loathing, escapism, pride, lukewarmness – Sometimes we are about to do something, some task that we know needs to be done, but we pause – ‘I think I’ll get a soda before I start this’ – or this chair is really not good, I need another one -. And the task is delayed for comfort-seeking. A man told me, ‘I’m going to read the whole bible, from start to finish.’ ‘How’s that coming?, I asked. Well, I’m trying to find just the right bible before I start, I want a leather one with a nice font, I don’t want to start until I get the perfect bible.’
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In the end however, when we give in to resistance, and put off things, or do what we feel like, instead of what God wants, we end up less happy. St. Augustine delayed and delayed doing what he knew God wanted. He writes extensively about it in his book. He was utterly, entirely, miserable. And his life was spiraling into a bad place. We encounter people in our lives – ‘if only they would not have done that!’, we think, their life would not have such problems. They did it – almost always for short-term, selfish-seeking reasons.
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Giving into resistance in big decisions can hurt us, but the real battle is with small decisions, the hundred decisions every day: will I get to bed on time – this affects the whole next day. will I get going to start dinner, or give in to mindless television? will I start my homework right after supper, or go on texting my friend, and then find myself scrambling to get it done in the morning. Happiness is daily destroyed for us by giving in, instead of fighting. We continue with a bad relationship because it’s the easy path – but the less happy one. We give in to comparing ourselves with others; we buy things we don’t need and can’t afford. We want to be happy. But giving in to resistance blocks it.
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When we are children, we think we’ll be happy if we just can get that toy – When we are older, we say, if she’ll be my friend, I’ll finally be happy. In adolescence we are chasing pleasures of all sorts, but none make us happy. Some ruin us. Adults wish to accomplish something great, or put their entire hope in a romance. But in the end, as Matthew Kelly says, we have a ‘God-sized’ hole, that can’t be filled by this world. So when will we stop resisting God?
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As we start into Advent, John the Baptist who has followed the Lord, even when it was difficult – he is pointing us to Jesus Christ. Following Jesus especially in the small decisions of daily life, leads to more happiness and more peace. Advent is a time to adjust our course and find this happiness that only Christ can give. And this means saying ‘yes’ to him in daily life-decisions, even if we feel resistance.
May the Holy Virgin Mary touch us with her love in these days, and help us to always say ‘yes’ to God despite resistance.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas]

The State of Grace

1st Sunday of Advent
Beloved in the Lord Jesus.
The planet Venus is called the ‘sister planet’ of earth. This is because like earth, it is a rocky, solid body; its diameter is nearly the same as our planet, and it has the same gravity and Mass as earth. Now if engineers were to build a spaceship designed to make the journey to the planet Venus, so that ordinary citizens could go to live there, well – I don’t think there would be any takers. You see, the surface temperature of Venus is 860 degrees F, the atmospheric pressure is 92 times that of earth; its clouds are made of sulfuric acid, and instead of oxygen, you would have to breathe carbon dioxide. We would no doubt refuse this invitation, because our body and our lungs are designed for this world. In our atmosphere, they work, but there, they would not work.
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Now in the same way, our human nature, while adequate for the ordinary life of this world, is not adequate for the life of the world to come: the New Creation that we call heaven. If we were to enter heaven with only our human nature as is, we would be no more able to survive there, than on the planet Venus. Just as we would need some extra power of breathing to survive on another planet, so we need an extra power in our soul, in order to live in heaven. What is this power, and how do we get it?
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The power that we will need, so that we can live in heaven, is a power ‘above and beyond our nature’ – ‘super- nature’, it is ‘supernatural,’ and so we call it the Supernatural Life. Now this is true not only of human beings, but of angels as well; no created being by its own nature, is able to have a relationship or union with God without a supernatural elevation of nature; somehow, we have to be made ‘like God,’ so that we can relate to him, and this is the supernatural life, which is in us as Sanctifying Grace. This is what we mean when we say that we wish to be in the ‘State of Grace.”I hope that I am in the State of Grace.’
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This supernatural life, is first of all, a gift of God; it comes first to us in baptism. And this is why Jesus Christ came into the world, to impart to us, supernatural life – to give us a share in his divine life. St. Paul encourages us today: Cast off deeds of darkness, he says, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
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This ‘armor of light’ of which he speaks, is grace. ‘Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ,’ is to walk in this life of God. But we must protect and nurture this Divine Life, as a soldier uses armor for protection. In our baptism we receive the seed of this supernatural life – we become ‘in the State of Grace.’ The Christian life then, is about protecting and growing this grace in us. Our life will be a success, if at the moment of death we have in our soul, this Supernatural life, if we are in the State of Grace; this will make union with God not only possible, but beautiful. On the other hand, our life will be a failure if we die without the supernatural life. Everyone who is in hell is there because they were not in the State of Grace when they died.
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Our Lord reminds us today of the End Times, the final and the 2nd Coming. Jesus is speaking about the Elect – the Redeemed – when he says, on that day, lift up your head and rejoice, for your redemption is at hand. The Elect are those to be found in the State of Grace. If we commit a mortal sin, a serious sin, then we lose this necessary supernatural life in our soul; but we can recover it, by being sorry – turning back to God, going to confession. We must never remain long without the State of Grace, but return to God, and begin again, immediately.
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The State of Grace is lost by grave sins such as skipping Sunday Mass, serious theft or lies; sins against purity, cruelty, lack of charity, and other things. Losing God’s grace causes us to be empty. It is told in the Gospel of St. Luke, that when Jesus was a child and his parents were traveling from Jerusalem, he became lost. There can be no sadness like that experienced by Mary and Joseph, the feeling of losing Jesus. St. Alphonsus tells us to learn two lessons from this event: one is, that we should never be among those who through our own fault of sin, lose Jesus from our soul. The other lesson is: that if we have lost the Lord due to sin, we should know that God easily makes himself found by those who seek him.
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Whether it is to be restored to the State of Grace after serious sin, or to receive more grace by confessing venial sins, which are a daily struggle – which we all struggle with – well, as we begin Advent today, this can be a beautiful time of grace for our parish and our families.
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What present does Jesus want for his birthday? He wants us to prepare our soul for him, for his Nativity. God’s Divinity stoops down to us in the form of a baby, so that our humanity might acquire the supernatural life, and live forever with Him in heaven.
May the Blessed Virgin be near us, and dear to us, in these holy days leading up, to the birth of Christ our Savior.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of dear Audrey Santo]

The Resurrection of our Body

5th Resumed Sunday after Epiphany
Beloved in the Lord,
In the ancient Jewish temple, sacrifices of animals were central to worship. We know, that these sacrifices prefigured the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The lambs that were offered for example, prefigured the ‘Lamb of God,’.
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Now it is a very interesting and rarely discussed fact, that when those animals were slaughtered and cut into pieces, as part of the ritual, the priest would then arrange the pieces back together, ‘re-forming’ the animal, if you will. Why? Well, it was part of their rules of the ritual – they may not have understood it, but it actually pre-figured the resurrection, when Jesus crucified, would be re-constituted in his body, alive.
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Now the Holy Mass is the re-presentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Various parts of Holy Mass have symbolic meaning; for example at the Consecration, and when the priest raises the Host and the Chalice, we are at the Cross – it is quite clear here, because we look at the Host and the Crucifix really, together. And if the Consecration signifies the death of Christ, Holy Communion is linked to his Resurrection.
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At Communion time, when the priest breaks the Host over the chalice – and we might think of the tomb breaking open – after that is a strict requirement in the Latin Mass, that after that Host is broken, the two halves of the host are placed on the paten, and fitted exactly back together. If then, at the Consecration, the separation of Body and Blood signifies Christ’s death, then this re-assembling of the Host signifies his glorious resurrection.
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And as for us – the fathers of the Church from the beginning called Holy Communion the ‘Secret of the Resurrection.’ Holy Communion is the antidote to death. Jesus said, ‘He who eats this bread will live forever.’ Our Lord spoke of the resurrection of the body on numerous occasions; John, 6:39 – This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but I will raise them up on the last day. Verse 40: Every one who believes in the Son – I will raise them up on the last day. verse 43: ‘And I will raise them up on the last day.’
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When Jesus raised the boy from the dead, when he raised the little girl from the dead, and Lazarus too – these are all indicating the ultimate resurrection of the body. The Sadducees challenged Christ on the question of the resurrection – since they did not believe in it. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, or in angels, they accepted only the 1st 5 books of the bible – not the prophets or wisdom books or anything else. But Our Lord quotes to them from the Book of Exodus – which the Sadducees accept! Christ replies, ‘have you not read – where the Lord says, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Notice, it doesn’t say: I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he says, I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – aren’t dead. They’re alive. It’s brilliant – Our Lord shows them that even way back in the Book of Exodus, the resurrection is indicated.
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So how many people these days are still Sadducees, who do not really believe that on that Great Day, we will be resurrected, alive, in our glorious bodies? No wonder people only live for transitory pleasures. The great secret for us Christians, is the resurrection. Not only Jesus rose from the dead, but we will too. This is why its called, the Good News! It’s why Jesus came. Jesus was born, he grew up, he worked; he died – and he rose in his glorified body, and ascended to Paradise. We are his followers.  We are born, we grow up, we work and suffer and die.    And we will rise, in glorified bodies and enter paradise. This is why Jesus is called the First-born from the dead – because he went first; he conquered death and we will follow.
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Where do we get this power, to rise from the dead? The power comes to us from Jesus Christ, mediated through the sacraments, beginning in Baptism, but so much in Holy Communion. As I said, the early Christians called the Eucharist the ‘antidote’ to death. ‘Here, eat this, and you will survive death.’ They risked their life to get to Holy Mass, because our eternal life is at stake. This is why the martyrs were not afraid of death. Its why in the book of Macabbees, we see a whole family, urged on by their mother, give their life for the Faith. They believed that God will raise them up, and it’s why we are not afraid to die.
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St. Ambrose explains, that death entered the world so that sin might come to an end. He says: Death was to bring an end to guilt; the resurrection enables our nature to continue forever.  St. Paul says, ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall all rise, in the twinkling of an eye. At the last trumpet, the dead will rise, and we shall be changed.  At the little cemetery up at Mundelein, there is a very cool statue of an angel blowing a trumpet. This signifies the end of the world and the resurrection of the body.
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There seems to be one main reason people are unhappy today. They don’t really believe in the resurrection of their body. They seem unsure of what the next life will bring. Friends, if a Catholic does not believe in the resurrection of their body, they are rejecting a central teaching of our Faith. Every Sunday we say in the Creed: ‘Expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi.’ I await the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Life of the world to come. This changes everything about our life. It makes life worth living.
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As St. Paul says, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then our faith is worthless. But Christ has indeed been raised, he is the first, we follow him. As scripture says, ‘since death came through one man, Adam, so the resurrection of the dead comes also through one Man, Jesus.
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A few years ago we were burying a woman at Rosehill cemetery – it’s a big cemetery. After the prayers, as the people dispersed, a mother and her children walked over to chat with me, it turns out that the deceased was a very dear aunt to the children, Aunt Anne. They looked at me with their sad little hearts, so I said to them: ‘Do you kids want to hear a secret? ‘Look out at this vast cemetery. You see all those thousands of graves and tombs there? Their eyes scanned the rolling hills, the myriad of tombstones. ‘Those graves are all people who are waiting. And at the end of the world Jesus is going to wake everyone up and have them go to paradise with him, and it will be the happiest day in the world. ‘They will be alive,’ they asked? ‘Yes, I said, very alive.’   ‘Even Aunt Anne?   Even Aunt Anne. And they were very happy, because they had faith in the power of God.
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You know, the word ‘death’ was rarely used by early Christians.[i] They said, the person has ‘fallen asleep.’ We say that in the Canon of the Mass as well. In fact, the word ‘cemetery,’ comes from the Greek word[ii] which means ‘sleeping place’ – The cemetery is a sleeping place, until the resurrection.[iii]
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If someone said to us, at a certain hour a dead person will be raised to life, we would run very quickly to see it.[iv] Well, if you are a faithful Christian, you will one day not only see ‘some’ person raised, you will be raised.
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Let us then ask Mary to help us in our faith – Mary, help us to live and believe as true Christians, and one day be worthy of the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. +

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Peter]

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[i] ‘The Histor of the Mass and its Ceremonies in the Eastern and Western Church’ – John O’Brien, p. 344.

[ii] (dormitory(κοιμητήριον)).

[iii] And also, in Germany of old, people saw the body placed in the ground

to be like the seed sown by a farmer awaiting growth.

Even grave stones were compared to those little signs

that a farmer places, to show what type of flower or plant is planted there.

In those days, words for burying a person in the grave

conveyed the idea of hiding a treasure until the future.

[iv] Little Catechism, p. 38.

Grace

18th Sunday after Pentecost
Friends in Christ, In the year 1604 in Belgium, there were two students who lived a life of sin. One night, in the midst of their evil ways, one of them, named Richard, decided to go home. As he was about to get in bed, he remembered that he had not said his usual 3 Hail Marys, as was his custom since his youth, and so he did – and went to sleep. He was suddenly awakened by a violent knocking, and through the closed door came his friend from that night, deformed and hideous, his body of flame.
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Who are you? Richard cried in terror, you seem to be like a devil. The unfortunate creature exclaimed, I am your friend, I am damned. I was killed last night in the street and my soul is in hell. You too were doomed, but your prayers preserved you. He then disappeared.
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Richard fell on the floor, thanked Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, and vowed to change his life. Knowing that he had received a great grace, he acted – he became a missionary; he went to Mexico, and then studied in the Philippines in Cebu, where he was ordained a priest. In 1613 he went to Japan where Catholics were being martyred by Buddhists. On September 10, 1622, Richard was martyred in Nagasaki, Japan, tortured by slow burning in fire. A hero for the Faith, Richard of St. Anne, in 1867, was declared Blessed by the Church.
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A question for us to consider today is, in God’s plan, why was it that one of these men was damned, and the other became a great witness for Christ? The mystery of all of this is the mystery of grace and free-will. Today in the Epsitle, St. Paul says, ‘I give thanks to God always for you, for the grace of God that is given you in Jesus Christ. ‘By it, he says, in all things you are made rich in Him; nothing is wanting to you in any grace.
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Although many categories of grace exist, the two main types of grace are Actual grace and Sanctifying grace. Now Actual graces, are all those supernatural helps that we get from God. These can be promptings to do the right thing, sudden insights, or glimpses of God’s hand in our life. An Actual grace could be a sudden prompting with guilt for a sin, or an impulse moving us to confess. Anything that is a special intervention by God – and we often notice them – to bring us either away from sin or another step toward holiness. A priest hears about these often, because people will often notice God acting, in some specific way.
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The thing about grace however, is that it is a help, a gift, offered to us. Grace waits for our free will, and sometimes courage – to follow. God gives every person sufficient grace – sufficient opportunities – to be saved; but we must act on these graces. In the case of Richard’s friend, for sure God gave him opportunities in his life to follow grace, but he rejected them and became hardened in his sin, silencing his conscience.
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Blessed Richard himself, at least responded to grace sometimes; for example, he was given the thought, ‘I should say my prayers before bed.’ And it sounds as if he at least had not given that up. Now while God gives everyone sufficient grace to be saved, he pours untold graces on certain individuals. Once Richard began cooperating with God’s grace, look what the Lord did with him! – And this is the spiritual life; listening and responding to God’s invitations.
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In the gospel today, there is this sick man that Jesus not only healed, but forgave his sins – can there be a greater Actual grace, than to have the Son of God heal you and forgive you!? Yet some, in Christ’s day, by their hardness of heart, rejected grace.
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Actual graces can be external or internal. A person who is troubled, not knowing where to turn – is handed a book seemingly at random by a friend – he is changed. An external grace. A mother knows she must speak to her daughter about something difficult – and suddenly finds the words and courage to say it – an internal grace.
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Actual graces are one of the major types of grace; these are the helps to our spiritual growth, either internal or external. But the goal of all these helps from God is the other type of grace: Sanctifying grace. This grace is with the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit that makes us holy, that makes us pleasing to God. This is the grace we receive at conversion, at baptism, in the sacraments, in justification.
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But grace is not a fluid or a gas; if we think of Jesus, who unites in himself, God and Man, Divinity and Humanity – if we think of Christ, ‘Divinizing’ humanity, his Mystical Body – then Sanctifying grace is the divinization of man, it is making us like-to-God, uniting us with God through Jesus.
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We cannot have a union with God if we are not like God. A cat can have no ‘relationship’ with a plant. A woman cannot marry her dog or have a romantic relationship with an animal. For a human creature to have a relationship with God – well, this would normally be ridiculous, we are so very different from God! But sanctifying grace begins to divinize us, to make us like God, so that it is possible to enter an intimate union with Him.
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Sanctifying grace therefore, is nothing else than the divine life which flows from Christ into us. Father Emile Mersch says, that as the body is in the process of formation here on earth, it’s divinization is also in formation. Therefore it must include the power of formation and growth – analogous to Actual graces – and an initial level of life that must increase, analogous to sanctifying grace.
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As we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ, it is God’s will that divinization would flow from Christ to the whole body, that is ourselves. If we wish to grow in the likeness of Christ, we must therefore act on each Actual grace that is offered to us.
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Mary is called the universal channel of grace. St. Peter Damien calls her ‘the Treasurer of divine graces.’ Let us then invoke this Mother often. We can pray 3 Hail Mary’s before bed, or call on her anytime, to obtain every heavenly help and grace from Christ her Son.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton]

Love God with all your heart

17th Sunday after Pentecost
Friends in Christ, for 20 centuries, saints and mystics and poets, have puzzled over what happened in the mind of Judas. After Judas betrayed Christ, he gave back the money and hanged himself. But this is not the behavior of an ordinary greedy man. The typical miser loves nothing but money, and would have never even thought of giving back the money, much less of ending his life.
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Judas was greedy, but he was something else besides. There was inside of him, two loves. One, the love of money, and the other love was something else – another love, which flamed up, after his betrayal. We cannot find any other object for this other love except for Jesus. Judas felt a love for Christ, but the flame of this love was tainted with a shadow, his heart was divided. So says Father Ricciotti, in his book ‘The Life of Christ.’ 
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The Gospel today tells us the Greatest Commandment: ‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, thy whole soul and thy whole mind.’ The mystery of the divided heart in Judas is a mystery which repeats itself through history. I knew a young man who felt called to the priesthood; but his heart was so attached to other things – pleasures, comforts, desires of this life – Year after year he lived with a heart torn by two loves, a tortured heart; comforts and desires of this life won out.
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Very few people, actually, love God with their whole heart.[i] Most love their relatives, their friends, their sports, more – God must even compete with love of pets!  Of these St. John says, they do not have life, they are dead. 1 John 3:14 – ‘He who does not love, abides in death.’
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We are commanded to love God with our WHOLE heart, not part of it. Not holding on to our favorite sin, or vice, or habit. To love God totally, is to seek to become a saint. To become a saint, is to love God totally. And this is to find happiness: total love of God IS happiness.
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And love is not an emotion or high-sounding words, it is in the will. Thomas Aquinas’ sister asked him, ‘How can I become a saint.’ His reply: ‘Just will it.’   In other words, ‘Do it!’ A person loves God, not by what he says, or even how many prayers he can say. It is whether he does everything in his life for the sole purpose of pleasing God.
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This week will be the feast day of St. Joseph Cupertino, the Flying Saint. For him, over 70 documented cases of levitation. Once, the Spanish Admiral and his wife visited the Franciscans, and Joseph went to see them in the Church. But entering, he noticed up high, the statue of Mary, and overcome with emotion, he flew 30 feet over them to the statue. Everyone was speechless.  He once saw a lamb, and thinking of the Lamb of God,  filled with love, he took it in his arms and floated up into the air. Joseph would often say, ‘Have a good intention in everything you do,’ do all for God.
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To love God with all our heart, is to do everything, always, with the intention of pleasing God. The most insignificant action done in order to please the Lord, is of infinitely greater value than many impressive works done without this motive.[ii]
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Inside of each person we may say, there are two wills. The superior will and the sensual will. These two war against each other. The sensual will is the appetites, the flesh, the passions, desires. These war against the superior will in us, our mind. St. Paul says, I see another power in me making war against my mind.[iii]
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So there is above, God’s will, calling us to good; and there is our superior will, which wants God, and to praise and please him; but then there are the lower appetites, the sensual will, which lures us to choose against God. This is the war of the two loves.
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Yet who is more worthy of our love than God? Our dear Father in heaven, who is so infinitely powerful that he can make planets and suns, and so infinitely good, as to send his Son to die for us. St. Augustine says that God has a greater desire to do good to us than we have to receive it. And even if the most revolting sinner on earth were to repent of his sins, Our Father instantly pardons and embraces him. Who is more deserving of our love? No one.
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We should then examine ourselves: do we love God with our whole heart? What is it that drives us? What is it that we really desire the most? This is what we love. I know people who when they hear about some blasphemy, or some filthy artwork by a freak artist against Christ, or some mockery of the Church, they will say, ‘O, that’s a shame.’ Or when told that the government has made laws against Christ’s Church, her freedom of religion, they will say, ‘well, it doesn’t concern me.’ Yet say one word against their favorite sports team, and they will become outraged, and leap to its defense, with many reasons and explanations – to defend their love. Disagree with some over the latest fashion or criticize their favorite movie star, and they will boil with passion.
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You don’t have to scratch very deep, to find a person’s love. When someone offends the object of our love, or hinders us from obtaining it – when you see a person aroused to anger over the thing dear to their heart – then you will find what they love, and many times it is not God. Jesus said, ‘Your treasure is where your heart is.’
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So where is our heart? Is it entangled in useless things, giving God second or even 3rd place? The heart of the Blessed Virgin was never entangled in other loves; ‘Mary, you are called ‘Mother of Good Counsel.’ Counsel us, your children, and untangle our hearts, that we will love God with our whole heart, and soul, and mind.

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Entrusted to the prayers of St. Nicholas

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[i] Ideas here are borrowed from ‘Sermons of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, p. 345.

[ii] Spiritual Combat, p. 28-30.

[iii] See Romans 7:23

Two Roads

14th Sunday after Pentecost
Beloved in Christ,[i] in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina was granted many visions by the Lord, some of which are written down in her diary. In one place, she writes this: ‘One day I saw two roads. One was wide, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music, and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end of the road and suddenly there was a horrible precipice – that is, the abyss of hell. They fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. Their numbers were so great that it was impossible to count them.
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This is a vision that the Lord gave to her. It is unsettling. But the vision has another part. She goes on: ‘I saw another road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; people who walked along it were suffering. Some fell down on the rocks, but got back up and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with happiness, and when they entered there, at the first instant they forgot all their sufferings.
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Friends in the Lord, there are two roads in life. A road that requires effort – that road leads to happiness. The other road is one of foolish pleasure – that ends in hell. St. Faustina saw this in her vision, but the Lord said it to us long ago in the Holy gospels: ‘Try to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.’ ‘Wide is the road that leads to destruction, many enter through it. ’ It is quite evident from the Holy Scriptures, that many people are not going to make it to heaven.
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In the gospel today, Our Lord reminds us that there are only two ways. ‘No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.’
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Some have read the Second Vatican Council of the Church as saying that everyone is saved – but actually, there are some strong warnings: it warns that ‘very often, people are deceived by the Evil One and exchange the truth of God for a lie.’ Then it says…. regarding Catholics especially, that if they who have heard the gospel fail to respond in word, and deed to God’s grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged. (LG 14)
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Friends, so many times in the gospels Our Lord warns about the coming judgment. The sheep will be separated from the goats. The righteous from the unrighteous. The weeds separated from the wheat. ‘And the Son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all evildoers and throw them into the furnace of fire.’
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Christ tells us these things not because this is how things have to be; or that this is how he wants them to be. He tells us this simply because he knows it to be this way.
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In 2 Thessalonians 2:1 we are told that in the final conflict, before the End, the restraint on evil will be removed. Has this already happened? Some feel that it has, with the crescendo of evil and the mass apostasy taking place.
When he visited the United States in 1976, the future John Paul II gave an address at the Eucharistic Congress: ‘We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced…I do not think that the Christian Community realizes this fully…we are facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist….’ Many are noticing what is happening, yet in the midst of this people are dancing on, as if the Titanic is just fine.
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A lady recently said, ‘Father, I think the Lord is very merciful, so he will let everyone into heaven.’ I asked her, ‘Have you ever read the Holy Gospels?!  For sure the Lord is merciful – every day he gives us a new chance to turn from our sins and follow him, to begin again. This whole life is full of second chances! There’s his mercy.
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But in so many places in the scriptures, we are warned that actions have consequences. Today in his Letter to the Galatians St. Paul says that those who live an immoral life will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. He says this again in his letter to the Corinthians: ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those practicing homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, will inherit the kingdom of heaven.
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Satan’s big lie is to convince us, that the only people who go to hell are members of ISIS or mass-murderers. St. Faustina was given a vision of hell. she describes the horror of the place and so many people there; then she says, ‘I noticed one thing: most of those who were there, did not believe that there is a hell.’ Satan’s favorite trick, is to convince us that the road to heaven is wide and easy. He creates his lies out of a little truth: he takes the truth of God’s mercy and creates the lie that mercy means ‘just live as you please and God will let you into heaven.’
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But getting into heaven is not like a game, as if you can just find a way to win the prize. Heaven is like getting married, it’s a nuptial union with the most wonderful Person, with your Creator, with your Beloved.
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So if there was a great and wonderful man – and a lady said, I hope to get married to him, but she never cared about him, and lived her life more interested in others; if she became a lazy, indecent person – Well – getting married to that great man would be ridiculous. She would not even be happy with such a good man, because her wicked life is so different from his. Heaven is not like winning a game; it is like getting married to God, and so we must live our life for him.
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But if our sins cause us to be discouraged, let us seek the help of the Blessed Virgin. She is always wishing to help us, to keep trying. Blessed Raymond Jordano says, Mary is God’s treasure; he who finds her, finds every good, and everyone can find her, even the most miserable sinner in the world.
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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Mary Magdalene]

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[i] Some ideas and quotes are from the pamphlet by Ralph Martin, ‘The Final Confrontation.’

The Good Samaritan

12th Sunday after Pentecost
Beloved in Jesus Christ, today Our Lord gives us this parable of the Good Samaritan.
Christ here is speaking not only of the evident love of neighbor we must have, but he is speaking in sign, about great cosmic events. He says: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho….’ The Fathers of the Church tell us, that he says ‘a certain man’ because he is speaking about Adam – and at once he is speaking of the whole human race: Man.
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‘This man went down from ‘Jerusalem…’ As St. Augustine says, ‘Jerusalem’ means peace, and so this signifies Paradise, which mankind originally posessed. But it says, this man went down from there to Jericho. Jericho signifies this fallen world – the fallen state of Man.
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In those days, a person would be taking a great risk to go alone along such a road, which was well-known for its thieves and robbers. The human race is not guiltless in that we chose and continue to choose – the dangerous road when we give into temption. And the dangers are real: St. Ambrose says that those robbers that acosted the man – they represent the Angels of Darkness, that is, the Devil and his minions.
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The Devil stripped mankind of virtue and wounded us, leaving us half-dead. Augustine says that ‘half-dead’ means that Man is alive, but at the same time because we are corrupted and pressed down by sin, we are dead.
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The priest and the Levite who come by, offering no help – these signify the Law and the Prophets which of themselves could not save us. Only Christ can save us, and he is typified by the Good Samaritan who is not of any particular tribe.
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It says, ‘The Samaritan, being on a journey….’ And in fact, Christ is on a journey, himself coming down from heaven to heal and save us. Only the Lord can save us. We can put our faith so easily in other things: politics, financial security, popularity – as if somehow, if these things are solved, all will be well. But in the end, this planet will burn up in fire, and our body will rot.
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Only Christ can heal our wounds and save us and bring us safely to the inn, which is heaven; and Christ can only save us if we love God and neighbor.
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Hateful, selfish people will not be saved, and therefore the Holy Scriptures lay out for us this gospel today. This Lawyer speaking to Jesus – it says, ‘He wishing to justify himself said, and who is my neighbor?’ St. Cyril tells us: this lawyer, who has so much pride, proves himself to be devoid of love of neighbor, since he did not consider anyone to be his neighbor.
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But everyone is our neighbor.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Mary, niece of Abraham]

The Our Father

10th Sunday after Pentecost
Beloved in Jesus Christ, this past spring, in a small town in Ohio, moments before the high school graduation, the senior class secretly made a decision that would make national headlines. For over 70 years, their public school had a tradition at graduation of singing the Our Father. Catholics and Protestants alike, and any others who wished to join in, sang the Lord’s prayer at their graduation.
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But this year, the school district banned the song to appease a group of ‘perpetually-offended atheists,’ it might be better to call them ‘bullies,’ none of whom even live in town. The decision devastated the community. So that day, as the students were lining up, some of them began talking about how wrong it was that their beloved tradition had been outlawed. ‘Pretty much everyone was in agreement,” said senior Bobby Hill. The class thought it was wrong.
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Bobby’s father was sitting in the auditorium when he received a text message from his son: the students were going to take a stand for God. After the valedictorian welcomed the crowd, the seniors rose to their feet and began committing an act of disobedience. They had been told they could no longer ‘sing’ the Our Father, and so instead, they recited it…. ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…’ The people cheered. They cheered for God, and for freedom to pray.
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Friends in Christ,’ Today in the Gospel, our Lord shows us two examples of prayer. The phony prayer of the Pharisee, and the humble sincere prayer of the Publican. Prayer is not just some ‘add-on’ to our life; if vitamins and minerals are essential to the health of the body, prayer is essential to the health of the soul.
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One time Christ’s disciples asked him to teach them to pray. Now all though there are many ways to pray, Jesus taught them the Our Father. They said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. And he said unto them, ‘This is how you should pray, Our Father, who art in heaven….’ And he taught the Lord’s prayer. On two different occasions he did this: the one recorded by St. Luke is briefer, the one recorded by St. Matthew is exactly the Our Father as we say it today.
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This prayer is the only prayer given to us directly by God. Jesus Christ himself gave this prayer to us. Now I am certain that everyone here says this prayer even more than once a day. It can be said in our morning prayers or night prayers. As I was preparing this homily, I wondered how many times I pray it each day and I counted about 30; for sure it is and must be an important part of our daily life.
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Growing up, our family always prayed, along with the meal blessing, the Our Father. (We also prayed the Hail Mary and the Glory Be, and a prayer for Missionaries, and for our deceased relatives.) If you pray a rosary, you are saying the Our Father six times. St. Ambrose says, ‘Say the Our Father at least 3 times a day that you may be worthy to be children of your Father in heaven.’ But regardless, a day should never pass in our life, in which this prayer is not on our lips and our children’s lips.
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This prayer has worked wonders: it brings immediate peace to a troubled soul, drives out demons, repels temptation, and has worked miracles. A woman was completely mute, unable to speak at all. But one day at Mass, as the Our Father was begun, she was miraculously cured. The Lord’s Prayer shows us that we are children of God. No other religion on earth calls their creator ‘Father,’ but we do. ‘Pater Noster, qui es en coelis….’
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Some people add to the end of the Our Father, ‘For thine is the kingdom and power and glory… A person asked me once, ‘why don’t you Catholics add that part?’ I said, because it’s not in the bible! We use the Our Father just as it was taught to us by Christ in the gospel of St. Matthew. That extra phrase is called a ‘Doxology,’ a short prayer of praise. In the early Church, especially in the east, such Doxologies were often added to things in prayers.
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Well, the bible before the 15th century was copied entirely by hand – very arduous – and it seems that a monk or someone wrote an aspiration – a doxology – in the margin of his book. The next copiest must have thought that it belonged in the text and put it in.  Of the Greek manuscripts we have of the bible, some of them have this Doxology added to the Our Father. When Protestants translated their bible during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, this translation was used and brought into the King James Bible.  They used the Textus Receptus text, which has this error.  Scripture scholars all agree now, that this doxology is not part of the Our Father given to us by Christ and is therefore not found in modern bibles. So we can just say, ‘we don’t use it because it’s not in the bible. It’s a nice prayer of praise, but it wasn’t given to us by Christ.
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Since the earliest days of the faith, the Lord’s Prayer was prayed right before receiving Holy Communion, it has always been connected with Holy Communion.[i] In fact, in the true Greek, in which the Our Father was written, it doesn’t say give us our ‘daily bread,’ but rather, ‘give us this supernatural bread.’ The bread that we are asking for in the Our Father, is the Bread of Life from the altar. So it is appropiate that many people come to weekday Mass as well, to receive daily, this ‘supernatural bread of angels.’
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And it is interesting, that in the gospel of St. Luke, where he teaches the Lord’s Prayer, right after that, he tells the story about the man knocking and demanding to receive some bread. It is not a coincidence.
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In the early Church, no one ever spoke publically about the Mass, nor ever spoke the Our Father out loud. This was called the ‘discipline of the secret.’ These were Secrets of our Faith, and no one was to know them except those who were members. These are the Sacred words, and although today we allow non-Catholics to know of them, the Our Father is still the secret words of love that we pray to our Father in heaven.
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May the Blessed Virgin help us in the coming days, especially to pray often, this sacred prayer taught to us by Jesus.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Bernadette]

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[i] Jungman, Vol. II, p. 285.

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