Category Archives: Sundays

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 King was a Servant

Feast of Christ the King
Beloved in the Lord Jesus.
One of the newest saints in the Church is St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, of Mexico. How did this young boy become a saint? Well, in the early 1900’s, the government was trying to suppress the Catholic Church; a group of Catholics called the Cristeros, took to arms to defend the right of Catholics to practice their faith.
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At that time, a young boy named José Sánchez del Río asked his mother permission to join the Cristeros, but she said, ‘you are too young.’ ‘Mama, he replied, “do not let me lose the opportunity to gain heaven so easily.” Eventually, the general of the Cristeros agreed to let the boy carry the flag for the troops, which he did.
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On February 5, 1928, the boy was captured and imprisoned. In order to terrorize him, they made him watch the hanging of one of the other captured Cristeros. But José encouraged the man, saying, “You will be in heaven before me. Tell Christ the King I shall be with him soon.” In prison, he prayed the Rosary and wrote a beautiful letter to his mother, telling her that he wanted to do God’s will.
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On February 10, they cut the soles of his feet and made him walk on salt. Then he was marched through the town to the cemetery where they would shoot him. The soldiers said, deny Christ, and you will live. But he answered: “Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”
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Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of Christ the King; this feast comes just before we begin Advent. Jesus Christ is the King of the Entire Universe, he created it, As scripture says, ‘All things were made through him.’ Yet during the coming Advent, we will reflect on the mystery, that this King of the Universe lowered himself to become a Child, to become a servant to all, in order to save all. This Lord, who with a glance could annihilate all that is, who by his will alone, has brought into existence not only the beautiful world, but you and I – this great and good God, has became a servant of the world. That’s the kind of king he is.
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The Son of God was obedient to his Father even to death on the cross. This King of heaven, was also obedient to his earthly parents, for it says in the gospel of St. Luke, that ‘he was subject to them.’ Jesus even made himself obedient to Pontius Pilate, who condemned him to death – and to the executioners who whipped him; he humbly obeyed them all, and gave every drop of his blood and his life for we sinners.
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Christ is King, but in his humility, he shows us that he is a king who came into this world to help us and serve us. While in the agony of the cross, he was ready to forgive – a servant to sinners: The good thief said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said unto him, ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise.’
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You know, it is told the story of St. Alexis, who was the son of an important Roman family. Because he desired to only serve God, he left home and lived as an ascetic for many years in the desert. Eventually he returned to Rome as a beggar; not recognizing him as their own son, his parents took him into their home where he worked as a servant and lived under the stairs for 17 years!
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But if Alexis, of an important family, could become their servant, how much greater a thing is it that God himself has lowered himself to be the servant of we creatures. If the King of heaven has done all of this for us, what must be our response to him? We must ourselves live our life serving Jesus Christ, serving the Good King.
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St. Alphonsus says, ‘Instead of being servants of this dear King of heaven, we often prefer to be servants of the devil. But the devil does not love his servants; he hates them and makes them unhappy in this world and in the next.’
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Since we have been delivered by Jesus Christ from the slavery of hell, let us then be true servants of he who died for us. And may the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for us, that we will become worthy of the promises of Christ. 

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. John Vianney]

 

The End of the World

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
In the Gospel today, we encounter this striking scene; Our Lord had just spent the whole day in the Temple[i] debating with the Scribes and Pharisees, but it was impossible to penetrate their stone hearts. As he was leaving there, he overheard some people speaking of the great beauty of the temple, and going on and on about it – But he said to them, ‘Do you see all these things? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ – This place will be destroyed. And every single stone will be turned over.-
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The disciples were breathless with fear of what his words might mean. For them, those were shocking prophecies: the total destruction of the great Temple of Jerusalem, and the future destruction of the world. In the Holy Scriptures, we find that the earth – creation itself – is really seen as one giant temple. The Garden of Eden was described using some temple-imagery, the psalmist uses imagery to depict creation as a temple, with human beings as the priests, offering Creation to God.
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Now scholars tell us that the Temple of Jerusalem was really supposed to be a microcosm of this world, it was an image, if you will, of this world: The huge ‘sea’ of water, walls carved with flowers, a giant grape vine over the entrance; the blue veil in front of the Holy of Holies symbolized the sky, and beyond the sky, the Holy of Holies represented heaven. If the Temple was therefore a sign of this universe, what does it mean if would be destroyed? A sign of the coming end of this world; and so, in one breath Our Lord speaks of both. ‘I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ ‘This generation shall not pass away, until all these things have been accomplished.’
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And so it was true – the shocking destruction of the temple took place in those people’s generation, just 37 years after Jesus’ prophecy. After it was burned to the ground, the greedy soldiers searching for the gold that melted from the fire, turned over every single stone to get it. But not just the end of the temple was prophesied; the world as well: ‘the day nor the hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,’ says the Lord. ‘People will be eating and drinking – partying away – as in the days of Noah. ‘You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; nation will rise against nation; there will be pestilence and famines and earthquakes. They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And there will be a great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world. So Our Lord is speaking at once about the end of the Temple, and also the coming end of the world.
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I was at an airport a few years ago, about to finally read this book I had with me, when a young Jewish man came over to talk. He was studying to be a Rabbi and he recognized me as a Catholic priest. ‘This is a sad time for us, he said, ‘it is the ‘Three Weeks;’ the Bein ha-Metzarim.[ii] This is when we remember the destruction of the Temple. I said to him, Yes, the destruction of the temple in 70AD. But you know, we Christians have another understanding of this, not so sad. The temple was great and glorious, for sure, and it was the site of the sacrifices by the priests. But the temple was a sign, a pre-figurement, pointing to a new priesthood of Jesus, the Messiah – a new Sacrifice – and a New Temple. Ezekiel prophesied an entirely new, glorious temple. And this glorious temple is in heaven, which the Jewish temple was preparing for. Destroyed? Only in the sense that it was a sign, preparing the way. That temple offered sheep and goats in sacrifice, but those pre-figured the True Sacrifice of the Messiah, which we renew on our altars today. The priesthood continues, the priesthood of Jesus – and at the Catholic Mass, we are participating in the praise of God in the Eternal Temple of heaven.
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We spoke some more, especially about the Jewish roots of our Faith. The Mass as fulfillment of Passover. Then he said, ‘Father, almost no one knows, even few Jewish people know, that it was also at this time of the Three Weeks, that we believe Moses threw down and broke the 10 commandments because of sin.[iii] So we are mourning this too. ‘That’s VERY interesting,’ I told him. And I thanked him for the discussion, time to get on the plane, he was on a different flight.
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So I’m on the plane, sitting down, just opening my book finally, and the woman next to me says, ‘You’re a priest.’ ‘Yes,’ I said. I’m Jewish!, she said. ‘Oh.’ In fact, I have been doing research on my religion in Israel. Father, did you know that this is a very sad time for us? It is when the Temple was destroyed. ‘I said, yes. And you know, it is very interesting, that it was also during this time, long before, that Moses broke the 10 commandments.’ ‘How did you know that?!!!!!!’, she asked me!
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Friends, people today live as if the world will never end, as if THEY will never end. When I cover the subject of the End Times with the kids in school, one question I always ask is very simple: ‘True or false: This world will one day come to an end.’ True. Strangely, we have to be reminded of this.
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At the end of the Liturgical Year, Mother Church presents to us this subject, to be pondered: the End Times. Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple, which happened in the exact detail as he described it. So when he tells us that this world will end, it will. This world, this life – is temporary. And so this week, we remember our mortality; we know not when the world will end, nor when our life will end; So?
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So we live today as a faithful child of God, come what may. What we have done in our past is not so important; what we choose to be today is what matters, so that we will end well. As St. John Vianney used to say, ‘All the saints did not start out so well, but they ended well.’ May the Blessed Virgin help us all, that when the end will come, we may end very well.

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

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[i] A Parochial Course in Doctrinal Instructions, p. 540

[ii] The day the destruction of the Temple is remembered is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av at the end of the Three Weeks.

[iii] The breaking of the 10 Commandments was on the first day of the Three Weeks, Tammuz 17.

The Resurrection of our Body

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in the Lord,
The various parts of Holy Mass have symbolic meaning; for example at the Consecration, and when the priest raises the Host and the Chalice, we see ourselves at the Cross – reminded by the one that hangs here – And if the Consecration signifies the death of Jesus, Holy Communion is linked to his Resurrection from the dead. When the priest breaks the Host over the chalice and we might think of the tomb breaking open – a piece of the Sacred Host is broken and mixed into the Precious Blood. If at the Consecration, separation of Body and Blood signifies death, then this re-joining of Body and Blood signifies Christ’s 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.’
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Now in the gospel today, we see this encounter with Jesus and the Sadducees. The Sadducees only believed the first 5 books of the bible, nothing else. They also did not believe in the next life. When you die, they said, that’s it, you’re dead. So they did not believe in life after death, or the resurrection, because they did not find it mentioned in the first 5 books of the bible, so they thought.
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To make their point, they come to Jesus and propose a scenario to him, where a woman has had in her life, 7 husbands who have each died. And they ask, if there is really a resurrection Jesus, – ah, then – which one will be her husband in the life to come? But Jesus says, you are wrong because you do not know the scriptures. for in the resurrection, people do not get married. We will rise, in our glorified bodies; but in that day, we will not be married in an earthly way. We will be married to God, and also we will be in union with all the members of the Church, with our spouse or spouses from our earthly life yes – if they are in heaven – but this union will not have exclusivity, this ‘Communion of the Saints’ will be a whole new way of being together in perfect charity.[i]
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The Sadducees did not believe in life after death. But now we see how amazing a teacher Jesus is: Our Lord proceeds to quote from the Book of Exodus – which the Sadducees accept! Christ replies, ‘have you not read – where God 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 are alive. So it’s brilliant – Our Lord shows them that even way back in the Book of Exodus, the resurrection is indicated. It says, ‘When the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching!
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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.
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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, 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. 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 that mother we read about in the book of Macabbees, urged her sons to give their life for the Faith. They believed that God will raise them up. It’s why we are not afraid to die.
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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.
 
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: ‘I believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.’ this changes everything about our life. 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.[ii] They said, the person has ‘fallen asleep.’ We still say that in the Eucharistic Prayers. In fact, the word ‘cemetery,’ comes from the Greek word[iii] which means ‘sleeping place’ – The cemetery is a sleeping place, until the resurrection.[iv]
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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.[v] 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] Jesus says, just as angels don’t get married in heaven, we also won’t be married, in an earthly way, in heaven. – note that this is a dig, since the Sadducees do not believe in angels.

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

[iii] (dormitory(κοιμητήριον)).

[iv] 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.

[v] Little Catechism, p. 38.

Help Me

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
In 1983, Ann Marie Cosgrove was going with her boyfriend to an abortion clinic. She writes about her experience. She says, if I went through with the pregnancy and had the baby, there was no guarantee that my boyfriend John was going to stick around. So I felt that I just had to make this decision and then move on with my life.
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John accompanied me to that place. Secretly, I remember wanting so much, just to hear him say – to have him turn to me and say: ‘Let’s just leave.’ I waited. He never said it. The counselor told me that there would be some sadness, but that it would go away. But it doesn’t.
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The next thing I knew, I was on the table. I was so scared that I started to shake. I looked up toward the ceiling and said, ‘God forgive me for what I am doing.’ When the doctor started the machine, I said ‘Help me.’ I felt darkness enter me as my baby’s life was being ripped away. I remember thinking that I would never be the same.
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From there, my life spiraled down. I started drinking, smoking crack cocaine. Whatever relationship I had with John ended the day my baby died, he hadn’t protected my family.
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Friends in the Lord, this is how the devil works. He lures us into sin little by little to try to destroy our life and the life of others. With Anne, it began with immodesty and sex before marriage; had she listened to Jesus’ commandments and remained pure, none of the rest would have happened. The devil tries to lead us, first by small sins, then big ones, until we don’t even remember where a Catholic Church is. He wants to pull us away from God.
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But Jesus never gives up on us; as long as we are alive, he wishes for us to return to him and begin again. One drop of his blood can destroy even the biggest sins, but we have to turn back to him.
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Christ has given us the rescue sacrament, to bring us back, it is called Confession. Our parish tries to offer confessions a lot, because we want to help people. People go to confession every month because they want to keep doing better; they confess their venial sins, sometimes mortal – because they want to convert their heart more to Jesus Christ.
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Other people confess because they are in big trouble; they are far from Jesus and have been living a life of sin. These people are like so many in the Gospels, who wish to leave the evil path, and walk the path of hope. When they experience the mercy of Jesus, they go away overjoyed and ready to live again.
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They are like the leper in the gospel today who Jesus healed. This man has this terrible disease, but Christ’s power takes it away, cures him. The disease is a symbol for sin. But Jesus does not heal him directly; he tells them, ‘Go, show yourself to the priest.’
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The Lord does this still now. He wants us to go to the priest, confess our sins, and hear the words of forgivness: ‘Go,show yourself to the priest.’ And the priest will say, ‘I absolve you of your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the  Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’
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How does it feel to come back to Jesus? To know that you can begin again? To be cleansed of your sins? Listen to Anne Marie Cosgrove tell the rest of her story: She says, ten years later, my mother was dying. My little brother began to pray the Our Father. Mom prayed with us and then she died. In that moment, I felt God calling me back. I remember telling God. ‘My plans aren’t working, I give up. I want the life you have planned for me.’
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On what would have been my mother’s birthday, I discovered the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I prayed it; I felt the mercy of Christ. She says, I went to the priest for confession, knelt down and said, Bless me Father for I have sinned, ten years ago I had an abortion. That was the beginning of my new life. She says, I told Jesus, ‘After what you did for me, I’ll go anywhere and do anything for you. I love you.’
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Friends, this is October, it is Respect life month. We pray for an end to this sick thing called abortion, that doesn’t help anyone: it kills a baby and wounds a mother.
And we pray to Mary. Mary, help those who have done very bad things; help them to find the mercy of Christ and live again. And Mary, pray for us, that we ourselves will follow only the path of Jesus and of goodness, because that is the path to heaven.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. John of  God]

Your Guardian Angel

Friends in Christ, at each Holy Mass, we offer Jesus Christ and ourselves with him, to Our Father in heaven. Mass is the supreme act of worship on earth, offered to God. We offer Mass with Jesus – his life, death, and resurrection – but we also offer with the angels who are present at each Mass.
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We begin Mass in the Confiteor, invoking the angels. We offer praise in the Gloria, words given to us by angels. We sing Holy, Holy, Holy with the angels, and in Eucharistic Prayer I, we see that it is a great Angel, who brings the Sacrifice of Our Savior to God in heaven.
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St. John Chrysostom says that “When Mass is being celebrated, the Sanctuary is filled with countless Angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.” But let us see, that among all the angels worshiping God with us, also present are our own Guardian Angels. In fact, today, October 2nd, is the feast of the Guardian Angels!
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Belief in angels is an important teaching of the Catholic Faith. In Ludwig Ott’s famous book on the Faith, it says in paragraph 26: ‘In the beginning of time, God created angels out of nothing,’ De Fide. Now that expression, ‘De Fide,’ means of the faith, it is a dogmatic, unchangeable teaching that God created angels out of nothing.
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In the next paragraph, 27, it says: ‘The nature of the angels is spiritual, De Fide.’ So this is also a Dogma; that unlike human beings, which are composed of body and soul, the nature of the angels is purely spiritual. As St. Paul says, ‘We do not wage war against flesh and blood, but against – the demons, the bad angels, which are pure spirit.
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Part of the importance of understanding angels, is to help us understand ourselves. Man is composed of body and soul, and although the soul leaves the body at death, the soul is not a human being; we do not become finally, spiritual substances like angels, rather, we await the resurrection of our bodies.
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The bible mentions angels 273 times. But we would point even moreso to our Jewish ancestors. The Jews had a strong devotion to angels and Jesus would often refer to angels. Now we said that October 2nd is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. Referring to this, Ludwig Ott, in his book says, in paragraph 30: ‘Every one of the faithful has his own special Guardian Angel from baptism. Sententia certa’ – theologically certain. And so this is part of the general belief of the Church.
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St. Gemma saw her guardian angel almost all the time. Her Guardian Angel would kneel down next to her, and pray with her. She once fell ill on the floor but her angel picked her up and put her in bed; and this angel told her that everyone should fight against temptation,  so that they will one day see the beauty of Paradise.
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So, we are guarded and assisted by our own special angel, and this is supported in the Sacred Scriptures. In the Holy Gospels Our Lord will say, ‘Do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Jesus says, ‘their angels.’ And in this, he certainly refers to the Guardian Angels of those children. Also, in Acts of the Apostles chapter 12, when those in the house did not believe it was actually Peter knocking on the door, they merely said: ‘It must be his angel.’ The early Christians presumed a Guardian Angel for each person.
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Many believe that our angel has unique characteristics suited just to us, or, one might say that our angel has a personality matched to ours. Padre Pio saw and spoke to his angels with familiarity. Once his angel seemed to delay in coming to his assistance. ‘Why did you delay in coming!, he yelled at the angel. ‘I decided to punish my angel,’ he said; so I did not look him in the face. But the poor angel came to me almost crying, he grabbed me so I looked at him, and saw he was sad. The angel said: ‘I am always close to you. I watch over you always; my affection for you will not end even when you die.’
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In my last parish, I was one day speaking of angels with the children in the school, and a young child off-handedly said: ‘Father, at Mass the other day there was an angel standing next to Fr. Jerry.’ Later, at breakfast, I said to Fr. Jerry, ‘A child said he saw an angel standing next to you at Mass.’ Smiling, he said: ‘Does that surprise you?!
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We should pray to our angel each day, many times, because God thought to create a special helper for us.
Finally, we conclude by going to the Blessed Virgin. Mary is called the ‘Queen of Angels;’ may this Queen send forth the holy angels to guide and protect us, that safe from the Enemy, we will be ever-faithful to Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas]

The Ends do not Justify the Means

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in the Lord, if you open your bible to the 1st Book of Kings, you will read that King Ahab liked to look at the beautiful vineyard next to his palace; it belonged to a man named Naboth. The King wanted that vineyard, but Naboth did not want to sell it. Ahab was sad, but his wife Jezebel said, ‘I will get it for you.’ So she had people lie and accuse Naboth of terrible crimes, so he was stoned to death. ‘Now, go and take possession of the vineyard,’ she said to him.
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Friends in Christ, there may be things that we want, like Naboth’s vineyard, or things that would be good to have, but we cannot obtain them by doing something evil. If a boy wants to buy his mother a birthday present, that is a good thing; but he may not steal money in order to buy it. We may not do evil, in order to achieve good. The ‘ends do not justify the means.’[i]
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By the ‘ends,’ we mean the goal, by the ‘means,’ is the way that we achieve that goal. The ends – the goal – cannot not justify bad means. If we are very much in need of a job, we try hard to get one; but we may not lie on the application in order to get it. We want a wonderful composition in literature class, but we may not copy someone else’s paper to do it. Even if something is VERY good, we may not do evil in order to obtain that good.
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‘My father is dying, I hate to see him suffer, so I will overdose him to end his life. No! Alleviating suffering is a good thing, but we may never use evil means to attain it, otherwise the whole action becomes evil. So this is an important principle in the Christian life which most distinguishes us from pagans.
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In his Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul says that we may not do evil in order to achieve good. (Rom 3:8) Every moral action requires, that WHAT we wish to achieve be good, but also, HOW we achieve that result must also be good. Lance Armstrong wanted something good, winning the Tour de France, fine; but cheating and using drugs made his achievements evil, not good.
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Today we see in the Gospel, that Jesus speaks about setting goals, such as building a tower. He says that we must sit down first and decide HOW we will build it. HOW we achieve our goal is just as important in the moral life. Our Lord says that if we have a good goal, the tower – and we wish to build it without the proper means, people will laugh at us when we fail to achieve it. Lance Armstrong did not take the proper means to achieve his goal, and now he is laughed at.
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If we wish to do something good, but we do it in a sinful way, we will then not have done any good, and the devil will laugh at us. ‘I want my boyfriend to love me, so I will indulge sinful pleasures with him.’ Now although being loved is good, sinning to achieve it, poisons the whole thing. ‘There is a great song I like, so I’ll get it illegally, but this is a sin; we may not do evil in order to achieve good.
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Now it may have occurred to you that our society totally rejects this principle, and that’s for sure. Everywhere, people do evil, in order to get what they want. Nowhere does the spirit of the age go more against the Christian faith than in this area.
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I’m pregnant; this will affect my career plans, my parents will be angry – so I’ll get an abortion. No! While sound career plans and good relations with parents are good things, we may not do evil to obtain what we wish. Some people rationalize; they say ‘It was an agonizing decision, the most difficult in my life, to abort my baby’ – or something else. They want it to seem somehow moral or ok, because they ‘agnonized’ over the decision. But this doesn’t make it right at all.
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These days, if people want something bad enough, they will rationalize and find any means to get it. I want a baby, so I will use any means to achieve it: surrogate motherhood, invitro fertilization, people even steal other people’s babies!   ‘I want an ‘A’ on my exam, it is critical for Law School, therefore I will cheat because this is just TOO important. But we may not do evil to achieve good, even if it is very important.
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Christians live a different way: If telling the truth at work will get me in trouble, I will do the right thing, no matter the cost. My girlfriend will stop going out with me if I won’t move in with her – so-be-it; I will not do what is immoral to have her. This principle is generally what will tell, whether one is a true Christian or not.
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Why do people so often do evil in order to achieve good? Because otherwise, they will have to suffer. Every time we say ‘no’ to doing something wrong, we must suffer a little bit. And this is why Our Lord says in the Gospel today that we must take up our cross to follow him. Being a disciple of Christ is to be a person of integrity; a true Christian does what is right no matter the cost.
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St. Perpetua, a young woman of the 4th century, was challenged by the authorities: ‘Are you a Christian,’ they demanded to know. She could have done what was easy to save her life, denied her faith – but no. Her response was strong and clear: ‘Yes I am a Christian.’
May the Blessed Virgin pray for us, that we also will always do what is right, no matter the cost; that we too can say: ‘I am a Christian.’

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Agatha]

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[i] CCC 1753

Don’t Follow the Crowd

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in the Lord, one of the great saints that I like to read, is St. Alphonsus Liguori. But his path to sainthood was not so easy.[i] Growing up, he had a keen intellect, and his parents were proud that he studied and became a lawyer; his father was very glad that he was making a name for their family, Alphonsus would be a success.
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But God was working on the heart of that young man in another way, calling him to a different path. Alphonsus lost an important case in court. He was upset. He stopped his law practice, and began to pray – really pray. Daily Mass – devotion. Instead of associating with his law friends, he visited the incurably ill in the hospital. His father asked him to take another legal case, but he told him he was done with Law. He stared at his son and would not accept this.
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But Alphonsus strongly felt that God was calling him in a different way. Over the days his father argued with him, pleaded with him, one day, in a rage, his father said: ‘I pray that God would take one of us out of this world; I cannot stand the sight of you.’ —
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Friends in Christ, today in the gospel Jesus says: ‘Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, division. From now on a household will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father against his son and a son against his father, mother against daughter and a daughter against her mother.’
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Jesus is warning us against giving in to human respect. He is urging us not to seek after the opinion of others more than that of God. To do God’s will, and not be swayed by the desire to be accepted or to ‘fit in’ or follow the crowd. Seeking human respect is a temptation that is very great, for young and old alike. We want to fit in. We want to be liked. And so sometimes we throw God overboard, in order to be accepted or to avoid conflict, but this is disloyalty.
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There are many weak and spineless people, who in order to escape derision or contempt, betray the Lord in a heartbeat. ‘If you are ashamed of me before men, says the Lord, I will be ashamed of you before the Father and the Holy Angels.’ To me, there is no sadder scene in the gospels, than that night when a little girl asked Peter if he was not one of Jesus disciples. Peter was afraid of speaking out. He said’ – – I never knew the man.’ And then it says, Jesus turned and looked at him. And Peter wept.
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We are often tempted to betray Christ by giving in to human respect. But what Jesus really is seeking, is some disciples who will be loyal; Father Scupoli says, our lukewarm spirit contains much self-seeking, yearning to be praised and valued by the world. —and this is really it: a desire to be valued by the world.
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Speaking to other priests, we agree on one thing: the Church here in America will only recover its strength, when one thing happens: When Catholics finally accept the fact that we live and believe differently than society. Until Catholic families understand, that you cannot just send your kids to any school, or any movie, or watch just any tv program, or date just any person – until we start to see that – as my mother always said: ‘We don’t do what everybody else does!’ – until we stop seeking human respect, that desire to fit in – we won’t faithful, and we won’t be happy either.
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Sometimes Catholics, giving in to human respect and wishing to be accepted by their peers – sometimes they end up entirely loosing their faith, because they would rather be popular in this life, even if it means hell in the next life. Those who make it the most difficult for us are oftentimes ex-Catholics who seethe with a guilty conscience at believers. St. Agathoclia was a slave owned by people who had once been Catholic. They subjected her to terrible abuse and were forever striking her on the head with sharp stones. But she refused to give up her devotion to Christ, and for that reason they whipped her and cut out her tongue – because they wished to hear no more about God.
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Thousands of people have lost God’s grace in order to meet the approval of friends. No loyalty to their Savior. Many a person in the office or factory, has closed their lips tight, and betrayed Christ in order to avoid the scoff of a co-worker. Many unworthy Communions are due to human respect.
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Catholics seem unable to raise their hand to make the sign of the cross in a restaurant, for fear of what others might think. Fear for human respect is the fear of shame. Scripture says: ‘There is a shame that brings sin, but there is a shame that brings glory and grace.’ Have we ever stopped to consider how many times a day our thoughts and actions are influenced by a concern for what others may think of us?
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Jesus Christ is our model; he was recognized even by his enemies for not caring what others think. About Him they said: ‘We know that you are true and teach the way of God, for you are not swayed by others’ opinions.’ Matt 22:16
Jesus therefore asks His disciples – he asks us – to not be concerned with what other think, but to be loyal. Father Fernandez says, overcoming human respect is part of the virtue of fortitude – of courage. It is possible the Lord will ask of us the sacrifice of our good name, or to accept discrimination at work, or the loss of superficial friendships or even one’s job because of our faith. I know a man, out of work a long time, whose union finally offered him good work, finally – but it was work on a Planned Parenthood building. He said, ‘I won’t do it.’ He suffered for it. But many took notice of his action; his Christian witness had a wide effect on his co-workers.
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For the person who says he wants to serve God, St. John Vianney says, for such a person, the devil’s first temptation is human respect, to be liked by others. This weakness has surely been always part of the human race. Yet today it seems to have a drug-like power over people. People today are deathly afraid of being seen in an unpopular light.
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So desperately do people want their children to like them, they are unable warn them about their sinful lifestyle, or immoral decisions: ‘Son, this lifestyle of yours, it’s not right, it’s not what God wants;’ ‘You can’t just move in with someone, it displeases God.’ Often, we are even afraid to be known as a Christian.
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One clear mark of the saints, is that they never sought human respect. Mary Magdalene had to overcome all the murmurings and scoffs, when in the presence of so many persons she cast herself at the feet of Christ to wash them with her tears. But her courage won the love of the heart of Jesus.
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Let us conclude by going to Our Lady; let us ask the Blessed Virgin to pray for us to overcome this concern of what others might think. Mary, help us to be faithful and loyal to Thy Son, and become worthy of the promises of Christ.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Nicholas]

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[i] Never Stop Walking – life of Alphonsus, page 12?

Read the Bible

16th  Sunday of Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ, St. Augustine, who lived back in the 4th century,  is one of the great saints of the Church. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are the two pillars of theology and influence in the Church.  But St. Augustine was not much of a saint when he was young,  he got into mega-trouble! He experimented with different religions, his life was on a sinful path, really the path to hell. But his mother never stopped praying for him, and eventually, he began to feel a pain in his heart, that he was not following Jesus Christ.  He prayed, he tried to learn more about the faith, but he was continually torn inside,  still attached to the lust and sin of his lifestyle.   
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Then one day he was sitting in a garden with this tortured heart of his;  he wanted to follow Jesus, but he didn’t feel he had the strength to give up his sin. He tells us about that day:  ‘I prayed and wept: O Lord, how long will you be angry with me for all my sins.’  Suddenly I noticed a voice of a child in the neighboring house, saying and repeating: ‘Take up and read. Take up and read.’  I began to think of what kind of a game this might be by which they said this,  but I felt that it was meant for me, to hear this as a command from God to open the Holy Bible that was there, and to read the first thing I should find.   
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‘I remembered how St. Anthony, who having heard the Gospel, changed his whole life –  Eagerly I picked up the Sacred Book and opened, and I read that on which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.’  
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No further would I need to read, for instantly a light of serenity came into my heart and all my doubts vanished.  I showed the passage to my friend Alypius, and he too decided to join me in a new way of life. Then we went to tell my mother.  
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Friends in Christ,  St. Augustine, St. Anthony, and so many other people have had their life changed by reading the Holy Scriptures.  The Holy Bible reveals to us the Word of God.  Through the Sacred pages, Christ himself speaks.  Of course the Holy Gospels are Jesus’ direct words –  but in fact, every word of the Holy Bible is Him speaking to us.   The Sacred authors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit have communicated God’s Word to us.  Fr. Lawrence Hennesey says, ‘Let the Holy Scriptures wash over you each and every day. If you go to bed and remember you have not read, turn on the light, read a few lines, and then go to sleep.’  St. Jerome says: ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,’ and every single master of the spiritual life,  saints through the ages, urge us to read the Bible daily.  
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I’ve head people say, ‘Oh, the Catholic Church tries to prevent you from reading the bible.’  This is NONSENSE.  I have a Catholic bible in my room from 1948,  and on the first introductory page it urges Catholics to read the bible and grants a special indulgence for doing so.[i]  One can receive a Plenary Indulgence for reading the bible 30 minutes.  
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Look at today’s gospel. There we encounter an interesting scene in which Christ visits this home of Martha and Mary.  Mary sits at Our Lord’s feet, enraptured by the words he speaks.  Now although the preparations have evidently been done for Jesus’ visit,  Mary’s sister Martha continues to be obsessed with busyness,  making sure all the details are covered: the table is set just right, the cook is not making mistakes,  re-folding the napkins so they are just perfect; can I bring some more wine? More hors d’oeuveres? should I open a window, is it too hot….   The only thing she says to the guest is – to complain:  ‘Why is my sister not helping me more?’  
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Maybe Martha doesn’t really want to hear Jesus’ words; perhaps she is afraid his words will touch a wound in her heart, from her past; so she fills herself with busyness in order to avoid hearing the Word of God.   
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This is a message of this gospel:  although it is true that we must live up to the duties and responsibilities of each day, it is most important that we give the Lord some time, that we listen to him.  This time is in our prayers, in our rosary, in some quiet,  but it must also be in hearing his Word in the Holy Scriptures.    There is no difference between Mary sitting there to hear Jesus’ words, and our sitting to read the Holy gospels.  
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When we are soooo busy and simply think that we have no time to read the Word of God, Christ says to us the same as he said to Martha:  ‘”Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 
There is need of only one thing. 
Mary has chosen the better part.’  It’s as if the Lord said to her: ‘Martha! I came to visit you! Please, can we just talk? How is your life?!  
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If we read and ponder and pray, we will find Jesus there, waiting for us. We will find him there as did St. Augustine, and so many others. Our Lord wants time with us; he wants to speak to us,  he wants us to listen to his Word.   St. Theresa says that the world needs souls that are on fire for Christ, who pray. ‘Like Mary,’ she says,  they sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to His sweet words;’ from the outside it may seem that such people are not serving the Lord, but really, they give much more than busy Martha.   
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When reading the bible, we may focus on the literal meaning or on the spiritual meaning; in the literal meaning, we read for the purpose of knowledge,  of what Jesus did and said, of his miracles and his example; when we read spiritually, we see how the words speak to us, how we should live; in this we are moved to love God, fear our sins, be thankful, and praise Him, praise Him, praise Him. There are no rules –    as St. Augustine heard, just ‘take and read.’  
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St. Francis says, when meditating on some passage,  imitate the bees:  they work on a flower until they have extracted all the nectar, only then do they move on to another.  Therefore, rest in a passage of Scripture until it brings no more sweetness, and then read more.  
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And the Blessed Virgin – Mary is in the bible too.  Her last recorded words were: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ ‘So Lord, what are you telling us?  We can’t know, unless we – take and read.
Mary, pray for us, that no matter how busy we are, there will always be a little time each day for the Word of God.

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Entrusted to the prayers of St. Augustine

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[i] 133 The Church “forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful….to the frequent reading of the divine Scriptures

Mercy

11th Week in Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ, in the 4th century, there was a young girl named Mary, who ran away from home; she went to Egypt, we know not why; there she lived a scandalous life of harlotry for 16 years.
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Always ready for the next adventure, she teased sailors to take her aboard a ship headed for Jerusalem. Now at that time, Jerusalem was celebrating the Feast of the Holy Cross, and as thousands were going into the Church, curiosity made her desire to enter. At the door however, she felt herself repelled by an invisible force. Again and again, she could not enter.
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She began to weep, seeing that it was on account of her wicked life that God had repelled her from the church. In that moment she raised her eyes to see a picture of Mary. In her tears she exclaimed, ‘O Mother of God, pity here a poor sinner! You are the refuge of sinners.’ She seemed to hear the Blessed Virgin say: My child, go – enter the church.’
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She was able to enter, and there adored the Relic of the Holy Cross with the others. In gratitude for God’s mercy, she retired to a life of prayer across the Jordan river where she lived as a hermit in the desert for 57 years.
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The famous monk, Zosimus one day met her; he gave her holy Communion, and returned a year later, but she had died. Her body was surrounded by a brilliant light, and written in the sand were the words: Bury my body here, it is that of a poor sinner. A lion came and made a grave with his claws. Zosimus then hurried back to relate to all the wonderful story of St. Mary of Egypt; a sinner who found God’s mercy.
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Friends in Christ, the story of our faith is the story of countless sinners who experienced God’s mercy, and returned to him. In the gospel today, we see another example of this; this woman who had also led a scandalous life, but, wishing to change her ways, she finds that Jesus is offering a new beginning for persons such as herself. She humbles herself before the Lord, and in this, she is different from the others who are there.
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In fact, when the Pharisee questions the woman’s actions, Jesus points out that mercy is shown to those who humble themselves, who give their heart in love of God, not the self-righteous.
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This year, the Church has placed great emphasis on mercy; in fact, it is designated the Year of Mercy. What is this mercy of God? Well, God is pure love – he is infinite, pure love. Love is God’s essential attribute. Bishop Robert Barron says, ‘mercy, is what God’s love looks like, when it turns toward the sinner.’
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It is common today for people to say ‘God is merciful,’ and sometimes they think that God doesn’t mind if we commit sins, that God doesn’t really mind if I live this way, contrary to his law. But this is completely wrong. St. Mary of Egypt only experienced God’s mercy once she had seen the horror of her sinful life, and how it blocked her from God. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet in tears – she only experienced God’s mercy because she recognized her evil life and wished to turn from it.
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People who go through life rationalizing that they are so good never really experience God’s mercy; only the person who knows how serious is their illness, can rejoice when the doctor says, ‘you are cured.’ If you want to meet a happy person, it is the one who knows his sins, and is grateful for God’s mercy.
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Something that modern man badly needs, is Mercy. The gospel of Jesus Christ can liberate us from the burden of guilt that is carried around in these days. Today there is a lot of excusing and justifying of behavior, leaving people with so much guilt crammed into their soul. ‘Who can free me from this guilt?, asks St. Paul.  ‘Only the Lord Jesus, who has died for my sins.
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To speak of mercy is to be keenly aware of the destructiveness and misery of sin. As St. Augustine says, mercy and misery are two sides of the same coin. The more we recognize our misery, the more we appreciate God’s mercy. And the happier we are.
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The Church has declared this to be the year of mercy, and so one thing is, there is an opportunity for a Plenary Indulgence by making a pilgrimage to Rome, to walk through the doors of mercy. Now that is a long trip, and so the Pope has also made it possible to do a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of each diocese, and pass through the Holy Doors. Since we are a huge diocese, 34 other Pilgrimage sites have been established with Doors of Mercy, and our parish is one of them. These are the front doors of the Church.
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People have asked me again, to be reminded of how we do this. So, to obtain the Indulgence, here is what you do:
1. Pass through the Holy Doors, reflecting on the mercy of God.
2. Go to confession within 8 days, before or after.
3. Receive Holy Communion.
4. Pray the Creed, and some prayers for the Pope’s intentions.
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A Plenary indulgence can be obtained for one’s self, or for a person who is in Purgatory. .
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If you have no need of God’s mercy, then none of this would really interest you. But if you are like most of us in need, then let us throw ourselves into the arms of God.
And may the Blessed Virgin intercede for us, in this year of mercy.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Agatha]

 

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