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

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin

Friends in Christ, in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola we find that one day he met a Moor while riding his mule along a road. They began to discuss religion, and the Moor did not say good things about the Blessed Virgin; but the Moor was in a hurry, and went on ahead out of sight. Now as Ignatius thought more about this, about what the man had said, he became very angry, and wished that he had defended the honor of Mary better.
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He thought that perhaps he should go after that Moor and stab him, for what he said. But coming to a fork in the road, he did not know which path the Moor had taken. He decided he would let go of the reins, and allow the mule to choose the path. If the path led to the Moor, he would stab him. Otherwise not. Fortunately, the mule did not take the path of the Moor, and Ignatius later learned that violence is not the way of a Christian. Nevertheless, we see from this incident the great love that he had for Mother Mary and her honor.
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Today is the birthday of Mary, her Nativity. When Mary was born to St. Anne and St. Joachim, it was without sin. Mary was the culmination of a long, long time of humanity waiting. As we see in the Gospel, generations and generations prepared and waited for the Savior, and now is finally born, the Mother of the Savior, the beginning of the New Dispensation.
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At the age of 3 Mary wanted to go and learn and pray at the Temple, as did many of the virgins, so her parents took her, where she prayed and studied night and day. She knew from the prophets, that the savior would be born of a virgin, and she prayed often for that virgin, whoever she was. It did not dawn on her, that SHE would be that girl. But she did pray often, that she would live to see the Redeemer whenever he was to come.
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In the Church, in the Mystical Body of Christ, Jesus is the head, and we are the members, St. Paul says this. Of Mary it can be said, that she is the neck, of the Mystical Body. Pope St. Pius X, following St. Bernard, said this very thing in his encyclical Ad diem illum in 1904. He said that in the Mystical Body, Christ is the Head and Mary is the neck through which the head exerts its power and strength on the body. It is through Mary, that all spiritual gifts are communicated to us.
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The Blessed Virgin remains always close to us if we call on her. She knows what it is like to grow up, like other children, because she did. She knows our troubles almost before we tell her. Let us therefore always defend the honor of this good Mother, and call on her often. St. Antoninus says, it is impossible that the Mother of God should pray in vain. Her prayers are always heard, because they are the prayers of a Mother. Pray for us Mary, especially as we honor you on your birthday.

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

I am a sinner

Friends in Christ, today we see in the gospel, that once Peter experiences the sense of Awe in the presence of Christ, he feels his unworthiness – his sinfulness. ‘O Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man.’
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When a person falls into sin – I mean, when a person who wishes to serve God – falls into sin, one can become discouraged, there can be a sense of despair. People will sometimes get caught in sinful actions or fall due to a weakness that they have or propensity toward a certain vice – it is easy when one falls to feel discouraged.
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It is not uncommon for a person to admit that having fallen into a certain sin, they say ‘I stopped praying and didn’t want to go to Mass.’ ‘Why, I ask.’ ‘Because I felt so sinful, I didn’t feel I should be around God. Other people, once having fallen into a certain sin, becoming discouraged, they say, ‘what’s the use, I am a disgrace before God,’ and so they just proceed to commit more sins – because they have given up.
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On the contrary, the saints tell us that if we fall, we should immediately ask the Lord’s forgiveness, determine to confess when we are able, and then begin again – to serve the Lord with love. The devil wants us to fall, yes. But his real game is to get us to despair of God’s love, to say, ‘what’s the use.’ That’s his real game.
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St. Francis de Sales says that we must practice patience, not only with others, but with ourself.  ‘Some, he says, after a fall are so upset with themselves that they commit a thousand other faults. St. Aloysius Gonzga says, the devil always finds fish to catch in troubled water. We must not have a trouble heart.
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‘If we have fallen into a sin, says St. Alphonsus, we must not be disturbed, but humble ourselves peacefully; detest the sin, and have recourse to God. To be very upset over our sin is pride; we say, ‘How could I – how could I have fallen like that!?!’ But this is pride. To the saints, it was no surprise that they would fall, because we are all weak and foolish. Therefore, we must never lose our peace, even over our sins, because we have a heavenly Father who loves us, and is waiting for us to return.

The Gospel of St. Luke

Friends in Christ, we are in the 22nd week of Ordinary Time, and during the course of Ordinary Time, we first read from the gospel of Mark for some weeks, then for a long period the gospels are from Matthew, and now we are beginning to read from the gospel of St. Luke.
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The name Luke is Greek, and so St. Luke is a gentile. His gospel is written for the gentile converts to the Faith. These converts would have received a good deal of instruction before they were baptized – RCIA was 2 years in those days. But now St. Luke wishes to give them a deeper knowledge of the truths of their religion, and at the same time to show them on what a firm basis is their faith.
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A running theme through the gospel of Luke, is the universality, the catholicity, of the Christian faith. God’s mercy and forgiveness and salvation is offered to all people, not just the Jews. Women are portrayed in a favorable light, and the subject of prayer is stressed very much.
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St. Luke was also an artist and a doctor, and his gospel shows how he portrays people as living characters, details are often given of a medical nature, especially with the healings of Christ. The quality of St. Luke’s Greek is excellent. In his prologue, he tells why he is writing: ‘Many, he says, have drawn up a narrative concerning the things that have taken place. I also have determined, after following up things carefully from the very beginning, to write for thee an orderly account that you may understand the certainty of the words in which thou hast been instructed.”
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He begins with Mary and the infancy of Christ, which he probably learned from the Blessed Virgin herself. His Gospel begins in Jerusalem where the people are awaiting a Savior, and it ends in Jerusalem with the risen Christ. In these pages, the Holy Spirit is seen to be very active.
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The turning point in the Gospel is in chapter 9, when Jesus decides to go up to Jerusalem to preach and to die for our salvation. St. Luke emphasizes a great deal Jesus going to Jerusalem; he highlights the priestly character of Christ’s mission. It is for this reason that the symbol of St. Luke is the Ox, or the Calf – animals which symbolize sacrifice.

St. Genesius, the Actor

Friends in Christ, today on the Liturgical Calendar, there is no Obligatory feast to celebrate; but if you open up the Roman Martyrology for August 25th, you will find that there is an interesting saint listed for today: St. Genesius of Rome. So I thought it would be good for us to honor this saint today.
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Back[i] in the 3rd century, the cruel emperor Diocletian ruled the Roman Empire, a mortal enemy of Christians. One day, as the emperor was coming into Rome, the leaders prepared many entertainments for him, including a comedy, acted out on stage.
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Now in this performance, one of the actors had the idea to mock the Christian Sacrament of baptism, which would surely amuse the people who had nothing but contempt for the Catholic Faith. This actor, named Genesius, had learned something of the Catholic religion from his friends. So he laid himself down on the stage, pretending to be sick, and said, ‘Ah, my friends, there is a great weight upon me, and I would like it to be lifted.’
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The others answered, ‘What shall we do to help you? Would you like us to plane you, to take some of the weight off of you?’ ‘You idiots!’ he exclaimed, ‘I wish to die a Christian, that God may receive me on the day of my death. I must turn from idolatry and superstition.’
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Then a priest and exorcist were called, that is to say, two actors who played these roles. Sitting down at his bedside they asked: ‘Well, my child, why did you send for us.?’
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But it was at this moment, that he was touched by God; Genesius was suddenly converted. No longer joking, he answered the priest: ‘I wish to receive the grace of Jesus Christ, and to be born new, so that I may be delivered from my sins.’ The other actors then went through the ceremony of baptism, and he answered each of the questions with seriousness. After this, other actors who came as soldiers, brought him and presented him to the Emperor, to be examined, as was done with the martyrs.
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Genesius then declared himself openly and seriously, standing upon the stage, ‘Hear O emperor, and all you that are present: officers, senators, and people; hear what I am going to say. I had always detested even the word ‘Christian;’ I learned it’s rites and mysteries only to ridicule them; but when I was on stage, about to be baptized, I saw a company of angels over my head, who recited out of a book all the sins I had committed from my childhood; they took that book and plunged it into the water, and the book came out whiter than snow.
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I therefore advise you, O great emperor and all here present who have mocked these mysteries, to believe with me that Jesus Christ is the true Lord; and that it is through him that you may obtain the forgiveness of yours sins.
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Diocletian, enraged at these words, ordered him to be beaten, and to sacrifice to the gods. He was put on the rack, where he was torn with iron hooks and burnt with torches. But he persisted in crying out, ‘There is no other Lord beside him whom I have seen. No torments will remove Jesus Christ from my heart and my mouth. In the end, he became a martyr by decapitation.
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God’s mercy can surprise anyone. As his grace was suddenly offered to Genesius, he offers special grace to us very often, including opportunities to stand fast in the faith when challenged. Let us never say ‘no’ to the beautiful grace he offers us. 

 

[i] This account comes from the new, Butler’s Lives of the saints.

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.’

Detachment from the world

Friends in Christ, today in the gospel, Our Lord first warns against seeking after riches; ‘Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Then Peter says, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus tells him that for those who give up all to follow him, they will receive many times more, back, and eternal life.
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In Christ’s many teachings, it is not the fact of having nice things or wealth that is the problem, but really, our attachment to things of this world, making them into gods, as the first reading says today. To set our heart on created things, whether it be material goods, or clothes, or cars, or shoes; or whether it be experiences – travel, adventure, sports – or even persons on whom we set our heart, instead of God – we will not find peace, or joy, and we won’t find God.
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Father Faber has some great insights to the problem of seeking happiness in created things. He says, it leads to an endless, hopeless seeking of consolations and recreations. To seek in creatures what we feel we can’t find in God is truly a state of misery, he says, and is an endless and hopeless business. There is no end to it.
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Like bees among distasteful flowers, we fly from one to another, hardly stopping, but the honey which we taste is drugged. Strange to say, seeking joy in things, outside of God, becomes more of a necessity to us, the less that we are satisfied by it.
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This search for creature-consolation, like all failures, makes us irritable witih others. We pour our disappointment on them because money or experiences or some person could not fulfill us. And when all of this fails, as we are close to a frustrating despair, we turn to the lowest of all: bodily comforts: food, or drink, or drugs – to numb the empty feeling.
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How much better for us to detach our heart from all created things, and live for Jesus Christ alone. Then we will have all that our heart desires, and eternal life.

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?

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]