Category Archives: Sundays

God is with us

2nd Sunday of Lent
Beloved in the Lord, 1400 years before Christ, Moses prepared to ascend Mt. Sinai. Before he did this, he sent 12 men to offer sacrifice to God. Then, taking with him Aaron (his ‘right-hand-man), and two brothers, Nadab and Abihu, they went up the mountain along with 70 elders. It says, ‘there on that mountain, they saw God.’
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Today, we read something similar in the gospel. It is not Moses, but Jesus, who goes up a mountain, Mt. Tabor. He takes with him Peter, his right-hand-man, and two brothers, James and John. This is exactly parallel to the events of the Old Testament, where Moses, taking Aaron, and then two brothers, goes up the mountain, and they see God. But in the case of Jesus, with Peter, James, and John – on that mountain, do they see God? Wow! Do they!
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‘And his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white….and behold, from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Today, Christ reveals a little sample of his Divinity. This marvelous, luminous glory of God – the Divine Nature of Christ is allowed to bust forth.
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Now in these events, Our Lord is teaching, not only with words, but with his actions. Since the days of Moses, Israel had organized itself according to it’s founding events. Moses had chosen 12 men to offer sacrifice, i.e., priests; he chose his right hand man Aaron to be High priest. And he took 2 brothers with him, Nadab and Abihu. And then there were the 70 others.
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At the time of Christ, the structure of the governing bodies of Israel were based on this model. There was the High priest and his inner circle; there were his 12 assisting priests in the temple. And there was the governing council of Israel called the Sanhedrin, made up of 70 members. All of this followed the model seen around Moses. These are the key numbers: 12 – 1 – 3- 70
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Now how does Jesus arrange his ministry? First, he chooses 12 apostles. There is that number 12. We see that when he went up Mt. Tabor, he took with him his 3 inner circle: Peter James and John – there is that number 3. Peter, his number one man, who will become the “high priest” of the Church, and two brothers: James and John, just like at Mt. Sinai. Furthermore, after this mountain event, Christ sends out 70 disciples. So there is that number, 70. What is Jesus up to?
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The High priest of Israel, and the Sanhedrin – it is certain, were carefully watching what Jesus was doing, and what do they see? They see him assembling around him, the exact same structure that they have: 12 – 1- 3 – 70. Peter will be the new ‘high priest.’ The 12 apostles are the new leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel just like the 12 priests in the temple. And his sending the 70 to preach, shows that he is replacing the Sanhedrin. Therefore, the leaders were furious.
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Jesus did not need to say one word, his actions told it all. He is building a new priesthood and new leaders; He is forming the New Israel – the Church. But the center of the New Israel is not a dead law nor an earthly temple, nor the memory of Moses, but the Living Jesus, who is God.
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On that mountain, Christ shows us the glory of the world to come; not just in himself, but in us, his disciples; this glorious life of the future resurrection. As St. Paul will say: ‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time can’t even be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.’
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But the joy of Mt. Tabor is not only for the world to come; we are to live it now, by anticipation. Why? Because Jesus is living in us; he is with us. As scripture says, ‘Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?’
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Friends, we are ultimately to be Transfigured in glory as Christ is. We follow him. But that transfiguring of ourselves is already beginning. It began in our baptism, when God took up his life in our soul. And the more that we follow God’s will, live the life of Christ, then the more we are transfigured from glory to glory.
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Let us then, never let the Lord leave us, all the day and all the week; through our work and duties and business, let us always find time to glance to our Savior who dwells within us. This is to keep the Presence of God. No matter the obstacles of life, we should always be able to turn to our heart and say as Peter said on the mountain: ‘Lord, it is good to be here with you.’ This is what the saints tell us is the foundation of a happy life: keeping it in mind: God is here, he is in us.
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St. Paul of the Cross would say: ‘Frequently stir up your faith, when you are studying, working, or eating; when you go to bed and when you rise, make aspirations to God.’[i] Speak to him, who is with you. In this way, our problems are easy and our burdens are light.
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My mother had a favorite passage of Scripture, she kept it written on a little note for herself, from Psalm 27:
‘One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and behold the beauty of the Lord in his temple.’
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This we can do, today. We can dwell with the Lord all the days of our life.
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May the Blessed Virgin help us to always keep the Presence of God; that in our work and in our play, we may always say: ‘Lord, it is good to be here with you.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Camillus]

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[i] How to Pray always, p. 105

The demons’ 3 methods

1st Sunday of Lent
Friends in Christ.
One day a while back, I was looking on-line for a priest alb – that’s the white vestment we wear under the chasuble – so I checked out some at an on-line store for priests; later that week, I was looking up the weather online, and in the advertisements to the right, there was an alb !  I was quite surprised. Speaking to someone about this, they tell me that the advertisers collect information on what you are looking at, to keep track of what interests you, so that they can tempt you with just the right product.
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Well, thinking about this, this is exactly what the devil does with us. He collects, over the years, a record of our past actions and interests; and so he knows which temptations might work on us. He has different types of temptations for different people.
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In the devil’s army, there are three groups of demons who fight on the front lines.[i] One group is composed of specialists, who tempt us with sensual desires; another group tempts us to greed; and the others are specialists in pride. These are the three leading attacks of the demons, all the others follow after these.
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Today in the Gospel, we see the temptations that Jesus underwent in the desert. Why did Jesus undergo this? He wanted to show us that we can also be victorious over the devil’s temptations.
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Christ is fasting in the desert, and so the devil tempts him: ‘turn these stones into bread,’ then you can eat all you want! He could easily do it if he wanted to. And he is soooo hungry from fasting – but instead, he shoos away the devil by saying, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’
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So that was a sensual temptation; sensual temptations are those of the body: we wish to eat too much, gluttony; we are tempted to sexual desire or impure thoughts; laziness, lying around, oversleeping; or to drink too much, get drunk. (By the way, it is a mortal sin to get drunk [ii])
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So, sensual temptations, of the body – this is one of the 3 main types of temptation. Our Lord shows us by his example, that we should immediately shoo away such things and tell the devil to get lost! As the saints tell us, in the area of sensual temptation, the victor, – the winner – is the one who runs away. If we have an impure thought for example, we must not ponder it at all, but immediately pray, and turn our mind to something else.
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Overeating, oversleeping, wasting our time – all of this leads to many other sins, including impure sins. Christ shows us that an important way to fight sensual sins is by fasting – by eating less, which we do during Lent.
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In the 2nd temptation of Christ, the devil shows Our Lord all the kingdoms of the world; the vast wealth of the world. ‘All this can be yours,’ he says.
It is true: if Christ had wished, he could have made himself a king with any riches he wanted: diamonds, rubies, luxury palaces, beautiful clothes – Here is the temptation of greed. We are tempted to fill our heart with created things, with material things, and this is an endless program.
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If you meet people who live in the 3rd world, in poverty, you will find they are often very happy. The suicide rate among young people is very high in the US and Europe – but very low in poor countries. The more we try to fill our heart with material things, the less happy we are, they leave us empty, because what we need, is God.
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Some people are obsessed with material things; those shoes that she wants – she can’t stop thinking about them – ‘I must have them!!’ This is to make them into a god. Then we have bowed down to Satan. But this is why it is good to give up something for Lent, it strengthens us.
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The 3rd temptation of Christ is pride. ‘Then the devil led him up high, to the parapet of the temple, and said, jump off of here and have the angels save you. It will impress everyone to see this amazing event.’ Pride tempts us to show off, to think we are better than others.
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Pride can be interior, as in those who act as victims and are always seeking pity or attention; or pride can be exterior, like those who are pompous or braggarts.
You know, I don’t understand people who put a bumper sticker ’26.2’ on their car, maybe you’ve seen them. It means they’ve run a marathon, which is 26.2 miles. So, what is all this bragging about? Nothing against marathoners, but I never see bumper stickers that say ‘I earned a PhD, or I bench-pressed 500 pounds.’ It all seems rather vain.
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Garrigou-Lagrange says, we must not praise ourselves; by so doing, we soil ourselves. People praise themselves, when they think they are not sufficiently praised by others, but this makes us look ridiculous, and we lose the merit of our good actions. The antidote to pride is humility. Humility today is one of the rarest, but most beautiful virtues.
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We see therefore that there are three chief groups of demons against us, and after them follow the whole army of the Enemy with their temptations. They have studied us, and they use their methods – but as Jesus demonstrates, with his strength, united to him, we can easily conquer the Enemy.
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We are beginning Lent; we do some self-denial, we go to confession; it is the time to battle our demons and go against our weaknesses and desires. But we should do it with confidence. St. Paul tells us that if we do it with the Lord, ‘God will speedily crush Satan under our feet.’
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May the Blessed Virgin help us this Lent, to obtain many victories over the Enemy for the glory and praise of God.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of Venerable Mother Duzdik]

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[i] Philokalia, p. 38

[ii]  Thomas Aquinas says: ‘To take more meat or drink than is necessary belongs to the vice of gluttony, which is not always a mortal sin, but knowingly to take too much drink to the point of being drunk, is a mortal sin. Summa theological, Q. 150 a2.  Also, scripture says that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. 1 Cor 6:10

Where is God?

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Friends in Christ, I was recently at a recollection for priests, and after lunch we watched a clip from a movie that had been out recently, called ‘God is not dead.’ What happens in it is, on the first day of a college class on philosophy, a professor, who is an atheist, tells all the students to write on a sheet of paper, ‘God is dead,’ and sign it. This means, he says, that God does not exist, it was only an idea that once was in people’s minds. If they sign it, he says, they will not have to cover that subject in class, which means students will get a higher grade.
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Student after student immediately begin signing the paper; every one of them, signing their name to ‘atheism’ in order to get an easier grade; except for one young man, Josh. The teacher asks him: why haven’t you signed it? With the class looking at him, he says, ‘Because I’m a Christian.’ The teacher tries to intimidate and embarrass him, but he won’t budge; so he is told that he will then have to get up in front of the class over the next weeks, and defend the idea that there is a God. ‘However, says the professor, You will fail.’
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Friends in Christ, this was only a movie, but nevertheless, in schools and in many places, there IS intimidation of we Christians; I have heard of this even in a local high school; unbelievers will often use their position of authority to push an agenda. I showed this part of the movie to our 8th grade, and it was agreed, that in that situation, all of us would have to do what Josh did, even if it would mean a poor grade in an important class.
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I don’t know how many students would sign on to atheism in order to get a grade, but it is true that today, a large number of young people are full of doubts about their faith.
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Alexis de Tocqueville said, that people who live in a democracy resist complex ideas; we are so busy, we are most interested in that ‘things work’-  results; we have little time to think about big ideas, like the meaning of life, like theology, or who is God – Modern society is about what will get results.
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And so when we see various religions out there, and big moral questions of the day – many people do not want to wrestle with learning more about their faith, or think about hard questions; we resist thinking about why Christ is different from other religious leaders – we resist thinking deeply, because this will create tension in our lifestyle and our relations with others.
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With so many things going on, it is far easier to push God out and just keep on with our romantic relationship, our entertainment, our day-to-day activities. It’s kind of interesting: little kids will sometimes admit in confession: ‘Father, I spend too much time with technology.’ But this we adults do too! We are busy with so many things, today, now; and we want to feel comfortable and ‘at home’ in this world with our activities; but God complicates that.
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To admit God into our heart means that we have to re-think whether I am living according to His will; it would mean that we would have to sometimes be unpopular, or take a stand, like the student in the movie. If we considered ourself a Christian, we would stand out, and this would be uncomfortable; we would have to take time away from the things we enjoy – to pray; and finally, by pushing God from our mind, we avoid being reminded that our true home is in the next life, not this life; we wish to avoid facing the fact that this life will end, just as it has for every other person. ‘Well, we say, it’s just a lot easier to live without God.’
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Friends, we can play this mind-game that so many are playing; rationalizing, busying ourselves so much in order to keep those inconvenient ideas of God far away. But unfortunately, a voice continues to speak from inside. We try to push that voice out, but the voice keeps prodding us. That voice is Jesus. That voice still loves us, and is calling.
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It is no coincidence that among many young people there is a despair – a despair of finding real happiness. It is directly related to this distancing of ourselves from God.
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We see in the gospel today, these fishermen who were going about their lives – their work was their life.
Then they encounter this Man, who is speaking differently than others; there is something about him;
out of nowhere he says, ‘Go out and try for a catch of fish.’
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Now these guys had fished all night, with no luck at all;
and they were fishermen, they knew that the worst time to fish is during the daytime.
But they did go out. And what a catch they made! Nets were jammed, they were breaking, they needed help from other fishermen.
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Peter sees this. Only God could do this.
Only God could call those fish from all over the lake, to be in that place, for the net to fall on them; Peter senses God’s presence in Jesus, there before him.
What is his reaction?
He falls down on his knees, ‘Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.’
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Friends, our faith cannot come alive – we cannot encounter the Living God and see how he will change our life into joy – without humility and an admission of our sinfulness and our need for the Lord.
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This Wednesday we will begin the season of Lent. These weeks will be a time for us to seek that voice of God who even we ourselves have sometimes stifled. Lent is a time to say ‘no’ to the distractions and to ‘gods’ that have taken over our heart. But really, Lent is a time to find God.
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How do we find him? Like St. Peter; like so many sinners who met Christ: on our knees; we must have humility, we must admit that we are sinners. When we recognize our littleness, then our eyes will see God’s greatness and his goodness.
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May the Blessed Virgin guide us in these days ahead; Mary, pray for us, that this Lent, we will find the great treasure: the joy of following Jesus Christ.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Alphonsus]

A great marriage

Beloved in Jesus Christ, some people I know, like to read the whole Bible from start to finish, it may take a year to do it; if you do that, you will notice something interesting: the bible begins with a marriage, and ends with a marriage. For example, in the beginning, there, is Adam his wife Eve – the first married couple. Then at the very end of the bible in the Book of Revelation, we read of a great marriage between the ‘Lamb’, Jesus Christ, and his Bride, the Church.
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This image of a marriage, we will find, winds it’s way through the whole story of our salvation. In fact, the prophets[i] often spoke of God’s relationship to his people as that of a Bridegroom and his Bride. They said that because the people had wandered after false gods and sin, unfaithful to the Lord, they were like an unfaithful Bride. But the message was always the same: God will not give up on us.
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The story of our salvation therefore, is the story of the Bridegroom who comes down from heaven to rescue his bride and bring her to his home in heaven. That is why Jesus is called the Bridegroom many times; and that is why the Church is called the Bride of Christ.
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Today in the Gospel, we encounter Jesus at the beginning of his public life, and interestingly, he is there at – a wedding! The way that St. John writes his gospel is very interesting. He says that at Cana, it is a wedding; he doesn’t mention who the bride or groom are, but he does mention Jesus, and Mary and the Apostles. The 12 apostles represent the Church, and we know that Mary is a sign of the Church.
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Christ will do then his first miracle, he will change water into wine. Now it seems that he had not intended to do this miracle; Mary tells him: ‘Son, they are out of wine!’ But Our Lord responds: ‘My hour has not yet come.’ The hour for miracles hasn’t come yet – nevertheless, his mother thinks it’s time. She tells the servants: ‘Just do whatever he tells you.’ And so, Our Lord does change water into wine.
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On Christmas we celebrated the coming of the Savior into the world; today we see this Wedding, which really shows us that the Bridegroom, Jesus, has come down from heaven for us – for his Bride, the Church.
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In ancient times, when there would be an engagement for marriage, the groom went over to the bride’s house for a meeting. The agreement to marry was finally decided when the groom poured – a cup of wine. At Cana, Mary speaks for the Apostles, the Church; ‘They have no wine,’ she says. Does the Groom pour a cup of wine, to agree with the marriage? Not just a cup. Jesus, produces 150 gallons of miraculous wine!
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What can we learn from Cana? First, we see that Jesus is the Bridegroom of our soul, and what will a groom not do for his dear spouse? He will go to any extreme to help us. In many old prayers and prayer books, they often spoke of Jesus as ‘the Bridegroom of the soul,’ emphasizing this nuptial intimacy between our heart and Christ’s; I think we should still pray this way sometimes.
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The Lord loves each faithful soul as if it were alone in the world, and if the person is willing, this Groom will make his Spouse as beautiful as possible, with graces and blessings. Jesus knows each one of us individually and he desires our salvation. He came and died for you and for me. There is not one detail of our life which was not foreseen by this Divine Bridegroom. As Psalm 139 says: ‘Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I stand…. you knit me together in my mother’s womb.’
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Our Beloved knows everything about us from even before we were made, and he is working for our good, seeking us out, assisting each of us in every action of life. Fr. Joseph Schryvers says:[ii] For those who seek the Lord, God’s effort toward us knows no limits. He will use every event in our life, every difficulty, even our own weaknesses, to our advantage; no obstacle can stop him from guiding us – if we seek him. Jesus the Bridegroom therefore is working to save us and sanctify us 24 hours a day; all that is needed is that we say yes to his proposal, and throw ourself into his arms.
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This is the first message of the wedding at Cana. The other is this: Christ has given us a Mother to speak on our behalf. A Mother who intercedes for us. Our non-Catholic friends sometimes say, ‘why do you pray to Mary?’ ‘Why do you ask her to help you?’ I say: ‘I don’t know! Ask the Bible! Ask God, he gave her to us! Maybe Jesus wants to share his glory with his Mom; maybe Jesus wants people to love and call on his Mother? On earth, good sons love it when people praise their mother, and they listen to the desires of their mother. Good sons do that.
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St. Alphonsus says, that when Mary asked for the water to be made wine, it seemed that the time for miracles had not yet come, for Jesus said, ‘my hour has not yet come?’ And yet Mary, as if the favor had already been granted, told the attendants to do whatever he said. But how could this be? The time for working miracles seemed to not be part of the Divine Plan of God. Yet from all eternity, God had also decreed, that nothing should ever be refused from the Mother of Christ. Mary will intercede with Jesus on our behalf.
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In Germany there was a man who fell into serious sin; because of shame, he was unwilling to confess it, tormented in his conscience, he thought of ending his life. That night, in his sleep, he felt a lady shake his arm, and heard a voice say: ‘go to confession.’ The next night, he again heard the same voice calling him. He went to the Church, yet in his stubbornness, he said he’d rather die than confess that sin. But before going home he prayed before an image of the Blessed Virgin. No sooner had he knelt down, than he found himself quite changed. He immediately arose, called a priest and made an entire confession of his sins. He would often say, that he never felt such joy, as on that day.
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Cana teaches us that we should often go to Mary, because she will always bring us the blessings of Jesus.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Augustine]

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[i] Especially Isiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hosea

[ii] The Gift of Oneself, p. 18

Living our Baptism

Baptism of the Lord
Beloved in the Lord, in olden days, the people of Israel, after Moses had led them out of the Egypt, they traveled many years through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. The Promised Land was a place said to be flowing with ‘milk and honey,’ meaning, a wonderful place of happiness.   
But it would not be Moses who would lead them in; it would be Joshua who would lead them into the promised land. But they would have to cross the Jordan River to get there. So Joshua had the people prepare themselves, and then he ordered the priests to carry the Sacred Ark, and walk into the Jordan River. As they walked in, the waters actually stopped flowing; the dry river bed appeared, making a way for the people. The people therefore walked safely through the midst of the waters of the Jordan, into the Promised Land.    
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Friends in Christ, these events of the Old Testament are recorded as signs for us. The Promised Land is a sign of heaven. And the passage through the Jordan river is a sign of baptism. As the passage through the water was necessary to reach the Promised Land, passage through the waters of baptism is the path to reach heaven.  The ancient Father of the church Origen says, ‘the people passed through the Jordan and were baptized into Jesus, in the Spirit and in the river.’  
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Who led them through this baptism in the river? Joshua did. And the name Joshua is really the same name in Greek as Jesus.
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We today celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.  Christ himself, who though sinless, chooses to be baptized as an example for us, to show us the way.  Notice that when Our Lord is baptized, it says ‘the heavens were opened;’ and this is true of our own baptism. Baptism opens heaven for us, it makes it possible for us to begin the Christian life, the journey to heaven.   
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Baptism immerses us into a share in the life of Jesus Christ.  St. Paul says:  Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried with him through baptism into death,  in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may live a new life.’  
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God himself, has descended to earth to be born; the Son of God took humanity to himself, took on flesh; he lived our life. Jesus grew up like us, worked like us, suffered in his life; and he died and was buried. And he rose, to conquer death and ascended to heaven, to the true Promised Land.  
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Well, we are supposed to do the same thing. By our baptism, we are united to the Divine life of God. As we go through life, we work and suffer and  try to make our life an offering to God, just like Jesus. And we will die.   But the Good News is, we will rise and conquer death, and ascend to heaven – just like Jesus. That’s the plan,  and it all begins with our baptism, in which we share in the life of Christ.   
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St. Thomas Aquinas says:[i]  ‘By baptism a man is incorporated into the Passion and death of Christ, just as if he himself had suffered and died. Consequently, he who is baptized is freed from the debt of all punishment due for his sins, just as if he himself had offered satisfaction for all his sin.[ii]   
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At our baptism, we were consecrated to God, and this happens even as a child.  Some people say that we should not baptize children, that we should wait until they make their own decision,  maybe you’ve heard this before.   But what do the Holy Scriptures say?  If we turn to Acts 16,  we read that St. Paul met this woman named Lydia, and when she came to believe, it says,  ‘she and her whole household were baptized.’ Her household – that’s everyone, that means kids, and people then had a lot of kids.   
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In that very same chapter, it says that after Paul and Silas had explained the Faith to their jail guard,  it says ‘he and his family were baptized immediately.’  So whole families were baptized. There is no waiting for kids to grow up. This is the Bible.  
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In the year 215AD, in the very early Church, it explains what was already a well-established tradition. ‘Baptize first the children; if they can speak for themselves let them do so; otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.’  
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Why do we baptize kids? What would be the reason? In Colossians 2:11 it explains that Baptism replaces circumcision. Circumcision was the way into the Old Covenant, baptism is the way into the New Covenant.  At what age were you circumcised?  When you were 8 days old. That’s a baby!  Did they wait until you were 12 to decide whether you wanted to be in the Covenant? No. Same in the New Covenant.  Church law says: parents should have their child baptized within the first few weeks.  
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Baptism is not ‘a decision to join a club,  it is not a decision to join an organization. Baptism is adoption. We are adopted into God’s Family.  And when you adopt a baby, you don’t leave the baby outside on the lawn until it is old enough to decide whether to join your family. It needs the family in order to live.  Well – we want eternal life for our children, so we baptize the child into God’s family.  It’s what Lydia did, its what the jail-guard did, it’s what the first Christians did.  We take very seriously what Our Lord has said: ‘Go forth and baptize all the nations.’  
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At our baptism, we were consecrated to God.  And so many times we have renewed this commitment to be a follower of Christ, to be a disciple. Our life HAS to reflect this. Every time we bless ourselves with Holy Water we are reminding ourselves of our baptism – and so, the sprinkling rite today.      
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Today then, let us renew our commitment to Jesus Christ; let us really live out our baptismal vows in the days ahead.  There are only two roads for us: one to heaven, the other to hell.  
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A young man told me, he had really messed up his life, he was not living right. He went to confession, and the priest told him: ‘Maybe it’s time to start living out your baptismal vows.’  He was startled by that. He had not been realizing that he had a serious commitment to be a disciple of Christ.   
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Let’s us renew those vows. Decide again, that we reject Satan, and all his empty promises. No more compromise for us; no more giving in to the world; no more compromise.   
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May the Blessed Virgin help us by her prayers; Mary, pray for us, that we will be worthy disciples of Jesus Christ.

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

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[i] Summa, Q 69 a1

[ii] He adds: ‘The pains of Christ’s passion are communicated to the person baptized inasmuch as he is made a member of Christ, just as if he himself had borne those pains.’

A Light into the gloom

Christmas
‘I bring you tidings of great joy. For a Savior has been born to you.’
This is what the angels said to the shepherds, and so I say it to you, ‘A Savior has been born to us, who is Christ the Lord.’
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Beloved in Jesus Christ, we have arrived at Christmas, when God has come into the world, to live among us, to live with us, to save us.
In the Holy Gospel of St. Luke, if you go and read chapter 3, there it speaks of the circumstances of those ancient days, when Christ was born. He says, ‘In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee,….and during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiphas….’ The Holy Bible tells us the situation of the world then.
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‘It was the reign of Tiberius Caesar.’
This was the Roman Emperor, who cultivated the idea that the emperor was a god, and should be worshiped. Caesar, this dark and gloomy figure, sitting on the throne of the world. – Yuck.
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The govenor of Judea was Pontius Pilate.
This was the man who had Christ scourged and crucified. A letter of complaint was once issued against him: ‘The governor is a gruesome, obstinate man. He is corrupt and predatory; he abuses the people and is executing countless people without trial.’ This was the man who, in order to finance an aqueduct system, simply stole the money from the synogogues. He had only one priority in life: himself.
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St. Luke further tells us, that at that time Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. Herod was an arrogant, blood-thirsty beast; a self-indugent hedonist, he wasted all his energy on his own passions. He killed his father-in-law, several of his 9 wives, and two of his own sons; and to put an end to the Christ-child, he ordered the murder of the little children of Bethlehem.
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At that time also, St. Luke tells us that it was during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiphas. Annas was a poor excuse for a priest; having lost his position, he used his political influence to keep his sons in the office. Caiphas was a back-stabbing, evil person, who discovered one thing: religion as a means to power.
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Friends, this was the historic situation – the state of the world then. Was there really, a more hopeless-feeling time of history? And into all of this – God stepped into the world. ‘And the angel said unto them, “fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Christ the Lord.’
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The Son of God did not come down from heaven to wipe out the Herods and Caesars and Pilates of the world. He comes down from heaven silently, in peace, quietly; a Light into a dark world.
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That Light was in Mary, the Holy Virgin, and it came to St. Joseph. The Light spread – to shepherds and wise men, and it would come to many disciples and apostles. It was a healing Light. But it was quiet.
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Our Lord did not come down from heaven only once, 2000 years ago; he is in this world today. He is born on our altars at Holy Mass, his Light dwells in our hearts and in our souls, in our bodies and in our minds, if we invite him. He dwells silently, in peace.
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God knows what the world is like. He sees the violence and hatred; he sees charlatans leading people to perversion and sin; God knows about the creeps and the terrorists, yet he lives silently in every Christian, in tranquility and peace.
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Friends, the world needs the Light of peace. This is a special Peace, it is the Peace of God. It comes in only one way: doing the will of God, in Faith. If we are living in every detail, the will of God, to the praise of God, then that great peace of Christ will enliven us with his joy.
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St. Francis de Sales says, the worst thing that can happen to us is sin; but the 2nd worst thing that can happen, is anxiety, or worry. Regardless of the external, troubling events of our time; regardless of the external events of our own situation – we do God’s will now, today, this hour – what Christ wants, come what may – and then we have peace.

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‘Lord, you want me to be perfectly honest, then I will, come what may.
‘You want me to show charity, even to my enemies, I will.
‘You want me to be pure and good with my body, I will.
‘You want me to trust you, and not to worry – then I will.
And then the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will dwell in our hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus our Lord – as St. Paul says.
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Just before his Passion, Our Lord said: ‘I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have affliction; but take courage, I have overcome the world.’
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If we are doing God’s will daily, praying, Holy Mass, confessing our sins, living for God’s glory – the peace of Christ will flood our hearts and minds.
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It is true, in the world we have affliction, but as the Lord has said: ‘Take courage, I have overcome the world.’
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In these coming days of the glorious Christmas season, let us ask the Blessed Virgin to pray for us;
Mary, help us to hold onto the Light of Christ, and in these days to come, experience the joy and peace of this Christ-Child, who is born to us.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of Venerable Mother Maria Kaupas]

Shock: God became Man

4th Sunday of Advent
Beloved in Jesus Christ,[i] 
back in the 4th century, there lived an old hermit named Abba Abraham; he was a man of prayer, living a simple life as a monk in the desert. Now it so happened that his brother died, leaving Abraham’s niece Maria, in need of care. He therefore arranged for her to live nearby him in her own little hut. To his delight, the girl embraced this simple life. She came to love prayer and the things of God.
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Now there was a certain man who used to visit Abraham, pretending to want spiritual advice; but his heart became impassioned for Maria; for a full year he softened her up with his cunning words, until one day he seduced her and defiled her. Maria, who had tried to be a woman of prayer, was sickened at her sin, and wept day and night. Feeling hopeless, she fled to another city, and in desparation, began to live as a prostitute.
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For years, Abraham never knew what had become of his niece; but one day, news was brought to him of her circumstance. Immediately, he called for a horse and asked for the clothes of a soldier, so that he might find her without being recognized. He put on the clothes and a large hat to hide his face. He wore this style of clothes, so that he might save his niece, and then he made haste for that city.
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When he arrived at the brothel, he asked for her, and went to her room pretending to be a customer. He could hardly hold back the tears when he saw her dressed as a harlot. But sitting down on the bed, he revealed his identity; for the whole night, in tears and sobs, he taught her of the mercy of God; she brightened up, seeing that there really was hope of God’s forgiveness; then he said to her, ‘let us go out of here together,’ and they went home. Maria returned to her life of prayer, and God even gave her the gift of healing, such that many would go to her to be healed of their illness.
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Friends in Christ, There are only 5 more days until Christmas, the event that changed the world. The Lord in heaven saw us as sinners, lost and hopeless; we, who have given ourselves over in harlotry to other gods and to our sins. But in order to save us, the Son of God dressed in our human nature and journeyed to a far land to live among sinners, in order to rescue us.
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We can compare God’s action to that of Abrahm rescuing his niece, but the event of Christmas is much more profound even than that. St. Leo says that the Son of God could have sanctified us by his infinite power in some other way, but the Creator of the Universe deigned in his infinite goodness, to unite his divine nature to the nature of a servant and be born into time.
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When I think of this – when we think of this – how overwhelming to see this love of our Creator for us. And this is what overwhelmed Mary, to whom came her Maker, to participate in human life. ‘How can this be?, she asks the angel.  And when she visited Elizabeth also, Elizabeth was overwhelmed with what God was doing.      ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the Fruit of your womb. ‘How can this happen,’ she said.
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That the Creator would choose to do this – enter into our life, is an example of the humility of God, his lowering of himself down to us. St. Paul tells us: ‘[The Lord has] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men.’
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So when people think, ‘God just doesn’t understand what I am going through,’ or when people distance themselves from God, who they think is Light-Years away in another universe – those who live a life of quiet desperation, alone and Godless – the truth is that this Creator of ours has taken a keen interest in the most intimate concerns of our heart.
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‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.’ This is what St. Paul says. ‘Therefore he was made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful high priest, to make atonement for us.’
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I was looking on-line recently, and I saw that once a British skeptic of the 19th century said, ‘three words should be carved over all church doors: ‘Important, if true.’
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There are plenty of skeptics today, and people who have lost their faith –
They should be at least as honest as that British skeptic: ‘Important, if true.’ If God really has entered his own creation, taken on our life, and suffered and died for each person – this God, who knows and loves us; then the consequence is enormous: we have to give him our whole life. We owe him everything. There is no other adequate response.
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The secular world wants to enjoy a happy holiday with all the lights and decorations and presents to brighten up winter. They want Christmas without Christ. But they refuse to face directly, the claim of the season. If this claim is false, then Christmas is not to be celebrated, but reviled. But if this claim is true, it means their life must completely change.
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This claim: First, that the Son of God exists: the ‘Word,’ as we call him. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’
And the second claim:  that this Son of God, the Word, actually entered our life, walked the earth, and dwells with us today. ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’
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‘Important, if true.’
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The lack of faith today leads to a morose languor, a depletion of joy hanging over our towns like a depressing smog. Let us then – let’s we ourselves marvel again at the feast that’s coming up: when the Son of God, seeing our poor lives left heaven and came in disguise among us, to rescue us; when he put on flesh to save us.
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Mary, pray for us, that in this holy season our own lives may radiate an unshakable faith, a hope in the truth of Christmas; and bring the Light of hope to our world.
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‘Important, if true.’
Yes. It is very important – because it is true.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Joseph]

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[i] Harlots of the Desert, p. 97

The End and the Coming of Christ

1st. Sunday of Advent
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
Every Catholic often says the prayer: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Now people sometimes ask, why does it say: ‘world without end? The world will have an end, won’t it?’ Well, this is an old English translation of the prayer; they had their ways of speaking, but the proper translation would be: ‘As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, or, ‘unto the ages and the ages.’ The prayer is saying, that glory to the Persons of the Blessed Trinity has always been given and forever will be given. And so those who ask about this ‘world without end’ rightly call this strange phrase into question. The world WILL end. All that we see will be destroyed.
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One day, a man was walking along with Cardinal George, commenting on the beauty of the skycrappers and the City of Chicago; Cardinal George, in his characteristic fashion said, ‘You know, one day, all of this will be gone.’ This world will have an end.
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As the last Liturgical Year has ended, and we begin the new Liturgical Year today, an important theme given to us is: The End of the World. Today, Our Lord continues to warn his followers that the End will come: ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay. People will die of fright for what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’ In many places, Jesus foretells the End of this Universe.
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As if to give us trust in what he says, Christ also predicted that the Great Temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed within the lifetimes of those living, and although it had stood for over 500 years, it was destroyed, just as he had foretold. And so we can trust his telling of the end of this universe.
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‘The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When everyone says ‘we have peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them.’ (1 Thess 5:1) ‘the heavens will pass away with violence, the elements destroyed by fire, and the earth and it’s works will be burnt up.’ (2 Peter 3:10)
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For sure, we should care about our world, take an interest in the affairs of this age, work for justice and peace, avoid poluting the environment; but as Christians, we are not overly anxious or worried about whatever is happening this week or this year, because all of this is temporary. Jesus says, ‘do not be anxious about your life;’ St. Paul says, ‘have no anxiety about anything.’ This is because our hearts are fixed, not on the passing things of this world, but on the New World to Come. And so we live accordingly.
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People come up with all kinds of predictions or claims about the end of the world, as you know; but they do not get these ideas from Jesus Christ. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt, said Harold Camping, ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt, May 21, 2011, will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment, and the end of the world will be 5 months later. Well – we are still here.
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Jerry Falwell predicted the end of the world, would be in 2009. The Jehovah Witnesses predicted the world would end in 1914, then they changed it to 1915. When nothing happened, they insisted the end would be in 1918. When that didn’t happen, they assured us it would be 1925. And then 1975. But we are still here. Jesus Christ assures us, ‘you know not the day nor the hour.’ But it will come.
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So what do we know about the end? What events will lead up to it? We only need consult the Catechism of the church, which summarizes what we have been taught by the Holy Scriptures and the teaching of the Apostles.
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Four basic movements will signal the End.
1. The faith will have been preached to all the world, and also the Jewish people will finally accept Christ as the Messiah.
2. The Anti-Christ will appear and lead many Christians away from the faith. Whoever or whatever this will be, will bring a very seductive message, convincing many people that they will find happiness best in turning away from Christ and the Church. This will be the great Apostasy, only those willing to go against the grain will remain faithful.
3. Then will be the great Persecution against the remaining faithful followers; it will be a persecution unlike anything ever before, and so a lot of courage will be needed.
4. Then finally, the 2nd Coming of Christ in glory, the ressurection of the dead, and the End of the World. Then God will bring us to a whole, New Creation, a renewed cosmos – this will be the glory for those who are faithful. On that Last Day, when Christ comes on clouds in glory, good people will rejoice, but evil people will be in terror.
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We can imagine a family in those days. Their life has been hard for that Catholic family, with the persecution; perhaps the father has lost his job because of his faith, or even arrested or tortured. There is pressure against them. The daughter Joanne is doing her homework in her room, when suddenly a bright light, through the curtains, lights up her room. A shout from her mother: ‘Joanne, come outside, come!’ And she runs to her mother, and her mother points to the bright sky. There is coming Jesus in the clouds, in glory – ‘He’s here Joanne. Jesus is here. He’s come for you and I, and daddy.’ And they are so happy, because the End has finally come, and the resurrection, and the New World.
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‘And you will see the Son of Man coming on clouds in great power, and when these things come to pass, lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand.’
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Friends, as we begin Advent today, to prepare for the Birth of our Savior, Mother Church asks us to consider the first coming of Jesus as a little Child, and not to forget his 2nd Coming, in Glory, that Great Day. We prepare our hearts in these weeks ahead, confess our sins, renew our daily habits of prayer. Maybe something new for these weeks: have the family read from the bible before dinner, pray the Rosary, a little sacrifice – something to bring us closer to Jesus.
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Our Lord gives us the message for our Advent: “Beware that that day not catch you by surprise like a trap. Be vigilant and pray, that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” So as we await the Birth of Christ, we don’t forget the day we will meet Him face to face in glory.
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And in these days, let us wait with Mary too. Mary, pray that during this Advent, Christ would be born ever more in our hearts, making us true Christians, and worthy of his Coming.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of  St. Thomas Aquinas]

Our Child King

Solemnity of Christ the King
Beloved in Jesus Christ, in ancient times there lived St. Christopher. He was a huge man, 7½ feet tall, and at first he was a pagan. Now Christopher wanted to do a great thing with his life, and so he wanted to find the greatest king that there was, in order to serve him. After traveling around, he found a great King and entered into his service.
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One day however, the king heard someone speak of the devil; he immediately made the sign of the cross. Christopher noticed this, and asked what this sign meant. The king said, when I hear the devil mentioned, I defend myself with this sign. Christopher realized that the devil then, must be more powerful than the king so he went off to find the devil to serve him.
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Coming upon a very wicked man, Christopher said: ‘I am seeking the devil. ‘You have found him,’ said the man, because the devil lived in him. And so Christopher followed him; but as they were walking along the road, they came upon a cross. The devil became very afraid. Why are you afraid asked Christopher? He told him: There was a man named Christ who died on a cross, and when I see this sign, I am filled with terror. So leaving him, Christopher went in search of Christ, to make him his king.
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Finally he came upon an old hermit who lived in a hut, and this hermit taught him about Christ. He told him: Christ asks that you always do his will in your life. ‘Tell me what should be my work, said Christopher, and I will do it for Christ.  Your work will be this said the hermit: Go and live near the Great River where many travelers perish trying to cross it, because there is no bridge. You are big enough to carry them over the river. ‘Good! Said Christopher, I will do it!
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And so he built a shelter near the Great river, and, for many years he carried travelers across the river; and it came one day that a small child asked to be carried across. Seeing the beauty of the Child, he hoisted him onto his shoulders, and began carrying the Child across the river. The child grew heavy – as heavy as lead, and reaching the other side, he said: ‘Child, I felt as though I carried the entire world on my shoulders.’ And the child responded, you carried not only the world, but He who created the world – I am Christ your King, whom you serve; with that, the Child vanished.
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Friends in the Lord, today is the Feast of Christ the King. Now our King is a Child King, who uses his Divine power to help us to become great; for this reason, when we enter Church, we look to the tabernacle, wherein lives our King, and we genuflect on our right knee to Jesus.  Also, after Holy Communion, we kneel down and speak to our Beloved King, who joins to us in body and soul. But what about the rest of our life, outside of Holy Mass? Is Jesus then our King? And here we come to the question of the Christian life, that is, sanctifying all our daily activities.
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How do we sanctify – how do we make our daily activities holy? Quite simply, we offer it to God and do it well, for Him. When we rise, we make a morning offering. It can be a prayer we read, found in prayer books. Or we can make it up ourselves, like this: O Lord, I offer you this day. All that I do and say and think, I offer as praise to you. Let my life today give you glory and honor. Something like that. It is essential that we offer our day to God, for his glory. This is to make Jesus, Lord of our life.
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Now if Christ really is our King, we must do all of our activities for him throughout the day. In the machine shop, we are careful in cutting or grinding, so as to do things well – not for our self-satisfaction, but for the Lord. When we are on the job-site, or in the office, or doing laundry or sweeping, we speak and act and work as true sons and daughters of God. As we lay down to rest, and the baby starts to cry; ‘O Lord, I offer this up to you;’ – and we get up.
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Young people should think of Jesus during their sports; play with good sportsmanship, in wins and losses. There are a thousand little ways we can offer our activities to Christ.
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“Are you the King of the Jews?, Pilate asked Jesus. Jesus Christ is king of all. No one is above He who has created the universe. No president or senator or mayor or executive is above Christ. And we ourselves will always call him our King.
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‘My kingdom does not belong to this world,’ says the Lord. We can say as well, that our kingdom is not in this world, but in the next – with the Great King, the Child King. St. Christopher carried this Child King on his shoulders. Let us too, carry Jesus with us, all our day. In our work and in our play.
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A young woman recently was lamenting what a horrible day she had; everything went wrong; ‘Did you pray?,’ I asked. ‘Did you think of the Lord during your day?’ ‘No, she said, I guess I was too busy.’ Glancing to Christ during our work, whispering a short prayer – this can make our burden much lighter and easier to carry.
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Some serve kings of the earth – money or material things or power, and that is unhappiness. Some make the Devil their king, and that is sorrow. But our King is not like those who rule the earth, nor like the devil who rules with fear; Our King is the Child King, and if we serve him well in our daily life, he will prepare crowns for our heads; golden crowns for each of us, to reign with him.
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And we will also reign with our Queen, the Blessed Virgin. May this Queen of heaven intercede for us – Mary pray for us, to live each day for the glory of Christ our King.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Teresa of Avila]

Give Him your life

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in the Jesus Christ, in the 13th century, Angela of Foligno was a beautiful, wealthy, and vain lady. As a rich man’s wife she lived in luxury. Her passions were expensive clothes, flashy jewels, and extravagant meals. She dressed and acted in ways that provoked envy among women and lust among men. When she was not indulging herself, she spent hours gossiping with her friends.
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But then at one point she did something very bad and started to really have a fear of hell. It was suddenly clear, that she had not been living a real Catholic life. she desperately prayed and asked Gods help and mercy; she went to confession and resolved to begin a new life, and this would lead her on a saintly path; we now call her ‘Blessed Angela Foligno.
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Friends in Christ, not only Angela, but all of us can easily slip into living a lukewarm religion. Because we go through the motions of being Catholic, or say ‘I was brought up Catholic,’ our faith-life can become only a façade.
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In the gospel today, we are shown this striking contrast between the Jewish Scribes and this humble widow who puts her last pennies into the temple treasury. Our Lord is not pleased with those religious leaders, who were living a ‘fake’ religion; they were more concerned with outward appearances and what people thought of them.
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Jesus specifically points his disciples to see that poor woman, who is more generous than all the others; she is more generous because she does not donate to the temple funds out of her surplus, but out of her need. In other words, her heart was in the right place.
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So how could someone end up living a phony religion? Well, the devil does not attack us head-on: for example, he doesn’t try to trick us into becoming a Muslim or something – we wouldn’t do that; instead, he tries to hollow out our faith-life, until we are only doing some outward, religious things – like those Scribes; this way, we will think we are Catholics, but we really are not any more. And there are many people living sinful ways of life who will often say: ‘But I’m a good person!’
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Spiritual blindness can happen very easily, especially if ‘everybody else’ is doing it, or saying it. We always have to ask ourselves, ‘ok, I’m at Mass on Sundays, that’s good, right? But am I really receiving Jesus with love and faith in Holy Communion? Is it clear that I am a follower of Christ on days other than Sunday? On Monday, or Friday, am I known as a Christian, by my behavior?
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A good test for us, is to notice how we behave when we are pressured. What do I say when my peers at work or school criticize a moral teaching of the Church? Do I speak out? What do I say when a girlfriend or boy friend want to do something impure? Do I speak up and lead that person on the path to Christ? When I could get in trouble or be embarrassed, do I lie?
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You’ve probably heard it asked: if you were on trial, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian? Is there enough evidence that we belong to Jesus?
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There was a guy who generally tried to be a good man, he felt that he followed the Lord; he heard in a sermon that it’s good to sometimes ask others how they see you, to see if you are what you think you are. So, for the heck of it, he one day asked his daughter, ‘Sweetheart, what do you think is the most important thing to your father?’ Now he figured she would say that God is the most important, since he knew that God should be most important; but his daughter said, ‘’Daddy, most important thing for you is Bowling.’ He was crushed. Is that how it looked to her? Was his heart really more captivated by bowling than Jesus?
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Friends, we can easily delude ourselves into thinking that we are faithful Catholics, but we can be deceived; Christ Jesus might not really be the center of our life. St. James in his Epistle says, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious….’ ‘If anyone thinks he is religious – and then he goes on to explain, that one’s religion is in vain – – is worthless, unless we are living it. If we have an evil tongue, if we have no compassion or go along with the false morality of the world,’ he says, our religion is vain.
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There is a tendency for us to keep the Lord – to keep Our Faith – in a kind of convenient box, mostly for Sunday. I go to Mass, I pray at meals, I Confess once a year – there – that takes care of that. That’s the ‘religion-thing.’
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But even if we have given ¾ of our heart to Christ, we are not a Christian, because Jesus wants our life, our whole heart. Angela of Foligno tried to live as a supposed Catholic, but her life did not reflect the gospel, it was a shell of a religion. It took a serious sin to shake her out of her fog, and give her life back to Jesus. Christ says, ‘I wish that you were either hot or cold, but the lukewarm I vomit out of my mouth.’ At least if we are cold – that means, in serious sin – at least then, we might be shocked back into our senses, even for fear of hell. But coasting along in lukewarm Catholicism is not the way to get to heaven at all. Lukewarm Catholics will be sweating it out in the next life – I mean, REALLY sweating it out!
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Let us look back to that poor widow in the gospel today. She gives her last pennies to the temple fund; Jesus says, ‘she has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’ I was curious about that phrase, ‘her whole livelihood,’ so I looked it up in the Greek – the gospels were written in Greek. That line from Christ is translated different ways. Some bibles say, she put in all she had to live on.’ Another says, ‘she gave her whole living.’ But the greek word is ‘bios’. The first definition of it is not ‘living’ or livelihood, but ‘life.’ So one could really translate this as: ‘she gave all she had, even her whole life.’ This is what we must do to be true Christians. We must give our whole life to Jesus Christ. Not withholding parts; not holding on to our favorite sins. If we want to be alive with his love, we must give our whole life to the Lord, even if we have to suffer for it.
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St. Peter says, if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
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May the Blessed Virgin pray for us; Mary, pray for us, that we will praise God by a true Christian life, and become worthy of the promises of Christ.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Bernadette]