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Sept. 24, 2017: 25th Sunday A

Sept. 24, 2017: 25th Sunday A

How many of us are attracted by beauty? Beauty has the power to heal hearts and souls, Pope Francis once said, and he called on the believers to “make beauty shine, especially where drabness dominates daily life.” He also said that beautiful sacred buildings like a parish church can be an oasis of peace where one feels welcomed and where one encounters God and experiences neighbors as brothers and sisters. Last week at the Priests Conference in New Orleans, I arrived an hour early at St. Louis Cathedral for the mass with 400 priests from around the state of Louisiana to begin. I noticed a young mother with her child wandering in. They were tourists dressed for the hot, muggy New Orleans weather. The mother was busy pointing out various parts of the sanctuary to her daughter, snapping photos all the while. I could hear the drum beats and jazz trumpet blasts from street musicians outside the Cathedral. Oblivious to the chaotic distractions, the mother was captivated by the beauty inside the church, looking as if she found her peace that Pope Francis spoke about. 

A church is beautiful not just because of the architecture, colors, or symmetry. It is beautiful because it is God’s house, a place of his presence, where we can find and encounter Our Lord. This Lord we encounter is the same one who gave his life up for us on the cross regardless of our worthiness or holiness. God’s mercy is indescribably beautiful. His mercy defies our human definition of what’s fair and just, as illustrated by Jesus’ parable of workers in the vineyard. 

Do we feel perturbed to hear that the one who worked only an hour in the vineyard got the same pay as the one who worked all day long? I suppose that we have an innate sense that what’s fair or just is synonymous with equal pay for equal work or equal reward for equal merit. Yet God is not limited by our desire to measure everything out according to our merits. To God, everyone is equally dear to him which is why God is so generous in forgiving even those hurts and wrongs we never forgive. Our forgiveness hinges on our human understanding of fairness and justice, often demanding “payback what you owe.” 

In last week’s gospel, Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus’ reply startled Peter and the disciples, “Seventy-seven times.”  Last week’s parable of an unforgiving servant drove home the point of the incalculable generosity of God’s forgiveness that we are called to imitate by bearing patiently the wrongs of others. Through the grace provided by the Holy Spirit, we hope that the person who wronged us would someday come to know how much God loves them. 

In a similar way, this week’s parable of the generous employer illustrates that God is eager to call and welcome all of us to work on his vineyard, both sinners and latecomers as well as the upstanding and hardworking. The reward for all is the same -- eternal life with him. This is the magnificent beauty and generosity of God which we all are called to imitate. He shatters our human tendency to interpret another’s advancement, being chosen, or gain in terms of our loss. Ironically, the word entitlement does not belong in the kingdom of God; Our Lord said, “the last will be first, and the first will be last." In the kingdom of God, no one is above or below the other. That is why our tendency to envy others is so detrimental to our spiritual life. When we feel sad from thinking that we are deprived in some way because of another person’s excellence, good fortune, or success, we are no longer aware of the great grace God specifically and uniquely poured upon each of us. The only remedy to such sentiments is to gaze upon the merciful face of Jesus and thus recognize God’s lavish generosity in the flesh. Human logic is limited, but the Mercy and grace of God is boundless.

Mother Teresa always encouraged those she encountered, “Let us do something beautiful for God.” How can we do something beautiful for God on this side of the earth? Will it require us to spend much of our financial resources or great sacrifice? Mother Teresa offers us this insight, “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather he will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?” It is not the amount of service given, but the love in which it is given that matters. As long as we serve others with great love for God, all service ranks the same with God, no matter how much money was spent. 

September 23, 2017: St. Padre Pio

September 23, 2017: St. Padre Pio

"Show Me Your Wounds"
by Cardinal Timothy Dolan

When I was rector at the North American College in Rome, I was present at the beatification of Padre Pio, who is very popular in Italy. He’s up with St. Francis as probably the most popular of saints. In fact, when my little niece, Shannon, had cancer, the Italian workers at the North American College would always ask me how she was doing.

One day, Vitorio, one of the workers, said, “How is Shannon, Monsignor?”
I said, “She’s really sick, Vitorio. Would you please pray to Jesus for her?”
“No, I don’t pray to Jesus,” he answered. “I go right to Padre Pio.” I think he flunked his Christology course, but that’s how popular Padre Pio is there.

At Padre Pio’s beatification, tons of Americans came, and a lot of them came to the North American College for a reception. It was there that I met a number of men who had visited with Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo after World War II.

“We went to see Padre Pio,” one of the veterans said, “And I was as skeptical as can be. The other guys, they thought this was great. But I thought, ‘I’ll go along. Maybe we’ll meet some nice-looking Italian girls down in southern Italy, because I don’t believe in this fraud.’”

As it turned out, they were able to go to Padre Pio’s early Mass, and afterward, they were able to meet him. When Padre Pio came to greet this guy, the American demanded, “Show me your wounds.” Because the Vatican had ordered Padre Pio to cover his stigmata —they didn’t want people capitalizing on them —the wounds were covered with gloves. So the guy said to Padre Pio, “Show me your wounds. I don’t believe you.”

Padre Pio looked at him and said, “Show me yours.”

“I don’t claim to have the stigmata. You do. Show me your wounds,” the veteran repeated.

Padre Pio only said again, “Show me yours.”

“What are you talking about?” The guy was an Italian American. He knew Italian, so he knew he was hearing Padre Pio right. He just didn’t understand.

So Padre Pio explained: “Well, we’ve all got wounds. We all bear the stigmata. We’ve all got the wounds of the Cross. Mine, for some strange reason, happen to be visible, but so what? You’ve got them, too. You’re carrying some. I can see them.”

With that, the guy said, he began to weep, and Padre Pio said, “Come with me.”

They went into the confessional, where Padre Pio invited him one more time, “Show me your wounds.”

The guy then admitted that, at that moment, he was bearing a tremendous cross. At Anzio, he had landed with his two buddies —the three of them together —and his two buddies were wounded. They were pinned down by machine guns. But he went ahead and left them behind, even as they yelled after him, “Please come get us.” But he didn’t. He left, he escaped; and he said this was a horror, a nightmare, a devil —a wound that he had borne for a long time, one he was finally able to reveal to that holy man.

“Show me your wounds.” We’ve all got them. We’ve all got the stigmata. We all have a share in the Cross of Christ. The world still taunts us with Him —“Come down off that cross and show us you’re really God”—like they did on Calvary that first Good Friday, and yet we cling to the Cross because that’s where our God is, and that’s where His divinity is most obvious.

To Whom Shall We Go? Lessons from the Apostle Peter by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan (Our Sunday Visitor)

Sept. 17, 2017: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Sept. 17, 2017: 24th Sunday A
On one Sunday morning mass at St. James Catholic Church in St. James, the pastor delivered a powerful message about the justice of God. He pointed out that justice is due to those who disrespect others. This fire-and-brimstone homily deeply touched a number of boys and their parents sitting in the congregation that morning. The pastor was directing his homily to a particular group of boys who disturbed the peace and disrespected private property the previous day.  He ended his homily with this command, “To the parents of these boys, I expect you to serve justice!!” What did these boys do to earn such displeasure from their parish priest? More on that later. 

When you hear someone say that justice needs to be served, what comes to mind? Perhaps, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’? Our first reading from the Book of Sirach puts it this way, “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins?” Some of us would interpret this to mean that if we want God to forgive us our own sins then we must forgive our neighbor. So out of fear of God’s retribution, we should forgive. But is this the true meaning of forgiveness that Book of Sirach and the Gospel are trying to convey? Or, is it more accurate to say that we will never truly see how much patience and compassion God extends toward us because anger and vengeance blinds us and prevents us from being the light of Christ. 

Should we allow another person’s mood and attitude affect the way we live our lives? Should we allow someone who is not sorry about what they’ve done to us affect us to the degree that we can no longer enjoy the happiness and freedom given to us by Christ? How sad it is, then, for us to live a life trapped by unforgiveness and resentment while the offender is oblivious to our suffering. Our Lord gives us a way out of this madness. Just as Our Lord loves us where we are, we need to extend that same magnanimity to others. Holy Spirit gives us the ability to bear our trouble calmly without meanness and pettiness. 

Let’s go back to the fiery Sunday sermon. What did the boys do that upset the priest? Around 7AM Saturday morning, six boys in the neighborhood rode their bicycles to a wooded private property. They promptly began shooting squirrels on the trees. There were so many on the property that each boy went home with 6 to 8 squirrels. Many boys’ moms that night made the family dinner with the catch. The next morning during the homily at Sunday mass, the priest said, “This morning I want to talk about why a cemetery is sacred ground, a peaceful and prayerful place. Our faith teaches us that when someone passes, we place them in their final resting place with reverence, and they should remain there in peace, with the Lord. This is hallowed ground!  How dare any of you disrespect it by shooting shotguns while hiding behind church graves! To the parents of these boys, I expect you to serve justice!!” One boy’s mom leaned over to her son and asked, “Are those the squirrels we ate last night?” That Sunday, each boy got their justice accordingly from their parents. I wonder though, if the priest could have let go of his anger at being disturbed Saturday morning and could have been more merciful. What stuck with the boys from that Sunday morning homily 60 years ago was that God metes out justice to those who offend him. Was that the good news of Jesus Christ?

A sobering thought is that every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask our Heavenly Father, “Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We are good at asking God for our offenses, but how well do we forgive the offense of others? When we cannot let go of our anger against the person who offended us, we are in effect saying, ‘God, I refuse to see your Son in this offender.’  At the very core of Jesus’ life and ministry is His deep awareness of His Father’s presence and love in all creation. 

We were never promised that our life as Christians was going to be a life of peace and comfort.  In this life we will have many joys, but we will also have trying times of illnesses, death, divorce, and disappointments from people offending us. What we are promised is that Our Lord will accompany us during difficult times.  At the heart of Jesus’ embrace of the Cross was His love for each of us, even in our sinfulness. At the heart of our Christian life, then, is our love for each other --- to bear patiently the wrongs of others, to hope that those who offend us will be touched by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the future, and that they will come to know how much God loves them. On this side of the earth, we live with the joy of knowing Heavenly Father’s love for us. It’s the same love that encouraged Our Lord’s life on earth even when he was misunderstood and persecuted.

Septet. 15, 2017: Our Lady of Sorrows

Sept. 15, 2017: Our Lady of Sorrows

Mater Dolorosa: Meditation on Mary’s Com-Passio Beneath the Cross

By Brian Kelly

In his great work, The Glories of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787), devotes many pages to the Sorrowful Mother, especially as she “stood” beneath the Cross offering up her heart with the bloody sacrifice of her Son. The month of September is devoted to the Seven Sorrows of Mary and tomorrow, September 15, is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. The seven dolors of Our Lady are 1) the Prophecy of Simeon 2) the Flight into Egypt 3) the Losing of the Child Jesus in the temple 4) the Meeting of Mother and Son on the Via Dolorosa 5) the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord 6) Our Lady Receiving the Body of Jesus Taken Down from the Cross and 7) the Burial. One of the more popular pamphlets on the Fourteen Stations of the Cross is the meditations of Saint Alphonsus. (Another moving source for meditations on the Stations is that of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice.) Along with Saint Alphonsus’ meditations verses from the medieval hymn, Stabat Mater (the Mother stood), are interspersed between each of the fourteen stations. This hymn was composed in honor of the Sorrowful Mother by a thirteenth century Franciscan theologian and poet, Jacoponi da Todi. A beautiful way to compassionate with Mary during this month would be to slowly recite the Stabat Mater daily. It will be recited liturgically as a Sequence for tomorrow’s Mass for Our Lady’s feast. That is where you can find the hymn in Latin and English if you have an old missal, like that of Father Lasance (page 969). The Council of Trent (1545-63) abolished all but four of the Sequences, which had accumulated into dozens in local churches over the centuries. Abolished, too, at the time, was the beautiful Stabat Mater. Thanks be to God it was restored to the Roman Missal by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727. Here is Saint Alphonsus from The Glories of Mary:

We have now to witness a new kind of martyrdom—a Mother condemned to see an innocent Son, and one whom she loves with the whole affection of her soul, cruelly tormented and put to death before her own eyes.

“There stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother.” Saint John believed that in these words he had said enough of Mary’s martyrdom. Consider her at the foot of the cross in the presence of her dying Son, and then see if there be sorrow like unto her sorrow.

Listen to the words in which Mary revealed to Saint Bridget the sorrowful state in which she saw her dying Son on the cross: “My dear Jesus was breathless, exhausted, and in His last agony on the cross; His eyes were sunk, half-closed, and lifeless; His lips hanging, and His mouth open; His cheeks hollow and drawn in; His face elongated; His nose sharp; His countenance sad: His head had fallen on His breast, His hair was black with blood, His stomach collapsed, His arms and legs stiff, and His whole body covered with wounds and blood.”

All these sufferings of Jesus were also those of Mary: “Every torture inflicted on the body of Jesus,” says Saint Jerome, “was a wound in the heart of the Mother.” “Whoever then was present on the Mount of Calvary,” says Saint John Chrysostom, “might see two altars, on which two great sacrifices were consummated; the one in the body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary.”

Nay, better still may we say with Saint Bonaventure, “there was but one altar-that of the cross of the Son, on which, together with this Divine Lamb, the victim, the Mother was also sacrificed;” therefore the Saint asks this Mother, “O Lady, where art thou? Near the cross? Nay, rather, thou art on the cross, crucified, sacrificing thyself with thy Son.” Saint Augustine assures us of the same thing: “The cross and nails of the Son were also those of His Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother was also crucified.” Yes; for, as Saint Bernard says, “Love inflicted on the heart of Mary the tortures caused by the nails in the body of Jesus.”

Mothers ordinarily fly from the presence of their dying children; but when a mother is obliged to witness such a scene, she procures all possible relief for her child; she arranges his bed, that he may be more at east; she administers refreshments to him; and thus the poor mother soothes her own grief. Ah, most afflicted of all Mothers! O Mary, thou hast to witness the agony of the dying Jesus; but thou canst administer Him no relief.

She would have clasped Him in her arms to give Him relief, or that at least He might there have expired; but she could not. “In vain,” says Saint Bernard, “did she extend her arms; they sank back empty on her breast.”

Our Blessed Lady herself said to St. Bridget, “I heard some say that my Son was a thief; others, that He was an impostor; others, that no one deserved death more than He did; and every word was a new sword of grief to my heart.”

But that which the most increased the sorrows which Mary endured through compassion for her Son, was hearing Him complain on the cross that even His Eternal Father had abandoned Him: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Words which the Divine Mother told the same Saint Bridget, could never, during her whole life, depart from her mind.

“All,” says Simon of Cassia, “who then saw this Mother silent, and not uttering a complaint in the midst of such great suffering, were filled with astonishment.”

“Christ,” says Lanspergius, “was pleased that she, the cooperatress in our redemption, and whom He had determined to give us for our Mother, should be there present; for it was at the foot of the cross that she was to bring us, her children, forth.” If any consolation entered that sea of bitterness, the heart of Mary, the only one was this, that she knew that by her sorrows she was leading us to eternal salvation, as Jesus Himself revealed to Saint Bridget: “My Mother Mary, on account of her compassion and love, was made the Mother of all in heaven and on earth.”

And indeed these were the last words with which Jesus bid her farewell before His death: this was His last recommendation, leaving us to her for her children in the person of Saint John: “Woman, behold thy son.”

Sept. 14, 2017: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Sept. 14, 2017: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Homily by Pope Francis (Sept. 14, 2014)

Today’s first reading speaks to us of the people’s journey through the desert. We can imagine them as they walked, led by Moses; they were families: fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandparents, men and women of all ages, accompanied by many children and those elderly who struggled to make the journey. This people reminds us of the Church as she makes her way across the desert of the contemporary world, the People of God composed, for the most part, of families.

This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences. It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.

Let us return to the biblical story. At a certain point, “the people became impatient on the way” (Num 21:4). They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagre in a time of crisis. And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses: “Why did you make us leave?...” (cf. Num. 21:5). They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.

Here our thoughts turn to married couples who “become impatient on the way” of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, even “nauseating”.

During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – the poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.
What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an “antidote”: by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison.

As we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with this symbol: out of love the Father “has given” his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.

The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment… To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.

The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross.

Sept. 13, 2017: St. John Chrysostom

Sept. 13, 2017: St. John Chrysostom


  "You must put that aside now…put aside your old self with its past deeds and put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator."   Colossians 3:8, 9-10  

Today's Eucharistic readings address two opposite ways of life. St. Paul calls these two ways the "old self" and the "new self" (see Col 3:9-10). The old self is our life without Jesus, ruled by the world, the flesh, and the devil (see 1 Jn 2:16). This old self lives a lifestyle characterized by anger, malice, insults, lying, evil desires, lust (Col 3:5, 8-9), the desires for pleasure and the things of this world (Lk 6:24-26). The new self is shaped entirely by allowing Jesus to form our actions, thoughts, words, and lifestyle. When we live in the new self, we are set free from sin and set free for service, worship, and evangelization.

Those who live according to the new self are blessed; those who live under the old self have nothing to anticipate but woes (see Lk 6:20-26). In Baptism, our old self died with Christ, drowned in the waters of Baptism. Yet our lives after Baptism sometimes seem like a civil war (see Jas 4:1). We want to live a good and holy life for the Lord, yet we sin (see Rm 7:7-25).

The key is to daily live our Baptism. Each time you bless yourselves with holy water, that is, the water of Baptism, renew your baptismal vows. Tell yourself: "I am a baptized child of Almighty God! Lord Jesus, drown my old self with You in this holy water. Help me put on the pure, victorious garments of my new self that lives in You. May I live the new life of blessings and not the old life of woes."

Sept. 12, 2017: Holy Name of Mary

Sept. 12, 2017: Holy Name of Mary

“Look to the star of the sea, call upon Mary … in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart … If you follow her, you will not stray; if you pray to her, you will not despair; if you turn your thoughts to her, you will not err. If she holds you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you need not fear; if she is your guide, you will not tire; if she is gracious to you, you will surely reach your destination.”  –St. Bernard

Pondering the Name of Mary
By Danielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Mary’s Jewish Heritage
In accordance with Jewish custom, a girl’s name is officially given in synagogue when the father—at the next opportunity after his daughter’s birth—has the honor of reciting the blessings over the Torah (aliyah). This could happen theoretically on the actual birthday of the girl or, as it may have happened in the case of St. Joachim, four days after Mary was born. A boy’s name, on the other hand, is made known eight days after birth during the ritual circumcision (brit milah). The feast of the Holy Name of Mary therefore calls to mind Our Lady’s Jewish heritage (cf. Gal 4:4); the same holds true for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus which follows eight days after Christmas.

What’s in the Name?
We venerate the name of Mary because it belongs to her who is the Mother of God, the holiest of creatures, the Queen of heaven and earth, the Mother of Mercy. Perhaps it is the Annunciation narrative which conveys best the all-embracing range of Mary’s name. Luke’s gospel is the first to tell us that “the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1:26-27). Annunciation to Mary-Salvador DalíFrom the perspective of her people and culture, she is a simple Jewish girl from Galilee. Her parents, family and friends know and call her by name and she is aware of their love and appreciation. She draws no attention in the streets of Nazareth. Like other girls her age, she is engaged. Her life’s course seems to be in harmony with the expectations of her people.

The rendering of the name Mary in Hebrew is Miryam and in Aramaic, the spoken language at Our Lady’s time, it is Maryam—its root, merur, signifies “bitterness.”  Throughout time, saints and scholars alike have produced a mixture of etymology and devotion, proposing an interesting array of meanings for Maryam: “bitter Sea,” “Myrrh of the Sea,” “Light Giver,” “Enlightened One.” Miryam is rendered as “Lady,” “Seal of the Lord,” and “Mother of the Lord.” It is not difficult to appreciate why these and various other interpretations of “Mary” have been emphasized and cherished throughout the ages.

Yet, St. Luke, reveals a second name by which Mary is known and addressed by God. In view of her election, the angel addresses her with “full of grace” (kécharitômenê; Lk 1:28) alluding to the privileges she received before she was born.[1] Saint John Paul II reminds us that “in the language of the Bible ‘grace’ means a special gift, which according to the New Testament has its source precisely in the Trinitarian life of God himself, God who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). …When we read that the messenger addresses Mary as ‘full of grace,’ the Gospel context…enables us to understand that among all the ‘spiritual blessings in Christ’ this is a special ‘blessing.’…In an entirely special and exceptional way Mary is united to Christ, and similarly she is eternally loved in this ‘beloved Son,’ this Son who is of one being with the Father, in whom is concentrated all the ‘glory of grace.’”[2]

Nomen est omen—The Name is a sign
By honoring these two most holy names of Our Lady we may also want to remember that God calls each one of us by two names. They stand for the very personal history, the unique meaning and mission of our life. Both names were given to us at baptism: the name our parents chose for us and the family name “Christian” signaling our membership in Christ; both indicate who we are and to whom we belong. As we ponder Mary’s name may also ponder our own name and ask ourselves:

What does my name mean to me?
Do I know myself called by God?
Do I strive to discover myself in the light of God’s calling for me?
Do I make efforts to listen when God calls me by my name?
And how do I respond?

Sept. 10, 2017: 23rd Sunday A

Sept. 10, 2017: 23rd Sunday A

You are all familiar with the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.” As Florida government officials took to the airwaves the past few days to urge people in the pathway of Hurricane Irma to evacuate, TV news reporters were interviewing people who were defying the order and opting to ride out the storm. Some folks were enjoying a day on the beach just hours before the arrival of Category 4 hurricane to the dismay of TV viewers. The Florida Governor could not be more blunt, “I cannot stress this enough, LEAVE! Do not ignore evacuation orders. You can rebuild your home...but you cannot recreate your family...we can’t save you once the storm hits.” Would any of us make the same decision to defy common sense because we are over-confident and self-sufficient?

Just as it doesn’t make sense to disregard warnings about life threatening hurricanes, it doesn’t make sense to disregard warnings that our loved ones and friends give us about our habits, the way we live our lives, or relationships that we cling to that ultimately harm us. There is a saying, "Don't keep the friend who tells you what you want to hear, but keep the friend who tells you what you need to hear." How would we be still alive spiritually and emotionally if we did not have people who love us enough to tell us the truth and respect us enough to know that we can handle it?

If we love the person enough, we have to tell them the hard truth about sin and its effects. Our Lord reminds us of this in the First Reading. God reminded Ezekiel of his obligation as a prophet to call the people of Jerusalem to repent, otherwise the city would be destroyed and the people would die. If Ezekiel did not carry out this duty because of his fear, the people would still die, but Ezekiel was going to be responsible for their death. However, if Ezekiel called people to conversion, and they refused to repent and they died, his effort to help his people would have saved Ezekiel.

Can we recall those occasions when we knew a person was doing something wrong but we didn’t say anything because we were afraid or we didn’t want to hurt their feelings? Can we also recall those moments when someone took courageous steps to point out to us what we were doing wrong, but out of our pride and love of the sin we ignored their advice? We understand God as God of love. But He is also the God of truth and the God of justice. Jesus personified God’s love but he also said, ‘I am the truth.’ Truth and justice are not opposed to love; rather, they are part of love.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs us how to mend broken or injured relationships, especially when someone sins against us. He asks us to bring our issues directly to the person who harmed us in hopes that the person amends his ways. Feelings of personal injury should be brought out into the open and clearly stated. Instead of the open dialogue Jesus wants us to have with the person who injured us, often we make the mistake of bringing our complaint to someone other than the person who injured us. Worse, we tell many others about the injury, in person or on social media, harming his reputation. If we cannot settle it between ourselves, we should try to consult with a more experienced person, even consulting the Church or seeking the advice of priests or religious. What Jesus desires is reconciliation rather than holding grudges, because brooding in resentment separates us from Our Lord. In the end, if the person remains unchanged, do not lose hope. Pray for him for a change of heart. He is our brother in Christ.

When we are offended, are we willing to put aside our own grievance and injury in order to help our brother or sister’s wound? Our Lord desires to set us free from resentment, ill-will, and an unwillingness to forgive. A sobering thought is that at times we offend others, that we misjudge others, and that we take advantage of others. If we can come to recognize our own brokenness and lack of love toward others, then we will find it much easier to deal with the brokenness and lack of love in others. We are called to accept correction with patience, and to speak God’s truth to others in charity and love. Trust that the love of Christ both purifies and sets us free to do good to all - even those who cause us grief. We have the opportunity today to pray for those who cause us offense.

Sept. 8, 2017: Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary

Sept. 8, 2017 Friday: Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary


The Catholic Church celebrates today the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary on its traditional fixed date of September 8, nine months after the December 8 celebration of her Immaculate Conception as the child of Saints Joachim and Anne.

The circumstances of the Virgin Mary's infancy and early life are not directly recorded in the Bible, but other documents and traditions describing the circumstances of her birth are cited by some of the earliest Christian writers from the first centuries of the Church.

These accounts, although not considered authoritative in the same manner as the Bible, outline some of the Church's traditional beliefs about the birth of Mary.

The “Protoevangelium of James,” which was probably put into its final written form in the early second century, describes Mary's father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Joachim was deeply grieved, along with his wife Anne, by their childlessness. “He called to mind Abraham,” the early Christian writing says, “that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac.”

Joachim and Anne began to devote themselves extensively and rigorously to prayer and fasting, initially wondering whether their inability to conceive a child might signify God's displeasure with them.

As it turned out, however, the couple were to be blessed even more abundantly than Abraham and Sarah, as an angel revealed to Anne when he appeared to her and prophesied that all generations would honor their future child: “The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.”

After Mary's birth, according to the Protoevangelium of James, Anne “made a sanctuary” in the infant girl's room, and “allowed nothing common or unclean” on account of the special holiness of the child. The same writing records that when she was one year old, her father “made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel.”

“And Joachim brought the child to the priests,” the account continues, “and they blessed her, saying: 'O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations' . . . And he brought her to the chief priests, and they blessed her, saying: 'O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever.'”

The protoevangelium goes on to describe how Mary's parents, along with the temple priests, subsequently decided that she would be offered to God as a consecrated Virgin for the rest of her life, and enter a chaste marriage with the carpenter Joseph.

Saint Augustine described the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an event of cosmic and historic significance, and an appropriate prelude to the birth of Jesus Christ. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley,” he said.

The fourth-century bishop, whose theology profoundly shaped the Western Church's understanding of sin and human nature, affirmed that “through her birth, the nature inherited from our first parents is changed."

Sept. 7, 2017: 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

Sept. 7, 2017: 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

 "They caught such a great number of fish that their nets were at the breaking point." —Luke 5:6 

Spiritual fruitfulness is based on obeying Jesus, especially when He commands us to do something beyond our human understanding. When we obey the Lord for no reason other than that He said so, we will see the glory of God (see Lk 5:5).

God chooses ordinary people, like you and me, as his ambassadors and he uses the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives and work situations to draw others into his kingdom. Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will "catch people" for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the Gospel. Paul the Apostle says, "But thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 2:15). 

-Don Schwager,