June 4, 2023
This Sunday we celebrate the mystery of God as three Persons in One.
We call this the Holy Trinity. The word "Trinity" does not occur in the Bible
(but so don't many other words that have been part of our religious vocabulary for centuries.
So, don't be put off by proselytizers who use this argument to attack our faith).
That God is one and three is clearly and consistently revealed in the New Testament.
Who revealed this to us? Jesus. He called Himself the Son of God. He spoke of God as His Father. He spoke of His equality with God: . He spoke about sending the Holy Spirit. Jesus even died as a martyr for the Trinity. "This man is making Himself equal to God", was the charge against Him.
Lest anyone think that the Trinity is some odd fact that has no practical meaning, we must think again. Jesus wants us to share in the life of the Trinity. What does this mean? It means, ultimately, entering into heaven. It also means living a life of grace (holiness) here. It all begins with the sacrament of Baptism. (We are baptized into the Trinity.)
Andrei Rublev painted a famous icon in which the Trinity is depicted as three spirits ("angels") seated around a table. The point is not to suggest that there are three gods or that angels make up the Godhead, but that the Trinity is a communion of Persons. God is eminently "personal". He is not merely a "higher power", prime mover or infinite intellect. He is "love". We can and should relate to Him. (Prayer facilitates this.) Everything we do, as Catholics, somehow is connected with the Trinity. The priest calls upon the Father to send down the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine so that they may become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Faithful participation in the Sunday Mass each week is required so that the people of God do not fall into various forms of idolatry: putting other things before the true God: e.g., power, possessions, pleasure, career, nation, the secular culture, etc.
May 28, 2023
The third most important celebration on the Church’s calendar
(after Easter and Christmas) is Pentecost.
Sometimes people say that
Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.
Actually, the Church goes back to Jesus.
However, when the Holy Spirit was sent on the
apostles, the Blessed Mother and the other disciples, the Church became animated as a
force in the world. Modern day equivalents of Pentecost would be the imparting of the
Holy Spirit in the various sacraments, especially Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.
Having received one or more of these sacraments,
it is necessary for a person to maintain himself in the life of the Spirit.
He must turn away from sin and
make proper use of the sacrament of penance.
He must live a Eucharistic life and a life of personal prayer.
I would suggest learning how to use the
Sacred Scripture as material for prayer.
Also, it is recommended to have a devotion to the Holy Spirit.
Everyone should know pertinent prayers that give Him honor:
the doxology (also known as the "Glory Be"),
praying the third glorious mystery of the rosary in His honor, [see "The Descent of the Holy Spirit"] and
any one of the prayers that call upon His assistance. These prayers begin with "Come Holy Ghost". The hymn of this title may be used.
Also, one can use the Sequence from the feast of Pentecost.
In developing a prayer-life it is important to make use of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, for as St. Paul says, "[W]e do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech" (Rom. 8.26).
Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart with your holy gifts.
Let my weakness be penetrated with your strength this very day
that I may fulfill the duties of my state in life conscientiously,
that I may do what is right and just.
Let my charity be such as to offend no one and hurt no one’s feelings;
so generous as to pardon sincerely any wrong done to me.
Assist me in all the trials of life, enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts,
strengthen my weakness, help me in all needs and embarrassment,
protect me in temptations and console me in all afflictions.
Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit,
and pour your light into my heart, my soul and my mind.
Assist me to live a holy life and to grow in goodness and grace. AMEN
May 21, 2023
Jesus talks more about hell than He does about heaven.
This was not because He was obsessed with the netherworld,
but because He wants to save as many people as possible from eternal perdition.
There is no happiness without God.
Therefore, anyone who does not get to heaven will be in misery for all eternity.
We need God. We need to share in His life and love. This is ultimately fulfilled in heaven.
So, what makes heaven heaven?
Some funeral homilists, today, speak of heaven in very earthly terms (e.g., playing golf or having a fun time forever), implying, I suppose that heaven is a permanent "vacation" of some sort. Clearly, speaking of heaven in this way does not do justice to it (to say the least). It is not difficult to demonstrate that an abundance of earthly goods and pleasures do not in and of themselves make anyone happy. Heaven is eternal happiness (not eternal pleasure or amusement).
True happiness must therefore be based on something spiritual. The Bible connects happiness with holiness. The beatitudes speak of the spiritual qualities that make for happiness, a happiness which the world cannot give. (I can recall a television documentary about a community of monks. The television crew was amazed that there was so much joy in the monastery, as if poverty, chastity, and obedience are somehow obstacles to joy.)
What makes heaven heaven is the presence of God, who is all holy, and sharing in the life of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in a way that far surpasses our share in His life on earth (which begins in baptism and is forfeited by serious sin). Heaven, then, is not so much a place, as it is a life (a life that begins here with grace). Heaven is "abundant life". A house is a building; a home has a heart. Heaven is more of a home.
St. Paul speaks of heaven as being with Jesus. Heaven is personal. He said this when he was on death row: I long to be freed from this life and to be with Christ…" (Phil 1.23).
Heaven also includes the friends of God: the saints and angels. Our dearest friend, among this group, will be the Blessed Virgin Mary. Heaven is perfect communion with the Lord and all who are in communion with Him. Everybody in heaven will be friends with the saints, by definition.
This weekend, our own Christopher Stein is being ordained to the priesthood. I am grateful that the parish has another vocation. As a priest, he will have a great influence on many people, regarding their eternal salvation. As we contemplate Christ's ascension into heaven, it is worthwhile thinking of our own calling to be holy and live with God forever. Where would we be without priests, in this regard? I am reminded of the story of St. John Vianney who was travelling to his first parish assignment, in a little town of Ars, France. Along the way, he met a young man and asked him for directions. The saint was to have said to the man, "if you show me the way to Ars, I will show you the way to heaven". Fr. Chris will have the opportunity to show many people the way to heaven.
May 14, 2023
In the first reading, for today,
we have Peter and John laying hands on people who had already been baptized
so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Today, this would be called "confirmation".
It is not that we do not receive the Holy Spirit until confirmation,
(because the Holy Spirit does come to us via the sacrament of Baptism),
but that the Holy Spirit comes again to reinforce the gifts initially given to us in baptism.
What does the Holy Spirit allow us to do? When St. Paul "confirmed" people (Acts 19), they started to speak in tongues and prophesy. In other words, the Holy Spirit allows us the wherewithal to live the faith with fervor and to witness to Jesus. A person who finds living the faith a chore is not living it with fervor. Over the years, I have met people like this. There is no life to their faith. The Holy Spirit is the answer.
The Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to witness to Jesus, not only by the way we live, but also by our willingness to defend the faith or to give reasons for the hope we have. Don't ever pass up an opportunity to give witness. If someone asks, "Why are you Catholic?" or "Why do you go to Church"; "Why do you keep the commandments?" "Why do you pray"? Why do you follow Jesus. Be ready to answer, because someone might ask. Avoid, "I've always been a Catholic". This does not say much. If you don't know what to say, pray about it. We need witnesses today (perhaps more than ever).
Sometimes the Holy Spirit's influence, in a person, may be blocked or compromised. One such blockage is lack of repentance. We must avail ourselves of the sacrament of penance and live without serious sin and without deliberate venial sin.
Unforgiveness blocks the influence of the Holy Spirit. Grudges hold people back in the spiritual life. Carrying a grudge is something like wearing a lead ball on a chain. One is compromised in his life of faith. Pray the Lord's Prayer (and mean all the petitions).
Lack of prayer is another thing that impedes people in the "life in the Spirit". Whenever we pray, we are experiencing the action of God in us. Romans 8.26 says that we do not know how to pray as we ought. It is the Spirit that makes intercessions for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech. If you want the Holy Spirit's influence to be alive and active, pray daily. Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, a half-hour….
Failure to abide by the teachings of the Church opens the door to the influence of unholy spirits, who are real beings that seek to corrupt us any way they can. Don't fall for the "I'm spiritual, but not religious" idea. The Holy Spirit always leads us to unity with the Church. Unholy spirits do not do this. They lead people away from the Church. (See 1 John 4 for more details.) We are called to be both spiritual and "religious".
May 7, 2023
What does Jesus mean when He says that the person of faith will do the works He does, and even greater ones?
He means that what He did 2,000 years ago, continues today, on an even greater scale.
Pope John Paul II, for example, celebrated Mass in venues for tens or hundreds of thousands of people.
Jesus, prior to His resurrection, celebrated Mass for 12 people. Jesus healed the sick.
But most people in His day had no access to Him. (He did not leave His homeland.)
Today, His healing extends throughout the world on a grand scale.
The Catholic Church (over the past 2,000 years) has become the greatest purveyor of social services the world has ever known.
This is Jesus working today, in the ministry to the sick and the needy.
Jesus, in His preresurrected state, ran a school for twelve apostles.
He did teach others (as in the Sermon on the Mount), but his outreach has greatly expanded,
since He told the apostles and their successors to teach all nations.
Teach people what they need to know about life, its purpose and meaning, and about God.
Teach them how to pray. Teach them about salvation. Teach them about the Savior.
Never take for granted that everyone believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and the only Savior of the world. And, even if a person says that he believes this, remember, faith always manifests itself in concrete action. As it is, many Catholics do not even go to Mass on Sundays and holydays. Some people use the excuse, "I'm spiritual and not religious". Be careful about falling for this. Whenever I hear this "excuse", it reminds me of the devil who is "spiritual" (i.e., he is pure spirit), but not the least bit religious (i.e., he will never worship the true God).
As important as it is to go to Mass every Sunday, our faith must manifest itself, also, during the week. This necessitates daily prayer-time and vigilance in the midst of the many influences of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Vigilance means staying awake, spiritually. Faith is not simply an affair of the mind (as is the case with the person who says, "I believe in God", but doesn't do anything about it). Faith is always practical (see James 2.14-26).
Everyone needs Jesus. It is a blessing if we realize this, and act on it. Didn't Jesus say, "I am the way, the truth and the life." He certainly did (see John 14.6). The moral of the story is: without Jesus there is no going, no knowing, and no living.
April 30, 2023
One of the most endearing images of Jesus,
found even on the walls of the catacombs, is that of the Good Shepherd.
He is pictured holding a lamb over His shoulder or close to His heart.
This image is right out of the Bible. King David started out as a shepherd of sheep.
Later he became a shepherd of people. When Jesus looked out at the vast crowd,
it reminded Him of a large flock of sheep. He lamented that they looked like sheep without a shepherd.
And in John 10,
Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd".
Why did Jesus use this image? People are not sheep, of course. But there are certain things
that we have in common with sheep: we need care, we need protection, we need direction.
The fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, is fittingly "world day of prayer for vocations". This is because the Lord employs some people to be shepherds of His flock as priests or religious. Most of the sacraments require a priest's involvement. Certainly, there would be no Mass (Eucharist) without priests. And without the Eucharist, there would be no Church. Our diocese is fortunate to have two seminaries (Borromeo and St. Mary's). These institutions provide for the formation of candidates for the priesthood. I went through four years of formation at St. Mary's (when it was located on Ansel Road in Cleveland). My ordination class is a total of 19. In those days (I was ordained in 1982), the numbers of ordinations were always in double digits. In recent years (since the 1990s), while we manage to have ordinations each year, the numbers are much lower (three to five, perhaps). Some people speak of a shortage of priests. Certainly, every priest is valuable. It is always a sad thing to lose a priest, or to lose a prospective vocation. We have to remember that priests generally come from solid, Catholic home environments. When we consider that the second largest "religious group" in the U.S. consists of inactive Catholics, it puts things into perspective. If there is a vocations crisis, it begins in the home.
April 23, 2023
In today's gospel, we have two disciples who are walking to Emmaus.
They know the story of Jesus: that He died and rose from the dead, but they do not know what it means,
nor do they recognize Him when He walks with them.
I would suggest to you that there are many people today who just don't "get it". One proof that many people cannot make sense of Jesus is shown in the answers that many give to the Gallup Organization poll on the attitudes and practices of American Catholics. One such poll included a statement on the resurrection: "How important is it to you (as a Catholic)?" Although 84% claimed it was important to them, 16% claimed it was only somewhat important or not important at all. This may sound like good news, but 16% is a large minority.
To say that the resurrection is only somewhat important or not important at all is tantamount to saying: It doesn't make any difference to me whether Jesus is alive or not. It is no wonder that so many of our own people are so uninvolved in the life of the Church. If I didn't believe Jesus was alive, I wouldn't be a priest. I wouldn't even go to church. Why bother with it? (See St. Paul's comments in 1 Cor. 15: Without the resurrection, our faith is empty, and our preaching is vain.)
The whole thing (the Church, our faith, the sacraments, etc.) stands on the foundation of Jesus. If He is not alive, everything collapses like a house of cards. This also applies to any hope we have. There is no hope (without the Resurrection). As St. Paul says, we are to be pitied.
Next month, in our cathedral, Bishop Malesic will ordain men to the priesthood, including our own Christopher Stein. Why would anyone become a priest? Is it because he can't find a wife or a job? I'll tell you, the men who are ordained are intelligent and capable. They are going through with it because Jesus is alive, and they want to be His instruments.
So many people (even our own) tend to have worldly ideas about such things, e.g., why can't priests marry? Jesus connected celibacy with resurrection: in the next age they neither marry nor are given in marriage but live like the angels in heaven." Without the resurrection, the priesthood makes no sense, celibacy makes no sense, the Eucharist makes no sense, our faith makes no sense. Without the resurrection, we have no hope.
Thank the Lord for resurrection.
April 16, 2023
In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina Kowalska.
I visited St. Faustina's convent, outside of Krakow (Poland) a number of years ago.
The convent is located within view of the site of the old chemical factory where Karol Wojtyla
(later known as Pope John Paul) used to work before he became a priest.
Sr. Faustina died in 1938, when Karol Wojtyla was 18. When Karol became the Archbishop of Krakow, he took a special interest in Sr. Faustina, who was said to be a visionary. He investigated her writings and, as pope, examined her life for signs of heroic virtue (required for beatification). Sr. Faustina was canonized on the second Sunday of Easter, which from that time on would be known officially as "Divine Mercy Sunday". This is fitting, given that the gospel for this Sunday is about Jesus, on the night He rose from the dead, giving power to His Church to absolve people of their sins (He breathed on them and said, whose sins you forgive are forgiven…"). Forgiveness and reconciliation with God are fruits of Jesus' death and resurrection.
Jesus told St. Faustina (see her Diary, #699), that the person who goes to confession and Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday, would receive not only complete forgiveness of sins, but also, exoneration of all punishment due to sin (i.e., hell or purgatory). The person, effectively, is restored to baptismal innocence.
Providentially, Pope John Paul (who is now a canonized saint) died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
April 9, 2023
Today, the Church begins seven weeks in celebration of the victory of Jesus over death.
As we say in the Creed, "On the third day, [Jesus] rose from the dead".
His resurrection was not expected by His closest followers, even though He spoke about it from time to time.
When certain of His followers went to His tomb, on Easter morning,
they went to see what needed to be taken care of, being that Jesus had no real funeral.
His body had been hustled off the cross and interred in a stranger's tomb.
What His disciples found was mysterious:
Jesus's burial wrappings were there, but His body wasn't.
No grave robber would have unwrapped a body before stealing it. Where was His body?
Jesus appeared in His resurrected state, over the course of 40 days, to selected followers (not to His enemies, e.g., Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, Herod). He did this in order to convince them that He had conquered death and was truly risen. His body was the same body, but no longer limited by the laws of space and time. His body was spiritualized, no longer subject to suffering or death. He could walk through closed doors (etc.). What does this mean for us?
Jesus's resurrection vindicates everything He ever said or did. His resurrection gives our faith substance. It gives us the hope of overcoming death, ourselves. It gives us the hope of rising from the grave with perfected and spiritualized bodies. How do we participate in such a resurrection?
We start by receiving the sacrament of Baptism (see Romans 5). (It is fitting, that on Easter Sunday, we renew our Baptismal promises at Mass.) We live a life of faith. We turn from sin and strive for holiness. (As Catholics, we have the sacrament of penance to assist us, here.) We live Eucharistic lives, by participating in Mass at least on Sundays and holy days of obligation. (John 6.54: "Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.") We stay faithful to Christ. We rely on the advocacy of the Blessed Mother, who has also participated in resurrection (we call this her Assumption). We pray each day so as to grow in our love for God and neighbor.
Jesus offers us so much. Never take Him for granted. Live the faith. Spread the faith. Many people do not seem to understand how much they need Jesus or the Church He founded, although they are supposed to be Catholics. Many people have fallen into the trap of worldliness, or they're living in denial. The world can't save us. Only Jesus can.
April 9, 2023
April 2, 2023
Today we begin the most solemn week of the Church's year: Holy Week.
It is a special time of grace that need not be ignored or taken for granted.
I realize that there are many people who do not go to church unless it is a Sunday
(and many who do not even do that),
it is certainly fitting and advisable for Catholics to make use of the opportunities that this week allows.
What does the cross tell us? It is the intersection of grace and sin. It is what happens when the holiness of God and the sinfulness of men come together. On the surface it appears that the devil has won this battle. In reality the victory is Christ's. His death has brought forgiveness. It is customary for Catholics to prepare themselves for Easter by making a good confession. We have several opportunities during Holy Week. (Note, there will be no confessions on Holy Saturday.)
On Tuesday evening, at our Cathedral, the bishop conducts the chrism Mass. He blesses the various oils used for baptism, confirmation, holy orders and anointing of the sick. Jesus's saving work has made the sacraments possible.
On Thursday evening we begin what is called the Easter Triduum: the Catholic high holy days, if you will. Holy Thursday is the night before Jesus died. He celebrated the Last Supper, thus establishing the Mass and the sacramental priesthood. He also washed the feet of the apostles. Jesus was laying the foundation of His Church. I wish I could say that Catholic churches are filled to capacity on this holy night. It is not always the case. We should never take for granted what Jesus has provided for us.
On Friday we commemorated the Lord's saving death. Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence. If you are able to do so, make it a point to participate in the principle service. The Passion will be read, followed by the public veneration of the cross, and Holy Communion.
On Holy Saturday, the Church is at the Lord's tomb, meditating on His passion and death, and on His descent into hell and awaiting His resurrection. There are no Masses during the day. The solemn Vigil Mass begins (by Church law) after dark. This liturgy is the high point of the Church's year. The service starts in darkness. There is a procession with the new Easter candle, representing Jesus our Light. All over the world, adults will be baptized and/or received into the Church. Everyone else will have a chance to renew our baptismal promises.
The climax of the Church's year, of course, is Easter Sunday. We celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, without which, we have no hope, our faith is worthless and our preaching in vain (see 1 Corinthians 15). Thank the Lord for resurrection!
March 19, 2023
In His inaugural sermon, Jesus said that He had come to do a number of things, one of them being:
recovery of sight to the blind (see Luke chapter 4).
Today's gospel, from John chapter 9, is a case in point.
The story has to do with a man born blind, and the way Jesus healed his blindness.
Jesus rubbed a muddy paste on his eyes. It took a couple of applications, but the effort was worth it.
The man could see, for the first time in his life. In the gospel of John miracles are never called "miracles".
They are always called "signs". A sign is something that points beyond itself.
What kind of a sign was this miracle? For one thing, it tells us something about the faith.
Faith is the capacity to see beyond what our senses detect. Also, sometimes people come to faith in stages.
This is illustrated by the gradual effect of Jesus's use of the paste to open the man's eyes.
Some people, however, use the expression "blind faith", as if there is nothing to support the faith, i.e., that having faith is no more than wishful thinking. This is why it is important to remember that there are many indicators of the truth of the faith, e.g., miracles, saints, the Scripture, the Church, spiritual gifts, prophecy (etc.). These things we cannot really explain, left to themselves. For example, Jesus worked many miracles in His short public ministry. His greatest miracle was His own resurrection from the dead. There are people, of course, who question anything pertaining to what we believe about Jesus, but without His resurrection, there would be no Church. We would not have any hope beyond this world. And, as St. Paul famously said (in 1 Corinthians 15), there would be no substance to our faith, and our preaching would be in vain.
Another indicator of the truth of our faith is the change that takes place, in the bread and the wine, when the priest says the words of consecration: "This is my body.... This is my blood". Of course, most of the time, the change is invisible, but our faith tells us that something wonderful happens every time. To buttress our faith, there have been approximately 150 documented miracles connected with the Eucharist. (We ran an exhibit about 15 years ago.) One of the famous such miracles took place in the 13th century (the Miracle of Bolsena, Italy), when the host started bleeding after the priest said the words of consecration.
With this in mind,78 the bishops have designated the next couple of years as a "Eucharistic Revival". There will be many opportunities to strengthen our faith and appreciation for Jesus's great gift of His Body and Blood. Please stay tuned. More will be forthcoming in the bulletin and on the website.
March 5, 2023
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that faith is not something blind. There are indicators of the truth of the faith: the existence of the Church, the Bible, prophecy, spiritual gifts, miracles, holy people (saints), etc. The Lord hides Himself, but not His effects. Faith actually opens people's eyes to the workings of God in daily life. Conversely, people can be hardened to the faith when they cease to notice what God is doing in the world. For example, a person whose only friends are non-believers (or even cynics) and who surrounds himself with completely secular influences (e.g., much of the mass media and the world of entertainment), will probably have difficulty with coming to terms with faith, especially if he does not go to church regularly or pray. And, of course, sin, especially when it is unchecked or habitual, erodes faith. This is one reason why it is so important for people of the Church to turn to God's mercy regularly. Catholics are blessed to have the sacrament of penance ("confession").
Is it possible to live a life of faith in today's world? One can put it another way: Is it possible to shine a light in the darkness that surrounds us? Indeed. The climate of unbelief, in and of itself, does not mean that believers or faith has been vanquished. Jesus said that it is our faith that has overcome the world. The challenge, for many, is not letting the world, and its ways of thinking and acting, overcome their faith. Sometimes people look for signs to indicate to them that it is safe to believe or to resume their practice of the faith. Signs are all around us. I've reminded people of this at funerals. While pointing to the casket, I have said: "This is a sign." Our mortality is a sign that life has a certain urgency about it. Unbelief is not the answer to the conundrum of death. Faith in Jesus (who promises resurrection to those who persevere in the faith) is the only thing that deals with the problem of death, realistically.
Lent provides a privileged opportunity to take stock of our faith in order that we can profess it anew at Easter. Regular prayer, participation at Mass every Sunday, fruitful use of the sacraments, turning away from sin, spiritual reading, asceticism (fasting and abstinence), exercising custody of the eyes and the mind (i.e., being careful about what we watch and listen to), avoiding occasions of sin (persons, places and things that are sources of temptation for us), all have a part to play in living a life of faith. Someone might ask, "Why believe?", given the effort that needs to be made. A life without faith is one that will never come to its fulfillment. Indeed, life without faith is a dead end street. Why? Because faith is the beginning of eternal life.
View the Catechism of the Catholic Church online.
February 26, 2023
On the first Sunday of Lent, we hear of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert.
Why would Jesus be tempted? He was tempted in order to teach us that we, too, will be tempted, and
we need to follow His lead, lest we be overcome by temptation. Jesus bested the devil not by
relying on His divine power, which He could have done, but by relying on His obedience to His
Father, His knowledge of the Bible (the devil tried to tempt Him by misusing a passage), and by
His humility (the devil wanted Jesus to do something spectacular so as to draw attention to
Himself, and forget about serving His Father).
Our baptismal vocation is life in Christ. Jesus was tempted. We will be.
(Cf. 1 Cor 16.13,
1 Pt 5.8:
"Stay sober and alert, the devil is like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.") Even holy people are tempted. St. Francis de Sales, as a young man, had a terrible battle with the temptation to despair. He had this awful feeling that no matter what he did, he was going to hell. He finally broke it, though after much struggle: "If I am to spend an eternity separated from you, O Lord, at least let me love you here." The Lord permits temptations in order that we may grow. Gold is tested in fire.
St. Philip Neri was tempted to impatience. He prayed for the virtue and was tempted again. Eventually, he got the message that temptation, if resisted courageously, will lead to the strengthening of one's character and growth in holiness. At one point, St. Catherine of Siena was repeatedly assaulted by strong temptations against purity. She trusted in the Lord and did not yield to them. God later consoled her and said He was helping her to withstand these torments.
What can we do when faced with temptations? Make the sign of the cross. It strengthens us to face temptations and difficulties. Put yourself at the foot of the cross and pray for strength. Do not look temptation in the face, lest you waver. Keep your mind's eye on Jesus. Do penance: pray, fast, read the Scripture, make use of the sacraments (be honest with your confessor/spiritual director; be honest about your feelings, tendencies, and affections). When the devil wants to seduce a soul, he urges it to keep silent, whether from pride or shame.
Avoid occasions of sin. If you know that certain persons, places, things are sources of temptation, stay away from them as much as you are able. St. Paul reminds us, "Bad company corrupts morals." Maybe it's the internet or the cell phone, which (for some) are occasions of sin. Maybe it's alcohol.
Take small temptations seriously (otherwise, how can we face big ones?) It may be easy enough to refrain from murder, but it can be extremely difficult to restrain all the angry feelings for which occasions are offered at any moment. It may be easier to refrain from adultery than to guard one's glance or speaking or listening to flattering words. It is easy enough not to steal our neighbor's property, but it may be difficult not to covet or desire it. It is easy enough not to bear false witness in court, but it can be difficult not to lie in conversations.
The supreme antidote against vice of every kind is the love of God. Worship Him, adore Him, love Him. Think about the friendship we have with Jesus. He is our greatest Friend. We should never want to do anything that will ruin or hurt this relationship.
February 12, 2023
We live in a culture that tends to reject laws,
rules, and anything seen as restrictions on human behavior.
This distrust of laws also extends to the laws of God.
I remember a woman who left her parish because she did not like what the priest had
presented in his homily one weekend. "We didn't need to hear this."
What had the priest been talking about?
The Ten Commandments.
He presented each commandment and asked the people to examine themselves on each of them.
(Isn't this what a conscientious Catholic does to prepare for confession?)
It is amazing the strange ideas that some people get. Another woman was upset that a priest would talk about something she believed had been thrown out by the Second Vatican Council. The Church has no authority to throw out the commandments of God. Jesus did not throw out the commandments. In fact, He built upon them: I have come not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it."
Imagine a world where everyone kept the commandments: The number of criminal cases would diminish considerably. Jails would have to be torn down. Neighborhoods would be safe. There would be no indecent material in the media. We would not have lost 65 million children to abortion. We could believe people at their word (e.g., politicians, journalists, et al.) because everyone could be trusted to tell the truth. We would have honesty, respect for life, respect for marriage, respect for the truth, respect for other people's property, etc. We wouldn't have any wars. Everyone would go to church on the Lord's Day. And the list goes on. So, wouldn't this indicate to a sensible person that the commandments are good things? When many people do not respect the laws of God, we have disorder, dysfunction, evil behavior, etc.
The commandments are like the guard rails of a highway. They mark the boundary of the road. They tell us where the ditch is. They can protect vehicles from going off the road. Etc.
Here's the rub: only two people have ever kept the Ten Commandments perfectly: Jesus and His mother. They did not have fallen human natures (affected by original sin) and they were very holy. What do we need to do? Follow Jesus' teaching and rely upon his grace. (The sacraments are channels of grace.) Avoid occasions of sin: people, places and things that can lead us into sin. If you fall, pick yourself up. Go to confession. Don't look back. The point of confession is not only about seeking forgiveness, but also about repenting. Don't dally with temptations. Pray every day. Strive for virtue, especially love for God and neighbor. The holier we become, the freer we become to live as the children of God we were called to be.
February 5, 2023
To be converted, fundamentally means
to change one's way of looking at things, from our viewpoint
to the point of view of God. St. Paul uses the expression:
"to put on the mind of Christ". In the gospel of St. Matthew,
it is clear that Peter had not completely converted, until after Jesus' resurrection.
He recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but he was still thinking
according to his old ways of looking at the world, i.e.,
God forbid that
anyone (in this case, Jesus) should suffer". Jesus' response was definitive and
"Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking as God does, but as men do."
Conversion requires a new way of thinking and perhaps, new habits to support the thinking. If the person tends to drink too much, for example, the drinking will probably continue until the individual opens his heart and mind to God. Perhaps he starts reading the Bible, attends church a few times a week, visits the Blessed Sacrament, becomes involved in some type of Christian service, and does whatever he can to avoid occasions of sin (e.g., certain persons, places, or things). He must convert to seeing himself as a child of God and that it is beneath his dignity as such to live a life of self-satisfaction. St. Augustine reminds us that if we keep all of the Ten Commandments (which we should be doing) that we are only beginning to live the Christian life of discipleship.. The Christian life is a great adventure. Are we willing to embark?
St. Paul gives us some examples of discipleship in Romans 12, 13 and 14: blessing one's persecutors, putting away ambitious thoughts, striving to live at peace with everyone, not being wise in our own estimation, never repaying injury with injury, etc. In short, putting on the mind of Christ. Living such a life is an ongoing task. If you don't believe this, pick up the New Testament and read the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7).
Trying to be like Jesus (even in our thoughts) is the great challenge. Anything less that that is not really Christianity (it is watered down). And isn't it true that we are called to be saints? Jesus promises us a blessed life here (John 10.10) and glory in the next life if we take Him seriously and "put on his mind".
January 29, 2023
Jesus gives us
a list of qualities of the "blessed".
He says "Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake",
etc. This list (which consists of eight descriptive elements of blessedness, is
known as the "Beatitudes".) The Beatitudes, as found in St. Matthew's Gospel,
is a reading for this Sunday.
Has anyone ever lived the spirit of the beatitudes? Jesus did. He was poor (voluntarily). He was completely dependent on His Father's providence. Jesus was meek, meaning that He was not disposed to anger. He was full of interior peace and humility. Jesus mourned for the many people who were rejecting God. He allowed Himself to be afflicted by men, rather than forsake His mission of redeeming the world. Jesus hungered and thirsted for what was right and just, to the point of suffering for it. The Kingdom of God meant everything to Him. Jesus was merciful, until the end. Imagine forgiving one's enemies, while dying on the cross, and even promising a repentant thief that he would enter into paradise. Jesus was pure of heart. He was completely sinless. Jesus was a peacemaker. He brought peace to the world at great personal sacrifice.
This is all well and good, but isn't Jesus a special case? He was God after all. Jesus was a special case, but that does not get us off the hook. Besides, there have been many people who have lived according to the description of the beatitudes. We have a calendar of saints to prove it. Men, women (and even children) have proven themselves, accordingly. St. Francis of Assisi was known for his poverty of spirit and actual poverty. He was a man of peace. He was afflicted by people's apathy toward the things of God. He was pure of heart, etc. Maria Goretti died for defending purity. She was from a poor, peasant family: obscure in her lifetime, but holy. Elizabeth Seton (from our own history) lived the beatitudes. She was completely dedicated to the Lord and the mission He gave her: to begin the Catholic school system in the U.S. She listened to God even when it meant that she would have to endure hardships. Her family completely disowned her after she converted to Catholicism. She had to go to another city to work. It was part of God's providence.
The Beatitudes are not about eight different kinds of people or about an elite group. Rather, the beatitudes are different demands made upon everyone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus. We can never meditate seriously enough on this great charter of the Christian life or ever be done with the attempt to implement it fully. The beatitudes are ongoing challenges (i.e., why not advert to them with regularity, using them for personal meditation and preparation for confession?).
January 22, 2023
The themes of light and darkness are continually brought to our attention
throughout the Bible, starting with the very first thing that God ever commanded:
"Let there be light". There was only darkness before the world came to be.
In the New Testament, it is as if God is recreating the world all over again. He begins with
light overcoming darkness. "The nations that have walked in darkness have seen a great
light." What kind of darkness are we talking about? Moral disorder, corruption, perversion,
error, sin, the tyranny of Satan's domain, etc. What is the light that overcomes the darkness?
The light of Christ.... Left to itself, the world can be a very dark place. Jesus's light is the
Many people today might believe that we are an enlightened culture (compared to ages gone by). I submit to you that our "enlightenment" is only on the surface. For example, this Monday is a special day of prayer for the legal protection of the unborn. The date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, which has resulted in the deaths of 65 million preborn children in our country alone. The Supreme Court finally overturned the decision, but children continue to be killed in their mothers’ wombs, throughout our land. There is nothing enlightened about a society whose laws permit the bloodletting of innocents.
Presently, the elites of our society are doing everything they can to redefine marriage. Actually, they are trying to abolish marriage. Is there anything enlightened about this? This is sheer darkness.
Darkness always comes when people reject the truth. People reject the truth when they reject the teachings of the Church, the teachings of Jesus, and God Himself. Rejecting the truth includes rejecting common sense and the findings of science. Although we are supposed to treat people with respect, even when they have a different set of beliefs or point of view, we must be careful about thinking that one belief is as good as another. Some beliefs or ways of thinking are profoundly wrong.
Bishop Sheen said it best when he titled a book he wrote: Old Errors and New Labels. Not every point of view is enlightened, particularly if it is erroneous. People, even well-meaning people, can be mistaken in their outlook on the important issues of life.
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (John 8.12). To follow Jesus is to be opened to the light: the light of His teaching and truth. It also results in the recovery of common sense. Embracing the truth is to be protected from error and a certain type of insanity that has gripped our society.
January 15, 2023
The first "vocation" or call is the call to life.
Most people, when asked to give a testimony about God working in their lives,
will begin sometime in childhood. The person might even go back to the day of his birth.
Life, though, begins at conception.
So, in the Bible, we have important personages going back to their time in the womb. Isaiah the prophet gives us an example, when he says, "[God] formed me as his servant from the womb." The prophet realizes that his call to be a prophet was connected with his call to life, which began at his conception. In the New Testament, we have John the Baptist, the last of the Biblical prophets, pointing the way to Jesus: "Behold the Lamb of God". He was a full-grown man, at the time, but his first pointing to Jesus took place when John was in the womb. He could not speak, of course, but St. Luke tells us that John, six months from conception, "leapt". He leapt when Mary was visiting John's mother. She, too, was carrying a pre-born child: Jesus. Jesus was only a couple of inches long, at the time. No one could see Him. His mother couldn't even feel Him in her womb. It was John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who detected Jesus's presence. This inspired Elizabeth, John's mother, to say to Mary: "Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" What makes Jesus different from everyone else, regarding His conception, was that He chose it (because, unlike the rest of us), He preexisted from all eternity as the Son of God. (Psalm 40 applies to Jesus in a special way: "A body, you (God) have prepared for me.") His choice to be conceived as human, in the womb of Mary, is the greatest testimony to the value of human life.
Cherish the gift of life. Pray that pre-born children will have legal protection in every state of our nation (65 million of them have been surgically aborted, in our country, since 1973).
The next great call we have is the call to holiness. This is why children are baptized: so that they can grow up and live holy lives, as children and then as adults. Holiness means, ultimately, being a saint. We need saints on earth. The more holy people there are, the better. If you want to make the world a holier place (at least in your corner of the world) live a holy life.
We have the sacraments to do that. If people commit sin after baptism (which happens because of human weakness, succumbing to temptation...) Catholics have the sacrament of penance (confession). Use the sacrament wisely. Someone asked me whether priests go to confession. They are supposed to. A priest who does not go to confession regularly, is depriving himself of a potent means of grace.
We have the Mass. The Lord's body and blood can be very effective in keeping us on the right path. Always receive Him worthily (without serious sin) and fruitfully: Know what you are doing. Prayerfulness is necessary. Stay in touch with the Lord every day.
Finally, people are called to specific vocations or states of life: e.g., marriage, religious life, Holy Orders. My anniversary of ordination is Monday, January 16th. I was ordained on Jan. 16, 1982 (it was 16 below zero). I have celebrated over 20,000 Masses (roughly) and heard over 19,000 confessions. I have helped many people prepare for their journey to God. ("If you show me the way to Ars, I will show you the way to heaven" -St. John Vianney.) I am grateful for the call to the priesthood. It is not a reward for anything, but an important opportunity to serve. The world needs priests (until Jesus comes again). Pray for priestly vocations.
January 8, 2023
The older New American Bible translation refers to
the wisemen as "astrologers from the east". This translation is not accurate and has been
changed. The correct word is magi".
(The word "magi" is the root of our word "magician".)
The "magi" were more like scientists and philosophers.
They studied planetary tables but were apparently familiar with the
Jewish religious traditions about a Messiah. To their credit they sought
Him out, using all the means at their disposal, including the use of planetary tables.
(Remember, they were not Jews. They were foreigners. They did not have the training in
the true religion of the day.)
But isn't it true that they followed the "wandering star" which took them to Bethlehem? The "star" (probably a conjunction of two planets) only took them so far. It took them to King Herod, who was greatly disturbed at the news of a newborn king. Herod's counselors informed the king of the precise whereabouts of the infant-Messiah. The counselors used the Bible to pinpoint Bethlehem as the place. The Book of the prophet Micah contains the famous prophecy of our Lord's birth in Bethlehem. Once arrived at Bethlehem, the Magi discarded the tools of their trade: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and returned to their country changed men (we would suppose).
With the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Locus of all true worship, we must reject all forms of false religion. For example, divination, which seeks to learn hidden knowledge about the future via mean such as: horoscopy, palm-reading, tarot card reading, recourse to mediums and "psychics". Divination is an offense against God. The fortunes of men are not determined by the stars.
The Magi teach us something about the place of Jesus Christ in true worship: "they prostrated themselves (before Jesus) and did Him homage." The verb used connotes recognizing Jesus as divine. And so, He is. Even today, all true worship goes through Jesus (the Eucharist, liturgical prayers, Our Father). The Magi's gifts: gold (for Jesus's Kingship). We must acknowledge Him as our King and remain detached from the material wealth that we have. To what use do we put our resources in the service of God's kingdom? Frankincense: a life of prayer (represented by the smoke going up to heaven) and goodness (the aroma of Christ). Myrrh: He was offered wine mingled with myrrh, on the cross. His body was also anointed with this substance in death. It represents sacrifice and renunciation (mortification) and reminds us of the place of penance in the Christian life….
January 1, 2023
The title, Mother of God, was officially bestowed on the Virgin Mary in 431 at the ecumenical council of Ephesus.
The largest stained-glass window in the world depicts the scene (in the cathedral at Covington, KY).
Why did the Church bestow on Our Lady such a lofty title?
In order to safeguard the primary truth about Jesus: that He is both God and man.
Mary helps us to keep our balance regarding her son.
Mary’s great dignity has been recognized throughout the history of the Church. She has been depicted in art more than any other woman who ever lived. Massive cathedrals and shrines have been erected in her honor. She has helped shape the lives of millions who have recognized her as the mother of Christians. The son to whom she gave birth [shows us at Calvary that she] has become our mother in the order of grace. Jesus urges us to recognize her accordingly, when He said to John (our representative) during His agony on the cross: Behold your mother."
It is customary for people to seek to make personal improvements as they anticipate a New Year. Many will resolve to go on a diet or to be faithful to a regular program of physical exercise. Why not include resolutions that will help us to grow in grace? Mary can help us.
Mary was sinless and is an advocate for sinners. Are there any sins in your life that have never been rooted out? Ask her to help. Pray the rosary daily. Have recourse to regular confession (once or twice a year is not regular). Pick a day to do some fasting (Fridays are the recommended penitential days).
Mary brought Jesus to the world. What resolution can I make to bring Jesus to others? We must live the faith and spread it. (There is no salvation outside of Jesus.) We can pray for others (by name) who do not have faith in Jesus. Why not start a notebook, with a list of names. Pray for people in batches (a week or two at a time, anyway). What concrete steps can I take to bring someone into contact with Jesus? Why not resolve to invite someone to Mass (when it is opportune)?
Mary’s child was God’s gift of peace to the world. What resolutions can I make to extend the reign of peace? I can receive Holy Communion with the intention that I become a peacemaker. Perhaps this can be done in conjunction with attending another Mass during the week. I can forgive all who have sinned against us. Try writing the names of people (if they are known). Forgive each one specifically. Is there anyone whom I have offended? Why not ask for forgiveness? Sometimes it is easier to do so in writing.