Archive | Jesus RSS feed for this section

Just Who Are We?

19 Aug

istock_000002809955medium

I mean, as “Church,” just who are we?

Well, indeed, with my fellow parishioners I proclaim we are St. Mary Magdalen Parish (and, we probably think, with “humble pride,” the best of the best parishes).

And you might say the same about your own parish. After all, the local parish is where we Catholics learn about and celebrate our salvation won for us by the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

However, I cannot stop there; nor can I stop with the fact that here in Central Florida we belong to the Diocese of Orlando.

“There has to be more,” silently urges the soul.

St. Paul writes that God the Father “has put all things under Christ’s feet and made him, thus exalted, head of the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the universe in all its parts” (Eph 1:22).[i]

This verse from Ephesians stopped me one morning as I prayed The Liturgy of the Hours. I sensed a deep peace—and, yes, joy—as I reflected on “the Church, which is his body the fullness of him who fills the universe in all its parts.”

That’s who we are—the fullness of Christ. For “in him, and with him and through him”[ii] we become the living Gospel. Each of us is called to be a tabernacle of his Real Presence in the world and in God’s entire creation.

In Christ, all things are “under our feet,” for we are the “body of Christ, the fullness of him who fills the universe in all its parts.”

So great an honor, is it not? To be Christ to the world, to reflect the divine light of God in the darkness of fear, despair, unbelief, hopelessness and indifference.

Honor? Yes. But remember, we are his disciples and that’s the only way we share in his mission and glory.

If we are to share his honor and the glory, we have to do what Jesus the Christ tells us:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’” Jn 16:24-25).[iii]

 And here’s where the rubber meets the road.

 

[i] NAB, copyright 1970, 1973, 1975, international Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., taken from The Liturgy of the Hours, Book IV, p. 1519.

[ii] From the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass.

[iii] NAB, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, 1970.

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Sacrifice of …

13 Jul

christ of juan batista vazquez (

You may have experienced a great faith-hurdle: How can I truly praise and thank God when there are tough things in life, or if I fear that the world is headed toward a God-less devastation?

And yet, in the midst of small and great troubles, the Scriptures direct us to make a “sacrifice of praise” and a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.”[i]

What do these “sacrifices” mean in my relationship with God?

A Sacrifice of Praise

You may hear someone say, “Praise the Lord”—an invitation to others to join you in a moment of intimate gratitude and worship. The invitation may also be a strong statement of faith when made in the midst of fear, danger or turmoil.

For me, praise of the Lord means ultimately to surrender to God who, out of love, willed me into existence. Also, God gave me the gift of faith—but I, too often, smugly regard faith as my gift to God. Even obedience to God is a gift. Without God’s grace I could never hope to know him, love him or serve him.

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Praise and thanksgiving are inseparable.

How can I praise God without a sense of gratitude? How can I thank God without praising him?

And how can I give God anything that demands from him something in return?

(For) ”from him and through him and for him all things are.”[ii]

A Third Virtue

Perhaps we need to embrace a third virtue to accompany praise and gratitude. This virtue, humility, enables the faithful believer to enter into a precious intimacy with God.

Humility helps us stand in proper relationship with God and our neighbor. We become able to embrace, as a gift, that unrelenting thirst to be totally one with God and with one another.

Humility brings us to the blessing mentioned by St. Gregory of Nyssa:

Now when you are told that the majesty of God is exalted above the heavens, that his glory is inexpressible, his beauty indescribable, and his nature transcendent, do not despair because you cannot behold the object of your desire. If by a diligent life of virtue you wash away the film of dirt that covers your heart, then the divine beauty will shine forth within you.[iii]

And then, you will rejoice in God’s gift of life, you will be able to remain hopeful in the midst of troubles or disasters.

[i] See Heb 13:15, Lev 7:11-15, Psalms  35:13, 50:23 and 107:22.

[ii] Rom 11:33-36.

[iii] Liturgy of the Hours, Book III, p. 413.

The Power of Lent

20 Mar

                                                          christ of juan batista vazquez (

 

Have we truly recognized Jesus? Have we asked Jesus to rescue us from the darkness of doubt, shallow faith and indifference to his love and law?

 

Lent reveals the marvelous wisdom of God and the pastoral love the Church has for all of us.

Just think a bit about what the Lord has given us in the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent:

  • The Samaritan woman had gone from man to man. She was regarded by her contemporaries as an outcast. She came to the well to draw water—but she was thirsting for more than water. She wanted happiness, peace of mind and soul. She found it in the mercy of God—but only as she gradually recognized who Jesus was.
  • The man who was blind from birth had no hope beyond the kindness of passersby. He had no idea that God loved him so much. He felt unimportant. He merely existed. Jesus gave him physical sight—and more. The man was given fresh hope. Did he follow Jesus for the rest of his life?
  • Finally, we rejoiced in the resurrection of Lazarus. Here was a miracle of miracles: Jesus raised his friend from the dead—after he had been in the tomb four days.

In what ways do we still walk in, or maybe even cling to, spiritual darkness. Are we ready to leave the death that is sin and move toward the Voice that bids us to come forth?

Let’s reflect together, honestly see where our love and trust lie, and then put our entire hope and trust in Jesus, who died on the cross that we might live in the light of love and the power of grace.

  • Are we hooked on the “latest gadgets” or the newest clothing styles or the latest model of that special car? Are we suckers for every “savings offer” that comes along? Are we not happy unless we shop until we drop?
  • Do we place our faith and trust in gaining wealth—or even what we call a “comfortable life?” Do we “need” to surround ourselves with things that help us feel important with the hope of impressing others?
  • And think for a moment about your quest for sensual satisfaction. Do you live to eat? Are sexual pleasures ruling your life? Are you involved with sinful actions and relationships—and what about pornography?

Enough. I think we all get the picture. But this is only the first step. If we think only of how we have failed God and others, we are sure to become depressed.

God’s mercy is endless, but not unconditional.

The one condition is to search our minds and hearts, to review all our relationships, to recognize and confess our sins. This, then, is how we open ourselves to dive ever more deeply into the embrace of God.

God’s mercy and his grace move us from the death of sin into new life, from the shadows of conditional faith into the fullness of life in Christ.

Where Lies Peace?

30 Dec

istock_000002309048large

I wish you a Blessed New Year, filled with the peace of God.

When Jesus was born, peace came into the world.

But where is that peace?

Families are broken.

Ethnic groups raise slogans of hatred and violence.

Human trafficking enslaves God’s children.

Millions of people suffer hunger and pestilence.

Wars rage between nations and terrorism raises its ugly, cowardly head.

So, Lord God, where is that peace that came into the world with the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ?

Perhaps God, our Father, might say:

Peace comes when compassion triumphs over condemnation and when virtue replaces violence.

Look to my Son, your Savior and Lord. His power lies in his love, even for those who hated and killed him.

The peace of the world lies in the human heart. When your heart is filled with peace, and as more people discover peace of mind and soul, the world is gradually made better.

Now, that is surely not a quick and easy fix.

But it is the only one which will eventually bring peace on earth.

The Son of God became one of us. He took on our fallen human nature.

 “When God reveals his humanity, his goodness cannot possibly be hidden. To show his kindness what more could he do beyond taking my human form? My humanity, I say, not Adam’s—that is not such as he had before the fall.”[i]

Jesus experienced joy and sadness, fatigue, betrayal, false accusations condemnation and unjust execution.

Can we, his disciples, expect a bed of roses?

We continue his mission for we are the Body of Christ.

Peace begins in Christ, grows in our own faithful hearts, and then to the entire world through our compassion and love.

 

[i] St. Bernard, Abbot, Liturgy of the Hours, Book I, pg. 447

Vignette for Life

29 Dec

 

lwjas0156

Three Mothers, Three Babies

Three Jewish mothers sat nursing their infants.

One said with pride, “My little son will be a great man of business, just like his father.

The second beamed, and said, “My son will be, like his father, a great landowner.

Both looked at the third mother. One asked, “And what have you to say of your little baby?”

The third mother just smiled as she looked down at her baby, Jesus.

 

 

The Mystery of Love

22 Dec

Baby

Take a moment.

Think.

Forget carols, presents, trees and last-minute rushes.

Think about the great mystery of love—not what passes for love in modern entertainment and “romances.”

Love, that real, unsullied, selfless and everlasting love—the love that prompted God to become one of us, like us in everything but sin.

The angel asked, “Will you?”

Mary said, “Yes.”

And God became one of us, fully human and yet still divine—truly a human with body, blood, bones and a soul.

God has become so human that, like us, he is totally vulnerable, able to suffer pain and hunger, cold and chill. That Baby, soon to become a man, had to have his diapers changed. He had to learn to walk, to talk, to pray.

Jesus is his name—Son of God, Son of Mary, Son of Man, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Messiah and Savior.

But, also, he is Friend and Brother.

Jesus had to grow, to work, to play with his young friends.

He grew in age and wisdom, as do we all. He, Son of God, had to learn the depths of his Father’s love, the path he was to walk, the mission he was to fulfill, the death he was to suffer and the resurrection that would defeat sin and death.

That’s the mystery of love—of God’s love.

Christmas isn’t about trees and lights. It is about the Light of the World.

It’s about how the wood of the crèche foreshadows the wood of the Cross.

God so loved the world…

That’s the mystery.

That’s love.

Have a Holy Christmas—one filled with the joy born of being loved and the hope born of resurrection.

 

Go Ghezzi!

6 Apr

Bert Ghezzi is no stranger to readers of Catholic literature. His books, more than 20 of them, date from his younger days. None has ever disappointed.

His latest, “The Heart of Catholicism,” invites the reader to look deeply into the heart of Christ to discover the heart of the Catholic faith (Ave Maria Press, ppr. 175 pgs, $14.95).

Endorsed by several people including bishops and laity, the book has five very readable sections–“Being Catholic,” “Receiving Daily Graces,” “Opening to God,” “Making Daily Changes,” and “Reaching Beyond Ourselves.”

He writes with authority because he relies on the authority of God as revealed in Scripture and in the Church; he also writes from a vast experience of learning and teaching.

Ghezzi acknowledges the areas of agreement we have with other Christians. But, he writes, “we diverge in many other ways. Among the differences that separate us from other Christians, perhaps the most significant is the teaching about the Church itself. We believe that the Catholic Church is the direct descendant of that visible society that Jesus founded and handed over to Peter and the apostles to care for, propagate and govern.

In the chapter, “Worshipping at Mass,” Bert Ghezzi offers “seven ways to participate actively in the Mass” (pp. 46-49). This section will be very helpful to many readers who wonder about the benefits of Sunday worship.

In Chapter 15, “Making Friends for Christ and the Church,” we find short stories of how some Catholics utilize their natural talents and faith in reaching others through kindness and compassion.

Each chapter ends with very practical and helpful information: “Comprehension and Discussion Questions,” Choose an Action,” and “For Further Study” which includes digital resources.

This is a must read for people beginning their quest for an intimate relationship with Christ and the Church. It is a must read for anyone who has grown too comfortable in what I often refer to as “faith-as-usual.”

“The Heart of Catholicism” will be helpful for other Christians who want to know and understand what makes Catholics tick.

Finally, this book should be made available to all parishioners who want to promote faith in Christ in the Catholic Church.