Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

Jesus in the Storm — 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

August 11, 2014

walking-on-water-by-aivazovsky-1890I do not think that the apostles wanted to get into that boat. Jesus made them do it.

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

Why would they not want to go? Peter, Andrew, James, and John were previously fishermen working on this Sea of Galilee. They could recognize an approaching storm. The apostles did not want to be on the sea that night, but they obediently went.

[After sending away the apostles and the crowds, Jesus] went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.

Why did Jesus dismiss them without himself? Jesus wanted to be alone to pray after hearing about the killing of his relative and friend, John the Baptist. (Even Jesus needed dedicated times for prayer.) But there was another reason: Jesus wanted the apostles to experience one of the most memorable, most difficult, most amazing nights of their lives. After battling against the winds and waves from evening through the hours before dawn, the apostles were exhausted physically and emotionally. Then…

During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

The apostles have been casting out demons with Jesus for a long time. Perhaps they fear that this angry storm has been the work of a demon who is coming toward them in visible form on the water to finally kill them. In fact, the source of their greatest fear is actually their salvation. Jesus says, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Jesus says, “Be not afraid,” more frequently than anything else. And it is not a suggestion, it is a command. When it feels like a the hurricane blows above, and an earthquake shakes below, and fire surrounds you, it can be difficult to hear God’s tiny whispering sound. However, the Lord is always close. People are afraid of many things: Loss and poverty, loneliness and suffering, disease and pain, dying to ourselves and dying from this life. What are you most afraid of?

After [Jesus and Peter] got into the boat, the wind died down.

Jesus says, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Like the Apostles, if any distress comes to you, the Lord has permitted this for your good. “Be not afraid.” Jesus comes to meet us in the storm. He does this because meeting Jesus in the storm is among the most memorable, most amazing, and most powerful experiences of our lives. As we see with Saint Peter, these difficult experiences make us more like Jesus. In everything, Jesus is near and telling us, “Be not afraid.”

Three Crosses Line Break

No creo que los apóstoles querían entrar en ese barco. Jesús les hizo hacerlo.

En aquel tiempo, inmediatamente después de la multiplicación de los panes, Jesús hizo que sus discípulos subieran a la barca y se dirigieran a la otra orilla, mientras Él despedía a la gente.

¿Por qué ellos no quieran ir? Pedro, Andrés, Santiago y Juan eran anteriormente los pescadores que trabajan en este mar de Galilea. Podían reconocer una tormenta que se aproxima. Los apóstoles no quieren estar en el mar esa noche, pero obedientemente se fueron.

Después de despedirla, [Jesús] subió al monte a solas para orar. Llegada la noche, estaba él solo allí. Entre tanto, la barca iba ya muy lejos de la costa y las olas la sacudían, porque el viento era contrario.

¿Por qué Jesús despedirlos sin él? Jesús quería estar a solas para orar después de enterarse de el asesinato de su pariente y amigo, Juan el Bautista. (Incluso Jesús necesitaba tiempos dedicados para la oración.) Pero había otra razón: Jesús quería que los apóstoles de experimentar una de las más memorables, más difíciles, más increíbles noches de sus vidas. Después de luchar contra los vientos y las olas de la noche a través de las horas antes del amanecer, los apóstoles estaban exhaustos física y emocionalmente. Entonces…

A la madrugada, Jesús fue hacia ellos, caminando sobre el agua. Los discípulos, al verlo andar sobre el agua, se espantaron y decían: “¡Es un fantasma!” Y daban gritos de terror. Pero Jesús les dijo enseguida: “Tranquilícense y no teman. Soy yo”.

Los apóstoles han sido echando fuera demonios con Jesús durante mucho tiempo. Tal vez tienen miedo de que esta tormenta enojado ha sido obra de un demonio que ahora viene hacia ellos en forma visible en el agua para finalmente matarlos.  De hecho, la fuente de su miedo más grande es en realidad su salvación. Jesús dice: “Tranquilícense y no teman. Soy yo”.

Jesús dice: “No temas,” con más frecuencia que cualquier otra cosa. Y no es una sugerencia, es una orden.  Cuando parece que un huracán sopla encima, y un terremoto sacude a continuación, y el fuego le rodea, puede ser difícil de oír el murmullo de una bias suave. Sin embargo, el Señor siempre está cerca. La gente tiene miedo de muchas cosas: la pérdida y la pobreza, la soledad y el sufrimiento, la enfermedad y el dolor, muriendo a nosotros mismos y muriendo algún día. ¿Qué es lo que más miedo?

En cuanto [Jesús y Pedro] subieron a la barca, el viento se calmó.

Jesús viene para encontrarnos en la tormenta. Él hace esto porque un encuentro con Jesús en la tormenta es una de las experiencias más sorprendentes, más memorables y más poderosos de nuestras vidas.  Como vemos con San Pedro, estas experiencias difíciles nos hacen más como Jesús. En todo, Jesús está cerca, y nos diciendo, “Tranquilícense y no teman.”


The Pentecost Project — Pentecost—Year C

May 18, 2013

Before Pentecost was a Christian celebration, it was an ancient Jewish observance. In the Old Covenant, in the Law of Moses, God commanded his people to bring some of the first grain harvested from their fields to Jerusalem be sacrificed as a burnt offering. This is the reason why Jews from so many distant countries were gathered in Jerusalem on this fiftieth day after Passover. Each Pentecost, the world’s first fruits were gathered and consecrated to the Lord. On one unique Pentecost, the Pentecost seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, Jews from every land were gathered by the Holy Spirit, and consecrated to God the Father, through Jesus Christ. By the end of Old Testament era, God had scattered the seeds of his chosen people across the world. On this Pentecost, the first fruits of his harvest are brought into his barn, the Church.

Pentecost can be seen as the beginning of the end of God’s project of salvation because we are now living in the world’s final era. And yet, Pentecost can also be seen as the start of a new divine project that will perdure forever. At the Tower of Babel, mankind endeavors to build a city reaching all the way to heaven. In other words, they attempt to become as gods while rejecting God. The Lord knows that this recurring human tendency leads to self-destruction, for both individuals and societies, so he thwarts their project by confusing their language. On Pentecost, God undoes Babel by allowing all peoples to understand the Apostles’ words, uniting and ennobling them. On this day, God begins in earnest to build up the Church, a new great city in communion with God that reaches all the way to heaven. Though heaven and earth pass away, this city of God, the Church, shall continue forever.

Why did the Holy Spirit come down in the form of fire? God the Holy Spirit, like the angels, is pure spirit and has no physical body. To be seen by human beings they must assume an appearance. Why did the Holy Spirit appear in the likeness of flames? Consider a different question: How many matches does it take to burn down a forest? The fire from just one small match is enough. As the small fire spreads, while remaining itself, it transforms everything around it. The holy fire that descended on Pentecost did not harm or destroy like natural fire would. The apostles may have been alarmed to see flames sailing towards their heads, but they were not burnt. The fire of the Holy Spirit is like the fire of the burning bush that Moses beheld in Exodus. Divine fire does not consume, but glorifies its hosts. Jesus once declared, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49) On Pentecost, a fire is lit in Jerusalem that spreads and transforms the world. This fire is the Holy Spirit at work.

All of salvation history was a preparation for Jesus Christ and Pentecost. Now we live in the last age of the world, the age of the Church, the city of God which shall last forever. Each of us is called to play an active part in this project of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, just as important as the gift of tongues given to the apostles was the Holy Spirit’s gift of fearless joy. Even after they had seen Jesus resurrected, the apostles timidly hid behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” But the reception of the Holy Spirit gave them a happy courage that allowed them to talk about Jesus in public to anyone who would listen. We have received the Holy Spirit also. Then why are we so timid? Why are we shy to introduce others to Jesus, our friend?  Why are we hesitant to welcome others to the Church, our community?  It seems that the Holy Spirit declines to act with power within us until we give him our free consent. Like he waited upon Mary’s response at the Annunciation, so the Holy Spirit awaits our invitation. Open yourself to the Holy Spirit’s will.  Ask him to give you new, powerful gifts. Give him permission to utilize you in the great project of salvation. And then, let us watch what he does through us.

Antes de Pentecostés era una fiesta cristiana, fue una celebración judía antigua. En el Antiguo Testamento, en la Ley de Moisés, Dios ordenó a su pueblo para llevar a algunos de los primeros granos cosechados de sus campos a Jerusalén ser sacrificado como ofrenda quemada. Esta es la razón Judios de muchos países lejanos se reunieron en Jerusalén en este quincuagésimo día después de la Pascua. Cada Pentecostés, las primicias del mundo se reunieron y se consagraron al Señor. Por un Pentecostés especial, siete semanas después de la resurrección de Jesús, Judios de todos los países se reunieron por el Espíritu Santo, y se consagraron a Dios Padre por medio de Jesucristo. Para el final de la época de del Antiguo Testamento, Dios había esparcido las semillas de su pueblo elegido a través del mundo. En este Pentecostés, los primeros frutos de su mies se llevan a su granero, la Iglesia.

Pentecostés se puede considerar como el comienzo del fin del proyecto de salvación de Dios porque estamos ahora viviendo en la época final del mundo. Y, sin embargo, Pentecostés se puede también ser visto como el comienzo de un nuevo divino proyecto que va a perdurar para siempre. A la Torre de Babel, la humanidad se esfuerza por construir una ciudad llegar al cielo. En otras palabras, ellos intentan convertirse en dioses mientras que rechazando a Dios. El Señor sabe que esta tendencia humana recurrente conduce a la auto-destrucción, tanto para los individuos y las sociedades. Por lo tanto, Dios frustra su proyecto a través de confundir su idioma. En Pentecostés, Dios deshace Babel a través de permitir que todos los pueblos a comprender las palabras de los apóstoles. Dios une a las gente y les ennoblece. En este día, Dios comienza en serio la edificación de la Iglesia, una nueva gran ciudad en comunión con Dios, que llega a todo el camino al cielo. Aunque el cielo y la tierra pueden pasar, esta ciudad de Dios, la Iglesia, continuará para siempre.

¿Por qué el Espíritu Santo descendió en forma de fuego? Dios el Espíritu Santo, como los ángeles, es espíritu puro y no tiene cuerpo físico. Para ser visto por los seres humanos deben asumir una apariencia. ¿Por qué el Espíritu Santo aparece en la imagen de las llamas? Considere una pregunta diferente: ¿Cuántas fósforos se necesitan para quemar un bosque? El fuego de un solo fósforo es suficiente. Como los pequeños fuego se extiende, sin dejar de ser ella misma, se transforma todo a su alrededor. El fuego sagrado que descendió en Pentecostés no dañar o destruir como el fuego natural. Los apóstoles pueden haber sentido la ansiedad a ver las llamas que vuelan hacia sus cabezas, pero no fueron quemados. El fuego del Espíritu Santo es como el fuego de la zarza ardiente que vio Moisés en Éxodo. Fuego divino no consume, pero glorifica a su moradas. Jesús una vez declaró: “Yo he venido a traer fuego sobre la tierra y ¡cuánto desearía que ya estuviera ardiendo!” (Lucas 12:49) En el día de Pentecostés, el fuego se enciende en Jerusalén, se extiende y transforma el mundo. Este fuego es el Espíritu Santo en el trabajo.

Toda la historia de la salvación fue una preparación para Cristo y Pentecostés. Ahora vivimos en la última época del mundo, la era de la Iglesia, la ciudad de Dios que durará para siempre. Cada uno de nosotros está llamado a desempeñar un papel activo en este proyecto delEspíritu Santo. En el día de Pentecostés, tan importante como el don de lenguas dadas a los apóstoles fue el don del Espíritu Santo de la alegría sin miedo. Aun después de que habían visto a Jesús resucitado, los apóstoles se escondían tímidamente detrás de puertas cerradas “por miedo de los Judios”. Sin embargo, la recepción delEspíritu Santo les dio un coraje feliz que les permitió hablar de Jesús en público a cualquier persona que escucharía. Hemos recibido el Espíritu Santo también. Entonces ¿por qué estamos tan tímido? ¿Por qué evitamos introducir a otros a Jesús, nuestro amigo? ¿Por qué estamos renuentes a dar la bienvenida a otros a nuestra Iglesia, nuestra comunidad? Parece que el Espíritu Santo se niega a actuar con el poder dentro de nosotros hasta que le demos nuestro consentimiento libre. Como él esperó a la respuesta de María en la Anunciación, del mismo modo el Espíritu Santo espera nuestra invitación. Ábrase a la voluntad delEspíritu Santo. Pídele que le dará nuevos, poderosos dones. Dará el Espíritu Santo permiso usarte más en su gran proyecto de salvación. Y luego, velemos lo que hace a través de nosotros.

Our Thrice Holy God — 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

March 3, 2013

The ancient Hebrews did not have a word that means “very.” To describe something or someone as “very beautiful” they would use the word twice, “It is beautiful, beautiful.” And to describe something or someone as “the most beautiful” they repeated the word three times: “She is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.” This is the reason Isaiah hears the angels saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” The Lord is the most holy, sacred, pure, and perfect.

It can feel overwhelming to be in the presence of the holy Lord. Isaiah exclaimed, “Woe is me, I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.” Peter says, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner!” This Wednesday we begin another season of Lent, because we are sinners and God is holy. Yet, the Lord purifies Isaiah with the ember from the altar. And Jesus reassures Peter, “Do not fear.” St. Paul says: “I am unworthy to be called an apostle. However, by the grace of God I am what I am”.

God is not very concerned about where we have been. God is more concerned about where we are going. Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Jesus says to you, “Be not afraid.” No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, God can do great things with Jesus Christ in you.

Los antiguos hebreos no tenían una palabra que significa “muy”. Para describir algo o alguien como “muy hermoso” usarían la palabra dos veces, “Es hermoso, hermoso”. Y para describir algo o alguien como “la más hermosa”, repitieron la palabra tres veces: “Es hermosa, hermosa, hermosa.” Esta es la razón Isaías oye a los ángeles diciendo: “Santo, santo, santo es el Señor”. El Señor es el más santo, puro sagrado y perfecto.

Esto puede ser abrumador para estar en la presencia del Señor santo. Isaías exclamó: “¡Ay de mí, estoy perdido, porque soy un hombre de labios impuros”! Pedro dice: “Apártate de mí, Señor, porque soy un pecador!” Somos pecadores y Dios es santo. Este miércoles comenzar otro tiempo de Cuaresma, porque somos pecadores y Dios es santo. Sin embargo, el Señor purifica Isaías con la brasa del altar. Y Jesús tranquiliza a Pedro: “No temas”. San   Pablo dice: “Soy indigno de llamarme apostól. Sin embargo, por la gracia de Dios, soy lo que soy”.

Dios no está muy preocupado acerca de dónde hemos estado. Dios está más preocupado por dónde vamos. Cada santo tiene un pasado y todo pecador tiene un futuro. Jesús te dice: “No temas.” No importa dónde has estado, no importa lo que has hecho, Dios puede hacer grandes cosas con Jesús Cristo en ti.

Teachings Hardly Heard — 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 10, 2011

Like the rains that come down from heaven to water the earth, so we are called to live lives of self-gift, fruitfulness, and peace. Jesus comes down from heaven to give us life, to free us from futility and slavery to corruption. But sometimes when Jesus preaches, people hear without understanding and the evil one steals away the seed of truth He sows. For others, worldly fear and the attraction of riches prevent Jesus’ word from bearing fruit. But when His word lands on a person of openness and discernment, it bears a great fruitfulness for that person and others.

What are teachings that we as Catholics have tended to hear but not understand, to glace at but never really examine. What are the teachings of Jesus Christ’s Church which we hardly hear with our ears and toward which we are most tempted to close our eyes? These are the issues about which clergy are most hesitant to preach. Nevertheless, Jesus wills that we hear these things with our ears, understand them with our hearts, and be converted, that He may heal us. Please pray now, for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that your heart may receptive to His word.

One area about which we hardly hear with our ears is the harm in sensual or romantic fantasizes.

For men, this temptation tends to be toward indecent images. For women, it tends towards things like romance novels. With these things, a person looks at another, or imagines being with another, without ever touching them, but that does not make sensual or romantic fantasies o.k. or harmless. Recall how Jesus said, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

What is the harm in these things? Real love is only found and shared in the real world. Sensual or romantic escapism leaves behind those we are called to love. Compared to these fantasies, no real man or woman, no wife or husband, can possibly measure up. These fantasies can be addictive and they change the way we look at and relate to others in daily life.

If books, magazines, or movies tempt you in this way, throw them out. If the internet is the gateway to fantasy, place near the monitor a picture of someone you love. Commit yourself to loving the real people in your life, for that is the only place where real love is found.

Another topic about which we hardly hear is the harm of contraception.

In the beginning, upon creating the first man and woman, “God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply.’”  To unite husband and wife in love, and to bless the world with new human life, God designed the one-flesh marital embrace. God created and wills this embrace for life as well as love. Contraception, however, separates life from love, to the harm of both.  This must not be done for as Jesus said, in the context of marriage, “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Forms of contraception are not new, they’re actually quite ancient. And from the start, the Catholic Church has recognized the wrongness of intentionally contracepted acts. In fact, as late as 1930, all Protestant groups agreed with Catholics on this principle (before they began to splinter off.) If the constant teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ is not persuasive enough, consider the fallout of contraception.

A contracepting couple closes off their marriage, their embrace, to life. Therefore, if they unexpectedly conceive a child, the little one is not felt to be a gift from God but a mistake. Whenever the surprise blessing of a child is considered to be a curse, love for that child is wounded, and even the unspeakable becomes tempting.

Contraception also threatens the love of couples. Pope Paul VI foresaw this danger, as he wrote in Humanae Vitae, “It is also to be feared that the man who grows accustomed to contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and psychological equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, and no longer as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” Contraception separates life and love to the harm of both.

What then does the Church ask couples to do; to have as many children as they physically possibly can? No—For serious physical, psychological, economic, or social reasons, a couple may limit their marital embraces to her cycle’s naturally infertile periods. This is called Natural Family Planning (or NFP) and its methods, when used as directed, are as effective as the pill. But unlike the pill, Natural Family Planning has no unhealthy side-effects, is not an abortifacient, and conforms with God’s will. Practicing NFP is fruitful within marriage, whether God blesses a couple with more children or not.

A third subject about which we do not hear is the harm of fornication, or partaking of the marital embrace without the covenant of marriage.

Body language speaks, and the message of the body in the marital embrace is one of total self-gift. It says, “I joyfully give myself to you, all of me, completely and forever.” Fornication, however, makes this language of the body a lie. Unless a relationship has been sealed, before God and the world, in the bond of marriage, either one of the couple can back out at any time, and the couple knows this. It’s always in the back of their minds. For this reason, these couples tend to repress anger and complaints, avoid facing problems in their relationship, and put off the hard questions about their future together.

The embrace of man and woman naturally forges strong emotional bonds between the couple. In marriage, that’s a good thing, but before a marriage this clouds judgment and can plaster over serious flaws, serious cracks, in a bad relationship, at least for awhile. And what if their embrace conceives a child they don’t think they’re ready for? The woman, to preserve the relationship, may be tempted or coerced toward an unspeakable choice she’ll always regret.

Cohabitating couples can slouch into marriage; sometimes the man doesn’t really choose marriage so much as finally give in to others’ expectations. Then, after their wedding, nothing really seems different from before, and psychologically, the assumptions of their dating relationship carry into the marriage. Once their wedding day (which wasn’t as special for them as it should have been) drifts further away into the past, and marital difficulties inevitably arise, the old idea, the old escape hatch of breaking up and moving out, naturally returns, increasing the risk of divorce.

Fornication and cohabitation expose a person to emotional and spiritual pains, decrease one’s chances of marrying the right person, and increase one’s chances of divorcing in the future. No matter where you are in your dating relationships, Jesus Christ calls you to pre-marital chastity, for true love is found in purity.

A final topic about which we hardly hear is the harmfulness in acting out according to one’s same-sex attractions.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “The number of men and women who have deep-seated [tendencies of this kind] is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

It is important for all of us to remember that a temptation, whatever it is, by itself, is not sin. Unless we go out looking for temptation, we are not responsible for the temptations which our genetics, upbringing, or environment send our way. What important is how we respond to our temptations, whether we give in to them and fall, or if stand strong with God like His saints before us.

As a Christian, and a fellow sinner, it would be wrong for me to look down on anyone. God loves everyone like He loves me. But at the same time, it would not be loving for me as a follower of Jesus Christ to say that acting out on one’s same-sex attractions is o.k. or harmless. The Old and New Testaments and the constant teachings of Christ’s Church are clear.

People of the same sex may be friends, even the dearest of friends with each other, but they’re not meant to be lovers. Man and wife were made each other. Their masculine and feminine differences compliment and complete each other and husbands and wives, as mothers and fathers. This is seen physically, in their marital embrace and in the conception of new life; but also psychologically and spiritually as well, in faithful marriages that last a lifetime. Persons of the same sex do not have this complimentarity and to ignore truth this leads to suffering, for such relationships are unhealthy for one’s body or soul. The tragically higher rates of promiscuity, transmittable diseases and cancers, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and attempted suicide, point to the brokenness of these lifestyles. (And one notes that these comparatively higher rates are found not only in our country, but also aboard, like in the Netherlands where such relationships are more common and much more socially accepted.) Jesus calls these brothers and sisters of His and ours to a different, better, happier way of life.

Regardless of our temptations, there is hope. Freedom from sin and joyful peace are possible for all of us, by the grace of Jesus Christ the support of one another. For example, Courage international is a Catholic organization which ministers to help those with same-sex attractions live chaste and happy lives. For more information about Courage groups in our area, or about how to enroll in Natural Family Planning classes see me after Mass or give me a call. If you are cohabitating and wish to return to chastity but you don’t know how you as a couple can practically achieve it, talk to me. God has solutions for those who seek His will. May the seeds of Jesus’ teachings find rich soil in your hearts and bear an abundant harvest for you and for others.

Fear of Death — Friday, 3rd Week of Ordinary Time—Year I

January 28, 2011

God permits us to feel a natural aversion to death. This is healthy and for our good. (Imagine what the world would be like if everyone were completely indifferent as to whether they lived or died.) However, for faithful Christians, there is no reason to be terrorized by a fear of death.

If you remain close to the sacraments and rooted in daily prayer you have no reason to be afraid. Maybe you feel ill-prepared to die, but like the seed that grows without the farmer understanding how, God is preparing you for the unending life of Heaven in ways you don’t even perceive. Like the mustard seed, we may go into the ground as seemingly small and weak human beings, but we will rise with a greatness and power that even delights and blesses the angels of Heaven.

A natural aversion to death is healthy, but for Christians a fear of death is out of place. For, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.”

7 Superpowers — Tuesday, 1st Week of Advent

November 30, 2010

Back when I was in seminary, we would sometimes joke around with a game we called Superpower/Super-weakness. One of us would imagine a superpower for himself, and then we would try to come up with a super-weakness, or vulnerability, to go with it.

So let’s say that you’re able to fly; then, your super-weakness is that you can only fly to Iowa. Imagine you have the ability to change anything into food; however, that food is always celery and you don’t have any teeth. Or perhaps you can talk with animals, but they only want to talk to you about lawnmowers, trees, and how things smell.

Today, I have a challenge for you. I am going to describe to you seven superpowers, seven more-than-human abilities, though none of these will have built-in drawbacks. Your challenge is to choose which superpower you want for yourself. Here we go:

The first is the power to always recognize what is truly important. With this power, you always keep the big picture in mind. With this power, trifles never distract you and you always spend your time and money well. Let’s call this, Wisdom.

Or, would you rather have the ability to power to penetrate deeply into any topic and grasp it thoroughly. With this power, you could become an expert in any chosen field. If you were to study the dynamics of the stock market, or the weather, or even your female classmates, you would soon understand them thoroughly. Let’s call this power, Understanding.

Or, would you prefer the power to sense the best course of action to take in the middle of any situation? With this power, you would always get reliable hunches in uncertain moments. Let’s call this power, Counsel. (Possessing superhuman intuition would be useful, but even if you always knew the best choice to make, you wouldn’t necessarily always have the strength or courage to follow it through.)

Would you rather have the power to be free from all unreasonable fears and to be able to ignore any sufferings? With this ability, you are be perfectly brave and an overwhelming force. Let’s call this power, Fortitude.

Or, would you want the ability to detect when someone is speaking truth or a falsehood? With this power, you are more than a human lie-detector, you are able to see through subtle and false arguments which other people accept as true. Let’s call this power, Knowledge.

Or, would you prefer to have the innate ability that you would always intensely desire to do what you know to be right? People often know the right thing to do but they still don’t do it. With this power, you are irresistibly drawn to do what’s good. Let’s call this power, Piety.

Or, lastly, would you rather have total protection from ever doing anything stupid? With this ability, you are spared from making the mistakes and errors which are committed by many other people. Let’s call this power, Holy Fear.

So, how many here would choose Wisdom; the ability to always recognize what is truly important and to keep first things first in life?

Who here would choose Understanding; to penetrate deeply into great mysteries?

How many would choose Counsel; an uncanny intuition for choosing the best course of action?

How many here would choose Fortitude; the power to be freed from fears and endure all sufferings?

Who would choose Knowledge; the ability to recognize truth or falsehood whenever you hear it?

How many would choose Piety; the ability to intensely desire to do whatever you know to be right?

And how many would choose Holy Fear, or the Fear of the Lord, to be protected from doing foolish things?

These seven superpowers, these seven more-than-human abilities, are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Their names come from today’s first reading, Isaiah 11:1-10. The good news for us is that God freely gives these gifts to the childlike who ask Him for them, and He does not limit us to just one. At this Mass, pray for all seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, but especially for the power which you desire the most.

The Sorrowful Mysteries, Meditations on Vocation with the Saints

October 29, 2010

The 1st Sorrowful Mystery:
The Agony in the Garden

Years before Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Blessed Virgin Mary had an agony of her own, when the Archangel Gabriel came to announce to her that she would bear the Son of God. Mary was “greatly troubled,” and the angel sought to reassure her “Do not be afraid, Mary….” Even after the plan was presented to her, she must have been full of questions about her future, like “What will Joseph and my parents think?” But Mary answered, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” and because she said that, Jesus could say years later, “Father… not my will but yours be done.”

God has a plan for every life, and a calling, a “vocation,” meant for them. Accepting God’s plan for our lives can take great, trusting courage, but answering “Yes” to Him will do more good than we know. Let us pray for the grace, trust, and courage to say “Yes” to our own God-given callings.

The 2nd Sorrowful Mystery:
The Scourging at the Pillar

Father Damien went to the Hawaiian island of Molokai to minister the spiritual and bodily needs of lepers exiled there. Last year, in 2009, Father Damien was canonized a saint. But in 1889, six months after his death, the following letter was published in a Protestant Christian newspaper:

Dear Brother,

In answer to your inquires about Father Damien, I can only reply that we who knew the man are surprised at the extravagant newspaper laudations, as if he was a most saintly philanthropist. The simple truth is, he was a coarse, dirty man, headstrong and bigoted. He was not sent to Molokai, but went there without orders; did not stay at the leper settlement (before he became one himself), but circulated freely over the whole island (less than half the island is devoted to the lepers), and he came often to Honolulu. He had no hand in the reforms and improvements inaugurated, which were the work of our Board of Health, as occasion required and means were provided. He was not a pure man in his relations with women, and the leprosy of which he died should be attributed to his vices and carelessness. Other have done much for the lepers, our own ministers, the government physicians, and so forth, but never with the Catholic idea of meriting eternal life.

– Yours, etc., “C. M. Hyde”

Hyde’s comments are noted today only because they were so exquisitely answered in an open letter by Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island (1883) and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Stevenson quite rightly wrote, “[If the world will] at all remember you, on the day when Damien of Molokai shall be named a Saint, it will be in virtue of one work: your letter to the Reverend H. B. Gage.” The whole reply, assessing Damien and rebuking Hyde, is worth your reading, but I will give you the closing words: “[Father Damien] is my father… and the father of all who love goodness; and he was your father too, if God had given you grace to see it.”

In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus asked, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” This is because when someone set about to do God’s will, the world, which opposes God, will attack that person. Criticisms will land on the just man like lashes on the back. Jesus said, “Woe to you when all speak well of you,” for ‘the world loves its own.’ If there is nothing very counter-cultural about your life, then you are not yet living out the Gospel as Christ calls you to do. Let us pray for the grace to be faithful to the Gospel, even at personal cost.

The 3rd Sorrowful Mystery:
The Crowning with Thorns

Once, when St. Maximillian Kolbe was a boy, his behavior began trying his mother’s patience. She said in exasperation, “Maximillian, what will become of you?” As St. Maximillian writes, “Later, that night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.” How bold of him to imagine, and how bolder still to ask, that he might receive them both. St. Maximillian would receive both crowns, as a holy Franciscan brother, and as a victim of the Nazis at Auschwitz, where he took the place of another innocent man who was condemned to die.

At yesterday’s Mass you heard that God, by His power, “is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine.” Yet we will receive little if we are too timid to imagine or ask much of Him. Let us pray for the grace to imagine and ask to be crowned by Christ with a life with far greater than whatever we would merely drift into on our own.

The 4th Sorrowful Mystery:
The Carrying of the Cross

In 1961, Gianna Molla was expecting another child. During her second month of pregnancy, a tumor developed in her uterus. She could have chosen to have her uterus removed—preserving her own life, but resulting in her baby’s death.  Instead, she chose to try having the tumor surgery removed. After the operation, complications continued throughout her pregnancy. Gianna told her family, “This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other—I want them to save my baby.” On Good Friday, 1962, Gianna gave birth to her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, but it was too late for the mother. St. Gianna Molla died one week later.

Naturally, we all hate to suffering, but if you were to ask St. Gianna Molla what was the greatest thing she ever did, the thing she least regrets and of which she is most proud, I bet she point to this final trial, carrying the cross for the life of her child. I suspect, that on the other side of death, we shall see how much good an offered suffering can do, and we will regret not having offered more. We should ask ourselves, would I rather live a great life, or merely an easy one. Let us pray for the grace to be a lasting blessing to others though the crosses that come our way.

The 5th Sorrowful Mystery:
The Crucifixion

We think of Mexico as one of the most Catholic countries there are, but in 1920’s, it was illegal to celebrate Mass there.  That did not stop priests like Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. from sneaking about to minister to people in their homes.  After many close calls, Fr. Pro was captured by police and condemned to death on false charges that he was somehow connected to a bombing assassination plot.

When he was led out for his execution by firing squad, Fr. Pro be blessed the soldiers, knelt and quietly prayed for a time. Declining a blindfold, he faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other and held his arms out in imitation of the crucified Christ and shouted, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, you know that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Just before the firing squad was ordered to shoot, he proclaimed, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) When the first shots failed to kill him, a soldier shot him point-blank. The government had a photographer on hand, capturing these moments for propaganda purposes, but soon after the images were published their possession was made illegal—a Catholic priest dying faithfully and bravely was an inspiration giving new life to a people oppressed.

At the end of the Rosary we pray, “O God… grant, we beseech Thee, that, meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.” If we are faithful to Christ, the mysteries of His life we be made manifest in our own. And if we are faithful to Christ, we will receive a glory similar to His own. Let us pray for the grace to live extraordinary lives in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

A Great Quote about St. Issac Jogues

October 20, 2010

August, 1642 AD. The Jesuit missionary St. Issac Jogues is canoeing to the land of the Herons in New France when he is captured by Mohawk Iroquois. They torture him and cut off several of his fingers. He later escapes them and returns home to France, but he laments no longer being able to preside at the Mass.  (Canon law prohibits him from offering the sacrifice with his maimed hands.)

An appeal is made to Pope Urban VIII in Rome for an unprecedented dispensation. The pope  responds with this famous reply:

“Can one deny the right to say Mass to a martyr of Christ?”

St. Issac Jogues returns to Canada and sheds his blood a second, final time at the hands of those he came to save.

The Child Mary — September 8 – Nativity of Mary

September 8, 2010

Nine months ago we celebrated Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Today we celebrate her birthday. By my estimation, Mary is now about two thousand, twenty-five years old, but if you saw her I’m sure she wouldn’t show her age. How old does Mary seem when you picture her in your mind? I’d bet that you think of her as fully-grown up; like your mom or your teachers. But today’s feast reminds us that she was once your age too.

Mary was little once too, and just because Mary lived a life without sin doesn’t mean that her childhood was a bed of roses. I think adults sometimes forget how hard and stressful things can be when you’re little, but Mary remembers everything perfectly well.

She remembers what it was like to be little like many of you. How she got scared when Nazareth’s big, neighborhood dogs would bark at her. How loud cracks of thunder frightened her at night and made her hide under the covers. She remembers how other girls made fun of her, for being different or weird, and she remembers how she cried. But even when she got sad or scared, Mary knew that she was loved and not alone. Not only did her parents love her, but she was convinced of God’s love, too, and understood that He was never far from her. This consoled Mary and reassured her that everything would be alright.

After our resurrection, when we get glorified bodies like Mary has now, we will have some new abilities. We will be able to go anywhere we want in an instant. And our glorified bodies should allow us to be more than one place at once. (It only makes sense that if saints on earth can bi-locate, then the  saints in Heaven should be able to as well.) And I also suspect that we will be able to change ourselves back and forth to whatever age we choose.

All this is to say that if at any moment you want Mary to be with you for consolation and support, you only need to ask her. Knowing her abundant love, I can’t imagine she would refuse. And when you think of her with you feel free to picture her at your age, even if you’re little. She understands you, loves you, and can relate to your situations more than you know. Like her Son, Mary is always with us, especially when we ask her be.

Peter’s New Season — 3rd Sunday of Easter

April 20, 2010

Once, when Jesus was preaching as he stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a large and eager crowd was pressing in on Him.  So Jesus got into a fisherman’s boat and asked him to put out aways so that He could sit and teach the crowds. The tired fisherman complied. And after Jesus had finished speaking, He said to this fisherman, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” The fisherman said, “We have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught an incredible number of fish such that their nets were tearing. And Jesus said to the startled man, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.” As you probably remember, the fisherman was Simon Peter, and from that day on his life entered a new season. For the next few years Simon Peter would follow Jesus and evangelize towns on His behalf.

In today’s gospel, from the days after the resurrection, Peter is fishing again. And once again, Jesus is there on the shore. They have caught nothing, but Jesus says to try once more, and they catch an incredible number of fish. When Simon Peter realizes it is Jesus he eagerly comes to Him as fast as he can. He finds Jesus beside a charcoal fire. This should be familiar to Peter, too, calling to mind  another charcoal fire in the dark courtyard of the high priest.

After sharing a meal, Jesus says, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Do you love me?  Do you love me?” Simon Peter says, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus has given Peter the opportunity to undo his triple denial of Jesus with a triple confession of his love. And after each time, Jesus speaks of a new season for Peter’s life: “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.”

Now it is one thing to catch fish, but it is another thing to shepherd a flock. Up to now, Peter has been following Jesus and bringing others to Him. But now Jesus is asking Peter to do something new, to shepherd His flock for Him. Do you think Peter nervous? Is he concerned about whether he is up to the task? Is he worried about being led where he doesn’t want to go? I bet he is, but Jesus would have him ‘not be afraid,’ for he won’t be doing it alone. Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me.”

Our lives are often entering new seasons. Maybe you’re moving into a new town or a new school. Maybe you’re transitioning from engagement to marriage, welcoming new children, or living for the first time without children in the house. Maybe you have a new job, or don’t have a job for the first time. But whatever season of our life Jesus calls us into, His calling and our mission remain the same. Jesus said, ‘”I give you a new commandment; love one another as I have loved you,” and ” “There is no greater love than this, than to lay down your life for a friend.” Every new season of life offers us the unique opportunity to deepen our love for Christ and each other more than ever before.

Maybe you feel nervous? Maybe you’re concerned about whether you are up to the task? Maybe you’re worried about being led where you don’t want to go? But remember Simon Peter and don’t be afraid.  Jesus gives lots of second chances and He does not expect us to do it alone.

Christian and Unashamed — Ash Wednesday at the Parish

February 17, 2010

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us against giving so that others see us giving, against praying so that others see us praying, and against fasting so that others see us fasting. Yet, I don’t think that showy religiosity is where the danger lies for us.

In Jesus’ day, the popular culture proudly believed in God and respected religious piety. Hence, those people were tempted to publically flaunt their acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and thereby gain the respect and praise of others. But today, in our secularized culture, the temptation is to do the opposite, and to do something far worse. We are tempted to deny our faith in Jesus and teachings before others because we’re afraid of what they might think of us.

The hypocrites Jesus spoke of, who pray to be seen by others, merely limit their prayers’ reward, but if we deny Christ before others we lose our rewards entirely. For Jesus tells us:

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

This is why the early Christians went to the lions rather than to deny Christ, and it was their courageous witness to Him that conquered the pagan culture which surrounded them.

This Lent, let us begin to practice putting the Lord before men. For instance, are you someone who will be so embarrassed by having an smudge of ash on your forehead that you’ll want to wash it off the first chance you get? If so, then you should leave it there until it wipes away on its own.

Are you are someone who sees good deeds that just call out to be done but pass them by because of your peers would see you doing them? Then you need to bite the bullet and start doing those hard-good-deeds anyways.

Are you someone who is self-conscious about other people seeing you pray, here at Church, at work, or when your family goes out to a restaurant? Then you need to make it a point to pray, and when you do, do not ask that God would make you invisible; ask Him that other people would become invisible to you and then pray to Him as from your heart.

Now, these are not examples of performing righteous deeds so that others may see you. This is about doing the right thing even if others might happen to see you do it. This Lent, let us begin to love and serve our eternal Lord amidst a world which is destined to become dust.

You are called to be the light of the world. People do not light a candle and then put a bucket over it; it is set it high up, where it can give light for everyone. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. This Lent, let’s begin to shine.

Unashamably Christian — Ash Wednesday at the School

February 17, 2010

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us against giving so that others see us giving, against praying so that others see us praying, and against fasting so that others see us fasting. Yet, I don’t think that showy religiosity is where the danger lies for us.

In Jesus’ day, the popular culture proudly believed in God and respected religious piety. Hence, those people were tempted to publically flaunt their acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and thereby gain the respect and praise of others. But today, in our secularized culture, the temptation is to do the opposite, and to do something far worse. We are tempted to deny our faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings before others because we’re afraid of what they might think of us.

The hypocrites who pray to be seen by others limit their rewards, but if we deny Christ lose our rewards entirely. I’ve touched on this topic twice before from this ambo, as recently as three weeks ago, but I feel that it is important for me to emphasize it, and that it’s important for you to hear it. For Jesus tells us:

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

This Lent, let us begin to put God first; in our prayers, in our penances, and in our personal relationships.

Are you someone who will be so embarrassed by having an smudge of ash on your forehead that you’ll want to wash it off the first chance you get? Well then, you’re someone who needs to leave it there until it wipes away on its own.

Are you are someone who sees good deeds that call out to be done but pass them by because of the people who would see you doing it?  Then you need to bite the bullet and start doing those hard-good-deeds anyways.

Are you someone who will have more to say in gratitude to God after Mass this morning than is allowed by the eight seconds before your pew starts clearing-out? Well, then you need to stay in your pew to say what your heart wants to say as long as you need to say it (without, of course, being late to class.)

Now, these are not examples of performing righteous deeds so that others may see you.  This is doing the right thing even if others might happen to see you doing it.

If you’re self-conscious about other people seeing your devotion to the Lord (for instance at Mass) do not pray that you would be invisible to them; ask that they would invisible to you and continue as you would.

You are called to be the light of the world. People do not light a candle and then put a bucket over it; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light for everyone. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

This Lent let us begin to love and serve the Lord in the world. This Lent, let’s begin to shine.

Tuesday, 33rd Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

November 17, 2009

Imagine if the United States of America, with all its freedoms and rights, were not the United States of America, and on your way to school today, you were stopped along roadside by the secret police. They ask you for your name. You cooperate give it. Then they order you to put your hands on the hood of the squad car. They handcuff you and place you under arrest.

You ask them, “What’s going on? What have I done?” They reply, “You’re under arrest for the charge that you are a believing Catholic Christian.” You didn’t realize it, but the police have had you under intense surveillance for the past several weeks, wire-tapping your phone, monitoring your computer, searching your personal belongs, and watching all your movements and activities.

Imagine yourself in this situation. This is the question I pose to you: At your trial, when all of the evidence they have gathered is presented against you, will there be enough to convict you? Would there be sufficient evidence to find you guilty of being a believing Catholic Christian? What would they have on you?

Would they have testimony from informants that you observe every Friday as a day of penance, that you keep every Sunday as a special, day of rest, and faithfully go to Mass and frequent the sacrament of reconciliation? Could anyone testify against you that they heard you saying positive things about Jesus Christ, or that you spoke up for the Catholic faith when it was mocked or criticized in your presence? Could they put into evidence a rosary, or a Bible, or some other Catholic book, marked with fresh traces of DNA from your fingertips? Would they have hidden camera footage of you praying before meals at school or at restaurants? Would they have grainy night-vision footage of you praying before going to bed, or praying the first thing in the morning, making the tell-tale sign of the cross.

A few hours after your arrest you find yourself in a courtroom (because the “people’s” authoritarian government believes in speedy trials.) The intimidating judge looks down at you from the bench, “It says here that you were picked up on your way to the Columbus school. We have evidence of illegal Christian propaganda being taught there and we also have reliable reports that various Catholic rituals are done there, superstitions which are offensive to reason and the spirit of our times. Now I imagine that you went to that school because that’s where your parents sent you. And I’m sure that your parents would be shocked to discover that such repugnant activities as these are happening at your school.”

The judge continues, “The punishment for being found guilty of being a believing Catholic Christian is a grave one. But… if you were simply mixed-up in these activities, unthinkingly, by accident—if you were just doing them because that’s what everyone else around you was doing—well then that would be a different story. Spies and traders may come to our government rallies, but that doesn’t make them loyal citizens now does it? So just going through the motions doesn’t make you a believing Catholic at all, am I right?”

“So I can completely understand how this regretable misunderstanding has occurred. You didn’t really understand what you were doing did you? Now if you would simply formally renounce any and all belief in these silly superstitions, you may go on your way. Just sign your name here on this piece of paper testifying to that effect, and you’re free to go.”

What would you do? What do you wish you would have the courage to do? Would we have the courage to refuse to sign, just as Eleazar refused to eat? The eating of a little meat, like the movement of a pen, is a small act, but Eleazar refused and accepted an unjust death because to do otherwise would mean a rejection of the Lord, the one true God, the King of all other kings.

Now it is very unlikely that you or I will ever have to lay down our lives as red, or bloody martyrs for our faith in Christ. But, like Zacchaeus, there will be certainly times when we will have to go out on a limb for Christ. The crowd laughed to see the rich man Zacchaeus up in that tree, but what did Zacchaeus care about? His focus was totally fixed upon his connection with Jesus Christ.

Be like Eleazar, and don’t swallow whatever the world sets before you, because a lot of it is not good and can alienate you from God. Be like Zacchaeus, with the courage to go out on a limb regardless of what other people might think or say, for the sake of your relationship with Christ.

[The images for this post come from the movie Sophie Scholl–The Final Days. If you liked A Man for All Seasons, you’ll like this one too (but I’ll warn you up front that it ends the same way.)]

October 28 – Sts. Simon and Jude

October 28, 2009

Cowardly Lion

Today we celebrate the Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles and martyrs for Christ. Simon was known as “the Zealot,” and Jude, or Judas the son of James, was nicknamed “Thaddeus,” which means “Courageous” in Greek. In the Gospel today the apostles are listed, with Simon and Jude coming towards the end, right before Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus.

When Jesus sent out His disciples with the power and authority to heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the Gospel, He sent them out two-by-two.  One could infer (though this is by no means certain) that this Gospel passage lists the apostles according to those old missionary pairings: Simon Peter with his brother, Andrew; James with his brother, John; and so on, ending with the Judas called “Courageous” and the other Judas who became a traitor.

So here we would have two Judas’, side-by-side, in discipleship and ministry. Yet, only one of them earned a nickname for being courageous. To grow in holiness requires our courage, a virtue that Judas Iscariot tragically lacked.

John’s Gospel tells us that this Judas held the money purse, and sometimes stole from it for himself. That’s because he lacked the courage to acknowledge his faults and to grow in the virtues.

Judas may have betrayed Jesus because he thought this would kick-start Jesus, the weak messiah, into real, revolutionary action. Judas did not have the courage to trust that the providence of God working through Jesus Christ was really the best way to bring about the Kingdom on earth.

And after he had sinned, Judas lacked the courage to seek forgiveness, choosing suicide instead, which is called “the coward’s death.” Simon Peter denied Jesus, but he had the courage to confess his sin and to seek reconciliation. That was Peter’s salvation.

If we are going to grow in holiness to sainthood, it’s going to require our courage; the courage to acknowledge our faults and grow virtue, the courage to trust in God’s will and providential plan for our lives, and, when we fall, the courage to confess our sins and to seek reconciliation with Christ.

Thursday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

October 8, 2009

In the illustration used by Jesus in the Gospel, a person goes to their neighbor’s house and calls inside for a needed favor. The father inside is not immediately obliging. The door’s locked and his sons and daughters are already at rest. But Jesus says, ‘…If the father does not get up… because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of the person’s persistence.’

Why will the father end up doing the favor in the end? Because of the father’s children. Imagine all the kids in there, in the dark and in their beds, with the neighbor at the door, knocking: *pounding* “Daaad.” *more pounding* “Dad, do whatever they want!”

The father in this story stands for our Father in heaven, who can sometimes seem reluctant in answering our prayers. The children in the story are the saints in heaven, the sons and daughters who rest in the Father’s house. 

What is it like for the souls in heaven to hear our prayers? Perhaps the experience St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy on earth gives us a glimpse into the experience of the saints in heaven. In the Diary of St. Faustina, a book which I highly recommend for spiritual reading, the Polish nun records this:St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy

“It has happened to me for some time now that I immediately sense in my soul when someone is praying for me; and I likewise sense it in my soul when some soul asks me for prayer, even though they do not speak to me about it. The feeling is one of certain disquiet, as if someone were calling me; and when I pray I obtain peace.”

This reaction makes perfect sense, for how could a good person hear of another’s heartfelt needs and not insist that our Father act? Or how could a saint remain at rest while someone knocks at the door of heaven? Knowing this, how then should we pray? Imagine what doors would open for us, if only we would persist in knocking? Or imagine what gifts would we receive, if only we would try asking? So knock, and ask, boldly.