Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

Learning from the Dishonest Steward

September 17, 2022

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Victor Feltes

In today’s strange parable, Jesus presents the scheming of a thief and a liar as an example we can learn from. We are not to imitate this dishonest steward’s treachery but rather his proactive shrewdness, “for the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”

How shrewdly proactive are we in doing good? We hunt for bargains at the store or online. But do we pursue opportunities to be generous? You have wealth and skills – so share them creatively. We invest and save for retirement. But do we intentionally store up treasure in heaven like Jesus tells us to? You can take nothing with you when you die; but you can increase what wealth awaits you by sending it ahead of you beforehand through generous deeds done now on earth. Jesus tells us to be “as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” He wants us, in cooperation with his grace, to show initiative in strategically and sinlessly serving his Kingdom for God’s glory, for our good, and for the good of all. That’s a worthwhile takeaway, but let’s look a little deeper. Like many of Jesus’ stories, today’s parable contains weird details which goad us to grapple with it further. What do we discover when we imagine ourselves in the shoes of the dishonest steward?

In this story, a rich man has a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. (A steward is someone entrusted to manage another’s property, finances, or affairs.) The master summons his servant and said, “What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.” If you and I are this steward, then who is our rich master? Our Lord is God. We are his servants, and who could be richer than the one from whom all good things come?

What has God entrusted to us? St. Paul replies, “What do you have that you did not receive? … For we brought nothing into the world.” Even the hardest-working farmer relies upon God’s soil, sun, air, and water to transform the seeds into his harvest. Even our own efforts in doing good come from God, “for God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work,” as St. Paul tells the Philippians. Every good thing we have is his.

Have we squandered what God entrusted to us as stewards? Every sin is a misuse of what we’ve been given, and who of us has used what we were given to its full potential? Our Lord has put us on notice that a day is coming when our present stewardship will end with a full accounting of our stewardship, “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” St. Paul writes, “then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.”

The steward in the parable says to himself, “What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.” He recognizes he is too weak and too proud. Similarly, who of us is strong enough to overcome death, to dig ourselves out of the grave? And if you or I were perfectly humble instead of proud, we would always live in the truth (about who God is and who we are) and we would never sin—and yet we do sin.

The steward says to himself, “I know what I shall do so that when I am removed from the stewardship they may welcome me into their homes.” He calls in his master’s debtors one by one, asking them, “How much do you owe my master?” He then forgives portions of their debts – sometimes a fifth or a half of what they owe. And in the end, amazingly, when what this dishonest steward has done is revealed, even his betrayed master commends him for acting prudently and this steward is welcomed into many mansions.

The Our Father prayer as it appears in St. Matthew’s Gospel says, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Whenever someone sins against you they sin against God too, creating a kind of debt, but you yourself can forgive a portion of that debt. When our Lord sees this, he commends you for it. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” And when you are more mercifully generous than what is deserved, you gain blessings. “For the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” So learn from the dishonest steward. Forgive the sin-debts of others, be creative and proactive in your generosity on earth, and one day “you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Meet Your Hero

August 29, 2022

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Have you ever met a famous person? There’s feelings of excitement and pleasure when you get that opportunity but often there’s some nervous awkwardness as well. You know a little about celebrities, about the things they’ve done, but you don’t really know them. You are really strangers to each other and that colors your encounter, limiting your connection. But by spending an hour sharing company and conversation of your admired person you would begin to deepen your acquaintance.

What if you had a sibling, a childhood friend, or a best friend in college who went on to fame and success? Encounters with that celebrity would feel very different because of your existing relationship. The pope, the president, tech billionaires, and movie stars have family and friends who have known them since long before they were famous. And when those close relations get personal invites to the Vatican, to the White House, to go yachting, or to attend a film premiere they rejoice at the opportunity, but they do not come to meet a celebrity but be with their friend or family member.

Imagine yourself back again in high school or at your first job, but possessing the wisdom that you have now. If it were revealed to you that one of your peers, one of your classmates or coworkers, would become truly great, like one day be canonized a saint, would you be interested in befriending them? Of course! You would be blessed to share their friendship. What sort of person would neglect the opportunity to get to know such a person better? One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus Christ is our admired hero whom we can get to know in deeper, more intimate, friendship now before his greatness is acknowledged by all the world.

The Letter to the Hebrews says, “You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…” Yet these realities, present at every Mass surrounding Jesus in the Eucharist, remain veiled to our sight. They are not yet clearly manifest like the blazing fire, gloomy darkness, storms, and trumpet blasts which terrified the Hebrews at Mount Sinai. These supernatural realities are hidden for now, such that non-believers dismiss them and even believers can neglect them. Too often, Catholics neglect the Lord who calls us to celebrate the Holy Mass and to worship him truly present in the Eucharist.

Jesus says, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet… go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.” It takes humility to consistently come and worship him, the proud refuse, but faithfulness will be rewarded with glory, for “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The Prophet Sirach wrote, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.” Who does the Lord delight in more: those who give their gifts of money or those who give him themselves? “Humble yourself,” as Sirach says, “and you will find favor with God.”

One way to humble yourself, to grow in friendship with Christ and open yourself to receive his graces, in addition to coming to Sunday Mass, is through praying Holy Hours in the presence of our Lord. The Eucharist is “the Source and Summit of the Christian life” because it is the encounter with Jesus Christ and his one sacrifice. And at the conclusion of the Mass the Real Presence of Jesus (his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, his whole living person) endures in all of the consecrated Hosts which remain. We keep these Host of our Lord inside the tabernacle. This is why when we enter, or exit, or cross this church, we genuflect (bending our knee) towards Jesus present there. So even outside of times of Mass, we can take a seat or kneel before Christ’s enduring presence sharing his company and conversation in worship. When you do this for sixty minutes it’s called a Holy Hour, which is a practice highly-recommended by the saints.

One of the best ways to pray a Holy Hour is at Eucharistic Adoration, when our Lord is placed upon the altar in a golden holder called a monstrance, which has a window so that you may gaze upon him. Adorers speak silently to Jesus and listen in their minds and hearts for his occasional replies. Some people bring their bibles or spiritual books to read and then relate to the Lord about what they’re read. Some people pray devotions, like the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Some people simply sit with Christ; they look at him and he looks at them. Once it becomes a habit, these Holy Hours pass swiftly, like an episode of your favorite TV show. Simply sitting in the sunlight—doing nothing—will give you a tan. Likewise, spending time with the Lord in this way will change you, it will not be without effect. Your personal relationship with Jesus Christ will grow and what is more important than that?

For years, St. John the Baptist’s Church in Cooks Valley has had 1st Friday Eucharistic Adoration on Thursdays before the 1st Friday of each month, from their 8:30 AM Thursday Mass until the 10:30 AM Mass on Friday. Now, St. Paul’s Church in Bloomer is beginning monthly Eucharistic Adoration as well, on Thursdays before the 2nd Friday of each month, following their Thursday morning Mass until 7 PM that day. Please say to our Lord, “Yes Jesus, I can devote one Holy Hour a month to you in the Blessed Sacrament.” Give him this gift, because God will not be outdone in generosity, and you will grow in your friendship with Jesus Christ, our hero, whose name shall be exalted above every name.

Meet the Holy Child

January 3, 2021

Feast of the Epiphany

In today’s Gospel, the Magi find the Holy Family now dwelling inside of a house in Bethlehem. This is not the same as Christmas night or Christmas day, but maybe weeks, or months, or even up to three years after. “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” Eastern cultures, especially Persians, would do homage by falling to their knees and touching their foreheads to the ground. Though this poor, tiny king’s only throne is his holy mother’s lap, these Magi love and honor him. He does not appear to them as a frightful overlord but as a little infant because his wish is not to be feared but loved. God the Father will have baby Jesus flee and hide from the wicked King Herod, but the Holy Child is happily revealed to these first foreigners from afar who seek him out as friends. The Magi were blessed to encounter Jesus as a little child, but they would not be the last to do so.

One day in the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila was preparing to climb a stairway to the upper rooms of her Spanish convent when she was met at the stairs by a beautiful boy. He asked her “Who are you?” She replied, “I am Teresa of Jesus. And who are you?” The child responded, “I am Jesus of Teresa,” and vanished.

In the 13th century, while St. Anthony of Padua was traveling through France to preach against heresy, he was granted a quiet room for lodging. His host passed by the room one night and noticed an unusual light shining around the door. Peering inside, he saw Anthony kneeling and full of wonder, admiring a glorious child who hugged him. Seeing the boy’s supernatural beauty and hearing their conversation, the onlooker knew that this was Jesus visiting his saint. This encounter is why St. Anthony of Padua is depicted (as in our own stained-glass window of him) holding the Christ Child.

In the 1930’s, the Polish mystic St. Faustina Kowalska recorded in her diary, “I often see the Child Jesus during Holy Mass. He is extremely beautiful. He appears to be about one year old. Once, when I saw the same Child during Mass in our chapel, I was seized with a violent desire and an irresistible longing to approach the altar and take the Child Jesus. At that moment, the Child Jesus was standing by me on the side of my kneeler, and he leaned with his two little hands against my shoulder, gracious and joyful, his look deep and penetrating. But when the priest broke the Host, Jesus was once again on the altar, and was broken and consumed by the priest.

Even without miraculously beholding him, the great devotion of other saints toward the Christ Child is well-known. St. Francis of Assisi, having received permission from the pope, created the very first nativity scene in the year 1223; with hay and a manger along with a live ox and donkey in a cave. He then invited the Italian villagers to come and gaze upon it while he preached about “the Babe of Bethlehem” — Francis was too overcome by heartfelt emotion to say the name “Jesus.”

In the 12th century, Doctor of the Church St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote this in a touching prayer:

“You have come to us as a small child…
Caress us with your tiny hands,
embrace us with your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts
with your soft, sweet cries.”

In the late 1800’s, the beloved St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, would pray this amidst her joys and trials:

“O Jesus, dear Holy Child, my only Treasure, I abandon myself to your every whim. I seek no other joy than that of calling forth your sweet smile. Grant me the graces and the virtues of your Holy Childhood, so that on the day of my birth into Heaven, the angels and saints may recognize your spouse, Therese of the Child Jesus.”

And for centuries, the Infant Child of Prague, a 19-inch statute of the Infant Jesus dressed in royal regalia, has been a beloved Czech devotion.

Despite all of these examples of mystical encounters and pious devotions with the Child Jesus, one might still wonder whether it is fitting to pray to a baby. Jesus does not even talk at that immature age, and he has since grown up beyond that phase of life. Yet even though he is a child, the Infant Jesus is still Almighty God who hears all of our prayers. If it would be wrong to pray across time to Our Savior in his manger, it would be wrong to now pray to Our Savior on his Cross as well. You and I were not born too late to adore the newborn King.

What benefits are there in praying to the Holy Infant? Jesus Christ is the same person yesterday, today, and forever, but some will find approaching the Baby Jesus less intimidating. His little form communicates his innocence, purity, gentleness, and tender affection; inviting us to share these virtues. In fact, Jesus tells us we must become as little children, like himself: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

During one Holy Hour, St. Faustina Kowalska was trying to meditate on Our Lord’s Passion, but her soul was filled with joy and she suddenly saw the Child Jesus. She writes, “His majesty penetrated me to such an extent that I said, ‘Jesus, you are so little, and yet I know that you are my Creator and Lord.’” And Jesus answered, “I am, and I keep company with you as a child to teach you humility and simplicity.

On another occasion, St. Faustina saw the Infant Jesus near her kneeler, once again appearing to be about one year old. She writes that, “He asked me to take him in my arms. When I did take him in my arms, he cuddled up close to my bosom and said, “It is good for me to be close to your heart… because I want to teach you spiritual childhood. I want you to be very little, because when you are little I carry you close to my Heart, just as you are holding me close to your heart right now.

So in conclusion, I encourage you to approach the Infant Jesus in your prayers; at this Mass, in this Christmas season, and throughout this year ahead. Picture and imagine him, speak and listen to him, and hold him close to your heart. The Holy Babe of Bethlehem has gifts of grace and consolation to offer you, and he awaits you with open arms.

Anno Domini

December 13, 2020

3rd Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday

Nearly two thousand years ago, in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus Christ proclaimed the words of the Prophet Isaiah as being fulfilled in himself, “fulfilled in your hearing”:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me… to announce a year of favor from the Lord
and a day of vindication by our God.

The Earth orbits the Sun year after year. Our planet’s spinning makes days and nights, and its tilted-axis causes the seasons. When Earth’s northern hemisphere is most towards the Sun, our sunrises come earlier, our sunsets come later, and we experience summer warmth. Six months later, when the top of the Earth is tilted away from the Sun our daytimes are shorter, bringing the winter’s cold. Because of this yearly cycling of the seasons—summer, fall, winter, spring—even simple, ancient peasants possessed the concept of “years.” Their civilizations would mark time by counting years from some event of shared cultural significance (such as the Founding of Rome), or by referring to their leader’s reign (like saying, “in the fifth year of Ramses II”).

What year is it now for us? It’s 2020 A.D. — but why? “A.D.” stands for “Anno Domini,” a Latin phrase which means, “In the Year of the Lord.” Some 2,020 years ago, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, was born to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. Now we live in his Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, during this the 2,020th year of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since Jesus is God, the Lord is present to all things at all times, but he foresaw how his visible departure through his Ascension could affect us thereafter. Year after year, his saving acts, his words and deeds, would fade and fall further and further into the past. Who he is and what he has done for us would seem ever more distant. So Jesus established his Church to preach his word and do his works, to perform his sacraments and do good deeds together with him all around the world until he comes again. Jesus says, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” and “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

One of the great things his Church gives us is her liturgical year. Our feasts and seasons throughout each year celebrate what Christ has done, show us who he is, and remind us of who we are to him. It’s very important to remember who we are – the truth about who we are in the eyes of Truth himself – but it’s something easy to forget.

St. John the Baptist on today’s Gospel knows both who he is and who he is not. They ask him in today’s Gospel, “Who are you,” and John answers the question on their minds, “I am not the Christ.” So they ask him, “Are you Elijah?” “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet (the Prophet of whom Moses foretold)?” “No.” “So who are you?” “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’ [for] the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” Untying a sandal strap is something a slave might do for his master, but John the Baptist saw that the gap between his Lord and himself was far more vast than that. God the Father and Christ his Son are all-holy, all-good, and justly entitled to our everything; our time, our bodies, our wealth, our love. His servant must remember that “God is God, and I am not.

True humility is living in the truth about who God is and who you are. The word humility comes from the Latin word for ground. Humility doesn’t mean thinking you are dirt; it’s being well-grounded in the truth, the reality of things. With perfect humility the Blessed Virgin Mary can make this extraordinary proclamation, “From this day all generations will call me blessed. (And she was right!) The Almighty has done great things for me [his lowly servant].” Likewise, acknowledge the great things that God has done in you and praise him for them all, for this is humility.

Though each of us is in need of ongoing conversion in Christ, if you did not take God very seriously I doubt that you would be reading this. A common misperception among sincere Christians is that they do not see themselves as they really are. You are not yet perfect, but that doesn’t mean you’re trash. Let me show you this in some ways that others have found helpful.

Think of your greatest desire. What is it? Perhaps it’s for you and others to be blessed and someday reach Heaven? Now think of the greatest desire of a saint. In as much these two answers align, you have the desires of a saint and so you’re on the right track. Now imagine meeting someone, another person who is just like you in every way, having all of your strengths and weaknesses. What would you think of this person? Would you like them? Could you be their friend? If you would have more kindness or compassion toward him or her than you do on yourself, then try loving yourself like your neighbor for a change. If you, who are imperfect, can like and love that other person, then surely God can like and love you too. If I were a demon, an enemy of your soul, I would try to keep you stuck in lies about yourself to make you despair or limit the good you would do. However, I suspect the truth is that you are doing far better than you fear and are far more loved by God than you can imagine.

The holy seasons and feasts of Christ’s Church present to us year after year anew what God has done, and who he is for us, and who we are to him. Let us live this Advent in the truth about who we are, realizing and rejoicing that this is a year of favor from the Lord and today is a day of salvation.

Humility, Truth, & Love — 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Year C

October 28, 2019

Today’s second reading from the Second Letter to Timothy has St. Paul declaring near the end of his earthly life: “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me…” Recall how at the Visitation, after encountering her cousin Elizabeth, St. Mary declares about herself: “[God] has looked with favor on his lowly servant; from this day all generations will call me blessed.” Are these humble things for Mary and Paul to say about themselves?

Well, they’re both true statements, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Paul, having finished his race, is now a triumphant saint in Heaven, and the Church calls Mary the Blessed Virgin in every generation even to our day. True humility is not thinking that you’re dirt, it is being down-to-earth, well-grounded, and rooted in reality. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others,” and the Blessed Virgin Mary pleases and honors God when she states, “The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.” God has done good things for you as well, so thank and praise and glorify him for it!

But wait a minute, someone might object, wasn’t the Pharisee who went up to pray at the Temple in Jesus’ parable today also thanking God and declaring true statements about himself? What if this Pharisee did fast twice a week; what if he did pay tithes on his entire income; and was neither greedy, dishonest, nor adulterous? That is what’s implied by the parable, and those are all very good things! So why then does he incur our Lord and God’s displeasure?

Today’s gospel says “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” Jesus says the Pharisee took up his position at the Temple and spoke this prayer to himself, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector.” Imagine the Pharisee praying these words out loud, within earshot of this tax collector in front of everybody. Yet, even if the Pharisee prayed silently, or quietly to himself, and his neighbor did not hear him; the Pharisee despised the tax collector and the rest of humanity, and did not gain God’s pleasure. Like St. Paul once wrote, “If I give away everything I own, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” In order to gain Heaven; truth, love, and sacrifice all need to go together within us.

We see the truth, authentic love, and self-sacrifice combined in the inspiring life of the twentieth century saint, Edith Stein. She was born into a Orthodox Jewish family but renounced her faith by the age of thirteen and embraced atheism. She went on to become a respected PhD in philosophy. Then, one night while staying with friends on a vacation, she read the entire autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. The following morning she put the book down and declared, “That is the truth,” and responded accordingly. She was baptized a Catholic at the age of thirty, became a Carmelite nun and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, like the Carmelite St. Teresa of Avila before her. During World War II, because of her Jewish ancestry, the Nazis came to arrest her along with her biological sister Rosa, who worked at the convent. Teresa Benedicta reportedly said to Rosa, “Come. Let us go and die for our people.” They were taken to Auschwitz where survivors of the death camp testified that the nun helped other sufferers with great compassion. A week after their arrest, she and her sister were killed in the gas chamber. St. Teresa Benedicta comes to my mind this Sunday because of one of her most famous quotes: “Do not accept anything as truth that lacks love and do not accept anything as love that lacks truth. One without the other is a destructive lie.

It could be said that the proud Pharisee in our parable had the truth without love, while our culture today has many (so called) loves apart from the truth. Through our friendship, our prayers, and our perseverance, the tax collectors we know today need to encounter love and the truth, that they might turn to Jesus and say “O God, be merciful to me a sinner,” and be saved. If you think you see someone seriously sinning; perhaps in your circles or our community, on TV or in the news; be sure—at very least—to pray for them. Maybe you’re right, which means that they are greatly in need of your prayer. Or perhaps you’re judging rashly or too harshly, in which case you are in need more prayer. In any case, you cannot both hate someone and pray for someone at the same time, because praying for someone is an act of love.

As Jesus tells us, “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Praying for and loving sinners makes you their servant in the likeness of Christ. Jesus came to us, he told us the truth, he prayed and interceded for us, and he even died for us – you and me and everyone. Jesus wants all of us to be like him, loving in truth and sharing the truth in love.

Jesus Washed Their Feet

March 10, 2016

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet by Ford Maddox Brown, 1852-6.[Jesus] loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. … So, [during the Last Supper,] he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. … So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

—The Gospel of John, chapter 13

In 1955, Pope Pius XII inserted an optional washing of the feet rite into the Mass of Holy Thursday, the liturgy which commemorates the events of the night before Jesus died. This foot-washing rite is called the Mandatum (from the Latin for “the Mandate”) for Jesus said, “as I have done for you, you should also do.

Though the rubrics (that is, the rules for the liturgy) required no specific number of persons to have their feet washed in this optional rite, they indicated that the participants were to be men. This year, this rite which recalls Christ’s humble gesture of service and charity has been revised by a decree promulgated by Pope Francis. Where this rite is celebrated, pastors are to “select a small group of the faithful to represent the variety and the unity of each part of the people of God. Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity.”

In past years, it has often been difficult to find people to humbly “bear their soles” on Holy Thursday but perhaps it may be a little easier this year. If you would volunteer to take a seat in this year’s washing of the feet, please contact Father so that he may create a representative group of our faithful.

The Value of Humility: Living in the Truth Before God

December 14, 2015

“Some [spiritual beginners] make little of their faults, and at other times become over-sad when they see themselves fall into them, thinking themselves to have been saints already; and thus they become angry and impatient with themselves, which is another imperfection. Often they beseech God, with great yearnings, that He will take from them their imperfections and faults, but they do this that they may find themselves at peace, and may not be troubled by them, rather than for God’s sake; not realizing that, if He should take their imperfections from them, they would probably become prouder An Ancient-Style Oil Lampand more presumptuous still. They dislike praising others and love to be praised themselves; sometimes they seek out such praise. Herein they are like the foolish virgins, who, when their lamps could not be lit, sought oil from others.”

—St. John of the Cross in The Dark Night of the Soul

The Seven Deadly Sins & Seven Lively Virtues

March 6, 2014

Pride is lowered by Humility

Envy is opposed by Admiration

Wrath is tamed by Forgiveness

Sloth is stopped by Zeal

Greed is relinquished by Generosity

Gluttony is moderated by Asceticism

Lust is controlled by Chastity

Which lively virtue will you focus on growing?

 

Tempting Christ — 1st Sunday of Lent—Year C

March 3, 2013

Today’s Gospel from Luke is preceded by Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. There, Jesus is revealed to be the Anointed One awaited by God’s people. The Anointed One is called the Messiah in Hebrew and the Christ in Greek. It was foretold that the “Anointed One” would have God as his Father in a unique and intimate way. This “Anointed One” was prophesied to come and be the savior, the champion, and the liberator of God’s people.

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days…” Here, before the start of the public ministry of Jesus, in the silence and solitude of this desert retreat, the thoughts and prayers of Jesus were probably about his mission ahead. At this time the devil comes to tempt him. The devil wants to influence the kind of Christ that Jesus will be in hopes of derailing his mission from the start.

The devil says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answers, “One does not live on bread alone.” What would be the evil in Jesus making this food? If he uses his power to meet his own needs, then the devil will ask “How can you refuse the needs of other people?” The devil wants Jesus to become an economic savior, a materialistic Messiah.

Jesus has compassion for our human condition–he knows it from his own first-hand experience. Jesus commands us to show his love to others by caring for their bodily needs. And when we do this it is Jesus acting through us. But if Jesus’ first mission had become to satisfy all material human needs, then Jesus would have been a Christ of bread alone, and we cannot live forever on bread alone. Making all of us wealthy wouldn’t be enough to make us holy, and so Jesus refuses the first temptation.

Then the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says, “I shall give to you all the power and glory…. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” And Jesus answers, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” The devil offers Jesus an alternative to a life of obedience to his Father and in service to all. Jesus can become the world’s dictator whose own will must be done, if he would simply worship the devil.

This is the devil’s promise, but the devil is a liar. Making a deal with him gains nothing but loss, yet even if Jesus knew the devil would keep his word Jesus would have none of this. Jesus does not come to control us, but to invite us. He does not want to dominate us, but to persuade us to love. God seeks our loving response, and a response in love cannot be forced, so Jesus rejects the second temptation.

Then the devil takes Jesus to a high place and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for God will command his angels to guard you, and with their hands they will support you….” And Jesus answers, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Here the devil argues that Jesus should expect to be protected from suffering and be preserved from death. But Jesus was sent and came to die and rise for us. Without these things how would we have been saved? Jesus trusted the Father’s will, even in suffering and death, and so Jesus refuses the third temptation.

God often works in ways that we wouldn’t imagine or choose for ourselves. We would wish that everything in life would be easy and painless. We wish our temptations and sorrows did not afflict us. But a doctor’s cure is given according to the disease he finds. After the Fall of mankind, God intends to save us through the difficulties and struggles of this life.

Our growth in holiness can be slow and our sufferings may be difficult. However, we should never despair. Our struggle has rewards and our suffering has purpose. We know this because of Jesus, who endured temptations just like us and for us.

El evangelio de hoy es precedido por el bautismo de Jesús en el Jordán. Allí, Jesús se revela como el Ungido esperado por el pueblo de Dios. El ungido es llamado el Mesías en hebreo y Cristo en griego. Fue predicho que “el ungido” sería tener a Dios como su Padre de una manera única e íntima. Este “Ungido” fue profetizado ser el salvador, el campeón, y el libertador del pueblo de Dios.

“Llenos del Espíritu Santo, Jesús volvió del Jordán y fue llevado por el Espíritu al desierto por cuarenta días…” Aquí antes del inicio del ministerio público de Jesús, en el silencio y la soledad de este retiro desierto, los pensamientos y las oraciones de Jesús fueron probablemente sobre su misión por delante. Entonces, el diablo viene a tentarle. El diablo quiere influir en el tipo de Cristo que Jesús va a ser, con la esperanza de desbaratar su misión desde el principio.

El diablo dice: “Si eres Hijo de Dios, di a esta piedra que se convierta en pan”. Y Jesús responde: “El hombre no vive solamente de pan”. ¿Cuál sería el mal en la fabricación de este alimento? Si Jesús usa su poder para satisfacer sus propias necesidades, entonces el diablo le preguntará “¿Cómo puedes negar las necesidades de otras personas?” El diablo quiere Jesús para convertirse en un salvador económico, un Mesías materialista.

Jesús tiene compasión por la condición humana y él lo sabe por su propia experiencia. Jesús nos manda a mostrar su amor a los demás por el cuidado de sus necesidades corporales. Y cuando hacemos esto, Jesús está actuando a través de nosotros. Pero si la primera misión de Jesús había sido la de satisfacer todas las necesidades materiales humanas, entonces Jesús habría sido un Cristo de pan solamente, y no podemos vivir para siempre en el pan solo. Haciendo todos nosotros ricos no sería suficiente para hacernos santos, y así Jesús rechaza la primera tentación.

Entonces el diablo muestra a Jesús todos los reinos del mundo y le dice: “Yo te daré todo el poder y la gloria …. Todo esto será tuyo, si me adoras. “Y Jesús responde:” Adorarás al Señor, tu Dios, ya él solo servirás “. El diablo ofrece a Jesús una alternativa a una vida de obediencia a su Padre y servicio de todos. Jesús puede convertirse en dictador del mundo, cuya propia voluntad se debe hacer.

Esta es la promesa del diablo, pero el diablo es un mentiroso. Haciendo un trato con él no gana nada sino pérdida, sin embargo, incluso si Jesús sabía que el diablo cumpliría su palabra de Jesús no quiso saber nada de esto. Jesús no viene a controlarnos, sino para invitarnos. Él no quiere que nos dominen, sino para persuadir al amor. Dios busca nuestra respuesta de amor y una respuesta en el amor no puede ser forzado, y así Jesús rechaza la tentación segundo.

Entonces el diablo lleva a Jesús a un lugar alto y le dice: “Si eres Hijo de Dios, arrójate desde aquí, porque Dios mandará a sus ángeles para que te guarden, y con sus manos te apoyan….” Y Jesús responde, “No tentarás al Señor, tu Dios.”

Aquí el diablo argumenta que Jesús debe esperar a ser protegido de el sufrimiento y ser preservado de la muerte. Pero Jesús fue enviado y vino a morir y resucitar por nosotros. Sin estas cosas, ¿cómo hemos sido salvados? Jesús confió la voluntad del Padre, incluso en el sufrimiento y la muerte, y así Jesús se niega la tercera tentación.

A menudo Dios obra de maneras que no nos imaginamos o elegir por nosotros mismos. Nos gustaría que todo en la vida iba a ser fácil y sin dolor. Queremos nuestras tentaciones y sufrimientos no nos afligen. Pero la curación de un médico se administra de acuerdo a la enfermedad que encuentra. Después de la caída del hombre, Dios quiere salvarnos a través de las dificultades y las luchas de esta vida.

Nuestro crecimiento en la santidad puede ser lento y nuestro sufrimiento puede ser difícil. Sin embargo, nunca debe desesperarse. Nuestra lucha tiene recompensas y nuestro sufrimiento tiene un propósito. Lo sabemos gracias a Jesús, que sufrió tentaciones como nosotros y por nosotros.

The Babel Project — Friday, 6th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

February 18, 2011

Why did God break up the Babel project? What was wrong with lots of people working together toward this common goal? Perhaps the problem was that they were trying to “make a name for” themselves, that is, a new identity for themselves, different from their status as God’s human creatures. Building up to heaven, they were trying to become as gods without God. The tower of Babel was a temple for the worship of themselves. God broke up their endeavor because of the harm it would have caused to themselves and to the world.

That city, in itself, was no threat to God above.  The Lord had to “(come) down to see the city and the tower that they had built.” God was untouchable, invulnerable, and immortal. But this changed in history, with the Incarnation. The Son of God became touchable, vulnerable, and mortal. He did this not only to save us, but also so that our human nature could be transformed to something greater.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down from Heaven as tongues of fire. He rested upon them and they began to speak in languages that people of any nation could understand. They were temples of the Holy Spirit. They were a holy city, whose foundation is God.

As St. Augustine wrote, the City of Man and the City of God exist side by side in this world. The City of Man is imaged by Babel. The City of God is imaged by the Church. The City of Man is destined for destruction, but the City of God will endure forever.

The Rich Fool — 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

August 12, 2010

I regret to inform you that you are going to die. Perhaps not today, but someday, and it could be very soon. We should ask ourselves, “Am I ready? How can I prepare?”

The Gospel relates the story of a man who was not ready, a man God calls a “fool.” Jesus offers Him as an anti-role model; a person whose example we should learn from, but not imitate. Yes, he is a fool for hoarding his possessions. The old saying is true, “You can’t take it with you.” But there are more subtle lessons we can learn from his bad example. This morning I would like to present three things this rich man has to teach us:

The first lesson comes from what he does when his land produces a bountiful harvest. He asks himself, “What shall I do?” There is nothing wrong with this question in itself, but he is a fool in the way he asks it. The rich man asks himself, and only himself, “What shall I do?” He does not consult with God, in either his conscience or in prayer, to learn what His will is.

What is the lesson here for us?  Let us remember to listen to the Lord as He speaks in our conscience, through prayer, the Scriptures, and the people He has placed in our lives. We should listen for God’s direction every day, and throughout each day.

A second cautionary lesson is found in the rich man’s plan for solving his storage problem. He says, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.” What was wrong with the older barns? They were not large enough to hold everything, but why tear them down? The rich man has plenty of land. Why did he want to replace his perfectly good barns?

Vanity of vanities, he wanted his storehouses to be the newest, the biggest, and the best. Though the rich man was not very concerned about other people, he was very concerned about their high opinion of him. Even in those days, people were tempted to consumerism.

Consumerism seems to consist in two phantom promises: that having just a little more will truly give me lasting happiness, and that others will regard, accept, and love me when they notice the things that I have. These are phantom promises, for as soon as one reaches to grasp them they prove empty, illusory, receding further out of reach.

The fact is that the people who are happiest in life are not the wealthiest. (By that measure, pretty much every American should be among the happiest people in the world.) The happiest people tend to be those who share the most or give the most away. The person who recognizes they have enough, that life does not consist in possessions, is content and secure enough to share. Some people try to get the most out of life as possible, but what we appreciate most in our lives is the ways in which we have given of ourselves for others.

Our third cautionary lesson is heard in God’s rebuke of the man: “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” When we think of the things the rich man has prepared, we think of his harvest and goods.  One of the things he has ill-prepared… is his soul, which this night will be demanded of him. And now, to whom will it belong?

The lesson here for us?  As focused as we are upon our possessions, we must be more attentive to our souls. Someday, we are going to die. In the meantime, then, let us put to death, the parts of you that are earthly, as St. Paul said: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.

What lessons does the rich man teach us? Reject the false promises of the consumer cult, for life does not consist in possessions. (Self-gift is the meaning of life) Turn your heart to your spiritual well-being, for your life and this world shall pass away.  And to frequently ask Jesus, everyday, “What shall I do?” Let us begin today, before it is too late for us to begin living wisely.

Augustine on Humility — Thursday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

July 18, 2010

A Thought on Humility from St. Augustine:

‘You are to “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” You are not learning from me how to refashion the fabric of the world, nor to create all things visible and invisible, nor to work miracles and raise the dead. Rather, you are simply learning of me: “that I am meek and lowly in heart.” If you wish to reach high, then begin at the lowest level. If you are trying to construct some mighty edifice in height, you will begin with the lowest foundation. This is humility. However great the mass of the building you may wish to design or erect, the taller the building is to be, the deeper you will dig the foundation. The building in the course of its erection rises up high, but he who digs its foundation must first go down very low. So then, you see even a building is low before it is high and the tower is raised only after humiliation.

Humbly Rising High — July 15 — St. Bonaventure

July 18, 2010

St. Bonaventure became the master-general of the Franciscans 31 years after St. Francis of Assisi himself. He was renowned for his learning and later named a Doctor (or great teacher) of the Church, yet he was also humble. When the pope sent his representatives to inform Bonaventure that he had been named a bishop and cardinal they found Bonaventure washing the dishes. The saint told them to hang the red hat on a tree and to wait in the garden until he had finished the task.

St. Bonaventure reassures us, that whatever our gifts, holiness is within our daily reach. “A constant fidelity in small things,” he once wrote, “is a great and heroic virtue.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus invites us to take his yoke. This burden is restful, easy and light, yet we must be humble; we cannot carry it without Christ by our side. Beatitude (true happiness) is within everyone’s reach, but we cannot possess it without God.

As St. Bonaventure says:

No one can be made happy unless he rise above himself, not by an assent of the body, but of the heart. But we cannot rise above ourselves unless a higher power lifts us up. And divine aid is available to those who seek it from their hearts, humbly and devoutly.

Getting Slapped — Monday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

June 16, 2010

Jesus taught:

“…Offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.”

Should we always offer no resistance to those who would do evil against us?

Notice that each of the examples Jesus gives are of injustices that do no real lasting harm. If you are slapped on the cheek, it stings awhile, but in a few minutes you’re fine. Even Jesus’ disciples owned spare clothes–we know because He told them to leave their second tunics behind when He sent them two by two. There is no lasting harm until your last tunic or cloak is taken. (cf. Exodus 22:25-26) In those days, Roman soldiers could force Jews to carry their gear for up to a mile down a road. Jesus teaches that one should go the extra mile for these enemies and occupiers.

In each example Jesus gives of offering no resistance to evil-doers, the affliction is felt in one’s pride more than anywhere else. Jesus is teaching us to be humble when people wrong us in small ways, so that they will be struck by our magnanimous patience and strength and be converted.

But what if the evil someone would do to us would do us grave and lasting harm? Should we offer no resistance then? Two incidents for Jesus’ life come to mind. When the money changers and animal sellers were doing business in the temple’s court of the Gentiles, profaning it and impeding the nations’ worship of the One True God, Jesus resisted. He made a whip out of cords and drove out the people who were doing what was evil. On the other hand, in the Passion, Jesus offered no resistence. He let His enemies slap Him, strip Him, and force Him to carry a cross.

It seems that there are times when we are called to resist evils for the sake of the common good, and times when we are called to accept evils, even grave injustices against us, in the pattern Jesus Christ. Let us trust the Holy Spirit to guide us to know when is the time for which.

Christ in the Sacraments — 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

June 15, 2010

To understand today’s gospel, it helps to know a little about the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day.  For example, when the Jews would sit down to eat dinner they would not sit at all–they “reclined at table,” on beds that came up the edge of the table. You would have a cushion under your chest or under your side, as you ate with your free hand, with your legs laid out behind you. This clarifies how the beautiful, penitent woman was able to access to Jesus’ feet. This also explains how John was able to lay his head upon Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper to ask Him who would betray Him. The Beloved Disciple was not a contortionist–he was laying beside Jesus at table.

A second important thing to know about the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day to appreciate this gospel is to understand how they felt about feet. The Jews considered feet to be among the dirtiest, humblest, and lowliest parts of the human body. This is why our parish’s patron, St. John the Baptist, said, “[There is] one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” In that Jewish culture, servants could not be commanded to wash the feet of others; it was considered even beneigth the dignity of a slave. Now we can understand the significance of the woman washing Jesus’ feet, and how much it means that Jesus later washed His disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

But what was this woman thinking? Had she forgotten to bring a towel and a bowl of water at home? Was she so dumbstruck that her lips were unable to form the simple words, “I’m sorry and I want to return to God?” No, she knew what she was doing when she used her tears to cleanse, her hair to wipe, and her lips to kiss Jesus’ feet. When she heard that Jesus was going to be eating at the house of Simon the Pharisee I doubt she was holding that alabaster jar of ointment in her hands. No, she had to go and get it, and as she did she thought about exactly how she was going to approach Jesus.

What was Simon the Pharisee thinking? Had he forgotten about the customary curtesies in welcoming guests to one’s house in that culture: water for washing their own feet, oil for anointing one’s head against the harshness of the desert, a kiss in greeting at the door? Maybe he thought these were just optional, dispensible rituals. Regardless, Jesus put his finger on one major contributing factor: Simon the Pharisee loved Jesus little, while the beautiful penient woman loved Him greatly.

Simon gave Jesus an external gift, a meal in his home, but in addition to her ointment, the woman gave a gift of her very self; her tears, her hair, her kisses. As she had sinned with her body, she now sought to honor God though her body.

How does all of this apply to us? When we consider this beautiful, penitant woman and Simon the Pharisee relate to Jesus, we see two approaches the sacraments. For some, in the manner of Simon the Pharisee, the sacraments are just rituals, traditional customs, liturgical hoops the Church has us jump through. But for others, those with the heart of the woman who loved much, every sacrament is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. If you onlt remember one thing from this homily, remember this: every sacrament is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Consider the sacrament of marriage. Today, some people say, “As long as we love each other, what difference does a ceremony in a church and a piece of paper make?” But these people do not realize that the sacrament of marriage actually makes present the love between Christ and his Church. The love between husband and wife not only resembles the love between Christ and his Church–like all the sacraments, marriage actually makes present. If your marriage is sacramental, and you and your spouse do not put up obstacles in the way, you can experience firsthand to love with which Jesus loves His bride, the Church, and how the bride receives her Lord. You experience the intimacy between the two and you can tap and draw on their love and the power in your marriage. marriage is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Today, some people say, “I don’t really have any sins, but if I did, why should I have to go tell my sins to a priest to have my sins forgiven? God can hears my prayers. Won’t he’ll forgive me anyway.” Imagine if the penitent woman had stayed away from Simon’s dinner party that night in the gospel and prayed to God at home. Would she have been forgiven? Perhaps, but she would not have had her life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. When you go to confession, you are personally encountering Jesus through the priest. If the priest does not put up obstacles in the way you will hear the words of Christ to you. And even if the priest does get in the way, you will hear that words that Jesus wants you to hear, just as He had said to the beautiful penitent woman: “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.” The sacrament of reconciliation is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

These days some people say, “There’s a lot of Sundays in the summertime and a lot of things to enjoy on the weekend. Is it really that important that we come to Mass every Sunday?” To ask this about the most Blessed Sacrament is to be like Simon the Pharisee. Had Jesus not come as his guest that night, Simon would not have missed Him much; Simon would not have been that disappointed. And even after receiving Jesus under his roof, I can imagine Simon being left unchanged. But the beautiful penitent woman, who took Jesus’ flesh to her lips, was forgiven her sins and was filled with grace by the encounter.

In the celebration of this sacrament, and at every sacrament, let us appraoch Jesus with her humility, reverence, and love.