Archive for the ‘Mercy’ Category

“Egyptian Christians are made of Steel!”

April 23, 2017

Last Palm Sunday, in Egypt’s Nile Delta, a terrorist detonated a suicide bomb in a Coptic Christian church. 27 were killed and 78 wounded. Then, just hours later, there was another bombing at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. The Coptic patriarch had just finished celebrating Palm Sunday Mass when another terrorist attempted to get inside that church. At least 17 were killed and 48 wounding, but many more may have been murdered if the killer had not been prevented from entering by security guards at the gate.

These attacks are a reminder that Christian persecution and martyrdoms are very much alive today. An Egyptian TV news show interviewed a Christian woman whose husband, AmNeseem, was one of those gatekeepers who restrained the second terrorist and died in the blast. The mourning widow’s words and the reaction of the Muslim news anchor in the studio are remarkable:

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Stories from a Saint’s Diary

April 19, 2017

St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) was a nun in Poland who experienced visions of Jesus Christ later deemed by the Church as worthy of belief—though (as like all private revelations) not required to be believed by the faithful. The Divine Mercy Image, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and Divine Mercy Sunday all stem from of her apparitions. St. Faustina detailed her experiences in a diary she kept from 1934 until her death. It is an episodic but fascinating read. These are just some of her stories:

●  Once [at age 19] I was at a dance with one of my [biological] sisters. While everybody was having a good time, my soul was experiencing deep torments. As I began to dance, I suddenly saw Jesus at my side, Jesus racked with pain, stripped of His clothing, all covered with wounds, who spoke these words to me: How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting Me off? At that moment the charming music stopped, [and] the company I was with vanished from my sight; there remained Jesus and I. I took a seat by my dear sister pretending to have a headache in order to cover up what took place in my soul. After a while I slipped out unnoticed, leaving my sister and all my companions behind and made my way to the Cathedral of Saint Stanislaus Kostka. It was almost twilight; there were only a few people in the cathedral. Paying no attention to what was happening around me, I fell prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament and begged the Lord to be good enough to give me to understand what I should do next. Then I heard these words: Go at once to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there. I rose from prayer, came home, and took care of things that needed to be settled. As best I could, I confided to my sister what took place within my soul. I told her to say goodbye to our parents, and thus, in my one dress, with no other belonging, I arrived in Warsaw. (Diary paragraphs #9-10)

●  Once, I desired very much to receive Holy Communion, but I had a certain doubt, and I did not go. I suffered greatly because of this. It seemed to me that my heart would burst from the pain. When I set about my work, my heart full of bitterness, Jesus suddenly stood by me and said, My daughter, do not omit Holy Communion unless you know well that your fall was serious; apart from this, no doubt must stop you from uniting yourself with Me in the mystery of My love. Your minor faults will disappear in My love like a piece of straw thrown into a great furnace. Know that you grieve Me much when you fail to receive Me in Holy Communion. (#156)

●  Once the Lord said to me, Act like a beggar who does not back away when he gets more alms [than he asked for], but offers thanks the more fervently. You too, should not back away and say that you are not worthy of receiving greater graces when I give them to you. I know you are unworthy, but rejoice all the more and take as many treasures from My Heart as you can carry, for then you will please Me more. And I will tell you one more thing—take these graces not only for yourself, but also for others; that is, encourage the souls with whom you come in contact to trust in My infinite mercy… (#294)

●  Once, when I was visiting the artist who was painting the [Divine Mercy] image, and saw that it was not as beautiful as Jesus is, I felt very sad about it, but I hid this deep in my heart. When we had left the artist’s house, Mother Superior stayed in town to attend to some matters while I returned home alone. I went immediately to the chapel and wept a good deal. I said to the Lord, “Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?” Then I heard these words: Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace. (#313)

●  On the evening of the last day before my departure from Vilnius, an elderly sister revealed the condition of her soul to me. She said that she had already been suffering interiorly for several years, that it seemed to her that all her confessions had been bad, and that she had doubts as to whether the Lord Jesus had forgiven her. I asked her if she had ever told her confessor about this. She answered that she had spoken many times about this to her confessors and… “the confessors are always telling me to be at peace, but still I suffer very much, and nothing brings me relief, and it constantly seems to me that God has not forgiven me.” In answered, “You should obey your confessor, Sister, and be fully at peace, because this is certainly a temptation.” But she entreated me with tears in her eyes to ask Jesus if He had forgiven her and whether her confessions had been good or not. I answered forcefully, “Ask Him yourself, Sister, if you don’t believe your confessors!” But she clutched my hand and did not want to let me go until I gave her an answer, and she kept asking me to pray for her and to let her know what Jesus would tell me about her. Crying bitterly, she would not let me go and said to me, “I know that the Lord Jesus speaks to you, Sister.” Since she was clutching my hand and I could not wrench myself away, I promised her I would pray for her. In the evening, during Benediction, I heard these words in my soul: Tell her that her disbelief wounds My heart more than the sins she committed. When I told her this, she began to cry like a child, and great joy entered her soul. I understood that God wanted to console this soul through me. Even though it cost me a good deal, I fulfilled God’s wish. (#628)

●  After Holy Communion today, I spoke at length to the Lord Jesus about people who are special to me. Then I heard these words: My daughter, dont be exerting yourself so much with words. Those whom you love in a special way, I too love in a special way, and for your sake, I shower My graces upon them. I am pleased when you tell Me about them, but don’t be doing so with such excessive effort. (#739)

●  February 6, [1937]. Today, the Lord said to me, My daughter, I am told that there is much simplicity in you, so why do you not tell Me about everything that concerns you, even the smallest details? Tell Me about everything, and know that this will give Me great joy. I answered, “But You know about everything, Lord.” And Jesus replied to me, Yes, I do know; but you should not excuse yourself with the fact that I know, but with childlike simplicity talk to Me about everything, for My ears and heart are inclined towards you, and your words are dear to Me. (#921)

Loving Mercy Overcomes Error

January 10, 2017

Reflections on John 1:43-51

philip-and-nathanael     In the early days of his public ministry, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. There he found his future apostle Philip and says to him, “Follow me.” Philip, from the same town along the northern coast of Galilee as Peter and Andrew, was so awed at encountering Jesus that he tracked down his friend Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew.) Philip told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth!” (Philip is sharing happy news, “We’ve found the promised Messiah, the Christ, and he’s not too far from here!”) But Nathanael is unimpressed and unconvinced, saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip winsomely replies, “Come and see.

When Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward him he says of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael asks, “How do you know me?” Jesus answers, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael declares, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” Jesus replies to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Jesus tells him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Why did Nathanael’s opinion about Jesus, that man from Nazareth, change so suddenly? Perhaps Nathanael was sitting under a particular fig tree when Philip found him and Nathanael, believing that there was no natural way Jesus could have known or guessed this, was instantly persuaded. Another explanation is that Jesus is referring to a memorable dream Nathanael has recently had. It’s strange that Jesus would describe an honest man as a son of Israel—that is, as a son of Jacob—whose duplicitous deeds are detailed in Genesis. But recall how Jacob once had a dream in which he saw the angels of God ascending and descending a stairway to Heaven while the Lord God stood beside him. (Genesis 28:10-19) Jesus alludes to that event in this encounter. Now if a stranger were to tell me about a conversation I thought no one else had witnessed, I’d be intrigued; but if someone were to accurately describe my dream from the night before, that person would have my full attention. Whatever the reason behind Nathanael’s change of heart it was the style of Philip and Jesus’ approaches that made it possible.

The Gospels show us through numerous episodes how the apostles started off as far from perfect. When told that Jesus was from Nazareth, Nathanael replies, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” This story presents Nathanael’s prejudice and how that bias nearly made him reject the Christ out of hand. What did Nathanael hold against those Nazarenes living some thirty miles away? Did he think them unfriendly, lazy, unrefined, impious, unscrupulous? Whatever the reason, he looked down on them and it showed.

Nathanael’s rash dismissal of the Nazarene maligns someone Philip regards as a great and holy man. Yet Philip does respond in anger. Instead, he urges Nathanael to learn more. “Come and see.” Nathanael is persuaded by his friend to give this Jesus guy a chance—a fair hearing—and this modest openness eventually leads to him being won over. Still today, one of the best means for dissolving prejudices of every sort is through experiencing “the Other” firsthand.

As Jesus sees Nathanael approaching he demonstrates a penetrating supernatural knowledge of him. Jesus probably knew what Nathanael had previously remarked in secret but Jesus does not reproach or condemn him for it. Instead, Jesus compliments what is good in Nathanael: “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Though they do not yet see eye-to-eye, Jesus affirms his sincerity. This opens a door to dialogue that not only changes Nathanael’s mind but his entire life, as he goes on to become an apostle for Christ.

We could imagine a pricklier Philip or a different Jesus rejecting and condemning Nathanael for his initial disrespect toward the Christ of God; however, we see both practice tolerance toward him. Christians are commonly caricatured as easily offended but I have found that the more faithful variety show extensive mercy—which is very different than indifference. We are called to loathe error, but to love everyone. True tolerance does not hate others for holding wrong beliefs but loves them while trying to lead them to the truth.

It would be an oversimplification to say that forceful confrontation is never called for. Jesus occasionally denounced others, like “that fox” King Herod, the hypocritical Pharisees, and the evil spirits. Sometimes Jesus manifested his displeasure through bold prophetic acts, like flipping money-tables at the Temple or cursing the fig tree. Yet Jesus possessed perfect wisdom and a clear vision into others’ hearts. “Jesus knew their thoughts” and “did not need anyone to testify about human nature.” (Luke 5:22, John 2:25) We, however, must guard ourselves to be “slow to wrath,” for apart from the Holy Spirit’s prompting, “the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

In this era of division, let us promote unity in advocating for the truth. In our disagreements with friends or strangers, online or face to face, let us shun anger, sarcasm, and revilement and presume the other’s good faith and sincerity. This manner of winsome mercy won Nathanael’s mind and heart for Christ and it can be just as powerful today.

3 Interpretations of the Parable of the Dishonest Steward

September 17, 2016

Luke 16:1-13

The Parable of the Dishonest Steward, Biblia Ectypa, 1695.#1: The previously-dishonest steward is merely writing-off his own commissions. Likewise, we must forgive our debtors’ debts (or sins) so that we may be shown mercy. (Matthew 6:12) But why would his commissions be 20% for one debt and 50% on another? Perhaps the dishonest steward is actually covering his thievery’s tracks. Which brings us to…

#2: The steward is giving away what belongs to the rich man, his boss. Likewise, everything that we possess belongs to God, but we win favor though sharing these blessings with others. Both Mercy and Generosity win welcome into eternal dwellings, for Jesus says ‘whatever you do for the least of these you do it for me’ and ‘the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.’

#3: What would have become of the dishonest steward without his decisive plan and action? Disaster. Likewise, we must be intentional about our own religious/spiritual growth. “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” What excuse do we have? More importantly, what is our plan?

The Prodigal Us — 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Year C

September 11, 2016

Readings

It has been said that there are two kinds of people in this world: sinners who think they’re saints, and saints who know they’re sinners. Every saint has a past, and every sinner can have a future. We all have been the Prodigal (or wasteful) Son at various times in our lives. Whether for years, for days or hours, or just for moments, we have each strayed from and returned to our Father-God who delights to have us back. When we are being tempted to sin, we are being tempted to leave our Father’s house and no longer keep his company. In sinning we say, even if in a small way, “You may not be dead, but I want it to be as if you were. Give me an inheritance now. I can have an easier time, or a more enjoyable time, misusing your stuff than I can have by remaining with you.”

The Prodigal Son took his father’s things and went off to a distant country. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this World are countries distant from each other, and yet they exist side-by-side. Sinners and saints live side-by-side together here below, but the difference between them is vast. A life of sin may be easier for awhile. The Prodigal Son enjoyed sensual pleasures and was free of his duties, like working in the fields with his older brother. But sin soon leaves us spent and depleted, as in drought and famine. If honest with ourselves, we sense our dire need.

At first, the Prodigal Son attempted his own coping-mechanisms short of repentance. He hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the pigs. (For Jews, tending ritually-unclean pigs would be one of the most degrading things a person could do.) The Prodigal Son longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. (His boss provided for the swine better than for him.) A sinner’s life is slavery. It’s unsatisfying, it’s unhappy, and they feel unloved. This does not excuse away the bad and harmful things they do, but hurting people hurt people. And knowing this, we can feel compassion for sinners.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt, St. Petersburg, 1662.Coming to his senses, realizing how much he has lost, the Prodigal Son decided to go back home. He knew his unworthiness, so he prepared a speech to persuade his father to show mercy. But his Father needs no persuasion. While his son was still a long way off, the father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. I imagine the father saw him from a long way off because he often looked to that road hoping his son would return. This day, he did. The father ran to his son—even though in that culture a dignified men would not run. Men might walk or let others come to them, but this father ran to his son. Then the father restores his son, with robe, sandals and ring, and declares a feast.

The son had decided to leave and decided to return home. The decision to dwell in the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of this world is our choice. We are free, to wander or return, because God’s offer of grace (including his invitation to the sacrament of reconciliation) is always there. Though we wander in sin, averting our eyes from God, we can never escape his sight. Psalm 139 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in the underworld, there you are.” And when we turn back to him, he runs to us, as the same humility we saw in the Incarnation. And then the celebration begins. As Jesus says, “There will be more joy in heaven [and among the angels of God] over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

As St. Paul declares in our second reading, “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Every saint has a past, and every sinner can have a future. In this Year of Mercy, let us each trust in God’s mercy, respond to his mercy, and practice mercy as Jesus would have us do.

Generosity & Envy — 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

September 21, 2014

Readings: Isaiah 22:6-9; Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20:1-16a

DenariusHe woke up while it was still dark and kissed his wife while she slept.

He dressed and left home quietly, so as not to wake up the children across the room.

He walked into town and came to the large market square, where the venders were already setting up shop, and day laborers like himself were congregating.

At dawn, landowners came to hire men to harvest their vineyards and fields.

He was left behind, yet he did not leave.

Hopefully, someone would hire him at noon for at least a half-day’s work.

Three o’clock came, and he was still standing there unemployed, refusing to go home. How could he go home… empty-handed?

Around five o’clock, a landowner found him and asked, “Why do you stand here idle all day?”

Speaking for those standing with him he answered, “Because no one has hired us.”

The landowner said to them, “You too go into my vineyard.”

When it was evening, the vineyard owner had his foreman summon the harvesters and pay them—in this he was abiding by the command in the book of Leviticus, “You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your laborer.”

When he received his pay, the man thought there had been some mistake.

Though he worked only an hour, he had been given a silver denarius coin, the standard pay for a full day’s work.

He badly wanted to leave with it, but he was a righteous man, and quietly approached the foreman.

But the foreman reassured him—there had been no mistake!

Oh, the joy he felt! For tonight and tomorrow, his family would not be hungry.

*  *  *  *  *

Was the landowner unfair in the treatment of his workers? At the beginning of the day, the Greek text says the landowner achieved ‘harmonious agreement’ with the labors regarding the usual daily wage. This was not fraud nor exploitation, but a just wage for an honest day’s work. Were the later workers been idle due to laziness? No, they honestly say, but “because no one has hired us.”

Let us revisit the landowner’s arguments in his own defense: he said to one of the grumblers in reply, “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” The landowner was not being unfair, he was being generous. He kept the precept of Leviticus, which ensured that poor laborers would not be deprived of their daily bread overnight, but he also kept the command which comes in Leviticus five verses later: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Would the grumblers have been happier if the coins were taken back from the hands of all of the one hour workers? Yes, and no. For the envious person is not happy until everyone is unhappy like himself. And even then, he is still unhappy. What if the grumblers had had perfect hearts? Then they would have been concerned about those unchosen workers, as impoverished as themselves, that were left behind in the marketplace, and upon seeing those latecomers receive a full daily wage they would be happy and relieved for them. But these grumblers’ thoughts were not God’s thoughts, and their ways were not his ways.

Saint Augustine in his Study by Botticelli, 1480Beware of envy. Envy is sadness at the sight of another’s blessings and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, when envy wishes grave harm to a neighbor, it is a mortal sin. St. Augustine rightly called envy “the diabolical sin,” for the book of Wisdom tells us that “by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.” St. Augustine observed, “From envy are born hatred, detraction, slander, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.”

What is envy’s antidote or preventative vaccine? A good will towards all people, and rejoicing in their blessings and happiness as much as your own. Do you feel envious out of fear or resentment that there may not enough good things for you? Remember that the landowner in today’s parable, who ensures that his laborers receive their daily bread, represents God, who provides for the needs of those who serve him. As the psalmist says, “The Lord is near to all who call upon him.”

In Jesus’ parable, the landowner represents God, the laborers are those who faithfully serve him, and the equal pay they receive is salvation, eternal life, the reward of Heaven. Does this mean that all who serve God receive an equal reward? Once again, the answer is yes, and no. Each is given Heaven, but not all souls enjoy the same glory there. In our second reading, St. Paul says, “If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” He is not sure if he would rather live or die (“I do not know which I shall choose”) because death means peaceful rest with Christ, while more labor in life means a greater reward.

St. ThereseWhen St. Therese of Lisieux was a little girl, she was rather put out to learn that not all souls enjoy the same glory in heaven. For the young, fairness means simple sameness. Her older sister, Pauline, told her to fetch a thimble and her father’s water tumbler and to fill both of them to the top with water. Pauline then asked her which one was fuller. St. Therese saw that every soul in heaven is filled to its brim and can hold no more; each being full of God and completely happy. In Heaven, there is enough love, glory, and happiness for everyone, even if we grow and develop different capacities for these while on earth.

So who will have the largest capacity in Heaven? Who will hold the most glory? I believe, as Jesus says, “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” The greatest glory will not go to those who are focused on who is first and greatest, but to those interested in promoting in the greater glory of all.

God’s angels have different degrees of glory and power, yet they find delight in one another. They have labored for the Lord since the beginning of time, yet they rejoice that God has been generous with us latecomers and included us in his work. Let us be like our angels, who happily pray for us and aid us, so that we might attain a glory greater than their own. Let us pray that others might become holier than us, provided we become as holy as we ought.

First Things First — Divine Mercy Sunday—2nd Sunday of Easter

April 28, 2014

Gospel: John 20:19-31

[Though the doors were locked, where the disciples were,] Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

What was Jesus’ first order of business on the first Easter Sunday? Demonstrating to his disciples the fact of his resurrection.

What was the next most important thing on Jesus’ list? Commissioning his Church to impart his Divine Mercy to world.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Some Sacramental Clarifications

April 5, 2014

● A funeral Mass is not celebrated as an honor, but as a mercy. A funeral Mass does not canonize, but offers Christ’s sacrifice for graces upon the deceased and the assembled mourners. “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) If the deceased has been condemned, the offered funeral Mass will only help the family (perhaps to be converted and saved,) but if the departed is in purgatory, the Holy Mass is the greatest prayer we can offer on his or her behalf. Apart from notorious and unrepentant apostates, heretics, and schismatics, we want to error on the side of mercy, as we have been shown mercy.

● Though all should contribute to the work of the Church, no Catholic parish is a private club that requires up-to-date dues in order to be welcomed. All Catholics are members of the world-wide body of Christ—the Church.

● No one will be refused sacraments in our parish because of an inability to pay parish fees or stipends.

● Everyone is welcome at our parish Masses; however, those not in full communion with the Catholic Church, or those aware of having committed grave sin who have not obtained absolution in the sacrament of Confession, should not present themselves to receive the Holy Eucharist—these may receive a blessing instead by approaching with crossed arms.

● Any child, for whom there is a well-founded hope of being raised Catholic and whose guardians have completed a baptismal preparation program here or at another parish, may be baptized in our parish.

● If you have any additional sacramental questions regarding our parish community, please contact Father, your priest, directly.

Q&A on Indulgences

March 22, 2014

What is an indulgence?

An indulgence cancels before God the temporal punishment due for forgiven sins.

Forgiven sins can have punishments?

The forgiveness of sin absolves its eternal punishment; that is, restores our friendship with God and saves us from Hell. However, “temporal punishment” remains for sin for the purpose of the soul’s rehabilitation and to satisfy justice. This is why the priest in the confessional gives you a penance to do after you leave with all your sins absolved. Recall what Nathan told King David after the Lord forgave him (2 Samuel 12:9-14.) Even after forgiveness, there may be punishments to be paid.

What is the difference between a “plenary” & “partial” indulgence?

A plenary indulgence remits all temporal punishment due to sin, while a partial indulgence remits some of it. Note that sin’s temporal punishments are not synonymous with all of sin’s consequences. For instance, even after a plenary indulgence, we all still experience in our flesh the primeval consequence of sin: physical death.

How can the Church offer to do this?

The Church has authority from Christ to loosen and to bind, on earth and in Heaven. (Matthew 18:18) Thus, after sins are forgiven, she can satisfy remaining debts by drawing on and applying before God the superabundant merits won by Christ and his saints.

So the Church still grants indulgences?

In the 1500’s, some indulgences were granted for performing the charitable act of donating to the Church. The way some used the “sale” of indulgences as a fund-raising strategy scandalized many (including Martin Luther.) The Church abolished this means of gaining indulgences, but other means remain available.

How do I gain a plenary indulgence?

All plenary indulgences require the following:

  1. Go to confession.
  2. Receive the Holy Eucharist.
  3. Pray for the pope’s intentions (e.g., an Our Father & a Hail Mary)
  4. Do the indulgenced act in a state of grace and intending to gain the indulgence.
  5. And have no intention to sin again, even venially.

      (Note: One confession can be utilized for indulgences twenty days before or after, but each indulgence requires a distinct holy communion.)

What acts carry a plenary indulgence?

They include, among others:

  1. Visit the Most Blessed Sacrament for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Read the Bible for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Pray the Stations of the Cross.
  4. Pray one Rosary (five decades) in a church or as a family group.
  5. Pray the “Prayer Before a Crucifix” on a Friday in Lent after communion.
  6. Adore the crucifix liturgically on Good Friday.
  7. Visit a cemetery and pray for the dead on any day between November 1st and 8th.
  8. Worship at a First Communion Mass.
  9. Worship at a priest’s Mass of Thanksgiving (aka, “First Mass”)
  10. Hear sermons at a parish mission and be present for its solemn close.

Many other acts can also gain partial indulgences.

How often & for whom can I gain an indulgence?

One plenary indulgence can be gained daily and applied to oneself or to a deceased person. There is no limit for how many partial indulgences you can gain for yourself or a deceased person, and this type does not require the conditions of confession, communion, or prayers for the pope’s intentions. (Thanks to Pussywillowpress for the clarifying note below.)

Measures of Mercy — Monday, 2nd Week of Lent

March 17, 2014

Gospel: Luke 6:36-38

Last year, a teenage posted a photo on the internet of an unrolled tape measure along side the 11-inch “footlong” sandwich he had bought. The corporate response was not one of the great moments in public relations history; they said that “footlong” was a trademark term, rather than a measurement of length. The negative consumer backlash to this went viral and the corporation pledged that every foot-long would henceforth be 12-inches.

In 12th century England, there were strict laws to punish bakers who sold undersized loaves. In response, the bakers would throw in an additional loaf with every dozen to safeguard their liberty.  The baker’s dozen (of 13) was born and their customers were happy. It is wiser to error on the side of generosity with others, in both the world of business and the realm mercy.

Commerce has been linked to mercy by the Lord in both Testaments. In Old Testament Israel, merchants would use cups and weights to measure out their products to customers. Sometimes, to increase their profits, unscrupulous sellers would manipulate these measures to their advantage, as the Lord describes through the prophet Amos:

“When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, And the sabbath, that we may open the grain-bins? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the destitute for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the worthless grain we will sell!”

Such cheating was especially abhorrent to the Lord because it most exploited the poor and vulnerable. Today, Jesus tells his disciples that they should be generous with their measurements of mercy if they do not wish to be condemned:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Without rejecting the truth, or declaring evil to be good, we need to be patient and forgiving with others if we wish to be shown mercy. As St. James says, “judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; [but] mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Magnanimous, Not Petty — 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

February 23, 2014

“Petty” comes from the French word for “small” (“petit.“) “Magnanimous” comes from the Latin words for “great” and “soul” (“magna” and “anima.“) We are not called to be small, but of great soul in our interactions with others.

Four Cheeks Turned — 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

February 22, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48

When attacked, our natural response is “fight or flight,” but Jesus suggests a  supernatural response: “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.” Since the Jews regarded the left hand as unclean, they would reflexively strike with the right hand. If the right cheek were hit, then one had been backhanded with contempt. Responding by turning the other cheek neither attacks not retreats, but insists on being regarded as an equal, whom one must strike (if at all) with an open hand. Jesus wants us to stand our ground in the face of injustice, assertively but lovingly, in hopes that the offender will reconsider his ways. Jesus modeled this response when he was struck during his trial before Annas:

The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (John 18:19-24)

Another saintly example was shown by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Though reports vary, Mother Teresa was once begging bread from a baker for her orphanage. When the baker responded by spitting into her hand, she replied to effect, ‘I will keep this for me, but please give something for my children.’

In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, a bishop welcomes an impoverished convict to join his table and sleep at his home. However, that night, Jean Valjean steals his host’s silverware and goes away. The police catch him and take him to the bishop. Looking at Jean Valjean, the good bishop exclaims, “Ah! here you are! I am glad to see you. Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest, and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs. Why did you not carry them away with your forks and spoons?” Jean Valjean opens his eyes wide and stares at the venerable Bishop “with an expression which no human tongue can render any account of.” The bishop’s turn of the cheek spares the thief’s freedom and saves his soul.

And finally, a true story from a modern marriage: A woman’s husband had a terrible temper and every time it flared she would say, “That’s just like you to lose your temper!” But then, following a stroke of insight, she began responding differently. The next time he began to fly of the handle she told him, “That’s not like you to lose your temper,” and he nearly fell out of his chair. Even the kids looked at her funny, but she stuck with her new resolution. Months later, while at a restaurant together, he became irritated by the slow service. He started to fume about it, but then he suddenly stopped, turned to her, and said, “That’s not like me to lose my temper, is it?” This time, it is said, she nearly fell on the floor.

Was it true the first time the woman declared that it was not like her husband to lose his temper? The claim did not match his previous behavior, but perhaps he changed because she revealed to him that his uncontrolled anger was quite unlike the father, husband, and Christian man he truly and deeply wanted to be. This is the sort of realization and conversion we are to hope for in turning the other cheek.

Plus, a fifth story: “If a teen mugs you for your wallet…

His Merciful Greetings — 2nd Sunday of Easter—Year C

April 6, 2013

On the evening of the first Easter Sunday, Jesus appears to the disciples in the locked room where they are hiding and says to them, “Peace be with you.” Then he shows them his hands and his side and says to them again, “Peace be with you.” A week later, when his disciples are together and Thomas is with them, Jesus comes and stands in their midst and says, “Peace be with you.” Three times in this Gospel, our Lord Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”

This greeting of Jesus may seem like a small thing, but it is not. Imagine a Jesus who is a radically different person compared to the actual Jesus we know. This imaginary Jesus appears to his disciples, looks at them, and says, “I condemn you all.” This Jesus castigates the apostles for their desertion. He shows his wounded hands to them as a reproach. “I have these wounds because you abandoned me.” Then this Jesus turns to Peter and says, “You denied me. Now I deny you.” I doubt this unforgiving Jesus would come back to encounter Thomas or the other disciples ever again.

How terrible that would be? But of course, this Jesus is not the real Jesus. (Thanks be to God.) The real Jesus Christ we know says, “Peace be with you.” His words are patient, not angry. His words are loving, not rejecting. His words are merciful, not condemning. His words are from the boundless ocean of divine mercy within him and the mercy of the Lord is eternal. “Peace be with you.” Jesus speaks these words to us today. Let these words of Jesus go deeply within you, and you will always have the peace of Christ.

Al anochecer del primer domingo de Pascua, Jesús se aparece a los discípulos en el cuarto cerrado donde se esconden y les dice: “La paz esté con ustedes”. Luego les muestra sus manos y su costado y les dice otra vez: “La paz esté con ustedes”. Una semana más tarde, cuando sus discípulos están juntos y Tomás está con ellos, Jesús viene y ponte en medio de ellos y dijo: “La paz esté con ustedes.” Tres veces en este Evangelio, el Señor Jesús dice: “La paz esté con ustedes”.

Este saludo de Jesús puede parecer una cosa pequeña, pero no lo es. Imagine un Jesús que es una persona radicalmente diferente en comparación con el real Jesús que conocemos. Este imaginario Jesús se aparece a sus discípulos, los mira y dice: “Condeno todos ustedes.” Este Jesús castiga a los apóstoles por su deserción. Él muestra sus manos heridas a ellos como un reproche. “Tengo estas heridas porque me has abandonado”. Entonces esto Jesús se dirige a Pedro y le dice: “Usted me negó. Ahora yo te negaré”. Dudo que esto Jesús volvería a encontrarse con Tomás y los otros discípulos nunca más.

¡Qué terrible que sería? Pero, por supuesto, este Jesús no es el Jesús real. (Demos gracias a Dios.) El verdadero Jesucristo sabemos dice: “La paz esté con ustedes”. Sus palabras son pacientes, no enojado. Sus palabras son cariñosos, no rechazar. Sus palabras son misericordiosos, no condenar. Sus palabras son del océano infinito de la misericordia divina en su interior, y la misericordia del Señor es eterna. “La paz esté con ustedes”. Jesús dice estas palabras para nosotros hoy. Entonces, permita que estas palabras de Jesús de ir profundamente dentro de usted, y usted siempre tendrá paz de Jesucristo.

The Age of the Donkey — 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 4, 2011


Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father.” But if that is so, why do so many things in the world seem so out of hand? We see that many things are sinful, broken, and not as they should be. Zechariah foretold that the true king would proclaim establish peace among the nations. Yet, this Fourth of July weekend sees our country fighting in at least two wars abroad. If we take our faith seriously, and think seriously about our faith, we’re led to ask, “Where is the reign of Jesus and where is His promised peace?”

In our first reading, we heard Zechariah prophesy that the true king, the Messiah, the Christ, would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey. You will recall, of course, how Jesus fulfilled this passage when he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the people’s shouts of joy. So what is the significance of His riding in on a donkey? The significance of the donkey is that it points to the meekness of Jesus’ reign.

In the ancient world, when a general sieged and took a fortified city, he would most often ride through its city gates by means of horse power. That conqueror would either be saddled upon one of these magnificently fast and powerful animals, or else he would ride in a chariot pulled by them. Then, upon entering, one would expect him to ruthlessly establish the new order of things. Oftentimes, to secure the conqueror’s rule, new laws would be proclaimed and severely enforced, prominent enemies would be put to death, and all local resistance would be crushed.

Jesus, however, comes into Jerusalem in a different way; not on a warhorse or in a chariot, but on a slow and humble donkey. This signifies that His reign shall be different. Apart from the relatively tame activism of scattering livestock and tipping tables at the temple, Jesus introduces his reign without any sign of force. In fact, the only person who would be murdered in the course of Jesus’ rise to power… would be Jesus Himself.

When Jesus stood accused before the high priest and the Sanhedrin, when He was in chains before Pilate and his troops, do you not think that He could have called upon His Father to provide Him in an instant with more than twelve legions of angels? Jesus could have backed Himself up with the power of more than 60,000 angelic warriors, but then He would not have died, and His kingdom would have been very different.

Let me speak for a minutes about the angels. God’s angels, in the first instant of their created existence, had a clear knowledge into God’s goodness and preeminence. In that moment, some of them decided that they would rather live as their own gods. As the Book of Revelation tells us, a war broke out in heaven; St. Michael the Archangel and his angels battled against Satan. Satan and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. Satan was thrown down to earth, and his angels were thrown down with him, where they have tempted us to share in their rebellion ever since. Sometimes people ask if Satan and the demons could be someday be saved. However, angels and demons are creatures that do not change their minds. Unlike human beings, they do not change over time. We human beings are a different sort of creatures. We learn through experience and (hopefully) grow in maturity. If one of us chooses to rebel through grave sin, hope remains for us, as long as we live, that we will repent and turn again to God, to love Him and others as we ought. Even after Caiaphas and Pilate condemned Jesus and handed Him over to for execution, hope remained for their conversion and salvation.

What if Jesus had called in His angelic reinforcements, unveiling before them the Heavenly armies in their terrifying fierceness? What if Christ had tolerated no resistance to the advent of His reign, to the coming of His Kingdom, in 33 AD?        In that case, all of humanity would be confronted with a sudden and inescapable choice, a choice either for Christ or against Him; a moment of choosing like that experienced by the angels and demons.

Some human beings, when confronted with Christ in this way, would sinfully refuse to follow Him, and that refusal would be a rebellion. And here we come to the heart of the problem: How can Christ allow these rebels to remain on the earth, in hopes that they may repent, unless He is willing to show some tolerance and patience toward their sinful resistance for a time? Jesus could wipe away all sin from the face of the earth in an instant, but He would have to wipe out all of the earth’s unrepentant sinners in the process. A sudden judgment would bring a quick and clean end to sin, but less of mankind would be saved. The approach Jesus has taken with us is more merciful, but is also messier. God hopes that all shall turn to Him freely, and not by force, because love cannot be forced. Jesus Christ hopes and works for the conversion and salvation of all. As St. Peter writes, “The Lord’s patience is directed towards salvation.” And though it can be difficult for us to see God’s providential purposes and plans in our lives, “we know that,” as St. Paul says, “all things work for good for those who love God.”

Where is the peace that was promised to the world? Its total reign, the fullness of the kingdom of God, is yet to come. For now, the spirit of the world and the Spirit of life do battle. But we can experience peace in our souls, peace in our families, and peace in our communities, if we live by the Spirit of Christ.

In this age, Jesus comes to us on a donkey, but in the age to come He shall ride a warhorse. As the Book of Revelation says:

“I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was called ‘Faithful and True.’ He judges and wages war in righteousness.… He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. He has a name written on his cloak and on his thigh, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’”

In this age, Jesus rides the donkey, for this is the time of patient mercy. But on the Last Day, Jesus shall ride the white warhorse, for that is the time of decisive and definitive judgment. Let sinners take note; we shall not be permitted to keep sinning forever. And let those who mourn the brokenness, the sin, the suffering and death in the world take courage, for these things shall pass away. ‘See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he. He shall proclaim peace to the nations. And His rule shall be to the ends of the earth.’

The Death of Bin Laden — May 3 — Sts. Philip and James

May 3, 2011

Osama Bin Laden has caused the deaths of countless people worldwide, he has spread hatred and division among peoples, and he has exploited religion for these purposes. He has done evil things, and now he is dead. How should we take this news? On Sunday night, some people celebrated in the streets of New York City and Washington, DC. Many people said with unrestrained delight that not a man, but a vermin, or a thing of pure evil, had been exterminated. But what is God’s opinion? What are His feelings on these events? God speaks to us in his words from Ezekiel 33:11: “Answer them: As I live, says the Lord God, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live.” If God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked, then neither should we.

Our U.S. Special Forces’ successful mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan rightly pleases us in many ways, like in how this achievement may prevent future terrorist attacks or the fact that al-Qaeda is now deprived of their most charismatic leader, but a Christian should not rejoice in the death of a sinner. It should be noted here, that Jesus the Prince of Peace loves peace, but He is not a pacifist. (A pacifist is someone who condemns the use of force in all situations.) Recall that Jesus did not drive out the money-changers and animal-sellers from the temple solely by endlessly asking them nicely. “He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area…” Force, even deadly force, is sometimes just and necessary, as I believe it was in Abbattabad this Sunday. And yet, even in wartime, we must not hate those who hate us, nor rejoice in the death of wrongdoers, not even when it’s Osama Bin Laden. The death of a sinner is a tragedy to the heart of Jesus, whose Divine Mercy and Love we celebrated on that same Sunday.

Perhaps someone might hear this and ask, “What difference does it make whether or not I hate Bin Laden or other people I’ve never met? Or what difference does it make whether or not I hate some of the people I actually know?” This is why it matters. You heard Jesus say to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” No one comes to the Father, except through Him. Jesus is the way. He is our way to Heaven not just by our saying that He’s our Lord and Savior. Jesus is the way because He is the way we must become. No one comes to the Father in Heaven except they who conform themselves to the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if you die hating anyone in your heart, when you come to the gates of Heaven, whether the persons you hate are inside or not, you will not enter in; either you will be prevented from entering until your heart is cleaned to be like Christ’s, or you will never enter in, because you will have decided that you do not want Heaven’s ways, Heaven’s truths, or Heaven’s life.

You’re unlikely to hear the message of this homily said anywhere on TV. Imagine how the world would react if someone went on FOX News or CNN and suggested we shouldn’t hate Bin Laden. If you’ve heard anything like this homily since Sunday’s events, it was probably here at Columbus, through one of your teachers. What makes them different from the world is that they have been formed by the Gospel and a Catholic Christian worldview. Our Catholic Faith is the only thing that frees from the slavery of merely being a child of one’s time. It allows us to see the world more through Jesus’ eyes and to conform our hearts to His. This is important, because if you and I want to enter into Heaven someday, we must be converted into Him.