Archive for the ‘Last Judgment’ Category

Jesus as an Undercover Boss

April 7, 2016

During the seven week span from Easter to Pentecost, the apostles were firsthand witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, but they lacked their mission. In those days, Jesus was not always visibly with them and the Holy Spirit was not prompting them to preach the Good News. And so, the apostles had extra spare time on their hands. But even if you’re a person who has seen Jesus Christ risen from the dead you still need to eat. Therefore, Peter says, “I am going fishing,” and six others decide to go along with him. Fishing the Sea of Galilee was Peter’s line of work before Jesus called him to become a ‘fisher of men.’

Jesus Appears on the Shore in John 21In today’s Gospel, Peter goes back to his old job. And then, unexpectedly, Jesus shows up at Peter’s workplace. Like an “undercover boss” on TV, Jesus comes in disguise. Jesus’ glorified and resurrected body allows him to conceal or change his appearance. At first, amid the routine of their work, the disciples fail to recognize him. But after catching their huge catch of (153!) fish, they realize “it is the Lord” and begin acting differently. How would you respond if the Lord appeared at your workplace as a customer, co-worker, or boss?

Sometimes we Christians slip into mentally separating our life at church from our life in the world; for example, working in the world without thinking of our faith. But we must remember to honor and serve Jesus Christ always and everywhere. You have probably heard of the importance of ‘seeing Christ in others.’ Seeing Christ in others means treating them like you would treat Jesus Christ himself. Now, of course, a Christian should not worship anything or anyone other than God, but Jesus wants you to love other people through the love you have for him.

As Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, when he comes in his glory with all the holy angels with him, Jesus will sit upon the throne of his glory and all the nations shall be gathered before him. And Jesus, the king and judge, shall declare to them, “Amen, I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it to one of these least of brethren of mine, you did for me.” Therefore, recognize Jesus encountering you, unexpectedly and disguised, at the place where you work—in your customers, your coworkers, and your bosses—and love them with your love for Christ.

Rejecting Reincarnation

April 6, 2016

G.K. ChestertonA friend once told me his flirtations with belief in reincarnation ended by reading two good points by G.K. Chesterton. If all people were (re)born into the blessings or curses of their present lives on account of their good or bad actions in the past, then:

  1. We could expect nearly all well-born persons to be honest, given their long track records of virtue.
  2. Those who are born into bad circumstances would merit their own suffering and unhappiness.

Buddhist reincarnation beliefs may vary, but Hindus in India have traditionally believed that their top castes merit their nobility (and the untouchables their servitude) due to reincarnation’s Karmic justice.

However, as Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed that men die once, and after this the judgment…”

Our Holy Conspiracy & the End of the World — 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time—Year B

November 16, 2015

C.S. Lewis, 1898-1963A new liturgical Church year will begin in a couple of weeks with the first Sunday of Advent. As this Church year ends, our Mass readings (like today’s Sunday readings) focus on the Last Things and the end of the world as we know it. This weekend’s news reports, especially the terrible events in France, remind us that though the Kingdom of God is among us, we pray “thy Kingdom come” because it is not yet fully here in total, unveiled power. This weekend’s readings and news events remind me of passages from C.S. Lewis in excellent book Mere Christianity:

“Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless [radio] from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.”

Why does Lewis say that our king has landed “in disguise?” Well, where would you expect a king to be born? The Magi sought the newborn king of the Jews in the palace at Jerusalem, but Jesus was born in a barn—a cave in Bethlehem—to a pair of poor parents. How would one expect the Jewish Messiah to enter into Jerusalem to claim his throne? Probably riding on a warhorse, but Jesus came meekly riding on a donkey, just as had been prophesied about him. Who would have thought that God would become a man, and then suffer and die as he did? After the vindication of the resurrection, one would have thought he would appear to the high priest and Governor Pilate, or to the Emperor Tiberius in Rome, to declare that he was indeed who he claimed to be. Instead, Jesus appeared discretely, to his disciples.

Lewis writes that God has landed in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and has started “a sort of secret society” to undermine the devil. This secret society he speaks of is the Church. But what is so secret about the Church? We have a sign in front with our Mass times. We don’t check ID’s at the door. And if anyone wants to know about what we do or what we believe, we will gladly inform them. But, in a sense, the Church is a secret society—for the world and even many Catholics do not recognize who and what we really are. We are a holy conspiracy. We are fighting the propaganda of the world and the devil with the truth of God. We are recruiting others to the side of the Lord. We are his special forces sabotaging evil with the weapons of love in preparation for the king’s arrival.

From where do we receive our power for this mission? The source of our power is the Holy Mass. Today’s second reading says that the Old Testament’s priests offered many sacrifices because those  could not truly achieve their purpose, but Jesus our High Priest offers his sacrifice once for all. At Mass we transcend space and time to personally encounter that sacrifice, and it’s power is applied to us here and now, providing all the graces we need to fulfill his will.

Lewis asks, “Why is [God] not [yet] landing in [total unveiled] force, invading [our world]? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; [but] we do not know when.”

Indeed, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “of that day or hour, no one knows… but only the Father.”

We do not know when the Lord is going to land in force. “But,” Lewis continues, “we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman [during World War II] who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade.”

Why has God not yet invaded our world with his full, unveiled force? Why does he allow the wicked to use their freedom for evil, like the terrorism we saw in Paris?

Lewis writes, “I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left?”

I think “the whole natural universe melting away” is an excellent reflection on today’s gospel. Jesus tells us that at the end:

“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken…”

In the ancient world, the sun and moon, stars and planets, were considered the most stable and eternal things in the cosmos (and you can understand why.) But when even these things are passing, you know the universe as we know it is melting away. After this, the Lord Jesus comes with judgment. “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory… (and his angels, like St. Michael from our first reading, along with him…)”

Sprouting Fig Tree in SpringtimePerhaps we may find it surprising that Jesus describes these events as a good thing to his disciples. He says:

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that [the Son of Man] is near, at the gates.”

We usually associate the end of things with the fall. Youth is called the springtime of life, while old age is the fall. In the Northern Hemisphere, every Church year ends in the fall. Yet Jesus presents an analogy for the end of the world as one of spring becoming summer: ‘When the tender branch sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.’ A small thing, the branch, points to the arrival of a much greater reality, the summer. Why would we cling to the branch when the whole world is being renewed in glory? For friends of God, what is to come is better than what we see. The life we live now in this world is the winter. What is still to come for us is the spring and summer. Let us not hesitate to hope for it, envision it, and rejoice in it.

When the last day comes, “it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. … That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give [people] that chance. [But it] will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”

How long will it be until the Lord comes again? Jesus says in today’s gospel that, “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” But he said this a long time ago. Was Jesus wrong? No, for when you read these passages from Mark in full context, Jesus is responding to his disciples questions about two things side-by-side: the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world. The Romans destroyed the great city and its temple in 70 A.D., during the lifespan of some of Jesus’ hearers, and to many Jews it felt like the end of the world. This event prefigured the passing away of all things. Like other prophesies in the Bible, Jesus’ prophesy has a near and distant fulfillment, one after a forty-year opportunity for conversion, and another at the end of time.

So when will the Lord come again? The answer for every generation before us has been “not yet.” If this world endures to the year 10,000 A.D., the Christians of that time will probably regard us as the early Christians. I personally think it will still be awhile before he comes, for it is still legal to be a Christian in too many places on earth. Yet, in a sense, it doesn’t matter when Jesus is coming, for the end of our individual lives is equivalent to the end of the world for us. If you’re ready for one, you’re ready for the other. But if you, or people that you know, are not ready for either, then now is the time for conversion.

The Lord our King has recruited us into his holy conspiracy, arming us with the weapons of truth and love. You and I are his advanced forces and, among other tasks, he is sending us on rescue missions to bring others to himself. Who do you know that is far from Christ? We are to draw on the power of this Mass for them. We are called to pray, fast, and sacrifice for them, and even to be so bold as to talk with them—inviting them to come to Jesus Christ and his Church. Seize this opportunity and do not let it pass away, for whether the Lord first comes to us or we go forth to him, each and all will encounter him soon, face-to-face, in his full, unveiled glory.

Preventable Tragedies

September 12, 2015

A Bolivian Family Riding a Bicycle, 1991

While studying for the priesthood, I spent a summer at our diocese’s mission in Bolivia. There I learned that South America’s poorest country has a death rate from tuberculosis 222-times higher than here. I was told the Bolivian government offers free TB medicine, but that many who take the pills start to feel better and quit before they’ve finished the prescription. Tragically, this allows the disease to resurge, and the patients are lost. Their half-measured approach to what would save them invites their death.

As our children soon return to CCD, I wish to emphasize the obvious truth that CCD alone is not enough to form a child into a mature Christian adult. Religious education must be paired with daily family prayer (beyond simply before meals) and family Mass attendance each week. Without these, children learn from their parents’ silent instruction that their Catholic faith may be carelessly discarded once their “last hoop” of Confirmation is cleared. This must not be so!

If you are already attending Mass and sharing family prayers, please keep it up. If not, please follow this powerful prescription of prayer and Sunday worship. Embrace it for your children’s sake and for your own. Our Catholic faith is not mere “fire insurance.” It is the path to abundant life for this life and the next. As Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Five Seeming Liturgical Abuses That Are Actually Legit

August 27, 2015

These five liturgical practices may seem unorthodox, but the Roman Catholic Church officially allows for each of them:

1.  Receiving the Blessed Sacrament Twice in the Same Day

The Church limits the number of communions the faithful may receive in a day, lest people misguidedly pursue sanctity by filling their days with numerous communions, and to keep the reception of this most sacred gift from feeling common by receiving too-frequently. According to the Code of Canon Law (which governs Church practices) the faithful may receive Our Eucharistic Lord twice daily. And, unless someone is in danger of death, the second time must be while participating at Holy Mass. (Canons 917 & 921)

Ten Commandments - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WI2.  A Priest Eating Between His Sunday Masses

Ordinarily, a person who is going to receive Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from all food and drink (besides water or medicine) for at least one hour before holy communion. This is done to prepare oneself to worthily receive this most precious food (though the elderly, the infirm, and those caring for them are exempted from the fast.) The Church, recognizing that a priest could have difficulty finding time for needed nourishment, allows priests who celebrate the Eucharist two or three times in the same day to take something between their Masses, even if there is less than one hour between them. (Canon 919)

3.  Offering Mass for the Soul of a Notorious Person

May a priest offer a Mass for the soul of Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, or Judas Iscariot? Pastoral prudence may advise him against doing so publicly but the Code of Canon law affirms, “A priest is entitled to offer Mass for anyone, living or dead.” (Canon 901) While the Church has declared many saints and blesseds to be now in Heaven, she has never declared any particular human being to be presently in Hell. Since Jesus warns us so strongly and frequently about damnation, and we know that the devil and ‘one third’ of the angels are eternally consigned to Hell, it seems very unlikely that all people will be saved. (Revelation 12:4 & 9, Matthew 25:41, Catechism of the Catholic Church #393) However, even if hoping against hope, we may still offer our prayers (capable of transcending space and time) for the salvation of any and all human souls.

4.  A Wedding Couple Processing into Church Behind the Priest

At weddings in the United States, the groom typically takes his place near the altar to await his bride’s walk down the aisle. But the Catholic Rite of Marriage, while allowing for local custom, presents a different entrance as the norm: “If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and the bridegroom.” (Rite of Marriage, no. 20) The ministers of the sacrament of marriage are actually the bride and groom themselves — the priest (or deacon) simply presides as the Church’s official witness. (Catechism #1623) Thus, it is fitting that the couple enter the church on their wedding day side-by-side in liturgical procession.

5.  A Priest Dipping Hosts Into the Precious Blood at the Distribution of Communion

Host and Chalice - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WIA minister of the Holy Eucharist who steeps the Host into the Precious Blood before placing it upon a communicant’s tongue is distributing by “intinction.” The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (or GIRM, which governs liturgical practices for Holy Mass) states, “The Blood of the Lord may be consumed either by drinking from the chalice directly, or by intinction, or by means of a tube or a spoon.” (GIRM, no. 245) While noting that “distribution of the Precious Blood by a spoon or through a straw is not customary in the Latin dioceses of the United States of America,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterates that a bishop may allow distribution by intinction in his diocese. (Norms, no. 48 & 24, citing GIRM no. 283)

As the GIRM describes it, “If Communion from the chalice is carried out by intinction, each communicant, holding a Communion-plate under the mouth, approaches the Priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The Priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says, The Body and Blood of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the Priest, and then withdraws.” (GIRM, no. 287) The U.S. Bishops further emphasize that the faithful, including extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, are never to self-communicate by intinction. (Norms, no. 50) May an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist distribute by intinction? The GIRM passage above speaks of “the Priest,” but I would refer people to their local bishop’s norms on the distribution of Communion for a judgment on this question.

Our Lady’s Wisconsin Message: The Meaning of the Two Trees

September 25, 2014

In the Garden of Eden, there were many fruit-bearing trees, but Genesis mentions only two by name: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By partaking of the Tree of Life the human race could keep living forever, but the Lord warned that to eat from the other tree would mean our certain death. On October 9th, 1859, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared near Green Bay to a 28 year-old Belgian immigrant named Adele Brise while she was walking eleven miles home from Sunday Mass. Interestingly, Our Lady chose to appear to Adele not in a church, or a thousand other places, but between two trees: a Maple and a Hemlock.

Maple LeavesYou’re familiar with the beauty and goodness of the Maple. In the fall, its leaves turn the most striking colors, and in the spring its sap yields sweet syrup. But do you know about the Hemlock tree? The poison that the Greek philosopher Socrates was condemned to drink came from this plant. Ingesting just six or eight fresh Hemlock leaves can kill a healthy adult. The Maple is a tree of life while the Hemlock is a tree of death. Mary, the New Eve, stood between the two.

Three Conium Maculatum (or Poison Hemlock), Cedar Bog, Champaign CoMary told Adele, “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.” Our Lady’s message between the two trees is akin the words of Moses, who told the Israelites: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land….

Peshtigo Fire MapApparently, Our Lady’s warnings were not sufficiently heeded. In October of 1871, exactly twelve years later, disaster came. Both in terms of size and number of lives lost, the Peshtigo Fire remains the worst recorded forest fire in U.S. history. Between 1,200 and 2,400 lives ended in that firestorm which saw, according to an eyewitness, “large wooden houses torn from their foundations and caught up like straws by two opposing currents of air which raised them till they came in contact with the stream of fire.” This seems to be the punishment due to sin that Mary spoke of, yet this does not mean that everyone who perished in that fire was condemned. We should remember that at harvest time, the wheat and the weeds are pulled up together in a moment, but their future fates are not the same. Once uprooted, the good are gathered and kept in the barn, while the bad are thrown away forever.

The firestorm came and surrounded the shrine of Our Lady, where hundreds had come for refuge with their families and herds, beseeching her intercession before God. As many as fled to her there were saved. The shrine’s consecrated earth was an emerald-green island in an ocean of smoldering ashes as far as eyes could see.

Mary, the Queen of Heaven, prays for the conversion of sinners and she wishes you to do the same. You receive Holy Communion, and that is well. But you must do more. Begin by receiving the sacrament of reconciliation regularly, because it is powerful for growing in holiness. The sinner whose conversion you are most responsible for is your own.

“Get Behind Me” — 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

August 31, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.  Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”  He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

In Hebrew, “satan” means “adversary.” Peter is not the devil, but in opposing the Father’s true will for the Messiah, Peter is acting as an adversary and an obstacle to Jesus. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, during the temptation in the desert, Jesus told the devil, “Get away, Satan!” Later, in describing the Last Judgment, Jesus tells the unrighteous goats on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed…” Yet to St. Peter, Jesus says, ‘You are my friend, so get behind me… Stay close to me, and follow my lead.”

Parables About Jesus — Monday, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 26, 2011

Jesus speaks of Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven) more times in the Gospel than perhaps anything else. But what is this kingdom? The Kingdom dwells among us when God’s will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. The Kingdom reigns wherever the will of God is known and followed. His Kingdom is not equally present at all times and everywhere, which is why we pray for the kingdom to fully come, yet it can be present within a good community, in a loving family, or within a Christian’s soul.

Jesus leads us into the Kingdom of God. He teaches us how to live as kingdom people. There’s an interesting twist contained in Jesus’ teachings: whenever He speaks about the kingdom of God, He is usually teaching us something true about Himself. This is so, because Jesus is the kingdom incarnate. Wherever Jesus is, you find the Kingdom, and wherever the Kingdom is, Jesus is there.

Because of this close identification between Jesus and the Kingdom, we can substitute between these terms and reread Scripture with new eyes. For example, “In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea saying, ‘Repent, for (Jesus Christ) is at hand!’” The beatitude becomes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is (Jesus Christ).” One time, when Jesus sees how his disciples are shooing the little children away, He becomes indignant and says to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for (I) belong to such as these.” And we hear it said, “Seek ye first (Jesus Christ) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” When applied to today’s Gospel, Jesus three parables become revelatory of Jesus Himself.

Jesus is like a treasure buried in a field. This means that Jesus must be found. In the movie Forrest Gump, a down-in-the-dumps Lt. Dan Taylor asks Forrest derisively, “Have you found Jesus, Gump?” Forrest replies, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for Him, Sir.” If I ask you if you’ve found Jesus you might feel like a bit Forrest; you’re baptized, you’re here at church, how could you still need to find him?

Well, think of it this way: do you have a joy and excitement in your relationship with Christ anything like a man who finds a hidden treasure? Does you life feel rich and full of opportunity because you know Him? If not, then you have not yet found Him like He wants you too. We need to seek after Him in prayer and learning. Encounter Him in the Gospels, especially if you never have before. (Do you want to reach the end of your days without ever having read the Gospels?) Jesus is a rich treasure whom we must seek out and discover.

The second parable: Jesus is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. (Notice that Jesus was first the treasure, now He’s the searcher.) This means that Jesus searches after us. We should not despair. He pursues more passionately than a man searching a profit. Jesus seeks us as a man in love. A pearl may get dirty and think it is no longer desirable, but Jesus has the solution for cleansing pearls. He emptied Himself of glory to become man for us, and then he gave everything He had to die as a man for us. Do not forget that if we were the only sinner on earth He would have still come for you. Never despair. Jesus will always pursue you like a man in love.

In the third and final parable, Jesus is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. This means that Jesus confronts us all. As Simenon foretold of The baby Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought Hi to the temple, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The truth of Jesus Christ confronts all people, even if they’ve never heard the name of Jesus. But we have heard His name, and we must not put off responding to Him forever.

Jesus is the treasure we must seek. We must not despair, for Jesus relentlessly seeks after us. Jesus is the net who confronts us all, so we must not put Him off forever.

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.

3 Myths / 3 Mitos — 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

March 6, 2011

Many today assume three modern myths: One, that we get into Heaven based on whether our good works out-weigh our sins. Two, that as long as we claim Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior we are assured Heaven. And three, that one Christian church is just as good as another. Let us consider these common myths one by one, and come to understand the truth about Christianity.

If you ask people whether they think they’ll go to Heaven, many say something like this, “I’m a pretty good person. I mean I’ve never robbed any banks or killed anybody. I’ve done good things, so yeah, I think I’ll go to Heaven.” In their minds, such people seem to envision the Last Judgment as a giant scale, with their good deeds on one side and their sins on the other.

The truth is, we cannot earn our own salvation. God is all good and deserving of all our love. When we do good we are just giving Him what He deserves. But when we sin, we disfigure ourselves and our relationship with God in ways that only He can repair. “…All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” But thanks be to God, we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus…. What occasion is there then for boasting?” asks St. Paul. “It is ruled out.” We do not save ourselves. We are saved only through Jesus Christ.

Many Christians like to ask, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior?” Do not hesitate to answer “Yes,” for every time you receive Him worthily in the Eucharist you are accepting Him as your Savior and Lord. Evangelical Christians also like to ask, “Are you saved?” They say this because they think whoever professes faith in Christ is assured of their salvation. However, according to Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Think of it this way: the demons recognize that Christ is Christ, but that does not save them. They are not saved because they do not love Him, and love is about more than just words. As Jesus told His Apostles, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. … This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (Jn 14:15, 15:12)

Consider the New Testament words of St. James, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14) As St. Paul observes, “If I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” Our salvation in Christ requires faith and love in action.

We know that more than a few Catholics have wandered away from the Church. Some have been drawn away, after being told the Catholic Church does not know the Bible. Others have simply left, thinking that one Christian church is just as good as another. Do not be misled by myths.

In truth, Jesus Christ has built only one house, one Church. And, being a wise man, he built the house on a rock, St. Peter, our first Pope. However, men have built other houses. These Christian denominations have many good characteristics from the one Church of Christ: like Scripture, prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, baptism, marriage, and Christian morals. However, in time, the rains fall, the floods come, and the winds blow and buffet their houses and they collapse ruined. Those houses separate from the truth and separate from within into new houses. Therefore, never abandon the beliefs and the sacraments of the Catholic Church. There is one true house of Jesus Christ. Do not be misled by myths.

Muchos hoy aceptan tres mitos modernos: Uno, que entramos en el cielo si nuestras buenas obras son más que de nuestros pecados. Dos, si nos declararía Jesucristo como nuestro Señor personal y Salvador estamos seguros de entrar en el cielo. Y tres, que una iglesia Cristiana es tan buena como la otra. Consideremos estos mitos populares uno por uno y comprender la verdad acerca del cristianismo.

Si se pregunta a las personas si piensan que van a ir al cielo, muchos dicen algo como esto, “Soy una persona buena bastante. Yo nunca he robado al banco ni matado a nadie. He hecho cosas buenas, entonces sí, creo que voy a ir al cielo.” Estas personas imaginan el juicio final para ser una escala gigante, con sus buenas acciones en un lado y sus pecados en el otro.

La verdad es que no podemos ganar nuestra propia salvación personal. Dios es el sumo bien y digno de ser amado sobre todas las cosas. Cuando hacemos bueno sólo damos lo que se merece Dios. Pero cuando pecamos, nos hacemos daño a nosotros mismos sino a nuestra relación con Dios in maneras que solo Dios puede reparar. “Como todos pecaron, todos están privados de la presencia salvadora de Dios; pero todos son justificados gratuitamente por su gracia, en virtud de la redención llevada a cabo por medio de Cristo Jesús… por medio de la fe.” “¿Dónde, pues, quede el orgullo del hombre ante Dios,” pregunta de San Paulo. “Queda eliminado!” Nosotros no ganamos nuestra salvación por nosotros mismos. Somos salvados sólo a través de Jesucristo.

A veces otros cristianos nos preguntan, “Has aceptado a Jesucristo como tu Señor personal y Salvador?” No duden en responder “Sí”, porque cada vez que le reciban dignamente en la Eucaristía  lo aceptan como su Salvador y Señor.  Nuestros amigos cristianos evangélicos también quieren preguntar, “¿Eres salvado?” Dicen porque piensan que la person que profesa la fe en Cristo se asegura su salvación. Sin embargo, según Jesús, “No todo el que me diga ‘Señor, Señor!’, entrará en el Reino de los cielos, sino el que cumpla la voluntad de mi Padre, que está en los cielos.”

Consideren esto: los demonios reconocen que Cristo es Cristo, pero no los salva. No se salva porque ellos no lo aman, y amor es más que decir palabras. Como Jesús les dijo a sus apóstoles, “Si ustedes me aman, obedecerán mis mandamientos. … Mi mandamiento es este: Que se amen unos a otros como yo los he amado a ustedes.”

Consideren las palabras del Nuevo Testamento de San Santiago, “Hermanos míos, ¿de qué le sirve a uno decir que tiene fe, si sus hechos no lo demuestran? ¿Podrá acaso salvarlo esa fe? Supongamos que a un hermano o a una hermana les falta la ropa y la comida necesarias para el día; si uno de ustedes les dice: ‘Que les vaya bien; abríguense y coman todo lo que quieran’, pero no les da lo que su cuerpo necesita, ¿de qué les sirve? Así pasa con la fe: por sí sola, es decir, si no se demuestra con hechos, es una cosa muerta.” Como San Pablo observa, “Si tengo la fe necesaria para mover montañas, pero no tengo amor, no soy nada.” Nuestra salvación en Cristo requiere fe y amor en acción.

Sabemos que más que unos católicos pocos han vagado de la Iglesia Católica. Algunos son atraídos, oyen falsamente que la Iglesia Católica no conoce la Biblia. Otros simplemente dejaron, piensan falsamente que una iglesia cristiana es tan buena como la otra. No se engañen por mitos.

En verdad, Jesucristo ha construido sólo una casa, una iglesia. Y, siendo un hombre sabio, construyó la casa sobre una roca, San Pedro, nuestro primer Papa. Pero, hombres han construido otras casas. Estas denominaciones cristianas tienen muchas características buenas de la única casa de Cristo: como escritura, oración, el credo de los apóstoles, bautismo, matrimonio, las morales cristianas. Pero, en tiempo, viene la lluvia, bajan las crecientes, se desatan los vientos, contra esas casas y las arras an.  Esas casas sparan de las verdad y sparan desde los interiors en las casas nuevas. Por lo tanto, nunca abandonen las creencias y los sacramentos de la Iglesia Católica. Es la única casa de Jesucristo. No se engañen por mitos.

Prepare Yourself—Wednesday, 30th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

October 20, 2010

If you knew for a fact that you were going to die, or that Jesus was coming again,  one month from today, how would you begin living your life differently?

  • Would you pray more? 
  • Would you work harder to do good deeds?
  • Would you resolve to crush lingering vices?
  • Would you forgive enemies?
  • Would you show greater love toward people in your life?

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

This is much is certain: someday we will die, or we shall live to see Jesus return ‘at an unexpected hour.’ So, let us commit ourselves by the grace of God  to living in such a way now that if someone were to ask us what we would do differently if the end of the world or the end of our lives were near, we could honestly answer, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

Strive to Enter — 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

September 2, 2010

The Emmy-winning Servant of God, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, once said that in Heaven we will have three surprises: 

  1) We’ll see people there that we didn’t expect to see…

  2) We won’t see people there that we did expect to see, and…

  3) We’ll be surprised to see ourselves there!
 
 
In today’s gospel, someone shouts out from the crowd, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus answers Him, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Instead of giving the man a figure, Jesus gives him more valuable counsel, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for whether or not you will be saved depends (in part) on you.” Yet we are still left wondering, “Will the number saved be many, or only a few?”

On the one hand we have John’s eyewitness testimony from the Book of Revelation. When he say the worship of the saints in heaven he saw  “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” (Note that this ‘countless multitude’ is much larger than 144,000 which had just been counted.) It is as the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading, “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.” Based on this we can say that many will be saved.

On the other hand, in the Gospel of Matthew, in the parallel passage to today’s gospel, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” The ‘few’ who find the narrow gate certainly sounds like less than the ‘many’ who don’t. Based on this we can say that many will not be saved.

My purpose in raising this topic is not to frighten you, for Jesus said, over and again, “Do not be afraid.” But I believe it is with Jesus’ heart that I urge you not to be complacent. To be complacent is to be self-satisfied and unaware of possible dangers. Jesus urges us to, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate” for many will not be able.

There is no way to know, but something in me suspects that the man who called out to Jesus assumed his own salvation to be a certainty; he was merely curious if many others would be joining him.  Jesus warned him not to be presumptuous, and this gospel has come down to us today because it’s a message meant for us too.

All of us come to church, and that’s a very good thing, but coming to church every Sunday does not guarantee our salvation. In the parable that Jesus told, the master of the house arises like the judge of our world at the end of time. People knock on the locked door and say, “Lord, we ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” We eat and drink in Jesus’ company too, and he teaches in our streets. We eat and drink with Him here, at the Eucharist, and whenever the Scriptures are proclaimed, Christ speaks. Being a disciple of Christ, a true friend of Christ, means more than just coming to church.

We must strive to enter the narrow gate. We must pursue and embrace holy discipline for our lives, as we heard from the Letter to the Hebrews: “…Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines…. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.  So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.”

What in your life needs holy discipline? Do you pray every day, or is God only a bedtime afterthought? Do you pray with your spouse and your children, besides at mealtimes? Do you read and watch things that feed your soul? Do you fast and give alms? Do you treat every Friday as a day of penance and every Sunday as a day of joyful rest? What good habit do you need to begin? And what persistent sin do you need to fight, like a life-threatening cancer, for indeed it is. If you were to look back on your life someday from your deathbed, what would you most regret having left undone?

Jesus says to us in this present age, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Are you asking, are you seeking, are you knocking? Strive for holiness while the door remains unlooked, and be encouraged, for Jesus is also striving after you. In Revelation He says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”

Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts, minds, and souls; in our feelings, thoughts, and deepest desires. If we open our doors and welcome Him now, and strive with Him for holiness, Jesus will open for us the door to Heaven and welcome us inside.

Gift of Self — 5th Sunday in Easter—Year C

May 2, 2010

I would like to begin today by telling the beautiful story of a gorgeous young woman named Leah Darrow. Leah grew up in a strong Catholic family in Oklahoma, but when she was in high school she says that her Catholicism started to get “fuzzy.”  By the time she was in college Leah says she had become a “Catholic But.” She would say, “I’m Catholic, but I don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on cohabitation,” or, “I’m Catholic but I don’t see the problem with a couple who love each sleeping together before their marriage… I think the Church is behind the times.”

One evening at college she saw a reality TV show called “Americas’s Next Top Model,” with Tyra Banks and thought to herself, “I’m pretty cute, maybe I could be on that show.” She tried out and got on, but lost the competition, yet she was resolved not to let her TV elimination mean the end of her modeling career. And she was rather successful.  She still recalls her excitement at receiving her first paycheck with a comma (a comma!) in it.

Leah eventually found herself at a photo-shoot high above 5th Avenue in New York that would change her life forever. She came to pose for an international magazine which wanted to help her develop a more risque image. They brought out a number of itsy-bitzy outfits for her to wear.  She picked one out and shooting began. Now Leah says that every model knows not to look at the flash when the photos are being taken (and she insists that she didn’t look at the flash) yet while she was posing, a vision flashed in her mind, three images in the span of perhaps a second or two. This is what she saw:

She saw herself standing in a large white space in the immodest outfit she was wearing. In this scene she wasn’t in pain, but she had the sense that she had died. In the second image Leah was looking up, holding out her open hands at her waist, with the knowledge that she was in the presence of God. In the third and final image, another white flash hit her eyes and Leah saw herself holding her hands all the way up, offering to God all that she had, but in that moment she realized that she was offering Him nothing. For her entire life up to that point, with all of the blessings, talents, and gifts that God had given her, she had wasted them all on herself. If she had died at that moment, Leah knew that she would have nothing to offer Christ.

She came back to reality when the photographer said, “Leah, Leah, are you OK?” She shook her head and said, “No, I can’t.” He said, “Ok, we can go over here.” And she said, “No, I can’t .”  She ran back to the makeup counter, changed back into her own clothes, and ran down 5th Avenue, balling her eyes out, afraid that she might be losing her mind.

She called her dad and said, “Dad, if you don’t come get me I am going to lose my soul.” Dad drove across the country to New York, and when he arrived she wanted to leave town, but he said he couldn’t wait to see the sights; Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Carnegie Deli, “But first we go to confession.” She made a good, tearful confession spanning the ten commandments like she was ordering off the dollar menu: ‘Two number ones, four number twos…’ She came out like a new woman, healed.  Today she goes around telling her story and supporting an organization that promotes modesty in young lades’ dress.

Leah says she was living a very selfish life before her conversion. Perhaps she was confused, as many in our culture, about the nature of true love. In English we use the word love in a broad and ambiguous way.  We say, “I love that TV show. I love the Packers. I love my children. I love my wife. I love God. I love my dog.” But all of these loves are different in kind and degree. When we say, “I love pizza,” or, “I love wine,” it is not really pizza and wine that we love so much as  ourselves.  I love myself, and that’s why I consume pizza or wine. Yet, not all love is easy, warm, and fuzzy. True love is a sacrifice, and often feels that way.

As St. Paul tells us in the first reading, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” And Jesus says in the gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Love how? “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” How did Jesus love us? Through a total gift of self.

Now we know from the Gospels that Jesus’ self-giving wasn’t always a ordeal. It was often joyful. Jesus enjoyed going to weddings, dinner parties, and spending time with His friends. But Jesus’ acts of love were the most powerful and manifest when they were hard, as when He was on the cross.

Self-gifting love powerfully good. Someone can live a life of great fame and wealth, but without self-gift their life will account for nothing.  This is the world of difference we see between George Bailey and Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Difficult self-gifting love is also the most powerful witness. Some theologians have speculated that Jesus could have redeemed in other ways besides the cross. (Perhaps a single cry from the infant God-Man would have been enough if that had been the divine plan.) But Jesus dying for us on the cross communicates a powerful message about His love for us. Jesus said, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The way we love should be a witness, it should make us stand out.

Earth is a training ground. Our life here on Earth is training for Heaven. In Heaven, self-gifting is the rule and the norm. If that’s not the sort of thing we are interested in, there will be no place for us to be at home in heaven–and there is only one other place for us to go forever. In today’s second reading, Heaven is seen “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” It is a revealing description, for spousal relationship prepares us for the life of Heaven.

We are all called to marriage and parenthood, either natural or spiritual. Some are called to live single lives, to enter religious life, or be ordained, in a fruitful spousal relationship with Christ and/or His Church. Others are called to natural marriage and to fruitfulness seen in their spousal love and its natural or spirital children.

Self-gift is the life of marriage. What if there is a priest who does not pray, who does not serve, but who seeks only his own comfort? Such a priest will eventually leave his priesthood. So it is with a natural marriage. If one spouse seeks just their own pleasure, their marriage will seem empty. But if both spouses seek to make a self-gift to the other, they will both be satisfied. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all thing will be added on to you.” If we go for self-gratification, even that escapes us, but if we focus on self-gift, satisfaction comes as well. This is the reason for the Catholic tradition of a crucifix hanging over a husband and wife’s bed.

Jesus has given us a new commandment: love one another. As He has loved us we should love one another. Such love is powerful. It should make us stand out as disciples of Christ. And it prepares us for the life of Heaven, where self-gift is rule.

Leah Darrow Interview on the Drew Mariani Catholic radio show (4/30/10)

Leah Darrow Talk to a Boston Catholic Women’s Conference (2/27/10)

The Apostles’ Charge — Thursday, 2nd Week of Easter

April 16, 2010

 The high priest Caiaphas had once remarked to the Sanhedrin during the time of Jesus’ ministry:

“You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. (John 11:49-52)

The high priest, whom many Jews believed possessed the gift of prophesy, here spoke words truer than he realized. A similar episode happens in today’s first reading:

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

With their teaching, the apostles have indeed filled Jerusalem, the true and heavenly Jerusalem, with the souls of the saints. And the apostles did want to bring Jesus’ blood upon those who questioned them, for the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin. In his revelation, St. John “saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev 21:2) “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14)

The Sanhedrin commanded the apostles to stop proclaiming Jesus, but the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men,” for as John’s Gospel says, “whoever disobeys the Son will not see life.” The Gospel teaches, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” But who truly believes and shall be saved?  Who disobeys and shall be condemned? Thankfully, this final judgment is not ours to decide, but our mission from Jesus is clear. Like the apostles, with Jesus’ teachings we are to fill the heavenly Jerusalem  and bring Christ’s saving blood upon all people.

When Towers Fall — 3rd Sunday in Lent—Year C

March 7, 2010

When disasters happen, like the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, some Christian observers respond according to two opposite extremes. One reaction says that a truly just God would never let the innocent die along side the guilty; therefore, all of the victims must have been punished for their sins and got what they had coming to them. The opposite reaction says that a truly loving God would never punish our sins; therefore, all of the victims must have been innocent.

The truth is more complicated than either of these simple and pat explanations. Our God is both perfectly loving and perfectly just. In this world the wheat grows side by side with the weeds. At harvest time, the two are uprooted together, but their eternal fates are not the same. We see that the truth is more complex than some assume by looking at the gospels.

One day Jesus and His disciples observed a man blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus smeared clay in man’s eyes and told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. The innocent man washed and returned able to see.

Yet, on another occasion (in the same Gospel of John) Jesus saw a man lying on the ground who had been ill for thirty-eight years. Jesus miraculously cured this man too, but finding him later Jesus said to the man, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” In this case, it appears that the man’s sin was connected to the cause of his sufferings.

We need to remember that people who suffer and die are not always guilty. On the other hand, people are not always innocent either. Discerning the truth behind why this or that evil befell this or that person or place usually lies well beyond our own limited vision.

For instance, the friends of Job insisted with all confidence that Job’s sufferings must be due to some great sin he had committed.  However, Job stood firm on his innocence, and he truly was as righteousness he claimed. Great sufferings and even violent death are no certain indication of a person’s sinfulness, that “they had it coming.” Just look at our holy and beloved saints:

  • St. John the Baptist was murdered in his 30’s, and St. Paul in his 60’s—they were both beheaded.
  • St. Peter was murdered too, crucified upside down, and of all the apostles, only St. John died of old age.
  • St. Joan of Arc, age 19, was murdered with fire.
  • St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina Kowalska both died of tuberculosis, at ages 24 and 33.
  • St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Edith Stein were murdered by the Nazi’s in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
  • More recently, before our eyes, John Paul the Great suffered greatly and died of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Even the Blessed Virgin Mary, as perfectly innocent as she was, shared as a mystic and a mother in suffering the passion and death of her Son.

The innocent who suffer live and die in the likeness of Jesus Christ are promised a heavenly reward like His.

So from where do earthquakes and other natural disasters come? In the beginning of time, some of the angels and all of humanity rebelled against God and we rejected our proper places within His creation. This Fall introduced disharmony into our (now) mortal bodies and into the entire natural world. Since that time, Christ has come and in perfect obedience to our Father, died, rose, and has enabled us to be reconciled with God. However, the disharmony of nature remains and we remain free to choose to rebel against our God.

If rebel in sin, we should not be surprised if bad things happen as a result. Usually in this world, we are punished through our sins, more so than for them. For example, someone who neglects prayer and Sunday worship should expect that they will feel disconnected from God. Someone who abuses drugs or alcohol, will see the harmful consequences it brings to their relationships and at school or at work. Someone who covets their neighbors’ spouse and possessions will become sickly green with lust and envy. Add up the sum total of an entire peoples’ sins and you can easily see how an empire or a great nation can decline and decay over time.

God hates our sins, but not merely because they “break His rules.” God hates our sins in proportion to how harmful they are to us. If sins were not bad for us, then God would not command us not to do these things. God hates our sins because He loves us; these are two sides of the same coin.

So what should we do when we witness disaster strike half a world away or in our own community? We should pray for the dead and give our aid to those who live on. Christ calls us to give our compassion, love, spiritual support, and material aid to those who need it. And as for ourselves, such disasters should lead us to convert and reform our lives. Death can come suddenly to any of us. A car crash or a heart attack could take any of us tomorrow placing us unexpected before the judgment seat of God. Let us take such opportunities to prepare ourselves for that day which will come to us all.

What if is not instant death, but a more prolonged evil that comes to me? For instance, what if I go to the doctor and receive a terrible diagnosis?  When such a day comes for me, I hope that I may remember the tree from today’s Gospel, which the gardener worked and fertilized in hopes that it would bear much fruit. If I, like that tree, will humbly accept the manure that comes to me, then it will be a source of great fruitfulness to me.

Could an evil such as this be a correction or a chastisement from God on account of my sins? Possibly, but if I’m not aware of any serious unconfessed sins on my conscience, then probably not. More likely, Jesus is giving me the opportunity to following in His footsteps, to have a share in His cross like the holy saints who came before me. If we accept our crosses with humility, then they can become the means of our sanctification in the likeness of Christ and a source for spiritual fruitfulness for ourselves and the entire world.