The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Monday, May 28, 2007

May 27, 2007 - Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2, 1-11; Psalm 104; 1 Cor 12, 3-7. 12-13; John 20, 19-23

The story is told of Napoleon Bonaparte boasting to a Vatican cardinal that he would destroy the Church. The cardinal insouciantly replied to the perplexed emperor, "Good luck, Your Majesty. We, priests have been attempting to do just that for centuries."

In effect, the bishop was doffing his scarlet biretta in salute to the Holy Spirit. That Spirit dwells comfortably and sometimes, I suspect, very uncomfortably within the Church. Try what anyone might; the Church will not go away precisely because the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is on the job around the clock. Napoleon thought the prelate was pulling his imperial leg. He took on the Church. He was rudely dethroned. The Church survived. The former emperor wound up beating off mosquitoes as a full-time occupation on the damp island of Saint Helena somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

Without the Holy Spirit, the Church would be, at best, a third rate operation or, perhaps better, a non-operation. But with the Spirit, the Church is today able to survive its many difficulties.

With the Holy Spirit the Church survived the centuries of persecution, the attempts of Napoleon and French Revolution, the efforts of the Mexican and Spain’s revolutions, the communistic domination in Russia and East European countries. With the Holy Spirit at work the church survived the diabolic attempts during the Second World War, and is still surviving the most atrocious persecutions in Communistic China. The Holy Spirit is at work in the Lord’s Church, but He is also, or at least should be, at work in us.

A brilliant man, a man of education, with Doctorate Degrees and honors from most major universities, took a sabbatical. He decided to devote as much time as it would take, one year, two years or more, and learn all he could about Jesus. He studied ancient Greek and ancient Hebrew and Aramaic so he could read the earliest texts about Jesus. He studied Ignatius, Justin, Augustine, Aquinas, and all the famous theologians of past centuries, always focusing on learning about Jesus. He read the works of modern theologians. He took courses in various foreign languages so he could understand theologians in their original language.

After studying and studying he wrote his own book about Jesus. It was an instant- success, not just in the academic circles, but in every Christian and even non-Christian Church. The man, the esteemed professor, was called upon to give talks about Jesus to all sorts of different groups, from seminarians to atheists. His lectures always ended with a question and answer period. Usually, there was no one in the audience who could ask a question that the brilliant man had not been asked before or for which he did not have an answer at the tip of his tongue.

No one, until an elderly man raised his hand after one lecture. The old man asked: “How is it that someone who has studied as much as you, has learned so little?”

What? What type of an arrogant simpleton would dare question the great scholar, the great professor? After the commotion settled down, the scholar responded, “I am sure that I have much more to learn about Jesus, but why do you feel that I have learned so little?” He had the old man. At least until the man said, “You have Jesus in your head, but you do not have him in your heart.”

Knowledge of Christ comes from the head, but knowing Christ comes from the heart. His Spirit must be within us. We have to give Him permission to work in us, to operate in our hearts. Otherwise we will not know our Lord and Redeemer.

And this is the great gift of Pentecost, the solemnity we celebrate today. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to us so that we don’t just know about the Lord, but that we know the Lord.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Acts of the Apostles 1:1–11; Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:1923; Luke 24:46–53

No back-up plan
Jesus gave to his followers the task of completing his work by sharing the Good News with the rest of the world.

There’s an ancient legend about the ascension of Jesus into heaven. According to the legend, when Jesus reached heaven, his body still showed the wounds of his crucifixion. His hands and feet still bore the prints from the nails. His side bore the mark from the spear. His back bore the stripes from the whip, and his head bore the wounds from the thorns. When the people in heaven saw these marks, they fell on their knees before Jesus.

They were astounded to see how much he had suffered. Then the angel Gabriel rose up and said to Jesus:
“Lord, how greatly you suffered on earth! Do all the people on earth know and appreciate how much you went through for them and how much you love them?’’
Jesus replied: “Oh, no! Only a handful of people in Palestine know that. The rest haven’t even heard of me. They don’t know who I am. They don’t know how much I suffered, and how much I love them.’’

Gabriel was shocked to hear this. Then he said to Jesus: “How will all the rest of the people on earth ever learn about your suffering and your love?’’

Jesus said: “Just before I left, I told Peter, James, and John, and a few of their friends, to tell the rest of the world for me. “They’ll tell as many people as they can. Those people, in turn, will tell other people. In that way, the whole world will eventually learn about my love for them.’’

Gabriel looked even more confused now. He knew how fickle people are. He knew how forgetful they are. He knew how prone to doubt they are. So he turned to Jesus and said: “But, Lord, what if Peter, James, and John grow tired or frustrated? What if they forget about you? What if they begin to have doubts about you? “And even if none of these things happen, what if the people they tell become frustrated? What if they forget? What if they begin to have doubts about you? “Didn’t you take these things into account? Don’t you have a back-up plan—just in case?’’

Jesus answered: “I did take all these things into account, but I decided against a back-up plan. This is the only plan I have. “I’m counting on Peter, James, and John not to let me down. I’m counting on the people they tell not to let me down.’’

Twenty centuries later, Jesus still has no other plan. He counted on Peter, James, and John, and they didn’t let him down. He counted on the people they told, and they didn’t let him down. And now Jesus counts on us.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

6 Easter Sunday – 13.05. 2007 Mother's Day
Acts 15, 1-2. 22-29; Psalm 67; Revelation 21, 10-14. 22-23; St. John 14,23-29

I begin by wishing the mothers here present a Happy Mother's Day. I am offering this Mass for our mothers, whether they are present with us or far away, whether they are living or deceased. Today is a beautiful day to remember our mothers and to pray for them.

When Jesus says, in today's gospel, “Whoever loves me will keep my word,” he wishes to remind us that, though it is easy to say that we love Him, it is far more difficult to love others for his sake. A few lines further in the next chapter Jesus specifies more precisely: “If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. And this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15,10.12)

It is very easy to talk about love of God, it is not even very difficult to participate quite regularly in Sunday Masses, but it is much more difficult to keep God’s commandments in our daily lives. Maybe it is necessary to ask, first at all, a more basic question: “Do I know the commandments? How do I understand them? Did I not create my own easy understanding of the word of God?” In today's Catholicism we very often accept God, we profess His love towards us, but at the same time –contradictorily (or "in contradiction") - we reject His commandments or we create our own easy interpretation of them. In this way we create our own, private religion, or mild version of the moral law, and so, finally, we worship not God, but idols who are compassionate and kind enough not to ask too much from us, not to overdo requirements and restrictions especially those affecting our private lives.

It is very easy to talk about love of God, but it is much more difficult to love others (be it a wife, a husband, a fiancé, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a neighbor, companions at work) like Jesus loves them (á la manière de Jésus). When we talk about love, we very often think in terms of sexual love. Is this the same as what Jesus is commanding us in today’s Gospel?

In "My Fair Lady" Eliza Doolittle tells Professor Higgins, "Don't talk about love - show me!" This is the same idea we can find in the latest Encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI “Deus Caritas est”, but this love we have to show is certainly not the same as that of pop songs.

Once Francis of Assisi, chanced upon a woman who told him she did not love God. She had no intention of ever obeying Him, because God is too demanding. As he and she walked along together, they passed a man who was both blind and crippled. Francis asked him, "Were I to give you sight and enable you to walk, what would your response be?" As you might imagine, the man said eagerly, "I would both love you and be your servant forever." Il Poverello turned to the woman and quietly queried, "You just heard him. He would both love me and obey me. Why then do you not cherish and obey the Almighty who has so generously allowed you to both see as well as run if you choose?"

God does ask us the same question every day. "Why do you not both love and obey me? Consider all I have given you all your life." On the face of it, there is no one of us who can be offended by the question.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Fifth Sunday of Easter – C – April 06, 2007

Acts 14, 21-27; Psalm 145; Revelation 21, 1-5; St. John 13, 31-33. 34-35

In 1976 a car accident tore open the head of a 21-year-old Chicago boy named Peter. His brain was damaged and he was thrown into a deep coma. Doctors told Peter’s family and friends that he probably wouldn’t survive. Even if he did, he’d always be in a comatose state. One of the people who heard that frightening news was Linda, the girl Peter planned to marry. In the sad days ahead, Linda spent all her spare time in the hospital. Night after night, she’d sit at Peter’s bedside, pat his cheek, rub his brow, and talk to him. “It was like we were on a normal date,’’ she said. All the while Peter remained in a coma, unresponsive to Linda’s loving presence. Night after night, for three and a half months, Linda sat at Peter’s bedside, speaking words of encouragement to him, even though he gave no sign that he heard her. Then one night Linda saw Peter’s toe move. A few nights later she saw his eyelash flutter. This was all she needed. Against the advice of the doctors, she quit her job and became his constant companion. She spent hours massaging his arms and legs. Eventually she arranged to take him home. She spent all her savings on a swimming pool, hoping that the sun and the water would restore life to Peter’s motionless limbs.

Then came the day when Peter spoke his first word since the accident. It was only a grunt, but Linda understood it. Gradually, with Linda’s help, those grunts turned into words—clear words. Finally the day came when Peter was able to ask Linda’s father if he could marry her. Linda’s father said, “When you can walk down the aisle, Peter, she’ll be yours.’’ Two years later Peter walked down the aisle of Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Chicago. He had to use a walker, but he was walking. Every television station in Chicago covered that wedding. Newspapers across the country carried pictures of Linda and Peter. Celebrities phoned to congratulate them. People from as far away as Australia sent them letters and presents. Families with loved ones in comas called to ask their advice. Today, Peter is living a normal life. He talks slowly, but clearly. He walks slowly, but without a walker. He and Linda even have a lovely child.

The story of Linda and Peter is a beautiful commentary on the words of Jesus in today’s gospel:

“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.” John 13:34–35

If there’s one thing we need to do today, it’s to rediscover the power of love, the kind of love that Jesus preached.
Because, just love and faith are able to do miracles in our lives.

A Hindu in India once said to a Christian missionary:

“If you Christians . . . were like your Bible and loved the way it says to love, you’d convert India in five years.’’

And –perhaps- we need to keep in mind some important truths about people and love Jesus is commanding us:

• No one needs love more than someone who doesn’t deserve it.
• If we sit around and wait for people to become lovable before we love them, we will sit around the rest of our lives and even till the end of world.
• It is precisely in the process of loving others that they become lovable.

And one more thing to keep in mind: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him, may not perish, but have eternal life.” In today’s reading from the book of Revelation we read: “Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. And the One who sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:5a) and in the Gospel Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34) We can add with a certainty: The new heaven and the new earth will not come, will not be present among us until this new commandment will be realized in our lives.