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

Monday, July 30, 2007

28-29, July 2007 - 17 SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

God gives us bread, not stones. What are we giving to our brothers and sisters?

Lord Jesus, you teach us how to pray. Lord, have mercy,
Christ Jesus, you intercede with the Father, Christ have mercy,
Lord Jesus, you remember your people, . Lord, have mercy,

May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and brig us to everlasting life. Amen.

- Jesus thought us how to pray, asking his Father for our daily needs. S let us pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

- Father of mercy, you are always quick to forgive. Help us to desire the good and guide us to seek the truth. We ask you this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Genesis 18:20-32; Colossians 2:12-24; Luke 11:1-13

For centuries now we have been reciting the Lord's Prayer (in Matthew's version). We do so before Communion at every Eucharist and, for instance, when we say the Rosary and maybe many times a day.
"Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil."

Let us make a very short analysis of some important words of this prayer:

- Our Father … - do I recognize that I am not saying my Father, but our!!! This prayer is never my private encounter with God. Our Father is a prayer going against the iPod generation, is using our and not I. I cannot say `our' if I live only for myself.

- who art in heaven, - am I aware that my final destination is there "in heaven" and not here? Why, am I so strongly attached to this, earthly reality? I cannot say `who art in heaven' if I am not laying up some treasure there right now.

- hallowed be thy name - is the name of God sanctified also in my life, in my actions, in my words? I cannot say `Hallowed be thy name' if I am careless with that name.

- Thy kingdom come - what do I do in my life to facilitate the coming of the God's kingdom into this world? Or maybe I am rather constructing my private kingdom? I cannot say `Thy kingdom come' if I am not working to actualize it in the here and now.
- Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven - it is very easy to say "thy will be done" especially when the will of God is going along with my will. And when it is against my will … I am claiming rather my rights … I cannot say `Thy will be done' if I am resentful of that will for me at this moment. I cannot say `on earth as it is in heaven' if I don't look on heaven as my future home.

- give us this day our daily bread - and don't give me too much, because the material comfort is making me blind for the needs of the others and I forget that here, there are two small words "give us" - not give me, and "our bread" - not my bread. I cannot say `Give us our daily bread' if I am overanxious about tomorrow.

- and forgive us our trespasses - o yes, forgive us because without your Mercy we are in a disaster
- as we forgive those who trespass against us - God, with this don't be too serious because if you forgive us only according to our measures we will be totally lost. So … teach e rather how to forgive the others, I cannot say `Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us' if I am waiting to settle a score with someone.

- and lead us not into temptation - even if something seems to me very attractive and very pretty, even if it is for me so dear and so important … it is only for me and only in my eyes, and could b only a temptation, I cannot say `Lead us not into temptation' if I deliberately put myself in a place to be tempted.
- but deliver us from evil - the real freedom from evil is the knowledge of the ultimate true and wisdom, so give us the wisdom in all we are doing, and let us know the liberating true.

Jesus -teaching his disciples the prayer "Our Father"- didn't intend to give them a kind of automatic formula for mechanical recitation. We have to deepen our reflection and understanding of this prayer.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

July 22, 2007 Sixteenth Sunday of the year C

Genesis 18:1-10; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42
The well known Benedictine motto is: Ora et labora, pray and work.

A Benedictine monk was transporting people from one side of the river to the other. On his oars he had written pious inscriptions: on one “ora” - pray, on the other one “labora” – work. One day an atheist came asking for a ride to the other side of the river. Seeing the inscription on the oars he started to challenge and contest the word “ora” – pray, asking: “What is the need to pray? That is stupid and useless; it’s a wasting of time and energy."
The boat was in the middle of the river, so the monk broke the oar with the inscription ora/pray, and the second one with the inscription labora/work he gave to the atheist telling him: “Now, try to paddle the boat towards the shore." We can imagine what happened. Is it not the same in our lives? Have we forgotten that our lives also have two paddles … ora et labora?

Do we live a balanced life? Do we live the life of balance between hearing and doing, praying and serving, calm quiet and purposeful activity.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2007 - Cycle C

Introduction: With the example of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches us to recognize our neighbor in need.

Penitential rite:
Lord Jesus, whoever sees you sees the Father, Lord, have mercy
Christ Jesus, you are the first and the last, Lord, have mercy
Lord Jesus, you are the vine that bears fruit. Lord, have mercy
May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and brig us to everlasting life. Amen.

FIRST READING - Deuteronomy 30:10-14 Moses said to the people: "If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul. "For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, 'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."

SECOND READING - Colossians 1:15-20 Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

GOSPEL Cycle C - Luke 10:25-37 There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He said in reply, You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.' Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?" He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."


Why didn’t I turn?” A woman was standing on a curb, waiting for the light to say WALK so that she could cross the street. Directly across from her on the opposite curb was a girl of about 17. She too was waiting for the light to say WALK so that she could cross the street. The woman couldn’t help but notice that the girl was crying. In fact, her grief was so great that she made no effort to hide it. For a moment their eyes met. It was only a fleeting glance, but it was enough for the woman to see the terrible pain that filled the girl’s eyes. Then the girl looked away. At that moment the light changed. Each stepped off the curb into the street and started across. As the girl approached, the woman could see that she was quite pretty, except for that terrible grief in her face. Just as they were about to meet, the woman’s motherly instincts came rushing to the surface. Every part of her wanted to reach out and comfort that girl. The desire was all the more great because the girl was about the same age as one of her own daughters. But the woman passed her by. She didn’t even greet her. She just passed her by. Hours later the pain-filled eyes of that girl continued to haunt the woman. Over and over the woman said to herself, “Why didn’t I turn, fall in step with her, and say, ‘Honey, can I help?’ But I didn’t. I walked on by. Sure, she might have rejected me and thought me a nosey person. But, so what! “Only a few seconds would have been lost, but those few seconds would have been enough to let her know that someone cared. But, instead, I walked on by. I acted as if she didn’t even exist.’’

Who is my neighbor? The Letter of James says, "faith without good works is dead". Today's Gospel story is a case in point. It is one of the most famous stories told by Jesus. There are four people. There is a priest, who is a Jew and, besides, a man of deep religious convictions. There is a Levite, also a Jew, and also a religious person and a member of the priestly caste. There is a Samaritan, whom we only know as some kind of merchant. We know nothing about his religious convictions (although in those days a totally non-religious person would be rare); it seems that his religious faith is irrelevant to the story. Finally, there is a fourth person lying severely injured on the road. Who is this person? What was he by profession? We think of him mostly likely as another Jew, otherwise the point of the other Jews passing by loses some of its force. But he could have been a Samaritan, or another priest, or another Levite, or someone else altogether... As far as the story goes, it is totally irrelevant what labels could be attached to him. The only thing that matters is that here is a human person who is deeply in need of help. In such a situation, the response to be given is perfectly clear. Forget about your own ambitions, or what other people will think about you. Forget about your personal desires and fears which lock you into a kind of prison.

Forget about your "religious" obligations. Were the priest and the Levite on the way to the Temple in Jerusalem? If so, they could not risk coming in physical contact with the injured man if, as was most likely, he was bleeding. Contact with blood would have rendered them "unclean" and prevented them from carrying out their Temple obligations. "I know you have broken your leg and need an ambulance but, sorry, I will be late for Mass. But if you are still here when I get back..."

Forget about the moral condition of the person to be helped. It is again totally irrelevant to the story how the injured man got into this situation. He may have been quite stupid to be traveling alone along a road that was notorious for robberies and hijackings. He might even have been a highwayman who had been beaten up by those he intended to rob!

For Jesus, in telling this story, none of these considerations mattered. What did matter was that this injured man now had a higher priority than the concerns of the other three. But only one of the three others - and he was a despised, non-believing outsider - responded to the injured man's immediate and urgent need. Yet one is given the impression that the Samaritan was the one most likely to be in a hurry. However, not only did he break his journey to apply first aid, he even went out of his way to bring the man to a hostelry where he could rest and recover. He paid the expenses as well.

Today's story has very practical implications. And, once again, let us remind ourselves that Jesus is not giving a "religious" teaching for an elite minority. He is telling all of us how to be truly human. It is the way all people are called to behave towards each other. As the First Reading puts it, this Law is "not in heaven... nor is it beyond the seas" outside our reach. No, "it is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance". In other words, Jesus is calling us, not to be some kind of unnatural super-being, but to be true to the deepest convictions of our own nature.

‘It’s none of my business.’ Some years ago, a magazine carried an article. It was entitled “Why Should I Get Involved?”

One day the journalist boarded a subway train. Inside the car, a young man about 18 was holding the center post. Across from him sat a young woman. At 50th Street the train slowed to a stop. The young woman headed for the door. Suddenly she began hitting the boy and screaming, “You fresh punk!” The astonished boy threw up his arms in defense. In doing so, he must have hit her face, because her mouth began bleeding. She shouted, “Police! Police!”. In panic the boy ran from the car. The girl ran after him, still shouting.

The journalist sat stunned. He had witnessed the whole thing. The boy had done nothing. The girl had falsely accused him. At that point, The journalist wondered what would happen if the boy got caught. When The journalist got to his office, he couldn’t get the incident out of his mind. Finally, he picked up the phone and called the nearest precinct.

The boy had been caught and sent downtown to Juvenile Court. He was told that the boy’s name was Steve and that a lawyer named Fleary would be representing him.

The following Monday, the journalist showed up for the court case. The lawyer briefed him. There was bad news. A few years back the boy had been picked up with some other boys on suspicion of stealing a car, but he had not been charged. When the judge began questioning the girl, the journalist couldn’t believe the things she was saying. At that point the judge asked her to be specific, because a witness to the incident was present. When the girl heard this, she grew nervous, fumbled for words, and began contradicting herself. The judge stopped and called both lawyers forward. He huddled with them, and they nodded in total agreement.

The judge dismissed the case. The girl was apparently sick and needed psychiatric help. Overwhelmed with gratitude, the boy grasped the journalist’s hand, too choked to speak. On his way home, the journalist thought to himself, “How close I came not to get involved, thinking, ‘It’s none of my business.’”

Challenging idea of Pope Benedict XVI

In his book “Jesus of Nazareth” the Pope Benedict proposes another, more contemporary application of the parable of the good Samaritan. He sees the entire continent of Africa symbolized in the unfortunate man who has been robbed, wounded, and left for dead on the side of the road, and he sees in us, members of the rich countries of the northern hemisphere, the two people who pass by if not precisely the brigands themselves.

We cannot say, “it’s non of my business

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” – Mt 25,40&45

- With confidence, we turn to God with the needs of the world, to God who hear the cry of the poorest.
- Saving God, your mercy heals the wounds of the world. Hear and answer the prayers we offer in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C

Isaiah 66: 10-14c; Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6: 14-18; St. Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

The passage in today’s Gospel is advice to the early Christian followers of Jesus that they are to travel light and keep a distance between themselves and their material possessions. Disciples travel light, totally dependent on other people for even their basic needs, they are sent in pairs and rely on the hospitality of people based on who will accept or not accept their message.

It is undoubtedly based on advice Jesus gave his followers during his public life when he sent them forth to prepare the way in the towns and cities he was planning to visit. It was not meant to be taken literally in an unrealistic way, but it was not meant to be dismissed as rhetoric either. Jesus and his companions had a treasury, we know, because Judas the treasurer was a thief and stole from it. The apostles appointed deacons to handle administration so the advice Jesus is giving his disciples today is not a ridiculous utopia. However the church today having enormous goods at its disposal, which generally are used well, is quite far from the ideal proposed by its Founder. There is a terrible danger that financial administration will be confused with religious leadership and pastoral accomplishment. There is a danger that our churches become rather the spiritual factories or religious industrial units where external accomplishment will be confused with the true and ultimate spiritual good. Jesus tries to warn us against this misunderstanding.

When we read this Gospel about Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples we naturally think also about vocations to the priesthood and religious life and I feel that this is particularly relevant to us. We are living in a society where material resources and economical planning are so essential and indispensable to daily life and to successful progress that we don’t believe that church will be able to survive without careful financial planning and scheduling. Many people listening to today’s teaching of Christ will simply smile with irony and perhaps even mockery or sarcasm. Who will be able to follow the poor and humble Christ of today’s Gospel when everybody is worried about financial arrangements and planning?

Maybe for these reasons we must realize that this problem of the shortage of vocations is mostly a “Western countries problem” and that it is primarily something for us to solve.

We can look for what we might call an external solution to this problem of vocations believing that if clerical celibacy was dropped or if the church admitted women to the priesthood the problem then would be solved. But if we do think that, then I think we are deluding ourselves.

It is known that other Christian communities who dropped the clerical celibacy and admitted women to the priesthood didn’t solve the problem at all, on the contrary they are experiencing not only the shortage of vocations, but what is more significant, they are losing their members as well. So, the solution is certainly not there.

I would like to suggest that the question of vocations is a question of faith. A vocation is not merely a matter of one person hearing God’s call and deciding of his own volition to answer that call. A vocation occurs within the community of faith, within the community which understands that the material and financial commodities are not the most important in the “preaching of God’s Kingdom”.

Make no mistake about it, God is calling people to the priesthood and to the religious life, but he is calling them through the words and actions of you and me. And He is calling them in our families and our communities. So let us not be timid, but let us share our faith with one another, let us pray for vocations and create the kind of atmosphere most conducive to the answering of that great call. Let us change our minds and try to see that what is essential to the church is not money, not in economical planning and not in good business administration.

Now we can ask ourselves, "How good are we as disciples ? Don’t we have burdens that weigh us down? Do our lives contradict our talk about Christ?" Let us leave the excess baggage … it’s making your journey an impossible one.

Monday, July 02, 2007

June 30 – July 01 2007 - 13 Sunday - Ordinary Time C

1 Kings 19: 16b, 19-21; Psalm 16: 1-2,5; Galatians 5: 1, 13-18; Luke 9: 51-62

It’s a challenging gospel today. Jesus says "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head," tells the disciple lets "the dead bury the dead" and never look back. It sounds harsh. But, only once we try it. Put God first in our lives, be loving, help others, and life gets very good. In fact, we step right into the kingdom of God.

For some people commitment and freedom seem quite incompatible. Yet today's readings call for total commitment lived in total freedom. Total commitment is impossible without total freedom. Today's Mass speaks of what it means to be fully a disciple of Jesus. This is much, much more than just being what is often understood as a "good Catholic".

A number of people express a desire to join Jesus. Obviously - like many of us - they do not fully understand precisely what it really means. We can benefit from looking at these three people because one or more of them represents me. I am also very often ready to join Jesus but “on my conditions” according to my vision and my understanding.

The first one courageously and generously says to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go." He has a lot of enthusiasm but may not be aware of the realities facing him. Jesus pulls him up short. Even the wild animals have a place to live, he tells the man, but the "Son of Man" has nowhere to call his own. He has no house, no property, and no money.

One needs to be aware of what is expected of a disciple. One must be ready to let go of people and things, of all strings and attachments, of all external securities and props. Am I ready for this? Or do I set up my securities first and then, carrying them with me, decide to follow him?

Saying: “let the dead bury the dead" Jesus, of course, is not saying that we should not love and respect members of our family. But he is asking where our priorities in life really are. He is saying that, if we wish to be his disciple, we cannot make our own arrangements first and then, only when we are ready, go and follow him. The demands of the Kingdom, truth, justice, freedom and peace which we are called to build, come first of all.

How many of us first plan our careers carefully and only then ask how we can be good Christians, when it obviously should be the other way round?

Benedict XVI in his recent book "Jesus of Nazareth" comments on the theme of family relations alluded to in the above Gospel passage and offers a more profound and illuminating answer to this objection, an objection of many Christian readers of the Gospel. He takes his point of departure from something else Jesus says. "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? ... Whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:48-50).

Jesus does not thereby abolish the natural family, but reveals a new family in which God is father, and men and women are all brothers and sisters thanks to a common faith in him, the Christ.

Somebody said: "Only God can demand of me what Jesus asks." And this is true. Only if I believe that Jesus Christ is God, I will be able to follow His commandments.

If a Christian does not believe that Jesus acts with the authority of God Himself and is himself God, then those, who refuse to follow Jesus, have a more coherent position than the Christians who seem to accept Christ, but don’t follow Him. One cannot accept Jesus' teaching if one does not accept his person with all the consequences of this decision.

To believe Jesus Christ means: “It's All or Nothing.”. He expects from his disciples “an unconditional 'Yes'”, because He “invested” all in our salvation.

The type of disciples that Jesus Christ is looking for is illustrated in a story told by a preacher. The Church was undergoing persecution in a certain country. The Catholics of one village gathered together for the Eucharist in their church. Suddenly their door loudly burst open. Standing before them was a soldier menacingly brandishing a machine gun. He shouted, "If you do not really believe in your Christ, get out immediately to save your lives." A number of people slinked out one by one. The soldier kicked the door after them. Then he said to those remaining, "I too believe in Jesus. We are better off without those people."