Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’
The past few days the LORD has been testing my own perseverance in faith. God has been ‘breaking into” my own day-to-day experience lately to help me see where conversion is most needed in my life. The grace in this is being able to see with greater clarity where God is calling me to greater charity.
This morning I awoke with a strong realization that our life is a result of God’s enduring love, expressed most beautifully and completely in the mercy He so readily extends us through his Son, Jesus Christ. As every morning begins, I made a brief stop this morning in the chapel to visit the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. Again, there was a deep sense of the Lord revealing his mercy.
I was in a hurry this morning to catch a plane, but made time for prayer. As I began praying the Liturgy of Hours, I could tell I was a bit distracted by being ‘rushed’ to start the day earlier than usual. I took a moment again to look to the Blessed Sacrament, and was quickly reminded, the Lord is the REALITY around which everything else revolves. The hurried start to this day had a feel to it that said: “I’m making time for you, LORD, in the busi-ness of this day.”
I was quickly reminded that the Lord does not revolve around me or the many activities of my day. Rather, the proper order is that I and all my activities revolve around the Lord. This realization of true Reality immediately put me at peace, and allowed me to return to prayer with a proper focus that could truly nourish my heart and soul in order to bring the Lord into (hopefully) all else that I will do today.
How perhaps are each of us called to recognize that our life is a gift from God? God is the Origin and final Goal of every human life and journey. How does my day-to-day routine reflect this Reality and incorporate a proper effort to cooperate with it? Do I see my life ‘ordered to God,’ or do I rather simply try to squeeze in time for God each day, once a week, something less?
Lord, help us live according to your way and will. Help us to live in relationship with you in all that we do. Help us to live life fully for you in every thought, word and deed. Help us to love and serve you in every person we meet. Help us make room for you in our homes, work and society. Give us the eyes to see that you are the sole desire of my soul. May the reality of our day revolve around the REALITY that is You.
Tomorrow, Saturday, September 7 the world community is invited to join Pope Francis in a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria. Visit these links for more information: Our Sunday Visitor Center for Ministry Development USCCB and for Young Adults: Bustedhalo
In the Diocese of Cheyenne, I have asked our pastors to consider designating some time in their local parishes for adoration and prayer. For certain, I can announce that there will be time at our Cathedral in Cheyenne and at Our Lady of Fatima in Casper for their local communities.
Our Lady of Fatima in Casper will host Adoration following the 9:00am Mass until 5:00pm. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available from 3:30 – 5:00. I will be present in prayer at Our Lady of Fatima from 4:00 – 5:00.
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cheyenne will host a Holy Hour following the Saturday evening Mass from 6:15pm – 7:15pm.
If you can visit a local church for some time of prayer on Saturday, that would be optimal. However, your prayerful presence where ever you find yourself in communion with believers world wide along with your fasting can provide a holy space in this world for the power of God to act on behalf of peace.
God bless you for your faith and goodness!
Saturday, President Obama announced his decision to take military action against Syria. Thankfully, he also announced his decision to seek approval of Congress for such action.
Yesterday, our Holy Father, Pope Francis made a passionate appeal for peace for the people of Syria.
As the people of this nation, we need to do two things (minimally.) First, we would do well to heed Pope Francis’ appeal for prayer and fasting in an effort to secure this seemingly illusive peace in Syria. Second, we have a short window of opportunity to appeal to our national representatives. Please, write, call, email, tweet, facebook… but communicate to our congress a strong and unified voice: No Military Action!
Is the situation in Syria not a truly devastating time for so many innocent people? Is it not heartbreaking to see so many dying? Are not millions now living in sub-human conditions in refugee camps? Will thousands not live with physical handicaps the rest of their lives? Will not thousands more live with psychological scars as a result of the actions of this dictator? Absolutely.
But, is military action of this nation truly going to change that situation? I believe it will have no such desired effect.
We must ask ourselves: ‘What is the good to be advanced by such military action?’ To punish a dictator for the atrocious use of chemical weapons is not a sufficient answer. To send a clear message to other dictators regarding their consideration of using chemical weapons is also inadequate. To justify such action in defense of national security seems self-serving at best.
The good we seek is the cessation of violence and the restoration of order. The good we seek is a safe environment for the millions of civilians to live and put their lives, homes and neighborhoods back together.
The other serious consideration regards unintended outcomes to the use of military weapons in such a politically fragile part of the world. The US has limited if any international support for this military response. How can we not expect unknown and potentially major military responses in retaliation for this planned military strike? How can we say definitively as a nation that our military response in this situation will not further erode the fragile peace that presently exists in the Middle East? How can we not expect that such military action will not further embolden the terrorists already intent on inflicting harm upon this and many other western nations?
Tell our Congress: Work for peace. Work towards true diplomacy. Efforts to promote and defend human dignity and sanctity must apply the same principles of human decency to its actions.
Let us pray that a strong diplomatic effort, not military action, may work towards a resolution to this growing and sad chapter in our human history.
Mary Queen of Peace, Pray for us!
Yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon are another troubling reminder of the challenges our society faces. Thank God this evil deed was quickly met with the courage and kindness of so many first responders as well as bystanders and participants in the race itself. I’m sure all people of good will continue to hold in prayer the victims and their families and all those who have been scarred from witnessing and responding to the results.
These evil acts that so quickly take human life are becoming too much of a regular diet for our nation; for any nation. Boston, Newtown, Aurora just to name a few from the past year. Even though we do not yet know the individual(s) responsible for yesterdays attack nor their motive(s), these series of sins against humanity beg a broader question: How do we regain a proper and abiding respect for human life?
Our understanding of the dignity and sanctity of human life is rooted in our belief that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, and redeemed by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. To strengthen respect for human life is to grant God the honor that is His and His alone. To live by this Truth takes nothing away from anyone. Quite the opposite. To live by faith in God is foundational to a proper understanding of the human person. A proper respect for every human person is foundational to decent society.
A nation that legally allows the taking of life of the unborn has a serious flaw and a huge hurdle to truthfully claim it understands and respects the dignity of the human person. Practices that legally allow people to determine ’ending life’ rather than allowing the Creator to determine issues of life and death reduces our ability to truly respect human life. Other than abortion there are capital punishment and euthanasia (ending life of the elderly or critically ill.)
Even our vast array of ‘entertainment’ is in need of deep reflection in its contribution to this growing lack of respect for the human person. From music, lyrics, tv sitcoms, movies, video games, pornography and I’m sure the list could go on and on, much of what passes for entertainment degrades the human person. The entertainment industry with such gifts and talent at its disposal can do far more for the building up of the human person and the good of decent society.
I pray that each of us take some time to pray for the many victims of violence throughout the world. I pray we as individuals and as a nation also begin to see what can and needs to change in our culture to work for good and build up the human person. May each individual and our leaders be granted the wisdom and the courage to defend life in all its forms. May we work as well to shore up and protect all the human institutions that nurture life, love and respect.
It appears this will be another week of dodging or trudging through snow. Yesterday began in Cheyenne under heavy snowfall. I made it to Wheatland for last night’s confirmation celebration. This morning is beginning the same way here in Wheatland. People are very excited to be receiving such a generous snowfall…and praying it continue for a while.
I believe there were 20 young people confirmed last night. One very heartwarming touch was to see so many high school youth singing in the choir. They did a spendid job. St. Patrick’s was full for the celebration, and the people participated with a lively faith. I am continually amazed to see how God blesses each parish with the people necessary for its ministries. St. Patrick is no different. There are some very talented and generous people here making sure the faith is lived and passed on to the next generation.
The one damper of the evening as we all know was the bombing at yesterday’s Boston Marathon. We continue to pray for those who died, those injured, the many lives touched through each of the victims, the first responders, and finally, that God will foil the plans of any who would bring chaos and terror to our world. May our faith and hope be a source of strength to those most in need.
In her Dialogue, God speaks to St. Catherine: “In so knowing me the soul catches fire with unspeakable love, which in turn brings continual pain.” These words appear in the opening section of St. Catherine of Siena’s The Dialogue. They seem a good starting point for our Lenten journey.
In so knowing me… As the title of the book indicates, The Dialogue is a description of the mystical experiences of St. Catherine in her relationship with God. Thus, the first phrase of our meditation is about coming to know God. Yes, it is possible to know God. We may not have mystical experiences, but God is longing to reveal his love for us.
From the beginning, God created all things in love. He so fell in love with us that he drew us forth from himself, and created us in his image and likeness. (he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 3:4) Even despite the original sin of our first parents and the many sins that followed down through the ages, God continues to love us. He chose in love the people of Israel to be his special people. He sent the Patriarchs, Moses, great Kings and prophets to continually renew his covenant with us. After all of this, he sent his only begotten Son that we might gaze upon the face of God and live. In Jesus, we have the fullness of the new and eternal covenant; the fullness of the law and the prophets. Yes, God longs to reveal himself to us. He has done all things that we may come to know him and love him. He awaits our response, each one individually.
The soul catches fire… For something (someone) to catch fire, it must be brought into contact with the fire or a very powerful source of heat. Likewise, the human heart (soul) must be prepared to receive the fire of God’s love. We do not put green wood on a fire (unless it is all we have to burn.) Wood needs to season in order to be a proper fuel. Lent is like that period of seasoning for our souls. We allow time for silence, which may also include less time exposed to the media and messages of the world around us. We spend time in prayer. We give additional attention to the reception of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and Eucharist. We take on additional practices of charity to ease the pain and suffering of others. We identify sinful behaviors that have crept into our lives and devote careful attention to better understand these practices that we might remove them from our life by the grace of God. We identify virtues that need our attention and effort.
But even if we are like the green wood, if the fire is hot enough, (as is Divine Love) it will boil out any moisture present (selfishness) and consume the fuel that is offered (self-gift.) But we must first freely and willingly offer ourselves to God, and allow the Fire of His Love to transform us. Lent is a time for such conversion.
With unspeakable love… “We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) For our love to grow, we must draw near the source of love, God. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) We come to know God through his Son, Jesus. Our Lenten journey is to be a journey with Christ.
Which in turn brings continual pain. St. Catherine teaches that when one falls in love with God, pain is experienced on two levels; for one’s own sins and the awareness of the sins of those around her (such as the blindness and indifference people show towards God.) God further speaks to St. Catherine “She suffers because she loves me…” The truth of this statement is revealed in the final moments of Christ’s life and ministry upon the cross. Christ loved the Father. In love with the Father, he sought only and always to accomplish the Father’s will. The will of the Father is to redeem humanity and all creation from sin. Thus, in his great love for the Father and for us, Jesus suffered. Jesus suffered the humiliation and pain of the cross to reveal to the world the fullness of God’s mercy, compassion and love.
Jesus speaks to us from the cross: “See how great, how infinite my love is for you.” Finite suffering of a single person could not suffice to make amends for the offenses our sins are to the infinite love of God. Therefore, only the infinite love of Christ can suffice for our redemption. This is why we believe that Christ’s offering on the cross is the new and eternal covenant. Our celebration of the Eucharist is a participation in this one and eternal offering of Christ for the salvation of the world.
And how do we enter into this offering; by interior desire and intention. The beautiful Morning Offering prayer has a great theology that explains this communion with Christ in the Paschal Mystery:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, For the intentions of your Sacred Heart, In union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, In reparation for my sins and for those of my associates, And in particular for the intentions recommended this month by the Holy Father.
The ‘center’ of this prayer is the Mass, the Eucharist, The Paschal Mystery, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each day, particularly during each Mass, we seek to join our interior disposition and intention to Jesus’ intention, which is to accomplish the will of the Father, which is the Redemptive Mission of the Church.
Jesus suffered on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. His suffering was a result of his love for the Father and his love for us. Likewise, our love for God and neighbor is exercised in each and every moment of our day. This point came clearly to mind for me recently regarding the manner in which I fulfill my duties as your bishop. There is a big difference between fulfilling my obligations as a bishop, and fulfilling my duties with love. I can endure the sacrifices entailed in ‘my work’ as a bishop, or I can offer my sufferings through love with Christ as the fulfillment of ‘my ministry’ as the Chief Shepherd of this local portion of the family of God.
The same is true for all of us. As we grow in love with Christ and in our awareness of his infinite love for us, we are then called by the same Christ and sent by him to carry out our unique vocation with great love. The love we are speaking of here is not just any love, but the love we experience from Christ; a “love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
When the love of Christ so fills us and so compels us in all things, then we can say with St. Paul:
“I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:19b-20)
This Lent invites us to stand at the foot of the cross with our Blessed Mother and St. John, where Jesus speaks to us of his love. His wounds are openings into the infinite love of God. His open side reveals the infinite love that flows from his Sacred Heart. From his mouth flows not only wisdom and instruction for life, but the Eternal Word of Life.
This Lent, spend time in the school of the cross. Sit at the feet of the Master Teacher. Allow Jesus teach you a love that ‘endures all things.’ Allow Jesus to draw you into the ‘love that never fails.’
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
Lent is clearly a time to examine our holiness of life. Some have recently asked for greater detail in terms of what exactly holiness entails. In short, holiness is found through our relationship with God. That is why Jesus instructs us “to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) In other words, our holiness exists in God, who is Supreme holiness; Holiness itself.
St. Thomas Aquinas saw holiness as our capacity to receive God. “For nothing is worthy to receive God unless it be pure, according to Psalm 92:5: ‘Holiness becomes your house, O Lord.” (Summa II-II Q. 81) This is why the readings for Ash Wednesday plainly call us back to God. The prophet Joel says: “Return to the Lord, your God.” (2:12-18) St. Paul similarly stated: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
God’s will is that we be holy. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) And God has provided for this high calling through the Incarnation and Redeeming work of Christ. We know this from St. Paul’s teaching: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1: 3-6)
How does one grow in holiness? Basically, growth in holiness occurs in two ways. First, since our holiness is attained through Jesus Christ, we must draw near to him. This is done through prayer, receiving the Sacraments, growing in our knowledge of Sacred Scripture, and practicing charity. Second, and perhaps this needs to be first, we must remove from our day-to-day lives all that is crass. In other words, there are things in our life that can and do block our ability to receive Christ, and thus to be drawn into the very holiness that is God.
Perhaps a practical starting point is to think about the kind of television programming we watch, or the music we listen to, the places we search on the internet, the video games we play, the conversations we have or the mindless thoughts we may entertain. Do these things lift our spirits to God? Do they respect the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life? Or do they leave us feeling empty, mindless, unfulfilled? Good discernment tells us: “do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God.” (1 John 4:1) If of the Holy Spirit, embrace it. If of the counter spirit, (Satan) reject it.
Once you identify a bad or questionable habit, take the risk and eliminate it from your routine for a while. (This is what Lent calls us to do.) Let God show you what a difference it makes when we make more room for him in our lives. I have talked to several people over the years that stopped watching TV during Lent and were amazed after Lent when they began watching TV again, how offended they were by some of the shows they used to watch.
Stated more positively, how much do we allow ourselves to experience beauty in sacred or classical music or art or even the simple beauty of nature? Things that are beautiful naturally lead our heart, soul and mind to God. (Philippians 4: 8) Make a resolution to practice greater charity in just one relationship.
Perhaps finding a weekday Mass time is in order? Spending more time with Jesus is absolutely necessary if we are going to grow in holiness, and there is no more privileged means of receiving Jesus than in the Eucharist.
I believe Abbot Marmion, OSB summs these points up nicely: “Our holiness will be the higher according as there is in us more loving dependence on God and conformity of our free will to our ultimate end (which is the manifestation of the Divine Glory). The more we adhere to God by detaching ourselves from all that is not God, the more this dependence, conformity, adhesion, and detachment are firm and stable.” Christ The Life of the Soul, p.28
These are just a few starting points to consider regarding holiness. I’ll post more tomorrow.
We have today another well- known moment in the life of Jesus. The familiarity of these Gospel stories can work against us in that we can too quickly dismiss the accounts as if to say: “I’ve heard this before, tell me something I do not know.” But have we ‘dug into’ this account to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the depths of its meaning; the application of that meaning to my own life?
We see in this account Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry, immediately following his revelation as the Son of God during his baptism in the Jordan. St. Luke tells us that Jesus was led into the desert or wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by Satan. This is important. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus.
I found myself asking where did Jesus walk during this entry into the wilderness and what did the Holy Spirit reveal to him? He walked no doubt paths trod by the kings and prophets of Israel. He probably walked along the same paths the Ark of the Covenant was carried as the People of Israel entered the Promised Land. In a sense, the Holy Spirit would I believe have unfolded for Jesus the history of the People of God, revealing their infidelities to the Covenant and their need for a Savior.
Psalm 78 says: “How often they defied him in the wilderness and caused him pain in the desert!” In the same Psalm it also says: “They strayed, as faithless as their fathers… With their mountain shrines they angered him… God saw and was filled with fury: he utterly rejected Israel.”
St. Luke then goes on to say that during these forty days Jesus ate nothing. He tells us that it was at the end of these forty days the devil approaches with the temptations described for us. But before we look at these temptations, let us speculate about the forty days. If the journey into the wilderness could have been an instruction in the faithlessness of the people who came before Jesus, perhaps the forty days were a time of seeing all the people and the sins and infidelities that would come after him.
It is easy to picture Jesus in prayer with the Father during these forty days. It is perhaps even tempting to think that this would have been a simple and enjoyable matter for Jesus in his Divinity. But Jesus is both human and divine, and as his divinity gave him an intimate communion with the Father, we must also realize that in his humanity he carried us with him into the desert.
St. Augustine in his commentary on the Psalms makes this point very clearly: “If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him. He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.”
For me, this is a new insight: Jesus took us with him into these forty days. Another way of saying this is that Jesus did not suffer these temptations for himself; he endured and triumphed over these temptations for our sake. The lesson is for us that we are to endure the trials, temptations, sufferings of our life for others. Our Lenten resolutions are not solely for our personal growth in virtue and holiness, but provide a means of solidarity with Jesus and all the members of his body. In Jesus we find our strength as St. Paul says today in the Letter to the Romans: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
One final thought about what Jesus endured during these forty days prior to the temptations revealed in today’s Gospel. How often have you tried to pray quietly for just 15 minutes, an hour? Have you ever made a retreat, say for just five or eight days? Have you made a serious effort to pray for an hour three times a day? If you have, you know where I am going with this thought: distractions! Imagine all that was revealed to Jesus in prayer during these forty days. He more than likely would have placed before him not only our sins but the means of his passion by which he would redeem us.
Surely Satan did not leave Jesus alone during these forty days. There would have been many attempts to distract him from prayer, from communion with the Father, from strengthening his will for such a self-gift and cosmic consequence. Again, a simple lesson for us: Prayer, communion with God, is essential for us to carry out the work God gives each of us. Just as Jesus did not let the distractions of Satan keep him from this vital moment of preparation to fulfill the Father’s will, we too must persevere in prayer to know and accomplish the will of God in our lives.
Now let us look at these temptations. First, Satan asks Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” The first question that comes to mind is “Did Satan truly know the divinity of Jesus?” Was the divinity of Jesus hidden from Satan? Or was Satan simply posing this as a part of the temptation to make Jesus prove his divinity? I would love to explore this line of questioning further, but we have not the time today.
What was Jesus’ response: “One does not live on bread alone.” Later in his ministry, Jesus adds: “but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Here, Satan is taking bread or food, as representative of all the appetites of the body as a means of temptation. Here we can easily relate. Jesus’ response puts the human need for food and all the other appetites in their proper order. We are not to use the natural appetites of the body for pleasure or self-satisfaction, but for their proper means of sustaining us according to God’s will.
For example, we live in a world where obesity, as related to overeating is a major health problem. Perhaps the most misused appetite of the human person, and the one most separated from God’s intention for its proper use is our sexual desires. We live in a world where sex has become a major industry. Statistics tell us that many suffer from addictions to sex and pornography. Polls tell us that many if not most married couples use some means of artificial birth control. And we are painfully aware of the tens of millions of unborn children who have been murdered through abortion. How many other addictions surface from pleasure derived from a natural appetite, and its separation from a proper relationship with God?
Lesson to be learned; Lent calls us to self-discipline. Lent recalls that we are created by God for communion with God. Living in right relationship with God leads to right ordered relationships with one another.
Second temptation: Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant and says: “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus’ response: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”
This temptation for me clearly reveals Satan as the father of lies. This, too, is another lesson for us to learn. Satan is a master of deception. It is only by Jesus obedience to and service of the Father that will make him King of Kings. What do the scriptures tell us? Psalm 2 says: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you.’ Ask and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and as your possession, the ends of the earth.” The Letter to the Colossians tells us: “For in him [Jesus] were created all things in heaven and on earth”. (1:16) Perhaps this temptation reveals that Satan is the most deceived of all of us. Never-the-less, we all know the power of his deceptions, and the Gospel today is teaching us that Jesus is our only power against him. Ultimately, this temptation shows the corrupting nature of power.
Final Temptation, Satan leads Jesus to Jerusalem to the top of the parapet of the temple and challenges him to throw himself off and see if God will save him. Jesus’ response: “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Notice that this temptation takes place over the temple itself, the very place that represents the dwelling place of God to the people of Israel. This temptation takes place in manner that reveals its true nature, which is the temptation for us to put ourselves above God.
This is the great human temptation: we want to be God. We want God to serve our needs rather than humbly recognize that we are created for God. Our greatest glory is our love and service of God. Our greatest good is giving all the glory and praise to God. Lent calls us back to a profound understanding of the will of God and a renewed effort to fulfill it.
The great doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer sums up the challenge and desire before us:
Through Him, and with Him, and in Him,
O, God, Almighty Father,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
All Glory and Honor is Yours,
Forever, and ever,
Below, please find the homily for today’s celebration of the Holy Family. Please be assured of my prayers for all of you and your family, as well.
I have thought a lot lately about the greatest need of our human family – our modern society. I am more and more convinced that this great need is for respect – for the human person – for life itself. Which leads to the next question: where is this basic human formation to take place? This answer is obvious; in the family. Thus, our feast day today has great consequence.
The first reading today from the Book of Sirach has a strong instruction which can easily be overlooked. The first line of today’s reading says: “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” To no surprise, once again, Sacred Scripture confirms that God is the author of all life, human and divine. God is the designer of the human family. The feast of the Holy Family which is always set within the Christmas season, teaches us that God is not only the Designer of marriage and family life, but with the birth of his Son, he also participates in our human life; individually, within families, within society. In Jesus, God has become a human being. God has entered into the day-to-day life of the human family and human history.
The Psalm (84) of today’s Mass tells us that every household is to be a household of God: Blessed are they who dwell in your house O Lord. When our homes become a dwelling place of God, we are blessed. This is another subtle message of our feast today; our family life is to be a preparation for, indeed a means of entering into God’s family. Knowing this is the goal, it is helpful to allow Scripture to further inform us as to what this dwelling of God is to look like: For instance, Psalm 15 says: “Lord, who may abide in your tent, and dwell on your holy mountain? Whoever walks without fault, who does what is just and speaks the truth from his heart.” (vs 1-2)
Our family values and practices are to prepare us for entering into an eternal Kingdom. The home is the place where we are to live and learn the values that lead to a healthy society. How we live in our family relationships will influence the relationships we form in the broader society. The respect we learn for family members will lead to respect for the members of the broader human family in society.
St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians (6:4) instructs parents regarding their children: “Bring them up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord,” namely, the instruction of the home is to help children learn God’s ways; God’s truths. Today’s readings instruct us in these basic paths of human formation. As already stated, the human family is to be built upon God. The Book of Sirach (3:2-7; 12-14) teaches that the family is built upon honor, reverence, obedience and prayer. The Letter to the Colossians (3:12-21) goes on with the type of human formation that takes place within the family. Within the home we are to practice and grow in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and over all of these we are to practice love.
Love is an instruction all by itself on humility, self-sacrifice, and generosity. Someone recently told me that when he was about to be married, his grandfather told him: “Marriage requires that you give 100% all the time, and expect nothing in return.” That sounds like a life truly built upon and modeled upon God’s love for us. God’s love is unconditional, total and faithful. This is the love that we have been freely given, and are to freely give in return.
St. Paul further instructs in today’s reading from Colossians a few other practices for the Christian home and family. Namely, we are to be grateful, nurturing gratitude to God within our hearts. We are to learn and practice wisdom, which is not afraid to admonish behavior that is not in keeping with God’s truths. The family is called to find its instruction in God’s Word. This Year of Faith calls us to know our faith, and our faith is rooted in Scripture. Mary and Joseph would have read the scriptures often. Our families would do well to have time for reading and further studying God’s Word.
Two other practices are hinged upon God’s Word and its place in family life, namely prayer and worship. Every family benefits from prayer, together and individually. Every family finds strength and offers support in faith to other families through worship in the Church. Worship, celebrating the sacraments strengthens our bond as a human family, and especially helps us see how individually, we are a part of the greater family of God.
St. Paul’s final instruction to us today is that we do all things in the name of Jesus the Lord. In other words, we are to seek at all times to be with Christ. In baptism, we were united to Christ in a unique and concrete fashion. Our very souls now carry through baptism an indelible mark that we belong to Christ. Our life is now his, who surrendered himself to enter into our human family. All things were created in Christ. All things were created for Christ. In Christ we find our full identity, meaning and purpose. (Colossians 1:16 – 19)
Whether we are now raising children, or are planning a family, or have already raised one. Whether we now live with parents or children or live as a single person. We always belong to the family of God. We all are called to live honorably and to help in the human formation of this generation to respect and reverence all human life. The values we have reflected upon this morning are to be taught, practiced and learned in the home so they may contribute to the greater good of society. Our entire life journey is to be a practice of the faith, and continual effort to grow in holiness, for “our education in the Gospel is never finished.” (Pope Paul VI, Nazareth January 5, 1964)
As we gather for this Eucharist, we are united to all believers throughout the world. Christ in the Eucharist unites us to Himself once again, and through our unity in Christ, we are united to our heavenly home. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Christ. (Hebrews 12:2) Let us never forget that Christ is our destiny, our true home. In Him we find our peace, our joy, our hope and the promise of eternal life. Let all that we do in this life be a preparation for the life yet to come in all its fullness.
Before this Memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux draws to a close, I would like to reflect upon a simple passage he wrote. In today’s Office of Readings, St. Bernard writes:
Love is a great thing so long as it contiunally returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it.
What is the Fountainhead, the Source of Love to which St. Bernard refers? Clearly, that Font is God. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)
How does one return to this Font? Prayer. Sacraments. The practice of Charity. St. Augustine said: “He who sees love sees the Trinity.”
The Christian vocation is to love; to make a gift of one’s self to God, to His Church, and to others. However, we all know that to live so selflessly is draining, and the advice of St. Bernard to return to the Fountainhead that replenishes our love is sage advice.
I had a powerful ‘visual’ of this yesterday as I drove past the Glendo Reservoir. The North Platte River runs through this Reservoir. Just a year ago, this reservoir was beyond full! Today, you can see the river run through the dry bottom in several parts. If Nebraska did not have water rights down river, I’m sure the reservoir would still be quite full. Without the system of reservoirs along the river, it would have been as low as the other rivers in the state. Without rain, I wonder how much longer water will flow at its present rate?
The point…we, too, ‘dry up’ when we do not take time to pray. We, too, shrivel from the demands of life if we do not make room for God, for Christ and His sacraments. Just as the river flows into, through and beyond the reservoir, so is God our Origin, sustains us in this life, and is our ultimate Destiny. Just as all creation depends upon water for life, the human person and society without God is incomplete.
Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. (John 6: 54-55)
Is there a lack of love in the world and society today? I believe there is a direct correlation to the desire of an ‘aggressive secularism’ to push God to the fringes of society and the many social ills we see; abortion, the desire to ‘redefine marriage’, the break-up of families, violence, increase in pornography, and the list goes on. Granted, sin will always be a reality, and we do not live in a perfect world, but when the Fountainhead is denied and ignored, we should not be surprised when decent society struggles and fades.
And yet, there is always hope!
The New Evangelization is very much a call for each member of our faith to renew our relationship with Christ. This is ‘our time’ in God’s plan for us to bring our faith to the daily life of society. We have a tremendous gift as Church to lift up all that is good and to allow the power of God’s Word, the grace of the sacraments, and our many acts of charity to come to the aid of today’s challenging problems.
Each parish is a Source of God’s love. Each parish is called to be an oasis of the grace of Christ. Our Diocesan Pastoral Plan is a call to renew the sacramental and pastoral life of each parish community so that each one of us can be a ‘spring’ of new life in the world.
Let us return to our Fountainhead and flow back to our Source. Let us continually return to Christ. He established His Church and His Sacraments for this very purpose. Receive the sacraments often. Stay close to Christ and His Church, for He is our Source of unity, peace, love, and stability.