Sunday, May 28, 2017

Homily


"He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight." [Acts 1:9] Who was lifted up? Why were the disciples so fascinated with the Ascension of the Lord Jesus? What perception of the Lord did the disciples enjoy?

As we all know, in the beginning, before all things were created, God was formless in His existence. The best way to describe His existence is to say that God was "present." This nature of God echoes the Words of Yahweh and Jesus who both claimed to be, "I am." [Ex. 3:14; Jn. 8:58, 18:5; Rev. 1:8, 22:13] "I am" means "I am present; I am here!" In the case of God the Father, it can also mean, "While you may not see Me, I am here. I am present."

Formless in nature prior to all creations, God could not have had a physical body since the physical world did not exist as of yet. Nor could He have had a spiritual body since the spiritual world had not been created as of yet. So how could God manifest Himself to the physical world after creation? It was by His incarnation through Jesus Christ.

So what was the origin of the Lord Jesus? The Holy Bible informs us that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [Jn. 1:1] Jesus was the Word of God who had been granted to have life in Himself. The Gospel of John tells us, "As the Father has life in Himself, He has granted the Son (the Word) to have life in Himself." [Jn. 5:26]

"In Jesus (Him) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily." [Col. 1:19,2:9] "Though 'the Word dwelt among us', and it is also said that in Christ dwelt 'all the fullness of the godhead bodily', we understand that, having become flesh, the manner of his (the Heavenly Father) indwelling is not defined in the same way as he is said to dwell among the saints, he was united by nature and not turned into flesh and he made his indwelling in such a way as we may say that the soul of man does in his own body." [The Council Of Ephesus, 431 A.D.; Third letter of Cyril to Nestorius.]

While the indwelling of God in the saints is of a spiritual nature, the unity of God the Father in Jesus was as the soul of man is to man. As Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his work. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me..." [Jn. 14:9- 11]

In similar words, I can say, "Whoever has seen me has seen my human soul." or "Whoever has seen you has seen your human soul." No one can see a human soul because it is formless. It is by seeing the physical form that the spiritual is revealed. By seeing Jesus, one comes to know the Father who's Divine Soul was united in Jesus.

While the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate Divine Presences, they are one God. The mystery of the Trinity is not beyond the reach of our human perception when we consider our knowledge and understanding of the gift of bilocation. St. Paul affirmed our capability of knowing the nature of God when he stated, "Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. So they are without excuse." [Rom. 1:20]

As we know, the saints who experienced the gift of bilocation, while they were one person, their simultaneous bilocated presences manifested themselves in two separate locations, this proving beyond any doubt that they were two, and yet one. Equally, the Father and the Son who are One, are also two and can manifest themselves simultaneously in different locations in Heaven or on earth. The Divine nature of God, although invisible as it is, can be understood and seen through the creation of man that He has made. [Rom. 1:20]

So again, I ask, "Who was lifted up? Why were the disciples so fascinated with the Ascension of the Lord Jesus? What perception of the Lord did the disciples enjoy?" In Jesus, the disciples perceived the incarnation of God. In awe, they perceived the three Divine Presences of the eternal God, the Alpha and the Omega. And naturally, in His resurrected and glorious body, in the Ascension, the disciples were witnessing the departure of the Lord from this world, He whom they had come to love dearly.

With this inner perception of the nature of God, it now becomes easier to understand today's readings from the Scriptures.

The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 1:1-11] began by introducing us to the first Book of the New Testament. In the first verse, we heard that Luke had written another book, that being the Gospel according to Luke. Biblical history tells us that originally, the two books, the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, were joined together at Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:6. When the Catholic Church arranged the NT Canon books, the volume of Luke was divided in two books, in the manner in which we presently enjoy them.

Proceeding with verse 1:4 of the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus ordered His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until such time as they had received the promise of the Holy Spirit. What was this promise? It was the promise of the reception of the Holy Spirit, this promise being manifested today in the Catholic Church through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Why were the disciples commanded to stay in Jerusalem? It is because Jerusalem was chosen by God as the City in which the spiritual Kingdom of God was to be established. Parallel to the Catholic Church, the visible Body of Christ, having its seat at the Vatican, the invisible Body of Christ has its seat in Jerusalem where Christ the King sits on His Throne.

The reception of the Holy Spirit was very important because He had been chosen and sent by the Father and the Son to sustain Christianity in a new era of sacred history, the era of the Church and its mission. From Jerusalem, the geographical center of sacred history, was to begin the apostolic mission of the apostles who had been prepared by Jesus in the three years prior to His Ascension into Heaven.

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 28:16-20] involved the great commission that was given to the Apostles by Jesus. Prior to granting someone the authority to do something, it is necessary to establish that one has the authority to give such an authority. Jesus began by stating that He enjoyed such an authority. "All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me." [Mt. 28:18]

What authority are we talking about here? To answer that, it is necessary to refer to today's Second Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. [Eph. 1:17-23] "God put (the working of His) power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come." [Eph. 1:20-21] The authority of Jesus is above all rule and authority and power and dominion. The aforementioned are not world rulers or governments. They are references to angelic spirits, some good, others evil, all the governing bodies that were considered to have control over human events and its destiny.

Through death on the Cross, followed by His glorious Resurrection, Christ conquered those governing bodies. Now, none of them possess any power over men. None of them can stand in the way of God's progressive Divine Plan of salvation for mankind in the present age of grace that shall be fulfilled through Christ.

Then we heard St. Paul say, "I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance among the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of His great power." [Eph. 1:17-9]

St Paul prayed that we may enjoy a spirit of wisdom and revelation so we may enjoy a knowledge of the Heavenly Father, not only of His Plan, but of knowing God as He knows Himself. St. Paul prayed that we may experience the great love of God for men in Christ, such a love being manifested through our love for each other in true Christian behaviour. Such an immeasurable power unites where once there was division. It heals where pain once existed. It forgives where condemnation once thrived. Such a love is not bound by gender, age, race, nationality or one's social class. It has no barriers whatsoever.

St. Paul continued by saying, "And (God the Father) has put all things under (the) feet (of Jesus) and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." [Eph. 1:22-23]

When God created Adam and Eve, He "blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.'" [Gen. 1:18; Heb. 2:6-9] When Adam sinned through his disobedience to God, he relinquished control over the earth to the Prince of darkness who had become the ruler of the world. [Jn. 12:31] Now through the Blood of the Cross, the New Adam, Jesus, has repossessed what was rightfully His, dominion over all creations.

God made Jesus the Head over all things for the Church, which is His Body. In other words, Jesus is the invisible anointed Leader and Head of the visible Catholic Church that He has established on earth. He is also the Leader of the past, present and future saints who belong to the invisible mystical Body that enjoys its seat in Jerusalem.

Having dominion over all creations, Jesus commanded His apostles, "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." [Mt. 28:19-20] Notice here that Jesus did not command the apostles to baptize in the "names" but rather in the "name." While referring to the three Divine Presences of the Holy Trinity, He used the word "name" in singular form. Some may ask, "Why is this?"

When reviewing the Gospel of John, Chapter 17 when Jesus was praying for His disciples, He said, "Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one." [Jn. 17:11] "I protected them in your name that you have given me." [Jn. 17:11] Notice here that Jesus states that He and the Father shared the same Name. And what was that Name? It was the Name of Jesus. Therefore, based on the aforementioned, it can logically be be understood that the Name Jesus also belonged to the Father.

Let us look at this from a different perspective. When St. Francis was blessed with the gift of bilocation, what was the name of his second presence? Was it not also "Francis?" Certainly! Both were Francis. Why? Because they were the one and same being, manifested in two presences. Similar to this, the Most Holy of all names, the Name of Jesus, belongs to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in the Sacrament of Baptism, it is appropriate to invoke all three Divine Presences of the Blessed Trinity in the one Name.

In conclusion, who ascended into Heaven? It was God incarnated! It was Jesus in who the fullness of God dwelled bodily. [Col. 1:19; 2:9] It was Jesus, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Ascension of the Lord (Solemnity)

First Reading
Acts 1:1-11
1In the first book, O The-oph'ilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. 4And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, 5for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." 6So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama'ria and to the end of the earth." 9And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
Responsorial Psalm
Psalms 47:2-3, 6-9
1Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! 2For the LORD, the Most High, is terrible, a great king over all the earth. 5God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 6Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! 7For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! 8God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
Second Reading
Ephesians 1:17-23
17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; 22and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.
Gospel
Matthew 28:16-20
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.17And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Deepen Your Prayer Life Through Exclamations

Read this at our friends at Catholic Exchange and thought of it as a good article to share;

Deepen Your Prayer Life Through Exclamations

As Catholics, we tend to nurture our devotional lives through longer prayers—the rosary, novenas, litanies, and the Liturgy of the Hours.
But there is an additional way to deepen one’s prayer life, and that is through shorter prayers, known as exclamations. These prayers, often just one sentence or even a few short words long, were a staple of pre-Vatican II spirituality but seem to have fallen into great disuse today. Here are a few examples:
Mary our hope, have pity on us.
Sweet heart of Jesus be my love.
Heart of Jesus, burning with love of us, inflame our heart with love of Thee.
Exclamations—also known as aspirations, ejaculations, or invocations—are a simple yet profound way to deepen your prayer life. Because you don’t need a prayer book, rosary beads, a desk, or even a silent space in order to say them. Exclamations can be uttered while you’re rushing out the door to work, stuck in traffic, distracted at Mass, or brushing your teeth at night. You never have an excuse to not be able to say an exclamation. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, St. Paul tells us to ‘pray without ceasing.’ This is one way to do it.
Here are seven specific ways exclamations help us grow spiritually:
1. Engage with Scripture. Does your morning devotional consist of reading Scripture? If so, an exclamation is one way to take that reading with you throughout the day. Pick one verse or one line from your reading, turn it into a prayer and memorize it, putting it into a mental pocket of sorts which you can retrieve throughout the rest of your day. By reciting this exclamation, the Scripture you read in the morning permeates and punctuates your whole day.
In fact, many established exclamations are taken from Scripture. Here are a few examples:
O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. (Also known as the Jesus prayer; from Luke 18:13.)
Teach me to do Thy will, because Thou art my God (Psalm 142:10).
O Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5).
My Lord and my God (John 20:28).
Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46; Psalm 30:6).
2. Extend longer prayers. Of course, this same principle could be applies to whatever else is the source of your morning devotional. For example, if you pray through Liturgy of the Hours in the morning, the exclamation could be a line from one of the psalms or other prayers that particularly struck you. Or, perhaps in the mornings you commit to simply saying the Hail Mary or the Our Father. Exclamations can be adapted from those too. Have a day where you seem burdened by everyday concerns, like paying your bills, making a mortgage, or getting a new job? Make your exclamation: Give us this day our daily bread. Feeling particularly conscious of a sin on a certain day? Forgive us our debts. Find yourself filled with a desire for things of heaven? Thy kingdom come.
3. Enrich your experience of the Mass. Exclamations are not meant just to be said alone. Some are intended to be said at specific parts of the Mass, according to traditional devotionals. Here are some examples:
When the host is raised up: My Lord and my God.
For the chalice: My Jesus, mercy.
Today, in the wake of Vatican II’s revision of the Mass, we have become accustomed to directly and actively participating in the Mass as a congregation. But there is something also to be said for silently contemplating the mysteries of the Mass and exclamations are one way to do it.
4. Expand your spiritual arsenal. A few gifted persons have the ability to memorize long texts of prayers, Scripture, poems, and the like. Most of us, not so much. But exclamations, by their very nature, are easy to memorize. So, make a habit of doing it. And you will soon find you have an arsenal of prayer ready at your disposal for any occasion—a sudden moment of temptation, the agony of an expected wait in the emergency room, or any other situation where you do not have a Bible, prayer book handy, or a cell signal to access digital versions of both.
5. Add to other prayers. Don’t just use exclamations in isolation. Use them in conjunction with longer prayers. This way, exclamations focus your mind on a particular element of that day’s devotional or Scriptural reading.
6. Adapt to the seasons of the Church. Exclamations can be used in a particular way to deepen your devotion during certain liturgical seasons. For example, during Holy Week, you might consider taking each one of the seven last ‘words’ of Christ and making those an exclamation for the day. You could do something similar during Advent. For example, you could read through the many prophecies Isaiah made of the Incarnation and take one line from each to focus on each day, or each week.
7. The grace and joy of unceasing prayer. Prayer is the life of the soul, so goes an old saying. Unceasing prayer keeps the doors of our soul constantly open to the operation of the Holy Spirit. It ensures we are constantly attached to the lifeline of grace that flows to us from God. And with that, I suspect, will come great joy.

Homily for Today


My dear friends in Jesus, as you have all heard and most likely concluded, at the heart of today's readings was the proclamation of the Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit. During the Gospel Reading [Jn. 14:15-21] that concerned the discourse on the departure of the Lord and His return in the Spirit, we heard Jesus say, "I will not leave you orphaned." [Jn. 14:18] When Jesus spoke these words, did His disciples perceive the in-depth meaning and richness that was found in this Divine promise?

God's promise of the Holy Spirit should not have been a mystery to the followers of Jesus who knew the Holy Scriptures. The origin of this promise can be traced to the Old Testament Books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the days of the prophets, God had promised to make a new covenant [Jer. 31:31] with His people. He promised to put His law within His people, writing it on their hearts, that He may be their God and they may be His people. [Jer. 31:33] He promised to put a new human spirit within His people, to remove their hearts of stone and to give them a heart of flesh. [Ezek. 11:19, 18:31, 36:26] And finally, God had promised to put His Spirit within His people to make them follow His statutes and be careful to observe His ordinances. [Ezek. 36:27] Biblically, we are taught that this promise has been fulfilled. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, we read "Do you not know that you are God's Temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" [1 Cor. 3:16]

When Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments," [Jn. 14:15] He was reaffirming His Sacred Words that He had spoken to the Jews who believed in Him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." [Jn. 8:31-2]

Jesus proceeded to say, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever." [Jn. 14:16] Why did Jesus say, "another" Advocate? Who was the first Advocate? In the First Letter of John, we read, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." [1 Jn. 2:1] Jesus was the first Advocate, the Holy Spirit being the second one. In this application, the word "Advocate" as understood by the Jewish people meant a "helper," a "mediator."

Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, Jesus stated, "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf." [Jn. 15:26] Was Jesus contracting Himself? In John 14:16, He stated that the Father would send the Holy Spirit. In John 15:26, He stated that He would send the Holy Spirit. No, there is no contradiction here. Why? Because Christian tradition teaches us that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son and as from the Father and the Son. Therefore, it is correct to say that the Father or the Son shall send the Holy Spirit.

For what purpose was the Holy Spirit sent into the world? In John 14:26, we learn that the Holy Spirit was sent to teach us everything, and to remind us of all what Jesus has said to the Apostles. In John 15:26, we are told that the Holy Spirit was sent to testify on behalf of Jesus. And in John 16:7-14, we learn that the purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit was to prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment: about sin, because some did not believe in Jesus; about righteousness because Jesus was going to the Father and the Apostles would no longer see Him; about judgment, because the ruler of the world had been condemned.

Jesus had many other things to tell His disciples. But they could not bear it while He was in the world. The Spirit of truth was sent so He could guide the disciples of Jesus into all the truth; for He spoke whatever He heard, and He declared to the things that were to come. He glorified Jesus, because He took what belonged to Jesus and declared it to us.

When we speak of the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of Truth," we acknowledge part of His role as Advocate. As the Spirit of Truth, He guides the Church in all truth. When it is said that the Holy Spirit "abides 'with you', and He will be 'in you,'" it means that He will be with both, "with the Church" and "in every Christian." As He makes His dwelling within the Catholic Church that was instituted by Jesus, He makes His indwelling in each and everyone of us who are Temples of the Holy Spirit. [1 Cor. 3:16] For the members of the Church are the living stones that let themselves be built into a spiritual house, [1 Pet. 2:4] Jesus being the cornerstone, chosen and precious, that whoever believes in Him may not be put to shame. [1 Pet. 2:6]

Jesus promised that He would not leave us as orphans. [Jn. 14:18] He would be coming to us. Some may ask, "How can that be so?" Believing that the Holy Spirit has made His indwelling in us, where is Jesus? We cannot see Him? The arrival of the Holy Spirit in the world included the arrival of Jesus and the Father because of their shared life in the Holy Trinity. For the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. [Jn. 14:20]

In the Letter of Paul to the Colossians, we are told that the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily in Jesus. [Col. 1:19, 2:9] In Jesus dwelled the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Such being the case, can it not also be said that the fullness of God dwells in the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Jesus [Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11; Phil. 1:19; Gal. 4:6] (CCC. # 693) and the Spirit of the Father? [Mt. 10:20] Can it not be said that the Spirit of the Lord, [Is. 61:1; Lk. 4:18; Acts 8:39; 2 Cor. 3:17, 8] is the One and same Spirit of the Father and the Son?

Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, "In a little while, the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me." [Jn. 14:19] What does it mean that the world will no longer see Jesus? It means that those who walk in the darkness, including those who lack faith, having rejected the Divinity of Christ, will not have the life of Jesus in them. The believers will see Jesus because Jesus is the principle by which Christians live the life of God through the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity. [Ref. Jn. 6:57; Rom. 6:4, 8; 1 Cor. 15:45]

The Words of Jesus in the conclusion of the Gospel Reading were, "They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." [Jn. 14:21] Through this declaration, we learn the condition that is required in order to share in the life of God. To share in the life of God, we must also share in the love and obedience of Jesus that was manifested towards His Father during His earthly life. We must share in the love that Jesus manifested towards other human beings. Such is obeying His commandments.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, no one accumulates Heavenly treasures by acknowledging the spiritual laws of love and obedience of Christ. Heavenly treasures are accumulated by applying the life of Christ in our lives. Actions produce credits; words fade away!

Today's First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 8:5-8, 14-17] was an historical recount of the event surrounding the giving of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans. Accepting Jesus as the promised Messiah, many of the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit in their lives through the laying of the hands of Peter and John.

This very special event can be viewed as the Samaritan Pentecost. The first Pentecost is documented in Acts 2:1-4 when the Jews received the Holy Spirit. A third Pentecost took place when the Gentiles heard the good news and received the Holy Spirit. [Acts 10:44] Similar to this, every year a Pentecost takes places on a smaller scale in most dioceses of the world when the baptized faithful and the new converts receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of their confirmation in the Catholic Church. Filled with the Holy Spirit, these members of the Church no longer need to feel alone. Being proned to the prodding of the Spirit of Christ, they now have an Advocate to guide them, to counsel them, and to grant them wisdom and strength during their difficult times.

Jesus promised that He would not leave us orphaned. As a sign of His infinite love for each and everyone of us, He has opened the door to our adoption as children. And because we are children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So we are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. [Gal. 4:6] May the grace of God always be with you all.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1ACTS 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God,
they sent them Peter and John,
who went down and prayed for them,
that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
for it had not yet fallen upon any of them;
they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid hands on them
and they received the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial PsalmPS 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20

R. (1) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, "How tremendous are your deeds!"
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
"Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!"
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 21 PT 3:15-18

Beloved:
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.

AlleluiaJN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father, 
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him."

Prayers for Today

O God, you are the unsearchable abyss of peace, the ineffable sea of love, the fountain of blessings and the bestower of affection, who sends peace to those who receive it. Open to us this day the sea of your love and water us with abundant streams from the riches of your grace and from the most sweet springs of your kindness. Make us children of quietness and heirs of peace; enkindle in us the fire of your love; sow in us your fear; strengthen our weakness by your power; bind us closely to you and to each other in our firm and indissoluble bond of unity.

Lord, as I begin this prayer I offer you my whole self: my thoughts, desires, decisions, actions, hopes, fears, weaknesses, failures and petty successes. I open my entire being to you, aware that you know everything already. I’m certain of your mercy and of the purifying power of your penetrating, loving gaze.

Jesus, help me to believe in you and your love. Imprint your love very deeply onto my heart. I want to remain in your love always. I want to remain in the love of the Father and the Holy Spirit, but I need your strength and grace. Help me to set aside anything that displeases you.
 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fatima: Mary and the Struggle Against Satan

Taken from Catholic Exchange;

Fatima: Mary and the Struggle Against Satan

“O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” According the memoirs of Sr. Lucia of Fatima, this prayer was directly taught by the Virgin Mary to the seers.
On the one-hundred-year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the universal Church reflects on Mary’s apparition. With joy, we celebrate the canonization of two of the seers who received the revelations. Jacinto and Francesca Marto lived Mary’s message with heroic charity and zeal for the salvation of souls. Now we must consider the weightiness of the events; Fatima’s relevancy over the past one hundred years, and its meaning for this present hour.
I did not orchestrate this, but Providence arranged that I celebrate the Centenary of Fatima in the Eternal City as a student at a Rome university in a course on liberation from evil through the ministry of exorcism. Enlisted by clergy into this ministry of mercy, I am receiving continuing education together with 240 students (mostly clergy and some lay assistants), representatives of thirteen countries, gathered to learn more about the task and responsibility of the hard fight with the devil.
This holy work requires “a deep bond with Jesus Christ, a constant and scrupulous care of self together with sacrificial love for suffering souls”. Believers and non-believers are more frequently calling the bishop’s office or knocking on the door of the parish priest seeking liberation from evil spirits. Christ’s ministers seek to respond with generous pastoral charity. The salvation of a great number of souls is at stake. One professor reminded us of the words of St. John Paul II, “We have to fight against the devil; only then are we witnesses of the Gospel.”
Fittingly, on the first day, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints, (who has been busy preparing for the canonization of seers Jacinta and Francesco Marto), gave an inspired talk titled, “The Role of Mary in the Struggle Against Satan” articulating nine key points. Here I will share a few of his reflections.
The Cardinal reminded us of the Marian aspect wherein, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, the scriptures present Mary as the “women” uniquely chosen by God to restore the dignity of woman after Eve’s fall into the temptation of Satan. The Virgin “Mary gives us a love that regenerates. Satan is absent love.”
In the book of Revelation, the two characters “the woman” and the “dragon” represent good and evil; life and death. Mary represents the Church according to some interpretations. “In modern and ancient interpretations, the Son of a woman is a personal messiah, Jesus Christ. He comes to send the devil away.”
“The event of Fatima underscores the victory of Mary over Satan.” Mary is the protagonist. Fatima presumes the presence of the Church though Mary. She comes to us in a time of war, anti-Catholic persecution, Communism, Fascism, Christian terrorism, and oppression of any religious values.
The Cardinal emphasized that Sister Lucia said, “Nothing is secret anymore; there is no fourth secret; all was published in 2000.” The Cardinal then commented, “Pope John Paul II is the great interpreter of the Fatima Secret.” After the assassination attempt on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father contemplated the events, and entrusted himself to the Virgin Mary whose maternal hand re-directed the path of what would have been a fatal bullet. He understands that the Lord and the Virgin Mary have intervened.
The third part of the secret refers to the killing of a bishop dressed in white (the Pope) surrounded by a group of soldiers who died also (the blood of the martyrs?). “There are various interpretations… the “official one is a publication in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, by then Prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
“Fatima helps us to understand the signs of the times. Children see hell. They are exposed to this terror; enlisted to help save souls by prayer and penance. The children respond in faith with obedience to the revelation.” They understand “the key word: penance!”
“The free will of man is to choose between good and evil. Sometimes the future is presented in an irrevocable way: the vision of a city in ruin; a bishop in white is killed; martyrdom— (the future of the Church in the 20th century). Pope John Paul II acknowledged his own fate. The maternal hand of Mary says, ‘There is no unchangeable fate. Prayer is stronger than a gun!’ Mary shows us this.”
“Protagonist Pope John Paul II interpreted the secret of Fatima. He was overwhelmed by the message of Fatima. He felt the need to reflect on the meaning and value of the angel and Mary of Fatima.”
“He was wounded by a professional killer. We are before a Pope who stopped at the beginning of his “rebirth”. John Paul II realized that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave him a second life, a “Marian Kairos” (a propitious moment for decision or action). The Holy Father had other intentions for his papacy but the assassination attempt and, consequently, his reflection on the secret of Fatima, gives him the way to interpret Fatima, and his present and future. The vision convinced Pope John Paul II that death was avoided only by the powerful intercession of Mary. This was a turning point in his pontificate. The secret of Fatima reveals the fight against Satan (murderer) and the maternal guidance (power) of Mary.”
“Fatima introduces the symbol of the Blood; it reveals the battle between Satan and the Virgin Mary. The message throws light on the world today. Fatima opens a new vision of our future: a dark future enlightened by hope because of the maternal Heart of Mary. Fatima is a prophetic vision of the war waged against the Church and of immense suffering. I am a Salesian. I am reminded of the prophetic dream of St. John Bosco who humbly lowered his prophetic reality to call it a dream. He saw a ship in the sea attacked by smaller ships. The ship anchored itself to two columns: The Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Eucharist. We cope with the battles of this life with Mary and the Eucharist.”
“O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” This prayer said at the end of each decade of the Holy Rosary punctuates the spiritual weapon that defeats evil.
  • “O my Jesus!” is the cry of the believing human heart.
  • “Forgive us our sins” is the desire of a good conscience, a response to God who poured out His Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
  • “Save us from the fire of hell” is a reminder that hell exists. We have complete freedom to choose NOT to go there.
  • “Lead us to Heaven” –the union of our free will with the divine will. Grace carries us there if we vigilantly respond to God.
  • “Especially those who are in most need”—penance, reparation, sacrifice –intercessory prayer for the salvation of souls.
The words of Cardinal Angelo Amato deserve repeating:
  • The maternal hand of Mary reveals, ‘There is no unchangeable fate. Prayer is stronger than a gun!’ Mary shows us this.
  • Fatima opens a new vision of our future: a dark future enlightened by hope because of the maternal Heart of Mary. Fatima is a prophetic vision of the war waged against the Church and of immense suffering.
  • I am a Salesian. I am reminded of the prophetic dream of St. John Bosco who humbly lowered his prophetic reality to call it a dream. He saw a ship in the sea attacked by smaller ships. The ship anchored itself to two columns: The Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Eucharist. We cope with the battles of this life with Mary and the Eucharist.
Once, my father-in-law commented that the fall of the Berlin Wall was an answer to the prayers of a generation of Catholics who took to heart the message of Fatima. How will this present generation live the Fatima message?
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Homily for Today


My brothers and sisters in Christ, during today's Second Reading from The First Letter of Peter, you have all heard it said that "You are a royal priesthood." [1 Pet. 2:9] What does it mean that "You are a royal priesthood"? To understand the meaning of this title, it is necessary to review the meaning of each word individually and then combined together.

The first word "royal" is associated with the highest rank that is found in society. If you were a prince or a princess, you would be considered of royal blood. But if you were the king or the queen, you would enjoy the highest title in society, being equal to the president or the prime minister of a nation. Therefore, to have the word "royal" associated with your name, it would mean that somehow, you are related to a king or a queen.

The word priesthood is traced to the descendants of Levi, the third son of Jacob by Lia. The whole tribe of Levi by the command of God was set apart for the service of the sanctuary. Therefore in the apportionment of the land of Chanaan, the tribe of Levi received no tribal territory [Jos. 13]. In lieu of land they received the tithes and also four cities with suburban pasture lands from each of the other tribes of Israel. As most of their duties required a man's full strength, the Levites usually entered active service at 30. At the exodus from Egypt the male descendants of Levi from a month old and upward numbered 22,000. In the journey through the wilderness the number of the Levites from 30 years up to 50 years, the year of superannuation, was 8580. [Numb. 4]

In Exodus 40:12-5, we read that God commanded Moses to set Aaron and his sons apart and to anoint them so that they may serve Him as priests, going from generation to generation. Their anointing would admit them to a perpetual priesthood. From this, we learn that those who belonged to the priesthood, a class that had been set apart in society, had been personally chosen by God to serve Him in a perpetual priesthood.

When combining both words, "royal" and "priesthood," we learn that those who possess that title are persons of royal blood who have been personally chosen by God to serve Him in a perpetual priesthood that enjoys a different status in society.

Turning to the Gospel of John, we learn that Jesus commanded the Sacrament of Baptism as a condition to being admitted into the Kingdom of God. He said, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." [Jn. 3:5] Turning to the First Letter of John, we read that the seed of God abides in those who are born of God. [1 Jn. 3:9]

From this additional knowledge we learn that those who have been baptized and admitted into the mystical Body of Christ that forms the spiritual Kingdom of God on earth, their royal blood is traced to the seed of God.

I am sure that everyone will agree that as children belong to the human genus, kittens belong to the cats genus and puppies belong to the dog genus. Equally those who have answered their Divine calling through faith in Jesus and who have been baptized, they have become royal priests who belong to the genus of God. Since their existence had a beginning and they do not possess the Divine power of the Lord that is manifested through the Holy Spirit, they cannot be called gods. Their reception into the Divine genus comes from having been adopted as children of God through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He freely bestows on His children us in the Beloved. [Eph. 1:5-6]

Therefore, those who belong to the royal priesthood, they enjoy a greater status than that of a worldly king or a worldly queen. Their status is raised to that of a heavenly gods. Is it not written, "I say, 'You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you.'" [Ps. 82:6; Jn. 10:34]

With this understanding of the royal priesthood, it is now easier to understand the part of the Second Reading that said, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." [1 Pet. 2:9]

Now someone may claim that the written Word regarding the children of the Most High being gods may have been said to the Jewish nation that was God's chosen people. On that subject, St. Paul tells us, "So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumblings salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!" [Rom. 11:11-12]

Through the stumbling of God's first chosen nation, the door was opened to all, that they may become part of God's elect, no matter their age, their race, their education, their culture or their nation. The Body of Christ is a unity that transcends all social barriers and distinctions. As the first chosen people of God was a "priestly kingdom and a holy nation" [Ex. 19:6; Mal. 3:17] the present Body of Christ is a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. Through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, Christians are set apart and dedicated to the sacred order of things in the service of God. This is the mysterious beauty of the royal priesthood to which every Catholic belongs.

During today's First Reading, [Acts 6:1-7] we heard an account of the days when the royal priesthood was being established. More specifically, it was about the Hellenists, the Jewish people who only spoke "Greek." During this early phase of the founding of the Church, the widows of the Hellenists were being neglected in the daily distribution of the food. [Acts 6:1] This concern was brought to the attention of the twelve apostles. Consequently everyone gathered to review the concern. At that time, the apostles expressed that it was not right for them to neglect the prayers and preaching in order to ensure everyone has sufficient food. [Acts 6:2, 4] To resolve the problem, it was commanded that seven men of good standing be chosen, those who are full of the Spirit and wisdom. [Acts 6:3] And so it was done, Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Permenas, and Nicolaus, a convert of Antioch, were chosen.

From this account, it is revealed that God did not discriminate in His calling of members for the royal priesthood. The Apostles were Jewish. The Hellenists, although Jewish, only spoke Greek. And Nicolaus was a convert from Antioch. The language or residential area of the believers did not matter. As we heard, being of one mind, they solved their problem to ensure that the needs of all were being met without discrimination. This is what Christian love is all about. This is what the Catholic faith is all about, the best interest of Church, an open door policy to all who believe and a unity of mind.

Today's reading from the Gospel of John [Jn. 14:1-12] made reference to Jesus being "the way, and the truth, and the life." [Jn. 14:6] In other words, the way to find the truth and life as a royal priest is through Jesus. For their is only one Mediator between God and mankind. [1 Tim. 2:5]

Among other sayings, Jesus made a statement that has often been interpreted to mean that all Churches are equal. That saying was, "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" [Jn. 14:2] Those who have misinterpreted this passage have made the claim that all are called and belong to the royal priesthood, be they Catholic or not, be they baptized or not, having the Sacraments or not, having faith in Jesus Christ as the one Saviour or believing in a human prophet. Indeed, all are called, but not all necessarily belong to the royal priesthood.

When Jesus made this statement, it was to emphasize to His disciples that they should not worry when He will be gone. They will not be forgotten. Jesus made reference to two things, (1) there being many dwelling places in the Father's house, and (2) preparing a place for the apostles. These two references cannot be separated because they complement each other in understanding what Jesus was saying to them.

Prior to the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb on the Holy Cross, the disciples did not have a place in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God had not been established as of yet. Their place was established after Jesus, the first fruit of those who died, glorious resurrected [1 Cor. 15:20] and established His Kingdom in Heaven and on earth. On the day of Pentecost, when the Lord Jesus breath the Holy Spirit upon His disciples [Acts 2:4] He prepared a place for His disciples in His Kingdom. As the Holy Spirit made His indwelling in each and everyone of the disciples, a place was prepared for them when their bodies became Temples of God. [1 Cor. 3:16]

In the Gospel of Luke, we find the Words of Jesus where He affirmed that the Kingdom of God is within the Christians. "And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come? he answered them, and said: 'The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you.'" [Latin Vulgate: Lk. 17:20-1]

So when Jesus said that there were many dwelling places in the Father's house, He was telling the truth. We know that there is Heaven and there is purgatory. And then there are the thousands and thousands of Temples that are found in all the royal priests of the past, present and future Body of Christ. When Jesus made reference to going to prepare a place for the apostles, it was a reference to the sending of the Holy Spirit. It was a reference to preparing a Temple within the apostles for the Holy Spirit to make His indwelling in each and everyone of them.

In conclusion, to have been called as members of the royal priesthood of God is a very special and free blessing that is undeserved because of our sinful nature. This week, let us reflect on this blessing of being a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and god's own people. In thanksgiving, let us proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light. [1 Pet. 4:9]

Homily for Today

Unto us it is given so we may blossom in Jesus! Good morning to everyone and welcome to our guests who have found their way to our humble...