Tuesday, June 26, 2012

O God We Ponder Your Mercy

Today, Jesus teaches us "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you." It's the golden rule, something we've all heard before, but not something we often live. When someone wrongs us, we want justice. If someone hurt our good name, we want the perpetrator to pay for it. We want vengeance. If someone scratched our car, we want them to pay for it. Or if someone borrowed money from us, we want every penny back. Yet, when we borrow more money than we can return or hurt someone's good name, we want forgiveness. We want mercy and lenience, not justice.

Jesus tells an excellent parable about this. There's a servant who owes his master a lot of money. When the master sees that the servant can't pay back his debt, he is kind and merciful and forgives the debts of the servant. However, the servant then goes and finds those who him a much smaller amount. He abuses and threatens these people, demanding that they pay up. He has this double standard of mercy where he can receive mercy while denying it to others.

The parable makes it clear that not doing to others whatever you would have them do to you threatens your salvation. The parable concludes that the servant is delivered to the jailers until he pays the whole debt. Jesus admonishes us "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" (Mt. 18:25).

Our salvation is not won by faith alone. Salvation cannot be had apart from grace and faith, but works of mercy are an essential ingredient. But how can this be? Heaven is beyond the power of every human person. There is no act that we could do on our own to merit an eternal reward. Eternal life can only be given as a free gift from God; it is not a payment for something that is due to us.

As Catholics, we maintain that our salvation is by grace alone through faith and works. As I've said before, God freely bestows His grace by uniting Himself to the inner most being of ourselves and stamping us with his image. This is God's grace: it is the transformation of our interior life to conform us to the life of Jesus. By God's grace we begin to know and love God like Jesus knows and loves his Father. This can happen to such a degree that St. Paul says of himself, "it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20).

This is one of my favorite quotes from Scripture because it succinctly proclaims the radical good news of the Gospel. By virtue of the graces that come to us in Baptism, Jesus lives and reigns in us. We are transformed from our old ways of sin and death into a divine life. We live now in the power of the Spirit no longer performing merely human acts of virtue, but divine acts. My brothers and sisters, we have the power to live like God.

When we keep this in mind, we can see our salvation is won by both grace and good works. If I do the work on my own, I might not deserve an eternal reward, but if it is Christ who works in me, then our Father will richly reward us. We have "become partakers in the divine nature" (2 Pt. 1:3). This is what God's grace accomplishes by stamping us with His own image: it makes us to share in the very being of God. It is obvious that I could not do that on my own, but it is also obvious that an act done out of our participation in the Divine nature is cries out for a super natural reward.

But often we choose not to act out of divine life given to us as a gift. When God shows us great mercy, we fail to show others mercy. We fail to do onto others as we would have them do onto us. That's why the gate to Heaven is narrow, but the gate which leads to destruction is wide and broad. Those are sobering words from Jesus, but keep in mind the good news. Jesus has given you the power to be children of God in your baptism, and every day you come before the altar to receive Holy Communion He renews that grace in you. Therefore, approach God in confidence, knowing that whenever you encounter the temptation to be selfish or are afraid of doing what's right and pleasing in the sight of God, our God is here to save.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Treasures in Heaven

"For the LORD has chosen Zion; he prefers her for his dwelling." Zion is a pre-figurement of the Church, that is you and me. Hence, when we see the Old Testament referring to "Zion" we can consider is referring to us. Psalmist, then, says to us today, "For the LORD has chosen you; he prefers you for his dwelling." The Lord is asking us to allow Him into our hearts as He gives Himself in love. It is up to us to invite Him in and reciprocate this gift.

We do this by storing up our treasures in Heaven. To store up our treasures in heaven means to live a life of self-sacrifice, giving up the treasures of this world to accept nothing but God as the final object of our love. This is most clearly seen when we daily pick up our Cross to follow the Lord and when we love without being loved in return. We people insult us and we don't return their insults; we pick up our Cross. When our children are being brats, but we deal with them patiently and mercifully; we pick up our Cross. When we fast or offer up penances, we pick up our cross turning aside earthly goods to make room for the spiritual goods of Heaven.

It was the opinion of St. Chrysostom the Jesus was using a metaphor for the understanding. When we use our understanding correctly, we are filled with the Truth. We are able to see reality clearly just like the eye is able to see reality clearly when it is filled with light. From this Jesus draws the conclusion that if our understanding is filled with darkness, that is with lies and falsity, then our soul will be filled with darkness. This is because how we act is based on what we understand to be the right way to act. Some people think that it is the point of their lives to store up earthly treasures, and if they believe this then they are never going to want to store up heavenly treasures.

Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, is a woman who had this false opinion of the world. She let the eye of her understanding be clouded with the splendor of earthly goods. She becomes ruthless because of this desire and slaughters princes who had the right to the throne and takes all the power of Israel for herself. It's scary how much the lust for power and earthly riches can contort the human heart. But one does have to be as ruthless as Athaliah to be corrupted by the desire for earthly goods. People like to be selfish with their money. They give very little to the Church or to Charities. They're often concerned with maintaining their reputations and will lie and slander others in order to preserve it. We might spend our time being slothful and lazy, so we won't pray or come to Church or be attentive to our wife and children. There are myriads of ways that we put earthly goods before the Lord.

This is why truth is so critical to the Christian life. If we are not filling our intellect with the truth, but instead filling it with lies, we're going to lead ourselves into sin. To prevent this Christ gave us the Sacred Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, and an infallible Magisterium to guarantee that we could know the Truth. He did not want to take any chances. So avail yourselves of these resources! Use them to conform your life to the Cross of Jesus which was holocaust offered to the Lord, sending up billowing incense to our Heavenly Father. Today Christ gave us an important truth: where your treasure is there your heart is. Hang on to that truth and make use of it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Father who art in Heaven

It is job as Christians to always keep our eyes on the Father. Throughout the day we are to be constantly, and I mean constantly—whenever we can to be turning our minds to the Father, our God whom we love above all else. Now, we might not be able to always psychologically be able to think of God at every moment. As human beings we can only think so many things at one time! Yet, when our minds are not busy with some other task it behooves us to turn our mind to our Father who art in Heaven.

We think of our Father because He truly is a Father to us. He created us in an act of love in such a way that we are his very image just like children are the image of their father. Even more than earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father knows everything there is to know about us. He knows every hair on our head and everything that happens in the depths of our hearts because He is enthralled with the wonder of His creation, which reflects His own glory. He also provides everything that we need. He knows what we need even before we ask.

We don't need to babble on and on about what we need when we're in trouble. It is sometimes helpful for us to explain to God in detail what is troubling us and what we feel we need, but it's not about us instructing God as if He was ignorant. Rather, we use words in prayer to stir up in ourselves love and trust in God. Petitioning God in prayer is an act of love. It demonstrates that we know His power and trust in His goodness. It shows that we want what He wants.

Our prayer is not "let my will be done" but "your will be done." Our prayer should always be in a posture of humility before God seeking His will. Above all, it is the Father's will to take you up into Heaven. He might not do so in a glorious chariot of fire like he did for Elijah. It might be a long battle with cancer. It might be through a tragic accident. God might be preparing you to intimately share in the passion of Christ through martyrdom. We are asked to surrender our lives however the Father might ask us. This is exactly what Christ did.

We are able to surrender ourselves in this way when our minds are constantly directed to the Father who is in Heaven. If we are always thinking of the Father, and His great love for us, then we will have the confidence to offer up every sacrifice. Jesus could offer up His own life to the Father precisely because He knew that His Father dwelt in Heaven and that He would be raised from the dead and ascend into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. It was because His eyes never left the Father that He could pour out His life for others.

This is why Jesus teaches us the Our Father. It is his very own prayer. St. Cyprian says, "Let the Father recognize the Son's words when we offer up our prayer." So I encourage you to use the Our Father or similar words to ground yourself in prayer all the day long. Let it be a way of always focusing yourself on the Father, stirring yourself up to love the Lord, conform yourself to His will and to petition Him for all that you need. I often repeat "My God and my all, have mercy on me a poor sinner." It is very short but in it I say everything for which I need to pray.

"My God" I turn to the Father and recognize all that He has done for me and His great perfection. "My all" stirs up in me love because my God is everything my heart could ever desire. "Have mercy on me a poor sinner" reminds me of my position of need before God. I am not but a lowly begger who has nothing of his own to offer God. Rather, everything that I have is purely from God's mercy, and up to know I have been a poor steward of the blessings I have received. Yet, I have certain hope in my Father's mercy. The Lord is close to the poor. "He fills the hungry with good things" and "he has lifted up the lowly." My Father, who I keep always before me, will tend to every need I have.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Your Father who sees in secret will repay you

Many weird and strange desires plague the human heart, not the least of them is to appear more important than we actually are. We like letting people see all the good things that we do because we crave praise. Of course, when it comes to our faults we like to cover them all up because "that's not who we really are." Obviously that's not true. Our faults and our sins are as much a part of our character as our good deeds and virtues. Pride is when we exaggerate our own goodness.

Today's Gospel warns that = Christians are not to be doing good works for the sake of fame. If we pray, give alms, or fast for the sake of other's opinions, we will quickly be seduced by the sin of pride. We will lose sight of our sinfulness and our dependence on God for his mercy. We'll start thinking "oh my sins aren't so terrible!" or "at least I'm not as bad as that guy over there." The reality is that if you had not the grace of God, you would likely be committing the same sins as those whom you condemn. When we forget that, then we sin by pride.

We have to remember that I am capable of the same sins that we condemn in others. I have a free will and at any point I could choose to reject God's help and turn to sin. Moreover, either I've committed the sins I condemn in the past or I've been tempted to do them, but by God's providence, by His grace, the very stamp of His image on me, I overcame these sins. It wasn't by my own power, but it was by God's power. And if we do good by God's power, what credit is it for us? Why should we claim the praise? Instead, turn the praise back to God. It is God who hides us in the shelter of his presence. Therefore, the greatest defense against pride is gratitude, recognizing the great gifts God has given to us.

As a Christian, you will be doing good works. You are called to be a light to the world and the salt of the earth. If you are living the Christian life, people are going to see it. The question is why are you doing it? Are you doing it so that others praise you? Or are you doing it so that God might be better known and loved? That's a question we continually have to ask ourselves. Every new action can be done for God or for ourselves.

For this reason Jesus counsels us to avoid the occasion of fame and do our good in secret. Pray in an inner room. Don't blow trumpets when you give alms, and don't let others see that you're fasting. Your Father who sees in secret will repay you. It is being known and praised by our Heavenly Father, not other human persons which is of greatest importance. The Lord promises that we will be repaid, and this payment will be found in Heaven where we will enter into a perfect friendship with our Father. We will enjoy His company, knowing and loving Him for the rest of eternity. Sometimes when we are doing good, we feel discouraged because no one else seems to care, but remember this: your Father sees everything that you do. He knows the value of our labor and with how much love you carry out your service. Rather than give you an earthly reward, the Father has a greater one that is waiting for you in the life to come.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fulfillment of the Law

This was written for yesterday but wasn't finished. I likely won't have a post for today, so enjoy!

Beginning on Monday with the Beatitudes, we started what is called the Sermon on the Mount. In the tradition of the Fathers, this sermon which begins in Mathew, chapter 5 is the corner stone of Biblical Moral Theology. It is the heart of Jesus' teaching about how we ought to live.

Jesus takes the Law of the Old Testament and gives an authoritative interpretation of it; it is ultimately God who has the final say in how Revelation should be interpreted. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill." However, this definitive interpretation also contains something new. This New Law is at one more difficult and easier. More difficult because of its tighter restrictions: it calls us to a life of greater perfection. It asks that we live lives appropriate for the kingdom of Heaven. In the next few days, we going to hear about how anger can be a form of murder, how cursing your neighbor puts you on the path to Hell, and how we need to apologize if we want any hope of entering into heaven. Look at how prevelant in the world, I would say that it's pretty hard to master these sins.

Yet, the New Law is something easier than the Old Law easier because it gives us the power to actually live the law. The New Law is the Law of Grace because it describes how the grace of God will transform your life. Grace is the stamp of God's image on your very being. Not so long ago, people would enclose envelopes by melting wax and stamping it with a personal seal. The wax took on the form and shape of the stamp. We are like that wax and God is like the stamp. In Baptism the stamp (God) is pressed into the wax and united to it. Such a glorious union between man and God could not leave man unchanged! Rather, we are deeply impressed with God's image and likeness, and conformed further to the life of Christ. The change in shape of our very being is called grace. God's grace is the result of His union with us, and the changing of our lives to like the life of Christ. By the grace which comes from the New Law, we are made able to live the new law. We are humble enough to seek forgiveness. We are no longer impatient and do not easily become angry with our Neighbors. God transforms our lives.

We can see a pre-figurement of the coming of God's grace in the first reading. Elijah prepares a sacrifice of a young bull to the Lord. He douses it with water before calling out to the Lord to send fire, which "came down and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust and it lapped up the water in the trench." When Elijah cried out to the Lord, a raging torrent consumed the sacrifice. This is how it works with us. Jesus, the Son of God, cries out to the Father, asking Him to send the Holy Spirit. He wants to offer us as sacrifices pleasing to His Father, so He sets us on fire with the Holy Spirit. Recall how He said, "I came to set fire to the earth, and how I wish that it was already burning!" Through the sending of the Son and the Spirit the whole Trinity unites Himself to the human person and makes them a burning sacrifice of love. Their missions transform the human person, set him on fire, and make him acceptable to our Heavenly Father. We become a living image of the Son of God, with whom the Father was well pleased.

The prophets of Baal look for help from the world and themselves rather than turning to the one true God. They are hurting themselves in their frenzy to obtain help from their false Gods. "They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears as was their custom until blood gushed over them. Our idols are all the little things we seek for its own sake, and when we pursue them for their own sake we only hurt ourselves. An example would be when you come home from work and after a superficial greeting, you veg-out on the couch and watch TV. You don't interact with your spouse or kids. You are pursuing the TV for its own sake over and against what should be your priorities. If this is a habitual, daily pattern your family is going to start to suffer. You're not going to have the intimate friendship that belongs to a family unless it is made a priority. This doesn't mean that watching TV is always evil, just only when we don't use it appropriately. We really suffer when we don't follow God's plan for our lives and pursue the false God's presented to us by the world. The Psalmist says, "I set the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed."

We need to put every sin to death and turn our faces to God, so that we might "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rm 12:1). This is the power of the New Law. Unlike the Old Law, the New gives us the power to love. The Holy Spirit sets us on fire with love! And this love is above all our spiritual sacrifice.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Salt of the Earth

Elijah is a man preaching to a woman outside the bounds of Israel. He does not know the God of Israel, but Elija proclaims the message to her, and she believes. She places her faith in this unknown God and she receives the bread which sustains her on her way. After being baptized, we put our faith in God, and He brings for us the bread which sustains us on our way.

But God sustains us because He has a particular plan for us. My brothers and sisters, we are called by the Most High God to be the salt of the earth. This salt is love. It is love which preserves the world and gives it eternal life. Do you love your neighbors? Then do not be satisfied to meet their physical needs, but give them eternal life by bringing them to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray to God for their conversion, but also witness to them directly. They cannot believe in Him whom they have not heard. No one will believe in Jesus Christ unless someone first preaches to them.

Salt destroys and kills bacteria and diseases of all sorts. It sucks the water out of these vile creatures causing them to shrink up and die. Because of this, salt is a food preservative. It keeps meet from spoiling. We are called to be the salt of the earth. We are called to destroy the works of Satan in this world, beginning with our own lives. We need to remove the anger, impatience, lust, and especially pride from our lives. All too often, in our pride, we're too embarrassed to bring someone to Christ. We're afraid that people won't like us if we tell them about the wonders of chastity or of generous giving to the poor. We cling to the opinions of others and forget God's opinion of us. However, if we are failing to make Jesus and his way of life known and loved, we are losing our own saltiness. We are losing the love which brings us and others to eternal life, and "if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

As Christians, "You are the salt of the earth." St. John Chrysostom says that this is "Not for your own salvation merely, or for a single nation, but for the whole world is this doctrine committed to you." The world needs you to be a saint. Nothing more, nothing less. It needs you to surrender yourself entirely to the God who loves you and is always providing for you. Put this way, it sounds so simply doesn't it? You just need to trust the Lord for whom nothing is impossible. Yet, I know personally, that there are a thousand excuses not to carry through on our good intentions. Hundreds of times, I've failed to do what was right and just.

Thankfully, we have no reason to despair. Call out to our Lord, "Have pity on me, and hear my prayer!" In the time of Elijah, the land was filled with drought. It could produce no good fruit, just like our souls can sometimes produce no good fruit. Elijah was thirsty and hungry, so he asked a non-Jewish woman for a cup of water. This brings to my mind the story of another man who sat by a well, and asked a non-Jewish woman for a drink. This man, Jesus, promised her that if she asked, He would give her living water, and everyone who drinks this water will never thirst. If you are a man who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, who desires to be the salt of the earth, then thirst for the Holy Spirit, the water which wells up to eternal life.

Friday, June 8, 2012

You have followed my way of life

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of Sacred Scripture, especially the effects which memorizing Scripture has on our spiritual lives. As I was meditating on today's readings, I found a verse which pretty well summarizes my reflection from yesterday. "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work." Yesterday, I wrote about how Scripture was inspired by God and how it was useful for living the Christian life, but while I was writing it, I knew there was something more that I had to say about it. Today I want to pick up that thread.

Often the verse I just quoted is used to attack Catholics. Look here! Protestants will say. It's Scripture that is inspired by God and is useful for teaching. Don't hold to your man-made traditions! You Catholics hold your traditions above the Word of God! Because we Catholics are often not well educated about our faith, we'll sort of shrink up, intimidated. This Protestant knows the Bible, and the Bible seems to contradict the faith! This is when we back up a little bit and consider what Paul wrote just a few lines before this, "remain faithful to what you have learned and believed." Don't abandon the faith as soon as you hear an objection! Let it be an occasion to seek to understand your faith more profoundly.

If we look at this verse from St. Paul about Scripture, does it say that Scripture is the only source of truth for the Christian? No. It says that all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching. It does not say that Scripture alone is the totality of revelation. This passage begins with "You have followed my teaching [and] way of life…" St. Paul also instructs Timothy, and by extension us, to "remain faithful to what you have learned and believed." St. Paul points to his own teaching, preaching and even his way of life as authoritative measures to be followed, not Scripture alone.

Human beings communicate by more than just written text. A letter or an email never could suffice for human communication. You need to be immersed in a life with that person to communicate who they are and what they mean when they speak. To understand the fullness of Christ's revelation, the Scriptures alone were not enough for Timothy. He received a Sacred Tradition from St. Paul by means of human traditions which immersed Timothy in God's self-revelation. Sacred Tradition is a personal form of communicating Divine Revelation to every generation which goes beyond mere words.

Sacred Tradition contains the fullness of the faith and it is the same in every generation. Yet, it is something elusive and dynamic because the fullness of the faith can never be fully expressed. It might be helpful here to distinguish be Sacred Traditions and human traditions. Our human traditions express and immerse us in our Sacred Traditions. The sign of the Cross is a human tradition. We creatures made it up, but it expresses something Divinely revealed in Sacred Tradition. It expresses the mystery of the Trinity and the Pascal mystery, and in a way contains the whole mystery in a simple sign. Yet, this one human tradition can't hope to express the entirety of the Sacred Tradition it points to! So as it is with all human traditions: the Liturgy, the teaching of the Fathers, schools of theology, prayers, hymns and art, they all express only a portion of Sacred Tradition. Even look at the lives of the saints as human traditions because they reveal to us in a non-written way the Sacred Tradition.

St. Paul's way of life and preaching revealed to Timothy the saving action of Jesus Christ. We can easily see, therefore, how Sacred Tradition expressed by human tradition is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It constitutes a real form of Divine Revelation which "is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

One major difference between Scripture and Sacred Tradition is the diversity present in Sacred Tradition. Sacred Scripture has a definitive Canon. On the other hand, there is no limits to the number of human traditions which can express the mysteries of Sacred Tradition. There is a great beauty in this diversity because each tradition highlights the inexhaustible richness of the deposit of faith. And so, sip these traditions like a fine wine because you'll never be able to try them all. Find a few devotions that bring you closer to God, but don't be afraid to try new ones. Maybe God is calling you to learn about a new Saint who will teach you a new aspect of the life of Christ. Study and pray the Liturgy, unearth some of its richness! Most of all, use Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as two mirrors reflecting light on each other, each making the other more intelligible because together these two will lift the soul to contemplate the One True God.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Guide Me in Your Truth

Over the past few days, we've heard Jesus being challenged and questioned by the people. On Tuesday, it was asked whether or not Jews should pay the secular tax. Yesterday, it was asked what would happen to a woman who had died having seven husbands. Today Jesus is asked, "Which is the first of all the commandments?"

Throughout our days, we encounter all sorts of questions sometimes posed by others sometimes posed by ourselves. Some are simply questions about our circumstances: what time is it? What are you doing this weekend? Some are deeper, engaging sometimes hidden aspects of our hearts and the highest truths of reality: how will you love your spouse today? How will you love those who hate you? Why do you believe in God? How does God want me to spend my money? Why should we defend the unborn's right to life? We faced with these questions; we need to find the truth.

When we have ultimate questions about the meaning of our lives, morality, and the highest Truths of the universe, where do we turn to find the answers? We can try to make up our own. We could imbibe the messages of the world. Jesus turns to the Scriptures. When asked which is the first of all the commandments, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." Jesus meditated on the Scriptures frequently and memorized them so that when He was posed with a question He could answer with truth.

The Sacred Scriptures were written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore in matters necessary for our salvation, they are inerrant. The Bible has God as its primary author, so what is written in it is true and worthy of belief. The Lord is able to instruct us by these means. The Scriptures are an answer to the Psalmist's prayer which is the prayer of every faithful Christian, "Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me…" By reading the Sacred Scriptures, we find true answers to the questions we encounter.

When we approach the Scriptures, it is important to approach them in humility. The Lord "guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way." The proud are they who consider themselves not Revelation to be the measure of truth. On the other hand, the humble receive God's Word as a pearl of great price. They listen attentively to its proclamation and savor every Word. They love God's word, and they memorize it. They etch it into their heart so that it will always be there.

This is important! Often we, as Catholics, fail to memorize Scripture, but doing so is to fail to imitate Christ. By memorizing verses of the Bible, we keep the truth ready at hand so that we are always able to give an account of the hope that is in us. Moreover, it can be a buffer against temptation. When Jesus is tempted in the desert, he responds to Satan by speaking the truths contained in the Sacred Page. Finally, it can be an inspiration to love. By memorizing a favorite verse, we can easily recall the Truths of our faith: that God is merciful, that we have been made His Sons, that He died for our sins, and that we await an eternity with him in heaven. Recalling these truths inspires us to fall more deeply in love with God, and to fall in love with God is critical. The first of all commandments is "You shall love the Lord your God." Letting the Lord guide us in His truth by memorizing and meditating the Sacred Page enables us to fulfill that commandment.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Like the Angels in Heaven

Mk 12: 19-27

In the Gospel today, the Sadducees try to pose a dilemma for Jesus' teaching about the resurrection. Their argument tries to show that if there's a resurrection, then Moses law has some serious problems because a woman might have several husbands! However, Jesus, being God and knowing all things, refutes their claims by revealing something about Heaven which the Sadducees did not expect: "When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but they are like the angels in heaven."

In Heaven, our lives be given exclusively to God. We do everything for the sake of loving God. He asks for this total gift of ourselves because He wills to give Himself entirely in return. Marriage is a sign of our future destiny with God. A man loving his wife and a wife loving her husband imitate the love between Christ and the Church enjoyed in Heaven. In the same way that we have a deep profound knowledge of our spouses and find joy in experiencing them as they truly are, we will have a knowledge of and joy in the Lord which will surpass all human understanding. Marriage is a sign of this relationship because our spouse stands in the place of God for us. A spouse is ae temporary helpmate to prepare us for our betrothal to God.

Some men and woman are called to give their entire selves to God not only in eternal life, but even in this life. The celibate person is neither married nor given in marriage because they have given themselves entirely to God. The celibate life is not a life rejecting marriage, but it is what marriage points to. Marriage points to our eternal destiny of being espoused to God, and celibacy makes that reality present now. Those who are called to the celibate life don't forsake marriage because it is somehow evil or defective. Rather, they forsake marriage because they recognize that their body is for the Lord, so they renounce earthly love to receive a greater share in Divine Love.

The celibate charism is a strong reminder to us of how we should live our lives entirely devoted to the Lord. While not every person should live celibately, every deed and every thought needs to be sifted through and directed to the Lord. To capture every thought for God is a difficult task, but a necessary one to prepare us for Heaven. Often your spouse is a means by which you can direct your love to God; remember, your spouse is a sign of God's future espousal to you. By giving ourselves in service of our spouse we are giving ourselves in service to God. When we are going to get groceries for our wives, we shouldn't direct it just to our spouse, but elevate it, give it the supernatural end of doing it for the love of God. Like in the Psalm today, "As the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters, so are our eyes on the Lord our God." By practicing this, and developing it into a habit, we will find they we will increasingly be always ready to do the work of the Lord and ready to receive the fullness of God's goodness for eternal life.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Be Found Without Spot

When we hear today's Gospel, we often think of the separation of Church and State, and rightly so. The Church and the State both have their own power which is proper to them. This doesn't mean that the Church and state have nothing to do with each other as if one was completely indifferent to the other. Rather, they are both interconnected and both are necessary for the flourishing of the human person. The Church can benefit the state and the state can benefit the Church. But that's not what I want to focus on today. I want to focus on Jesus' use of the word 'image.'

Image of God

From the beginning, we were made in the image of God. Like God we are able to know and to love things. By knowing and loving we are free and we can participate in God's creative power. While only God can create from nothing, we can create by reshaping God's creation and ordering it towards God. God created us to use our freedom to be signs of His providence over the world. In ancient days, a king or local rule would carve his image and place it in the places under his control. The statues represent the local lord's providence for that area. They are a sign of the king's power and his care. This sets the background for Genesis in which it is divinely revealed that we are God's image. We resemble Him by our powers of knowing and loving and are a living sign of His providence, His power and care, for the world.

Repay… to God

In the Gospel we hear, "Whose image and inscription is this?" as Jesus holds up a coin. The answer, as we all know is Caesar. And what does Jesus say to do with Caesar's image? "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar." Caesar's image belongs to him, so pay the tax! Give back to Caesar what belongs to him. And parallel to this Jesus says, "and to God what belongs to God." Because money belongs to Caesar because it has Caesar's image on it, we belong to God because we are God's image. This passage is not only about respect the sphere of secular government, but also about giving back to God what belongs to Him: our very selves. Give our money to Caesar, Jesus says, but give your whole self to God. That's something to be amazed about.

Spotless, without blemish

To give ourselves entirely to God is to make ourselves spotless, without blemish. When St. Peter says spotless, he means spotless. He means to avoid every single sin. Do not be content to be mediocre! The Lord says, "How I wish you were hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth!" The Lord God wants to see you completely on fire with love and devotion for him, not clinging to any sin venial or mortal. This, my brothers and sisters, is a terrifying, long task. It's not a task to be completed all at once or in our own power. That's why St. Peter says "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and savior Jesus Christ." It is by God's grace that we grow into the fullness of God's image. God is transforming us by His grace, conforming us into the image of Christ Jesus. By the gift of faith He is helping us to know as Christ knows and by the gift of Charity, he is helping us to love as Christ loves. By increasing our power to know and love, the Blessed Trinity is intensifying the image of God in us. And so, we hear St. Peter to tell us to continue growing until we are without spot or blemish before God. This slow growth will require patience, but when we arrive at our salvation, we shall be at peace.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The End of All Things is at Hand


The reading from St. Peter today starts out pretty grim sounding. "The end of all things is at hand. Therefore be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray." In fact, today, we get a rather grim story in the Gospel today as well. Jesus curses a fig tree which doesn't bear fruit, and he angrily drives out thieves from the temple. Death, and judgment, are not realities we like to speak about, yet the Bible doesn't ignore their reality.


During the time of St. Thomas More, the Carthusians would great each other, "brother, remember your death!" It would behoove us to also remember our death. We are overly concerned about the world and distract ourselves from what is really important. We might even fill our lives up with "good stuff." Maybe it's pro-life work or taking care of our children or serving the poor. This is great; we should be doing these things. However, for a time each day, we need to set the world and all of its practical concerns aside, turn our minds to God, and remember how we will spend an eternity knowing and loving the Blessed Trinity. This is the lesson of Martha and Mary from the Gospel. Martha is busy preparing the meal, which is good! However, it is Mary that Jesus praises, for she is doing the one thing that is necessary: sitting at the feet of Jesus, praying.

When St. Peter reminds us of our death, our end, he directs us to be serious and sober-minded, so that we are able to pray. Death should lead us to prayer, first of all. It is in prayer that our dead souls reach out and make contact with the living God. If we want to experience life and have it abundantly, then we need to turn to the Lord and giver of Life: God Himself. There is no reason that we cannot do this for at least half an hour every day. I said half an hour, 30 minutes. That's a minimum. Many people don't take any time of the day to pray. If you are not taking any time to pray and speak with God, you need to question how much you really love God. If you had a spouse or a friend and never spoke to him, you would have to question whether you actually loved him. It's the same thing with God. If you are not spending time with Him, it is clear that you love other things more than God.


It is when we experience God's love for us in prayer that we are able to love one another intensely. "Love covers a multitude of sins." By turning to the Lord in prayer, receiving His grace and being a good steward of God's gifts, we prepare ourselves for selves for our death by the cleansing of our sin. As our hearts are filled more and more with the Christ's own love, the guilt of our sins is driven far away from us.

The story of the fig tree teaches about the necessity of love. Jesus curses the fig tree, not because of some petty anger, but because he wants to make a point about love in the heart. Love, above all, is the fruit of the soul. It is what God enjoys seeing most because God is love. When we die, Jesus is coming to our soul to harvest fruit like He came to the tree to harvest the figs. If he finds the fruit of love, how He will rejoice! The Lord comes to judge the earth, and He will also come across souls who are not bearing fruit. They are not praying. They are not coming to Church. They're gossiping about their co-workers, slandering, lying, stealing, or filled with lust. This makes God angry. He will not abide the destruction of the soul of one of His beloved lambs. Sometimes a lamb is the cause of its own destruction! If you are madly in love with something, you must hate that which destroys what you love. This is how it is with God as well. He will punish the things which destroy what He loves. He will drive them out from His holy temple. His house shall be called a house of prayer. He will not allow us to make it a den of thieves. Those who enter into heaven are those who chose to be thieves no longer and washed themselves in the blood of the Lamb.

So my brothers and sisters, consider your death and how to make yourself pleasing to your divine spouse. Speak with Him softly and tenderly, woo Him with humility and love in prayer. Adorn yourself with all of the virtues, clothing yourself in the glory of Christ Jesus. If you die in such raiment, though you lack all worldly possessions, the Lord who comes to judge the earth will invite you to contemplate His goodness for all eternity in His holy temple.