Archive for July, 2010

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 13, 2010

Today, we hear about a scholar of the Law who wanted to test Jesus.  In other words, this scholar came to Jesus, not because he wanted to know something, but to show off his own knowledge.  Jesus asked the scholar about what is in the Law and the scholar replied correctly: the whole Law is summed up in love.  Love God with all your mind, heart and strength and love your neighbor as yourself and you will be fulfilling the Law.  Then, because the scholar wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In an attempt to justify himself, the scholar reveals the lack of love in his own heart.  He wanted to know precisely whom he was required to love as his neighbor and whom he was not required to love as a neighbor.  It seems that he was placing boundaries on the love that he was willing to show others.  Jesus’ response would have been very shocking to His hearers.  The Jewish people did not like the Samaritans.  They did not use things in common with them, as we hear in another place in the Gospel.  Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans.

The animosity of the Jews towards the Samaritans went back for hundreds of years.  The Samaritans were half-Jewish.  At one point in Israel’s long history, the Kingdom of Israel became divided: there was a Northern Kingdom and a Southern Kingdom.  Those in the Southern Kingdom continued to worship God in the Temple at Jerusalem, which is in the South.  The Northern kings set up idols for the people to worship, so that the people would not go to the South and defect from the Northern Kingdom.  Both Kingdoms were eventually conquered, but the Northern Kingdom was conquered about a hundred and thirty five years earlier than the Southern Kingdom.  The Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians, who allowed the people to stay in their land, but forced them to intermarry with pagans.  The Assyrians allowed the Northern Kingdom to continue to worship the Lord but they also demanded that they worship other pagan Gods.  The people of the Northern Kingdom agreed to intermarry and they agreed to worship the gods of the pagans.  The people of the Northern Kingdom are those who became known as Samaritans.  The Jews of Jesus’ day saw the Samaritans as worse than pagans because they continues to worship the Lord, but they mixed the worship of the One, True, God with the worship of false, pagan gods.  The Jews of that day viewed the Samaritan’s worship as blasphemous and offensive and therefore they wanted nothing to do with them.

Then Jesus comes along and tells the parable of the man whom robbers attacked while he was travelling along the road.  A priest passed the man by; a Levite (one who was charged with serving in the Temple in Jerusalem) passed the wounded man by; but a Samaritan traveler came upon the man and treated him with compassion.  Then Jesus told the scholar of the Law to go and do like the Samaritan did in the story, which is to say: treat everyone you meet with love.

Jesus is trying to get the people listening to Him to realize that everyone is our neighbor.  We are to love everyone we meet, as we love ourselves.  There are no special circumstances that excuse me from loving others.  Jesus taught us to love our enemies.  By the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is trying to tell His listeners, and us, that even a five-hundred-year-old grudge is not a reason to fail in love of neighbor.  My brothers and sisters, we are called to love others: and not just those who love us back.  Jesus, Himself, says that if we love those who love us, what merit is there in that?  We are called to love those who give us the most grief; we are called to love those who annoy us; Jesus commands us to love others as we love ourselves.

Loving ourselves is very easy.  It comes naturally.  In fact, we have to be careful not to let our self-love become excessive.  Think, for a moment, about the way that you love yourself; now think about the way that you love others.  Does the love that you bear for others resemble the love that you have for yourself?  The love that we have for ourselves causes us to want to exult ourselves.  Our self-love makes us want to be thought well of by others; we naturally want the best for ourselves.  Do we want the best for others?  Do we want others to be thought well of?  Or do we tear others down by our speech?  Do we step on others so that we can get ahead?  Do we make others look bad so that we can look better and feel better about ourselves?  Jesus Christ calls us to love our neighbor as we love our self and then He tells us that everyone is our neighbor.  No exceptions.  No special circumstances.  You and I are called to love.

Love does not seek the bare minimum requirement.  Love does not try to see how little it can get away with doing for the beloved.  Love pours itself out for the beloved; love completely exhausts itself.  When we deal with ourselves, we do not seek the least amount that we can do; we want good things for ourselves and we want them in abundance.

Do you want to see what true love looks like?  Look at the Crucifix.  That is real love.  That is what real love looks like.  Real love is self-sacrificial.  Real love does not love for the sake of what it can get: real love gives everything that it has to give.  That is the love that we are called to imitate.  Jesus Christ completely poured Himself out for love of you.  Then He told us to love one another, as He has loved us.  That kind of love is not easy.  That kind of love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling.  That love takes effort and it requires the help of God’s grace.  I challenge each one of you to examine your hearts this week.  Think about the ways that you love yourself and compare that to the ways that you love others.  Ask yourself if you love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Let us all ask God to show us how to love as He calls us to love.  Lord Jesus, You command us to love others as we love ourselves.  Enlighten our minds and fill our hearts with Your love.  Help us to love You above all things and help us to love others as ourselves out love for You.  Amen.

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July 11th

July 11, 2010

A crucial part of developing our prayer life is to set time aside for prayer.  We can and should pray throughout the day; it is good to stop often, even if for just a moment, and converse with God: offering our work to Him, thanking Him for all the blessings that He gives to us and asking Him for our needs.

It is also good to set aside some quiet time for prayer every day, even if only a short amount of time.  The hardest thing about praying is taking time to pray.  There are hundreds of “how-to” books about prayer available and all of them will do us absolutely no good unless we put them into practice.  We can learn how to build something from a book, but unless we actually build it, it won’t do us much good.

The important thing is not to wait to find time to pray: make time.  We have to make prayer part of our schedule.  Put it on the calendar, if you have to.  Decide on a definite place and time for daily prayer.  Don’t allow other things to crowd out your prayer time: our relationship with God is the most important thing.  We are called to love God above all things.  Can we say that we love Him above all things if we don’t spend time with Him?

It is easy to find hundreds of other things that “need” to be done instead of prayer, but if we are serious about developing our relationship with God, we have to make it a priority.  Emergencies do come up, of course, but as a rule we should not skip prayer time lightly.  Prayer is to the soul as eating is to the body.

I am not suggesting that we neglect our work.  By faithfully fulfilling our daily duties in love, we are fulfilling God’s will for our lives.  And yet that work cannot take the place of our prayer.

If we think that we are too busy to pray, that is probably when we need prayer the most.  If we try to do everything on our own, we will end up with a lot of stress.  Our Lord says that apart from Him we can do nothing, but through Him all things are possible.  When we take time for prayer, God gives us the strength that we need to do all that we need to do.  This has always been my experience.  In the seminary, I found that when life was busiest, I was often tempted to not pray in order to “get stuff done.”  I always found that if I took time for prayer, things got done and I had a lot less stress and anxiety over them.

Daily prayer requires effort on our part.  We have to decide to make a commitment to it.  Once we have decided that we are going to make time for prayer everyday, we should remain faithful to that daily prayer time.  It is more than worth the effort, for prayer puts us in contact with God and nothing is more important that our relationship with Him.  We were created to love Him, and nothing else in this world will ever satisfy our hearts.

God bless,

Father White

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 7, 2010

In today’s Gospel, the seventy-two disciples were sent out to preach and cure the sick and prepare the way for Jesus.  Jesus was sent by the Father to reveal Who God IS to us.  Jesus shared that mission with His Apostles, with His disciples, and He continues to share that mission with each and every one of us here today.  We are called to help others come to know Jesus Christ.

We receive many gifts from God, and the gifts that we receive are not only for our own benefit alone, they are given to us that we might use them to build up the Kingdom of God.  The talents that we have, we have received, and we are to use them for the glory of God.  We are all to offer the talents that God has given to us back to Him.  We are to use them for His honor and glory.  Everything that we have, we have received.  Let us be sure to thank God for the many gifts we have and use them in ways pleasing to Him.

One of the most important gifts that each one of us has been given is the gift of faith.  We are not Catholics by accident.  We did not choose Jesus Christ, He chose us.  God brought us into relationship with Himself, not because we deserve it, or are better than others.  The faith that we have is a gift that was freely given to us by God.  We didn’t do anything to deserve it: it was a pure gift.  God gave us the gift of faith for our own salvation but also so that we could bear witness to Him before others.

We are called to be light in the world.  There are many people in the world who do not know Jesus Christ.  They might know some things about Him, but many people today do not know Jesus Christ personally.  They have not yet received that gift of personal faith.  We, who know Jesus, who have encountered Him in a real and intimate way, are called to make Him known.  We are called to defend our faith, to be sure, but we are called to even more than that: we are called to lead others to a personal relationship with Jesus.  We are called to bring others to the feet of the Lord; and that takes more than intellectual arguments.

The intellectual arguments are important, and we should all know the basic ones and we should be prepared to give reasons for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ, but to bring people to encounter Him, we also have to be ready and willing to share with others what God has done for us.  For many, today, experience is a more compelling witness than doctrinal arguments.  We have to show others, by the example of our lives, the difference that Jesus Christ has made to us.  If our relationship with Jesus Christ has not affected our lives, if encountering Christ has not changed us, then what draw is there for others?  If others know that we are Catholics, yet see that we live just as everyone else lives, they will not think much of our way of life.  The early Christians made others want to become Christians because non-Christians could see that knowing Jesus Christ made a difference in the lives of Christians: and the non-Christians wanted what the Christians had.

If others see that there is something different about the way that we live: if others see that we have the peace and joy that comes from really knowing God and serving Him faithfully, then they will want what we have.  We cannot put our light beneath a bushel basket: we are to let our light shine before the world.  We need to allow God to shine through us.  We are to bear witness to our relationship with God by the way that we live.

The Eucharist is the greatest gift that God has ever given to the human race.  God gives us many good things, but in the Eucharist, He gives us Himself.  He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist because He loves us so much, that He wants to be completely united to us.  And yet, He does not give us this great gift so that we can bury it in our hearts; He gives us Himself in Holy Communion so that we can take Him with us when we go back out into the world.  Through Holy Communion, Jesus wants to transform our hearts to more and more closely resemble His Sacred Heart.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is depicted in art with a flame coming out of it.  That flame represents Jesus’ burning love for each one of you and for me.  Why a flame?  Fire is intense.  Fire completely consumes.  A candle gives us light and it continues to give us light until there isn’t anything left of the candle.  A candle will continue to burn until eventually it burns itself out.  The candle burns until there isn’t anything left to burn.  That is how Jesus loves us.  He loves us so much that He was willing to give us everything: He was completely stripped of all dignity for you and for me.  He was slapped and spit upon and mocked and stripped of His clothes and He bore it all because He loves you.  He suffered torture and death to show you how much God loves you.  He was chained and whipped and nailed to a Cross and pierced with a lance to save you from sin and death.  He poured out every last drop of His Precious Blood, He loved you with everything that He had to give.  There wasn’t anything more that He could do; there wasn’t anything more that He could give.  He gave everything because He loves you.

We, in turn are called to love Him in the same way.  God desires that we love Him with everything that we are; with everything that we have.  He wants us to love Him above everything else.  The greatest commandment, and the key to true happiness, is to love God with all of your mind, with all of your heart, with all of your strength.

If we live in that relationship of love with God, our lives will be transformed, others will notice, and they will want a relationship with God like we have.  By living out our faith in our daily lives others will be drawn to Jesus through us.  That is how we are to fulfill our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Let us ask Our Lord to make us His witnesses in the world.  Lord Jesus Christ, in Holy Communion You give us Yourself as food for our souls.  Fill our hearts, Lord, with love for you; draw us closer to Yourself and help us to bear witness to You before everyone we meet.  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, on fire with love for us, enflame our hearts with Your love.  Amen.

July 4th

July 1, 2010

Our Catholic Faith is a great gift that has been given to us by Our Lord.  The Church was instituted by Jesus, Himself, in order to lead us into all Truth.  Learning about our Catholic Faith is a life-long process.  We can (and should) go on studying our Faith throughout our lives: there is always more to learn.

The point of learning more about our Catholic Faith, however, is not simply to have more knowledge.  The purpose of the Church and all that she teaches is to help us grow in our relationship with God.  Catholicism is not merely set of ideas.  Our Faith helps us to learn about Who God IS so that we can then encounter Him.

All that the Church teaches us about God is only a kind of roadmap that is meant to help us along as we journey towards God.  Theology is knowledge about God: the whole point of having that knowledge is to lead us into a deeper love of God.

In order to grow in our relationship with God, we have to do more than just learn about God: we have to spend time with Him in prayer.  Studying our Faith can help us in our journey, but in addition to learning things about God we also have to encounter Him through prayer.

We can know lots of things about other people.  There are biographies written about all sort of famous people.  After we have read a biography of a person, we can say that we know a lot of things about that person, and yet we could not say that we have a relationship with that person.  A relationship develops only when we encounter the person and spend time with them.

Through studying our Faith we learn about God; in prayer, we experience Him.  Prayer is about talking with God and walking with Him.  How do we do that?  We should think of God often during the day.  We should tell Him all that is on our hearts.  It is good to ask Him for things, but we should also thank Him for all that is good in our lives.  We can offer to Him all that we do: before beginning whatever we are about to do, we can offer that activity to God.

God is love: He loves us and He wants us to love Him in return.  God shares His divine life with us, through His grace, and He desires that we share our lives with Him.  We can bring before Him all our joys and sorrows, all our hopes and anxieties, we should tell Him everything that is on our hearts.  God is not an impersonal force: He is our loving Father.  He wants us to come to Him and love Him.  Let us all work on growing closer to Our Lord each and every day.

God bless,

Father White

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2010

We were called to freedom; in today’s second reading, Saint Paul tells us that Christ has set us free.  What has Christ set us free from?  Jesus Christ has freed us from the yoke of slavery.  What does that mean?  Prior to our Baptism, each one of us was a slave to sin and to the Devil.  Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, every single human being ever born is born with original sin.  Through the Fall of our First Parents, the entire human race lost its friendship with God and we are not able to restore it: we cannot save ourselves.  It requires a divine intervention to restore what Adam and Eve lost: we stand in need of a Savior.

As a further result of original sin, we all have a fallen human nature; our human nature is weak and it is inclined towards sin: in other words, we are born into spiritual slavery to sin.  Sin separates us from God, and apart from God, we can never be happy: God created us to love Him and to be happy and He loves us too much to leave us in a fallen condition.  God sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, Who shed His blood upon the Cross in order to save us from slavery to sin.  Through our Baptism, we are cleansed from original sin and through Baptism we become free: we become children, sons and daughters, of Almighty God.

The freedom that we are talking about in this context is not the same thing as the freedom that we often hear about from the world.  Our society would have us think that freedom means the freedom to do anything I want, as much as I want, whenever I want.  Our culture views freedom as freedom from all restriction: freedom to pursue my every whim and desire.  Yet we have to remember that we have a fallen nature.  It is inclined towards sin: not all of our desires are good.  To indulge every desire to the fullest extent possible is actually bad for us.  Take a simple example: children and candy.  If there is a bag of candy, a child will want to eat the entire bag.  The child will not want to eat anything else except the candy and yet we do not allow the child to eat candy until they have eaten dinner; and even then we should not allow the child to eat the whole bag, lest the child get sick.  Is that taking away the child’s freedom?

Our culture says that real freedom is the ability to eat the entire bag of candy and then buy another bag and eat that one too: freedom to eat candy and nothing but candy to the point of becoming sick.  That is not freedom.  That is slavery to sin.  True freedom is freedom from sin.  Freedom from sin means freedom to control my desires and live the way that I was created to live.  Sin enslaves.  The more we sin, the harder it is to stop sinning.  The more we sin, the further we are from God.  The further we are away from God, the more unhappy we will become.  Sin promises happiness but leaves us miserable.

Jesus Christ came to set us free from that vicious cycle of sin and unhappiness.  When we were baptized, we were set free; yet our free will was not taken away from us.  The Christian life is constant choice that we have to make.  Again and again, each and every day, we have to make choices between God and sin.  We have to stand firm, Saint Paul says, and not submit again to the yoke of slavery.  When we fall into sin, we choose some created thing over God.  When we sin, we choose slavery over freedom.  We are called to live by the Spirit; Saint Paul tells us that the flesh has desires against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.  The spiritual life is often referred to as warfare.  We have to stand firm, we are called to hold fast to our faith; we have to fight the good fight.  Living out our Faith is not easy, but we draw strength from the Lord.  The Lord has given us the Sacraments to assist us along our journey through this life.  In Baptism, He pours His divine life into our souls; in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, He restores that divine life to us whenever we fall.  In the Eucharist, He feeds us with Himself so that we can be united to Him, and strengthened.  All of the Sacraments are opportunities to draw closer to and be united with Our Lord, and that is the purpose of our very existence.

Jesus died so that we could have life, and have it more abundantly.  He wants to set us free from sin; He wants to fill us with peace and joy.  He wants us to love Him with all of our hearts and by so doing find the happiness that we are all long for.  His desire is that we give Him our whole heart, and only when we have done so, will we ever find fulfillment.  Our hearts are restless, until they rest in God.

How do we give our hearts to Him?  First: reject sin.  Renew today the promise made on the day of your Baptism: refuse to be mastered by sin.  Break sinful habits.  Breaking free from sin requires effort and God’s grace.  Yet we will never be happy until we are freed from sin.  Second: surrender yourself entirely to Jesus Christ.  Surrender everything.  Give Him your hopes and your fears.  Give Him your thoughts and desires.  Give Him your temptations and sins.  Offer it all to Him.  Give Him everything that is in your heart.  Ask Him to take your heart and to purify it of all that is not pleasing to Him.  Renew that total offering of yourself every day in prayer.  This is a not an easy thing to do: we all like to be in control of our own lives; our nature is inclined towards sin and pride.  Only when we turn away from sin and surrender our hearts to Jesus Christ will we find true freedom, real joy and peace.  God wants us to be happy, and He is the source of all true happiness.

Let us ask Him to help us to give our hearts to Him.  Lord, Jesus, help us to see sin for what it really is: slavery.  Inspire in our hearts true hatred for our sins and help us to live in the true freedom that we are called to.  Help us, Lord, to give our hearts entirely to You.  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, enflame our hearts with love of You.  Amen.

June 27th

July 1, 2010

This life is a journey towards God.  We were not made for this world: we were made to be happy with God forever in Heaven.  During our lives on earth we are to prepare ourselves for the life which will never end: the life of the world to come.  Prayer keeps us focused on our goal and gains for us the strength to continue the journey.  Prayer helps us to put things in their proper perspective.

Prayer is not a trivial exercise: it is an encounter with the Living God.  God loves us and desires that we come to know and love Him.  He wants us to put Him first in our hearts.  By spending time with Him in prayer, we deepen our relationship with Him.  After all, we cannot love someone we never spend time with.

Prayer is essential to the Christian life.  Prayer is to the life of the soul as breathing is to the life of the body.  Deep down our hearts long for God.  It is easy to think that some material thing or some experience will satisfy our hearts.  And yet again and again, once we have obtained that object or have had that experience, we realize that it is not enough.  No matter how much we have we will always want more.  God alone can satisfy our hearts because our hearts were made for Him.

In prayer we come to know God more and more.  It is important that we spend time with God everyday.  What should we do during prayer?  During prayer, we can bring all that is on our hearts to God.  When I bring my problems, fears, anxieties, joys, and everything else to the Lord, I become more and more aware of my dependence upon Him for everything.  Everything that we have that is good comes to us from the hand of the Lord.  We should give God thanks and praise for all the good things in our lives.  When we bring our cares and worries to the Lord, we are acknowledging that we are not in control.

Prayer time should not simply be filled up with words, however.  We also need to spend time in silence.  God speaks to our hearts in the silence.  Just trying to quiet our selves and listen to God can be challenging.  It can often happen that when we try to sit quietly we have a hard time slowing down.  Many thoughts bombard our minds: thoughts about people and situations that we have encountered throughout the day.  These thoughts can be used as the subject of our prayer.  We can pray for the persons or the situations that come to our minds, and entrust them to God.  We should not allow these thoughts to completely derail us from our attempt to quiet ourselves before Our Lord.

More next week.

God bless,

Father White