Archive for August, 2010

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 30, 2010

“Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  These words of Our Lord echo the words of the first reading this morning: “Conduct your affairs with humility . . . Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”  These words are not easy to modern ears, because we tend to have a distorted sense of what it really means to be humble.

Humility is sometimes confused with lack of self-esteem.  Some people have the idea that in order to be humble, I have to become a doormat for everyone else to walk on.  These are, of course, false notions of humility.  True humility is not about despising ourselves, or putting ourselves down, or walking around dejected all the time.  True humility connects us with the truth: the truth about who we are in relationship to God and in relationship to others.

Humility is opposed to pride, but it is also opposed to immoderate self-abjection, which fails to recognize God’s gifts.  God has given each one of us gifts which we are to use according to His will.  To deny the gifts that He has given to us is to deny the One Who gave those gifts to us.

In order to truly be humble, I have to acknowledge my gifts and good qualities and talents and I have to acknowledge that they come from God.  Saint Therese, the Little Flower, has a great analogy for humility.  She said that in order for a beautiful flower to be humble, it would not call itself ugly and claim to have a broken stem.  The flower would acknowledge its own beauty and glorify God for making it beautiful.

The Catechism tells us that humility is a virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the Author of all good.  (cf. CCC – glossary)  Humility keeps us from reaching beyond ourselves.  It keeps us from putting ourselves in the place of God and claiming that we, ourselves, are responsible for all that we have that is good.  All that we have and all that we are that is good is a gift from God.  Humility is not about learning to dislike ourselves, it is learning to love all the good things about ourselves that God has created and hate the sin that distorts the image of God which we bear by our very nature.

Humility restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness and it leads us to love ourselves based on a true appreciation of our position with respect to God and our neighbors.  Humility makes us recognize that we are totally dependent upon God and it makes us recognize our equality with others.  God created us.  God gave us the gifts and talents that we have.  God gives us each breath as a gift.  Humility helps us to remember that fact.

Humility also reminds us of our place in respect to others.  Every single human being is a made in the image and likeness of God.  Humility reminds us that we are all equal before God.  God has created every human being in His image and likeness.  He desires that every person be with Him for all eternity in Heaven.  Think of the person that you like the least.  God loves that person and wants you and that person to be in Heaven for all eternity together.

Humility also reminds us that each and every single person is a sinner who stands in need of God’s mercy.  True humility keeps us from exalting ourselves over others, and also keeps us from judging others.  I am just as much in need of God’s mercy as my neighbor is.  That is why Our Lord tells us to take the plank out of our own eye before attempting to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye.

The Catechism also tells us that humility is the foundation of prayer.  (cf. CCC 2559)  In order for us to approach God, we have to turn to Him and acknowledge our dependence upon Him.  Some people treat God as if He were a genie, there only to grant wishes; others treat God as if He were a last resort to be consulted on in case of emergency.  Humility reminds us that God is the Creator and we are the creatures.  The reality that humility connects us to is that we are not in ultimate control.  God is in control and we rely completely upon Him every minute of every day.  He is our loving Father.  His Providence guides us at every moment.  God loves each one of you more than you can ever imagine and He loves you more than you love yourself.  Remembering that He is in control actually lightens our burdens, if we surrender ourselves into His loving hands.

A great model of humility for us is Our Blessed Mother.  She is the Queen of Heaven, she is the Queen of the Angels; she was chosen to be the Mother of God the Son.  Her exalted position never caused her to fall into pride.  At the visitation, Saint Elizabeth asked how it was possible that the Mother of the Lord could come to her.  Mary, did not deny her lofty status: she merely acknowledged where her greatness came from: “the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.”  Let us all imitate our Mother Mary, and praise God in true humility for it is from Him that all good things come.  Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us!

Assumption Vigil

August 18, 2010

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Non-Catholics oftentimes accuse Catholics of worshipping the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We should always make the clarification that we do not worship anyone, save God alone: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We, Catholics, hold Mary in a very special place of honor because she was the chosen Mother of God’s only begotten Son.  He Who was with the Father from all eternity, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary in order to free us from sin.

After that distinction has been offered, the non-Catholic might go on to point to today’s Gospel passage in order to show that the fact that Mary was Jesus’ Mother is not a reason to show her honor.  The woman in today’s Gospel held that she was blessed merely because she bore Jesus in her womb.  Jesus corrected the woman and said: “Blessed, rather are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  Of course Mary did hear the word of God and observe it.  At the Visitation, as soon as the Virgin Mary’s greeting reached Saint Elizabeth’s ears, Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and cried out in a loud voice and said: “Most blessed are you among women . . . blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  (cf. Luke 1:40-45) Mary’s greatness is based on her great faith and obedience to God.

Not only is there nothing wrong with showing honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary, herself, says in Luke chapter 1: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior . . . behold, from now on all ages will call me blessed.”  (cf. Luke 1:46-48)  Mary said “yes” to the will of God in her life and because of her “yes” our God became flesh dwelt among us.  Through Mary’s “yes” the promises that God made throughout the Old Testament to send a Redeemer, were fulfilled.

The early Church Fathers saw in the Blessed Mother the fulfillment of many of the Old Testament signs and types.  One of the Old Testament parallels comes from the first reading this evening.  Many of the early Church fathers saw the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.  In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was a golden box which contained three things: the stone tablet of the Law (the Ten Commandments), some left over Manna (that miraculous bread which the Israelites ate while in the desert), and the rod of Aaron, who was the first High Priest.

Each one of these things contained in the old Ark pointed prefigured, or forward to Jesus Christ.  Once Mary said “yes” to God and conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, she contained within her womb the fulfillment of what was contained in the Ark of the Old Covenant.  Jesus is the living Word of God.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Manna: He, Himself, said: “I am the True Bread come down from Heaven.”  Jesus is also the eternal High Priest of the New and everlasting Covenant.  Mary is seen as the New Ark because she contained within her the Living Word of God, the True Bread come down from Heaven, and the eternal High Priest of the New Covenant.

There are further parallels.  David brought the Ark to the place that he prepared for it in his own city.  While David was bringing the Ark to the city it took a detour and ended up staying in the hill country of Judah for three months.  The Blessed Mother stayed for three months in the hill country of Judah during her Visitation to Saint Elizabeth.  While in the hill country of Judah, David cried out before the Ark: “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?”  Saint Elizabeth, during the Visitation of Mary, the New Ark, cried out: “How does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”  David’s joy for the Ark caused him to dance joyfully before the Ark.  When Mary’s greeting reached Elizabeth’s ears, Saint John the Baptist, leaped for joy in the womb of his mother.  (cf. 2 Samuel 6 with Luke 1)

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant: that is why the Church gives us the Psalm that it does today: “Lord, go up to the place of Your rest, You and the Ark of Your holiness.”  The Church sees the Assumption of Mary into Heaven as the fulfillment of that Psalm.  We know that the Lord has Ascended into Heaven and He has taken His Ark, His Mother with Him: body and soul.

If we understand the parallel that Saint Luke makes in his Gospel between the Ark of the Covenant and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can than better understand the vision that Saint John described in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the book of Revelation.  At the time that Saint John was writing of the vision that he had, the Ark of the Covenant had been lost for quite a long time.  At the end of chapter 11, Saint John says that He saw the Temple in Heaven opened, and there he saw the Ark.  Any Jewish readers of his day would have perked up their ears: they would have wanted to know about the Ark that had so long been lost and sought after.  The next sentence goes on to describe a woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  A Jewish reader might wonder: what happened to the Ark.  We know that Saint John is describing the Ark: Our Lady is the Ark.

All of these ideas have been very abstract.  I, personally, find them to be very interesting.  As I was coming into the Church, I loved learning about the Church Fathers and the ways that they interpreted Scripture.  The Mary/Ark parallel is still one of my favorites.  There is a reality behind all these ideas, that we should not lose sight of: The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of Our Lord, and she is our Mother.  She reigns in Heaven at the right hand of her Son, where she makes constant intercession for us her children.  Her greatest desire is to see us perfectly united with her Son.

We, here in this parish dedicated to her honor, ought to have constant recourse to her motherly intercession.  She is a Mother ready at every moment to assist us in our day-to-day lives.  Let us turn to her often and with great confidence.  Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You this day for giving us Your Mother to be our Mother as well.  May we always remember to call upon her in all our needs, and through her powerful intercession may we be drawn ever closer to You.  Amen.

August 15th

August 18, 2010

The two most important commands are to love God above all things, and to love others as we love ourselves out of love for God.  If we truly live those two commandments, we will become Saints.

We are all called to be Saints.  To become a Saint, we do not have to do extraordinary things; to become a Saint, we only have to faithfully live out the daily duties of our vocations in an extraordinary way: in love.  All sin is a failure to love the way that we are called to love.  In order to rid ourselves of sin, we first have to be aware of our sins.

A good way to begin rooting sin out of our hearts is by getting into the habit of regularly examining our consciences.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught his followers to examine their consciences everyday.  A daily examination can help us become more aware of our sins and then when we are more aware of our sins we can develop a plan to overcome them.

Saint Ignatius recommended setting aside time everyday to examine your conscience.  This doesn’t have to be a long process; it can be done in the matter of a few minutes.

Before you begin the examination, ask the Holy Spirit for assistance.  Then, review your day in your mind.  Try to recall what you did and with whom you interacted throughout that day.

Saint Ignatius also taught his followers to not only pay attention to the faults or sins committed, but also to thank God for all the blessings that were received that day.

Over time, most people begin to realize that they tend to fall into the same sin again and again.  The sin that one most often commits Saint Ignatius called the “predominant” sin or fault.

Once you have identified a predominant sin, it is good to focus in on overcoming that sin.  It can be helpful to focus on overcoming one sin or fault at a time instead of trying to overcome all of our faults at once (which could be an overwhelming task).

During the daily examination, think especially about the predominant fault that you are trying to overcome.  Thank God for the victories you have had that day; ask for His mercy on any times that you may have failed.  Ask God to give you the help you need in overcoming that fault.

Try to learn from the times that you have fallen.  Learn to know the circumstances that lead you to fall and then ask the Holy Spirit to show you a way to overcome those circumstances in the future.  Having a concrete plan works much better than a vague resolution.  Remember, too, that Reconciliation is a powerful channel of God’s grace.

God bless,

Father White

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 18, 2010

“Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  These words of Our Lord should make us all examine our hearts.  We ought to ask ourselves: “Where is my treasure?”  One way to know where your treasure is, is to ask yourself what do you spend the most time thinking about.  What is it that you most want, and why do you want it?  Oftentimes, when we think about what we most want, we think of some material thing.  Some people might think of a relationship that they wish that they had, or a relationship that they have that they wish were better than it is.  Some people may think that the thing that they most want is a better job, or financial security.

There is nothing wrong with wanting good things for ourselves, that is perfectly natural, but we have to make sure that our desires are in proper order.  We have to keep in mind that all the things in this world will do us no good, unless God is the center of our lives.  What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  (cf. Mark 8:36)  The things of this world can make our lives very pleasant; yet the Christian does not live for this world alone.  We are to keep in mind that we are only passing guests in this world: our homeland is in Heaven.  Nothing in this world will ever fulfill us.  Our very being is incomplete if God is not at the center of our hearts.  Nothing in this world will ever satisfy us, because our hearts were made for God.  There isn’t any amount of money that we could acquire where we wouldn’t want more.  It isn’t possible for us to own “enough” stuff: we will always want more.  Our heart’s deepest longing is for God; nothing else can substitute for Him. The things of this world can distract us for a while, but they can never fill our hearts.  Our hearts are restless, until they rest in God.

Our Lord tells us in today’s Gospel that our treasure is in Heaven.  Our whole life in this world is really a preparation for the next life.  This life is passing away.  The life of the world to come will never end.  We do not know how long we will be on this earth.  It is easy to think that death is a long way off.  It is easy to imagine that we will start preparing for the next life when we get closer to it: many, many years from now.  In reality, however, none of us knows how long our life will be; the only thing that we can be certain of, is that one day we will all experience death.  We need to be prepared to meet our Maker on the day that we will be called from this world.

When we stand before our God, we will not think about all the things that we wish that we had in this life.  We will not be judged according to how much money we made or how many things that we had.  We will be judged on one thing: how much did you love?  Did you love God with all your mind and all your soul and all your strength?  Did you love your neighbor as yourself?  When we go before our Lord and Savior we will not regret that we didn’t get the fastest car, the newest computer, or the biggest house.  The only thing that will matter on that day will be how much we loved God and how much we loved others.

We ought to examine our hearts and think about how we treat others.  Do we show our loved ones that we love them?  Do we respect them?  If you thought that you were going to die, would you treat your loved ones differently than you do now?  How do we treat strangers?  Are we quick to help others, or are we coldly indifferent?  Christians are supposed to be able to be recognized by their love.  Could an outside observer that does not know us recognize that we are different just by the way that we live our lives?

We also need to examine our love for God.  Do we really love God the way that we are called to love Him?  Do we put Him first in our lives?  Do we think of Him often throughout the day?  We cannot say that we love God with all of our minds if we never think of Him.  We cannot claim to love God with all of our hearts if we do not speak to Him often in prayer.  We cannot maintain that we love God with all of our strength if we turn our backs on Him in sin.

The Good News is that we have a loving and a merciful God.  There isn’t any sin that we can commit that God would not forgive us of, if only we ask for His mercy.  As long as we are in this world it is not too late to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.  Let each one of us here renew our commitment to follow our Lord more faithfully, and to love our God and others more fully.  Lord Jesus Christ, give us the grace to set our hearts on the real treasure, the treasure that is in Heaven.  Help us, Lord, to root sin out of our lives and to truly love as You call us to love.  Amen.

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 1, 2010

Today’s Gospel is one of those challenging Gospels which we might be tempted to gloss over; and we might be tempted to gloss over it for two different reasons: the first reason might be that we so very familiar with the Scripture passage.  “Oh, yeah, the one about the guy with the barn, who builds a bigger barn and gets rebuked.  I know this one.”  It is so easy to hear a Gospel passage that we are familiar with and almost tune it out because we know the story and have heard it so many times.  We have to fight against that temptation if it comes.  Even if we have heard the same passage a thousand times we can always gain new insight; Our Lord can always speak to our hearts, if our hearts are open to Him.  Scripture is the living Word of God.  The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Sacred Scriptures and He continues to speak to us through them today.

The second temptation to not really hear what Our Lord is saying, and the more dangerous one, is we might not want to hear what He is saying to us.  Today’s Gospel message is not an easy one to hear.  We hear of a rich man, who rejoiced in his riches; he rejoiced until he heard God tell Him: “You fool!”  The Hebrew word for “fool” used by God there is one of the strongest negative words in all of Scripture: it is a very forceful rebuke. Our Lord then goes on to say: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”

Let us make a quick distinction: it is not money, or wealth, or possessions that are evil.  Money is just a thing: in itself, it is neutral.  Scripture tells us that it is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evils.  Having lots of things isn’t wrong, being inordinately attached to our possessions is.  Why is the love of money so bad?  Part of the reason is that when we have wealth it is easy to become attached to it.  God can easily become crowded out of our lives by our possessions.  When we have lots of things, we have lots of things to worry about.  All that attention paid to our stuff can distract us from God.  Another danger is that when all of our needs are provided for it can become easy to feel self-sufficient and forget that we rely upon God for everything.  When someone is in dire need, it is very easy for him or her to turn to God: they have nowhere else to turn.  When things are comfortable, it can be easier to forget God and only focus on the things that we have right in front of us.

All of this is not to say that rich people are bad and poor people are good.  Poor people can just as easily fall into the same attachments.  The poor can have just as much love of money as others, even if they don’t have any money.  There are also many people who are well off who are very generous and detached from their wealth.  What we have or do not have isn’t the heart of the question.  The issue is whether we are attached to what we have or not.  Do we recognize our reliance upon God?  Do we thank Him for all the good things that we have?  Are we good stewards of the gifts that He has given to us?  Do we do our part to assist the poor?

We need to make sure that we are not merely storing up earthly treasures for ourselves; we need to be rich, Our Lord says, “in what matters to God.”  What matters to God?  Think about the two greatest commandments: love God above everything and love your neighbor as yourself.  Love is what matters to God.  God is love and He wants us to become more and more like Him.  He wants us to love others, not things.  God has given us all the good things that we have.  He does not give us His gifts so that we can hoard them away.  He gives us good things so that we can use them and share them with others.  God gives us the gift of faith, not only for ourselves, but also so that we can share our faith with others.  God gives us money, so that we can provide for ourselves, our families and also for those who go without.

Do not forget where the good things that you have came from.  Saint Paul asks: “What do you have that you have not received as a gift?”  The answer is nothing.  Everything that we have, we have received and we are called to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given to us.

We have to be aware of our dependence upon God, lest we take Him, and the gifts that He has given to us, for granted.  We need to remind ourselves often it is God Who gives us all good things.  When we approach our Creator, we all come as beggars before our King.  God has given everything that we have to us.  He gives us our life; our every breath is a gift from God.  Scripture says that “In Him we live and move and have our being.”  There is nothing that we can even offer to God that He has not given to us.  Even if we offer back to Him all that we have and all that we are, we are only returning to Him what He has given to us in the first place.  When we offer things to God, we are like a child that buys a gift for a parent with money given to the child by the parent.  We could not even praise God if He did not give us the grace to know Him.

Let us be good stewards of the gifts that God has given to us.  Let us offer back to Him all that we possess and all of our hearts.  Our being is incomplete if God is not the center of our hearts.  Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.  Let us not allow our possessions distract us from our hearts deepest desire: our desire for God.

Lord, help us to love you above all things and help us to love our neighbors as ourselves for love of You.  May we always remember to thank you for all that You have given to us.  May our possessions never become an obstacle to our union with You, but may we always use our time, treasure, and talents for Your greater glory and honor.  Amen.

August 1st

August 1, 2010

In the last few articles, we have been looking at the importance of daily personal prayer.  While it is true that faithfully living out our vocations from day to day is the most important thing that we do, we also noted that our work cannot replace prayer time.

Our relationship with God can only grow if we spend time talking with Him and listening to Him.  While making sure that we fulfill our daily duties, we have to also set aside time for daily prayer.

Prayer doesn’t have to be confined to our daily prayer time; we can, and should, think of God often throughout the day.  Saint Paul tells us that we are to pray always.  (cf. 1 Thess 5:17)  How can we pray without ceasing and accomplish all the things we need to do?

We can make each one of our tasks throughout the day a prayer if we simply offer it to the Lord.  Before starting each new project we can offer a quick prayer and offer the work that we are about to do for the glory of God.  We should then do that task to the best of our abilities and trust that it is a pleasing offering to God.  We can, in this way, make our whole day a prayer and thus fulfill the exhortation of Saint Paul to “pray always.”

This method of offering up all that we do also helps us get in the habit of thinking of Our Lord often throughout the day.  Again, we should not use this method to replace quiet daily prayer time, but it is a great way to help us to connect with Our Lord throughout the day.

God bless,

Father White

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 1, 2010

We can learn a lot about prayer from today’s Gospel.  Our Lord teaches us the importance of prayer, by Himself praying.  Again and again in the Gospels we hear of how Jesus went off by Himself to pray.  Jesus travelled to many towns and villages teaching the people as He went.  Our Lord worked many miracles and He healed many people.  Jesus drove out unclean spirits and converted many sinners.  Our Lord lived a very active life, and yet He never neglected prayer.

Private prayer is indispensible for our spiritual lives.  We cannot be in relationship with someone we never talk to or spend time with.  Prayer is the way that we enter into a relationship with God and it is the way that we keep our relationship with Him alive.  Even Jesus took time to prayer to the Father.  One might be tempted to think that Jesus could have done more good by working miracles and teaching all the time: He could have been using the time He was praying to heal more people or reach more people through teaching.  Jesus shows us by His example the significance of prayer.  Nothing can take the place of prayer.  Prayer draws us closer to the Lord, and that is what we were all created for: union with God.  Doing good works and living out our vocation faithfully are essential parts of our faith life; yet we must never neglect private prayer.

If you are not in the habit of praying daily, or are just beginning to pray regularly and aren’t sure how to pray, you can make the request of the disciple we heard in the Gospel today your own: Lord, teach me how to pray.  There are many ways to pray; Our Lord teaches us a prayer: the Our Father.  It can be very helpful to use prayers that are already written down for us, either in Scripture or by the Saints.  We should always try to make sure that we are paying attention to the words that we are praying and pray them with attention and devotion.  We ought to mean the words that we say when we pray.

We can, of course, always simply pray from the heart in our own words.  Ask for what you need; thank God for the good things that you have; tell Him everything that is on your heart.  It is also good to take some time and simply listen.  Ask the Lord what He wants to say to you and then listen; wait for Him to speak to your heart.

Another form of prayer is meditation.  We can take a Gospel passage, or some part of Scripture and just try to imagine it.  Try to put yourself in the scene.  Ask what God is trying to say to you through that passage of Scripture.  All of Scripture is God’s letter to you.  He wants to communicate to you through it.  Scripture is not a textbook; it is the inspired, living Word of God; God wants to speak to your heart through the Scriptures.  Saint Jerome said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.  Scripture teaches us about Our Lord and Our Lord speaks to us through the Scriptures.  Spend time with Scripture.  Especially spend time with the Gospels, which relate the life and teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  It will help you come to a deeper knowledge and, more importantly, a deeper love of Our Lord.

There are many different Christian approaches to prayer, and many books that suggest different methods.  The key is to make the time for prayer and then stick to it.  Persevere in prayer.  Our Lord promises that all those who seek, will find.  Seek the Lord in prayer: draw near to the Lord and He will draw near to you.  Lord Jesus, help us to encounter You ever more deeply in our prayer.  Draw us closer to You, Lord, and help us to love You ever more fully.  Amen.