Archive for September, 2010

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 25, 2010

“Woe to the complacent.”  That is a very difficult saying from our first reading this morning.  Yet Scripture often reminds us that this world is not our homeland.  We live in this world as pilgrims; we are on a journey.  We can live very comfortably in this world and it can become easy, at times, to forget that we were not made for this world, but for the next.  Heaven is our goal and we must struggle to keep focused on that goal lest we become too attached to this world.

In the second reading, Saint Paul encourages us to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 
We cannot merely sit back and expect to grow in faith or in love; Saint Paul says that we have to pursue these things.  That might sound strange.  We have to pursue love?  Yes.

We were made in the image of God, and therefore we are made in the image of love; we were made for love (for communion with God and with others) but because of our fallen human nature, we have to work at loving God and loving others.  We were created for love and yet God had to become a man and give us commandments to love.  The two greatest commandments, given to us by Our Lord are only His attempt to get us to love as we were created to love.

We also have to pursue faith and the other virtues.  Every single one of us here this morning has the gift of faith (we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have faith).  We are not Catholics simply because we were raised that way or because we chose to become Catholics.  We are Catholics because God has called us.  Perhaps He called us through our parents, if we were baptized as infants.  But the fact that you are here this morning is a result of the gift of faith that God has given to you.  Faith is one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gave to our souls in Baptism.  We have faith and Saint Paul tells us that we have to pursue faith.  We have to work to deepen our faith.  We have to learn about our faith and nourish it with prayer.  We have to put forth effort to develop the virtues and live our faith out in our day-to-day lives.

Saint Paul tells us to “compete well for the faith.”  Saint Paul often speaks of the spiritual life as a battle, or a competition, or a race.  Saint Paul exhorts us to fight the good fight, to strive for the crown of victory, to run the race so as to win.

Athletes train very hard in order to win the competition.  They deny themselves many things and keep a strict discipline over themselves in order to prepare their bodies to compete.  If an athlete were to become complacent, if an athlete decided that they were “good enough” as they were and gave up training for a competition, how well do you think that that athlete would compete?  Athletes are never complacent.  They always work and train hard to become the best possible athlete that they can be.  They want to not only compete: they want to excel; they want to win.

When Saint Paul tells us to compete well for the faith, he is telling us that we should not be complacent: we should not be satisfied with where we are in our relationship with God.  We should continually strive to deepen our relationship with Our Lord.  Fr. John has a great analogy for the spiritual life: he compares the spiritual life with standing on a down-escalator.  If you stand still on the down-escalator, you will be standing still, you will be going down.  We have a weak fallen nature which is inclined towards sin.  We cannot stand still when it comes to our spiritual life.  If we are not working to draw closer to God, we are being drawn away from Him.

Let us all be on guard against complacency.  Let us ask Our Lord for the grace to grow in our faith and in our love.  Lord Jesus Christ, help us to draw closer to you every day.  Help us to deepen our faith and help us to love You and others as you call us to do, as you created us to.  Never allow our hearts to grow complacent, Lord, but help us to compete well for the faith.  Amen.

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September 26th

September 25, 2010

As this month of September draws to a close and we begin October, we have two feast days in the liturgical calendar related to the Angels.  On September 29th we have the feast day of three Archangels: Ss. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael; and on October 2nd we have the feast of the Guardian Angels.

Angels fascinate many people in our modern culture.  Our culture also has some rather strange ideas about Angels.  I thought it might be helpful to reflect upon the Angels as we prepare to celebrate these two feast days.

The word “Angel” means “messenger”.  God created Angels at the beginning of time.  They are spiritual beings, and hence do not have bodies (although they can appear in human form).

In popular culture the idea is sometimes conveyed that people become Angels when they die.  This is simply a misunderstanding.  Angels are a different kind of being from humans.  Angels are pure spirits; human beings are made up of body and soul.  When a human being dies, their soul is separated from their body, but that person’s body will be resurrected at the end of time.  That is what we mean when we say in the Creed every Sunday that we “look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

Angels stand before the throne of God in Heaven and they ceaselessly sing His praises.  The primary task of the Angels is to glorify and serve God.  The secondary task of Angels is to intercede for and assist us.

Every single human being has an Angel to help them.  This is what is traditionally known as the “Guardian Angel”.  We can ask our Guardian Angel to pray for us and assist us.  Our Guardian Angel is there to help us; their desire is that we join them in Heaven.

In the Mass, we join our voices to the voices of the Angels as we sing praise to God.  In the funeral liturgy, we ask the Angels to lead the soul of the deceased to Heaven.

The term “Archangel” is used to denote an Angel that has had an exceptionally important message.  The names of the three Archangels that we will celebrate this week are all found in Scripture.  Saint Raphael is the Angel sent to help Tobiah on his journey in the Book of Tobit.  Saint Michael is found in a few books in the Old Testament and in the Book of Revelation.  In the Book of Revelation we hear of how Saint Michael engages in battle with the Devil (which is why Saint Michael is often invoked for protection).  Saint Gabriel appears in the Old Testament, but we are all probably most familiar with this Archangel’s appearance to Our Lady at the Annunciation.

The Angels are powerful intercessors for us.  Let us remember, to ask them for their prayers and for their assistance.

God bless,

Father White

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 19, 2010

“For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”  The unjust steward might seem like a strange example for Our Lord to hold up; we must keep in mind, however, that Our Lord is not praising injustice by means of this parable: He is teaching us about prudence.  Through this parable, Our Lord wishes to tell us about the manner in which we are to seek the Kingdom of Heaven.  This parable points out to us how diligently worldly-minded people pursue temporal goals.  How hard people labor and fret over treasures that are so transitory.  Christians ought to be just as diligent, yet our goal is different, obviously.

In another Gospel passage, Our Lord tells us to store up for ourselves treasure in Heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy; where thieves cannot steal.  There isn’t any physical thing in this world that we can take with us when we leave this world.  When we are called forth from this life, we leave behind us all those things that we worked so hard to obtain.  When we appear before God on our judgment day it will not matter how much money we had, or how many possessions.  On that day we will come to realize how little many of the worldly things that currently preoccupy our minds really matter.  When we stand before our Creator and our Just Judge, the only thing that will matter is how much we loved.

We were all created for love.  We are made in God’s image and likeness and God IS love; therefore, we are created in the image and likeness of love.  We were created to love God; we were created for union with God.  We were also created to love others: it was not good for man to be alone.  And yet, because of original sin, because we have a fallen human nature, it is often difficult for us to love as we were commanded to, as we were created to.  Because of sin, we must continually work at love.  Sin makes what should come naturally to us, a challenge.  We were created for union with God, and yet because of our fallen human nature, we can sometimes go for quite a long time without even thinking of Him.  We have to make an effort to call God to mind throughout the day.  We have to consciously make time for prayer.  Again, because of our fallen nature, something that is so essential to living fulfilled lives (spending time with God in prayer) can, at times, seem like a chore.  Yet prayer is the most important thing that we do during the day.  Twenty years from now, the cares and concerns that we have today will not likely seem very important to us anymore.  But the time that we spend in prayer today will bring us closer to God and also will bear fruit in eternal life.  [Fr. Acervo likes to say that] Prayer is to the soul what food is to the body.  Just as we need to eat everyday for the health of our bodies, so too, we need prayer everyday for the good of our soul.

The same problems that we encounter in our relationship with God arise in our relationships with others.  We were created to be in communion with others; yet we have to make an effort to show charity to others; we have to struggle sometimes to be patient with others; at times it is difficult to reach out toward others in charity.  Our fallen human nature is inclined towards selfishness, laxity and pride.  We have to keep our self-love from becoming inordinate, and we have to strive to love others as we love ourselves.

Love is the greatest commandment.  Jesus Christ has told us that the two most important commandments are to love God above all things and to love our neighbor as our self.  If we have truly loved God with all of our hearts, and loved our neighbors as ourselves, we will enter eternal life hearing Our Lord say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Let us be diligent in storing up treasure for ourselves in Heaven, by putting God first in our hearts and by loving as we are called to, as we were created to.

Lord Jesus Christ, send Your Holy Spirit upon us.  Lord, help us to grow in love.  Help us to love God and love others as you have commanded us.  Help us to work for Your greater glory in all that we do.  Amen.