Archive for October, 2010

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

October 31, 2010

“Before the Lord, the whole universe is as a grain . . . or a drop of morning dew.”  When was the last time you even noticed one drop of dew, or a single grain?  Those things are so small that we rarely even notice them.  When Scripture says that our whole universe is like a single grain before God, it is actually being generous: because next to God, creation is nothing at all.  The universe, our planet, each and every one of us does not need to exist.  We exist because God created us and He continues to will our existence at each and every moment.  Saint Paul tells us that in God we live and move and have our being.  If God stopped thinking about you, you wouldn’t just die, you would cease to exist.

Yet we do exist.  God created us, and He holds us in existence.  Why?  God created everything out of love.  God is love and love is fruitful.  God created us out of love and He loves His creation; He loves each and every one of us.  It can be hard to grasp the fact that Almighty God, before Whom all the universe is as nothing, could care about you and me.  If the whole universe is as a single grain, how much smaller and insignificant is our whole planet?  Much less an individual human being.  Yet we are made in God’s image and likeness.  God created us to know Him and to love Him.  His greatest desire for each one of us is that we spend all eternity with Him: perfectly united to Him in love.  If we are ever tempted to doubt God’s infinite love for us, all that we have to do is look at a Crucifix: the Crucifix assures us of God’s infinite love for us.  So much does He love each and every one of us that He sent His own Son to die in order to save us from sin and death.

God desires our love; He thirsts that we would thirst for Him.  Jesus shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood upon the Cross out for love of us, and His desire is that we respond to His love.  Yet God does not coerce us to love Him.  Love cannot be forced.  God never takes our free will away from us: He allows us to choose between Him and sin: between life and death.  Even when we use our free will to sin and turn our backs on God, He does not withdraw His gift of life from us: instead, He patiently calls us to repentance.  As soon as we turn away from our sin and ask Him for forgiveness, God willingly pours His mercy out upon us; and Jesus tells us that there is rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who turns away from sin.

Today’s Gospel is a great example of the way that God calls each one of us.  Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, and the Gospel tells us that he was a wealthy man.  Many tax collectors in that day were wealthy because they used their position of authority to extort money from the people: that is why “tax collector” in the Gospel is synonymous with “public sinner.”  It was well known that the tax collectors took over and above what they supposed to and thus became wealthy.

Zacchaeus was wealthy, yet his wealth did not satisfy him.  Riches can never satisfy our hearts: we were made for more than this world can offer; we were made for God.  Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus.  He had probably heard the stories about Jesus healing people.  Perhaps he had heard of how Jesus claimed to forgive people their sins.  We do not know what Zacchaeus knew about Jesus, but whatever it was, it was enough to strongly draw him to want to see Our Lord; he wanted to see Jesus so much that he ran ahead and climbed a tree, we are told.  Those facts don’t particularly strike us today, but to those who lived in Jesus’ day, those two facts would have been significant.  People didn’t run, in Jesus’ day: especially not wealthy people.  It was undignified.  They had long robes and in order to run they would have to pull their garments up.  A rich man running through the crowded street would have certainly caught people’s attention.  Then, Zacchaeus climbed a tree.  If running wasn’t undignified enough, here was this wealthy tax collector scurrying up a sycamore tree.  Surely people would be talking about that for days to come!

Yet Zacchaeus forgot himself and his own dignity entirely, he humbled himself and ran and climbed in order to just catch a glimpse of Our Lord.  There must have been a very strong draw on his heart, indeed, in order for him to cast aside his dignity just for a glimpse of Jesus.  What did he expect to see?  When He saw Zaccheaus, Jesus must have noticed the man’s humility and faith; and Jesus gave Zacchaeus more than he had hoped for; Zacchaeus was hoping for a quick look at Jesus; not only did he see Jesus, Jesus spoke to Him and went to eat at his house.

Just as Our Lord called Zacchaeus to Himself, so too He calls each one of us.  He calls us to draw ever closer to Him.  He calls us to set aside pride and sin and humble ourselves.  What if Our Lord appeared and said to you that today He was going to come to your house and eat with you?  First of all, many would probably run home and start cleaning like never before.  How much care would you put into cleaning and preparing the meal?  Wouldn’t you serve Our Lord the very best that you could possibly offer?  The reality is that Our Lord is coming to visit you today: He will come to your soul in Holy Communion.  Do we spend as much effort preparing our hearts to receive Him as we would our homes?  Are our hearts swept clean of sin: are they prepared to receive the King of kings and Lord of lords?  God is love and He loves you, personally, with all that He IS.  Jesus gives Himself to you completely in Holy Communion: He gives you His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  He asks that we respond by giving Him all of our heart.  Let us pray that we may have hearts that are ready and willing to respond to Him:

Lord Jesus Christ, draw us ever closer to Yourself.  Lord, help us to be aware of the great love that you have for each and every one of us, and may we respond to Your love by seeking You above all else.  Help us, Lord, to love You and to do all that we do for love of You.  Amen.

 

October 31st

October 31, 2010

November is a month in which we remember, in a special way, the souls of those who have gone before us. Tomorrow (November 1st) is the Feast of All Saints, a day on which we celebrate all of our older brothers and sisters in the faith who fought the good fight and are now enjoying their eternal reward with God in Heaven. The following day (November 2nd) is the “Commemoration of All Souls.” All Souls Day is a day on which we call to mind, in a particular way, the need to pray for our deceased loved ones.

We know that our God is infinitely holy. Scripture tells us that nothing unclean can enter into His all-holy presence. (cf. Revelation 21:27) All Souls day reminds us to pray for our departed brothers and sisters, that they may be perfectly purified from any stain of past sins and behold God face-to-face.

The Church teaches us that all who die in a state of grace, yet are not perfectly purified from past sins, are assured of their eternal salvation; yet they still need to undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030) This final purification is known as Purgatory.

It is important to remember that this purification is different from forgiveness. Sin has a double consequence: sin damages our relationship with God, but sin also entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures. (cf. CCC 1472) When we confess our sins, God forgives us; yet we still must be purged of our inordinate attachments. We can be purified either in this life, or we can be purified in the next. We can be forgiven only in this life: which is why it is important to make regular use of the Sacrament of Confession. Saint Augustine once wrote: “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”

It is always good to pray for our deceased loved ones; the Church has us pray for the faithful departed at every Mass. (There is a prayer for them in every Eucharistic Prayer.) Praying for the dead assists them in the purification of their souls. Even if our loved ones have already attained the Beatific Vision, our prayers are never wasted; our prayers can help others who are in need.

The Church encourages us to visit cemeteries and pray for the deceased, especially on the first eight days of November. A plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray for the faithful departed on any and each day from November 1st to the 8th. [A plenary indulgence is the full remission of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven. (cf. CCC 1471) More on this next week.]

Let us remember to pray for the souls in Purgatory, especially in this month dedicated to that purpose. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

God bless,

Father White

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

October 24, 2010

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  In order to live out the words of Our Lord from today’s Gospel, two things are necessary: a proper understanding of what it means to be humble, and a true knowledge of ourselves.

True humility is not about putting ourselves down, or imagining that we do not have anything good to offer.  In order to be truly humble, we have to acknowledge truth: we have to be connected with reality.  Our fallen human nature is inclined towards sin and sin is always an excess in one direction or another.  Virtue is not simply just the opposite of one sin or vice, it is usually the middle between two vices.  For example, courage is not merely the opposite of cowardice.  On the opposite end of the spectrum from cowardice is rashness, or foolish lack of regard for danger.  To be truly courageous, one has to avoid both the temptation to cowardice and the temptation to be rash.  Someone who is truly courageous doesn’t rush blindly into danger, but the courageous person also doesn’t shrink from the danger.

The same is true of being humble: humility is the middle between two opposite vices.  To be truly humble, we have to avoid the temptation on the one hand that we have to inordinately exult ourselves above everyone else and even above God; on the other side, we also have to resist the temptation to unduly regard ourselves as completely unable of doing anything good and fall into the temptation of despair and discouragement.  True humility helps us to see our own dignity as sons and daughters of God.  True humility also helps us to see that we are all sinners who stand in need of God’s mercy.

Humility helps us to proper order our lives.  It helps us to love God above all things and others as ourselves.  True humility is not about saying that there is no good in us; true humility recognizes that the good that is in us comes, not from us, but from the hand of God as a gift.  True humility enables us to see our brothers and sisters as sons and daughters of God and helps us to remember that we are all equal before God.  Humility helps me to remember that the gifts and talents I have, I have received.

If I am good at math or sports or playing a musical instrument I should recognize that God gave me my mind, my body and my talents.  Even if I have spent a lot of time practicing to become good at something, God gave me the motivation and the work ethic to put in those hours of practice.  God gives each of us different gifts and talents and we are to thank Him for those gifts and talents and use them for His greater glory and honor.  All that we have, we have received as a gift.  It is good to give thanks for the many gifts and blessings in our lives and it is good to return thanks to God by offering back to Him all that He has given to us.

The first part of being humble, then, is about understanding and acknowledging God as the source of all good things, the source of all life, and praising and thanking Him for it.  The second part of being humble is to also have a true knowledge of our selves.  This is where the Pharisee that we heard about in the Gospel today fell short.  He looked at himself as if he was not a sinner.  The reality is that we are all sinners; Scripture says that even the just man falls seven times a day.  In other words, every single one of us is a sinner and falls short of the glory of God.  God calls us to love Him with all of our hearts and with all of our minds and with all of our strength.  If we are honest, we have to admit that we fail to do that each and every day.  Our fallen human nature is weak.  We have to constantly work at being virtuous; we have to exert effort to grow in our spiritual lives.

Part of being humble is remembering that we all stand in need of God’s mercy.  You and I are not self-sufficient: we rely upon God.  God gives us all the good things that we have, and He gives us His mercy when we fail to live the way that we know we are supposed to live.  If we are aware of our own sins, we ought to be slow to judge or condemn others as the Pharisee did.  Being truly humble reminds me that I am a sinner, and I stand just as much in need of God’s mercy as others do.  When tempted to judge others, or look down on others, we ought to recall to our minds the fact that we, too, fall short of the glory of God.  To exalt ourselves over others is to deny the fact that we are sinners and all that we have that is good comes from God.

Humility reminds us of our need for God’s mercy, and at the same time it reminds us that we are redeemed and blessed in many ways.  We should seek God’s mercy whenever we fall into sin and we should remember to thank Him often for the many gifts that He bestows upon us.  True humility connects us with the reality of who we are.  It is often said that we are nothing more than what we are before God; the opposite is also true: we are no less than what we are before God.  Let us be truly humble, then, and thank God for all that He has given to us and all that He has done for us; and let us acknowledge our complete dependence upon Him.

 

October 24th

October 24, 2010

The four writers of the Gospels are traditionally depicted in Christian art in a rather strange ways: as a man, as a lion, as an ox, and as an eagle.  These symbols are derived from prophetic visions found in both the Old and the New Testaments.  Both in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel and in the Book of Revelation we hear about four “living creatures” which resembled a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle.  Traditionally, these are seen as symbols of the four Gospel writers.

In last week’s article, I mentioned that Saint Luke is the Gospel writer represented by the ox because his Gospel begins with the Angel appearing to Zechariah as he was ministering in the Temple of Jerusalem.  Oxen were just one example of animals offered in sacrifice in the Temple.  The ox is taken to represent Saint Luke because his Gospel opens in the Temple.

The “living creature” which resembled a man is taken to represent Saint Matthew, because his Gospel begins with the human genealogy of Jesus Christ.  Saint Matthew’s Gospel is written to a Jewish audience.  He assumes that his readers are familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and makes many allusions to events and people in the Old Testament.  Because he is writing to a Jewish audience, Saint Matthew is particularly concerned with showing how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament.

The lion traditionally represents Saint Mark.  The reason for this is again found at the beginning of his Gospel.  Saint Mark’s Gospel begins with action: Jesus is baptized and is immediately led out into the desert where He is among the “wild beasts.”  There are mountain lions in the wilderness surrounding the Jordan River; hence the fittingness of the lion used to depict Saint Mark.

Saint Mark was a companion to Saint Peter, just as Saint Luke accompanied Saint Paul.  It is held that Saint Mark wrote much of what he wrote based on things that he learned from Saint Peter.  Saint Mark wrote his Gospel to the Christians in Rome, which is the reason that it is so clear, direct and terse.  (Romans tended to be succinct and efficient.)  Saint Mark’s Gospel has the fewest chapters but it is filled with action.  Saint Mark tried to capture many of Our Lord’s actions and miracles within a relatively short space.

Finally, we come to Saint John.  Of course the eagle is the last of the four symbols that we have mentioned, therefore it obviously represents Saint John.  The eagle represents this last Gospel, not because of it’s opening lines (as is the case with the other Gospels); the eagle represents this last Gospel because just the eagle soars high above all other birds, so too, Saint John’s Gospel is said to soar above the other Gospels due to its lofty theology.  Whereas the other Gospels begin on earth, Saint John’s begins “In the beginning . . .”  Saint John starts out by showing that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God, Who became incarnate in order to reveal God to us.  The first chapter of his Gospel is a beautiful meditation on the Incarnation.

The authors of the four Gospel write from different perspectives and to different audiences, but they each give us great insight into the things that Our Lord said and did.  Through meditating upon the Gospels we come to know Jesus in a most intimate way.  Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: pray for us!

God bless,

Father White

 

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

October 18, 2010

“Beloved: Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from Whom you learned it.”  These words of Saint Paul from our second reading today exhort us to hold fast to the Teachings which we receive from Sacred Scripture.  Saint Paul reminds us that Scripture is inspired by God.  He goes on to say that Sacred Scripture gives us wisdom for Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  The purpose of Sacred Scripture is to lead us to deeper faith, and into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is possible to know that God exists without looking to divine Revelation.  Our unaided human reason can come to the conclusion that there must be something greater than the universe which set the universe in motion.  Even some of the ancient Greek philosophers knew that there had to a single source from which all things proceed, an uncaused Cause or the First Cause of all things.  We can reach the reasonable conclusion that God exists through human reason, but we cannot come to know Who God IS unless He reveals Himself to us.

God is greater than we are; we cannot put Him under a microscope.  It is easy to learn things about inanimate objects, plants and animals.  If we want to learn about a rock all we have to do is take the rock and examine it.  We can break it open; we can run all sorts of different tests on it.  If we want to learn about plants, we can observe them in different conditions and find out which conditions the plant thrives in.  If we want to learn about an animal, we can examine that animal in its natural environment.  We can learn about the animal through observation, examination and through tests.  When I was in high school, I remember learning about the anatomy of a frog by dissecting one.  We cannot learn about human beings in the same way that we learn about rocks or plants or animals.  The only way that we can learn about a human being is through their cooperation.  In order for me to get to know you, I cannot just perform experiments on you; you have to reveal who you are to me.  I can learn things about you through observation, or through talking to others who know you; but for me to really get to know you, you have to tell me about yourself.  I have to spend time getting to know you.  I can only learn about what is in your heart by what you share with me.

God is greater than rocks, plants, animals and human beings.  He is infinitely greater.  If He were not, He would not be God.  We cannot experiment or observe God.  The only way that I can come to know Who God is, is if He reveals Himself to me.  I learn about God by His revealing Himself to me.  In order for me to come to know God, I have to be in a relationship with Him; I have to allow Him to reveal Himself to me.

God wants to be in relationship with each one of us.  He wants to reveal Himself to you.  One of the most important ways that God reveals Himself to us is through Sacred Scripture.  In the second reading Saint Paul said that all Scripture is useful for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  Scripture is supposed to teach us how to live; not that it is simply about laying down laws and rules (although it does that too).  Through Scripture, God tells us about Who He is, who we are in relationship to Him and how we are to live so that we can live with Him forever in Heaven.  Scripture tells us about Who God IS so that we can be in relationship with Him and live the way that He created us to live.  If you want to know the purpose for something, the easiest way to find out is to ask the one who made the thing.  God created us and through Scripture He is telling us why.  God made us for Himself.  He made us to be in relationship with Him.  God made us for love: to love Him above all things and others as ourselves for love of Him.  God wants to deepen His relationship with us: He thirsts for you.  He wants you to come to know Him ever more deeply and love Him ever more fully.

How do we grow in our relationship with God?  We spend time with Him.  Our relationship with God grows the same way that all of our relationships grow: by spending time with the person that we want to develop a relationship with.  Spend time with God and prayer and through praying with Scripture can help us grow closer to Him.  The more we learn and know Scripture, the more we come to know God as He has revealed Himself to us.  The Bible is not just words about God; it is the Word of God.  God wants to speak to you through Scripture; He desires to reveal Himself to you through it.  We have to read Scripture in order to allow God to speak to us through it.  The same Holy Spirit that inspired the writers of Sacred Scripture wants to inspire you through them.  We have to do what we can to learn about Sacred Scripture; we have to ask questions about Scripture: sometimes that question might be: “what the heck does this Scripture mean?”  We ought to take time to pray with and meditate upon Sacred Scripture.  Saint Jerome once said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.  Our pastor, Fr. John, is fond of saying that Scripture is God’s love letter to you.  If you received a letter from a family member or a really good friend wouldn’t you open it immediately and read it?  God wants to speak to us through Scripture.  I challenge each one of us here to take some time this week to pray with Scripture.  Maybe just prayerfully read the readings for next Sunday.  Fr. John’s Wednesday Bible study focuses on the Sunday readings for the upcoming week; he always gives great insight into the readings.  That being said: a Bible study cannot replace taking time praying with Scripture on your own.  Bible studies can give us fruit for meditation (the more we understand Scripture the deeper we can enter into it) but each one of us has to enter into the Scriptures for ourselves.  Praying with Scripture is not the same as studying Scripture or just reading it.  Try to let God speak to your heart through it.  Meditate on it; enter into the scene.  Imagine what it was like to sit at the feet of Jesus as He teaches.  Think about what Jesus says: ask God what He wants to say to you through the passage that you are reading.  Praying with Scripture can be a powerful way to encounter the Lord.

Lord, help us to come to an ever-deeper appreciation of your Holy Word.  Send Your Holy Spirit upon us and give us hearts that are open to listening to all that You want to say to us.  Help us, Lord, to grow in our knowledge and in our love of You.  Amen.

 

October 17th

October 14, 2010

This Monday is the Feast day of Saint Luke.  Saint Luke was the author of the Gospel according to Luke as well as the Acts of the Apostles.  We know some things about Saint Luke from Scripture itself.  From some of the letters of Saint Paul, we learn that Saint Luke accompanied Saint Paul on some of his missionary journeys.  We also know from Scripture that Saint Luke was a physician. (cf. Colossians 4:14)  It is uncertain what happened to Saint Luke after the second imprisonment of Saint Paul.

Saint Luke is one of the most extensive writers of the New Testament.  His Gospel is longer than the others; his two books, taken together, are as long as all of Saint Paul’s Epistles; the Book of Acts alone exceeds the length of the other (non-Pauline) books of the New Testament put together.

The Gospel of Luke is one of two Gospels that contain a genealogy of Jesus Christ.  The genealogy that can be found in Saint Matthew’s Gospel only traces Jesus’ family tree back to Abraham.  (Saint Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience, and therefore he is concerned with showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham.)  Saint Luke, on the other hand, wrote to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience and he traced Jesus’ bloodline all the way back to Adam and Eve in order to show that the Salvation that Jesus offers is for the entire human race.

The Acts of the Apostles (the second book written by Saint Luke) recounts the activity of the early Church after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven.  In Acts, Saint Luke shows how the Good News began to be spread throughout the world.

In Christian art we often see the four Gospel writers depicted as a man (Saint Matthew), an ox (Saint Luke), a lion (Saint Mark) and an eagle (Saint John).  These symbols are derived from various prophetic visions in the Old Testament as well as from the Book of Revelation.  The reason that the ox is used to symbolize Saint Luke is because his Gospel begins with an account of an Old Testament priest, Zechariah (the father of Saint John the Baptist), going to the Temple to offer sacrifice (oxen were just one example of the sacrifices offered in the Temple in Jerusalem).

If someone who never read the Bible wanted to begin, Saint Luke’s Gospel is an excellent place to start.  Saint Luke tells the whole story of Jesus Christ, from the Annunciation to the Ascension.  One of the things that the Gospel of Saint Luke focuses on in a particular way is the mercy and compassion that Jesus has for sinners.

A good way to celebrate the Feast of Saint Luke is to read your favorite part of his Gospel on his Feast.  Also remember to invoke his powerful intercession.  Saint Luke, pray for us!

God bless,

Father White

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

October 14, 2010

The account of the ten lepers is a very familiar Gospel passage and, as you know, it is important to resist the temptation to allow our minds to glaze over the parts of Scripture that we all know so well.  Sacred Scripture is the inspired Word of God.  God wants to speak to you and to me through the Scriptures, but we have to have ears that are open to listening and hearts that are open to receiving the grace that God wants to give to us through them.

There are several senses, or layers of meaning, within Scripture.  Whenever we read Scripture, we can look at it from different angles.  The first and most basic of these senses is the literal sense.  When we read the Gospels, we know that the Gospels give us historical, factual account of what Jesus Christ really did and what He really said.  The literal meaning of today’s Gospel passage is that Jesus miraculously healed ten lepers and then only one of they returned to thank Him.

When we look at the literal sense of Scripture, we can dig more deeply into the passage by looking at the larger context, learning about the historical background and the laws and customs of the day, etc.  For example, in today’s Gospel, we know that leprosy was a dreaded, deadly disease.  We can learn about leprosy from the Old Testament.  The book of Leviticus, for example, tells us that anyone who became infected with leprosy had to live outside of the community; lepers were not allowed into the city for fear that they would infect others.  Leprosy was so contagious that lepers were not even allowed to come close to others; they had to yell out to anyone approaching in order to let them know not to get too close.  That is why the lepers in today’s Gospel did not come up to Our Lord, but stood at a distance and cried out from afar.  Furthermore, we know that part of the Jewish law required the priests to pronounce someone “clean” or free from leprosy if they were healed.  That is why Jesus sent the lepers to show themselves to the priests.

Besides the literal sense, there are also various spiritual senses of Scripture.  The spiritual senses of Scripture do not negate the literal sense: they are based on it.  One of the ways to look for the spiritual sense of Scripture is to try to find out how it applies to us.  You have to ask yourself: What is God saying to you through this Scripture passage?  One of the things that should jump out at us from today’s Gospel passage is the importance of gratitude.  Our Lord praised the Samaritan for returning to thank Him for his restored health.  We often ask God for things; how often do we stop to give Him thanks?  It is good to give Him thanks for answered prayers; it is also good to thank God for all the many blessings that we have in our lives.  It is easy to complain; we can be tempted to focus on what we don’t have.  It is easy to focus on our sufferings and our worries.  We ought to ask God for the things that we need: both the little things and for the small things.  But don’t forget to also thank God for the blessings that are in your life.  If we focus only on the bad things in our lives or in our world, we can be tempted to become discouraged and to despair.  God does not want us to become overwhelmed by life’s difficulties; He wants us to turn to Him and entrust ourselves into His most merciful hands.  We are not bearing our burdens alone; Jesus is right beside us every step of the way.  He told us to take up our cross, but He didn’t tell us that we are on our own: He told us to take up our cross and follow Him.  We are not alone.  God is always with us He thinks of us always even when we are not thinking of Him and even when we forget to thank Him for all that He does for us: He is always there waiting for us to turn to Him.

Another thing that this Gospel passage says to us is that we are to bring all of our troubles to Jesus.  We ought to bring to Him all that is on our hearts and ask for His grace, for His strength, for His healing.  If there is grave sin on your soul, go and show yourself to the priests.  Make frequent use of the Sacraments: especially the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, and the Sacrament of Confession.  Jesus wants to heal our hearts; He wants to refresh us.  He wants us to have life and have it more abundantly.  Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)  Jesus Christ gave us the Sacraments; He wants to pour His grace into our souls through them, but we have to come and receive them and we have to receive them worthily.

In the Upper Room, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven.  Jesus gave the Apostles the power to bind and loose us from our sins and the Apostles have shared that sacred power with their successors, the bishops, and the bishops have shared it with priests.

Through the Sacraments, we receive God’s grace; through the Sacraments, we are united with Almighty God in a most intimate way.  Thank God for the graces that He gives to you through the Sacraments.  Make frequent use of them.  Jesus Christ gave us the Sacraments so that we might make use of them and thereby grow closer to Him.  Furthermore, the Church asks us to go to Confession at least once a year.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we need to go more often than that.  We need God’s grace in order to live the way that He wants us to live; we need His grace to love the way that He created us to love.  Make frequent use of the Sacraments and give thanks to God for the great things that He does for us through them.

October 10th

October 14, 2010

The month of October has many great feast days in it.  The month began with the feast of St. Therese (the “Little Flower”), then there was the feast of the holy Guardian Angels; Saint Francis of Assisi’s feast day was this past Monday.  This week we will celebrate the feast day of St. Theresa of Avila, a great mystic and a female Doctor of the Church.  Before the month is over we have the feast of Saint Luke (the Gospel writer), as well as the feast of two of the Apostles: the feast of Saints Simon and Jude.

The Church celebrates the Saints in the liturgical calendar as a way of putting their lives before us as models of virtue.  It is good to learn about the Saints; the lives of the Saints make great spiritual reading.  Their heroic virtues inspire us to imitate them and their holiness compels us to seek holiness ourselves.

The Church also gives us feast days in order to remind us that we are united to those who are in Heaven.  The Saints in Heaven are still part of the Church; they are still members of the mystical body of Christ.  Traditionally, those members of the Church on earth were referred to as the “Church militant” and those in Heaven were known as the “Church triumphant.”  We continue to confess our belief in this reality when we say, in the Apostles’ Creed, that we believe in the “Communion of Saints.”

Besides being great examples, the Saints are also powerful intercessors for us in Heaven.  The Letter to the Hebrews says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.  (cf. Hebrews 12:1)  The Saints are not just historical figures: they are alive and they accompany us on our journey through this life.  The Saints are our older brothers and sisters in Christ.  We can ask them to pray for us.  We can have a relationship with them.  We all probably have our own favorite Saints and there are many patron Saints for various situations with whom we are probably familiar.  It is also good to learn about the other Saints as their feast days come up and invoke their intercession as well.  Saint James says that the prayer of a righteous person avails much.  (cf. James 5:16)

The Saints are in Heaven continually worshipping God and interceding for us.  They pray for us; they want us to love God as much as they do; they want us to follow God’s will for our lives and they desire that we be united with them, one day, in Heaven.  All holy men and women, pray for us!

God bless,

Father White

Respect Life Sunday

October 4, 2010

The first Sunday of October has been chosen by the bishops of our country as a day in which we honor, in a special way, the gift of human life.  This Sunday has designated “Respect Life Sunday.”  This Sunday, in a particular way, we are asked to reflect upon the gift of human life and the need to respect human life from its beginnings at conception to its natural end.

Every human life has immense dignity and there is a twofold reason for this dignity.  First, each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God.  All of creation reflects God’s glory; yet in the Book of Genesis we learn that man, alone, is created in God’s own image and likeness.  We have an inherent dignity based on the fact that we, alone are created in God’s image and likeness.

Second, human dignity is based on the end for which every human being was created.  Every single human being was created to know, to love and to serve God in this world and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.  We were created for union with God.  God desires the salvation of all.  Not all are saved, but all were created by God for Heaven.  God created each person with a free will and He will not take that free will away from us, even if we use that free will to our own destruction.

Even if not all go to Heaven, it is still true that every single human being was made for union with God in Heaven.  Jesus said that He came that we might have life and have it in abundance.  We can have a foretaste of that abundant life to which Jesus referred to some degree in this world, but the fullness of life of which Jesus spoke, will only be realized when we share in the fullness of divine life that those who follow the Lord faithfully in this life [and die in the state of grace] will experience in the Kingdom of Heaven.

We respect human life because every human being was created in the image and likeness of God and because every human being was created to be with God forever in Heaven.  All attacks on the dignity of human life are grave offenses against God Who IS the source of all life.  We have an obligation to protect life from conception to natural death.

Our previous Holy Father Pope John Paul II appropriately referred to the culture in which we live as the culture of death.  Unfortunately, our culture has very little respect for human life.  Ever since the widespread rejection of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae, followed by the widespread acceptance of contraception the culture has plummeted to ever increasing depths of moral decay, as the Holy Father predicted it would if contraception was embraced.  If you encounter Catholics, or others, who do not agree with the Church’s Teaching on contraception, or other life issues, encourage them to learn about why the Church teaches what she teaches before rejecting it out of hand.  Dr. Janet Smith (a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary and well known pro-life speaker) once commented that many of the people that she has encountered who think that the Church is wrong on the life issues have not taken the time to read the documents and find out why the Church teaches what she does on the subject.  Dr. Smith has said that many times people think the Church is wrong based on things that they have heard in the media: of course the media thinks the Church is wrong, the media helped promote the culture of death in the first place and the media continues to promote the culture of death.  The moral decadency of our culture is proof that the Church is right on what she Teaches.  There was not a need for a “Respect Life Sunday” fifty years ago.  Once contraception gained general acceptance, human life quickly began to be viewed as something undesirable, as a burden, as an obstacle to the pursuit of pleasure and material wealth.  That attitude opened the way for abortion, and abortion has plagued our country for decades now and has destroyed millions of innocent lives.

In many ways the moral picture of our society looks bleak: yet we must never allow ourselves to fall into despair.  The same Pope that coined the term “the culture of death” told people again and again: “Do not be afraid.”  We know that Christ has won the ultimate victory.  All of our trust and all of our hope is in Him, yet we, too are called to bear our part.  We are called to be His faithful witnesses in the world.  We are called to defend the Church’s Teaching whenever it is challenged; we are called to do all that is in our power to promote a culture of life.  We are called to pray and to offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.  And if you really want to change the world: become a Saint.  Jesus sent just a few Apostles out into a largely pagan world; by their faithfulness to Christ, even in the midst of great opposition and sufferings, their message has gone out to the ends of the earth.  Let us pray for the new springtime that John Paul II spoke about; let us pray that God will again send forth His Spirit and renew the face of the earth.  Amen.

October 3rd

October 4, 2010

The month of October is a month dedicated to the Holy Rosary.  The Rosary is a beautiful devotion which combines two forms of prayer: vocal prayer and meditation.  While vocal prayers make up the body of the Rosary, meditation upon the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Christ makes up the “soul” of the Rosary.  In order to derive the most benefit from the recitation of the Rosary, meditation on the mysteries is vital.

The Rosary is a most effective way to show our love for Jesus and Mary.  It is a devotion offered in honor of Our Blessed Mother, but it is profoundly Christ-centered.  This devotion in honor of Our Lady causes us to meditate on her Divine Son.  Mary always leads us to Jesus.

As we meditate upon the mysteries of the Rosary, we can think of the example that Jesus and Mary are for us.  We are called to follow Our Lord, and no one followed Him more faithfully than Mary; therefore, she too is a model of virtue for us.  Simply by praying the Rosary, we already imitate Mary who kept all the things that Our Lord did in her heart and meditated upon them continuously.  (cf. Luke 2:9)

Praying the Rosary regularly is a great way to deepen our love for Jesus and Mary.  Meditating often on the mysteries of our salvation our hearts are inspired with gratitude for all that God has done for us.

The Rosary is also a very powerful spiritual weapon.  The Rosary was given by Our Lady to Saint Dominic as a weapon to battle the Albigensian heresy.  St. Pius V attributed the victory at Lepanto (a victory which saved Rome from the Ottoman Empire) to the Rosaries that had been offered for that intention.  He instituted a Feast day in honor of Our Lady: the Feast day of Our Lady of Victory.  That Feast day was re-named the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary by Pope Paul VI.  We celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th.

Through the recitation of the Rosary we can obtain many graces and blessings for ourselves and for others.  Through the Rosary we can commend our families, friends and loved-ones to the most powerful protection of Our Mother and Our Queen.  Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

God bless,

Father White