Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday





Today we are blessed to begin once again the Season of Lent and, in a special way, to embark on the Season of Repentance within the Year of Mercy.  In this Jubilee Year, we are focused on the importance of both seeking and giving mercy - asking the Lord for the healing and transforming power of His merciful love and practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as the way of reaching out to the most vulnerable among us in order that, through our charity, they might see the face of God. 




In order that we might become instruments of mercy, we need to first experience what it is like to be shown mercy ourselves.  Chet Wallaby, the "corporate scapegoat" in the latest Little Caesar's commercials, "apologizes" and states that he is solely to blame for all mistakes and faults of the company.  This is clearly inauthentic repentance.  He has been instructed about what to say and doesn't really believe in his heart the contrition he expresses in his words.  The Church places words on our lips all the time.  In the responsorial psalm for today's Mass, for example, we all say "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."  We say it.  We may even acknowledge some remote connection to ourselves as we join in with everyone in saying the words.  Yet, we have to ask ourselves if we really mean it.  Ash Wednesday is about acknowledging that we are sinners, so we can begin a forty-day journey of repentance and deeper conversion.  This demands facing what we would rather avoid and honesty about who we are and what we have done.  Only when we admit our faults can they be forgiven.  Only with honesty comes the power from on high to grow into the best person each of us is capable of being. 




It is not possible for us to truly give mercy if we have not received it.  We would just be saying and doing what we feel we are supposed to do in response to a need - our duty - but not authentically sharing the mercy of God poured into our hearts when, humbly on our knees, we begged God to forgive our sins.  Having experienced mercy, we are filled with gratitude and awe because the Father sent His Son to humble Himself and bleed in agony on the Cross that we might have new and abundant life.  Knowing that Jesus has redeemed us and feeling the power of that redemption made available to us in Confession sparks a desire within us to share God's love and mercy to men and women suffering from physical and spiritual needs. 




It is equally impossible to receive mercy without a sense of sin, a concept lost on many people today in a culture where one's individual choice and desire trump the moral law and the common good.  We need to acknowledge we are sinners, for we will not receive mercy unless we ask for it.  Lent's opportunity for deeper conversion - indeed the Year of Mercy as well - will not yield much fruit if we do not admit our sinfulness, cultivate a healthy sense among all people that every one of us is a sinner in need of grace, and honestly confess our need for mercy. 


Therefore, today, we step out with faith into another Lent.    We pray that the Lord will take us where we need to go this Lent - to a place of seeing clearly our sins and need for mercy - even if we are not sure where that place is.  May we have the courage to be honest about ourselves, open up to the power of the Spirit, who can reveal where we need to change our lives, and beg for mercy.  Having been called out by God and anointed with healing grace, we shall become ambassadors from God to a world hungering for love and truth. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Candlemas Day

In our solar system there are eight planets-Pluto having been relegated to a sub planet a few years ago-and just as recently as two weeks ago scientists say they have discovered a series of objects revolving around a mysterious center which indicates a possible ninth planet. Of all the planets in our solar system our planet Earth is the only one where life is known to exist. This is because it is in a proper orientation and distance from the Sun. If we travel to Mercury or Venus it is much too hot to survive. If we travel out beyond Earth to the other planets Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune it's too cold and dark for life to survive. It's important that we are in just the right orientation and distance from the Sun so that we can experience its light and its warmth so that not only human beings but all life can survive and thrive. We are in just the right orientation at just the right distance at just the right orbit to be able to live on this planet earth.

Today we celebrate the presentation of the Lord when Jesus, merely eight days old, is brought into the temple to be dedicated to God. The lintels of the temple are raised the doors and gates are thrown open and the King of glory enters and meets his people. He is the light of revelation to the nations and the glory of God's people Israel.

We speak of Jesus today as the light and we recognize that it is only when we are in right orientation with Christ our light that we find the grace that we need to live the life of holiness to which God calls us and meet the challenges of everyday. When we are in a right relationship with Christ we thrive.

This light is also a light that purifies us. As scripture says Christ would come to sit purifying silver purifying the sons of Levi as we hear in the words of the prophet Malachi so Christ comes to us to purify us. Like a laser beam that light circumcises our hearts with cutting away from us all that is not of God so that we can stand pure and holy, worthy to offer due sacrifice to the Lord. Purification is off and uncomfortable but we need it in order to be the best that we can be, the people that God made us to be.

And so, as we celebrate this Mass, where Christ is lifted up on the altar as he was lifted up in the temple by Simeon, we give praise glory honor and adoration to the Lord and we beseech the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts to illumine us with the light of Christ so that our hearts might burn within us with the light of the Lord as did the hearts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

In right relationship to Christ our light we receive the light and the warmth the love the comfort and the grace that we need to live lives of holiness, to meet the challenges that life brings to us.

May the Lord continue to walk with us today and always. Illumined by his light may we be signs of His glory to the nations and to each person whom we meet.

Friday, January 01, 2016

New Year means renewed hope

Many people hope for world peace on this first day of the new year and some make resolutions to change parts of their lives in order to be the ones who cultivate peace within their own circle of influence. It's critical to recall that peace is more than the absence of conflict. It is a harmony that arises when those involved surrender to a greater reality and humble themselves in order to serve the other. How do we think the peace we pray for will come to exist? Terrorists will not suddenly lay down arms unless they are first convinced of a new way of perceiving the world. Therefore, what is most necessary is for Christians to pray for the conversion of all others to the true faith of Jesus Christ. Without Him there can be no peace. May the countenance of the one true God shine on the whole world. May our Mother bring all men and women closer to the heart of her Son. Resolve to surrender your life to Jesus. Pray for the growth of our holy faith, which gives us renewed hope every day that God has the power to transform all who surrender to Him.