Monday, August 13, 2018

19th Week of OT 2018 - Monday - Jesus reveals his identity and mission

The four Gospel treat the notion of Jesus’ identity in different ways. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus appears very guarded about his identity as the Messiah and the Son of God. For example, when he asks the disciples that famous question, “who do you say that I am?” and Peter replies, “You are the Messiah”, Jesus warns the disciples not to tell anyone about him. Again, after healing the leper, Jesus tells the leper, “tell no one who I am, but go and show yourself to the priest.”

The Gospel of John takes Jesus’ identity to the other extreme. In John, he is very clear about his identity, saying things like, “I and the Father are One.” "…he who has seen me has seen the Father…". Jesus says, “I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the Bread of Life, I AM the resurrection and the Life, I AM the way, the truth, and the life.”

Matthew takes a different approach from Mark and John. In Matthew, Jesus doesn’t try to hide his identity, nor does he boldly explain it. Rather, he gives subtle hints. He teaches people how he is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, and he also subtly reveals his identity through the many miracles Matthew records. In Matthew, Jesus feeds the multitudes by performing a miracle, he walks on water, he heals multitudes of sick people, he casts out demons. In Matthew, Jesus performs works that no human could possibly do.

Today’s Gospel takes place a few verses after the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain top, where Matthew clearly records the voice of heaven proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.”
Through all of these signs and actions, Jesus’ disciples came to believe that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, who came to save us from our sins.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus performs another one of these miracles that no one could possibly do, as a way of proving his divine identity. Who could possibly predict that the next fish pulled out of the sea would have money in its mouth, and not only that, but he would predict the exact amount, and not only that, the amount would be the exact amount of money for the temple tax.

Jesus not only proves his divinity here, but also his mission, he comes to pay the price for our sins, that we may have eternal life. His very name, too, Jesus, which in Hebrew means, “God saves” reveals his identity and mission.

We offer this Holy Mass as a way of giving Eucharistic thanks for our redemption, deepening our faith in Him, and proclaiming to the world that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That all Christians may be deeply committed to the spread of Christ’s Gospel.

For the Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of August that any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests, deacons and religious of the diocese of Cleveland, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

Incline your merciful ear to our prayers, we ask, O Lord, and listen in kindness to the supplications of those who call on you. Through Christ our Lord.

Friday, August 10, 2018

August 10 2018 - St. Lawrence of Rome - Laughing in the face of death

Today’s saint was a deacon of the Church of Rome in the mid 3rd century.  It’s hard to imagine the situation of the Church in Rome during the persecution, which lasted from 64 A.D. to 313 AD. We're talking about a state sponsored persecution lasting longer than America has been a nation. 

Earlier this week we heard about how the Roman Emperor Valerian passed a decree that Christian worship was forbidden unto death and that everyone was now forced to practice the pagan religion of the state.  And then, a second decree, a year later in 258 AD, that simply and coldly ordered all bishops, priests, and deacons be put to death. 

The Pope, Bishop of Rome, Pope Sixtus II, was arrested and killed on August 7th 258 AD. Today’s saint, the Roman Deacon Lawrence was arrested and killed four days later. Lawrence, like Sixtus is mentioned in the Roman Canon, the first Eucharistic prayer.

As a deacon in Rome, Lawrence was in charge of the Roman Church’s treasury, and had the responsibility of distributing alms to the poor.  When Pope Sixtus was arrested and killed, Lawrence knew that he would be next—he sold all of his personal possessions and gave them away to the poor widows, orphans, and beggars of Rome.

When the prefect of Rome heard this, he imagined that Church must have a considerable treasure hidden somewhere in the city.  He ordered Lawrence to bring the Church’s treasures to him.  So, Deacon Lawrence gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasures of the Church.”

In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was to be slowly roasted alive upon an iron grill.  Lawrence however was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flame. He even joked,  "I'm done on this side! Turn me over” Among many other things, Lawrence is a patron saint of Comedians.

This feast’s Collect Prayer asks God to help us love what Lawrence: He loved serving the Church, He loved the poor, he loved the Lord. Because of his great love, he was able to have such courage in the face of death, even to laugh in the face of death.

May we, like St. Lawrence be filled with love for all that God loves and order our lives to reflect that we are made for a life beyond this life for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That all Christians may grow in their awareness of and charitable attentiveness to the needs of the poor in their midst.

That Christians persecuted for the faith may be courageous in their witness to the saving Truth of Christ. And that the witness of the martyrs may never be in vain.

For the Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of August that any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests, deacons and religious of the diocese of Cleveland, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

Incline your merciful ear to our prayers, we ask, O Lord, and listen in kindness to the supplications of those who call on you. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

August 7 2018 - St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan - Trusting God at all times

The Church honors two saints today, separated by more than a thousand years.

In the third century, the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered that Christians had to take part in the state religious ceremonies. He also forbade them from assembling for Christian worship, threatening with death anyone who was found to disobey the order.  St. Sixtus II was Pope during this terrible time.  And for nearly a year Sixtus functioned as Pope, administering the Church. He famously worked to resolve a conflict with certain Eastern churches over the rebaptism of converted heretics.

In August of 258, Emperor Valerian issued a far crueler edict.  It simply and coldly ordered that all bishops, priests, and deacons be put to death. On August 6, 258, Pope Sixtus II and four deacons, were seized while celebrating Mass in the Catacombs of Callistus in Rome.  They were beheaded that same day.

Over a thousand years later, the Lord raised up a priest, a tremendously compassionate heart. He had been consecrated to the Blessed Virgin by his parents. Caitano, or Cajetan, as we call him, lived a life of great austerity and charity toward the poor. He was a mystic. His charity and prayer seemed to impress heaven itself: Our Lady appeared to him and allowed him to hold the child Jesus. He founded a religious order known as the Theatines to care for the impoverished sick and dying.

Sixtus and Cajetan, two very different saints, and yet, both imitating Our Lord. In the Gospel, we hear of the Lord walking on water, and commanding Peter to do the same. Yes, Peter sinks into the sea, and requires rescue from the Lord, but for a moment he walked on water, just like the Lord. The Lord said that we, his followers, would perform works just like his, miraculous works, works of charity, acts of great courage, and our suffering would be like his as well.

Many Christians settle for mediocrity while the Lord is actually calling us to walk on water with Him. The Collect prayer for St. Cajetan beseeches God for the ability “to trust God at all times”, to trust Him when he calls us out of the comfort of the boat, out of the familiar, out of ingrained habits and routines, out of mediocrity, out of our vices, to love the sick and the poor more, like St. Cajetan, to witness with Courage to the truth of the Gospel even when we will be persecuted, like St. Sixtus, to walk on water like St. Peter.

The Lord longs to do great things in us, with us, and through us. Through the intercession and example of the saints, may we come to trust Him at all times in order to cooperate with His Holy Will, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That Pope Francis and all bishops and clergy may lead the Church by example in witnessing to the truth of the Gospel with courage and living the Gospel with charity and perseverance.

That politicians and government officials may protect religious freedom, promote virtue, and look to the law of Christ to guide their work for the good of nations and the human race, especially for the protection of the unborn.

For the Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of August that any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, immigrants and refugees, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For all who have died, and for all the poor souls in purgatory, and for X. for whom this Mass is offered.

Incline your merciful ear to our prayers, we ask, O Lord, and listen in kindness to the supplications of those who call on you. Through Christ our Lord

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 31 2018 - St. Ignatius of Loyola - Discernment of Spirits and Daily Examen


While convalescing from a military injury, the young soldier Ignatius of Loyola discerned that the pursuits of the flesh, fame, wealth, power brought him emptiness and disappointment, where the pursuits of the spirit, as lived out in the lives of the saints and the famous spiritual volume, The imitation of Christ, brought him a sense of completeness and true peace.

Ignatius discerned well the logic of our Lord in the Gospel today: the Lord Jesus works to sow good seed in our hearts, which flourish to eternal life, where the enemy, the devil, sows seeds of corruption, which poison our souls, and lead to perdition. St. Paul echoed this sentiment in his letter to the galatians, when he wrote: “the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit.”

Upon recovery, Ignatius rightly discerned to give his life over to the greater glory of God. AMDG, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam “for the greater glory of God”, became the motto of the Jesuit Order which he founded, which took the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as well as a special fourth vow of unconditional obedience to the Holy Father: to go wherever the pope should send them for the salvation of souls.

How are each of us called to serve God’s glory? We do well to follow Ignatius’ rules of discernment. We should identify the vain pursuits which bring only temporary satisfaction, and seek rather the activity that brings lasting peace and joy. Like the young knight Ignatius, sometimes we discover that we’ve been deceiving ourselves about what matters most in life, and shy away from true and humble service.

Ignatius developed what is called the daily examen, a prayer at the end of the day, to reflect on the day’s activities, to review the events of the day and consider, did I follow God’s initiative or my own, did I sew in the field of the flesh, or the field of the spirit. Then, in silence and peace, to express thankfulness for the gifts and blessings of the day, and ask repentance for our failure to live up to our Christian identity. Then finally, to ask God to help us resolve to grow and trust in the loving guidance of God tomorrow.

May we know the prayerful intercession of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in our daily efforts to work for the spread of the Gospel, for the greater glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For deliverance from all disordered affections and attitudes, for detachment from earthly goods in order to value the goods of heaven, that the Holy Spirit may guide our discernment for God’s service. We pray.

For an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, for the Society of Jesus, and that we may all be dedicated to the greater glory of God.

For Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of July: That priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.

For freedom from inclement weather and any violent incidents or dangerous accidents during our upcoming parish festival, and that those who come to our parish grounds may know the goodness of God reflected in the charity and kindness of our parishioners.

That the love of Christ, the divine physician, may bring healing to the sick and comfort to all the suffering.

For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased priests, religious, especially for all deceased Jesuits who have served our local Church, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom. We pray.

O God, who know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

17th Sunday in OT 2018 - The Eucharist in God's plan of salvation

Since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, our scripture readings for Sunday Mass are organized into a three-year cycle.  The first year we hear from Saint Matthew’s Gospel, the second year from Saint Mark, and the third from Saint Luke.  Right in the middle of the Year of Saint Mark, for six weeks beginning this sunday, the Gospel readings are taken from the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, and we won’t hear from Saint Mark again until September.

The sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel is a crucial chapter; it contains what biblical scholars call Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse—the Lord’s teaching about the Bread of Life—the Eucharist.
In the upcoming weeks, we will hear again the Lord teach that He is the Bread of Life, and that all those who come to Him will never hunger, that those who eat the Bread of Life will live forever, and that the bread that he gives, the Eucharist, is his flesh for the life of the world.

John chapter six begins not with direct teaching, but with the story we heard today of the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes. This miracle story, sets the tone for the Lord’s teaching on the Eucharist to follow, and contains some important lessons about the Eucharist as well.

The First lesson that we do well to reflect upon is this miracle and the teaching to follow was His idea, the Eucharist is part of God’s plan for the Church, it’s not a human invention. The Lord planned this miracle, he planned this teaching. As the Gospel told us today, “he knew what he was going to do” even before he did it. And so, the Eucharist is part of God’s plan for Human Redemption.

Anyone who has ever thrown a banquet or cooked a meal knows that some planning is involved. And what’s the purpose of the meal, to nourish and to bring people, to bring a family together. The Eucharist is a meal that God has planned for the same purpose, to nourish and to bring the human family together.

Because of Original Sin, the Human Family is malnourished and divided. We keep going back to addictions and earthly, selfish pursuits which don’t feed our spirit. And our enemy, the Devil, loves to keep us spiritually malnourished and divided.

One example, I think of the enemies tactics is how he has attacked the family meal. One of the saddest sights is to see a family at a restaurant, at a meal, where parents and children, instead of talking to each other, they are using their mobile devices. Use of cell phones, books, other distractions, have no place at the Christian table. (That goes for Mass too, by the way) Why? Because they keep the family from communicating, from communion, with each other. And they keep us from prayer, from communicating, and communion, with God.

So, the Eucharist, is part of God’s plan, for reconciling fallen humanity with himself, and with each other.

Secondly, from the Gospel story, we see derive another important lesson. We see God doing somethings for us we cannot do for ourselves. The crowds who followed Jesus had no food, the disciples had no money to buy food, the five loaves and two fish were not enough to do the job, the people couldn’t feed themselves and on their own the apostles were helpless to meet the needs of the people.

Some very poor scripture scholars argue that actually the people had plenty of food, but they didn't want to share it—that the real miracle is that somehow Jesus, by sharing what he had, convinced them all to do the same thing. Such an insinuation is nonsense, it distorts the biblical data.
The fact that Jesus really did multiply the loaves and fish is emphasized by today's First Reading, where the prophet Elisha performed a similar miracle for a hundred people. Only the power of God was sufficient to meet the needs described by these passages of the Bible.

It reminds us of another Old Testament passage where only God’s power was sufficient: when he sent the Israelites manna in the desert. That too was a foreshadowing of the Eucharist, the true bread from heaven, as next week's Gospel passage will remind us. If Jesus hadn't intervened with his miracle, those people would have gone hungry; they needed bread, and only Jesus could give it to them.

The same thing goes for us today. Heaven is not reachable by human effort alone. Sinful man cannot redeem himself. Divided humanity cannot unify itself. We need God. Sinful man needs a Divine Savior, spiritually malnourished humanity needs a Divine Physician. Similarly, with the Mass, no Christian, priest or lay has the power to change bread and wine into flesh and blood by his own power. Only through the Lord’s gift of the Sacrament of Holy Orders can we have the Eucharist.
To live the lives of wisdom, courage, hope, faith, and self-giving that we are called to live, in a sin-infected culture that is like a desert, void of all those virtues, we need God's help.

This is why, from the very beginning to our present day, it is considered gravely sinful to fail to come to Mass when we aren’t hindered by illness or age. Something crucial, something absolutely vital, is missing from the Christian’s relationship with God when we fail to come to Mass as we should.

But also, for those of us who do come to Mass, we also have a responsibility to do our part to open ourselves to the spiritual nourishment, to the grace, of the Sacrament.

When little effort is made throughout the week to pray, to practice virtue, to repent of sin, to prepare our minds and souls for this great banquet, little grace is obtained. I know many Catholics who say, I don’t go to mass because I don’t get anything out of it. When little is put into mass, little is gotten out of mass.

But when you attentively listen to the sacred words of the liturgy, desiring to integrate the wisdom of God’s Word into your life, when you come to Church conscious of your blessings with gratitude to God for them, when you come here with trust that God will give you the strength you need to be holy and to remain faithful to Him throughout the week’s challenges, when you fully, consciously, actively unite yourself to the sacrifice of Christ made present on this altar, and when you come here with openness to being led by the Spirit to work for the spread of the Gospel outside these walls, you will get something out of mass, you will get the life of Jesus Himself, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

July 26 2018 - Saints Joachim and Anne - Role of Grandparents

At one time, July 26 was the feast of St. Anne only, and devotion to St. Anne goes back to the early centuries of the Church; in the year 550, a basilica in her honor was dedicated in Constantinople.  It is only recently, with the new calendar that the two feasts of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been joined.

In addition to being honored as the parents of the Mother of Our Lord, Saints Joachim and Anne are the patron saints of grandparents.  It’s good today, then, to reflect on the role that grandparents play within the Church.  Some grandchildren are blessed to grow up near their grandparents, while others because of distance only get to spend time with their grandparents a few times a year.  Given the culture of the Holy Land, it’s likely that Jesus spent considerable time with His grandparents, even if they didn’t live in the same town.  They undoubtedly were a source of great human affection and examples of Jewish piety and devotion. Jesus showed honor and respect to Joachim and Anne, and today we do the same.

I think of my own grandparents, who for many years on Sunday, when my parents worked late the night before, would drive miles out of their way to pick me up for Sunday Mass. I may have mentioned before, that I don’t know if I would have discovered my priestly vocation, without my grandparents.  The role of grandparents today is paramount in an age where there is a growing laxity in the practice of the faith: great effort is made for vacation, sports & leisure, but little effort is expended to pursue holiness. Grandparents can help to ensure that the Tradition and Faith is passed on to the younger generations, and help to guide their own children in responsible Christian parenting.

Grandparents, when you know there is something lacking in your children’s and grandchildren’s religious practice, don’t be afraid to remind your families of the importance of faith and prayer by your words and example.  When the grandkids come over, pray a rosary before the television goes on in the evening, make sure that prayers are said before family meals, teach the traditions, instill the faith.

On these feast of the grandparents, we’re reminded of grandparent’s special role and responsibility in forming the generations to come.  Through the prayers of Saints Joachim and Anne may we all come to a deeper knowledge of the role we have in spreading the Faith for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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In gratitude for the example of faith and the role of grandparents in the Church, we pray to the Lord.

For an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, and a strengthening of all marriages.

That our young people on summer vacation may be protected from all physical and spiritual harm, shielded from the errors and perversions of the world, and kept in closeness to God through prayer and virtue.

For Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of July: That priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, for all those recovering from or undergoing surgery today, and for the consolation of the dying.

For all who have died, and for all the poor souls in purgatory, and for X. for whom this Mass is offered.
Incline your merciful ear to our prayers, we ask, O Lord, and listen in kindness to the supplications of those who call on you. Through Christ our Lord

Monday, July 23, 2018

16th Week in OT 2018 - Monday - Catholic Guilt (nursing home mass)

Life-long Catholics might recognize portions of our first reading today from the liturgy of Good Friday. On Good Friday, during the Veneration of the Cross, the cantor chants what are known as the “Reproaches” which borrows passages from the prophet Micah.

O my people, what have I done to you, or how have I wearied you? Answer me!
I led you out of slavery under Pharaoh…and you handed me over to the chief priests.
I opened up the Red Sea for you, and you opened up my side with a lance.
I rained down manna for you in the desert, but on me you rained down scourges and lashes.
I raised you up from your lowliness, and you hung me on the Cross.

The Reproaches are presented as Jesus crying out to His people for the injustices they have showed God after all that God had done for them. And they cause us to reflect, don’t they, on how we have squandered our blessings, how we’ve failed to use well the time we’ve been given, how we’ve failed to pray as we ought, practice virtue as we ought.

The Good Friday liturgy doesn’t present us with the truth of our sinfulness because it wants to make us feel bad, but because acknowledging guilt for our sins is a fundamental Christian disposition.

People will often talk about “Catholic Guilt” as if it’s a bad thing. But guilt is very good when it leads us to repent, to get our souls in order; guilt is good when it gets us to stop living only for ourselves and gets us to start living for God and for others.

Jesus condemns the Pharisees in the Gospel for their failure to repent. Jesus exposes their selfishness and calls them a wicked generation, an unfaithful generation, for failing to admit their guilt for using their religious authority for their own personal gain.

On Good Friday, unlike the Pharisees who refuse to kneel to Jesus, we kneel before the cross acknowledging our guilt. Then we come forward and kiss the cross, for from it God showed and showered upon us His boundless mercy. And then we come forward to receive the Body and Blood of mercy Himself in the Eucharist.

And that ritual is repeated every time we come to Mass: we begin Mass by practicing that fundamental Christian disposition, calling to mind our sins and asking God for mercy. We then kneel before the altar, which becomes for us the cross of Calvary, and we then receive Mercy in the Eucharist, which becomes a fountain of living water springing up within us to eternal life.

May this and every Holy Mass help us to experience the salvation Christ won for us, as we acknowledge our guilt and acknowledge Christ as Savior, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That Christians may be a sign for the world of God’s boundless mercy, by striving to practice Christian virtue in every circumstance.
For all those who suffer from violence, war, famine, extreme poverty, addiction, discouragement, loneliness, and those who are alienated from their families.  May they know God’s mercy and be gathered to the eternal kingdom of peace. 
For all those who suffer illness, and those in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice care, that they may be comforted by the healing light of Christ. 
For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, the deceased members of our families friends and parishes, for those who fought and died for our freedom, and Joseph, John & Anna Perish, for whom this mass is offered