Saturday, March 26, 2016

He's Not Here - A Final Lenten Minute for Mar. 26

“Why do you seek the living one among the dead?" - Luke 24:5

Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.  A silent world. Yesterday, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us, giving up his life for us by dying on a cross.  Why?  I'm sure that that was the question on every one of his disciples' minds.  Three years they followed him; they listened to his teachings and saw the powerful signs he performed.  They shared the joy of his mere presence.  His message was one of love and peace, so why did he have to die that way - so violently, so humiliatingly?  In fact, he was the Son of God! Why did he have to die at all? It's a question we still ask today, 2000 years later.  The answer lies in our vigil celebration tonight - Jesus overcomes death with his resurrection! He's NOT dead. He's alive!

We believe in the resurrection, or so we profess.  So why do we continue to seek Jesus among the dead?  There is a hole in our heart that cries out to be filled.  We search for the joy of his presence in earthly delights and pleasures.  But our world today, with all its beauty and wonders, is still a dead world - for it is passing away, and our time here is short. We won't find Jesus in the external, limited pleasures offered by this world.  He's alive!  And he's living in our hearts.

We don't seek the living among the dead.  We bring the living to the dead, in order that the dead may live again.  Remember this tomorrow when you partake of the various Easter celebrations and indulge in the items that you fasted from for the last 40 days.  Easter isn't about an event, it is about a man. A man who once died 2000 years ago and who lives today.  Don't seek the living one among the dead. Seek the living one who is in your heart and in the hearts of all true believers.  Then, go with him to bring life to others.  That's what Easter is about.

Thank you for journeying  with me through Lent.  The Easter Dawn awaits us all.  Let us embrace the living Christ in all we meet.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Carrying the Load - A Lenten Minute for Mar, 25

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured.  - Isaiah 53:4

This passage from the prophet Isaiah comes from what is known as the Suffering Servant prophecies, and scholars and theologians see it as referring to Jesus.  Parts of it are even quoted in the various New Testament scriptures describing Jesus.  But if Jesus suffered for us, then why does it seem that we or those we love still suffer?  Are we not praying hard enough?  Is God angry with us? Does he want us to suffer?  No.  But we are human, subject to human weaknesses and failings.  We cannot overcome them by ourselves, and the debts we owe are greater than what we can pay.  We need someone to show us the way through - to pay our tab.  To understand then, it requires us to look to the Cross.  Look closely at the scripture passages of Jesus' Passion from the Gospel of John today, and see how Jesus' love for us - God the Father's love for us - plays out in Jesus' Passion.  And then know that Jesus suffered for us for those sins that we can't or won't overcome. Jesus bears them for us.  The Doors of Mercy are opened because of him.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Foot-Washing - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 24

“Do you realize what I have done for you?" - John 13:12 

One of the most powerful scenes in all of the gospels is this one from the Gospel of John, where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Tension is high around the table; the disciples know that this isn't just another Passover meal.  It is no secret that the Jewish leadership is seeking to imprison Jesus or have him killed; Jesus himself has told them as much.  And Passover was still considered one of the holiest periods on the Jewish calendar, if not the holiest.  Now, before the meal begins, Jesus does something that is almost incomprehensible: he, the rabbi, the teacher, strips off his outer garments and assumes the role of the lowest slave, washing the feet of all those present.  And it probably wasn't like having a slave do it, who would perform the task perfunctorily, but tenderly, out of love. Jesus washes the feet of all present, including Judas, who has already arranged to betray him and Jesus knew it, and Peter, who at first wouldn't even let him touch his feet.  It is a hard lesson for every one of us to learn.  We are called to serve everyone with love - even those who would harm us.  No matter what we think of them, we are called to serve them.  For to serve with love is our calling, and who knows? It may be just what is needed to save their soul - and yours.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Betrayal - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 23

“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” - Matthew 26:21

The Triduum is about to start - the three most intense, holiest days of our faith.  And they begin with betrayal.  For Jesus, the die is cast when he eats the Passover meal with his disciples.  Within 24 hours, he will be dead.  While it is Judas that Jesus refers to as his betrayer he could also be talking about any one of the Twelve, as they all will desert him.  For that matter, he could be talking about any one of US.  And he is, for it is also OUR sins which he will carry to the cross.  The Good News is that he DID carry our sins to the Cross.  Through his love and mercy, we are given the opportunity to repent.  If you haven't had a chance yet, drop into a church somewhere for Confession.  At least in Dallas, all parishes will be offering Reconciliation tonight through Bishop Farrell's "The Light is On For You" program.  And prepare yourself for the Triduum.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Dying for Jesus - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 22

Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?"- John 13:38

Peter honestly believes that he is brave enough to die for Jesus, but when the reality of what is going to happen shortly occurs, Peter will fail.  Jesus knows Peter will fail.  In last Sunday's Gospel, he even tells Peter beforehand that he will fail, but that even in his failure not to lose his faith.  And, once Peter accepts his failure, he is to turn back to Jesus and in turn strengthen his fellow disciples, who will also fail.

We are all called to die for Jesus in one way or another.  Most of the time it will be in the little things of our lives that challenge our faith, but sometimes it may be much more serious, like losing our livelihood such as the couple who lost their business because of their faith.  We could even be called to offer our very lives for Jesus, like the four Missionaries of Charity sisters and the dozen other Christian volunteers who ministered with them who were murdered in Yemen. God knows that there will be times that we, too, will fail in our efforts to follow Him, but to never lose faith.  God is merciful; God is forgiving.  No matter how many times we fail, He is waiting for us to turn back to Him. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Poor Among Us - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 21

You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me. - John 12:8

Who are "the poor" in our lives?  Are our efforts to aid them an exercise in futility?  In today's Gospel, Jesus is showing his disciples that there is something more important than the sacrifice of surplus material goods needed for helping the poor; it requires a sacrificial heart. Mary knows that Jesus is about to make a much greater sacrifice for the poor and downtrodden than a liter of perfumed oil or a few coins - he is about to give his heart - his life - for them.  And her anointing his body now anticipates the sudden, violent nature of his pending death.  But it is this very end to which Jesus has been on a journey to.  His crucifixion will be a gift of love through pure sacrifice.

As we approach the end of our own Lenten journey, each one of us should pause and reflect on the sacrifices, if any, that we have made during the last 40 days and ask ourselves: have these days made a difference in my life or in the lives of others?  If not, what should I have been doing?  It's not too late.  If you are having trouble facing the poor, dive deeper into the Triduum services and open your heart to Jesus.  He is waiting for you at the end of the journey.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Passion Sunday - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 20

“I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”- Luke 19:40

Palm Sunday.  Passion Sunday.  We begin our liturgical celebrations with the blessing of palms and the readings of Jesus' triumphal procession into Jerusalem, then we witness with Jesus through one of the synoptic Gospels that describe his passion and death.  (We always hear John's version on Holy Thursday and Good Friday).  But too often we remain spectators, less than even those who were in the crowd around Jesus, holding ourselves at a distance.  During the upcoming Holy Week liturgies, we are urged to immerse ourselves into the story - to become part of the story.  For, we ARE part of the story.  Jesus' persecution continues today.  We are called to action, for WE are the participants in the same story today.  WE are Peter, asked if we are willing to risk admitting that we know Jesus; WE are Veronica, asked to soothe the face of Jesus in those suffering that we encounter; WE are one of the women of Jerusalem, asked to weep for the destruction facing us from our rejection of Jesus' message; WE are Simon, asked to help carry Jesus' cross; and WE are even the centurion; asked to nail Jesus to his cross with the spikes of our sins.  Don't just witness this week.  LIVE this week.  And then, let it change your world - forever.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dreams - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 19

Such was [Joseph's] intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. - Matthew 1:20

What do you see when you close your eyes at night? Those of us who dream often encounter jumbled visions taken from our daily encounters, our joys and our anxieties. They reflect what has caught our attention, consciously or unconsciously, and can be a source of insight into what is important in our lives. Scriptures tell us that Joseph is a righteous man, and his response to his encounter with an angel in a dream tells us that he must have had great trust in God and that his faith was important enough to him that he trusted in the words he received, even though they were contrary to the common sense of his day.  Do we focus enough on our faith that we can trust the visions we might have of God and His messengers?  Or are we so distracted by the noise in our world that we cannot distinguish fantasy from reality?

Friday, March 18, 2016

No Good Deed - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 18

“I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?”  John 10:32

We've all probably heard the old saying, "No good deed goes unpunished."  Jesus must be thinking the same thing.  After all the good he has done, the Jews are still plotting to kill him.  Ironically, it really isn't that he's doing things on the Sabbath that upsets them, or that the things that he does make it look like he's acting like God.  But it is the good works themselves that Jesus has been doing that threatens the Jews.  They cannot relate to the love that he shows because they themselves cannot love.  They only understand power and since Jesus is not operating within their narrow confines of their control, every time he does something that they cannot do, their sense of security and control erodes a little more and it increases their fear and anger at him.   As Christians today we face the same kind of judgment by those who do not have faith and cannot accept that our actions are based on love and the teachings of Jesus.  Because we do not conform to their rules, they persecute us and punish us out of their own fear and anger.  But we must remain strong in our faith and continue to do the works of the Father, no matter what the world around us thinks.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Real Big Picture - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 17

"Your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations."- Genesis 17:5

Despite all of our protests to the contrary, few of us have the faith that Abraham had. Abraham believed in the "big picture" and trusted that God would keep His promises, even though Abraham knew he wouldn't be around to see the fulfillment of those promises - at least not on Earth.  And like Abraham, God has made a promise to us that we too are to be parents of future generations.  We claim that we understand that there is a heavenly life after our earthly death, but we are so focused on our own short time on the Earth that we miss our role in the big picture - the generations that will live on the Earth because of us, long after we move on.  Jesus gives us a glimpse of what we should expect when in today's Gospel he tells the Jews that Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus on Earth, long after he had passed away.  We too should expect to see ALL of our descendants throughout time.  Have you thought about a thousand years from now, what will we see?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Slave to Sin - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 16

"Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin." - John 8:34

Ever notice that the seven deadly sins - pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth - begin not as a sin but as a temptation, an attitude of the heart. It is only when we act upon them that they become "deadly" to us - destroying our relationship with God and with each other.  Worse, the momentary pleasure of the sin quickly fades, and we're left with a hunger that needs to be fed again.  And the more we give into them, even if we repent and try to change our ways, the easier it is to give into them the next time.  Eventually, we can become blind to them.  We may think that we can control our sins without outside help.  But slaves cannot free themselves.  It requires outside intervention.  Fortunately, God is there for us, and with His help, we can battle the temptations that we face daily.  But we have to ask.  During this Lent, have you availed yourself of the opportunities to call upon God's help by going to confession?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Can I Come? - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 15

“Where I am going you cannot come.” - John 8:21

Whether we would like to admit it or not, there is a pang in our hearts when we are told that for one reason or another that we are not allowed to go somewhere that others can, especially if we want to be with them, or if we really want to see the destination.  The feeling is tantamount to that of being rejected personally, and can make us feel insecure even when we understand the reason for being left behind.  Too often, however, our not going along has to more do with ourselves than others.  We are left behind because we CHOOSE to remain behind - because we are afraid, or indecisive, or have not prepared to meet the requirements for the journey, or for some other personal reason. Our choice.  As we enter Holy Week next week, we should ask ourselves whether or not we can go with Jesus on His journey to Calvary.  We may be afraid, or maybe we feel unprepared.  But Jesus shows us the destination is worth the journey.  Can you pick up your own cross and make the trip?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Judging By Appearance - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 14

"You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone." - John 8:15

We are all guilty of it.  We look at someone and immediately size them up based on whatever criteria we hold important.  Are they rich?  Are they poor?  Are they a friend?  Are they a threat?  We look at their clothes, the car they drive, the way they talk, the way they smell.  We try to guess where they are from and where they are going.  We respond to them based on whatever judgment we make of them.  And how often are we wrong, sometimes embarrassingly so.  Seeing beyond the physical and peering into another's heart is a daunting task, because it requires us to suspend our aversion to whatever we dislike and fear and risk personal harm in getting to know them.  Yet that is what we are called to: not necessarily to like what we see, but to treat with respect and love the person behind what we see.  We cannot peer into the heart of another without first getting to know them. And that means judging our own hearts first.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Loss of Everything - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 13

I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. - Philippians 3:8

Few things are as traumatic as the loss of all of one's personal possessions as the result of theft, fire or some other natural disaster.  Worse is the loss of life.  Yet St. Paul says that everything that he has ever worked for or believed is worthless compared to his knowledge of Christ Jesus.  He further emphasizes that we must always look forward, focusing on our goal of reaching eternity with God, without looking back.  During this Jubilee of Mercy, we can have confidence that whatever baggage haunts us from the past is not important as long as we look to the future.  God forgives; God supports; God loves.  That's the supreme good that we look forward to; that is the supreme good that we need.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

“Why did you not bring him?” - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 12

“Why did you not bring him?” - John 7:45

People seek Jesus for a variety of reasons, not all of them good.  The authorities in today's Gospel are seeking Jesus because of the threat he poses to them - ironically, it is the same threat that Christians pose to non-Christians (and sometimes to each other).  It is the threat that charitable love poses to self-love: a demand that one sacrifice his or her own well-being in order to help those less fortunate or in dire need.  Pope Francis calls it Martyrdom for Love.  One may be a martyr for faith, but as St. John says, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (Jn 15:13).  To be a martyr for love.  Am I ready to die in the service of love to another?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Innocent Souls' Reward - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 11

And they did not know the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense for holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.  - Wisdom 2:22

One week ago today, in a senseless act of violence in Yemen, 16 people who were ministering to the needs of the elderly in a nursing home were murdered, including four religious sisters of the Missionaries of Charity.  The news barely made a blip on the radars of our national news services, and their deaths, along with the hundreds of others who have been murdered for their faith in recent years, are the result of those who hate the very idea of the message of love that Jesus gave to us.  But we cannot respond in hatred and violence, nor in despair.  For in three weeks we will celebrate the sacrifice which occurred two thousand years ago on Good Friday where, in a similar act of violence, the Prince of Peace was murdered for his message of love and thereby opened the gates of heaven to all the innocent souls who seek the face of God.  There is an Easter resurrection waiting for all those who believe, and the recompense for all those who love is eternal life.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Whose Praise Do You Seek? - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 10

"How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?" - John 5:44

How can you tell when God praises you?  Do you believe that your success depends on God?  Whether we want to admit it or not, all too often we seek the praise of others, whether that be our bosses, our friends, or even our families, and we allow it to control our actions even when we know that our actions are contrary to God's will and purpose for us.  And for believers who honestly strive to do the will of God, it can be difficult to tell if we are really succeeding in following His will over our own.  But Thomas Merton gives us in his prayer "The Road Ahead" from Thoughts in Solitude a guide that can help us:

     “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” 


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Forgetting The Children - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 9

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.  - Isaiah 49:15

It is a sad commentary on today's society that all too frequently, mothers ARE forgetting their infant children, having them murdered in the womb.  And who can blame them?  They are brought up today to worry about their own well-being, convinced that the life they are carrying is an accident and not a precious gift from God; that they need to think about themselves; that it isn't "fair" to bring a child into the world when they cannot provide for it; or that it really isn't a child.  WE are the guilty parties, for we who should know better remain silent in the face of the evil that encourages behavior that leads to "unwanted' pregnancies, and we fail to love and give support to those who struggle with making the right choices.  Worse, we support the murders by our failure to convince those responsible for the public good that all life is precious and that such violence and blatant disregard for life must cease.  Thankfully, God doesn't forget.  God is there for those who, through misguided actions, forget to love the gift He has given them and He is ready to embrace them with His mercy if they repent.  But the rest of us, who have NO excuse, what will He think of us when we stand before him?  He will not forget the unborn and will forgive those who turn back to Him, but what about the rest of us who could do something, but don't?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tattle Tale - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 8

The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. - John 5:15

Are we like the crippled man at the edge of the pool of Bethesda?  It is almost as if he didn't want to be healed.  When Jesus asks him if he would like to be healed, instead of saying "yes" he answers that nobody will help him to the pool; when confronted by the Jews in the temple for carrying his mat, he says that he was told to do so by someone else; and when he discovers that it was Jesus who cured him he immediately goes and tells the Jews that Jesus did it. Did he say it because he was praising God for his cure?  Or, was it more out of fear of what the Jews might do to him?  We too need to reflect on our relationship to God - do we really want God to step in and change our lives?  Are we ready to affirm God's action in our lives, or are we afraid that we might offend others?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?
Homily for March 6, 2016    Fourth Sunday of Lent - C
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

I have some Good News for you, and I have some Bad News.  Today’s Gospel opens with Jesus welcoming tax collectors and sinners and eating with them. So, I guess the Good News is that, if we want Jesus to come to dinner with us, all we need to do is sin big time, right? Hang out with all the wrong kind of people?  See how many of the Ten Commandments we can break?  Surely that will bring him to our house?

Sorry, Bad News: turning your back on God and deliberately sinning as much as you can isn’t going to bring Jesus to your house.

But there is Good News, sort of.  As Pope Francis points out, we’re ALL sinners.   
Even Pope Francis.  Did you know that he goes to confession every two weeks?  If he, the holiest person I know goes that often, then I wonder how often I need to be going?

Even those who would deny it, like the Pharisees and scribes, are sinners.  And Jesus ate with them too – remember that time where the sinful woman came and crashed Simon the Pharisee’s dinner party?

So I guess we’re all invited to dinner.

Now, although the Gospel says that Jesus addressed the Parable of the Prodigal Son to the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus was actually talking to all those present: in fact, he speaks first to the tax collectors and sinners through the example of the younger son, and then the Pharisees and scribes through the older son. 

First, the tax collectors and sinners.  They were both outcasts: one by virtue of their occupation, one by the circumstances of their life.  Sinners not only included those who did bad things, but would also include all those who were less than “perfect” – disabilities and illness were thought to be signs of sin.  But in this case, the people Jesus was talking to were the ones who had rejected in some way or fashion the religious precepts of their faith.

Still, despite their apparent sinfulness, they were drawn to Jesus, because of the “hole” they had – a holy longing for something that was missing in their lives.  There was a news story a couple of weeks ago which once again talked about whether or not we are “wired” for God – we are the only living creatures that have this desire for religion, something that St. Augustine knew hundreds of years ago. 

Jesus compares them to the younger son.  The boy demands – and receives – the inheritance that is by right.  He didn’t earn it, but it represents a gift promised to him by his Father, because he is his Father’s son.  Once he receives it, he immediately uses them for his own personal satisfaction and squanders them. Worse, he separates himself from his father so that he never has the opportunity to learn how to use them to his benefit. He thinks that he doesn’t need the Father – even more importantly, he doesn’t WANT his Father.  He flees far away so that he doesn’t even have to THINK about his Father. More on that later.

We, too, are entitled to our inheritance from God our Father.  Like the younger son, God has gifts for each one of us, promised to us and available for the asking by virtue of our being God’s children.  Not everyone is going to receive the same gifts, but as St. Paul tells the Corinthians and the Ephesians, God doesn’t call everyone to the same ministry, and He distributes His gifts as He sees fit so that we can accomplish God’s purposes for us.  We have to ask for them, though, and once we have received them we need to use them properly.  And many gifts require training to use; you might give your child a bicycle but it doesn’t follow that the child will be able to ride it right away.  Sometimes we put training wheels on it to help guide them; but even then they may fall.  The child must be taught how to ride.

Then there are the Pharisees and scribes.  Jesus compares them to the older son. He is also entitled to his portion of his inheritance – it is promised to him as well.  Unlike the younger son, though, the older one doesn’t ask for his gifts right away; he thinks he needs to work to earn them first.  When the younger son returns, the older son also separates himself from the Father, only he walks away from the gifts offered to him.  Maybe he’s thinking about all the time he wasted, slaving away, while his brother – who should have been disowned or at least blocked from returning – has been able to live the good life without any consequences.  (Well, there’s the pig thing but he deserved that for the way he treated his Father.)  Or, maybe he’s jealous of his brother – after all, maybe since he’s worked so hard all these years he thought he deserved to get a greater share of the inheritance? 

The Pharisees and scribes complained about the attention that Jesus gave to the outcasts.  If he really was the Messiah, shouldn’t he be rewarding them?  They deserved a reward for their faithfulness to the works of the law, and yet here Jesus was spending his time with losers.  His actions were taking away the gifts they wanted most – power and respect.

The irony in life is that there is no such thing as one person getting more than his fair share, for God’s gifts are infinite.

So we have the Younger son – at the end, he knew he was wrong.

And there’s the older son – who still thought he was right.  We never learn whether he came into the party or not.

Jesus reminds the tax collectors and sinners that the younger son’s sins were against both God and his father; remembering the 4th commandment of honoring one’s parents reminds us that the commandment comes from God and not from our parents.  It is God who we offend first.

And he reminds the Pharisees that they are rejecting God just as surely as the sinners were by rejecting their gifts and failing to accept that God’s mercy was for everyone.

Despite all that, God is waiting for us.  He not only welcomes us with open arms, He RUNS to us and meets us where we are, especially if we are tired and struggling to return to Him.  A humble and contrite heart he will not spurn.

Even with the older son, the Father goes to him when he refuses to come in.  Overcome with resentment, the older son is jealous of the attention given to the undeserving younger son – make no mistake, the younger son IS undeserving of the treatment he receives from his Father – but Jesus reminds us of the infinite mercy of God.

In both cases, the sons have the freedom to choose how they respond to their father.  One son abandons him, the other son resents him.  So it is with us.  Some slave away at their faith trying to “earn” their way to heaven and are resentful of anyone who has it better than they do or who can do more than they do; others take the gifts God has given them and turn their back on Him, refusing to acknowledge Him.

In the younger son’s case, there is also something else that we should note: it isn’t in the good times that the younger son realized his folly but it took a major disaster to awaken him to what he lost.  So it is with us.  It seems like we only turn back to God when things are bad; when things are tough.  Then we want God to take us back. 

And God will.  During this Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis has pointed out repeatedly that God’s mercy is limitless and available to all who turn back to Him.  It doesn’t mean that the problems will go away, but it does mean that He will be there with us to strengthen us and guide us and, most importantly, walk with us as we go through whatever we face. 

But He won’t force himself on us.  God’s love cannot penetrate a heart that is unwilling to receive it.

One final note.  We must celebrate whenever someone returns to God, for returning to God means returning to life.  Life is something worth celebrating – not just our time on Earth but the life which comes from spending eternity in heaven with God and His Son at the heavenly banquet prepared for us.  We will receive a taste of that banquet when we come to the table of the Lord shortly and receive Him in the Eucharist.  It is a time of celebration for saints and sinners alike.  We should reflect that joy as we come forward today.

For we know who’s coming to dinner.

Believe Nothing? - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 7

Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” - John 4:48

Technology today has changed Edgar Allan Poe's quote, "Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear." to "Believe nothing that you see or hear." Indeed, the special effects that we see in the movies today only makes it that much harder to believe in what we cannot see.  And yet, that is what faith is all about - the ability to believe in something that cannot be seen or touched.  Faith is a choice.  We can choose to believe in God, or not.  Fortunately, even when we choose to not believe in God, God still believes in us.  And when all else fails in our lives, it is exactly that unseen faith which can give us the strength to persevere.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

"A New Creation" - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 6

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.  - 2 Corinthians 5:17

Unless you were recently baptized, you may not feel like you're a new creation in Christ, but every day - every moment - that we refocus on Christ we begin anew in Him who is Divine Mercy Himself.  But we must allow the old things in our lives to pass away in order to make room for the newness which is Christ.  As we celebrate the halfway mark in our journey to Easter, maybe we should pause and see what other habits in our lives need to "pass away" this Lent in order to make room for a more in-depth relationship with Christ? It's not too late.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

"Be Merciful" - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 5

"...and (he) prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’"  - Luke 18:13

Pope Francis frequently points out that we are all sinners.  We cannot help it; the tendency to sin is the result of the precious gift given to us by God: our free will.  We sin whenever we choose to turn away from God and to "go it alone."  But God IS a merciful god; He is always ready to forgive us.  All we have to do is to be merciful, as He is merciful.  During this Jubilee of Mercy, let us open our hearts to God's infinite mercy, and in turn extend that mercy to all who we meet.

Friday, March 4, 2016

"The Kingdom of God" - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 4

“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” - Mark 12:34

What makes a kingdom a kingdom? It first requires a ruler, and people who follow that ruler.  There also needs to be a set of laws and statutes that define and guide that kingdom.  In today's Gospel, Jesus reiterates what the Jews already knew - their two most important commandments are "love God" and "love your neighbor as yourself".  But more importantly, they are the commandments which define God's kingdom.  They identify the sovereign - God - and His subjects - our neighbors.  All of them.  And the law that defines and guides His kingdom is the law of love.  As followers of Christ, we should always remember that the Kingdom of God isn't "up there, somewhere" in the sky or "not here, but coming" in the future.  The Kingdom of God is at hand for those who love God and love their neighbor.  The Kingdom of God is here, now.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

"If You Hear His Voice" - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 3

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.  - Psalm 95:7-8

The response from today's psalm is a plea from God; "Don't turn your back to me."  Taken from Psalm 95, one of the options for the invitation for Morning Prayer, it reminds us that we need to listen for God as He speaks to us and to be open to the message that He has for us.  Too often in our lives we close our minds and hearts to the cry of God that comes from those who we encounter: the poor, the homeless, the refugee, the physically and mentally ill.  God calls us to repent of our cold, uncaring ways and to open our hearts to receive and share His infinite mercy for us with those who we meet.  Every day is a new beginning for us; an new opportunity to soften our hearts and listen to God.  Listen for Him today.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"What Great Nation?" - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 2

For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?  Or what great nation has statutes and ordinances that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?  - Deuteronomy 4:7-8

It is sad to watch our once-great country slowly abandon the principles on which it was founded, for like it or not, our country with all its laws and statutes was founded on Christian principles and morals.  But man-made laws and statutes, without the moral guidance of our Heavenly Father through His Holy Spirit, become nothing more than hollow and onerous burdens which restrict the true freedom which is our right from being children of God.  If we abandon our dependence upon God and trust only in our own abilities to govern ourselves, if we ignore the truths taught by our faith and embrace moral relativism, then we risk the fate of the early Israelites - enslavement and loss of happiness. No nation can remain great without the blessing - and the guidance - of God.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"Seventy-Seven" - A Lenten Minute for Mar. 1

“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” - Matthew 18:21

Peter's suggestion of forgiving a person up to seven times was a significant increase over what was taught by Jewish rabbis at the time - which was that a person must forgive his brother up to three times - and was particularly significant since the number "7" was considered a mystical number in Jewish tradition that meant "perfection" or "completeness".  Peter was, in effect, asking Jesus if there was a limit to forgiveness.  Jesus removes all doubt with his response - "not seven times, but seventy-seven times" - in other words, an infinite number of times.  There is no limit to our call to forgive.  This can be very hard to swallow by those of us who were raised to stand up for ourselves, and a sign of weakness if it appears that we allow others to take advantage of us. Yet during this Jubilee of Mercy, we are reminded that our own failures and need for God's forgiveness is equally as great as those who sin against us.  Are we willing to forgive others seventy-seven times?  Are we willing to forgive ourselves?