Do not hold this sin against them…

John 12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

The power of forgiveness. We hear about it, we know about it, and most of us have experienced it. Those of us who take advantage of frequent confession—especially if we are prodigal children returned to the embrace of our Father—know very well the power of forgiveness and what it has meant in our own lives. But have we reciprocated that gratuitous gift to others? This is something we must examine ourselves thoroughly on, for it is one of the criteria we will be judged on and it is the true sign of a humble, contrite, and grateful heart.

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Humility…

John 14:10, 12 “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works….Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

Every Christian, indeed every human creature, is called to humility. Certainly as Christians, we should be always aware that we are mere creatures, miniscule fragments in the Divine imagination. Pondering on our own smallness must always lead us farther down the path of humility. Christ must increase, and we must decrease. We all know that, but implementing it is often a tricky business.

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Pray with confidence…

By faith Sarah herself, though barren, received power to conceive, even when she was too old, because she considered him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)

It seems to me we are too easily discouraged in prayer. When God does not answer in the way or the time we would prefer, our faith is weakened. We start to wonder if God is really listening. Does he really answer prayers? Then why doesn’t he answer mine?

Let us take the example of Abraham. When Abraham was 75 years old, God promised him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. But Isaac and Sarah had to wait another 25 years before Isaac was born! Their faith was certainly tested!

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Crosses in the Year of Mercy…

…Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-4)

As each day passes I hear of more and more people of faith being asked to carry heavy crosses. I believe this cross-ifying will intensify as the Year of Mercy draws to a close. What is the connection?

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Audacity and other graces…

John 21:17 [Jesus] said to [Peter] the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’”

What a Lent! What an Easter! We mourn with the world the death of Mother Angelica, and at the same time we rejoice in the glorious sign of her passing on the Day of Resurrection. All glory and praise to our risen Lord!

I felt this Lent and Easter were significant in ways we cannot understand. I was given some little hints to that effect, which I would like to share here.

First of all, Lent was a time of severe trial for so many—in the world, in the Church, and likely in each of our circles of acquaintance, including mine. One of my sisters has a saying when one of us has a trial during Lent, as often happens: “Aahh…Lent!” Faithful Christians in general, and penitents in particular, must not shy away from the cross during Lent. Our time on the cross with Christ is a treasure whose value we will only appreciate in the next life. When you hang with Jesus, you hang on the cross. Just ask Mother Angelica.

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Rapid Succession…

“But [the widow] said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.’” (1 Kings 17:12)

These days, there seems to be a crisis around every corner—everywhere. Persecutions, perversions, inversions of truth, untimely deaths—in a word—chaos. I can’t help but think of something that happened a few years ago. Once, during the night I felt the Lord’s presence and saw an image. It was like multi-colored pieces shifting and overlapping. The image seemed to have no order to it. It was very chaotic and hard to figure out. These words came to me: “Things will happen in rapid succession.” In the image it seemed like things were happening all over the place that were seemingly unconnected, but really, they were all connected in the big picture. Still, I could not make sense of it. Kind of like a living, moving, “crazy quilt”. I felt a strong urge to tell people to prepare, both practically with emergency kits and contact plans, as well as spiritually with prayer and fasting.

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Penance and prayer…

“Thus says the Lord: Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

What a sublime passage from Isaiah about the fasting that God desires! Certainly its message is echoed in much of what Pope Francis has taught since becoming Pope. Those of us who are living a penitential lifestyle have much to ponder here. We fast regularly. Does this passage negate the fasts we observe as part of our Rule? Not at all, but it does warn us that without charity, our fasting cannot please God. The fact that our Rule also requires that we give to the poor, testifies to the Scriptural solidity of our Rule. Thanks be to God for the great gift he has given us through St. Francis.

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The gift of your faith…

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

There are two things I often hear from people. The first is that they feel isolated in their faith walk, that in their family, workplace, peer group, or sometimes even their parish there are few people with whom they can openly share their faith. The second thing I hear a lot is that so many people are worried about family members who are far from God. They try everything to bring them to faith, but their words fall on deaf ears. They fear for the souls of these loved ones if they do not repent.

In fact, these two issues are closely related and the good news is that God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, has got it all under control. Yes, dear child of the Father, God has a plan to bring those souls he loves more than you do, back to him. The enemy thinks he has won those souls, but God has a secret weapon. He has strategically placed his agents behind enemy lines. Those agents are none other than his faithful remnant–you and me. Continue reading

Entitlement…

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:40)

Who of us, when reading the story of Mary and Martha, can not sympathize with poor Martha, left to do all the work while her sister sat at the feet of the Lord? Having come from a large family I can tell you that those who sat around while the others worked were not easily excused or forgiven. They had better have a cast on a major limb if they wanted to get out of the dishes!

Family dynamics aside, and with all due respect to holy St. Martha, there is an attitude in the above excerpt that bears pondering. It is an attitude that is prevalent in our society today and I’m sure you have noticed it, perhaps even—during a thorough examination of conscience—in yourself. I am speaking of the epidemic of entitlement, the attitude that we somehow deserve more than we are being given, that our rights have been trampled, and that it’s just not fair! Certainly, one of the Baals of this age is the Baal of entitlement.

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Obedience

(Jesus) heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Our Lord, quoting Hosea to the Pharisees had a very important message for them. This message is also important for us penitents. Our life of penance gives us many opportunities to offer sacrifice to God. However, this reading serves as a warning: if we are not first of all instruments of mercy all our penance is in vain. Further, the mercy we exercise must flow from charity, a charity that originates in the will of God who is love. If it doesn’t, then as Ecclesiastes tells us, all is vanity.

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