The Joy of Being One

Monday of week 8 in Ordinary Time, May 28, 2018 If getting holier doesn’t make us more joyful, something is inauthentic. That should be obvious. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and have it to the full.” And, “I have said these things so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 10:10, 15:11). What part does being in the Church play in this? Does it give us joy (not complacency, not a sense of superiority) to know we are united—to know we are one—vertically in time, and horizontally in space, with all who affirm with us “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (Ephesians 4:5)? Let’s make it more personal. Are you glad to know you have the same faith as St. Fr

Holiness is Relationship

Trinity Sunday, 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time, May 27, 2018 God spent centuries driving it into the heart of his people that there is only one God. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Then, with Jesus, he revealed the full mystery: God’s oneness is multiple: three Persons in one God. The three Persons differ by their relationship with each other. By nature they are one and the same. Since God’s nature is infinite, without any limitations, what one Person has, all have. What one can do, all can do. With creatures, it is different. We who have the same human nature have each of its characteristics in different degrees. One can run faster, another think more

Why should I go to Mass with a bunch of hypocrites?

Saturday of week 7 in Ordinary Time, May 26, 2018 We don’t identify Christians by judging how spiritual or sinful anyone is. “Being Catholic” doesn’t mean being a good one. It means being visibly a member of the body of believers. We both express and experience our identity by gathering physically with others at Mass, receiving Baptism and Confirmation, confessing our sins and receiving (or being refused) absolution in a human interaction with a priest who can speak in the name of the bishop for the whole community. “Being Catholic” means receiving, or conscientiously declaring oneself unable to receive, the Body of Christ in Communion, being officially recognized (or not) by the community a

Do I have to belong to a church?

Friday of week 7 in Ordinary Time, May 25, 2018 “Do you have to belong to a church to be a Christian?” That's like asking, “Do you have to have a body to be a human?” God the Son only became “the Christ” by taking a body. We only become Christians by becoming members of that body. There is no disembodied Christianity, any more than there is a disembodied Christ. Bodies are visible. No human body has invisible limbs. The body of Christ has no invisible members—except, temporarily, souls in heaven who are awaiting reunification with their bodies at the resurrection of the dead. There are “anonymous Christians” who are visible, and visibly Christian, in the measure they are manifestly “living b

Error By Exclusion

Thursday of week 7 in Ordinary Time, May 24, 2018 Pope Francis says there are “two false forms of holiness that can lead us astray” (Rejoice, 35). Both are defined by what they exclude. 1. Religion without spirituality is Pelagianism: the error of those who “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior… because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular [religious] life-style” (Rejoice, 49). Some groups of Christians give excessive importance to certain rules, customs or ways of acting. The Gospel then tends to be reduced and constricted, deprived of its simplicity, allure and savor. This may well be a subtle form of Pelagianism, for it appear

Religion and Spirituality

Wednesday of week 7 in Ordinary Time, May 23, 2018 A common mistake—most deadly in religion—is to think in terms of “either-or” rather than “both-and.” Either faith or reason. Obedience or responsible decision-making. Making liturgy reverent or relevant. Being loyal or critical, prayerful or productive. Dealing with Jesus as human or divine. The answer to all of these is “both-and.” Likewise, there is no choice between “religion” and “spirituality.” “Spirituality” is personal interaction with God. Our “spiritual life” begins when we realize something is going on between ourselves and God, and decide to get involved in it. “Religion” involves doctrines, rules, and practices. These are essenti

“No Man Is An Island”

Tuesday of week 7 in Ordinary Time, May 22, 2018 The first thing Pope Francis says about holiness is shocking. He says it is not an individual, private affair, but a group enterprise! “It has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people” (Rejoice and Be Glad, 6, citing Vatican II, “The Church,” 9). Francis says getting holy is a communal experience! In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal

First, Our Mother

Monday of week 7 in Ordinary Time, May 21, 2018 Pope Francis has made Monday after Pentecost an annual feast day for the whole world, honoring Mary as “Mother of the Church.” The decree said the pope approved the celebration because he thought it might "encourage growth in understanding the Church as mother, as well as growth in genuine Marian devotion." Theologically, to recognize Mary as our mother is to understand ourselves as sons and daughters of the Father “in the Son.” The decree quotes St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), who said, “Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with love she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church.” St. Leo the Great, pope from 440-

Spirit of Forgiveness

Pentecost Sunday 8th Sunday of Easter, May 20 , 2018 "He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them...'” The early Christians probably understood these words to refer only to receiving people into the Church by Baptism, because when some "left" the Church by apostasy and returned, many assumed the only way to restore them to grace was by baptizing them again. This was condemned by the Church as false, but led to eventual recognition of the Church's power to forgive sins after Baptism in the sacrament of Reconciliation. The sacramental words of "absolution" ("release": from ab- ‘from’ + solvere ‘loosen’) begin: "God… through the death and res

The Fruit of the Gifts

Saturday, 7th week of Easter, May 19, 2018 All the Gifts bear all the Fruits. But trying to match them brings out particular facets in each: Wisdom—always desiring the end, looking for union with God—is Love. Understanding and Knowledge give Joy by clarifying what we believe and how to benefit by it. Counsel gives the Peace of good and satisfying decisions. Piety helps us extend to everyone the Patience and Kindness we have for family members. Courage supports Faithfulness to our relationship with God and empowers Generosity. Fear (Awe) of the Lord as All Truth, Goodness and Power, by taking away fear of everything else, encourages Gentleness and the Self-Control of total surrender to God. S

"And be the aroma of Christ in the world"

Friday, 7th week of Easter, May 18, 2018 To be Christian actually means to "be Christ" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 795). We are the divine- human body of Jesus, living by his divine life. If that is what we are, it should be evident. Scripture says we should be "the aroma of Christ in the world," through whom God "spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him" (2Corinthians 2:14). For this we ask the Holy Spirit to "Come! Grant us his Gifts and transform us!" It is to help us be the "aroma of Christ" in the world. That is what we live for; why we are on earth: to make Jesus physically present and continue his mission in the world. The Angelus presents Christianity as

Pleasing to God, and Perfect

Thursday, 7th week of Easter, May 17, 2018 "So that we might discern what is good, and pleasing to God, and perfect" Just to aim at "doing good and avoiding evil" is a sub-Christian life. Those who only try to avoid "sin" by keeping the Ten Commandments have not accepted the New Law of Jesus, which is summarized, but not complete, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5 to 6). In our prayer we ask the Holy Spirit daily to help us see the difference between what is "good," and what is "pleasing to God." We learn to discern what is "pleasing to God" by making it our habitual goal to bear witness to Christ by living in a way that cannot be explained except by the action—the inspirations

Not Conformed... but Transformed

Wednesday, 7th week of Easter, May 16, 2018 "That we may not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds" In Baptism we "presented our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God." Paul calls this our "spiritual (logikos) worship" or "reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). "Reasonable" calls us to act by reason instead of blind conformity to the culture. But Christians can't help connecting logikos to the Logos, the Word of God made flesh in Jesus, the Truth beyond all truths accessible to human reason alone (John 1:1-14). Everything we do should be, not only reasonable and "acceptable to God" but "holy," divine, guided by a Truth that is above and beyon

"Grant us by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit…"

Tuesday, 7th week of Easter, May 15, 2018 The traditional prayer just says: "Grant us by the Holy Spirit that we will love what is right and always rejoice in his consolations." Our version asks specifically for each Gift of the Spirit that we have defined and reflected on above. We name them in our daily prayer in order to become more conscious of them. And also to grow—day by day—into greater understanding and appreciation of each one. Those who hear what they pray become what they say. Mysteries are absorbed more than learned. Over time, their meaning sinks into our minds and their value becomes rooted in our hearts. So we ask four Gifts for our minds: to appreciate and focus continually

By the Light of the Holy Spirit

Monday, 7th week of Easter, May 14, 2018 "God, by the light of the Holy Spirit, you instruct the hearts of the faithful." Before "leaving the world and… going to the Father,” Jesus promised: “I will not leave you orphaned… The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you" (John 14:26; 16:28). With faith in Jesus's promise—and with the hope faith gives us—we ask God "by the Holy Spirit" to "instruct our hearts." We do not face this world and its problems alone. In the Paraclete, the "Advocate (ad-vocatus) called to our side," God is with us to instruct, advise, and remind us of everything Jesus said. Faith

Regenerate Our Hearts... Renew the Earth

Sunday, 7th week of Easter, May 13, 2018—Feast of the Ascension "Our hearts will be regenerated. And you will renew the face of the earth" This is the fundamental hope of Christians living in this world. We believe God will in fact "send forth his Spirit"—and continue to send him. We believe our hearts can be regenerated. And will be. We believe the Spirit actually will "renew the face of the earth." That hope takes a lot of faith. So we keep professing our faith and our hope with the prayer "Come, Holy Spirit…" We say this prayer to remind ourselves that Jesus has "overcome the world" (John 16:33) and will "come again in glory" to reign over "a new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1).

"Enkindle in us the fire of your divine love"

Saturday, 6th week of Easter, May 12, 2018 Paul wrote "God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us" (Romans 5:5). This is mutual love. We all "love one another deeply from the heart" in "unity of spirit" (1Peter, chapters 1 to 3). This is not just human love. "Through the resurrection of Jesus," God has given us a "new birth" by "water and Spirit" based on "the living word of God announced through those who brought us Good News by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven." So we ask the Holy Spirit to let us "love one another as Jesus has loved us" (John 13:34)—to love divinely because we are divine. We love divinely because we know divinely. Jesus promised, "In a

"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful"

Friday, 6th week of Easter, May 11, 2018 We ask, first, that the Spirit come. The Holy Spirit is the "Paraclete," "Advocate": the one "called to our side." Jesus said, "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate… to be with you forever, teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you" (John 14:16-26; 15:26). Second we ask the Spirit to "fill" our hearts, "occupy all available space," leaving room in our hearts only for the Beautiful; in our minds only for the True; in our wills only for the Good that is of God. The Spirit makes us whole: undivided, unfragmented; one as God is One. The Spirit comes to give us awareness of God's presence in us. Jesus said we wi

"Rising" Prayers

Thursday, 6th week of Easter, May 10, 2018 To launch your day, say three morning prayers: The Our Father, to declare your identity and priorities as his divine son or daughter. The WIT Prayer, to unite yourself to Jesus all day long: "Lord, live this day with me, live this day in me, live this day through me. Let me think with your thoughts, and speak with your words, and act as your body on earth." The "Come Holy Spirit…" There is no better time than the Easter season to memorize and begin to recite daily this traditional prayer. We offer here an expanded and enhanced version, one well worth the trouble to learn: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in us the fire

Surrendering Leads to Self-Control

Wednesday, 6th week of Easter, May 9, 2018 As a Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Self-Control must be divine; not just the natural domination of our “lower passions" by intellect and will. And if the “self” being controlled is our whole self, it must be controlled by someone other than ourselves. That someone is God. True Self-Control is Surrender—to Jesus, as his body; to the Father "in Christ," in the "unity of the Holy Spirit." The peak of Christian life is surrender. If we are totally surrendered, the Father can provide what is truly best for us. Jesus can do with us, in us, and through us anything he desires. And the Spirit can guide us unerringly. Nothing will hold us back from that "life to

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