Posts By: Fr. Alfonse
Mt 14:1-12 You Can’t Always Have What You Want!
Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
By JENNIFER BURGIN
Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
One Saturday morning I stopped by Costco to buy mega rolls of paper products.  As I wheeled my bulky cart toward the exit, I came across a boy throwing a fit in the food court.  He sat on the concrete floor stomping his feet as tears streamed down his red face.  He whined and cried out: “Mom, I want cheese sticks!  Why can’t I have them?  Waaaah!”  Not surprising, his mom just stood with her eyes glued to her cell phone, ignoring her son. Perhaps she was Google searching “How to stop my child from throwing a fit” or texting a friend for advice. Highly unlikely….
 Did the other Costco customers find this kid as disturbing as I did? Maybe similar thoughts entered their minds: What is wrong with you, Lady? Put down your silly cell phone, pick up your kid, and get out of here now! Your little boy needs a spanking, time out, or something! We’d like to enjoy our dining and shopping experience here in Costco-land without kiddie drama, thank you very much!
Is it just me or does today’s society produce record numbers of clueless people?  Everywhere I go I see children, and adults alike, acting inconsiderate, ignorant, or just plain indifferent….
I’d like to kindly throw out this reminder:  You can’t always have what you want! Keep living your head up in the clouds. Keep acting like a jerk.  Keep pitching that fit.  Keep demanding things your way. The results you want may never meet your expectations.
By now, most Americans are aware of the Planned Parenthood Exposed videos released by The Center for Medical Progress.  I’ve watched each video in utter repulsion.  I won’t go into the gory details, but selling aborted fetal parts in a black market scheme is way beyond safe reproductive healthcare.  Clearly, PP thinks they can continue to have what they want – tax payer funds under the shadows of secrecy and controversy; a powerful lobbying force that kills for profit without a care. God willing, Planned Parenthood will go down as the Truth of their shady operations becomes more visible.
In today’s gospel reading, John the Baptist is arrested for saying quite matter-of-factly that King Herod has no right to his brother’s wife.  Yet, Herod doesn’t want to hear the word No. How dare this “wild man” of a prophet who eats honey and locusts tell him what he cannot have.  In the ultimate plot of revenge, John’s head is cut off and delivered on a platter.  Problem solved…. However, an unwelcome side effect looms; King Herodwill always have the blood of a martyr stained on his conscience.
Is getting what you want going to make you any happier?  What if you turned away from your selfish desires and asked God what He desires best for you?
Saint Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast day we celebrate today, wrote the following: 
“Our Savior says, if you have not received the graces that you desire, do not complain to me, but blame yourself, because you have neglected to seek them from me.” 
Wow, such powerful morsels of wisdom!  The next time we draw out the selfish card and think that we can have whatever I want, think again.  If it’s something unhealthy for us or will put us into a state of mortal sin, it’s probably best that it doesn’t happen.  Those times when something meaningful to us falls flat, remember that the Lord has something else better planned.  
I’ll conclude with another quote from Saint Alphonsus worthy of reflection:

“If you wish to strengthen your confidence in God still more, often recall the loving way in which He has acted toward you, and how mercifully He has tried to bring you out of your sinful life, to break your attachment to the things of earth and draw you to His love.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Pray for Us!
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality
Exodus 40; 16-21 Start Making that List
Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By SOPHIE DRUFFNER
Moses did exactly as the LORD had commanded him.
On the first day of the first month of the second year
the Dwelling was erected.
It was Moses who erected the Dwelling.
He placed its pedestals, set up its boards, put in its bars,
and set up its columns.
He spread the tent over the Dwelling
and put the covering on top of the tent,
as the LORD had commanded him.
He took the commandments and put them in the ark;
he placed poles alongside the ark and set the propitiatory upon it.
He brought the ark into the Dwelling and hung the curtain veil,
thus screening off the ark of the commandments,
as the LORD had commanded him.
Gosh, I need to go to confession.
I haven’t murdered anyone recently, stolen anyone’s beloved pearls, or done anything especially terrible, but goodness gracious, I need to go to confession.

Recently I read a piece about envisioning our souls as glass, and any sin that we have committed is a smudge on that glass. I’ve also heard the comparison of our souls to a wedding dress.When  I get to the altar one day (hopefully! although I’m sure my mum will tell me to just get through college first), I’m going to have the most gorgeous wedding dress ever. And I certainly wouldn’t want any stain upon it.

So when we receive the Eucharist, we should envision ourselves in a wedding dress, approaching the altar. If you’re a guy, envision yourself in a gorgeous white tuxedo. But rewind the mental tape to about fifteen minutes before, when you’re standing in the bride or groom’s room, looking at yourself in the mirror one more time. “I,” you tell yourself, “look simply fantastic. This is the best day of my life.” And then imagine your bridesmaids or groomsmen enter the room and start throwing rotten tomatoes, moldy fruit, containers of old soup and yogurt, and all sorts of rotten and disgusting things at you. Your beautiful dress! Your gorgeous tux! The stains are accumulating and you duck but you can’t get rid of them. Suddenly, after five minutes of the onslaught, they suddenly drop the disgusting things and escort you out. You’re shell-shocked, but you walk down the aisle anyway. You cannot believe you’re going to enter a new life in this awful outfit.

That’s how most of us approach the altar to receive Jesus. We’re covered in weeks, months, or years of white lies, bits of stray gossip, and last month’s scandal, and yet we still receive Jesus, who is pure love.

Moses had it right when he enshrined the rules in the Ark of the Covenant. He held the rules sacred, even though he broke them. We should hold the rules sacred, too. We should remember “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods” when we begin to be jealous of how someone has the latest version of the iPhone or the latest and greatest new car. We should remember “Thou Shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain” when we say “Jesus!” or “God, I can’t believe he’d do that,” where the sacred name of Jesus takes the place of a curse word. Of course, we should not say curse words either. But perhaps using the name of God in the place of a curse word is worse.

Before confession, I always like to take fifteen minutes and write down a list. Rather than going into the confessional, citing three or four commandments, and then mumbling “and all the rest,” at the end, I like to examine each and every time that I can remember that I’ve talked bad about someone, cursed, or failed to honor my parents. Then I say a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit to help me remember each and every time I’ve failed to do right. And then, empowered with my list, I go to the chapel and stand in line.
I’ll be going to confession this week before Sunday mass. I want to be able to receive the Eucharist cleanly, with as few smudges or stains as possible. Because don’t we all want to try as hard as we can to be pure before our God?
Jn 11:19-27 Martha My Dear
Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)
By Benedict Augustine
“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
‘Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.’”
Although Jesus seems to show preference for her sister Mary, most people tend to identify and sympathize more with Martha. Mary had “chosen the better part” by sitting at Jesus’s feet and later anointed Him in an inspired moment of adoration; Martha presumably chooses the worse part by doing chores and endures Jesus’ scolding twice in the gospels, first for doing chores and complaining about it and second for misunderstanding the meaning of the resurrection.
The only other disciple whom Jesus corrects even more than Martha is Peter who misunderstands Jesus’ Passion and later denies Him three times. Curiously, Martha and Peter have similar personalities that lead to such blunders: they both love Jesus in a very human (and thus relatable) fashion, and this causes them to presume that they know Jesus more than they do. Peter naturally assumes that Jesus would want to avoid torture and crucifixion. Martha naturally assumes that Jesus would want a woman to tend to the house and raise His dead friends sometime in the distant future. Jesus must remind them both that He is no ordinary man, but God’s Son, which makes their all-too-human love somewhat misguided.
Human though their love might be, as opposed to the transcendent selfless love of God, “fileis-se” and not necessarily “agapo-se,” Peter and Martha have tge privilege of witnessing Jesus’ greatest triumphs as well. After all, even though they know Who Jesus is, Jesus must show them what that means. In Peter’s case, Jesus’ lesson on what He means fills whole gospels (see Matthew and Mark); in Martha’s case, this lesson makes up the greatest, most significant miracle in the gospel of John.
The circumstances of this miracle help to bring out its meaningIn Jesus’absence, Martha’s brother Lazarus grows fatally illJesus learned about Lazarus’s illness, but does not stop His preaching to see him, noting rathercryptically that the illness will “not lead to death, but is for the glory of God.” Two days elapse and He learns that Lazarus as died. Only at this news does He desire to go and visit Lazarus – not to pay His condolences as a friend, nor make the most of a crisis as a political leader, but, as the true messiah, to resurrect a dead man already corrupting in the tomb and inform humanity of its ultimate destiny.
When Jesus arrives, Martha cannot contain herself. Thinking in characteristic human terms, she accuses Jesus of being a bad friend, greeting him with the words, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Nevertheless, she holds out hope, a small hope, that He might still do something since He is the Messiah. Like most people wanting something of God, they hope for the best but expect the worst, trying to avoid disappointment.Jesus rewards Martha’s gumption, and tolerates her qualified faith, by raising her brother from the dead right there and then.
In all likelihood, this huge feat confirms the meaning of Jesus for Martha—and the many, many disciples like her. He is much more than a mere friend who can comfort one in pain but not really remove that pain. He is much more than an abstract hope, some divine afterlife venture in which to invest one’s soul. He is the Resurrection and Life Incarnate. He acts in all times, past, present, and future, and His love gives life and perfection to those who accept it.
In hindsight, Martha shows enormous pluck in confronting Jesus like this. The fact the Jesus does what He does afterward suggests that He does not mind this at all. Considering that many prophets, not least Moses, had done the same with God in the Old Testament with complaints and accusations far worse than Martha’s, Jesus probably appreciates her honesty.
Martha’s example teaches that one should not only approach God in high spirits—God does not really care that a person is polite, or positive, or hardheaded—but in low spirits and anger as well. Through His Son, God heals and gives life; He wants to take those low spirits and raise them like He raised Lazarus. Like Martha, and unlike her mystic sister Mary, most disciples might learn this only after so many lessons and mistakes. Even so, Martha is a saint like her siblings, and this should give hope to any disciple who might not understand everythingright away but has the courage to continue to strive to know Jesus.
Mt 13:31-35 Seeds and Costa Rica
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”
As perhaps some readers may have noticed, I have not written a post for Father’s blog in three weeks. This is because I just returned back from a two-week study abroad in Costa Rica. My time in Costa Rica was more incredible than anything I could have ever imagined. Sure, I knew that I was going to get better at Spanish, and that I would probably get a nice tan, and that I would see a beautiful part of the world. But I think my greatest takeaway from my time in Costa Rica is this; Costa Rica doesn’t mess around. Costa Rica really teaches you how weak you are.

One afternoon, we went out to a mountain in a region of Monserrat de Coronado called “Las Nubes,” or “the clouds” in English. As one could assume, the region got its name for its average altitude, which puts it smack-dab in the middle of some of the lower stratus clouds. We were planning to go on a fifteen-kilometer hike up and down the mountain on an intermediate trail, covering a total altitude change of about 200 meters. Some students at my school had done the same hike the week prior, and they had vehemently warned me not to participate. “Don’t do it,” they told me, “every single one of us was on the ground after that thing.” But of course, I didn’t listen. I was about ten years younger than most of them. I was in Costa Rica, the land of adventure!!! Plus, I run cross country, and I had been training for months at that point for the fitness test for the military academies. How bad could it have been?

I quickly answered that question—VERY BAD. The second the incline broke twenty degrees or so, I found myself out of breath. At that altitude, there was not nearly as much oxygen in the air as I was accustomed to in Dallas. Then came the countless flights of crazy-steep stairs (if you could even call them stairs) that I could barely clear in a single step. Cue the rain. Cue three separate stings from a particularly vicious species of Costa Rican horsefly that was attracted to the smell of my soap, and the resulting paranoia from hearing them buzz around my head. And did I mention that we were in a federally-protected tropical rainforest? This was the real deal—our guide cleared the path with a machete. Needless to say, it was an adventure I will never forget. And I did fall on the ground afterwards from pure exhaustion—I have pictures to prove it.

What does this have to do with today’s Gospel reading, you may ask? Well, when I got to the top of that mountain, I had experienced a whole new variety of humility.  I had only covered fifteen kilometers of a preserve that composed a whole county of Costa Rica. I had only scaled one tiny mountain, and I was beat. I compare my feelings that day to that cliché experience of awe and powerlessness that some people have described upon viewing the Grand Canyon. You suddenly realize how weak you are in comparison with nature, and thus with God. But if any of you have ever experienced a similar sentiment, you know that it’s not a negative or discouraging feeling of weakness. Instead, you know in those moments that your weakness is just reality.

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds…” In a way, we are the mustard seeds. Alone, we can dovery little. We’re weak, small, and frankly, even the brightest among us have moments where we are not all that bright.Weakness is in our human nature. It is only when we accept our smallness and weakness that we can entrust ourselves to God, who knows where we should be scattered to grow into the fullest version of ourselves. If we are mustard seeds, unless we are planted, we are basically worthless. But if we allow ourselves to be planted, we, though weak, can live in a way that we could never have imagined.l
“…yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.” Hopefully most people reading this have had their lives enriched and deepened by their faith in some aspect. With faith and with trust in God, our understanding of the world around us becomes so much broader and richer—in other words, it grows into the largest of plants. While others may say that Christianity creates narrow-minded thinkers, Christians know that the exact opposite is true. Just think of the low level of dignity that my generation attributes to marriage, the family, and the unborn. To far too many members of my generation, marriage is a contract between any two people about what property belongs to whom, founded on a sentiment that might be here today and easily erased tomorrow. The unborn are “choices,” mere consequences—although the word consequenceimplies responsibility, which many would like to believe no longer exists. These definitions are the mustard seeds not yet entrusted to the right grower. But to Catholics, who have placed their mustard seeds in the hands of God, the family is an icon of the Trinity. To Catholics, the unborn are reflections of the vulnerability of the Son of God himself. To Catholics, love is a choice that endures hardship and comes out stronger after having been tested in fire.

When we allow God to plant us, our understanding of the world around us only becomes deeper and richer. True– alone, we can do very little. But with the help of God to sow us in the right ground, we can open our eyes to see things that are otherwise hidden.
To the Top of a Mountain; Exodus 19:20
Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for reading)

By SOPHIE DRUFFNER
“When the LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai,
he summoned Moses to the top of the mountain.”
[Please note: I’m going to go just a little further in the reading today, beyond the confusion of the Israelites at seeing “Mount Sinai wrapped in smoke,” and the fear they must have felt at hearing Moses speak to the thunder, the Voice of the Lord. I’m going to take the part where Moses starts to go up the mountain, totally stressed at the thoughts of leaving his people, knowing that, like children, they’ll probably be up to some mischief without him.]
As we looked at the mountains surrounding Mount LeConte, a huge gray cloud began descending, wrapping around the top of the mountain. Parts of it separated and traveled even lower; the mountain looked as if it was being enveloped in smoke.
Recently, my family and I went on vacation in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. As we were hiking the 5.5 miles up to the tip of Mount LeConte, the sky gradually grew darker and darker. Portions of ground under the canopy of pine trees began to grow nearly black. And as we climbed, I began to think of how prophets used to go to mountains to pray. It seems as if we believe God is somewhere “in the clouds,” we have to go up to the highest point that we can imagine to hear him. We have to climb with our hiking boots sinking into the mud, our hands occasionally brushing the rough leaves of enormous trees, and sit down on a bed of lichen. Paradoxically, as we climb closer to God on the mountain, we sink a little further into the dirt, which he created, and as we reach the top of the mountain, the dirt is on our ankles, our face, our hands.
Muslims believe that all creation is “muslim,” or “in submission to God,” because He created it. In yoga, participants are encouraged to feel as if they are part of nature, as is the case in most meditations. Most Native American religions integrate nature to a great extent. And of course, in Genesis, humankind names the animals and rejoices in the plentiful fruit and nourishment in the Garden of Eden. In many religions, understanding nature can bring us closer to God.
It was amazing how removed from the modern world we were on that mountain. Of course, you could always point out that a little beyond those trees were telephone lines, chain restaurants, and electricity. But as we hiked in groves of dead, white trees which had sunk to an upside-down V-formation, I felt as if I could be there among the dinosaurs, the only person in the world. I wondered if this was how Moses felt, climbing up on that mountain. A little beyond him were the camps of the confused Israelites, looking for someone to take comfort in, perhaps distrusting Moses and looking to idols. But as he climbed up on that mountain, although thoughts of his people may have troubled his head, the further he climbed, the more he became involved in the nature, the more he became closer to God.
So this week, I encourage you to go climb a mountain, if you are near one. Or, if you aren’t, just take a walk in suburbia, or wherever you are. Enjoy how the water drips off of a live oak tree, how the sun shines on a cluster of hydrangeas, how the colors of the flowers are so bright and alive. While you are walking, completely involve yourself in the sights of the nature. Think of the complexity of each leaf, the amazing nature of photosynthesis, how God created each green thing that you see. And at the end of your walk, having just a little closer to God, say “Thank you,” to Him.
2 Cor 4:7-15 Treasure in Earthen Vessels
Feast of St James, Apostle
(Click here for readings)

By JENNIFER BURGIN

Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;  perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned;  struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
Last week, I read an interesting article on the discovery of a shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina.  Estimated to be from The American Revolution, marine scientists found perfectly preserved cooking bricks, chains, wine bottles, and wood timbers buried deep in the cold waters.  These “treasures”  from an “earthen vessel” will provide insight into maritime voyages from centuries ago.  Who knows what other treasures will be found. 
We read in the bible about Saint Paul shipwrecked.  Scripture doesn’t go into much detail. Perhaps he attempted to sail from point A to point B.  Wicked winds threw his navigation off course.  Gigantic waves possibly made him sea sick.  A torrential storm crashed his ship onto land, tearing it up into pieces.  Obstacles from every compass direction afflicted Paul….
Another disciple of Christ gives up:  No more discipleship! No more spreading the good news!  I’m done with this Jesus mission! Travel is impossible!  However, Paul carried the crucified Christ inside every recess of his soul.  His intimate relationship with Our Lord kept his head above water while suffering discomfort, agony, and torment.
We go through life hunting for buried treasure through material possessions and intimate pleasures.  We desire to become god-like, obsessed with our own desires.  When  affliction and confusion strike us, we do all we can to scrape off the crusty barnacles and prevent the sun from burning our skin further, yet nothing seems to help.  This is when the Holy Spirit rescues.  Real treasure lies in God alone.
Marine Biologist Sylvia Earle wrote, “Like a shipwreck or a jetty, almost anything that forms a structure in the ocean, whether it is natural or artificial over time, collects life.”  So, when life turns into one massive shipwreck, sinking our earthly vessels nautical miles deep into the sea, rest-assured God has everything under control and divinely protected.
Receive the Holy Eucharist regularly.  Adore the Blessed Sacrament frequently.  Pray for the strength to survive life’s shipwrecks trusting that God will provide.  Keep the crucified Christ bound tightly to the heart!
‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” – Voltaire
Saint James, Pray for Us!

Jn 20: 1-2, 11-18 Along Comes Mary
Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine
“Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.”
Mary Magdalene has a difficult time letting go of Jesus. After His death, she can think of no other thing to do than to sit at His tomb and mourn in the presence of His corpse. And before this, when Jesus lived and preached, Mary can think of little else but to cling, kneeling at His feet while her sister busies herself with hosting. Once Jesus heads over to Jerusalem one last time for the Passover, Mary shocks the disciples by pouring costly ointment over Jesus with little thought of the cost. At the crucifixion, she stands with Jesus’ mother and a young disciple to watch Jesus die, oblivious to the gore and scandal. In her mind, no one else seems to exist besides her Lord and Master.
Because of Mary’s almost slavish devotion to Jesus, practical concerns quicklyescape her notice. She thinks nothing of money, or imminent persecution, or proper hospitality. As a disciple, she does quite little. She does not evangelize; she does not heal or serve others; she does not write epistles and establish churches; she only follows Jesus and sits at His feet.
And yet, Jesus reveals Himself to her after the resurrection before anyone else.He could have chosen Peter, or His mother, or John, but He chooses her, the useless one that always latched to Him unthinkingly. Some might argue that He could have revealed Himself to Pilate, or Caiaphas, or Herod, and prove to them that He came back to life and that they had just crucified God’s Son. In either case, whether appearing first to the leader of His Church or His enemies, He probably could have made his resurrection that much more successful and powerful.
But instead He chooses Mary Magdalene. Why?
Mary does something unique. Long before anyone else, she truly worships and adores Jesus as God’s Son. Peter might have been the first to verbalize this truth, and Mary His Mother might have been the first to know this truth, but Mary Magdalene realizes the full import and acts on it. While the masses crowd around Jesus like some celebrity, shoving sick people in His face; and while His disciples complain to Him about food shortages, storms, and botched miracles as though He were a manager; and while His enemies make plans to destroy Him as a dangerous rebel; Mary humble kneels in awe, treating Him like God.
Jesus appears first to Mary because she alone would not question His resurrection. The others to whom He appears afterward her all need some kind of assurance. On the way to Emmaus, Jesus must deliver a lecture on the full meaning of the Old Testament and reenact the Last Supper before His audience realizes what had happened. With His apostles, Jesus must pass through a locked door and show His wounds—and then, later, let Thomas poke them.
Mary, however, does not think twice about Jesus’ resurrection but immediately reverts back to her old style of adoration, clutching His feet once more. For once, Jesus has to tell her to let go and actually do something: “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” In entrusting Mary with this message, Jesus communicates two things:(1) it was Mary, not the other disciples, who ultimately showed the most courage and strength, and (2) Mary’s courage and strength came from her adoration and devotion of Him.
Jesus intends to make Mary Magdalene a model for all His disciples. Knowing quite well man’s insatiable desire to works and prove himself, He chooses to give his attention to the woman who does nothing but adore.  Although there are times when a disciple must act, there are even more times where he must simply sit still and listen.
Many of the Church’s saints followed Mary’s example and came to understand the power behind adoration. Nearly all of them would adore Jesus before they witnessed in His name. Religious orders today, like that of Blessed Mother Teresa, kneel in the Presence of Jesus for hours before they begin their work with the poor. The popes do the same. At the urging of St. John Paul II, many parishes will offer Eucharistic Adoration all hours of the day and experience the blessings that accompany this practice.
Most people feel drawn to Christ’s presence, yet they might not understand this yet. More than likely, Mary Magdalene felt the same way, but she trusted Jesus to understand, and He did. The first disciples eventually followed suit as Christians throughout the ages have done the same. Adoration transcends understanding as it helps believers transcend themselves. It humbles and elevates at the same time, and it continues bring the peace and strength that Mary experienced so many centuries ago sitting at the feet of Christ, hearing His voice.

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