Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

Jesus’ Words Are A Promise, Challenge, And Invitation

Over a century ago two Catholic university students had a serious discussion on death and the afterlife. They believed what the Church taught on judgment and eternity, but being young and curious, they still had questions—and so they made a solemn pact: if God would allow it, the one who died first would appear to […]

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Pope warns against false securities of wealth, vanity, power

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2014 / 11:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily at Friday’s Mass, Pope Francis cautioned attendees not to place their security in false treasures which enslave and weigh us down, but rather in the treasures of heaven that lead to freedom.

“Here is the message of Jesus: ‘if your treasure is in wealth, in vanity, in power, in pride, your heart will be chained there! Your heart will be enslaved by wealth, vanity, pride,” the Pope explained in his June 20 Mass.

“And what Jesus wants is that we have a free heart! This is today’s message.”

Speaking to those present in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Roman Pontiff centered his reflections on the day’s Gospel, in which Christ warns his disciples not to store up treasure on earth.

This is “a prudent counsel” stated the Pope, noting that when Christ speaks of earthly treasure there are “mainly three,” and Jesus “always came back to the same subject.”

“The first treasure: gold, money, richness. But you are not secure with this because, maybe, they will steal it from you, no? I am not secure with these investments!”

“Maybe the stock market crashes and you remain with nothing! And then tell me, does one more dollar make you happier or not? Wealth, (it is a ) dangerous treasure, dangerous … ”

Acknowledging that although money “serves to do so many good things, to advance the family,” the Bishop of Rome explained that “if you build it up as a treasure, it will steal your soul!”

“Jesus in the Gospel returns to this topic, on wealth, on the danger of richness, on putting one’s hope in riches” he noted, stating that two other great temptations are those of vanity and power, which stem from pride.

On the contrary, Christ wants us to have “a free heart” the Pope observed, pointing out that “this is today’s message… ‘please, have a free heart,’ Jesus tells us. He speaks to us of the freedom of the heart.”

Going on, he emphasized that “you can only have a free heart with the treasures of heaven: love, patience, service to others, adoration of God.”

“These are the true riches that cannot be stolen. The other riches weigh down the heart. They weigh down the heart: they chain it, they do not give it freedom!”

Pope Francis then referred to Christs’ words that “the lamp of the body is the eye” and that “if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.”

“A luminous heart that is not chained, a heart that advances also ages well, because it ages like good wine: when good wine ages it’s a fine aged wine” the Roman Pontiff noted, explaining that on the other hand “the heart that is not illuminated is like the not-so-good wine.”

“Time passes and it breaks down and becomes vinegar” he stated, praying that God would give us the “spiritual prudence to understand better where my heart is at, and to what treasure my heart is attached.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that the Lord give to all the strength “to unchain” our heart if it is chained, “so that it becomes free, becomes bright and give us this beautiful joy of being children of God: that true freedom.”

Corpus Christi: Beyond the Carousel

A few weeks ago I came upon a beautiful carousel. Instant reflections of early childhood hit me as I remember the merry-go-rounds I would go on at Seaside Heights back in the day when the term “Jersey Shore” had no connotations of immorality. I don’t know if modern carousels still do this, they probably don’t because of […]

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Never forget your first love, Pope encourages priests

Vatican City, Jun 6, 2014 / 05:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis directed his daily homily today to his brother bishops and priests, telling them to always put love of God and their flock first, before pursuing a scholastic career.

“This is the question I ask myself, my brother bishops and priests: how is your love today, the love of Jesus? Is it like first love? Am I as in love today as on the first day?” the Pope asked in his June 6 homily.

Centering his reflections on the day’s Gospel passage from John in which Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?” the Roman Pontiff asked those in attendance “How is your first love?” explaining that this question is not only for married couples, but also those consecrated in the Church.

Addressing his fellow priests and bishops, the Bishop of Rome asked whether they still love Jesus as much as they did when they first began their ministry, “Or does work and worries lead me to look at other things, and forget love a little?”

Observing how “There are arguments in marriage. That’s normal,” the Pope explained that “when there is no love, there are no arguments: it breaks.”

“Do I argue, with the Lord? This is a sign of love. This question that Jesus asks of Peter brings him to first love. Never forget your first love. Never.”

In addition to constantly renewing one’s initial love for the Lord, Pope Francis noted that a priest must always remember in his dialogue with Jesus to be a shepherd before wanting to be “a scholar of philosophy or theology.”

A priest must always be a “shepherd” in same way the Jesus showed to Peter in saying “feed my sheep” he said, and the rest will come later.

“Feed. With theology, philosophy, with petrology, with what you study, but feed. Be the shepherd. For the Lord has called us to this. And the bishop’s hands on our head is to be shepherds” the pontiff continued.

“This is a second question, is not it? The first is: ‘How is your first love?’ This, the second: ‘Am I a shepherd, or an employee of this NGO that is called the Church?’ There is a difference. Am I a shepherd?”

Going on, the Pope explained that this is “A question that I have to ask myself; that bishops need to ask, even priests: all of us. Feed. Lead. Go forward.”

He then went on to explain that there is not majesty or glory in being a priest, saying “No, brother. You will end up in the most common, even humiliating circumstances: in bed, having to be fed, dressed…useless, sick.”

“To end up like Him,” like Jesus, is the destiny of a priest, the Roman Pontiff observed, adding that this is a love which dies “as the seed of wheat that will bear fruit. But I will not see it.”

Drawing attention to what he described as the “strongest word” Jesus spoke in the Gospel, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of listening to his command “Follow me!”

Even “If we have lost the way or do not know how to respond to love, we do not know how to respond to being pastors, we do not know how to respond or we do not have the certainty that the Lord will not abandon us even in the worst moments of life, in sickness” he continued.

“He says, ‘Follow me.’ This is our certainty. In the footsteps of Jesus. On that path. ‘Follow me.’”

Concluding his homily, the pontiff asked that the Lord give all priests and bishops “the grace to always find or remember our first love, to be pastors, not to be ashamed of ending up humiliated on a bed or even losing our faculties.”

“And that He always give us the grace to follow Jesus, in the footsteps of Jesus: the grace to follow Him.”

Pope’s Morning Homily: Jesus Always Interceding For Us

Despite our many sins, Jesus always intercedes for us before the Father.  He shows Him his wounds, through which we are saved.  The daily readings at Mass at Casa Santa Marta Tuesday morning gave Pope Francis the opportunity to dwell on the power of intercessory prayer. The readings spoke of Jesus taking leave of…

Christian joy is based in hope, Pope Francis reflects

Vatican City, May 30, 2014 / 06:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his first daily homily since returning from the Holy Land Pope Francis centered on the theme of Christian joy, explaining that it comes not from our immediate circumstances, but what Jesus promised.

“Be courageous in suffering and remember that after the Lord will come; after joy will come, after the dark comes the sun” the Pope encouraged in his May 30 daily Mass. “May the Lord give us all this joy in hope.”

Basing his homily on the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles in which the Lord tells St Paul not to be afraid of preaching to the people of Corinth, the pontiff explained to those in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse that the apostle “was very brave, because he had strength in the Lord.”

But despite this confidence even Paul was afraid at times and needed reassurance from God, the Pope observed, stating that “It happens to all of us in life, to have some ‘fear.’”

However, Paul didn’t let the fact that “neither the Jews nor the Gentiles” liked what he was saying stop him from proclaiming the Gospel, he continued, adding that even Jesus in Gethsemane was afraid.

“We must tell the truth: Christian life not just one big party. Not at all! We cry, we cry so many times,” the Roman Pontiff continued, “When we are sick; when we have a problem with our son, in the family, with our daughter or wife, or husband.”

“When we see that our salary does not reach the end of the month and we have a sick child; when we see that we cannot pay the mortgage on the house and we must somehow survive” he went on, adding that although we have “So many problems” Jesus tells us “Do not be afraid!”

Noting that there is another type of sadness that comes “when we take the wrong road” and try “to buy (the) happiness, joy, of the world, of sin,” Pope Francis explained that this “is the sadness of the wrong sort of happiness” but that Christian happiness “is a joy in hope, which comes.”

“However in times of trial we do not see this. It is a joy that is purified by trials, our everyday trials” the Pope continued, observing that “it’s hard to go to a sick person who is suffering greatly and say: ‘Come on! Come on! Tomorrow you will have joy!’”

“No, you cannot say this! We have to help them feel what Jesus made us feel.”

Going on, he explained that “When we are in the dark” and “we do not see anything” we need to make an act of faith in the Lord, saying “I know, Lord that this sorrow will turn to joy. I do not know how, but I know it!”

Using the example of a woman in labor to illustrate how sadness turns into joy, the Bishop of Rome stated that “It’s true, women suffer a lot in childbirth, but then when she holds her child she forgets” and what is left is “the joy of Jesus, a purified joy.”

It is “the joy that remains” he observed, noting that although “hidden in some moments of life, we do not feel it in bad times, it comes later: a joy in hope.”

This, then, “is the message of the Church today: Do not be afraid!”

Concluding his reflections, the Pope prayed that all might receive “this joy in hope,” explaining that “the sign that we have this joy in hope is peace.”

“How many sick, who are at the end of life, in pain, have that peace of soul” he noted, affirming that “This is the seed of joy, this is the joy of hope and peace.”

“Do you have peace of soul in times of darkness, in times of trouble, in times of persecution, when everyone else rejoices at your suffering? Do you have peace?” he asked. “If you have peace, you have the seed of joy that will come later. May the Lord help us understand these things.”

Jesus Didn’t Ascend Into Heaven To Leave Us

There were only eleven of them, eleven disciples. Judas had betrayed the Lord. Matthias had not yet been chosen. So just eleven men went to Galilee following the message Jesus had given to them on Easter Sunday through  Mary Magdalen. They were told to meet Jesus on the mountain in Galilee. What were they thinking […]

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Jn 15:1-8 True Fruitfulness

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Meditation by Benedict Augustine
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”

After explaining His analogy of the Good Shepherd, Jesus now discusses another one: the True Vine. God the Father has planted the vine and now tends to it; Jesus himself acts as the vine itself; and all Christian disciples function as branches of the vine. The Father desires that the vine produces fruit, so He makes sure to prune the branches to increase its produce while He cuts away altogether those branches that do not produce at all. Those branches that undergo pruning likely represent those Christians who cultivate a strict spiritual discipline so that they can better spread the gospel and bring more glory to God, thus bearing spiritual fruit. The unproductive branches probably symbolize the undisciplined disciples who worship mechanically, if they worship at all, and do almost nothing to share the gospel, whether by word or by deed, with anyone. After he removes those lifeless branches from the vine, God allows random people (false prophets, false teachers, and other minions of the devil) to collect those branches and “throw them into a fire” where “they will be burned,” which indicates that Hell awaits those who shun their duty as Christians.

When juxtaposed with the last analogy of the Good Shepherd, most Christians usually prefer thinking of that former image than this image of the True Vine. The Good Shepherd offers hope for those lost souls, emphasizing the good that awaits the believer. Jesus, the shepherd, does all the heavy lifting, even to the point of sacrificing His life, while believers, the sheep, simply answer His call and follow Him into the gate. More specifically, within this image of a shepherd and his sheep, a person who identifies himself as the sheep can imagine having a sufficient amount of autonomy. The sheep do their own walking, their own grazing, and little is expected of them except their ultimate obedience to the shepherd.

As opposed to what the Good Shepherd asks of His sheep, the Vine Grower and His True Vine ask  much more of the branches: they must produce fruit or be cut off. Not only does God want obedience from his disciples, He also wants a spiritual excellence that will lead to the conversion of others. Unlike the sheep passively grazing, the disciple must now consider possibly dieting from so much grass and asking God’s help to trim off the fatty excesses of sin and vice. Finally, that personal space that existed between the shepherd guiding and the sheep following disappears with the branch directly attached to the vine. Christ does not only guide His disciples, but completely sustains them; without Him, they wither and die.

Rather than grow discouraged at this analogy, Christians should draw inspiration and wisdom in its universal truth: all men must work and produce if they hope to live and prosper. This applies the workplace, to education, to relationships, to happiness, as well as Christian discipleship. Most people acknowledge this truth and push themselves to learn all they can so that they can maximize their output and avoid a life of mediocrity. They will endure severe trials and hardship to make certain purchases, to succeed in certain careers, or to befriend certain people. Thriving and producing fruit of some kind constitutes the greater part of most people’s lives. Jesus makes the point that if men and women can exert this much effort and make such a change in the world, they should do at least as much for the salvation of their souls, and they should at least recognize from Whom their effort and success necessarily derive. Individuals do not necessarily need to change the fact of their fruitfulness; they simply need to change their orientation, the direction and nature of their fruitfulness, away from the world toward the Holy Trinity.

St. Augustine speaks frequently on this need of properly orienting oneself, lest one should forsake salvation and wither along with the other spiritually barren branches.  Particularly, in one of his major works, On Christian Doctrine, to encourage a fruitful spiritual life, he uses the example of a sinful man who loves a famous actor and urges all his friends to love that actor too, making this his primary mission in life. The more his friends love that actor, the more he loves them; and if they detest that actor, he will try to convince them otherwise. Seeing that this man has oriented his love towards this actor, the Christian in possession of the Way, the Truth, and the Life can at least do the same for the people around him and bring them to One Who can save their souls. Naturally, he should do much more, encouraging fellow believers, and urging the complete conversion of nonbelievers, especially those close to him. God, the Vine Grower, and Christ, the Vine, will help in this effort; the Christian must simply accept Their care, and Their discipline.

Paul was the prime example of a man suffering from disorientation: he had zeal, but he lacked the care of Jesus and His Father, so he did not produce fruit. Rather, the spiritual work before his conversion produced mostly death and darkness, a kind of parasite plaguing the True Vine. Afterward, he allowed Jesus to guide his zeal, and God to trim his vices, so that he could bear abundant spiritual fruit, converting many gentiles. Ironically, Paul had to confront his former self in the men who wanted to continue to impose Mosaic Law and limit the fruitfulness of the apostles’ mission. Since the Jesus is the Vine, He must save the branches, and God Himself must prune them, not the traditions of man. The sacraments of the Catholic Church therefore signify God’s grace, the new law, whereas the ritual of circumcision signified Jewish tradition, the old law. New life had to come from Jesus, nothing less.

Once the disciple is properly attached to the True Vine, zealous to act as the extension of God’s fruitfulness, and humble before God’s discipline, he will soon witness the abundance of God’s charity. St. Theresa of Avila offers simple but timeless advice for all Christians on how achieve such fruitfulness while retaining the necessary humility required for it: “Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.”

Pope warns against superficial peace that rusts and fades away

Vatican City, May 20, 2014 / 07:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his daily homily Pope Francis cautioned attendees not to place their security in the worldly peace of wealth, vanity or power, but rather in that offered by Jesus, which is the only one that lasts.

“Money does not give you a definitive peace. Just think, metal also rusts! What does it mean? A stock market crash and all your money is gone! It is not a secure peace: It is a superficial temporal peace,” the Pope explained in his May 20 homily.

Centering his reflections on the Gospel, taken from John, in which Jesus speaks of his coming passion and death, the pontiff drew the attention of those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse to Jesus’ words “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”

The peace that the world gives is completely different from that of Jesus the Pope noted, because “it is somewhat superficial” and may offer “degree of calm, even a certain joy,” but only “up to a certain point.”

“For example, it offers us the peace of wealth: ‘I am at peace because I have everything I need, everything organized for my whole life, I do not have to worry’” he continued, adding “this is a peace that the world gives.”

“Do not worry, you won’t have any problems because you have so much money … the peace of wealth.”

However Jesus warns us “not to trust this peace” the Roman Pontiff observed, recalling that “with great realism he tells us: ‘Look, there are thieves … thieves can steal your wealth!’ Money does not give you a definitive peace.”

Going on, the Bishop of Rome pointed out that there is another worldly peace which is that of “power,” but that this also fails to satisfy because “a coup can take it away” at any moment.

Recalling what happened to the “peace of Herod” when the Magi told him about the birth of Jesus, the King of Israel, the pontiff explained that when he heard the news “that peace vanished immediately.”

Also drawing attention the false peace that arises out of vanity, which he referred to as a “peace of conjecture,” Pope Francis said that it too falls short of true peace because one day you can be praised and loved and the next rejected, “like Jesus between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.”

But the peace that the Lord gives is totally different because “The peace of Jesus is a Person, the Holy Spirit!”

“On the same day of the Resurrection, He comes to the Upper Room and His greeting is: ‘Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit’” the Pope went on, stating that “This is the peace of Jesus: it is a Person, it is a great gift.”

“And when the Holy Spirit is in our hearts, no one can remove His peace. No one! It is a definitive peace!”

“So what is our task?” he asked, explaining that it is “To custody this peace. Safeguard it!” because “It is a great peace, a peace that is not mine, is belongs to another Person who gives it to me, another Person who is in my heart and accompanies me all the days of my life. The Lord has given it to me.”

Noting how we obtain this peace when we receive the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, the Roman Pontiff affirmed that we must welcome it “like a child who receives a gift…without conditions, with an open heart.”

Pope Francis cautioned attendees that we must safeguard the Holy Spirit without “imprisoning him,” and that if we truly “have this peace of the Spirit” and are aware of it, “let not your heart be troubled.”

“Be sure! Paul told us that we must first pass through many tribulations to enter the Kingdom of heaven” the Pope continued, observing that “we all, all of us, we have so many, everyone!”

“Some bigger, some smaller…But ‘let not your heart be troubled,’ and this is the peace of Jesus.”

The pontiff concluded by reiterating how it is “The presence of the Spirit that makes our heart be at peace. Not anesthetized, no! At peace! Aware, but at peace with the peace that only God’s presence gives.”

Readying Ourselves For Heaven

Chances are many of you have seen, or at least heard about, a movie currently playing called Heaven Is For Real. It’s based on the true story of a boy named Colton who supposedly had a life-after-death experience while undergoing emergency surgery; afterwards, using simple language and images, he claimed to have seen angels and […]

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