Wednesday, June 29, 2011

5 Ways to Get Spiritually Fit This Summer


By Eric Porteous | JUNE 29, 2011

One of my favorite things to do is workout. Whether at a gym, running outside, or doing P90X in my home, I love getting my body into shape. (Now, if only I could work on my eating habits a little bit). For me there’s just something about the discipline it takes, the feeling I get at the end, and the little results I can see that show me I’m getting healthier.

While it’s important to eat right and exercise, it’s even more important to train your soul (1 Timothy 4:7-8). As you continue on with your summer break, here are five ways to help you get spiritually fit:

1. Daily Mass. As high school students, it can be difficult to get to Daily Mass during the school year. Often times, it is scheduled while you are in class, but that’s not the case when you’re on break. Find what time Daily Mass is offered at your parish and go. There is nothing better that you can do for your soul than receiving the Eucharist everyday. For an added bonus, bring some friends. Not only will all of you grow spiritually but you’ll be great witnesses to the rest of your parish.

2. Reconciliation. Summer break can be a great time to get in the habit of attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis. Find out what day and time the Sacrament is offered at your parish and neighboring parishes. Make it a priority to go once a week, and take time to really examine your conscience beforehand.

3. Scripture. Too often during the school year, it can be easy to use homework or reading assignments as excuses not to open the bible. But, during summer we may not have that problem. Why not take some time to read the scriptures? If you don’t know where to start, try praying through the Sunday Readings. The great news is that, we’ve got the Sunday, Sunday, Sunday podcast to help you break them open. If you want to go further, try the Daily Readings for Mass posted here on Also, many Youth Ministers host Bible Studies during the summer, so be sure to ask them the day and time so you can attend.

4. Rosary. If you want to deepen your relationship with Jesus, try deepening your relationship with Mary. There is no better way to do this than with the Rosary. If you’re not sure how to pray it, ask your Youth Minister to help you, and commit to praying it consistently. Maybe you want to start off with every Sunday. Maybe you want to pray it every morning after you wake up. However you choose to do it, stay committed and know that God can really move in those 20 minutes.

5. Eucharistic Adoration. Silence is something that we are slowly losing in our world today. It seems that no matter where you turn there is some kind of noise to distract us. There are cell phones, music, TVs, computers, and more almost everywhere. But there is still one great place we can go to find some silent prayer: the Adoration Chapel. Spend some time in silent Adoration this summer, and again make it a commitment. Every Thursday our staff takes a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Perhaps you could join us then. While you may not be physically present with us, we will be united in the Eucharist.

These are just five ways to help you grow spiritually fit. Do your best to make them a part of your routine this summer. After all, if you are willing to put in the discipline it takes, not only will you feel great but you’ll start to see results in the way you live your life.

Happy Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

From American Catholic's Saint of the Day
Sts. Peter and Paul
(d. 64 & 67)

Peter (d. 64?). St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus..
The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles.
And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19).
But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.
He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b).
Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17).
Paul (d. 64?). If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate.
Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus.
Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise.
In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.


We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is perhaps a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: "It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you. Peter, it is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father's revelation. I, not you, build my Church." Paul's experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever had. But persecution, humiliation and weakness became his day-by-day carrying of the cross, material for further transformation. The dying Christ was in him; the living Christ was his life.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Every Communion is a Holy Communion

NOTE: I am on vacation this week and so here is a homily from the archives.  I delivered this one in 2005 - FT
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often called simply by its Latin title, Corpus Christi. This feast has been celebrated in the Church since 1264 and is an incredible opportunity for us to reflect on the Eucharist and what it means in our lives; and to give thanks to God for His abiding presence to us through the Body and Blood of His Son. This feast always makes me reflect on different powerful experiences of the Eucharist; First Communions and Last Communions and many others in between.

We think of the little girl or boy, dressed in white, approaching the altar for their First Holy Communion. By this time, there have already been big events in their lives – birthdays, Christmas celebrations, the first day of school. But, this First Holy Communion is in many ways the climax of their young lives. We all witness that as these children move expectantly towards the altar; their eyes transfixed on the Host. With practiced hands they receive the Host and pass it reverently to their lips. God is with these children now, in a temple innocent and pure.

We think of the old woman or man, waiting on their deathbed for their last Holy Communion. There have been big events in their lives too – wedding days, the birth of children, the first time they were called “Mom” or “Grampa.” And now with their last Holy Communion comes the climax of their final years. The priest moves near. They open their eyes as they did in their childhood, raise their white-haired head from the pillow and welcome the Savior with all of the fervor their body will allow. God is with them now, and will be with them for all eternity.

The First Holy Communion is always a fervent one. So is the Last Holy Communion. We bring to the first one the freshness of youth; we bring to the last one the clarity that age brings to life. But, what about all of the communions in between? What about the countless routine trips to and from the altar? Communions missed through indifference or even sin? Does it matter? Well, of course, it does matter; and it matters a great deal; and I’ll give you four reasons why I think so.

First, in Holy Communion, Jesus nourishes us. He gives us food for our souls. In our Gospel passage today, Jesus says, “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” The Eucharist gives us life. What soil does for a plant, what milk does for a baby, what solid food does for an adult, Holy Communion does for our soul. By receiving regularly and with fervor, we will thrive spiritually on the body and blood of Christ.

Secondly, in Holy Communion, Jesus makes us one with Himself. We know in life that people can be close to each other in many ways – as fellow workers, as friends. The most intimate human relationship we know is that of husband and wife. But, the closest intimacy possible for us is the intimacy found in the Eucharist. Again Jesus says in John, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in them.” It isn’t a question of living with another person, like in marriage, but of living in one another, sharing the same life. In Holy Communion we share the very life of Jesus. This union began in our Baptism, is sealed in Confirmation, but reaches its peak in Holy Communion. And we can reach that peak of intimacy and union each time we receive Holy Communion.

Thirdly, in Holy Communion, Jesus makes us one with each other. This sacrament is not only an intimacy between ourselves individually and Jesus. It is that; but it is also so much more. It is a love affair that embraces the whole community. It is not just my personal communion with Christ; it is our shared communion with each other in Christ. As St. Paul said, “As there is one bread, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one bread.” It is not just a personal sacrament; it is not just a straight line of contact between you and Jesus. It is a social sacrament too, a circle that includes Christ, yourself and all of your brothers and sisters. As communicants, we are not like stones scattered around a field; rather, we are likes stones in a wall, keeping each other in place and being kept in place by others. Or better still, we are not like diners in a restaurant each at their own table; we’re members of a family gathered around a common table – like Jesus and His Apostles at the last supper. When we stand before this altar, it is a sign of our love for each other, a pledge of charity towards each other that finds its source in the Eucharist.

Finally, regular reception of Holy Communion is an assurance of our resurrection. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise [that person] on the last day.” Our individual resurrection may seem remote to us now at this point in our lives, so remote that our mind can’t focus on it. But, as remote as it may seem, the Resurrection is the one event on which we base all our hope. Death is not the supreme reality – eternal life is. We are not born for death; we are born for eternity; for resurrection. And we have it on the word of our Savior that, if we are faithful to the Eucharist, we too will rise on the day of resurrection. It is a mighty thought, a happy thought, a hopeful thought.

And so we pray today that through the great gift of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we may all be nourished, united with our Lord, united with one another and assured of our eternal resurrected home in Heaven. May God increase your love and devotion for the Body and Blood of His Son.

May God give you peace.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hail the Holy Trinity!

A long time ago, the Jesuits and Franciscans were both offered a large and beautiful church in Rome, but didn’t know how to decide who should get it. They decided to hold a religious debate to settle the issue. Each Order sent their greatest theologian to Rome; and just to make it more interesting, they decided neither theologian would be able to talk. The day of the great debate came. The Jesuit sat opposite the Franciscan for a full minute before the Jesuit raised his hand and showed three fingers. The Franciscan looked back at him and raised one finger. The Jesuit waved his fingers in a circle around his head. The Franciscan pointed to the ground where he sat. Then Jesuit pulled out a wafer and a glass of wine. And the Franciscan pulled out an apple. The Jesuit stood up and said, “I give up. You are too good. The Franciscans win!”

An hour later, the cardinals were all around the Jesuit theologian asking him what had happened. He said, “First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was really only one God. Then I waved my finger around me to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground and showing that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show the power of the sacraments. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?”

Meanwhile, the friars were gathered around the Franciscan theologian with the same question, “What happened?” “Well,” the Franciscan said, “First he played hardball and said we had three days to get out of here. I told him not one of us was leaving. Then he told me that this whole place would be cleared of Franciscans and I let him know that we were staying right here.” “And, what happened next?” the friars asked. The Franciscan said, “I don't know. He took out his lunch, so I took out mine.”

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – the mystery of God as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one God. It is perhaps one of the most challenging mysteries of the faith to understand from an intellectual perspective. How can three things be one? St. Patrick famously tried to explain this using the image of the shamrock – three leaves, yet one shamrock. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the Trinity, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself…The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to people.” Does that clear things up for you? Probably not. And yet, I think we can come to a better understanding of the Trinity in our lives – spiritually and intellectually.

We all remember what we did at the beginning of Mass today. It is the same thing we do at the beginning of every Mass. We did this and please join me. + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. It is a familiar gesture that we do often more as a reflex than a conscious movement. But it is a gesture that points to today’s feast. When we are conscious of what we are doing in that act, it is a simple act of faith in the complexity of God who is revealed to us in the mystery of the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit.

I say “revealed to us” because we wouldn’t have a clue about the Trinity if Jesus didn’t tell us about it. Jesus talked about His Father in Heaven, He talked about Himself as the Son of God, He talked about going back to Heaven and sending to us the Holy Spirit. This is what the Catechism means when it says, “The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way by which the one true God…reveals himself to people.” How does God reveal Himself to us? Precisely as Trinity; as three Persons in one God. Although the Trinity is a mystery revealed by God, it doesn’t mean it is mystifying; rather it is a mystery that God wants us to be drawn deeply into.

So, let’s think about the sign of the cross and how it can draw us deeply into this mystery. First we touch our forehead and say, “In the Name of the Father…” When I hear those words, I think of the beauty of the trees, and flowers and plant life coming into bloom this time of year; I recall beautiful red sunsets at the beach as the setting sun shimmers on the water; the grandeur of the mountains; the feel of the warm breeze in Spring; I think of all the beautiful children who received First Communion last month; the giggling and crying babies baptized; and the pride and happiness on the faces of their parents. I think of all these things because God the Father is the Creator of a beautiful world – something we should always be aware of and should always cause us to marvel at His nature! That finger on my forehead is a reminder not only of a Creator but of God so totally in love with us that He sent His only Son to draw us back into His embrace. This same Father we speak of as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”

Next we move to our chest, to the place where our heart resides and say, “and of the Son.” Here I think of the love the Son of God showed us when He multiplied the loaves for the hungry, when He reached across the social and racial barriers of His time to the Samaritans, when He made room at His table for outcasts and sinners, when He chased the scavengers away from woman caught in adultery hungry for her blood, when He gave the ultimate and agonizing proof of His love for us on the cross. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”

And then we move to our shoulders and say, “and of the Holy Spirit.” We recall the Holy Spirit who gives so widely of Himself that it takes the full span of our shoulders to remind us of that – left to right, from one side of the world to the other. And I think of God’s desire to be close to all of us; to be your friend and my friend, to be in your heart and my heart; to be in Buzzards Bay, in Los Angeles, in Afghanistan, in Jerusalem, Rome, Tokyo and every corner of this world – all at the same time. I think of the Holy Spirit as a power in my life – the power in my life – as a great force for goodness and holiness, as one to turn to when decisions are to be made, as one who consoles me through difficult moments in my life. With the Holy Spirit around, no one is ever alone. God in His Holy Spirit is always with us. What we span in blessing, the Holy Spirit strengthens in life so that we may better shoulder our burdens and responsibilities.

And so, we come to the end of the blessing – the joining of hands and the concluding, “Amen.” And we remind ourselves that the word “amen” means “so be it;” it is itself an expression of assent, in itself an act of faith in all that has gone before. And so with my “amen” I renew my faith. I believe in you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

My brothers and sisters, may all the signs of the cross we ever make be nothing less than a proclamation of our belief in a God who has revealed Himself to us as Trinity; as Father, Son and Spirit. May it signal our grateful acceptance of God’s love and our willingness to share that love with others. May the hands we join in faith be generous in giving and eager in helping others. May the shared life and love of the Trinity be reflected in our lives too. This is the lived, real meaning of the Most Holy Trinity in our lives.

And may God bless us all in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Veni, Sancte Spiritus!

One bright Sunday morning, Stephen's mother hurried into her son's bedroom to wake him up. “Stephen, it's Sunday. Time to get up and go to church!” Stephen mumbled from under the covers, “I don't want to go and I'll give you two reasons why: First, I don't like them and second, they don't like me.” His mother replied, “Now, that's just plain nonsense. You've got to go to church and I'll give you two reasons why you must. First, you're 40 years old and, second, you're the pastor!”

We heard in our Gospel that Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We celebrate today the Solemnity of Pentecost. This was originally a Jewish festival 50 days after Passover celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses and the foundation of the covenant making Israel God’s chosen people. Today, as Christians we celebrate 50 days after Easter, the New Passover, the giving of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant established in the Church.

This story of Pentecost began in fear in the upper room and ended in joy. Pastor Stephen could as well be any of the apostles whom Jesus had commissioned to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. But as soon as Jesus leaves them ascending to Heaven, what did they do? They retired to their upper rooms and hid themselves. They were afraid of the people. Like Stephen they knew that the people did not like them, they knew that their message was different from the popular message of the time, and they just felt like wrapping themselves up in bed and not having to get up and face the hostile world.

We too are often like that, saying our prayers quietly, going to church quietly, receiving Jesus in our hearts quietly, and going home again quietly. But what about the charge that Jesus left us to be His witnesses and to share the Good News of God's love with all people? Sometimes we think that people don’t like to be reminded of God. We’re afraid they’ll tell us to “go away” if we speak to them about God. We’re afraid they won’t listen. We’re afraid they’ll say we’re too religious and out of touch. We’re afraid that our faith isn’t strong enough to stand up. Or more simply, sometimes it’s just, they don't like us and we don't like them. And so, like Stephen, we give up on our God-given duty and go on enjoying our comfortable silences, our comfortable sleep.

But, Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Fortunately, Pastor Stephen had a guide, his mother, who woke him up and persuaded him to go out and preach. There is a wonderful prayer that, in religious life, we pray at the beginning of daily meditation, “Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love.” This is the kind of work that the Holy Spirit does in the hearts of believers. When fear of trouble tends to freeze our faith into silent submission, the Holy Spirit warms us up – enkindles the fire - and empowers us to go out and make a difference.

The Holy Spirit reminds us that we have a mission. Our mission is to tell everybody the Good News that God is their Father, that God is the Father of us all, that in spite of all the visible difference of language and culture and social status, we are all one family and should live as brothers and sisters. Our mission is to break the barriers between “us” and “them,” between male and female, between Jew and Gentile, between rich and poor, between conservative and liberal, between Black and White, between whatever it is that divides us and to bring all people to speak the one universal language of brotherly and sisterly love. This is possible only through the working of the Holy Spirit. And so, Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

And yet, despite a more than 2,000 year history, somehow the world has yet to fully embrace the Gospel message that Jesus came to bring us. “What can I do?” you may say, “I am only a single individual. What difference can I make?” A squirrel once asked a wise owl what the weight of a single snowflake was. “Nothing more than nothing,” the owl answered. The squirrel then told the owl about a time when he was resting on a branch of a tree, counting each snowflake that came to rest until he reached the number 3,471,952. Then with the settling of the very next flake -- crack. The branch suddenly snapped, tumbling the squirrel and the snow to the ground. “That was surely a whole lot of nothing,” said the squirrel.

Our daily personal efforts to spread God’s Kingdom of love and justice may be as light weight as snowflakes. But by heaping our snowflakes together we shall eventually be able to break the heavy branch of sin, evil and injustice in our world today. And we can only do that if we are open to the Holy Spirit who wants to enter our lives and give us the strength we need.

So, on this day of Pentecost, let this be our prayer, “Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of us, your faithful people, and enkindle in us the fire of your love so that we can spread the Good News of your Kingdom to all the world.”

May God give you peace.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

All dogs go to Heaven

These are from two churches located across the street from each other. So glad I'm Catholic!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

“Let us work for Heaven: all the rest is nothing.”

As I was going through my desk earlier this week, I came across a prayer card that had belonged to my Aunt Pat. Aunt Pat was my Dad’s oldest sister and she passed away a few years ago. The night before her funeral, her daughters gave me this prayer card, which they had found in her well-worn Bible. The card contained a well-known poem often read at funeral’s called “Safely Home.” But, in the margins my Aunt had handwritten two notes. One said simply, “Please read this at my funeral.” But on the other side she had written, “My last prayer is that you all get right with God, so I’ll see you all again.” Aunt Pat, especially as she was nearing her own death, had a mind and a heart that was fixed firmly on Heaven – and she wanted the same for all of the people she loved.

While I’m sure we all want to get to Heaven, it doesn’t seem to be something most of us think about on a daily basis. This is for two reasons. First, the practical demands of life on earth tend to monopolize our attention. This can be a dangerous mistake. Jesus came to earth in order to be able to lead us to Heaven, or as we’ll hear in the Preface of our Eucharistic Prayer today, “Where Christ has gone, we hope to follow.” He died on the cross so that we could look forward to eternal life in Heaven. Heaven is the goal; Heaven is the destination of our lives on earth. How foolish a traveler would be to struggle forward without ever thinking about where they are going!

But there is another reason why we don’t give too much thought to Heaven: it’s simply because picturing eternal life is hard for us. This is where Jesus’ revelation in today’s Gospel is so helpful. He tells us exactly what eternal life is: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one you sent, Jesus Christ.”

We all know that the greatest joy of human existence, even here on earth, consists in relationships of love. What would all of the most beautiful things in the world be – the wonders of nature, the joy of children and family, beautiful works of art, even nice homes and cool cars – what would these be without others to share them with? Loving relationships make life’s most ordinary activities enjoyable and meaningful.

Today Jesus is telling us that Heaven is nothing more or less than a perfect relationship of love, an everlasting getting-to-know-God, Christ, and all the saints. These relationships will never get boring or tedious, because God is infinite, and getting to know Him is an adventure that will never end. If the best human friendships never lose their luster, how much more indescribable will our eternal friendship with God be!

I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series. A strong Christian, Lewis, in this series, has a beautiful way of explaining the reality of that Heavenly relationship with God. Narnia tells the story of English school children who find their way into another world where they have many adventures and go on special quests to defeat the forces of evil. All the children love Narnia, and they love their adventures there; and are always sorry to have to go back to England at the end of each adventure.

At the end of the last book, however, it turns out that they don’t have to go back. They are permitted to stay in “Aslan’s Country” forever, which in the books is the equivalent of Heaven. Lewis tries to describe what their lives were like from that moment on. He uses the analogy of a book, a story. Lewis writes, “But for [the children], [the end of the books] was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the title and the cover page. Now at last, they were beginning Chapter One of the great story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Lewis explains that compared to life in Heaven, absolutely everything that had come before, all the amazing adventures and thrilling experiences, both in this world and in Narnia, were nothing more than a hint, just barely a faint idea of how wonderful the rest of the chapters were. And life in Aslan’s Country was always getting better and better, like a book with an endless amount of chapters, each one better than the last.
My friends, the eternal life that Jesus promises us is like that. An everlasting adventure that only gets better and better. God is the source of all the goodness and beauty we see in the universe, and so He Himself is pure, inexhaustible goodness and beauty - we never become tired of getting to know and enjoy Him.

One of the most dangerous things we can do in the spiritual life is to not think about Heaven often. After all, the less focused we are on our destination, the more likely we’ll be to make a wrong turn along the way. Imagine a baseball player who never thought about the game; or an actor who never thought about the performance; or a businessman who never thought about the bottom line. Well, a Christian who never thinks about Heaven is equally absurd. So what can we do to keep Heaven in mind?

In his encyclical, “Saved in Hope,” Pope Benedict gave one very simple suggestion. He suggested reviving what used to be a common practice among Christians. It’s the tradition of “offering up” the small trials of each day, those little sufferings, pains, and inconveniences, that we all go through all the time. We all experience them. No one escapes them. From traffic jams to money worries, the trials of daily life effect us all. “Offering them up” simply means turning them into a prayer. Instead of uselessly complaining, we turn our minds to Christ on the cross, and we unite our small sufferings with Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, joining them with God’s plan of redemption.

By doing this, we defend ourselves against the lie that earth should be Heaven, and we keep our hearts set on the Lord. And if we do that, with the help of God’s grace, eternal life will surely be ours.
As St. Bernadette Soubirous, the peasant girl to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Lourdes, put it: “Let us work for Heaven: all the rest is nothing.”

My friends, St. Bernadette and my Aunt Pat had it right: let us get ourselves right with God so that in the glory and complete and perfect joy that is Heaven, we will see each other again. Let us work for Heaven: all the rest is nothing.

May God give you peace.

For those of you interested, here is the text of "Safely Home":

Safely Home
by Unknown

I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light.

All the pain and grief is over,
Every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever,
Safely home in Heaven at last.

Did you wonder I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! but Jesus' arm to lean on,
Could I have one doubt or dread?

Then you must not grieve so sorely,
For I love you dearly still;
Try to look beyond earth's shadows,
Pray to trust our Father's Will.

There is work still waiting for you,
So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth--
You shall rest in Jesus' land.

When that work is all completed,
He will gently call you Home;
Oh, the rapture of that meeting,
Oh, the joy to see you come!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

You be Jesus!

A mother was preparing pancakes for her young sons, David and Billy. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’ David turned to his younger brother and said, “Billy, you be Jesus!”

The Preface to today’s Eucharistic Prayer says, “Christ…has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where he has gone, we hope to follow.”
Today’s feast of the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven, marks something of an ending – it commemorates the end of Jesus time with us on earth as a man. This feast doesn’t try and explain how the Ascension happened – that is a mystery; instead, it sheds light on what it all means, “Christ…has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope.”

Ascension has two strong qualities of hope and of challenge or commissioning. First the hope: Jesus didn’t ascend to an unknown place. He didn’t disappear into the clouds and no one knows where He is never to be seen or heard from again. No instead, “Where He has gone, we hope to follow.” Jesus attained the goal of all humanity – an eternity in Heaven; an eternity caught up in the loving gaze and grace of God the Father; and eternity of glory and perfection that can only be found in Heaven. And, all of us who have been baptized into life in Christ hope to follow Him to that place.

But, we are also challenged today by the realization that with His ascension, Jesus has left everything else in our hands until the end of time. Another way of phrasing this challenge, is that as He ascends to the Father in Heaven Jesus says to us the same as the punch line of the joke I began with: “Now, you be Jesus.”

As Jesus returns to the Father, He says to us, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses …to the ends of the earth.” He says, I will send the Holy Spirit so that you will have what you need to be My presence in the world until I return. Jesus brought to us the most incredible gifts ever – He brought us the Gospel; He brought us the Sacraments; He brought us the Church. And then, He left them in our hands to be the ones who proclaim those Holy Words; share those Divine Gifts; and welcome the world to take part in this mystery as one great community of believers.

St. Paul reminds us of the same thing in the reading from Ephesians, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…for us who believe.” We are the hope of the Gospel; we are the hope of Jesus. We must all pick up the call that He has given us to preach the Good News to the ends of the earth. We’re being called to bear witness to the Gospel and to make disciples of all nations. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to be Jesus in a world crying out desperately for Him.

Our mission is to be the presence of His kindness, compassion, joy, and love to a world that is too often dominated by vengeance, evil, war, greed, and materialism. To all of those societal ills, we are commissioned: You be Jesus! To the immorality all around us, we are challenged: You be Jesus. To the impurity we are faced with every day, we are called: You be Jesus. To the lack of peace in our world, we are charged: You be Jesus! Because if not you; if not me; than who will be Jesus in our world?

Jesus reminds us that He will send His Spirit to empower us; that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can in fact be His presence in our world now. We need only to open ourselves to the grace of His Word, His Sacraments, and His Holy Spirit. If we do these things, my brothers and sisters, He promises us that mountains will be moved by our faith.

“Christ…has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where he has gone, we hope to follow.”

My brothers and sisters, you be Jesus; and may God give you peace.

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