In this audio talk, Matthew Leonard focuses on the new idea of love proclaimed by Christ and how it gives meaning to human suffering, penance, and ultimately death. Sounds a bit dark, doesn't it? But it's not! By looking at these issues we'll discover the secret to how we can "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4) just like St. Paul, no matter what happens.
As I was preparing for the homily for Mass this Sunday, I was enlightened by these words from a book I am reading entitled “Things Hidden, Scripture as Spirituality,” by Richard Rohr: “God’s love is constant and irrevocable; our part is to be open to it and let it transform us. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us more than God already does, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us less.” This simple but powerful insight is the background of the Gospel at Mass today that presents us with the account of the prodigal son. What is inspiring to see is not only how the father’s love changed the son but, even more, how the father’s love never wavered. There is no mention of disappointment nor is there even a hint of anger. First the father deals with a son who is purely self centered. This son is so anxious to get on with life without his father that he asks for and is given the inheritance he would have received at his father’s death. We could question why the father accedes to this demand, but that would weaken the point Jesus wants us to understand about God’s forgiveness. Both the prodigal and elder son are self-centered young men. When the younger son realizes what a mistake he made he comes back humble, hopeful and surely full of guilt. His hope is not for forgiveness, but just for a place with his father’s servants. Obviously the father is good to the servants. How overwhelmed this prodigal son had to be when his father ran to meet him as he approached the homestead. There were no words of reproach or rebuke, only the embrace of life-giving love and forgiveness. He had to think, “Is my father really forgiving me? Am I really being taken back as his son? Is it true that I will not be punished and made to feel guilty?”READ MORE
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, best-selling author and beloved spiritual teacher, writer, and psychologist, wrote this book for all those who have suffered great sorrow or catastrophe in their lives and for those close to such persons, who share their deep suffering. Sorrow comes into the life of every person, but only into the lives of some people comes catastrophe. These are disasters that occur either suddenly or with terrible effects, like the death of a child. They can be natural disasters like hurricanes, or they can be horrific accidents or tragedies caused by people's evil acts. They can also arise from wars and situations of great tension.
Fr. Benedict has written previously about faith and sorrow (Arise from Darkness) and seeks in this book to study catastrophes of all different kinds in relationship to our faith in divine providence, in God’s goodness and mercy, and finally in the light of Christ’s suffering and death. Christianity is the only religion that speaks of a God who suffered a terrible catastrophe, crucifixion, and death. Therefore, the Christian must, in the midst of catastrophe, find his way to the foot of the cross, and there he will find answers which that cannot be given by any other religious faith. All religions attempt to deal with catastrophe, all try to confront the mystery of suffering and of evil. Christianity invites you to share the burden of your catastrophe with the person who is our Savior and Redeemer, one who Himself endured great pain and sorrow, the son of God, Jesus Christ.
The public face portrayed in the media of our nation today has a very angry, distrustful, and even hateful countenance. In all too many ways we are divided in our thinking and concerns and that inhibits who we are as citizens of the United States of America. Physically we live in the same country, but our unity is weakened by closed minds, constant critical judgments, and a lack of ability and desire to seek reconciliation with one another. One of the most hopeful and inspiring places to find hope, encouragement, and resolution is our faith. We are now in the midst of the Lenten Season, a time to honestly look at ourselves as people of faith and, even more, to look at God’s life-giving mercy and forgiveness. As human beings we are created in the image and likeness of God. But at times, we put that image aside. Could we ever have the patience and determination Jesus has shown us on the way of the cross? The devotion of praying the Stations of the Cross makes Jesus’ unconditional love for us and His desire to forgive our sins so life giving and clear.READ MORE
Who do we reveal our inner most self to? Only those who we really love and trust. In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a mountain and reveals His heavenly glory to them. At first they have to be stunned and amazed. Then they see Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. And as quickly as this wonder occurs, Jesus is back in human form and goes down the mountain with them. As we read the Scriptures, this passage takes place before the denials of St. Peter and the request of the brothers James and John to sit at His right and left when He comes into His kingdom. How much of an impression did this experience really have on them? Surely they were humbled to see Jesus transfigured into His heavenly body. How awesome to see Moses and Elijah talking with Him. Then the voice from heaven saying, “This is my chosen son, listen to Him.”READ MORE
Even three hundred years ago, believers found it difficult to sustain for forty days the proper Lenten spirit. That's why even then, countless Christians turned to the writings of Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704), whose great piety and simple eloquence won him renown as one of the greatest preachers of his time. From Bishop Bossuet's sermons and spiritual writings, believers drew ever greater Lenten wisdom and strength. Now translator Christopher Blum has selected from Bishop Bossuet's voluminous works fifty brief but remarkably powerful meditations that complement the daily readings at Mass during the Lenten season, thus offering to us the perfect companion for a thoughtful and fruitful Lent. If you read and meditate briefly on just one of them each day in Lent, I guarantee that this good French bishop's eloquence will soon have you not merely remembering the events of Christ's journey to His Crucifixion; it will have you spiritually walking with Him on that journey, which is precisely what we are called to do in Lent!
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” These words are very familiar to us since they are the concluding words to the prayer Jesus gave us when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray; the Our Father. Temptations are part of life. In today’s Gospel we see Jesus Himself being tempted by the devil in three different areas: hunger, acceptance and popularity, and power and control. Jesus had just spent forty days praying and fasting in the desert. That experience heightened His trust in the Father’s love and presence to Him. He had to be physically hungry, but because He first satisfied the inner thirst all human beings have for God He did not use His power just for His own personal satisfaction. As we read and ponder the way people encountered Jesus in the Gospels, it is very clear that He was not seeking personal popularity and acceptance. His goal was to open His listeners to God’s love and acceptance of all who sincerely opened their minds and hearts to Him. Finally Jesus did not seek power over others. He never sought to be in control of anyone except Himself. Up to His very last words on the cross He expressed love for even those who crucified and mocked Him and trust in the Father: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.”READ MORE
Bishop Robert Barron offers five sermons on the spiritual discipline we must cultivate in the Lenten season, a discipline centered on Christ. These meditations cover topics such as finding our identity in God, prayer as the key to mission, our thirst for God, how to end our alienation from God, and how to embrace the way of happiness joyfully.
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It is always exciting to plan a trip. That means we are going on a journey. Who are we going with? How will we get there? What or who will be the ultimate destination? This coming Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent and are invited to have blessed ashes placed on our foreheads. One exhortation we could hear is: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” What we are called to recognize ever more clearly is that we are all on the same journey, the journey of life. We know but do not always see so clearly that the end of our journey is the day we die. Then what? Then we come not so much to a place, but to a presence, the presence of God. What we do on our journey through life will determine who we are when we get to that ultimate moment. Lent is an invitation not to dwell on the inevitable, but on what our journey through life is all about. What or who gives us hope, meaning, inspiration, determination, and purpose? Where does God fit in?READ MORE