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
How do we get to the point where we say to someone, “I will do anything and everything I can for you”? Only pure, altruistic, unconditional love makes that possible, love that we are invited to contemplate, recognize, and remember every time we make the sign of the cross. What Jesus has done and continues to do for us, He calls and invites us to do for and with one another. How simple it sounds but how challenging it is to live out His words from John 13:34: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Sacrifice is an integral part of this love. We know the joy and peace He is talking about when we give ourselves totally to those we love. Todays Gospel passage continues what Jesus started saying in last Sunday’s Gospel where we have St. Luke’s account of the Beatitudes. Today we hear Jesus speaking words that are not easy to follow and go against our inner sense of justice at times: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The last thing we want to do is to love those who are our “enemies.” At times people annoy us, hurt us, criticize us unfairly, or give us a hard time. Forgiving enemies is not something we or people in history have been so willing to do. We want them to be punished, berated, or suffer in some way that we think will bring us satisfaction. Here are some words from Psalm 109 where the Jewish people express their anger at the enemy and ask God to punish them: “O God, whom I praise, do not be silent, for wicked and treacherous mouths attack me. They speak against me with lying tongues; with hateful words they surround me, attacking me without cause. In return for my love they slander me, even though I prayed for them. They repay me evil for good, hatred for my love. Appoint an evil one over him, an accuser to stand at his right hand, That he may be judged and found guilty, that his plea may be in vain. May his days be few; may another take his office. May his children be fatherless, his wife, a widow. May his children wander and beg, driven from their hovels. May the usurer snare all he owns, strangers plunder all he earns.” (Psalm 109:2-11) Not only does this express anger and vengeance, it is a prayer that God will take care of injustice for them. Anger and vengeance can seem like sources of consolation but in the end there is no real peace in our hearts or peace with one another.READ MORE
Seventeen days from today is Ash Wednesday, a day when we proclaim our resolve to rise above sin and evil by having blessed ashes placed on our foreheads. Rising above evil is far more than just avoiding temptation in our personal lives. Truly rising above evil calls us to be beacons of faith, hope, and love in our world, and in particular, in our daily lives. In our parish we will offer two very concrete ways to join together as a parish family to enrich the lives of one another as life-giving members of the Body of Christ, the Church in the world. They will offer what we hear in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) which is from the Sermon on the Mount. This powerful sermon by Jesus is presented in chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel and spells out in very practical ways how to live the Beatitudes which begin this Sermon. The Gospel for Ash Wednesday invites us to take seriously three very important practices for our spiritual lives: prayer, fasting, and good works.READ MORE
“I hear you knocking, but you can’t come in.” These words are from a 1970 song by Dave Edmunds and in many ways these words describe the feelings we have when we are challenged to allow others into our lives or to do something that is different, difficult, or controversial. These past weeks I have been writing about the evil of abortion and the challenges we face as people of faith with this issue. What has brought abortion to the forefront was the passage in our New York State legislature of the Reproductive Act a few weeks ago that allows abortion up until the very day of birth. In a sense, children in the womb get ready for birth by knocking on the door of their mother’s womb to come to birth, that is, to come physically into our world, and most importantly, into our lives. How did we become so barbaric, insensitive, and evil? What continues to push us over the edge of love, decency, truth, and common sense in this area? There is someone else knocking to come in and the door has been opened wide to him - the devil!!!READ MORE
This week, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, explore the beauty and challenges of married life. More than a union based on romantic love or mutual fulfillment, marriage goes back to the very essence of what it is to be human – and reflects a design placed in our hearts by God himself. Beloved – from the producers of the renowned Symbolon series – explores the spiritual and eternal reality behind "I Do." Beautifully filmed and featuring acclaimed marriage experts, Beloved speaks to the very heart of every husband and wife, bringing sacramental truth and God-infused love into the everyday challenges of married life. Beloved: Mystery & Meaning of Marriage includes six inspiring and informative sessions.
The thrilling Biblical story of Joseph is told in this high quality 3-D animated feature film for children ages 5 and up. Young Joseph is a dreamer, indulged by his father and resented by his older brothers who soon sell him into slavery without their father's knowledge. Now captive in Egypt, Joseph experiences humiliation, hardship and imprisonment. But his faith and his gift for interpreting dreams soon lead him to an exalted position in the kingdom. When his brothers come calling for help, Joseph responds in a surprising way. The program sets Joseph's story in the context of God's plan for Israel and the promised coming of the Messiah. It powerfully demonstrates God's sovereign hand in all things.
“How can you be so obtuse?” These were the words of Andy Dufresne, the main character in the movie Shawshank Redemption. He was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. When a new prisoner came to where he was imprisoned, that prisoner told him someone else in another jail where he had been bragged that he killed Andy’s wife and lover and got away with it. Andy eagerly brought this information to the warden who refused to act on it and even plotted and had that new prisoner killed. He had Andy put in the “hole,” a place of solitary confinement for two months. He was using Andy and his banking knowledge to hide money. It was not how he could be so obtuse, but why he was obtuse. To be obtuse is to be totally insensitive to others or their situation.READ MORE