I can’t wait for Christmas…

It is truly one of my favorite holiday seasons. I love listening to and singing traditional Christmas carols. In addition, I enjoy spending time with my family and exchanging gifts with them. However, I do not enjoy the long lines at the department stores several weeks before December 25th. I am also not a fan of Christmas carols being played on the radio soon after the (U.S.) celebration of Thanksgiving Day. As a Catholic, I am becoming increasingly concerned that the consumerism and commercialism of the final months of the year are negatively impacting the religious significance of Christmas. Hence, I believe that it is crucial that we understand and remember Christmas’ true meaning and that we adequately prepare for it. For us Catholics, the four weeks of Advent help us not only to prepare for Christmas but also provide an overall guide to living a holy life.

Continue reading “The Season of Advent – Preparing and Waiting with Hope”

The Fall

“God said: ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness,’” (Gen 1:26) after which He created Adam and Eve and all of humanity. Sadly, this divine image, as we know, was defaced in man when humanity committed original sin by disobeying God at the beginning of human history. We recognize this story as the Fall of humanity. Yes, it seems that we had it all in the beginning, but lost it all because of original sin.

However, a late scholar named Jaroslav Pelikan offers a simple reminder in one of his books titled Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture. He pointed out that Augustine of Hippo “made it clear…that the doctrine of the fall must not be interpreted ‘as though man had lost everything he had of the image of God.’” Nevertheless, this divine image in man required restoration. Therefore, God desired that a new person—in place of Adam—would begin de novo, and overcome temptation, sin, and death in obedience to God. He chose His only Begotten Son, the Word, as the New Adam to become flesh to fulfill this objective. Jesus Christ experienced the sufferings of our imperfect human nature while remaining sinless throughout His earthly life. The Son of God and Son of Mary was certainly impeccable given His divine personality. But what about the woman who carried Him in her womb and gave birth to Him?

Continue reading “The Immaculate Conception of Mary, the New Eve”

The Holy Spirit and Evangelization

One of the primary works of the Holy Spirit is to bring all people into a meaningful encounter with the Risen Christ. Guided by His Spirit, we can truly discover Jesus Christ and develop a genuine relationship with Him if we generously respond with utter submission. Soon enough, Christ’s love becomes the center of our lives, saturating us with joy and peace. Hence, when we have had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ by the Spirit’s power, our greatest desire is that our loved ones may also enjoy a similar experience. Nevertheless, we’re often unsuccessful when attempting to evangelize to those closest to us. Consequently, we sometimes feel impatient or discouraged, confused or frustrated, saddened or hopeless.

The Holy Spirit pours within us the zeal to give witness to Christ and to evangelize to our loved ones. Moreover, it is only this same Spirit that can empower us to do so effectively. However, we must become cognizant of those sins and obstacles in our lives that impede the Spirit from guiding us freely. Once we perceive what they are, we ought to seek out the Lord’s forgiveness in Confession, collaborate with the Spirit in removing these barriers from our lives, while permitting Him to empower us to bear witness to Christ regardless of the circumstances and consequences we endure in His name.

Christ commissions His followers to evangelize and give witness. While this ought to occur instinctively as a result of our new life in Him, it is beneficial to consider how the Sacred Scriptures offer a number of passages on giving witness to God and evangelizing through our manner of living. In particular, Paul the Apostle shares with us some foundational instructions for witnessing and evangelizing:

“Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil. . . No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Eph 4:25-27, 29-32)

This scriptural passage identifies five suggestions for evangelizing effectively and giving witness to Christ:

Continue reading “5 Suggestions On How To Evangelize and Give Witness Effectively”

The Communion of Saints is an article of faith

…of the Catholic Church. The term expresses the communion in holy things shared among God’s holy people and the concept of unity and holiness among the baptized Christians in Christ. Saint Paul’s greeting in his letter to the Colossians (1:2) denotes that Christians were generally called saints or “holy ones and faithful brothers in Christ.” They were addressed as holy ones since they were baptized in Jesus Christ the Holy One, saturated with the Spirit of holiness, and adopted as children of God the Father. Their dying in Christ and rising in Him through the waters of baptism sanctified them, and their faith in Jesus the Lord and their decision to pursue Christ made them participants of the holy mystery of God.

Continue reading “We Are Saints In the Making”

            “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.” (1 Pe 5:6-10)

            We are living in a critical moment in the history of the Catholic Church. There’s no denying that many in the Church are suffering right now. Feelings of disappointment, betrayal, distrust, hurt, and anger fill many Catholics’ hearts due to the faults, failures, sexual sins, and lack of accountability of some of our Catholic ministers and leaders. These emotions are understandable as they are a natural response to the scandalous decisions and behaviors that the laity have become aware of. Certainly, they are part of our human nature.

Continue reading “Dear Catholic, Do Not Leave the Church”

            I remember a time when I desperately wanted to share a humorous story with a good friend of mine about something that had just transpired at work. A few days later, I had the opportunity to tell him what occurred and attempted as much as possible to hold back my laughter as the story progressed. Finally, when I arrived at the punch line and concluded the story, I burst out laughing. As I laughed for about a minute, I glanced at my friend and noticed that he was not. He looked at me strangely and said, “I don’t get it. Why is this so funny to you?” I responded, “You really don’t get it? Don’t you have a sense of humor?” And he replied, “I do, but I do not know why this story is so funny to you. I guess I just had to be there to appreciate it.”

 

Blessed Are Those Who Believe

            It is difficult for someone to treasure an experience that happened if he or she was not there to personally observe and undergo it. For this reason, Thomas the Apostle did not believe the other apostles when they said, “We have seen the Lord.” (Jn 20:25) He doubted. Similarly, many of us have doubted God’s presence. Thomas’ response, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe,” is analogous to a popular saying that many people use today, particularly in the United States: “I have to see it to believe it.” Sadly, there are many Catholics and non-Catholics alike that still say this today regarding the presence of God. Many still are reluctant to believe God is present because they cannot see Him. Some continue to say that they have to see God to believe in God.

 

            Thomas the Apostle distrusted the apostles’ testimony. However, Jesus visited them a week later when Thomas was with them. Upon seeing Jesus and hearing Him say, “Put your finger here [Thomas] and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe,” (Jn 20:27) Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then said, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:29) These last words of Jesus ring especially true when we speak about the Church’s teaching on the Holy Eucharist.

Continue reading “Believing in the Bread of Life”

            There comes a time in our faith journey when we become cognizant of the fact that we yearn to deepen our relationship with God. Very often this occurs after a period of time in which we were so engrossed in our daily tasks, occupations, and responsibilities that we gradually lost contact with God. Hence, we discover that our limited discussions with the Lord lack the closeness and intimacy they once had and that our visits to the Lord at church occur with a paucity of fervor and reverence. However, the Holy Spirit touches our heart at a moment of grace to encourage us to search for the Lord with renewed passion. Not surprisingly, this often occurs when we come before the Bread of Life.

 

            Many years ago, I experienced a period of spiritual dryness that was weakening my zeal for God and His service. At some point, I nervously acknowledged that it was vital that I spend more prayer time in church. I approached the Blessed Sacrament to pray, and, as I was praying before His divine presence, the Spirit of God helped me understand that I needed to deepen my relationship with the Lord. I remained there for Mass that day and attempted to pray attentively and fervently.

 

            For the next several days and weeks I visited the tabernacle, remained for Mass, and prayed ardently. As I drew closer to Christ Jesus I became increasingly aware of how I had lost contact with God, and how depthless and superficial I had allowed my prayer and sacramental life to become. The presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament gradually renewed me, and our conversations slowly regained their previous closeness and intimacy as I attended daily Mass.

Continue reading “Receiving the Bread of Life Worthily and Fruitfully”

Imagine you have been entrusted with the task of delivering a challenging message to a person or group that is extremely likely to reject it. What do you do? Almighty God instructs you that He is sending you with a message, but you will be encountered with either a rebellious spirit, a profound stubbornness, or an obstinate heart. Nevertheless, you must deliver the message.

Veteran pastoral ministers and servant leaders are not unfamiliar with this prophetic experience that we read about in the book of the Prophet Ezekiel (2:2-5). How difficult it is to speak with people who are unwilling to listen! But when “Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy,” (Ps 123 [122]), we somehow are able to go forth, prophesy, and fulfill our mission.

A Prophet Is Not Without Honor Except…

This biblical passage from the book of Ezekiel is part of the readings for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B). These particular readings speak to the hearts of preachers and ministry teams devoted to Evangelization. Occasionally, we may “become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations,” (2nd reading – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10) or the abundance of wonderful deeds that have occurred through our apostolate. However, it is experiences like Ezekiel’s that remind us that without God we are nothing and cannot accomplish anything truly fruitful. No matter how challenging is the task we are confronting or how powerless we may feel, our Lord reminds us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for [My] power is made perfect in weakness.” (2nd reading)

Surprisingly, Jesus Christ felt somewhat “powerless” when He came to His native place and began to teach in the synagogue. We read in Mark’s Gospel (chapter 6:1-6) that the people who listened knew His family and background and did not embrace Him, rather they became uncomfortable, raised questions concerning His authority, and felt ashamed and humiliated as He spoke. Therefore, “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.” Along with the two readings from Ezekiel and 2nd Corinthians, this Markan Gospel passage offers us three fundamental words to help address within our ministries some of the challenges we may encounter in the work of Evangelization. These connected words are authority, familiarity, and humility. Briefly defining these terms will serve to inform how our ministries can overcome certain obstacles that arise in our mission to proclaim the Good News.

Continue reading “Building Up Prophets with Honor Within Our Ministries”

Paul’s Faith Proclaims Christ is Risen

          “We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors He has brought to fulfillment for us, [their] children, by raising up Jesus.” (Acts 13:32-33a) Saint Paul the Apostle preached these powerful words as he addressed his fellow Israelites and others in the Synagogue at Antioch. His speech was passionate, his faith was robust, and his surrender was inspiring. Jesus Christ is risen and his conviction in Christ’s resurrection was unshakable.

            Saint Paul’s encounter with the Risen Christ on his way to Damascus formed an integral part of his conviction in Jesus’ resurrection. Prior to this conversion experience, he, Saul of Tarsus, was a fierce persecutor of anyone who was a disciple of the Lord. He traveled with the intention of hunting down as many followers of the Way as possible at Damascus and bringing them back to Jerusalem as prisoners.

            However, the Risen Lord manifested Himself to Saul in a flash of light from the sky as he was arriving at Damascus and questioned his persecuting spirit. The suddenly blind Saul rose from the ground and ultimately arrived at the house of a man named Judas. For at least three days, he prayed to the Risen Lord, who revealed that Ananias the disciple would pray for him to regain his sight. When Ananias finally arrived, Paul encountered the power of God, regained his sight, was baptized, and was filled with the Spirit of the Risen Lord.

Continue reading “They’ll Know Christ is Risen Through our Christian Experience”

Holy Week

On Palm Sunday, the Catholic Church celebrates the day in which Christ, in order to generously fulfill the Will of God, solemnly entered Jerusalem where He would die for our salvation. With palms, we glorify and praise the King of Kings, who has come into this world in the form of a slave (1st reading: Flp 2, 6-11) to offer to humanity the greatest service possible: “give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28)

Indeed, we must meditate more intensely on the great mystery of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, having full authority, chose to suffer everything for love of us and for our salvation. Therefore, it will be beneficial to do the following five things in the coming days:

 

1)On Holy Monday: consider whether or not our lives honor Jesus Christ, and ask Him for the grace to be able to live more for Him.

2)On Holy Tuesday: meditate on the times in which we, like Peter, have denied Christ, and how we need Him to give us the strength to be His true witnesses.

3)On Holy Wednesday: meditate on the times in which we, like Judas, have betrayed Jesus, and say to Him throughout the day, “Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, have pity on me.”

4)On Holy Thursday: spend at least an hour after Mass with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, who asks us, as He asked His disciples, “Could you not keep watch with Me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.”

5)And on Holy Friday: participate, with great fervor and contrition, in the Via Crucis.

 

These five resolutions will help us have a Holy Week.  The following parable/story sums up well the significance of what we celebrate during Holy Week:

Continue reading “5 Ways to Have A Life Changing Holy Week”