The Season of Lent

The Season of Lent is a forty-day period that occurs annually beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday. There are actually forty-six days in total between these two days. However, the six Sundays of Lent are not part of the forty-day count since Sundays are not days of fasting and acts of penance—except the required Eucharistic fast. This great season is an invitation to follow Jesus of Nazareth into the desert to pray, to do penance, and to discover, accept and accomplish the will of God. Though we are encouraged to practice prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving on a daily basis, we are ardently encouraged to do so during the Lenten season.

What to Give Up For Lent

Prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving are crucial if we desire to know, love, and follow Christ better. Ultimately, these three spiritual works are indispensable to live as children of God. Therefore, we should pray and sacrifice well, and we must contemplate cautiously the sacrifices we decide to offer during the Lenten season—they should challenge us to grow. Sometimes we may elect to surrender something that we enjoy eating or drinking for the sake of renouncing something during Lent, but this can be too effortless. Some abstain from sweet chocolate, soda, alcohol, fatty foods, or other sweets during Lent. But we must ask ourselves whether these sacrifices truly help us draw closer to Christ. This is an important question especially if we return to these things when the Lenten period is over.

These dietary sacrifices can certainly be physically helpful over time and can strengthen our bodies which are temples of the Holy Spirit. However, many people quickly return to them when the Alleluias reappear and consume them without moderation. On the other hand, refraining from something because it will permit us to fulfill God’s will more thoroughly is not as easy. When we shun anger and selfishness, hatred and resentments, as well as pride and lust, we sacrifice those things that can truly distance us from God. Taking all this into consideration, we may need to ask ourselves, “During this Lenten season, is there something in particular that I need to give up for Lent? Or might there be something that I should be taking up?”

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When momentous incidents unfold and present us with various alternatives, we must choose wisely. This became apparent when Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem before Herod the Great. King Herod had been appointed “King of the Jews” – that is, ruler of Judea – approximately thirty-six years prior to their visit. Upon hearing the Magi’s inquiry, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage,” the Matthean Gospel tells us that all of Jerusalem, as well as this King from an Edomite family, were greatly troubled. To put it differently, Herod the King felt threatened and, therefore, desired to end the threat.

Continue reading “The Adoration of the Magi – Lessons Learned”

The Human Family In Crisis

The institution of the human family appears to be in crisis. Today, countless families are experiencing discord and tremendous friction, and their members are living in residences that have turned into temples of selfishness, hatred, resentment, envy, and indifference. Family members are craving for greater peace in their homes. Furthermore, numerous children are yearning to be better comprehended by their parents and these, in turn, are not feeling truly respected and honored by their children. Also, many husbands and wives are praying to be loved and valued again by their spouse. Indeed, everyone wants to feel appreciated and happy.

Continue reading “Keys to Becoming a Blessed and Prosperous Family”

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:

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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”

            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”

 

            Challenging life experiences and intimidating circumstances constantly remind us that we need to continuously rebuild our confidence in God. As I reflected on Scripture and our world this week, this word – confidence – emphatically stands out. It is a word that not only the disciples struggled with, but also the people of Israel and Judah.

 

            Long ago in the ancient world, a powerful empire emerged in the north of Mesopotamia. Assyria was a mighty force, feared by numerous regions, and was an intimidating presence to Israel and Judah. This empire took pride in their dominion and arrogantly strove to displace God as the supreme ruler of the world. For their outright rejection of the Lord and their usurping ambitions, God eventually punished them. Isaiah the prophet proclaimed:

“The LORD of hosts has sworn: As I have resolved, so shall it be; As I have planned, so shall it stand: To break the Assyrian in my land and trample him on my mountains; Then his yoke shall be removed from them, and his burden from their shoulder. This is the plan proposed for the whole earth, and this the hand outstretched over all the nations. The LORD of hosts has planned; who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out; who can turn it back?” (Is 14:24-27)

Continue reading “The Difference it Makes When Our Confidence is in God”