A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It is a gift

Our faith is so wonderful, we want to share it.

And so we must.

But people do not always accept what we have to share.

Faith cannot be forced.

As our Lord Himself reminds us in today’s Gospel (John 6:44-51):

No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draw him
and I will raise him on the last day.

It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father
and learns from him
comes to me.

May you and I continually ask God that the gift of faith be given in ever greater abundance: to us in our own hearts, to those around us, to those whom we meet, and to the whole world.

Curriculum vitae

He was a brilliant professor of theology during the time of the Council.

He was made a bishop, then a Cardinal, and finally the chief enforcer of the faith, showing a great zeal against heresy.

And then he was elected Pope.

During his pontificate, his personal holiness shone brightly even as he was involved in great and sometimes controversial endeavors to help build up the Church and its people in an age that was violently opposed to it.

Pope Pius V died early in the seventh year of his pontificate 437 years ago tomorrow. He was canonized in 1712.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not lost forever

Things could go wrong.

Things could get ugly.

Things may not turn out well.

In the first part of today’s first reading (Acts 8:1b-8), faithful Christians are having a very bad time: the authorities are seeking the destruction of the Church itself, faithful Christians are being dragged out of their houses and thrown in prison, and one has already been killed.

But there is hope.

Even in that time, for example, God is doing great things through the ministry of Philip.

Most importantly, we have the words and the promises of Christ, including what we hear in today’s Gospel (John 6:35-40):

This is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.

For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son
and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.

By the grace of Christ, may we be faithful in living our lives no matter what.

Her parents had made plans for her...

...plans for a "normal" life, but the little girl had something else in mind.

She had already been seeing someone.


She became a Dominican tertiary while still a teenager. Word of her spiritual experiences would spread.

When she was still in her twenties, even Popes would pay heed to her and not only for pious inspiration.

Her words would thwart the plans of princes and would stir people of faith to dramatic action for the causes of truth, peace, and the freedom of God’s word.

Catherine, the pious little girl from Siena, died in Rome shortly after her 33rd birthday on this very day in 1380. She was canonized in 1461 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Feel like something’s missing?

Are we hungry?

Do we thirst?

Not just physical hunger and thirst...

Are we lonely?

Do we feel empty inside?

Hear the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel (John 6:30-35):

"I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

"If I were to look at these setbacks...

...from a human standpoint,
I would be tempted,
like the foolish people of this corrupt world,
to complain and be anxious and worried,
but that is not how I look at things.
Let me tell you that I expect more serious setbacks,
more painful ones to test your faith and confidence."

Very soon after he wrote these words, this devout and hardworking priest died.

But the religious communities he had barely begun would flourish and his devotional works become widely read, benefiting the humble and the great alike. One of the Great, for example, would later write this:

“At one point I began to question any devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed Christ. At that time, I was greatly helped by a book by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort entitled 'Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.' There I found the answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ.”

Pope John Paul II, “Gift and Mystery”

Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort died on this very day in 1716 and was canonized in 1947.

(from an earlier post)

The foreigner

was an educated young man who spoke gently and showed great care for people. Everyone who knew him said he had a kind heart.

Nonetheless, the government saw him as a threat and the Prime Minister decided to take dramatic action. Early one morning, they swept through the compound where the young man was, catching him and his associates off guard.

The Prime Minister came to the scene and personally split open the skull of the kind young man.

St. Peter Chanel, French-born missionary and parish priest, was thus martyred on this very day 168 years ago in an island kingdom of Oceania. He was canonized in 1954.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Will work for food

In today’s Gospel (John 6:22-29), our Lord says that we should not be working “for food that perishes”.

In this time of relatively high unemployment and dwindling supplies at food banks, that may not be easy to hear.

But our Lord is not telling people to stop working or to stop eating. Rather, he is warning us about what the focus of our lives should be and upon what we base our life decisions.

Much, if not all, of the economic troubles that beset the world in these days are the result of greed: on the part of perpetrators and even some victims.

While we need to exercise good stewardship of ourselves and most importantly fulfill our responsibilities to those who depend on us, we need to heed our Lord’s words and keep our focus on things that are right, true, and eternally fulfilling.

Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Real resurrection

In today’s Gospel (Luke 24:35-48) our risen Lord not only appears to His disciples but eats in their presence.

He appears suddenly in their midst. Space and time do not apply as they did.

Yet he eats real food. He is physically and biologically present.

Christ is risen – truly risen, physically risen, and eternally risen.

May we live faithfully in and with our physical bodies so that by the grace of Christ we may share in His resurrection.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Advice in troubled times

In today’s first reading (1 Peter 5:5b-14), Saint Peter writes from a time of trouble: a time of oppression and murderous persecution.

In today’s first reading, Saint Peter also writes to us in a time of trouble: a time of arrongance and selfishness, a time of suffering and the promotion of decadence.

Clothe yourselves with humility
in your dealings with one another, for:

God opposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble.

So 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 brothers and sisters

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,

and establish you
after you have suffered a little.

To him be dominion forever.

"Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?"

The first four verses of today’s Gospel (Mark 16:15-20) overflow with fodder for controversies of all kinds.

Perhaps the most colorful controversies center on the “signs (that) shall follow them that believe” – and most especially on the sentence, “They shall take up serpents.”

There are small groups of Christians that have interpreted this sentence in such a way that they hold live poisonous snakes in their bare hands as a key part of their regular worship services.

Other people dismiss this sentence as a reference (prophetic or otherwise) to St. Paul’s encounter with a viper in Acts 28:3-6 and as having no relevance to how Christians should live their lives today.

It is dangerous, however, to dismiss any part of Scripture as irrelevant to the life of a Christian.

That is not to say that we should all run off and wrestle with cobras. The words and example of our Lord himself are instructive: “'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'” (Matthew 4:7)

Our focus should always be on doing the work of the Lord. Signs and wonders such as snake handling or even speaking in tongues should not be our focus. “These signs shall follow them that believe” is not a command, but simply a description of what God can do.

We should consider also that there are many two-legged serpents in the world around us. We have no need to rush into the brush to test our faith with snakes: we encounter them everyday and we need to pray always that we may be strong in living out our faith despite the snakes and other perils around us.

We should not be intent on chasing after signs and wonders, but on doing the work of the Lord: to "preach the gospel to every creature." As we do the work of the Lord, the Lord may indeed choose to work wonders and even miracles through us. Yet we must also remember that as we do the work of the Lord, his will might be that we endure rejection, pain, and even death (as did our Lord and the Apostles) and that the infinitely majestic power of God might then be manifested through our weakness.

And he said unto me,
My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Most gladly therefore

will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities,
in reproaches, in necessities,
in persecutions, in distresses
for Christ's sake:
for when I am weak,
then am I strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We should not be intent on chasing after signs and wonders, but first and foremost, on doing the work of the Lord: to "preach the gospel to every creature."

Seek ye first the kingdom of God,
and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6:33

(adapted from an earlier post)

Administrative Professionals Day

was celebrated earlier this week.

We remember today one particular Assistant who was proficient in state-of-the-art word processing and thus a valuable asset to the CEO.

The CEO was under tremendous pressure, trying to stay at least one step ahead of the law (sometimes, they said, the way the CEO escaped the clutches of the authorities was a miracle).

The Assistant facilitated some of the CEO's most critical correspondence as well as supporting him (and sometimes the number two guy) on travels.

No mere cog in a great corporate machine, the Assistant aspired to write a book.

The book turned out to be a best seller: the first of a famous genre of very specialized biographies.

The Assistant eventually was promoted to head a major branch and would be well thought of by the people there.

In the end, however, the Assistant was probably caught in the same government sweep that finally destroyed the CEO, the number two, and many others.

The Feast of Saint Mark - assistant and traveling companion to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, author of the earliest Gospel, and Bishop of Alexandria - is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ashamed to be a lawyer

Mark's fellow lawyers disgusted him: they were interested in money, not justice.

So Mark left the practice of law behind and focused on the practice of the faith.

He gave away his money and became a Capuchin, taking the name Brother Fidelis.

He would be a powerful advocate for the faith and was soon famous for his preaching.

He was sent to preach missions in places where nearly all the people had left the Church to follow a different direction.

He would be very successful – too successful.

One day he was preaching in a church when a mob stormed in, killing several guards and striking Fidelis.

A friendly man in the crowd offered to take Fidelis to safety. Fidelis thanked him but said he was in God's hands.

When he walked outside the church, the mob's leaders gave Fidelis one last chance to give up the faith.

Fidelis refused and was beaten to death right then and there - 387 years ago today in Seewis, Switzerland.

The memory of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

“Claiming to be someone important”

There are people who desperately want to be important, such as politicians or psychopaths.

Nor are the rest of us immune. We may not want to be famous or powerful, but we insist upon having our own way or we make our being “respected” the goal of every decision and indeed of our entire lives.

In today’s first reading (Acts 5:34-42) we hear of men who claimed “to be someone important” and actually convinced many for a while.

But they died and everything they did came to naught.

The Apostles, on the other hand, are

rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name.

It is better to be faithful than to be “important”.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A bishop before he was 30

He was intelligent, pious, and an energetic young priest.

He also had connections and the diocese needed a bishop very badly.

So, while still in his mid-twenties, he was made bishop.

It was not an easy diocese: polygamy, idolatry, and even slavery were popular in some circles.

The young bishop, on the other hand, was not popular: especially not among the powerful.

After several years, he escaped to Rome and became a Benedictine hermit.

Four years later, the Pope sent him back. He accomplished some things, but the enmity of the powerful proved deadly: his brothers were murdered and the young bishop fled again to Rome.

He then turned to evangelizing neighboring countries, meeting with considerable success in two of them, but once again running afoul of violent men in a third.

He cut down a tree sacred to pagans.

The pagans cut him down one thousand and twelve years ago today near the Baltic sea, but the ministry of Saint Adalbert, who had been born with the name of Vojtěch and was for a time bishop of Prague, would bear abundant fruit and the Christian faith would be embraced by all the lands in which he had preached the Gospel.

(from an earlier post)

The unknown soldier

We know his name was George.

We know he was a soldier.

We know that he believed in Christ and that they killed him for it.

That’s really all we know.

But people remembered the name of George, the warrior who died for Christ, and long after the details of his life were forgotten, tales about him were told... and retold... and grew in the telling (the most famous of which – in which he slays a dragon - was encompassed in a collection known as “The Golden Legend”).

Thus, Saint George is famous, and yet also unknown.

But we know that he was a soldier who died for Christ and that is a more wonderful accomplishment than anything.

The feast of Saint George, patron of England et al, is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This one verse

Today’s Gospel (John 3:16-21) begins with one of the most famous verses from all of Scripture. In our time it has been reprinted on innumerable T-shirts, bumper stickers, and even posters at sporting events.

It is repeated for good reason, for this one verse sums up wonderfully, well, everything.

God so loved the world. That is why He created it. That is why He continued to reach out to humankind all throughout history even after they chose sin and death again and again.

Most powerfully, that is why He gave his only-begotten Son: God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten – not made, consubstantial with the Father, through Whom all things were made.

He gave His only-begotten Son – in the Incarnation and most lovingly in the sacrifice of His Son’s Passion, death, and Resurrection – so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life.

We choose death when we choose sin, when we choose selfishness, when we choose materialism, when we choose the illusion of self-mastery.

God offers us eternal life through faith: not just an intellectual assent, but an embrace with our whole being – body, mind, and soul – of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, who was given for us.

There is so much more here, of course, than even this.

May God give us the grace to more and more fully appreciate, accept, and live in our everyday life what is contained in this one verse:

God so loved the world
that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him

might not perish
but might have eternal life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Socialism and communism

Today’s first reading (Acts 4:32-37) present us with a view of the early Church that, in part, sounds like a commune straight out of Karl Marx.

There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the Apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

But the early Church was not primarily an economic entity of philosophy: it was first and last a “community of believers... of one heart and mind” – united in and for God.

Materialistic sharing was not the focus: Christ was.

On the other hand, materialistic sharing is precisely the focus of socialism and communism. Capitalism, for its part, also has a materialistic focus.

Materialism will always fail, because material things fail and also because material things can never really satisfy us.

As Saint Augustine once wrote:

For Thou hast made us for Thyself
and restless is our heart
until it comes to rest in Thee.

In good times or in bad, whether we are sharing or building, may our focus always be on Christ.

Young wanderer becomes mighty defender

When he was a young boy, he loved God and before he was fifteen tried (unsuccessfully) to become a monk.

Then the temptations of life caught his attention and he wandered.

Years later, he found himself again at the doors of a monastery and he committed his life to God.

However, it was not yet clear what God wanted to do with him.

He felt called to the contemplative life of a hermit. On the other hand, his father had left him an estate with which might do great good for the poor. In the end, he submitted to the will of his superiors and committed himself to the monastic life.

Now committed to the service of God, the young man blossomed. He was blessed with a pious spirit, abundant energy, and a phenomenal intellect. He would quickly be called to greater and greater levels of responsibility (within three years he would be the number two man in the monastery), but his mind and his spirit soared further and in between his daily administrative tasks he wrote philosophical and theological works of great skill and insight.

He continued to write even after he was almost literally dragged into becoming a Bishop.

It was not just humility that made him reluctant to accept that office. Powerful political forces sought to dominate the Church and make it a tool of the State. He would rise to the challenge and defended the autonomy of the Church and the Gospel, sometimes with bold action, sometimes with careful nuance.

Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, died on this very day in 1109. His truly classic theological works include the Proslogium and Cur Deus Homo. His thought would be admired by diverse philosophers such as Descartes and Hegel.

St. Anselm of Canterbury was canonized in 1492.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, April 20, 2009

From the top

In today’s Gospel (John 3:1-8), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says this,

Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above,
he cannot see the Kingdom of God.

Traditionally, the word translated as “from above” has been translated as “again” – giving rise to the expression “born again”.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee,
Except a man be born again,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Both translations are faithful to the meaning of the Greek word, which means “from above, from a higher place, of things which come from heaven or God, from the first, from the beginning, from the very first, anew, over again.”

(A clumsy, colloquial translation of this word that embraces both senses – “again” and “from above” – would be “from the top” – unless one is born from the top)

Both translations are also faithful to our Lord’s ultimate meaning: human beings, born in sin, must be born again and it must not be just a generic renewal: they must be born “from above”, indeed, from the very highest place.

Starting over again, by itself, will not save us.

Starting over again in Christ will.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Many among us feel beaten down nowadays.

It feels like the world has conquered us.

Today’s second reading (1 John 5:1-6) gives us a message of hope, backed up by infinite power.

Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.

And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Everything in this world will pass away.

But Christ is risen – Indeed, He is risen – and Christ lives for ever.

And, no matter what the world may do to us, if we are faithful (by the grace of Christ), we too will rise.

And we too shall conquer the world.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Instituted by the great Pope John Paul II, inspired by Saint Faustina Kowalska.

(Image from the website www.sisterfaustina.org)

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy

gave us a new birth to a living hope

the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is imperishable,

undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you
who by the power of God

are safeguarded through faith,
to a salvation

that is ready to be revealed in the final time.

In this you rejoice,
although now for a little while
you may have to suffer through various trials,
so that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold

that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Although you have not seen him
you love him;
even though you do not see him

now yet believe in him,
you rejoice

with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of your faith,

the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:3-9

(adapted from a previous post)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Would we be recognized?

In today’s first reading (Acts 4:13-21) the Apostles are recognized as being “companions of Jesus.”

In our actions, in our attitudes, and in the standards by which we make our decisions would you and I be recognized as companions of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Friday, April 17, 2009


Photographs often appear next to obituaries: in the newspaper and online. Much of the time, the photographs are recent, depicting the deceased near the end of their lives. Sometimes the picture is from the prime of their lives. Sometimes, even if they lived to a ripe old age, the photograph seems to be from their high school yearbook.

This brings up the question: What shall we look like in heaven?

Shall we appear as we do when we die? Shall we appear as we did in the prime of life or as we did in the full bloom of early adulthood?

In today’s Gospel (John 21:1-14), as elsewhere, our Lord appears to His disciples after His resurrection, but he looks so different that not only is he not recognized from a distance, but even when he is close at hand, recognition is not automatic (even though the disciple know it to be the Lord).

He is Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Savior, but He is not merely resuscitated: He is changed.

In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Saint Paul foretells the same for us.

Behold, I tell you a mystery.
We shall not all fall asleep,
but we will all be changed,
in an instant, in the blink of an eye,
at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
the dead will be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.

May our risen Lord give us the grace to persevere faithfully through all the challenges, opportunities, and struggles of life, so that at the end of all things, we may be transformed by the glory of resurrection.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Times of refreshment

These are difficult days for many.

Sadly, many seek relief in these days in very wrong ways: drugs, alcohol, hedonism, and even suicide.

In today’s first reading (Acts 3:11-26), Saint Peter offers an infinitely better way:

Repent, therefore, and be converted,
that your sins may be wiped away,
and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"What are you discussing as you walk along?"

Today’s Gospel (Luke 24:13-35) presents us with the familiar account of our Lord’s appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the first Easter afternoon: a passage that is read on Easter afternoons today.

At the very beginning of this encounter, our Lord asks the two disciples a simple question: "What are you discussing as you walk along?"

Our Lord asks us the same question.

What are we discussing as we walk along through life? What are the subjects of our conversations? What are the things on our mind?

Happy would we be if we can truthfully answer that we speak and think of Christ.

Silver and gold have I none

Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.

Then Peter said,
Silver and gold have I none;
but such as I have

give I thee:
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth
rise up and walk.

(Acts 3:1-6 - from today's first reading)

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Physical presence and beyond

He was dead.

All that was left was the corpse.

And now that was gone.

Thus Mary Magdalene weeps in today’s Gospel (John 20:11-18).

Suddenly, the risen Lord is revealed to her: alive and physically present.

Our Lord speaks words of comfort to her, while reminding her that He will be ascending to the Father, after which time He will no longer be physically present.

Of course, Christ remains present in many ways and the relationship He has forged by His death and resurrection remains.

In Christ, God is our Father.

Now and forever.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Not abandoned

In today’s first reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33), the first public proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection, Saint Peter quotes from the sixteenth Psalm as a prophecy of the Resurrection.

These words are not only a fulfilled prophecy of Christ, they are also powerful words of hope for us, for they describe the power of the Resurrection that Christ shares with us – powerful words of hope especially for our darkest moments.

Therefore my heart has been glad
and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Endless Love

Many years ago, there was a popular song called “Endless Love” – a very sweet and very melismatic duet of romantic love.

It is easy to be cynical about this song, even if one is not instantly allergic to soft rock or romantic ballads, for the world overflows with the wreckage of loves that the lovers had truly felt would last forever.

Rare indeed in our world today is a love between two people that lasts from youth until old age and death and yet even then it may seem hyperbole to call it “endless”.

Speaking of “endless”, tonight’s readings – especially if all of them were read in their entirety – may have seemed endless to some in the congregation (and even perhaps to some in the sanctuary) and yet these readings present to us – in great beauty and in wonderful detail – a love that is truly endless: God’s love for his people, God’s love for us, God’s love for you and me.


These readings take us on an amazing journey through this truly endless love, beginning at the very beginning (Genesis 1:1-2:2):

In the beginning,
when God created the heavens and the earth…

We hear the care with which God created the world and everything in it. We hear the mindboggling honor given to us in our own creation:

God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And we hear God’s contentment in us and in the world he had created.

God looked at everything he had made,
and he found it very good.

And we know that, despite what we as individuals and as a race have done to ourselves and to the rest of God’s creation, deep down the goodness of God still dwells in all things – somehow, somewhere – needing God’s redemption.


The story of that redemption begins to be heard in the second reading (Genesis 22:1-18) in the account of Abraham and the near death of his beloved son Isaac.

On a basic level, this reading demonstrates that obedience and faithfulness are still possible “in this crazy, mixed up world”.

On more profound and so much more wonderful levels, this reading foreshadows the ultimate act of love and redemption: foreshadowed in Abraham’s words “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust” and foreshadowed by Abraham’s willingness to offer his son.

It does not take much imagination or scholarship to see these words and deeds fulfilled in God the Father’s gift of his only Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice would take away the sins of the world and lead to the glory of the resurrection (indeed, Hebrews 11:19 tells us that Abraham’s near-sacrifice was an act of resurrection faith).

No matter how dark and hopeless the world may sometimes seem, faithfulness is still possible through the power of God’s love and grace.


The power of God’s redemption is revealed with unprecedented drama and majesty in tonight’s third reading (Exodus 14:15-15:1) as Moses parts the Red Sea, as the People of God are rescued in a way that was unimaginable, and as hatred and arrogance drive the forces of Pharaoh to their own destruction.

We have all heard this many times before and we have all seen that great scene in that movie with Charlton Heston. It is easy to forget, therefore, what it must have been like for the people of Israel on that night.

They are in a strange place, with no familiar landmarks. There is a dark cloud around them, making it impossible to see the massive army they know is out there, within moments of coming to kill them all. Suddenly they are face-to-face with a large body of water that cuts off any hope of escape.

None of them could ever have imagined what happened next.

They would be saved by what was up to then the most earthshaking surprise in history.

God’s power to save his people is stronger than human reckoning and the wisdom of his plan for our salvation is deeper than any human being could ever imagine.

All we need to do is to be faithful, to be loving, to be truly wise, and to trust – no matter what.


In the fourth reading (Isaiah 54:5-14), God’s redemption is expressed in ways that are intense, intimate and personal.

For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
but with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.

We all seek love. Some of us think we have found our “endless love” and some of us have been devastated by love.

Tonight’s fourth reading reminds us of the love that is truly endless: the “enduring love” of God.

We may experience times of pain. We may even (God forbid) experience of wrath (brought about by our own sin, as individuals and as a race).

But the power of God’s love is always there, calling us back: calling us to experience the intimacy for which truly we were created, intimacy with infinity itself.

The ultimate, the perfect, the enduring, the true endless love that God has for us – for you and for me.

May we never be afraid of opening ourselves to the powerful and tender, mysterious and pure love of God.


Tonight’s fifth reading (Isaiah 55:1-11) spreads before us a wonderful and diverse banquet of forms and means by which God’s redemptive power comes to us.

All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!

You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!

It reminds us of how hopeless it is to find real and lasting fulfillment in the things of this world.

Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?

Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.

Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.

Again and again, God rings for us the dinner bell of grace, calling us again and again to turn away from evil, selfishness and hollow pleasures, and to turn back to him.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

We may think ourselves intelligent, proud of our technological prowess even as we recognize in our heart of hearts that technology, science, and The Latest Thing have not made us happier – indeed, sometimes quite the opposite.

God offers us true wisdom and eternal happiness.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

And then, quite fittingly in the midst of this long set of readings, the Prophet reminds us of the power of God’s word.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

May we always take the time – each day and each week – to seek the Lord, to partake of his goodness (especially in the Sacraments), to read his Word, and to open ourselves to the grace and the wisdom that only he can give.


The role of God’s wisdom as a vehicle for his redeeming power becomes even more explicit in tonight’s sixth reading (Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4).

The metaphor here is not one of eating and drinking, but of location.

The prophet Baruch writes from the awful exile of Babylon, in the dusty land we now today as Iraq.

The people of God are literally in the wrong place.

How is it, Israel,
that you are in the land of your foes,
grown old in a foreign land…?

The metaphor is very apt for many of us.

How is it that we are where we are in our lives?

How did we let our lives take us so far off track?

Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have dwelt in enduring peace.

Learn where prudence is,
where strength, where understanding;
that you may know also
where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace.

May we reach out to Christ, the eternal Wisdom of God.

May he teach us spiritual and emotional prudence.

May God make us truly wise.


The seventh reading (Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28) vividly describes the need of the People of God for redemption - their sin and their punishment – but also vividly describes the redemption that God promises.

As mentioned before, our lives and our sins have brought us to a place where we should not be.

I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.

We have let ourselves be soiled – in our thoughts, in our feelings, in our words, and in our bodies.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.

We have deadened our conscience and our true feelings of compassion.

I will give you a new heart
and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.

I will put my spirit within you
and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.

God can bring us home: spiritually and in every way.

You shall live in the land I gave your fathers;
you shall be my people,
and I will be your God.


How will God do all this for us? How will God redeem us?

Tonight’s eighth reading (Romans 6:3-11) lays it out for explicitly: by dying and rising in Christ through baptism.

Are you unaware
that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?

We were indeed buried with him

through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.

All we have to do, therefore, is live that way and think that way – by the power of his grace.

If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.

We know that Christ, raised from the dead,

dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.

As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.

you too must think of yourselves
as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.

What makes all of this possible is described in the final reading, the powerful account in the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark (16:1-7):

On entering the tomb
they saw a young man sitting on the right side,
clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.

He said to them, "Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.”

Christ is risen.

Indeed, he is risen.

May we kneel before the risen Christ, may we open our hearts and lives to his redeeming power, and may we spread his truth everywhere, by our words, by our deeds, and by the endless love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Darkness... and then...

There is much darkness in the news during these days.

There may also be darkness in our own personal lives.

In the midst of this darkness on this Easter night, the voice of God is strong and clear:

Let there be light!

So we hear in tonight’s first reading (Genesis 1:1-2:2).

And in tonight’s Gospel (Mark 16:1-7), the long night of grief, emptiness, and heartbreak gives way to a dawn of surprising light and joy.

Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
"Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?"
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, "Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
'He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'"

Thus God says in our lives:
Let there be light!

The light of His creative omnipotence.

The light of Christ’s resurrection.

Holy Saturday

The Messiah is dead and buried.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Companion in suffering

Today’s culture of painkillers, materialism, hedonism, and self-worship ill prepares one for suffering and shame.

Yet now in these days of financial and economic turmoil, many are suddenly afflicted with suffering and even feel deep shame because of things such as unemployment and foreclosure.

No matter what we may be experiencing in our lives, on this Good Friday, we need to draw ever closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who fulfilled what was spoken of Him by the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him
was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Station Churches of Lent have come to an end, but today, on this Good Friday, it is good to call to mind yet another Church involved with stations: the Stations of the Cross, the last stations of which are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

There, just beyond the arch to the left,
is where our Lord died.

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You
because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi,
quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Share in the celebration

Tonight’s first reading (Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14) gives instructions for the celebration of the first Passover, including this precept:

If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.

We live in busy and stressful days and many among us are struggling with serious financial concerns.

It is not an easy time for celebration.

May you and I do what we can to help others share in the celebration of Easter and the Triduum, so that we may all share more abundantly in the graces and joys of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran

Today's Station Church... for the third time during this season of Lent... for it is here that the Bishop of Rome begins the celebration of the Triduum, and the end of Lent, with the celebration of Holy Thursday Mass at his Cathedral and the washing of the feet.

May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who washed the feet of his disciples, bless you and me with abundant graces during this Triduum, so that we may follow our Lord as faithful servants.

(from an earlier post)

Holy Thursday & Priesthood

Today, on Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Holy Chrism is celebrated (although many dioceses celebrate it earlier in the week for practical reasons) at which Holy Chrism and other sacramental oils are blessed and at which priests rededicate themselves to their ministry. After the homily the bishop speaks to the priests:

"My brothers,

"Today we celebrate the memory of the first Eucharist, at which our Lord Jesus Christ shared with his apostles and with us his call to the priestly service of his Church.

"Now, in the presence of your bishop and God’s holy people, are you ready to renew your own dedication to Christ as priests of his new covenant?"
Priests: "I am."

"At your ordination you accepted the responsibilities of the priesthood out of love for the Lord Jesus and his Church. Are you resolved to unite yourselves more closely to Christ and to try to become more like him by joyfully sacrificing your own pleasure and ambition to bring his peace and love to your brothers and sisters?"
Priests: "I am. "

"Are you resolved to be faithful ministers of the mysteries of God, to celebrate the Eucharist and the other liturgical services with sincere devotion?"
Priests: "I am. "

"Are you resolved to imitate Jesus Christ, the head and shepherd of the Church, by teaching the Christian faith without thinking of your own profit, solely for the well-being of the people you were sent to serve?"
Priest: "I am."

(Then the bishop addresses the people:)

"My brothers and sisters, pray for your priests.

"Ask the Lord to bless them with the fullness of his love, to help them be faithful ministers of Christ the High Priest, so that they will be able to lead you to him, the fountain of your salvation."
People: "Lord Jesus Christ, hear us and answer our prayer."

"Pray also for me that despite my own unworthiness I may faithfully fulfill the office of apostle which Jesus Christ has entrusted to me. Pray that I may become more like our High Priest and Good Shepherd, the teacher and servant of all, and so be a genuine sign of Christ’s loving presence among you."
People: "Lord Jesus Christ, hear us and answer our prayer. "

"May the Lord in his love keep you close to him always, and may he bring all of us, his priests and people, to eternal life."
All: "AMEN."

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Close, but...

Words seem insufficient to describe the horror, the disgust, the heartbreak, and the evil of what we hear in today’s Gospel (Matthew 26:14-25): the betrayal of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot.

The horror and the heartbreak are intensified by how close Judas was to Christ.

He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.

You and I strive to be close to Christ.

May Christ give us the grace to become and remain ever more faithful: never to betray Him and never to be parted from Him.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

The Basilica of St. Mary Major

Today's Station Church...
for the second time in the season of Lent... and it is appropriate that the Station Church circuit comes here on the day before Holy Thursday, so that we can begin our celebration of the Lord's passion, death, and resurrection with the same mind and heart as that of Mary, the Sorrowful Mother of our Lord, so that we may share in the joy of the resurrection.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Santa Prisca

Betrayal and failure

Today’s Gospel (John 13:21-33, 36-38) begins with a prophecy of betrayal and ends with a prophecy of failure.

We know, of course, that the betrayal would lead to our Lord’s most important work, which would end in his salvific death and resurrection, and that despite his failure, Peter would be the head of Christ’s Church.

You and I can be discouraged by our failures and by what is done to us, yet as today’s first reading reminds us(Isaiah 49:1-6), our hope is unconquerable.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the Lord,
my recompense is with my God.

By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may you and I be faithful and persevere.

Monday, April 06, 2009

This week

In today’s Gospel (John 12:1-11), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says,

You always have the poor with you,
but you do not always have me.

You and I may have many things to do this week, as we always do every week.

But this is Holy Week.

Our time may be precious, but perhaps we could spend a little more of it celebrating and reflecting on the great and wonderful mysteries that are celebrated in a special way this week.

Saint Praxedes

Mass of the Holy Chrism

On Holy Thursday morning on an earlier day in Holy Week, the Mass of the Holy Chrism is celebrated in each Diocese by the Bishop at the Cathedral. At this Mass, Holy Chrism and other sacramental oils are blessed and at priests rededicate themselves to their ministry.

It is a worthy celebration for all the faithful to attend, especially young men who may be considering Priesthood.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

“Morning after morning...”

We are blessed to hear many words of Scripture at Mass today, from the celebration of our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the long reading of the Passion.

These words in today’s first reading (Isaiah 50:4-7) are not the most important, but they are words that should be in our hearts as we hear all the others and as we begin this celebration of Holy Week:

Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear...

On this day and on every morning, evening, and every waking hour may our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ open our ears that we may hear more fully, clearly, and efficaciously His holy word.

Saint John Lateran - THE Cathedral

Today's Station Church... for the second time in the season of Lent... so we've seen it already... from its triumphant exterior...

...to its magnificent nave...

But at the far end of the church, tucked in the very center of the very back, stands a stone chair... not as ornate as one might imagine.

This is the Cathedra - the Chair of the Bishop - in the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.

This is the Cathedra of the Pope.

For most of us, chairs are what we use to relieve our burdens, if only for a little while.

Not this chair.

This chair is itself a burden: the most fearful burden in the world, for the man who sits in it has the burden of acting and teaching and speaking as the Vicar of Christ.

At the end of all things, when Christ takes his Judgement Seat, no one will be judged more sternly than the man who sits in this chair.

May we always pray for Benedict XVI, the Bishop of Rome: that his ministry may be faithful and full of the grace, truth, and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that at the end of all things our Lord may say to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant..."

And may you and I, by the grace of Christ, carry well the burdens God has given us to bear, so that we too may hear our Lord speak to us words of joyful greeting on the Day of Judgment.

(from an earlier post)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Bring us back, Lord

As we stand at the threshold of Holy Week, may this be the time that we turn away from the wrong paths we have trod and be turned back to the Lord, so that He may fulfill in us what He foretold in today’s first reading (Ezekiel 37:21-28):

No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols,
their abominations, and all their transgressions.
I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy,
and cleanse them

so that they may be my people
and I may be their God.

Yes, Lord, bring us back.

The Basilica of Saint John at the Latin Gate

They say he didn't like school

But he stuck with it nonetheless.

In fact, he ended up becoming one of the most learned men in the world and would promote education as one of the ways to hold together a society that was falling apart.

He would be responsible for compiling large quantities of information and making them available to many.

Today, he is called the patron saint of the Internet.

St. Isidore, Bishop of Seville and the last western Father of the Church, died on this very day 1,373 years ago.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, April 03, 2009

"He escaped from their power"

The world is a threatening place for many today.

Today’s readings (as earlier this week) present us with two holy men (including the Holiest – true God and true man) threatened with death, yet both trusting in God.

The prophet Jeremiah (20:10-13) says to God,

...to you I have entrusted my cause.
Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!

And in the Gospel (John 10:31-42), our Lord is surrounded by a murderous crowd, “but he escaped from their power.”

He would not escape long: one week from today we will commemorate His painful death.

As for Jeremiah, it is said that he was eventually seized, carried off into another country, and murdered.

Yet neither of them was abandoned by God, even though there may have been expressions of feelings of abandonment.

To be sure, even at the worst moment, our Lord knew clearly that He was in the Father and the Father was in Him – most especially as He was in the midst of the greatest work of the Father: the bloody sacrifice of His own Son, for the love and life of humankind - a death that would end in resurrection.

By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may you and I always remember God’s love for us and His continuing presence in the lives of His faithful – no matter what.

Santo Stefano Rotondo

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Four years ago today

The great Pope John Paul II entered eternity.

Pray for his quick beatification.

Temporary now, Eternity later

Times may be tough nowadays, but today’s readings help remind us how temporary they are.

Today’s first reading (Genesis 17:3-9) reminds us that Children of Abraham (children by blood and children by faith) have been striving to keep God’s covenant throughout the ages.

And then, in today’s Gospel (John 8:51-59), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives us a glimpse of the Eternity in which he dwells.

"Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM."

By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we be faithful and persevere in all the days He gives us – few or many, easy or hard – so that He may bring us to the eternal happiness of heaven with Him.

Speaking the truth to power

His parents were very devout, which is one of the reasons why they named him after a famous saint.

While still a teenager, he himself began living as a hermit. He began to attract followers and founded monasteries, calling himself and his confreres the least of all religious.

A humble hermit, he nonetheless remained concerned for the poor of the world and for speaking the truth to power. He spoke out against the local authorities and was persecuted for it.

But the Kings of France, on the other hand, wanted to hear him. King Louis XI on his deathbed begged the hermit to come to him (the Pope had to order Francis to go). King Louis XII also appreciated Francis’ wisdom and kept him close.

Saint Francis of Paola, founder of the Franciscan Order of Minim Friars, died in France of natural causes five hundred and two years ago today.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Saint Apollinaris

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Who’s your daddy?

In today’s Gospel (John 8:31-42), a crowd of people boast that their ancestor is Abraham and then they assert that their true father is God.

Our Lord Jesus Christ implies that the intentions of their hearts show them to be children of the devil (an implication he makes explicit in a later verse – verse 44):

You belong to your father the devil
and you willingly carry out your father's desires.
He was a murderer from the beginning
and does not stand in truth,
because there is no truth in him.
When he tells a lie,
he speaks in character,
because he is a liar and the father of lies.

May the Lord Jesus give us the grace to live truly as God’s children: loving Him, serving Him, acting in righteousness and charity, and speaking the truth.

Saint Marcellus

What shall we pray for this month?

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for April is for Farmers and World Hunger:

"That our Lord may bless farmers with abundant harvests and sensitize the richer nations to respond to the ravages of hunger throughout the world."

His missionary intention is for Christians as Signs of Hope:

"That Christians working in desperate conditions among women, children, the poor, and the weak, may be signs of hope in their courageous witness to the Gospel of solidarity and love."