The Palm Branch, the Needle on Our Compass


About 2,000 years ago, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds honoring a king waving palms and laying their mantles on the ground to protect Jesus from the dirt in the city streets.  But Jesus knew this would be his last entrance into Jerusalem.  He was walking into the hands of his executioners.  Armed with faith in the Father and the courage of the Holy Spirit, he entered the city where he would be scorned, insulted, brought to trial with false charges and eventually he would be killed.

On Thursday of that week Jesus borrowed an upper room where he was to eat the Passover meal with his friends, the apostles.  It was at the meal that he gave the Apostles the power to do as he had done, change bread and wine into his body and blood.

He gave this gift to his apostles, not only for their benefit, but for the benefit of all who would listen to the preaching of the Good News that the man executed on Friday walked out of his tomb on Sunday morning.

For the first 200 years or so after the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, many believers were executed in the cruelest forms, because they refused to deny the truth that they knew about Jesus the Christ.  These martyrs were not morose men and women who wanted to die and who deliberately sought death.  Like Jesus, they loved their friends, family, and home.  But like Jesus, they could not deny the truth, even if it cost them their lives.

Today, millions of Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus made his triumphant entry into the city of execution. Unfortunately, many people regard it as a special day of the year when they received blessed palm branches.  Churches are packed with people who would normally miss Sunday Mass.  On this Sunday, they get something for free and fulfill a cultural and family tradition.

We have forgotten that Jesus did not enter Jerusalem to be honored with palms and “hosannas”.  The palms were icing on the cake.  Jesus entered Jerusalem to suffer and give his life to redeem mankind.   He was willing to put up with false accusations, disrespect, scourging, a crown of thorns penetrating his head, and finally nails trespassing through his hands and feet.

Palm Sunday should remind us of Jesus’ obedience to the father, of his humility, his dignity, and his love for mankind.  These were the forces that led him to the cross, not the political power of the high priests and the Romans.

Today, many of us respond with drama, vitriol and even violence when someone says or does something disrespectful.  The common excuse is, “I’m not Jesus.”

True enough, none of us are Jesus.  But Jesus says to us, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  He makes this imperative several times in the Gospels.  Yet, many of us recoil from the slightest offense, an illness, an unwanted pregnancy, poor health, and anything that could potentially inconvenience us or cause pain.  Just as the martyrs did not seek death, nor did Jesus, the voice of God the Father must be heard and obeyed.  We’re not commanded to be doormats, to seek to get sick, or to take an aggressive stand when we believe that we’re being humiliated.

We are called to be like Christ, to speak the truth when others try to hurt us or hurt another person; but we are not called to punish the world for its sins, cruelty, or foolishness.  That’s not the man that we see entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Jesus simply spoke the truth and took the consequences for preaching the truth.

For those of us who attend mass on Palm Sunday, the question is, are we willing to speak the truth with dignity and respect?  Are we willing to accept pain and suffering that is a natural part of life, without reneging, bullying others under the pretext of suffering, or casting doubt on God?  Are we willing to keep silent, as Jesus did when he faced the Sanhedrin, realizing that there was nothing he could say that would change their mind and their arrogance?  Are we willing to respond to others as Christ responded to the questions asked by Pontius Pilate, with dignity, honesty, respectfully and frankness, without argumentation or vitriol?

Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week.  The week is holy because Christ’s words and actions were not driven by sin, desire to get revenge, an urge to punish the world, or an effort to hide his true mission.  His humility, living the truth and his love for those who sinned as well as those who were holy never wavered.  In the face of pain and death he says to the Father, “Not my will be done, but yours.”

On this great day of the liturgical year, we must think about how we respond to natural events that may be painful, how we respond to those who are rude or even cruel, how we respond to those who surround us when we’re sick or dying.  Palm Sunday is the beginning of a week where we remember Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  Palms should be the needle of the compass to guides our lives.  Holy Week is made holy by Christ’s passion and death.  Those of us who act contrary to Christ’s actions, soil that which is holy.

Let us never forget that Christ gives us the Holy Spirit who strengthens us with the necessary grace to face any difficulty.  But we must be willing to do as Christ did. Seek opportunities for silence and avoid the distractions of the world, to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding us to make every week of the year, holy.

Published in: on April 14, 2019 at 9:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

To bear with one’s neighbor as Christ does


As we approach Holy Week it’s important to examine our conscience and to ask ourselves, “Have I looked at mothers and fathers who submit to abortion with kindness or with aversion?”

God gives us rights from the moment of conception

Abortion is a heinous crime that cries out to God for vengeance.  While it is true that the unborn child is the innocent

victim whose life is taken during the early stages of human development, one must ask, what of the mothers and fathers who agreed to abort their unborn child?  Are they aware of the gravity of their choice?  If so, do they mourn the death of their unborn child?  Do they hide their grief and their guilt so as not to be judged by others?

Saint Francis of Assisi wrote in one of his admonitions,

Blessed is the man who bears with his neighbor according to the frailty of his nature,” (admonitions of St. Francis).

To be aware of the deep-seated guilt in the conscience of the post abortion parent, instead of judgment and indignation, requires spiritual sacrifice and often the courage of the crucified Christ who forgave rather than condemned. This kind of courage requires sacrifice and strength to go against our natural temptation to lash out at such people.

Why does Saint Francis say that we’re blessed if we bear with [our] neighbor’s human frailty? If we look at the story of the woman caught in adultery, we will find the answer to this question.

Jesus asks her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.

“Go now and leave your life of sin,” (John 8:10-11)

Kindness toward the post abortive parent, along with encouragement to avoid this and other sins, is to do as Christ does.  That is how we become blessed.  Along with blessings that God may bestow on us for such mercy and kindness,  to behave toward the sinner as Christ did draws us closer into his blessed nature.

Infra-red photo of the hurricane

Men and women who struggle with the guilt of abortion are carrying a cross, but they’re not moving in a forward direction.  Each day is another walk around the same circle of grief, shame, and guilt.  People of faith have a moral duty to point those who carry such a cross in the right direction.  This is a spiritual work of mercy.

We must remember Christ’s words, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me,” Luke 9:23.

We cannot erase a chapter from another person’s history book, nor should we want to do so.  However, we can point the sinner toward Christ.  We have a duty to counsel the sinner to carry the cross that that’s a consequence of abortion and turn it into a holy life, denying themselves of self-pity, instead following Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Holy Mass, and daily prayer.

Those who treat their neighbor as they would want to be treated are truly blessed.  Christ’s love and mercy shines through us.

Abortion vs. Human Aspiration


I’ve been thinking, trying to understand why people who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life have been speaking for four decades and have yet to hear each other.

The abortion argument has focused on the dark side of conception.  The fertilized egg is just that, an egg, like any egg that you would find in a refrigerator.  It can be discarded because it’s not alive.  Until very recently, medical science had denied that humanity of the fertilized egg.  But one can deny the truth only for so long, before it becomes impossible to hide it.

Morality was central to the argument.  An abortion is murder.  People found myriads ways to justify the act of abortion and ignore the behavior of which conception is the natural outcome.  When speaking about abortion, we make it a woman’s issue.  Why?  Because coupling is left out of the discussion.  Therefore, there is no need to involve the father, much less consider his point of view.  It’s as if women conceived without any assistance from a man or as if the man’s contribution to the dynamic of conception is less important that that of the female, simply because her body hosts the unborn child for 40 weeks.

Hosting is not part of conception.  Human beings serve as hosts to bacteria and viruses; but we don’t consider these cells and organisms to be part of our body.  We’re certainly not their progenitors. Just as an example, we understand and accept that we carry the flu virus, but it’s not part of who we are.  We’re the host.

We try to rid ourselves of the virus with little or no success, because viruses are difficult to kill.  We also have no sense of responsibility for the life of a virus or bacteria, because neither will ever become more than what we see under a microscope, a virus, or a bacterium.  That’s the extent of their reality.

The fertilized human egg has the potential to become a man or woman who makes wonderful contributions to the world around him or her and to the wider spectrum of society.  To dislodge it from its host is not the same as fighting a virus or bacteria, which have no future, no potential to contribute positively to humanity.  If left undisturbed, the fertilized human egg can become a great man or woman, even if it’s just in his home or field of employment.

The killing of a defenseless human being, who has done no harm, is a great moral evil, greater than we think.  Killing a human being, is bad enough.  Abortion robs humanity of that which could have been.

Every human being aspires.  Our ability to aspire is not learned.  It is innate to our humanity.  Our pet dog or cat doesn’t aspire to be more than what it is.  Yet we have strong laws and penalties to protect them from human cruelty.  We human beings aspire.

At what point in our development do we begin to reach beyond ourselves and our present life context?  Who knows?  But once a child begins to speak, he or she can tell you that they want to be a firefighter, a dancer, a doctor and much more.  Becoming a physician, firefighter, dancer, and more are realities beyond one’s current state, be it in the womb, in a crib or in kindergarten.

The destruction of a fertilized egg is greater than the destruction of human matter kills the future destroying the good that this person can do in the world.  It kills aspirations proper only to that person.  Some of which he could realize, if left to develop and be born.

Herein lies the disconnect between prolifers and prochoice.  Today we don’t place much value on aspiration.  To aspire is often considered to be “day dreaming.”  It is discouraged.  Instead, adults direct the young toward a goal that will make the parent feel satisfied or that will satisfy a social need.  It’s more about the parent and society than the individual person.

Unless we begin to value human aspirations that transcend our physical and social boundaries, it will be difficult for some to consider abortion a crime against humanity.

That’s what abortion is. Humanity is being denied the benefit of one person’s contribution to life, a contribution that may change the course of history.  Every time a child is aborted, humanity is denied the benefit that comes from a person whose aspirations transcend our current state or condition.  We enslave ourselves by cutting off the potential of social, political, economic, intellectual, and spiritual progress.  Abortions trap us in the status quo.  Society cannot grow and become better when there is not a new generation whose vision transcends that of the current generation.

Abortion deprives man of new aspirations.

Published in: on March 21, 2019 at 12:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

Thinking about Lent and Penance


The Christmas Season ended a few weeks ago and we’re already for Lent.  Ash Wednesday is around the corner, the sixth March.

Birth of Jesus

It appears to us that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary comes before his incarnation and birth at Christmas, at the end of the year.  But that’s not really the case at all.

The Church’s liturgical calendar begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  That is actually “New Years Day” on the liturgical calendar.  January 1st was adopted as the beginning of the New Year in 1752 when Pope Gregory XIII ratified the current calendar, which we call the Gregorian Calendar.

The first solemn Christocentric celebration occurs on December 25th when the Second Person the Most Holy Trinity breaks into human history as the child Jesus.  We celebrate Christmas with great joy and solemnity, because God has humbled himself to become human.

Lent follows the Christmas season on the liturgical calendar, beginning on Ash Wednesday.  It is a time of penitential preparation for the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and a time of expectation as we celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Catholics have always sacrificed something during Lent.  Some people didn’t eat candy, others didn’t east dessert, many would not attend celebrations, carnivals and were not usually married during Lent. These things are good in the eyes of God.  God does not measure quantity, but the intent of the heart.

(c) Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

However, if we look around us at today’s world, we have a lot of reasons to do penance for ourselves and those who don’t do penance.  We have had horrific scandals in the Church’s human element, because its divine character comes from Christ, not from man.  Christ is perfectly sinless.

Our country is split over politics and policies.  Everyday the back stabbing gets worse.  Terrorism has spread to Europe and North America.  Once upon a time it was contained in the Middle East.  That’s no longer the case.

People must abandon their homes out of fear.  They fear that they will be dragged out and killed.  While adults may feel strong enough to combat criminals, those who have children find it very difficult to do so.  What happens to my kid if I were killed in a resistant uprising?

A trailer park. (c) Caren Mack Photography

Poverty also triggers migration.  In the United States, poverty in some of our southern states is never mentioned, but it’s there.  People live in conditions not fit for human beings.  The people migrate to the coasts where they hope to find work and housing in the big cities.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  The same is true for people of many countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Families must emigrate from their homes because they don’t earn salaries to support themselves.

This leads to all kinds of problems in the host countries, from a shortage of resources to violence.  The violence is usually rooted in frustration, distrust, or simply there are individuals among the immigrants who have criminal history.  This cannot be avoided.  Every country, every race, every ethnic group has its fair share of criminals and delinquents.

The Franciscans of Life are encouraging all our relatives and friends to offer this Lent for a peaceful resolution to conflict and dishonesty in the world.  Will it happen?  Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible for God.”  But let’s sacrifice something that really hurts, without doing damage to our mind or body.

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Some suggestions for Lenten sacrifice:

1. Turn off the television or restrict its use to a specific time of the day without exceptions.

2. Turn off the game systems and computers.  If you can’t live 40 days without Facebook, try at least three days a week in honor of the Blessed Trinity.

3.  Stop smoking or drinking alcohol.  How many people die because of smoking cessation or because they reduced the amount of alcohol they put in their bodies?

4. Children and adolescents may pick up an extra chore around the house.  If one’s job is to take out the garbage and the parents must remind the young person to do his duty, taking out the garbage is not a Lenten sacrifice.  Taking out the garbage is justice.  It’s your contribution to family life.  Taking on an extra chore from Mom or Dad, is a sacrifice, even if it’s two days a week.

5.  Man has become an extension of his cell phone.  The cell phone is no longer used just for communication when you can’t get to a landline or a payphone.  It’s where people watch movies, play video games, use as time pieces, or status pieces.  There are people who pay their monthly visit to parents or grandparents via Skype.  We can reduce the use of the cell phone and limit it to communication.  It doesn’t have to be our diary, calendar, notebook, or library.  Any or all those applications can be sacrificed and offered in atonement for our sins and those of people who don’t to penance. 

6. For many people, healthy living is a penance:  going to bed early and rising early, going on a diet, engaging in physical activity, or sitting with your family for dinner, even though you know that the kids are going to bicker, complain, play, and do many things that we adults can’t imagine.  Using dinner time as a learning experience can be a healthy sacrifice. 

You may ask, “Why do penance for those who don’t do penance?”  The answer is simple.  What would have happened to our immortal souls if Christ had not offered his life for humanity?

Look at these suggestions and see if you can try one of them or come up with a penance that is truly a challenge for you.

 

Published in: on February 23, 2019 at 7:49 PM  Comments (1)  

ETHICS AND AUTOCRACY


There is much going on in our country and other countries which we must be aware of and keep in our prayers.

Abortion

Just this month, the State of New York passed the most extensive abortion law in the nation and the Commonwealth of Virginia is seeking to follow suit.  Under this new law, a pregnant mother living in the State of New York, and maybe soon, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, has the right to terminate the life of an unborn child up to the moment of labor.

Law makers and some healthcare professionals are justifying this new law, because it is useful if the life of the mother is in danger or the child is not viable.  There are two problems of justice here.

First the life of the mother is given preference over the life of her unborn child, about to be born.  We have two human beings and the law is choosing to save one and kill the other or let him be born and die.  This raises an important question.  What makes the life of the mother more important than the life of the child?  The answer is simple.  The possible death of the mother poses a grave loss to her and to her family.  But the child whose life is being terminated is also family.  Simply, he has yet to meet his living relatives.

The second issue of justice has to do with viability.  Allegedly, if a baby is not viable (capable of living outside the womb), he can be aborted.  There are two questions of justice here.  First, if mother and child were in a car accident and the child seemed to be a higher mortality risk, would anyone agree to terminate that child’s life and save the mother?  Would anyone agree to providing medical care for the mother, while forsaking the life of the child?  If you’re a conscientious person, you would probably answer “NO” to both questions.

A person who understands the right to life of every human being would insist that medical care be given to both mother and child to save both lives.  One may die while doctors try; but such a death is not provoked by the attending physician.  It is the result of the accident, illness, or other beyond human control.  No human being terminated that life.  In most places around the world, the physician would be in serious legal trouble, because he took one life and turned his back on that person for the sake of another.  An affirmative response to this question gives physicians the freedom to make godlike choices.  Does the physician have the moral authority to determine who lives?Image result for right to be born

In the case of a late term abortion, the mother and the physician are assigning, to themselves, authority that belongs only to God.  They are deciding that the child has no right to be born.  The international community and the constitution of many countries guarantees the right to life.  In this case, the law is saying that one has the right to life . . . but at what point:  just before birth or just after birth?  The right to life becomes arbitrary.

Euthanasia

Image result for euthanasia ethicsCall it assisted suicide, call it the right to die or any other name that sterilizes such an act.  The fact remains that living human beings are put to death at the discretion of other human beings, they do not die from causes beyond human control.

Children are euthanized because they have Down Syndrome.  People, young and old, are euthanized because suffer from depression and have lost all desire to live.  Terminally ill people and senior citizens are euthanized to avoid prolonged suffering.  The truth of the matter is that suffering is a normal part be life.  And supporting and comforting those who suffer is our moral duty.  No one, not even the person who is suffering, has the right to choose death if there are possible medical treatments that can save a life or give the person more time to be with loved ones.

In some countries, the state decides who is to be euthanized, because “it’s in the best interest of the citizen.”  Is it really in the best interest of the citizen to terminate his or her life, because they are sick, old, suffer a mental health problem or is naturally intellectually disabled?  The British courts said so when they denied the parents of a two-year old child permission to take the child out of the country to places that were offering medical assistance and hope.

What human being, be it a judge, a relative, a physician or other involved party has the natural authority to determine when one should die?  Where does society draw the line?  Is it OK to help a terminally ill person to die, but provide special services for one who is intellectually disabled or the other way around?

Is it right to draw a line on sickness?  How sick does one have to be that gives others authority to end our life or that of loved ones?

There are civil laws, but as the great philosophers of history have proven, there are natural laws that serve as the foundation of civil laws.  Human beings have the right to legislate when such legislation is consistent with natural law.  Who said that we have the right to circumvent natural law to terminate a life?

Someone may argue “is a kidney transplant natural?”  Is a prosthesis natural?  Neither are safeguarded by natural law; but neither are prohibited by natural law either.

Some states have passed laws that prohibit late-term abortion.  There are states that prohibit assisted suicide and euthanasia.  But the courts have determined that such laws are contrary to the right to choose.

We’re allowing the state the right of the individual to secure the rights of the majority.  But that’s not how morality and ethics work.  One must always choose the greater of two possible good, not what is acceptable to the majority.  The right to life is an unquestionable superior good.  If we make the right to life arbitrary, then all other rights granted to living beings are also relative.  There are no longer absolute rights.

We must pray for guidance for us, law makers and people in crisis situations.  We must also raise our voices to defend the right to be born and the right to live until death is unavoidable.  This includes accidents, wars, natural disasters, and crime.  The victim does not have the power to prevent his death or that of a loved one.  Such life terminating events happen very quickly and are not within our control.

Let us defend our collective right to vote on laws, rather than grant power to arbitrary persons who legislate the right to terminate human life at their discretion.   We have the right to be heard before those laws are ratified.  When the state appropriates citizen’s right to choose life, without the consent of the governed, it’s autocracy.

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Published in: on February 20, 2019 at 8:29 PM  Leave a Comment  

Franciscans of Life Pray for a Moral Solution to Our Current National Crisis


256px-Luxembourgers_in_England-_Evacuees_in_Surrey,_1942_D11110Our country is going through a big political conflict that has serious moral concerns.  Eight hundred thousand government employees have been affected by the government shutdown.  We must remember that most of these 800,000 people are the main source of income for many families.  If we add immediate family members to the 800,000 workers, we’re talking about over one million people without a paycheck. 

          Among these people there are senior citizens and materially poor families who live in Section-8 housing; that is, housing that is subsidized by the government.  These subsidies come from the Federal Government and are contractual.  As the contracts reach maturity, the government and the landlord need to renew the contract.  For the contract to be renewed, there must be someone to negotiate and money to subsidize these families’ rent.  People in Section-8 housing are afraid of eviction, because they cannot afford the government’s share of the rent and there is no functioning government agency to fund new contracts.

          We are also facing some real dangers.  Many employees in the aviation industry are not being paid and some have been furloughed.  Those that must report to work are reported to be calling in sick.  Case in point, Miami International Airport had to close a terminal because airport authorities did not know if they would have enough TSA agents to staff check points.

          Likewise, the FDA cannot do a good job securing that our food and medication supply is safe for human consumption, because it too is affected by the shutdown and shortage of money to continue operating.

          Many people have taken to the media to point fingers at one party and that party points the finger at the first party.  The truth is that legislators have a MORAL OBLIGATION to protect the safety and interests of their citizens.  This may require a willingness to talk and reach some compromises in the best interest of the general public, not any political party or partisan plan.

          People who recognize the dignity of human life, at any stage and in any form, we must be concerned about issues such as safety, housing for the poor and senior citizens, and the families whose income has been cut short and are struggling to pay a mortgage or rent, not to mention money to pay for electricity and gas for heating during the current winter conditions in many states.

          It is also true that every nation has a right to protect its border and that immigrants have an obligation to comply with the laws of the receiving country.  It’s very easy to say, “Don’t build a wall and open up the government.”  But the truth is that there is more involved than opening the government or borders.  Many politicians seem to shy away from thinking outside the box for solutions, out of fear of losing the 2020 election.

          However, Jesus tells us, 34 ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” (Matt 25:34-36).

          It is necessary that people of faith, look at the current dilemma and try to see it as God sees it.  We must ask Our Lady to intercede as she did at the wedding feast in Cana and that she guides legislators from whatever party they belong to, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5).

          .  The debate concerning the border wall and the government shutdown stands on a moral slope that is very slippery.  Innocent people will suffer, while wealthy politicians argue back and forth, because they can pay their bills and support their families.  Let us raise our prayers to heaven for the necessary guidance to resolve this situation in a manner that is pleasing to God and just to man

Published in: on January 15, 2019 at 8:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

WHAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BY THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT?


This week, hundreds of thousands will be marching in many cities around the country in defense of life.  There are some important points to keep in mind these days.

First:  Abortion will not go away because people protest one day a year.  There must be a concerted effort on the part of all pro-life people to educate their neighbors and families on the issue.

Second:  Images of baby body parts are impressive, but they don’t tell the full story.  We must begin to tell the full story.  EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS THE RIGHT TO BE BORN GUARANTEED BY NATURAL LAW.  The fact that the Constitution does not cover the child in the womb, does not mean this child has no right to be born.  What it means is that the amendments and laws passed have been short-sighted and must offered protection to the pre-born person.

Third:  Christ said that certain demons could only be driven out by prayer and fasting.  We invite those who are interested to follow the Franciscans of Life in the matter.  We fast every Wednesday and Friday.   We abstain from meat on Fridays.  This is part of the sacrifice that we offer for the protection of life and the salvation of souls.

Fourth:  Abortion is not a religious issue.  It is an issue of justice.  Every woman has the right to medical care; but no one has the right to medical care at the expense of another person’s life.  The child in the womb has as much right to be in this world as do the parents.  Our struggle is not a struggle against abortion, but a struggle for justice for everyone from conception to natural death.

Fifth and final point:  There must be a national effort or campaign that promotes the right of men and women to be parents.  It seems that the argument against abortion is about a woman’s right to “medical care”, completely ignoring or even looking down on men and women who strongly believe that they have the right to conceive and parent a child.

Published in: on January 12, 2019 at 2:46 PM  Leave a Comment  

New Year’s Thought from the Franciscans of Life


The Franciscans of Life wish every one of our family, friends, and benefactors a Happy and Blessed New Year.

We want to remind everyone that January first is not only New Year’s Day in the western calendar, but it’s also a special solemnity in honor of Our Lady.  It’s the Solemnity of the Mother of God.  It is the only feast day that we celebrate honoring Our Lady’s “divine maternity”.

In a world where motherhood and childbearing are often viewed as a burden or an inconvenience, at the very least, Catholics remember that motherhood is a gift from Heaven.  God becomes man and is born into a human family.  Every one of us has existed in the mind of God the Father for all eternity.  This “divine thought” becomes a human being at conception.  God has seen us in His image and likeness since the beginning.

Let us pray that this year, humanity will awaken from the nightmare of abortion and euthanasia.  Pray that nations come to respect life, from the womb to the tomb, as a mystery that comes from God and is destined to return to God at a time according to His plan.

Topic shift:  the Franciscans of Life have completed our year-end review.  We planned our days, schedules and activities for this new year, to allow us more time for silence, solitude, prayer, penance, a fraternal life.  Like every human family, a community of consecrated persons, religious or lay, is called to live as a family that reflects the community of the Holy Trinity.

It is very easy to get caught up in the “to do’s” of everyday life, to the point where doing becomes man’s only source of satisfaction and enrichment.  Unfortunately, becoming or being is forgotten and replaced by doing.  We hope that others will join us in the quest to become people of deeper prayer, more sacrificial penance, and joyful members of families, parishes, and communities.

       

Finally, it is with great joy that we announce that Brother Bernardo will profess perpetual vows on January 7, 2019.  I [Br. Jay] will have the honor of receiving those vows in the name of our community.

Brother will vow to live in obedience to God, the Church, and the constitutions and superior of our community.  He will surrender the right to own property and will vow to live the rest of his life without property, money, or special distinctions.  He will vow to live celibate chastity until death, so that he may devote every moment of his life to Christ, the Immaculate, and the people of God.

Franciscans of Life also make a fourth vow: to proclaim the Gospel of Life to the voiceless.  We follow the example of St. Francis and his command to the first Franciscans, to live in peace with all men, to have a special place in our hearts and their mission for the poor, elderly, sick and abandoned.  The Gospel of Life demands in a special way that we treat all travelers and immigrants with respect and charity.  Please pray for Brother Bernardo and for the Franciscans of Life, that we may be faithful to the end.

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May the new year bring many blessings into your lives.  Let us pray that it will be a year where man moves closer to peace, deals more justly with other people, and detaches from excessive material goods to the detriment of his soul.

 

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FRANCISCANS PREPARE FOR CHRISTMAS


The Franciscans of Life prepare for the Christmas celebration in several ways.  We hope that those who read this blog will be inspired to find their own way to prepare to celebrate Christmas.  Feel free to borrow from us.

The first step in preparation for Christmas is Reconciliation.

We acknowledge that we have sinned, that we have distanced ourselves from God by our thoughts, words and actions.  We approach the confessional with the same simplicity and humility as the peasant shepherds approached the newborn Messiah in the stable at Bethlehem.  We confess our sins, beg for forgiveness and kneel in adoration of a God who never denies us forgiveness, not matter what we may have done or failed to do, as long as we are truly sorry.

Second, we create an environment with periods of silence.

St. Joseph is our model.  As we read the account of Jesus’ birth, we notice that Joseph does not speak.  He contemplates the newborn Messiah and his Virgin Mother.  Like St. Joseph, we need periods of silence.  Periods of silence does not mean quietly working on the internet or some other project.  A period of silence involves total disconnection from the world around us.  These need not be long periods.  Several short periods during the day can be beneficial for those of us who are restless and can’t be quiet or still for an extended period.  Whether one chooses a long period of silence once a day or several shorter periods during the day, the important thing is to imitate St. Joseph.  We must reflect on the miracle of the incarnation and the nativity, reflect on how this event invites us to change the way we live, think and behave.  The Christ child invites us to draw from our innate desire to encounter God.

Third, order is necessary.

It is very difficult to experience internal silence, if we live in a disorganized environment.  Disorder can take the form of clutter and lack of order in our physical environment.  It can also be failure on our part to discipline ourselves: stop using profanity, find the good in every situation, give up skepticism and negativity, accept that we can’t change the world, the Church, our community or ourselves with the snap of a finger.  We must work at change.  Begin by harnessing anger.  Like the Wise men from the East who persevered following the star that led them to the Christ Child, we must continue to follow the star that leads to self-control and self-discipline, as that of the Wise men.  Order and internal silence are graces that we must actively pursue through concrete actions and insistently pray for the grace to move forward, even if it’s one step at a time.

Fourth, this is a time to reconnect with our families, communities, parish and colleagues.  We accept that nothing human is perfect, but we insist on finding the good in every situation.

Joseph was pressed for a solution when he could not find a place for Mary to deliver her firstborn and only son, Jesus Christ.  Yet he did the best he could.  He found a clean cave to serve as the delivery room for the

Birth of Jesus

Son of God and Son of Mary.  He did not express disappointment or frustration because the accommodations were less than

those at an inn or at the home of a relative.  On the contrary, he took what God had provided and made it the first tabernacle in history.  The cave housed the Son of God, body, blood, soul and divinity.  He and Mary welcomed the peasants and shepherds to their “tabernacle” under the rocks.

The birth of Christ proclaimed a new age, an age of redemption for all who were willing to believe and to join the community of believers in fraternity, without class, racial or gender distinctions.  The Holy Family in Bethlehem opened its doors to anyone who wanted to join them.  We too must be willing to open the doors that allow those who would normally be shunned or left out to join our family and with us, contemplate and serve the new born Son of God.  So, we reach out to family, friends, and others in a spirit of humility, acknowledging that it is not us whom others come to find, but the newborn King of Kings.

Prepare for Christmas:

  1. go to confession and do penance,
  2. seek out daily periods of silence,
  3. return order to your life, starting with your surroundings and continuing with your behaviors; and
  4. connect with family, friends, community members, fellow parishioners.  Reach out and welcome others into your spirit of Christmas.

A MERRY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO OUR FRIENDS AND BENEFACTORS

Published in: on December 21, 2018 at 2:30 PM  Comments (1)  

What is the miracle of Christmas?


As I deal with more and more Catholics and other Christians in my ministry, I’ve noticed that many people see Jesus Christ either as “the Son of God”, but not God Himself or as God, but not the divine Second Person of the Trinity.

The Holy Scriptures, the apostles, and the early Church taught us that Jesus Christ is true man and true God.  He’s not one or the other.  Contrary to what some sects preach door to door, Jesus is not a “creature” superior to man, but subordinate to God.

“And the light shined in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”

Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine.  The early Christians called him the Homoousios, pronounced (oh-mow-oo-see-us).  In 325 the Council of Nicaea infallibly declared that Jesus Christ and God the Father are of the same substance (consubstantial).  God from God.

The Gospel of John presents us with this statement:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

John makes it clear that there is only one God, but there is a second person whom the Greek Christians referred to as the “Logos”, meaning the Word.  This Word is a person, not a set of consonants and vowels.  Notice that John refers to the Word as “Him”.

He was not created by God.  He always existed.  He became a human child born of the Virgin Mary.  But that is not the beginning of the Word of God.

“All things were made by him: and without HIM was nothing was made.” (John 1:3a)

If everything was made by Him and only what’s in his mind truly exists, then this Word is truly all powerful.  If the Word is all powerful, then it’s divine. Only God is divine.  The person who is truly God acted with another person who is also truly God.  Both are the one and only God, but not the same person.

In chapter John 14:6-7, Jesus says to his apostles: “If you had known me, you would without doubt have known my Father also. . . and from henceforth you shall know him, and you have seen him.”

When Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father and they will believe, Jesus responds: Have I been so long a time with you; and have you not known me? Philip, he who sees me sees the Father also.” (John 14:8-9).

We observe that Jesus is speaking in the first person, “ME” and about another person whom He refers to as “the Father.”  Where there is a Father, there is an offspring.  Jesus is the begotten Son of God, not the created son.

Jesus is making it very clear that he shares in the life of the Father.  That life is divine, because God’s is divine.  Therefore, Jesus is divine as well.  The Father has always existed, before time and will continue to exist after the end of time.  The Son, being the same God also existed eternally.  That’s what John points to “in the beginning was the Word.”  The Word existed before the beginning of everything.

Jesus tells them that we who see Him also see the Father.  John 10:30 drives home the point even further.  I and the Father are one.”   This takes us back to the first chapter of John’s Gospel.  “The Word was with God.  The Word was God.”  John’s prologue and Jesus’ statement to his apostles reaffirm the “oneness” of God, in more than one person.  “See ye that I alone am, and there is no other God besides me.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

Jesus and the Father are one God, but two different persons.  But who did the apostles see?  They saw Jesus of Nazareth, son of the carpenter.

How does Jesus of Nazareth come to be?

“The angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26)

“Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31).

Mary being a human being could only give her son, human nature, as any mother gives to her child from the moment of conception.

Nine months later, Joseph and Mary make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, “and it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.” (Luke

Birth of Jesus

2:6)

Mary gave birth to her son, a truly human baby who needed to be protected and cared for.  She named him Jesus, as the angel had said.

Thirty-years later, he is a man and who claims consistency with God the Father.  So we proclaim in the Creed, “Consubstantiatial with the Father”.

 Jesus is truly human, because he is the son of a human mother.  He is truly divine, because he is of the same substance as God the Father.  It’s important to understand that the human and the divine natures coexisted in the one person of Jesus Christ; but each nature remained truly human and truly divine.  The two natures do not blend like coffee and cream.  The union of the two natures is known as the hypostatic union, one person with two natures that are inseparable, but not blended.

Each nature retains its own attributes.  Jesus is the God-Man.  He is truly man and truly God.  We see this in his

The Crucifixion

passion.  He is executed like a common human criminal.  Three days later, he walks out of the tomb.  Something that no human being has ever done.

He is not an angel or another creature subordinate to God.  He is God.  Nor is he a creature superior to man.

He is man and; the Son of God, is himself God.  This is the miracle of Christmas.  Humanity and divinity enter the world in one person, to redeem humanity.

Published in: on December 11, 2018 at 2:20 PM  Comments (2)