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“My peace I give to you”

Tuesday (May 16):

Gospel: John 14:27-31

Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

 

Reflection:

Jesus offers peace to his disciples and to us. He says: “My peace I give to you”. The peace of Christ is more than the absence of trouble. It includes everything that comprises fullness of life. Worldly peace is avoidance of trouble and a refusal to face unpleasant things. Jesus offers the peace which conquers our fears and anxieties. Nothing can take us away from the peace and joy in the presence of the Lord. No sorrow or grief, no danger, no suffering can make it less.How can we attain the peace which the Lord Jesus offers us? Through the gift and work of the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord promised to send, the Spirit who dwells within us. Through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, we are able to overcome anxieties, worries, anger, fear, and selfishness so that we can receive his gift of peace. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and strengthens us with his gifts and virtues so that we will be able to live good moral lives as disciples of Christ.Prayer:

“Lord Jesus, may your peace be always with us. May no trial or affliction rob us of the peace which surpasses all understanding.”

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Pope Francis

PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI

 

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis urged the world in his Easter message on Sunday to use the “weapons of love” to combat the evil of “blind and brutal violence”, following the attacks in Brussels.

After a week of sombre religious events commemorating Jesus’ death, Francis said an Easter Sunday Mass under tight security for tens of thousands of people in a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square.

Afterwards, in his traditional, twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, he spoke of violence, injustice and threats to peace in many parts of the world.

“May he (the risen Jesus) draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world,” he said, speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

He mentioned recent attacks in Belgium, where at least 31 people were killed by Islamist militants, as well as those in Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Iraq.

“With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death,” the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholic said from the same balcony from where he first appeared to the world on the night of his election on March 13, 2013.

The 79-year-old Argentine pontiff urged people to channel the hope of Easter in order to defeat “the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people”.

The pope condemned the Brussels attacks several times during the past week, including at a Good Friday service where he said followers of religions who carried out acts of fundamentalism or terrorism were profaning God’s name..

The former king and queen of Belgium, Albert II and Paola, who is Italian, attended the Mass and the pope greeted them afterwards.

In other parts of his address, Francis expressed the hope that recent talks could resolve the conflict in Syria in order to end the “sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord”.

He urged Europe “not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.”

The European Union and Turkey have agreed to stop the flow of migrants to Europe in return for political and financial concessions for Ankara. Turkey and The Aegean islands have been the main route for migrants and refugees pouring into Europe in the past year.

Francis called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and resolutions to conflicts and political tensions in Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Ukraine.

Security was very tight around the square, which was bedecked with more than 35,000 flowers and plants donated by the Netherlands.

Police checked people several times at various points along the approach the square and subjected those with entry tickets to body and bag searches even before they passed through metal detectors. Security sources said police reinforcements had arrived in Rome from other Italian cities.

Islamic State militants have made threats against Catholic targets in Rome. Last year, a website used by militants ran a photo montage showing the movement’s black flag flying from the obelisk at the centre of St Peter’s Square.

 

This handout picture released by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis waving to the crowd from the central loggia of St Peters' basilica during the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing for Rome and the world following the Easter Sunday mass on March 27, 2016 at St Peter's square in Vatican. Christians around the world are marking the Holy Week, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, leading up to his resurrection on Easter.      AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO/HO  RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS / AFP / OSSERVATORE ROMANO / HO

 

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good-friday-austriaGospel Reading: John 19:17-30  ( for fuller passage see: John 18:1-19:42)”So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.  Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’.  Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.  The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, The King of the Jews’, but, ‘This man said, I am King  of the Jews’.  Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written’.

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic.  But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be’.  this was to fulfill the scripture. “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots”.  So the soldiers did this.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’  Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’  And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.  After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), ‘I thirst’.  A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.  When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;  and as one from whom men hide their faces  he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;  yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities;  upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;  and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;  like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief;  when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days;  the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; 11 he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous;  and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;  because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors;  yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:3-12)

Meditation: The cross brings us face to face with Jesus’ suffering. He was alone – all his disciples had deserted him except for his mother and three women along with John, the beloved disciple. And his death was agonizing and humiliating. Normally a crucified man could last for several days on a cross. Jesus’ had already been scourged, beaten with rods, and a crown of thorns pressed into his skull. It is no wonder that he died mid-afternoon. Pilate publicly heralded Jesus “The King of the Jews” as he died upon the cross, no doubt to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees.

Jesus was crucified for his claim to be King. The Jews had understood that the Messiah would come as their king to establish God’s reign for them. They wanted a king who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination. Many had high hopes that Jesus would be the Messianic king. Little did they understand what kind of kingship Jesus claimed to have. Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom, rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements.

We can find no greater proof of God’s love for us than the willing sacrifice of his Son on the cross. Jesus’ parting words, “It is finished!” express triumph rather than defeat. Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit knowing that the strife was now over and the battle was won. Even on the cross Jesus knew the joy of victory. What the Father sent him into the world to do has now been accomplished. Christ offered himself without blemish to God and he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (see Hebrews 9:24-26).

Augustine of Hippo (430-543 A.D) comments on those who stood at the cross of Jesus:

“As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection.  He bows his head, as if to kiss you.  His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.” (GMI 248)

In the cross of Christ we see the triumph of Jesus over his enemies – sin, Satan, and death. Christian writers down through the centuries have sung the praises of the Cross of Christ. Paul the Apostle exclaimed, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).

Hear what Gregory Nazianzen (329-389 AD), an early church father and bishop of Constantinople, wrote about the triumph of Christ’s exaltation on the cross :

“Many indeed are the wondrous happenings of that time: God hanging from a cross, the sun made dark and again flaming out; for it was fitting that creation should mourn with its creator. The temple veil rent, blood and water flowing from his side: the one as from a man, the other as from what was above man; the earth shaken, the rocks shattered because of the rock; the dead risen to bear witness to the final and universal resurrection of the dead. The happenings at the sepulcher and after the sepulcher, who can fittingly recount them? Yet no one of them can be compared to the miracle of my salvation. A few drops of blood renew the whole world, and do for all men what the rennet does for the milk: joining us and binding us together. (On the Holy Pasch, Oration 45.1)

Rupert of Deutz (1075-1129), a Benedictine theologian and abbot, wrote:

“The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, the prize for our freedom.”

The Cross of Christ is the safeguard of our faith, the assurance of our hope, and the throne of love. It is also the sign of God’s mercy and the proof of forgiveness. By his cross Jesus Christ has pardoned us and set us free from the tyranny of sin. He paid the price for us when he made atonement for our sins. The way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God and the way to victory over sin and corruption, fear and defeat, despair and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ. Do you follow the Lord Jesus in his way of the cross with joy, hope, and confidence?

“Lord Jesus Christ, by your death on the cross you have won pardon for us and freedom from the tyranny of sin and death. May I live in the joy and freedom of your victory over sin and death.”

Psalm 31:2,6,12-17,24

2 Incline your ear to me, rescue me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
6 You hate those who pay regard to vain idols; but I trust in the LORD.
12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
13 Yes, I hear the whispering of many — terror on every side! —  as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors!
16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!
17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call on you;  let the wicked be put to shame, let them go dumbfounded to Sheol.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

A Daily Quote for Lent: Christ nailed our weakness to the cross, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“As evening drew near, the Lord yielded up His soul upon the cross in the certainty of receiving it back again. It was not wrested from Him against His will. But we too were represented there. Christ had nothing to hang upon the cross except the body He had received from us. And in doing so He nailed our human weakness to the cross.” (excerpt fromCommentary on Psalm 140,5)

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maundythursdayGospel Reading: John 13:1-151 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. 5 Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.

6 He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 12:1-8,11-14

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; 4 and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening.

7 Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste.  It is the LORD’s passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever.

Meditation: Does your love waver when you encounter bitter disappointments and injury from others? As Jesus’ hour of humiliation draws near he reveals to his disciples the supreme humility which shaped the love he had for them. He stoops to perform a menial task reserved for servants – the washing of smelly, dirty feet. In stooping to serve his disciples Jesus knew he would be betrayed by one of them and that the rest would abandon him through disloyalty. Such knowledge could have easily led to bitterness or hatred. Jesus met the injury of betrayal and disloyalty with the greatest humility and supreme love.

Jesus loved his disciples to the very end, even when they failed him and forsook him. The Lord loves each of us unconditionally. His love has power to set us free to serve others with Christ-like compassion and humility. Does the love of Christ rule in your heart, thoughts, intentions and actions?

Saint Augustine of Hippo in his sermon for this day, wrote:

“He had the power of laying down his life; we by contrast cannot choose the length of our lives, and we die even if it is against our will. He, by dying, destroyed death in himself; we are freed from death only in his death. His body did not see corruption; our body will see corruption and only then be clothed through him in incorruption at the end of the world. He needed no help from us in saving us; without him we can do nothing. He gave himself to us as the vine to the branches; apart from him we cannot have life.Finally, even if brothers die for brothers, yet no martyr by shedding his blood brings forgiveness for the sins of his brothers, as Christ brought forgiveness to us. In this he gave us, not an example to imitate but a reason for rejoicing. Inasmuch, then, as they shed their blood for their brothers, the martyrs provided “the same kind of meal” as they had received at the Lord’s table. Let us then love one another as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us.”

“Lord Jesus, your love conquers all and never fails. Help me to love others freely, with heart-felt compassion , kindness and goodness. Where there is injury, may I sow peace rather than strife.”

Psalm 116:12-13, 16-18

12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid.  You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

A Daily Quote for Lent: Christ chose to be a servant who offered himself for us, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“Even though the man Christ Jesus, in the form of God together with the Father with whom He is one God, accepts our sacrifice, nonetheless He has chosen in the form of a servant to be the sacrifice rather than accept it. Therefore, He is the priest Himself Who presents the offering, and He Himself is what is offered.” (excerpt from City of God, 10,20)

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 26:14-25

14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; 21 and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. 24 The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

Meditation: Why did Judas betray his Master? Was his treachery motivated by greed, bitter disappointment with Jesus, or hatred because of disillusionment? It may be that Judas never intended for his Master to die. Maybe he thought Jesus was proceeding too slowly and not acting aggressively enough in setting up his messianic kingdom. Perhaps Judas wanted to force Jesus’ hand by compelling him to act. Nonetheless, his tragedy was his refusal to accept Jesus as he was.

Jesus knew beforehand what would befall him. As Jesus ate the passover meal with his twelve apostles he put them under trial and suspicion (one of you will betray me) to teach them to examine themselves rightly, lest they be high-minded and think themselves more strong than they were. We, also must examine ourselves in the light of God’s truth and grace and ask him to strengthen us in faith, hope, and love that we may not fail him or forsake him when we are tempted. Do you pray with confidence in the words Jesus gave us to pray: Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13)?

Prayer
“God our Father, we are exceedingly frail and indisposed to every virtuous undertaking. Strengthen our weakness, we beseech you.” (Prayer of Thomas a Kempis)

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holyspiritGospel Reading: John 13:21-33,36-38

21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.” 25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”; or, that he should give something to the poor.30 So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; 32 if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.’ 36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.

Meditation:
Jesus’ disciples were put to the test. What was the difference between Peter and Judas? Judas deliberately betrayed his Master while Peter, in a moment of weakness, denied him. Judas’ act was calculated. Peter, however, never meant to do what he did. He acted impulsively, out of weakness and cowardice. Jesus knew both the strength of Peter’s loyalty and the weakness of his resolution. He had a habit of speaking with his heart without thinking through the implications of what he was saying.

The Holy Spirit will give us grace and strength in our time of testing. If we have Jesus in our hearts, we will walk in the light of his truth and love. If we turn our backs on him we will stumble and fall in the ways of sin and darkness. Are you ready to follow Jesus in his way of the cross?

Prayer:
“Bestow upon me, O Lord my God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas)

Taken and Partly Edited from:
http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/mar22.htm

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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (September 27, 2015) Gospel: Temptations To Sin, Mk 9:38-43, 45 47-48

The word of God this Sunday is focused on the 10423349_1155514751131698_5245816457681358538_nopenness and respect for those who are different.

Pope Francis’ speech yesterday before Philadelphia’s iconic Independence Hall echoed that thought, when he gave a ringing endorsement of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

According to a CNN report, he urged his American hosts to avoid a “superficial quest for unity.”Addressing a predominantly immigrant crowd, he said, “In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails.”

Drawing cheers from the large crowd, where many of the faithful waved flags from countries such as Costa Rica and Mexico, the Argentine-born Francis encouraged his diverse flock to “never be ashamed of your traditions.”

“Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders,” he stated, “which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.

“Pope Francis made his remarks from the same lectern Abraham Lincoln used to give the Gettysburg Address, a fitting setting for a speech stressing freedom. He declared, however, that the rights of the faithful should extend well beyond the sanctuary door.”Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate,” he averred.

“But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families.”Pope Francis was most animated and drew the loudest response when he addressed the immigrants, greeting them with “particular affection.”

“Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face,” he said, to loud cheers. “I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation.”

OUR PRAYER:

O God our Creator, we ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (September 13, 2015) Gospel:

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Peter’s Confession About Jesus – Mk 8:27-35

“Who do you say that I am?” — Mark 8.29

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the hugely successful 1971 Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak rock opera GODSPELL based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, which deals with the last days of Jesus, and includes dramatized versions of several well-known parables.

And yet it is something more – a religious experience, a demonstration of joy, and a celebration of the family of man. This immensely successful rock opera needs little introduction, but when it was first produced on Broadway in 1971 it broke new ground in its stage treatment of the historical Jesus Christ.

The third song in the musical, “Day by Day” — a prayer ascribed to the 13th English Bishop Saint Richard of Chichester — particularly captures people’s imagination. It summarizes our plea to see, love and follow God more openly. The lyrics of the haunting melodic number reads:

“Day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day
Day by day, day by day
Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day.

”The song spent 14 weeks on the “Billboard Hot 100,” peaking at the number 13 position on July 29, 1972. “Billboard “ ranked it as the No. 90 song for 1972.

But more than its enormous commercial success it becomes a great “aide memoire” for people to be more generous, to give food to those who are hungry, to provide home for the homeless or the refugees (a very relevant concern today given the Syrian refugees seeking a safer haven), to die so others may live, and “to lose good things, to get better.”

A tough call indeed, but the only way we can share in this life is by seeing, loving and following Jesus and taking up our own cross so that death leads to life. The challenge of this Sunday’s Gospel is the challenge of the cross: to see that glory in our everyday lives. As the “Living Liturgy” states, “Good surrounds all of us; the cross invites us to see that good—out of pain and poverty can come a new life that has value, meaning, and purpose for self and others.”

OUR PRAYER:

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.

(St. Ignatius de Loyola)

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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (September 6, 2015) Gospel

“He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Mark 7.37)

This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us to take some time to listen to sounds of silence. It is not about being deaf to the sounds of life, or the absence of sound, but the ability to hear and listen to life going around us and in us.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “Many now assume that effective modern communication implies being able to make the greatest noise amidst the bustle and confusion that is the world’s 24-hour rolling, new circus. But silence, as the Holy Father reminds us, is an extremely important part of communication, for without it, who could listen properly to what is being said?”

The principle is a revival of the song popularized in the 1960s by Simon and Garfunkel. In the third stanza of the song it says, “And in the naked light I saw, 10,000 people, maybe more, people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening.

”Silence is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. Silence is the most beautiful doorway into prayer, peace, contemplation and true wisdom. Silence is also a discipline that leads to humility and to a love that does not seek to possess. Only the people who are truly silent can hear the whisperings of God’s love deep within their heart. Without silence we who claim to believe in him would never know God or be able to discern his will for us.

Our best move in certain situations is to keep our mouth shut and simply stay out of the way of people. We get into a spiral of bad communication tactics, and wind up outsmarting ourselves — perhaps making a position and then rejecting our own stance because we think we won’t agree with it.

Imagine a complainant who opens a conversation by saying that he understands us but will not budge from his stand before asking for some smaller compromise — and then maybe even convincing himself that even that is too much to ask for.

“We can observe a lot by watching and we can also learn a lot by listening.” That’s baseball legend Yogi Berra talking and reminding us of situations wherein we are asking a question and before we even finish our question, some people cut us and offer their own perspective. They don’t bother waiting and instead try to hurry us up with verbal prompts — “Uh-huh, uh-huh, right, right, right…” And when they ask for advice, what they really mean is, “Let’s fast-forward to the part where I tell you what I think, instead.”

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OUR PRAYER:

Dear Lord, “listen” has the same letters as “silent.” May we always listen to the silence of our heart so we will know what to do. Amen

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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (August 23, 2015) Gospel: The Words Of Eternal Life – Jn 6:60-6

Many of his disciples were listening to Jesus’ teaching. They said, ‘This teaching is difficult. How can anyone take it seriously’”? (John 6.60)

This Sunday’s Gospel is all about choices. Our life is challenged with many choices — big, small, personal, professional, emotional, rational, spiritual and religious.

Responding to Christ’s difficult teachings, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. It’s a decisive moment indeed, but a very sad one.

Peter stayed because he has enough affection for Christ inside him to make this choice. It was not easy for Peter to leave, and his choice answered Jesus’ question – do you love me?

Truly, the most important choice we can make in life is our decision to follow and love Jesus. And this choice, like every other, also has impacts in, and consequences for the way we live our lives.

To choose to believe in Jesus and his teachings—including our belief that he is truly our Bread of Life—means to follow him in every aspect of our lives. There is no part of our life that can be compartmentalized or kept separate from the grace he offers or the demands that discipleship places upon us.

CHOICES IN OUR LIVES

Choice is a powerful idea. Its definition has become polluted in recent years, wrapped up in contentious battles over issues that make one choose between two extremes, where all things are argued in stark black and white. We have learned, and most of us have discovered, that almost everything in life is painted in shades of gray.

We have experienced doses of right and wrong choices. It feels wonderful whenever we make a difference in the choices we carry out. And we get overwhelmed when the choices lead to crisis. But when these wrong choices start to wear us down, we just remember one thing — there is God to trust.

We continuously face the most staggering array of choices. And we realize that we should not underestimate their range. The unhappiest people we meet have become the way they are, because they have imposed artificial limits on their lives.

We must always tell ourselves—take every choice that is offered to us. Have as much fun as we can, when we can. Dare to dream. Dare to fail. Dare to make a few mistakes along the way. Dare to reach out our hands into the darkness, to pull other hands into the light.

We must not shrink from the dreams. We must not shrink from the choices. We must not recoil from life.

OUR PRAYER: Dear Lord, let us not fear to love Jesus — to heed his words and follow his actions. May we receive the strength we need from Jesus, the bread of life to pursue a life according to your will. Amen.

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