Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Tuesday: The Hearts of Our Priests

This morning the priests of the Archdiocese gathered to renew the priestly promises at the annual Chrism Mass.  It is always edifying to see all of our priests together in one place particularly in our cathedral celebrating with our archbishop.  So this post doesn't sound self-indulgent, I'll let Archbishop Wenski do the talking:
As Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for the troubled and the abandoned, those who seem like sheep without a shepherd, so too is a priest’s heart moved.  Pastoral charity – and not the desire for fame or fortune – should motivate the priest in his ministry. As Pope Francis reminds us the priestly anointing we received was not just meant to make us fragrant; rather, it is meant “for the poor, the prisoners, the sick, for those sorrowing and alone.” Thus, a priest is to “cure the sick”; that is, to attend to the ill and the injured, healing their isolation with a visit and bringing courage to those who are weak; a priest is to raise the dead, that is, to restore hope to those deadened by discouragement and defeat; a priest is to cleanse lepers, that is, to befriend the outsider, to extend the hand of friendship to the marginalized and rejected; a priest is to drive out demons, by helping people deal with the various addictions that affect and by not failing to address any personal demons that may threaten the integrity of his commitment.
As Pope Saint John Paul II said: People today look to priests for the “lived word” before they look to him for the “proclaimed” word. The priest must “live by the word.”   Today, we recommit ourselves to “live by the word”. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Monday: The Power to Die

Today's Office of Readings gives us this gem from St. Augustine: "Of ourselves we had no power to live, nor did [Christ] of himself have the power to die.  Accordingly, he effected a wonderful exchange with us, through mutual sharing: we gave him the power to die, he will give us the power to live."

This "mutual exchange" that St. Augustine speaks of reminds us that God had to take on our human nature in order to die for our sins.  "The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves."

Christ died so that we might live!  These are the words that spur us on during Holy Week as we walk the road of the Passion with Jesus, and these words comfort us during times of trial as well.  Today we bow before Jesus like Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and prepare him for his burial with perfumed oil.  The fragrance that filled that house is the fragrance of the Divine.  When this week is done and well into Easter may we also bear that Divine fragrance, for Christ through his death gave us the power to live!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 40: Not Just Religious Souvenirs

“Truly this man was the Son of God!”"(Mark 15:39)

Palm Sunday! I sprang out of bed and was out my front door faster than my usual pace this morning.  It was Holy Week!  We live for this week!  Then I reached the entrance of our church.  There was a line that came out of our foyer and wrapped around to the sidewalk.  It was 10 minutes before Mass and people were just standing there.  I approached the poor ushers who were handing out what seemed to be a dwindling number of palms.  No one had gone to get the palms reserved for that Mass.  People would not go into church without them.  Some looked at me with very stern faces.  One lady said that she had never experienced this in 40 years at this parish.  An usher had forgotten to get the 1000 or so palm branches for this Mass and people were angry.  Mass could not, would not, should not begin if they did not have a palm in their hand.

This isn't just my parish.  This had been my experience in all the parishes I have served.  Before our 12:30p and 7:30p Mass another priest had to tell the people waiting to go in to stand back to let the people from the previous Mass come out.  And once the palm branches were being distributed, you would think that our ushers were handing out $100 bills.  I know I've made that analogy before, but as every year passes it gnaws at me even more.  I tweeted out this afternoon: "Oh if only our people went crazy for the Eucharist as they do for palms, what a Church we would have!"  If only they would hunger for that Living Bread as much as they do for these branches.  This is why our Lord cried over Jerusalem, and lamented over those who just wanted signs.  He wanted to draw all of them and all of us in to a deeper relationship with him.  Sometimes I wonder if the palms are an obstacle to that relationship being deepened as I look out at the assembly and see so many people busily making their crosses.  Someday I tell you...someday...we will finally get it

The palms help us to commemorate that triumphant day in which Jesus rode into Jerusalem to exultant praise.  "Hosanna to the Son of David," the people yelled.  And then we continue the Palm Sunday liturgy by reading the account of Our Lord's passion, and the narrative bookends the liturgy as it concludes with the centurion professing "Truly this man was the Son of God!"  Both are praises to our Lord, but both are done at different times and under different circumstances.

So what do we make of these palms that I may or may not have called religious souvenirs during my last Mass?  They are not souvenirs, but are indeed far less important to our celebration of Palm Sunday than the Divine Mystery that takes place on that altar every single Sunday.  For what we give every Sunday from that altar is far more precious than branches or ashes.  And this is what these palms should remind us of:  that one minute we can be singing the Lord's praises and the next shouting for him to be crucified.  But that's not where we want to be this Holy Week.  We have the opportunity to be reconciled to Him through confession so that we are truly singing his praises and those branches then become for us a reminder of Christ's triumph over sin and death.  A reminder that we need to see beyond the happy, holy chaos of this day, and simply see what that centurion saw at the foot of the cross: a man who loved to the extreme, a man who gave his last drop of blood for you and me, a man who challenges us to confront the scandal of the cross with eyes of hope and faith that leave us no choice but to exclaim, "Truly this man is the Son of God!"

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 39: Go to Confession Today

When was the last time you made a good confession?  Today, in a church near you, confessions will be heard from 9:00am - 3:30pm.  This is God's invitation to you to rid your heart of your sins and be ready for the celebration of Holy Week.  You may find the church nearest to you with confessions available today by clicking here.

So, you haven't been to confession in a long time you say?  Here's a good Examination of Conscience to get you started:


1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me. Do I give God time every day in prayer? Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart? Have I been involved with superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult? Do I seek to surrender myself to God´s word as taught by the Church? Have I ever received communion in the state of mortal sin? Have I ever deliberately told a lie in Confession or have I withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession? Are there other "gods" in my life? Money, Security, Power, People, etc.?

2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Have I used God´s name in vain: lightly or carelessly? Have I wished evil upon any other person? Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?

3. Remember to keep holy the Lord´s Day. Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation? Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest? Do I do needless work on Sunday? Do I make Mass the center of my day and of my family’s activities on Sunday?

4. Honor your father and your mother. Do I honor and obey my parents? Have I neglected my duties to my spouse and children? Have I given my family good religious example?  Do I try to bring peace into my home life? Do I care for my aged and infirm relatives?

5. You shall not kill. Have I had an abortion or encouraged or helped anyone to have an abortion? Have I physically harmed anyone? Have I abused alcohol or drugs? Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading him or her into sin? Have I been angry or resentful? Have I harbored hatred in my heart? Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization? Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization? Have I engaged, in any way, in sins against human life such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization? Have I participated in or approved of euthanasia?

6. You shall not commit adultery. Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action? Have I engaged in any pre-marital or extra-marital sexual activity? Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage? Has each sexual act in my marriage been open to the transmission of new life? Have I been guilty of masturbation? Have I viewed pornography? Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity? Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words, and actions? Am I careful to dress modestly? Have I married or advised someone to marry outside the Catholic Church?

7. You shall not steal. Have I stolen what is not mine? Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen? Do I waste time at work, school, and home? Do I gamble excessively, thereby denying my family of their needs? Do I pay my debts promptly? Do I seek to share what I have with the poor? Have I cheated anyone out of what is justly theirs, for example creditors, insurance companies, big corporation?

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Have I lied? Have I gossiped? Do I speak badly of others behind their back? Am I sincere in my dealings with others? Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others? Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential? Have I injured the reputation of others by slanders?

9. You shall not desire your neighbor´s wife. Have I consented to impure thoughts? Have I caused them by impure reading, movies, television, conversation or curiosity? Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations? Have I behaved in an inappropriate way with members of the opposite sex: flirting, being superficial, etc.?

10. You shall not desire your neighbor´s goods. Am I jealous of what other people have? Do I envy the families or possessions of others? Am I greedy or selfish? Are material possessions the purpose of my life?

(Excerpts from this Examination of Conscience were taken from the National Catholic Reporter.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 38: Even When We Don't Feel His Presence

This morning I came across this quote from Padre Pio that Dr. Scott Hahn posted which I think brings this week to a close rather nicely.  May this quote give you the comfort today that it has given me:
"Jesus is with you even when you don’t feel His presence. He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles. He is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight your battle courageously. He is there to ward off the enemy’s blows so that you may not be hurt.” (8/15/1914)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 37: Finding Comfort

Last night I went and sat in front of a statue of the Pieta we have outside our chapel for no particular reason.  It is an image we will contemplate on Good Friday next week, but yet I felt a sense of comfort seeing the image of Mary holding her dead son.  There was love. There was suffering.  But most of all there was a sense of peace.  The hour had passed.  Her son had accomplished his mission.  He would suffer no more.  Jesus gave up his spirit to the Father, but Mary had to surrender her Son as well.  There is no pain in Mary's face.  Just peace.  May we be comforted by this image of our Lady this day so beautiful carved by Michelangelo.  May we feel the warm, comforting embrace of our Blessed Mother.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 36: Submitting to God's Will

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord when Mary said yes to the angel and Christ was conceived in her womb.  We celebrate Mary's total submission to God's will despite her questions and concerns.  In these days when we've been questioning God's will, we too have been asking like the Blessed Mother "how can this be?" But we learn from her obedience as she surrendered totally to God's plan.  This implied submitting to a possible life of suffering.  She was betrothed but not yet married to St. Joseph so her pregnancy could have resulted in a stoning.  She would endure the journey to Bethlehem late he in her pregnancy.  She would endure the exile into Egypt. And she would endure every step of her Son's passion as she watched him carry his cross, get nailed to it, and ultimately die on it.  To all of this, Mary said yes.  We do well to learn from her glorious example and to join her at the foot of the cross to behold the great act of love and surrender her Son did for us on Calvary so that we might live eternally with Him.

Mary, help us to surrender to God's will as you did.  Help us to accept His will and accompany us in our suffering as St. John accompanied you in your suffering at the foot of the cross.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 35: Suffering

"Suffering is a call to conversion: it reminds us of our frailty and vulnerability." --Pope Francis this morning.

I must confess that I have been at a loss for words over the last 24 hours.  Yesterday when I heard that another young firefighter lost his life, and with a wife expecting their first child, my heart sank and I was taken back to that awful Saturday morning four months ago.  The pain is still real no matter how hard I try to push it away.  I scribbled some words in my office because I genuinely was angry with God yesterday.  I thought first about his beautiful bride bearing his unborn child.  I thought next about my brother's brothers, as I like to call them, and how much suffering those poor souls could endure.  And then I through about my family, because we are all part of the same family, and how this would reopen wounds that still haven't healed.

Suffering is very much a part of our human life.  Which is why Jesus died on the cross.  He became frail like us, vulnerable, and took on our humanity to bring some meaning to human suffering. God is not a callous Supreme Being that would do something like this to bring people closer to him, but where else do we turn in these moments of loss. Again, I'm just fumbling with words at this point because I have no answers.  I cannot rationally explain why a young husband two months shy of meeting his son would be called home to God.  It doesn't make sense.  Then again the cross didn't make sense to a lot of people on that first Good Friday.  There is always hope.  There is always an Easter sunrise on the horizon that brings some sort of meaning to our suffering.  But for now we look to the cross, hold our loved ones tight, and never take any second of our time here on earth for granted.  The cross is a gift.  In time we will realize the time we spent with those we've lost, though short, was a timeless gift as well.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 34: Angry at God

Last week I was typing up an Examination of Conscience for my parishioners to better prepare them for confession.  I was "borrowing" from various examinations on the internet and in books to come up for one that suited my parish and they all had the basic structure of asking questions of ourselves of whether or not we have committed a particular sin.  Then I came to the following question: "Do I get angry or question God?"  I paused.  I meditated.  I doubted.  I even texted a brother priest: "Is being angry at God a sin?"  He immediately replied emphatically: "Absolutely not! What I do with that anger is what makes it a sin."  We both shared the same sentiments because as priests we are so blessed to part of so many beautiful moments in the lives of our people, but on the flip side of the coin we sometimes see our people go through unspeakable pain over and over and over again.  When we see our people take punches like a prize fighter absorbing body blows, we can't help but look up to the heavens and ask God: "Seriously?"  So yes, it's natural to question God because at the very core of our heart is a longing for him that prompts these questions because we sometimes don't get his will.  As priests we don't have the answers to the question that the psalmist poses: "Where is your God? (Psalm 42:4)"  We just trust, look at the cross, and remind ourselves that in spite of whatever cruel reality we may be facing, Jesus died on the cross to show us God's love...except sometimes we're left wondering why we don't feel that love.

As the deer longs for streams of water
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, the living God.
When can I enter and see the face of God?
My tears have been my bread day and night,
as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?”
I will say to God, my rock:
“Why do you forget me?
Why must I go about mourning
with the enemy oppressing me?”
It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me,
when they say to me every day: “Where is your God?”
Why are you downcast, my soul,
why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,
my savior and my God.  (Psalm 42:2-4,10-12)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Day 33: The Hour Has Come

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32)

Some foreigners wanted to see Jesus.  They had probably heard of his marvelous deeds, great miracles and inspiring sermons.  They just simply wanted to see him.  But Jesus now knew that “the hour” had come.  No more audiences.  No more miracles.  No more teachings.  The hour for which he came into the world was now at hand.  He had to deliver himself into our hands to be lifted up on the cross.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit (v.24).”  The disciples never quite understood why Jesus talked so much about his death.  Peter at one point rebuked the Lord saying that surely this would not happen.  But this is the reason Christ came into the world.  For “this hour” that St. John’s gospel repeatedly refers to.  We will hear about “this hour” again on Holy Thursday night when we read from the following chapter of John’s gospel which starts off so beautifully saying: “Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end (John 13:1).”

Now how does one confront death when they know it’s imminent?  Jesus acknowledges his trepidation when he says in verse 27 that he is “troubled.”  We rarely see an instance in John’s gospel of Jesus not in control or of his humanity, and what is troubling Jesus is as close as we get to the agony in the garden in this gospel.  But Jesus is in control.  He knows that he was sent for this purpose, for this hour, to show the world the depths of God’s love from that cross.  And if almost to remind us of who is in charge, we hear the voice of the Father in this gospel just as we did a few weeks ago during the gospel of the Transfiguration.  It sounded like the voice came to console a troubled Jesus, but it was for the benefit of the people listening.  You can draw a parallel to this with how Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb.  He wept not for his friend whom he knew was about to rise; he wept because of the people’s unbelief.  The same happens here when Jesus tells the people that the voice did not come for his sake but for the people’s. 

The hour has indeed come.  Jesus authoritatively declares that the “ruler of the world” will now be driven out.  He is referring to the devil who will be vanquished when Christ breathes his last on Calvary.   Now it is our turn to drive the ruler of the world out of our lives.  To drive out all the sin in our hearts as we approach Holy Week.  Next weekend is Reconciliation Weekend in the Archdiocese.  Friday night and all day Saturday until 3:30pm we will be hearing confessions in this church and in dozen of churches throughout the Archdiocese.  This is why we put a detailed examination of conscience is today’s bulletin: http://www.icchialeah.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=315&Itemid=37

Read through it carefully.  List your sins.  Bring them to confession and be healed.  The hour has come for Christ to be lifted up, he wants to lift you up as well.  It is precisely when he is lifted up on that cross that he will draw all to himself.  So this week, prepare yourself to make a good confession and allow yourself to be drawn to our Crucified Lord who died on that cross for you.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Day 32: Late Night Prayers

I've been trying to get to a working computer all day to post the reflection that I wrote this morning, but alas, I have a feeling that the Holy Spirit didn't want me to post what I wrote, at least today.  So where is the Spirit taking us this day?  I personally have been all over the place today both literately, figuratively and spiritually.  I have seen kids rally around a friend, I sunk down low with penitents in confession, I consoled a friend, I lifted up a baby in baptism, I spent time with family and friends, and witnessed two young people begin their matrimonial journey (typical Saturday for a priest, right?).  And in each of these events witnessed the hand of God at work.  As I sit here and reflect on a long day in the fields of the Lord, I thank him for his guiding hand.  We all go through times when we think we can't get through a day and then remember the Lord's goodness and pray just like the psalmist: "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:1-2)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 31: Hard to Say Sorry

It is sometimes difficult to find the right words to tell our God how sorry we are for our sins.  At times it feels that our words are insufficient, lacking authentic sorrow or perhaps not deep enough. Luckily we can turn to the Bible for help. Psalm 51 is prayed by priests and religious every Friday throughout the year. It is a great psalm to use as penance and it finds the right words in asking God for mercy. I invite you pray Psalm 51 slowly. What words or phrases moved you?  Is this something that can prepare you for confession?

 Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. 
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt 
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them; 
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned; 
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence 
and be without reproach when you judge.
O see, in guilt I was born, 
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart; 
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean; 
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness, 
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face 
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God, 
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, 
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help; 
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways 
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper, 
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips 
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight, 
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit 
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion: 
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice, 
holocausts offered on your altar.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 30: St. Joseph: No Ordinary Man

Joseph had dreams.  He had fallen in love with Mary.  Who wouldn't?  She was the most beautiful bride every conceived.  He probably had their lives mapped out in his mind.  He was a just man the Bible tells us.  A man whose lineage would play in to God's salvific plan for humanity.  So this simple, ordinary carpenter was called upon God to do something extraordinary: raise the Son of God and be the Spouse to the Mother of God.  Thus he was no ordinary man.  The guardian, protector of the Holy Family who at first feared taking in his bride is told "do not be afraid" and embraces his unlikely vocation to fatherhood with total surrender just as his bride had.  How did he do this?  St. Bernadine  of Siena writes:  "Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand."  Translated for each of us: God endows us with the graces necessary when he calls us to do something that we deem impossible.  Joseph is our model and great intercessor when we are discerning God's will.  So if God is calling you to do something extraordinary, turn to St. Joseph for his prayers, so that God will give you the grace to carry out his divine will.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Day 29: Pope Francis and Children (Even the Unborn)

This morning Pope Francis gave a beautiful reflection at his Wednesday General Audience on children and how a society can be judged by the way it treats its children. "Children bring life, happiness, hope -- and even troubles, but that's life," he said. "Obviously they cause worries and sometimes problems, but a society with those worries and problems is always better than a society that is sad and gray because it has no children."  A society that has no children.  The media is fond of reporting that Pope Francis doesn't talk about the evils of abortion like his predecessors.  Apparently they don't listen to the entirety of his speeches.  If you search online this afternoon, you'll find all sorts of articles, even from Catholic sites, about how the Pope celebrated children in his speech this morning which is true.  What you won't find is how the last phrase of the line quoted above, "a society without children," goes hand in hand with another line from his speech that most of those articles I read this afternoon ignored.  Pope Francis said children are society's "great rejected ones, because they aren't even allowed to be born!"  So yes we have to pay attention to everything our Holy Father says, not only the parts we like.  The entire speech is still being translated for official publication because the pope went off the cuff at times, but you can read a summary in the only Catholic site that I found with the quote about abortion which is Catholic News Service, click here.  May we always cherish our children and welcome them as we welcome the Baby Jesus at Christmas, and may we always protect the most vulnerable, especially the unborn.  (Lent is the perfect time to do penance and make reparations for the sins our society has committed against children and the unborn and yes that includes the sins committed by our Church.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 28: St. Patrick's Day Humor and Prayer

As is tradition on this Lenten blog, we pause to inject some humor into our Lenten journey so here is something to bring an Irish smile to your face:

And as an added bonus, here is simple prayer from St. Patrick:
"Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Day 27: Memories From Home

This morning I went back to my home parish to celebrate a funeral.  Truth be told, I had not been back for several years.  Two years ago I walked into the church on a Christmas Day afternoon to pray where I celebrated my First Mass, but it had been a bit longer since I had wandered the halls.  As in most parishes, things change.  I noticed the slightest change to the color of the walls, door knobs, decorations, everything.  When you serve at a church from high school right up until you're ordained a priest, you get to know the place like the back of your hand.  But there was one place that had not changed much: our chapel.  It was like stepping into a time machine.  It was quiet.  The chairs were all in the same place where they were when I celebrated my third Mass there 13 years ago, and the benches along the walls that form a circle where still where they were 20 years ago.  I closed my eyes in the silence of that holy place and could see and hear the 80-90 young people that would occupy that sacred space and sit on those benches along that wall on Thursday nights for youth group.  I could hear their laughter, their arguments, their tears, and their prayers.  Later on when I sat in the car outside waiting for the procession to leave for the cemetery, I looked at the entrance to the chapel and could still see all the young people running around talking to each other, yes talking to each other because there were no cell phones in the mid 1990's to get lost in and all the joyous nights we would spend out there.  I've kept track with many of those kids through the years.  I've witnessed their marriages, baptized their children, and tragically had to bury one of them, but there are so many who have wandered far and forgotten where home is. 

I quickly make the parish where I'm currently serving my home as I have done with Immaculate, but for a priest there is always something about his home parish.  Yes it's still quirky.  Yes, it's as imperfect as we are.  But it's still home.  And as I gazed at the entrance to that chapel, I thought of what I would give to have all those young people standing in that doorway again...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day 26: A God Who Rejoices in You

“God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Let me pick up where I left off last week:  as I finished distributing Holy Communion last Sunday and sat down in my chair to meditate, for some reason I kept my eyes open and starting looking out at all of you my beloved people.  I saw all of you praying so intently, so fervently.  Most of you kneeling with your eyes tightly shut.  I asked the Lord to listen to and grant your prayers.  I delighted in seeing all of you praying so hard, fully understanding the mystery that we had just celebrated, and knowing that you were in the presence of your Lord and King.  This image stuck with me all week as I went off on retreat for five days.  I went to be alone with God, to better my relationship with him, to recharge the spiritual batteries, as I like to say, but every time I closed my eyes in prayer I kept seeing all of you.  I can take a hint from God especially when he hits me over the head in prayer: he wanted me to spend time praying for each of you.

One of the themes that our retreat master kept bringing up is how much our God delights in each of us despite our weakness.   We may see flaws when we look in the mirror, but God sees one of his beloved children.  As I prayed for all of you, I also delighted in the gift that all of you have become in my life.  Our retreat master said during a talk: “No one will show [a priest] Jesus Christ better than the people he serves.”  And it is true.  You show me Christ every day, and I delight and rejoice in the gift of all of you just as God delights in you. 

As we continued this theme of God delighting and rejoicing in us, I proceeded to spend an entire day meditating on three words that seem so simple but are so profound and so difficult for us to comprehend at times: “God loves you!”  Think about those words.  Meditate on those words.  The moment we finally grasp and wrap our minds and hearts on what those words truly mean then our lives completely change.  How much does God love you?  Just look at the cross and listen to the gospel:  “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”  God. Loves. You.  He delights in you.  He rejoices over you.  So look past your weaknesses because God does.  Look past your flaws, your warts, your imperfections and realize that you are loved by a God who loved you so much that he sent his Son to die for you so that you can spend an eternity with him.