Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Transfiguration

“Lord, it is good that we are here”.
Transfiguration is one of the most joyous feasts.
We too climb with Jesus Christ Mount Tabor and we see him being transformed. His divine nature is revealed to us, and we too, like Saint Peter, are witnesses of his majesty and are called to share this message from the world.
What is interesting about this event is the care and love that Jesus had for his disciples. He was trying to prepare them for his upcoming Passion and death by strengthening their faith in him. “This is my beloved Son” --- says the voice from the cloud --- “Listen to him”. We have to understand that the disciples had absolutely no idea that Jesus was going to die on the cross for his people. Peter himself challenged Jesus on that, “it will never happen to you!”.
Jesus tries to show them that glimpse of Glory that God wills to give to his friends and those who love him. But in order to achieve that glory, we have to accept the cross. In the Preface we will pray that “Jesus revealed his glory to the disciples to strengthen them for the scandal of the cross.” He wanted them to experience the height of faith and consolation so that they would be ready for a challenge. Jesus and his disciples did not stay on the mountain forever. They went down to continue their mission. We too after receiving that consolation are called to go out and share it with the world.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dedication of Saint Mary Major

This feast commemorates the oldest Church in the West dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The basilica was erected after the Council of Ephesus (in 431) proclaimed Mary as Mother of God (Theotokos) – God bearer - in response to the heresy of Nestorius. He claimed that Mary is the Mother of Christ (Christotokos) but not the Mother of God (Theotokos). He basically was denying the reality of the Incarnation by making Jesus two different persons. By declaring Mary the Mother of God, the council of Ephesus affirmed the ancient belief of the Church that Jesus Christ is one Person who is both God and man, divine and human. Therefore, Mary could be called the Mother of God --- Theotokos. Soon after this dogma was established, the Basilica was erected in Rome – it became so called “a crib of Rome” --- the first mass for Christmas has been celebrated there.
Today’s feast is also known as Our Lady of the Snows which derives from the ancient legend. The legend goes that one of the wealthy Roman couple, having no children, wanted to donate for some good cause. In their prayer, they asked Mary for inspiration what they should do with the money. Mary answered their petition and confirmed her reply by means of the following miracle. On the fifth of August — a time when it is unbearably hot in the city of Rome — a portion of the Esquiline would be covered with snow during the night. When the got there on August 5, surely enough, the hill was covered with snow. This is where the basilica was built.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Beauty of God's Creation 2

Grand Teton, Wyoming. I took this picture on July 3, 2006

Saint John Vianney - Reflection

Karol Wojtyla, future pope, from his seminary times was fascinated with John Vianney. In his book about the priesthood entitled, Gift and Mystery, (by the way I highly recommend), he said this, “One aspect fascinates me about the life of Cure of Ars. His life reveals the power of the grace of God at work through poverty of human nature.”
This sentence has inspired me on my way to the priesthood and taught me that if we let the grace of God work in and mold our souls, he can do with us marvelous things. One does not to be especially gifted, intelligent, smart and bright to become holy. The life of Saint John Vianney teaches us that. It is enough that we open our souls in total humility so that God can work in us and through us.
It is indeed interesting that the patron of parish priests is not the intellectual and academic thinker, author of books or some kind of scholar. Instead, it is a man who so loved his people and God that he was willing to sacrifice himself for them. One of the lawyers from Lyon after visiting Father John, said, “I have seen God in Man.”
The life of St. John teaches and encourages us that we are capable of holiness. If he was able to become holy so we are.

St. John Mary Vianney

He was born in 1786 in Dardilly, close to Lyon, France, just three years before French Revolution started during which Catholics suffered severe persecutions and discrimination. John felt calling to the priesthood but his path to ordination was not an easy one. He struggled with academic subjects --- in fact, many in the seminary thought that he was too dumb to be a priest. Finally, he was ordained in 1815 and sent to tiny French village called Ars. This is what he was told by the vicar general of the diocese, “There is not too much love of God where you are going. Maybe you could do something about it”.
And he did. He spent almost forty-two years of his life in Ars, devoting himself to prayer, mortification, and pastoral works. His success in directing souls made him known throughout the Christian world --- he would sit in the confessional for 13 to 18 hours a day. People of all ranks and conditions of life sought his guidance and advice. He was beatified by Pope St. Pius X, himself once a parish priest, and canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1929. He is a patron of parish priests and confessors.

Reflection on 18th Sunday on Ordinary Time --- Year A


Isaiah 55:1-3
Romans 8:35,27-39
Matthew 14:13-21

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Faith:
A few years before his death, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen underwent heart surgery. There was a great concern about his ability to endure the operation because of his advanced age. After the recovery, a reporter asked him if he had been afraid of dying. “If I should leave the world”, he said, "I will be in heaven with Christ and if I remain Christ will be here with me.” Bishop Sheen had faith that there was no way he would be separated from his Lord. He trusted that Jesus would always take care of him.
Brothers and sisters: There is so much good news for us in today’s readings! This is a “good news” Sunday, even if our life may be full of troubles and difficulties. A quick reading of the Scriptures for this Sunday can give us an impression of being on a high. The readings today teach us that our God is a God who cares. Our God is not a God who is very far away from us sitting in his comfortable heaven being not really interested of what is happening in our lives. Sure, sometimes it feels just like that. Sometimes we may feel like we are alone and God does not really care. But he does care about us --- sometimes in a way that we do not expect or desire --- that’s for sure.
Our God cares when we suffer and are in need. He cares when our marriage does not function as it should. He cares when we cannot find common language with our teenage children or our old parents. He cares when lose our job. He cares when we experience sadness and anxiety. God knows our biggest problems and concerns and cares about them even more that we do. He does care because he is a God of love and compassion. He cares whether we believe it or not.
Let us look in greater detail at the readings.
The first reading from Isaiah is an invitation to each and every one of us. All you who are thirsty come to the water! Come and drink! Listen that you may have life! The prophet is not speaking of physical drink but rather of spiritual thirst that only God can quench. This message of encouragement was composed during the Babylonian exile --- when the Jewish had to live in a foreign land --- a time of distress and discouragement for the people of God. Many of them said… God does not care… he has abandoned us… we are on our own. The prophet says to them --- God still loves you and cares for you even more now than before. Isaiah calls them to the perseverance in the faith that God is with them. It is easy to believe in God and trust in him when everything works as we planned, when there are no major problems and difficulties. But to trust in God when we suffer? Much more difficult.
Similarly, Saint Paul in today’s second reading states that there is nothing which will separate him from Christ; not persecution, hunger, danger or even death. He feels very secure about the eternal stability of this divine relationship. What amazes me about Paul is that even in the midst of all his suffering, persecution and hostility he knew that God was close to him.
Finally, these beautiful words about Jesus who when he saw the crowds, he had pity for them. I think Jesus feels the same way about us gathered here --- he has pity for us and wants to feed us not only with the material bread but more importantly with his love – and this is his greatest gift.
So God really takes care of his people and we are called to trust him. I mentioned that at times of suffering or tragedies – when we feel like “God is not here” it is extremely difficult to trust in God and experience his love. I do not say that it is easy. Many times we think that only good things that happen to us are the “blessings” from the Lord. But God may not think as we do. God always sees the bigger picture.
For instance, many, maybe most people consider terminal sickness as one of the most difficult and unwanted things in life. They ask questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? But even in sickness God is close to us. Consider the example of late Tony Snow, a former speaker of the house. He courageously fought his disease (colon cancer) to the end, trusting that God was close to him. In one of his last speeches he said that he considers his cancer an unexpected blessing, because it taught him to love more and taught him how to be truly human.
This is what he said, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand.” This is exactly the same message that Saint Paul has for us but in the words of Tony Snow.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Saint Paul and Tony Snow are examples for us. They trusted that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that grace and love of God can be found even in the most difficult and horrifying experiences of life. The love and grace can be found everywhere but we must keep our eyes of faith open.
But – do I really believe that?
Do you really believe that?