Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31, 2012
How Strong Is My Trust In God?

Today's gospel recounts one miracle in process and a second happening while in the process.  Jesus is asked by Jairus to help his daughter, presumed to have died.  While on the journey to Jairus' home, Jesus is the cause of a second healing, the woman with unending menstrual bleeding.  In the first instance, the young girl is brought to life because her father had such strong faith in the power of Jesus.  In the second, the elderly woman was so convinced this young preacher could heal her simply if she could just touch the hem of his garment.  She believe healing powers could come even from the clothes Jesus wore.

We know that both efforts to gain the benefits of Jesus' care and healing power were successful.  What do we think about those events?  Are we at all stunned or in amazement at what Jesus could do or do we just take these stories as events we have heard repeated many times?  Familiarity with so much of Jesus' life and his actions does diminish the impact they have upon us today.  Yet today, it seems, we have even greater needs of God's healing in so many different ways in our personal lives as well as the communal lives we share.

Trusting in God:  how real is this reality in my day-to-day living?  In a society where the presence of God seems to be less and less each time we think about our God, we can ask ourselves what it is that I might be doing to strengthen my own trust in God ... in just the ordinary events or needs of living.

Do I truly trust in God?  Could I write in one or two sentences precisely what my trusting in God means?  Give it a try!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend January 28-29, 2012
A Challenge to Religious Liberty

Some years ago, in the first half of the 20th century, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, was confronted with a major problem in the Catholic School System.  At that time the Catholic School students shared in the free milk program for all elementary (and secondary, I believe) schools.  The cost of a carton of milk at the time was between three and four cents.  The Archbishop received a letter as did all the heads of private schools that the State of Pennsylvania was about to mandate that the privilege of receiving free milk for lunch in the schools would soon be retracted from non-public schools.

At the time the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had well over 100,000 elementary and secondary school students enrolled in its many and large schools.  As late as the middle of the 20th century there were grammar schools with more than four and five thousand students!!!  One Catholic high school at the time had more than six thousand students.   So, for the Archbishop, Cardinal Dougherty, this was a serious issue because at the time the pastors paid the school tuition with parish funds.  The mandate, if enacted as expected, would mean disaster for many schools.

The Archbishop decided he would do what any sensible Ordinary would and should do:  he attempted to seek a negotiated settlement.  No success.  Being of "Fightin' Irishman" the Archbishop announced a policy that would impact many Catholic schools and public schools as well.  In a very simple letter the Archbishop notified the state's government officials of his intentions.  His plan was simple and could easily be put into place.  If the State of Pennsylvania promulgated the mandate, ALL of the Catholic schools would be closed and the students sent to the local public schools.  Within a very short time, the State of Pennsylvania retracted the mandate!

I tell this story because is speaks of the "fightin' spirit Roman Catholics must realize is necessary at this time in its history in this country.  that we are in a situation of similarity but with greater and more personal impact.  We should know well what the First Amendment to the Constitution stipulates, what rights it protects.  In essence, The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the passing or creation of any law which establishes a religious body and directly impedes an individual’s right to practice whichever religion they see fit. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the passing or creation of any law which establishes a religious body and directly impedes an individual’s right to practice whichever religion they see fit.

Recently the United States Department of Health and Human Services with the approval of President Barack Obama issues a new federal mandate making coverage of abortifacient drugs, sterilization and all FDA approved contraceptives OBLIGATORY for virtually all employers, including faith-based institutions.  Cardinal Wuerl wrote to the priests of the Archdiocese:  In upholding the Health and Human Services regulation, the administration has ignored the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and has denied Catholics the most fundamental freedom, religious liberty.  Despite the Church's appeal for a broader religious exemption, which was echoed by many other faiths, the administration refused to modify the regulation's current exemption that is limited to religious groups that hire and serve people primarily of their own faith."  Further the Cardinal noted that the editorial boards of The Washington Post and the New York Times "have stated the the government has no business forcing religious institutions to sponsor and pay for procedures and drugs which violate their beliefs."  And these two newspapers disagrees regularly with the Church's teaching on the sanctity of life.

In essence what the HHS regulation mandate will force "our schools, hospitals and charitable organizations" ... in(to) the untenable position of choosing between violating civil law and abandoning our religious beliefs.  For a more complete description of this situation you can visit www.usccb.org/conscience and www.mdcathcon.org.  At these sites Catholics who wish to support our most treasured right, religious freedom, will find one avenue to making our Catholic voice heard by our Congressional representative as well as members of the US Senate.  

I can only imagine what the staunch defender of this same liberty mentioned at the outset, His Eminence, Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia would be doing today to stand strong against a government action that denies religious freedom.  What makes this issue so important to the Catholic Church and other religious organizations is not the debate on birth control, abortion or other moral issues but the denial of religious liberty!  We have to stand strong against individual government actions that make the effort to inhibit various aspects of religious liberty for our Church as well as other religious bodies.

A friend offered this analogy.  If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, the animal will jump out.  However, if you put a frog in tepid water, and gradually turn the heat up, natch by notch, the frog will be killed.  Religious liberty, religious freedom must be protected by the religious bodies for which the First Amendment was created by our forefathers.  Each specific denial is a turning up of the the heat, one notch at a time.

I offer these thoughts in response to Cardinal Wuerl's request to the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington:  "Please consider calling attention to this issue and all of these resources as soon as possible."  Amen!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Conversion of St. Paul
(Check Google Images for Snow Covered Trees)

And Jesus said to Saul (Paul), "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"  He replied, "Who are you?"  Jesus said, "I am Jesus the Nazarene whom you are persecuting."  While this reading from the Acts of the Apostles was written almost 2000 years ago, are you willing to grant this:  Jesus would be repeating the same sentences today?

How many are the ways this might be happening today in our world, our nation, our communities and, yes, even in our families!  Consider how Christians are reacting to realities in our world today.  Consider how Catholic parents and siblings might be reacting to the lifestyles of children or siblings.
When we experience the next snow storm, look at the trees.  Their branches seem to be different from each other in the way the snow is blanketed on each tree.  Each is so very different.  However, each is a God -given gift to humanity.  How do you judge these trees?  Each has its own beauty recognized by some not by others.  But what beauty there is when this collection of snow covered trees is viewed across a afield.  Together these trees form a mosaic in whites, browns, greens and shades between.

Now consider the forests of people that populate the world today.  There are so many difference -- shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities, religious and so forth.  Some are Roman Catholics, some Jewish, others Muslims, some infected by HIV Positive, others by AIDS -- some of their won experiences, others the result of parental or spousal activities.  Some are parents, some are children who with their parents are  "illegals" in our land, some are "dirt poor," others are in the top .06% of wealthy individuals.  Some are men, some are women and some are children.  This paragraph could continue with many other categories of different types of people.  Sad to say, it is often by personal dislikes or mistrusts that you and I are both victim and perpetrator!  Today Jesus would grow exhausted, positing the same question:  "Why are you persecuting me?"  Can you answer Jesus if he asked you that same question today?  Once again, let me repeat what has been posted here past:  "... being a Christian is not for sissies!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

St Francis de Sales
Today's feast brings to us one of the extraordinary saints whose life spanned the end of the 16th century and the beginning years of the 17th century.  Wikipedia offers a concise picture of the man:

Francis de Sales (French: Saint Fran├žois de Sales) (August 21, 1567 – December 28, 1622) was Bishop of Geneva and is a Roman Catholic saint. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly Introduction to the Devout Life, along with his Treatise on the Love of God. His writings on the perfections of the Heart of Mary as the model of love for God influenced Jean Eudes to develop the devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.[1]

This Francis was known for his preaching skills.  Perhaps an early version of a man of our own times, Archbishop Fulton Sheen!  In the first reading today Paul speaks about his own God-given grace to be a preacher to the Gentiles.  Francis directed his preaching to bring back those who had turned to Calvinism.   Francis was especially successful in this mission.

In the gospel for today, St John's words are similar to what we hear so often today:  the primacy of love that is seated in the Christian faith because Jesus himself made it so very clear that the Father's love for himself is no different from the Father's love for each of us.  Jesus expands this scope of love between the Father and each of us:  we are to "Love one another as I love you."  This same love is to be the sign that distinguishes Christians.  Furthermore Jesus teaches what St John writes in his First Letter:  "Wherever there is love, there is God."

We are called to be signs or models of love and not simply love but unconditional love.  Maybe we should focus some moments considering what the implications of this adjective, "unconditional," might mean in each of our lives.  Just for starters imagine what our families, our communities, our culture might be were each person to take this call, this challenge to love one another with an unconditional love.  Francis deSales was a man a stature and significant rank in his community.  However, never was he a priest who did not demonstrate his efforts to love everyone, especially towards those who had needs.  Likewise his lifestyle, preaching and teaching are models for us of a human being who saw in the challenge of unconditional love a way to demonstrate one's commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to live a life that he puts before humanity.  This is the challenge for us today in our relationships with family, community and culture.  No easy task is it?

Among his writings the Introduction to the Devout Life is recognized as a classic in the field of spiritual direction. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Prodigal Son - Liz Lemon Swindle

In the gospel for today's Mass we encounter that frightening challenge:  the sin against the Holy Spirit.  So often, as a preacher, I am asked what is this sin and why is it so serious?  Perhaps there could not be a better day than today to consider this reality.

We must not overlook the reality that the Holy Spirit is the origin of the good, all the good in Jesus, in our brothers and sisters -- all of them -- and in our world.  It is through the Holy Spirit that the world, you and I, come to know God's presence in our lives and the lives of others ... especially those God has planned bringing into the world through parents.  So what is this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Perhaps it is so simple we miss it!  It is to reuse with all deliberate intention the presence of God the Holy Spirit, his goodness in God's created world.  Those who refuse to see, to accept the power of God in all that Jesus did, all the God brings about in our world, these are those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Clearly many who followed Jesus when he was preaching, teaching and healing, recognized this divine presence in his life and activities.

To refuse to see God present in one's life, that person has in effect closed mind and heart to God's desire to continue his presence in his/her life.  He/she has closed the doors of heart and soul to the divine Creator of all that is.  Nothing less that a personal reaching out to God with a truly sorrow-filled heart and a genuine desire for sincere repentance will earn God's mercy, his forgiveness.

Recall the Prodigal Son biblical vignette.  We believe that the young man, so distracted by wealth and earthly desires, only earned forgiveness when he walked the long road to the open arms of his loving father.  This was his genuine repentance.  It was recognizing his sin and his conviction to seek his father's forgiveness that the young man opened his heart and soul to God's loving mercy.

We should not overlook the reality that is easily lost in our society today:  love is only genuine when it is free!  God will never force his love upon us.  Always, always he stands before us with the opened arms of his Sacred Heart.

Today, here in Washington, we are witness once again to the reminder that God's presence is with us in each and every human being from the moment of conception until the moment that God chooses to call that life to himself.

Today we should pray for those who refuse to acknowledge God's presence in the newly conceived child.  We should pray that our prayers might break through the bolted doors of hardened hearts who believe it is a person's right to end the sacred presence of God in a newly conceived child through death by abortion.

Carefully look at Liz Lemon Swindle's artistic portrayal of the moment of forgiveness.  Study this painting.  Let it open your heart and soul to the voice of God speaking to you today through the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.  See the intensity of the father's grasp of his offspring.  Sense the pain the father senses that has so damaged his son.  Sense the father's eyes and expression as he imagines what his son has endured and now how he can use the healing balm of forgiveness.  This is the gift the Holy Spirit present in Ms. Swindle's magnificent rendition of a truly tender moment that every person must fell when he/she has the courage and the graces to seek God's loving forgiveness.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Third Sunday of Ordinary TIme

Here we are on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the fourth Sunday of January.  It is interesting that on this Sunday as well as last Sunday our readings the theme of three readings for these two Sundays relates to Jesus calling disciples.  We are at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  John the Baptist has been arrested.  We have an opportunity to consider how those called have responded to Jesus’ invitation.

Four weeks ago we were hearing much about resolutions for the new year.  Perhaps the Church places these readings where they are for us to remember what “calling”  we may have received from the Holy Spirit for our lives in this new year. 

Most of us are settled in our vocation.  We have been engaged in it for some time.  The question we might be asking ourselves is rather simple:  Am I living up to the calling that God has entrusted to us.  It is a calling that continues to come to us each day and each year.  We might ask ourselves how we have taken the time to consider how we are living up to that calling.

When our calling has fallen into a need for updating or correction, we have to stop and address that issue.  In the gospel story today, the nets can be seen as those things or personal relationships that limit my being able to live my calling to the fullest.  Have I examined what nets might be tangling up my life .... things .... people .... self-centered ambitions?

So today we might ask for the graces of the Holy Spirit to help us clarify our callings if we know or think we might have lost a keen insight into how we are to live out our calling.  Today we should pray that we hear clearly the call that God has given to us and the strength to go where He wants it to lead me!  Don’t forget this:  we have to answer before God ultimately.  So,  at this time in my life would God be please with me and the life I am living?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Powers Do We Have?

Did you ever find yourself faced with a challenge which you felt was far beyond your physical or emotional strength?  Most people would have a sense of fear when a challenge seems to be overwhelming.  Let's assume you could not avoid or get around this challenge.  What resources do you begin to tap with the hope that you will conjure up the needed strength to prevail?

Today's first reading (I Samuel 17: 32-33, 37, 40-51) recalls what occurred in the life King David before Samuel anointed him kind for Yahweh.  For sure the young man, David, was physically smaller than Goliath.  Even the strongest and bravest opted never to entertain any contest with the great Philistine.

However, young David, from the tribe of Benjamin, told King Saul that he was not fearful of an encounter to subdue the annoying Goliath.  Of course King Saul reminded David that his youth enthusiasm, while noble, his size and lack of experience made him no challenge for the great taunter of the Israeli army's best soldiers.

David had a weapon that neither Saul nor Goliath would think of using to remove a constant threat to the Jewish King and his army.  David's weapon was neither sword nor spear.  He would not rely upon such weapons.  Rather he would use two means to bring down the giant.  The first in David's mind was the power of Yahweh.  He trusted that Yahweh would never fail him.  The second "weapon" would be the slingshot.   Members of the Tribe of Benjamin were noted for their skill in using the sling.  We know the "rest of the story."

So back to the beginning of this posting!  When faced with an overwhelming situation, do you employ the "Davidic Principle"?  Do you believe and trust that God will provide you the needed resources you might need?

Think again of the problems you confront.  Have you brought the power of God with you to face and overcome the challenge?

"I can do everything in Him who gives me strength."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Will of God in Making Choices

How frightening it can be when in one's heart the spirit is moving the person to someone or something other than what the person thinks is best.  Like Samuel when he was receiving the vibes to appoint a new king!  Fear that Saul would kill him filled Samuel's heart when he realized he had to tell the king to step down.  Bring a heifer for sacrifice!   God spoke to Samuel:  Don't let appearances mislead.  Choose the new king!  Jesse brought in his sons and one by one Samuel rejected each one because none was God's choice.  Samuel asked Jess if he had another son.  The youngest son was then brought to the prophet from his work in the fields.  This one the young man who was chosen.  David by name.  And with the least experience.  Oh, how different are God's ways.

From this event we can learn that discernment in making a choice or decision can take time.  Patience is needed in seeking to know the will of God ... especially during trying moments.  How easily do we find God's will when loved one present heavy burdens and an answer is not quickly or easily found.  Trying to discern what God wants done:  a genuine challenge.  Consider Samuel having to endure many evaluations of potential kings to replace King Saul.  Where is comfort or peace in such a process?  

Imagine the cross parents carry when, try as earnestly as they can, a child just cannot choose the right path.  This is the challenge of learning God's will which may be next to impossible to discern quickly.  We must never quit the search.  We must continue to pray, pray, pray for the day when we hear words similar to the responsorial psalm:  "Have found David my servant" (Ps 88). 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

God's Will In My Life

Monday, January 16, 2012

As we move through the peaks and valleys of our lives, a question that has to be confronted each day is this:  how significant is God's will for me?  Surely most followers of Jess would respond with the assurance that it is very important.   That reply leaves wiggle room, however, doesn't it?  And how many of us would have answered that there is nothing more important ?  Very few, no doubt!

Examine your day . just yesterday, Sunday.  "Did I really attempt to make God's will the most important intention in every thing I did?"  Was getting to church Saturday evening or Sunday enough?  Well, for sure, simply participating in the liturgy is pious practice which God commands of us.  And what about the rest of the day?  Life in the kingdom of God demands much more!

When someone complains about his/her current state of unhappiness or a loss of true inner peace, he/she should ask how attentive bas been the attention to God's will.

The first reading today, I Samuel 15:16-23 we consider the cost of Saul's (not the man Paul) kingship.  Saul did carry out Yahweh's will to a certain degree.  He did conquer the Israel's enemy, the Amalekites.  However, it was not God's will for the king and his army to play "winner takes all!"

An interesting reality is this pledge to be faithful to God's will in my/your life.  How do I respond?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Perfect Gospel Story for Today's World
Mark 1:40-45

Today we have another extraordinary opportunity to learn more about the man Jesus and his ministry in serving a segment of his society that were shunned by their communities because of the contagious disease of leprosy.  We look at the Son of Man showing not just his pity but his compassion.  Jesus makes clear that these victims of a terrible disease are also the victims of another disease imposed on them by their forced ostracism from the people they have known and perhaps have even brought into this world.  There was in the communities tremendous fear and contempt towards the victims of leprosy.

It has been noted that medicine was in a primitive stage of development when Jesus was preaching and teaching.  Some people were labeled as "unclean" simply by the lack of sound medical knowledge.  Unfortunately when that happens, as we witnessed in our own time when HIV/AIDS was discovered.  Fear and contempt branded these victims as "unclean" and as not safe to be with especially in restaurants and at home dinner tables.  We did not know enough about the disease when it was first named.  As a result many suffered a double or even triple dose of rejection in our communities.

Jesus was moved by the leper who came to him not with just a disease but with great faith and trust in Jesus and the words the leper must have heard.  We don't know exactly why because we never know exactly how the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of others.  It is hard enough to discern the Spirit in our own lives at times.

Jesus did what only a minimal few might do:  he touched the man who asked for healing.  His compassion for the man was so genuine.  The very touch of Jesus must have been a healing moment for this trusting and hoping victim.  Once cured the man is given a charge by Jesus.  Go and tell the priests of your healing.  Show yourself to them.  This was vitally important in Jesus' society.  Why?  Because the priest was the one who was chosen to validate the renewed health of the victim and to assure the communities that it was not safe for the cured victim to associate within the community.

The wonderful part of this gospel event is that the man was so excited by his cure, as would anyone with such a terrible disease, that he could not keep the last charge Jesus gave him:  don't say anything about this.  How could the man contain his relief, his excitement, his happiness.  As one commentator on this gospel wrote: "It is often in our crosses that grace appears."

This gospel story today of course directs our attention to those who suffer as lepers in our communities.  There are many.  Of course we live in an era of terribly physical and psychological kinds of leprosy.  Some of these diseases build walls of isolation around the victims where even families, friends and others in the community reject being present with them.
Consider the marginalized members of our communities around the world and in our nation:  drug addicts, poor single mothers, those who have lost their homes or who never could say I have had a roof over my head.  Think about the single Moms or single Dads who struggle in poverty with their one prized possession ... their child or children.  We have all know alcoholics who are so quickly rejected by others.

Our challenge today is this:  consider carefully and slowly the compassion and pity that Jesus teaches us.  Do you build such a wall around any person or persons you know or know about because society has judged them "unclean" or not fit to be a part of "their society"?  Take the often misused question and take it to heart:  "What would Jesus do in this circumstance?"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Who is this man?

Here in today's gospel reading we encounter Jesus at work in his primary works as the Son of God/Son of Man.  Jesus is no different than any Jew of his time.  It was not out of place for any Jew who wished to do so could stand a speak to the congregation when gathered in the Temple.  Jesus is confronted by an evil spirit in another person gathered in the Temple.  The Jewish people "interpreted" most illnesses as signs of an evil spirit that was or is in the life of the sick person.

There was shock and surprise when Jesus took on the evil spirit.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes....
Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another, 'What is this?
A new teaching with authority.' ( from Mk 1:14-21)

Who is this man?  What is this man?  For the next few months we will be asked to consider these questions as we read through the gospel of Saint Mark.  It is a good question.  It is what is on the mind of so many people already as our nation moves toward another presidential election.  It is the question being asked by people in New Hampshire today about each of the candidates.

As we begin Mark's account of Jesus' life, "Who is this man?" is a powerful question for each of us ... if we actually stop and consider what the question is asking about Jesus.  Too easily we can gloss over the question.  The challenge before is is a good one:  I should be taking the time to delve more deeply into the life of Jesus at it impacts me in this new year.  "Who is this man Jesus?  Am I willing to open my heart and mind to come to know him as never before?"

So here it is folks:  "Who do you say that I am?" might well be the question Jesus is asking you in these early days of January 2012.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Baptism of Jesus

Today, as we recall Jesus' baptism by John, we should consider the significance of this event as it relates to our own lives.  We have celebrated once again Jesus' coming among us as man.  Today we are reminded that the Son of God is also to be known and understood as the Son of Man.  This is Mark's introduction to us of the Public Ministry of Jesus.  Now Jesus is actively teaching and preaching the message the Father sends to each of us.

Jesus is now identified with us as another human being.  He is also taking upon himself our human limitedness and our sin.  He takes on the consequences of our sins even to the point of his severely violent suffering and death on the cross.

His entrance into the waters of John's baptismal actions is a moment of change.  The waters of our life are changed into the water of new life, his life.  He gives to us the "springs of salvation" (Is 12).  This event reminds us that the ordinary is now more than just ordinary.  The daily grind of our lives is impacted by the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

St John Neumann
at St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia, PA

Today the Church in the USA celebrates another American citizen, John Neumann who was canonized in 1977.  This man was a Bishop who truly committed himself to the poor.  He was born in Bohemia and wanted to become a priest in his homeland but because there was an excessive number of priests already working in his home diocese, the local Bishop was not accept applications for the priesthood.  John made his way to New York City where he accepted into the seminary and ordained in 1836.  Six years later, discerning that God wanted him elsewhere, he was granted permission to enter the Redemptorist order of priests.  In 1847 Fr. John was elected Superior General of the Order and lived at "headquarters" in Baltimore.  In 1848 Fr. Neumann became an American citizen.  In 1852 he was consecrated the 4th Bishop of Philadelphia where he would live out the remainder of his life.

Bishop Neumann started the Diocesan School System and initiated a Diocesan-wide schedule for Forty Hours Devotions.  Likewise the "Little Bishop," as he was named by the people of Philly, initiated the building of many parishes and schools.  At one time there were as many as 340+ parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Bishop Neumann died on January 5, 1860 while returning from bringing the Sacraments of the Sick to a poor man, he fell victim to a heart attack.  He died on the front steps of a local row house in downtown Philadelphia.  At his personal request, he asked that whenever he died, his body would be buried in the crypt of the Redemptorist Father's parish, St. Peter's Parish, in North Philadelphia.  The photo above is the saint's final resting place in the lower church at St. Peter's Church.
John Neumann is the first American male to be canonized (1977) in the United States.  It was my privilege to work with the Philadelphia priest, Msgr. James McGrath, who was the Vice Postulator for John Neumann's case for canonization.  Monsignor McGrath, now deceased, worked diligently for a number of years while the people of Philadelphia daily came to St. Peter's to pray for their various needs.  Eventually, Msgr. McGrath learned of an incident which seemed to be a medical "miracle."  Visiting with the family and the person's doctors, Msgr. McGrath brought the information to the Archbishop of Philadelphia at the time, John Cardinal Krol, who encouraged Msgr. McGrath and helped bring the case to the proper Vatican offices to evaluate the case.  Pope Paul VI canonized Bishop Neumann in 1977.

Truly this "little" man was a spiritual giant.  He truly followed in the steps of the first Bishop of our Church, St. Peter.  He was teacher, preacher and a man dedicated to helping  the poor and to build the Catholic Church in the city of the Declaration of Independence.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How often do you hear or say "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"?  When those words are used, it is not really about the fruit.  These words are pointing to a person's thinking or actions which are usually either good or bad.  Good acts are a sign that a person is allowing God in his/her life.  It is God acting in a person's life.

It is by allow God's presence in one's life that sin is excluded.  God cannot share space with sin because they are mutually exclusive.

This offers us a challenge.  We need to strive to live with Jesus in our hearts.  We know that we have moment when we fail God.  Our efforts, then, must be directed to the effort to be closely affiliated with Jesus.  Once that happens, once we realize that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John announce the Good News, we are face to face with the teachings of the Son of God, we are dealing with the opposite of sin. An understanding of that special relationship will enable us to act and speak differently.  We live a true life of holiness.  That is our mission in life today.  This is how each person can become God's agent in the world.  Each person has the opportunity to become an active evangelizing agent in the Kingdom of God.  That mean YOU and it means ME.  

The question then is this:  Does the apple of God's graces and wishes fall from from my life?  Am I an agent for God's presence in the world today?  Look at the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton whom we recall and petition on this her annual feast day.  A convert to Catholicism, wife, mother, teacher, religious sister and ultimately a recognized saint in our Church, Elizabeth surely allowed the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life become a beacon of hope and faith for so many individuals.

Monday, January 2, 2012

January 3, 2012
A Child of God
What does it mean to be a child of God?  How would you answer that question?  Think about it for a moment.  Can you provide two or three replies?  St. John, in the first reading for today's liturgy, suggests an answer:  to be a true child of God means to be ready "to break" away from sin.  Simple but monumentally challenging at times.  St. John always speaks to us with the reminder that there is no doubt to the fact that you, yes you, are truly a person God created and that you are the special object of his love.

If I think of myself as a child of God, I can only "ponder" (like Mary) about what my experience will be when the moment comes for my meeting face-to-face with the Son of God.  What must Mary have thought as she looked upon her newborn child?  Theologians and our Church have endeavored to teach us that at the moment of our meeting God "we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is."  We will be transformed and united with him.

Beyond this gift, God also has gifted our lives with the true sign of his unending and always forgiving love:  the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ.  This is what makes us the true children of God.

So again as we consider our journey for 2012, we should reflect or ponder how we many remain true followers walking the path God wants us to follow.  This is the call to follow Jesus' way as the first apostles did.  And it is a summons answered by a personal effort to remain ever close to Jesus.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mary, Mother of God
January 1, 2012
In the gospel account of the birth of Christ there lies a simple sentence that is a package of amazing treasure.  It is not about the shepherds who were at the stable.  It is about Mary, Mother of God, whom we honor on January 1st each year.

And Mary treasured all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Apparently Mary said very little on that sacred night.  Another translation is "Mary pondered these things in her heart."  Today and for the next few days each of us might ponder some of the message that Mary in her silence gives to us each January 1st.  Luke reports that the shepherds were there but seemingly left rather quickly to tell others of what they heard in the Bethlehem manger.  The news was such Good News that they could not keep the "news" to themselves.  But for Mary seeming silence was the better part of a response to what is a pivotal point for all Christianity.

Gift giving is another pivotal moment of Christmas.  There were no "Christmas trees" in the stable.  There were no ribboned gifts anywhere in the stable.  So, one might ask why St Luke notes that Mary reflected upon "all these things".  Surely we can only imagine what must have passed through her heart and mind as the child she had delivered was, as the angel Gabriel had told her, the Son of God.  Consider if you will, at this closing of the first day of the year, Mary's reflecting is her Christmas gift to us in addition to her divine Son.

Furthermore, consider this:  Child Jesus is giving each person a gift on the annual celebration of his birthday.  The gift is a personal gift that can be understood only when one does what Mary did:  ponder about the special gift that Jesus has given you for the year 2012.  You might be surprised by that thought.  However, unless there is time to ponder what "gift is Jesus offering me new year" during these early days of the year during which quiet and a genuine effort to be present to Jesus with an open heart are essential.

In the pondering quiet you may hear Jesus saying to you what God has in mind for you in the 12 months ahead.  He knows what you need most for yourself and he know what you need most to give to others.

Take the time and most importantly write down for yourself what you believe Jesus' gift for you is and how you will use it for yourself and others.  There are very few people who receive gifts and leave them unopened.  Your writing to yourself what you believe the gift is only to be found by pondering and recording for yourself what "messages" come to your heart.

May the year 2012 be for you and your loved ones a time that is abundant with good health and even some financial assistance but most specially a year when you set aside time to learn more about your faith.