Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Accepting Our Crosses

St. Pio of Pietrelcina,  better known as simply Padre Pio, is probably the most popular saint in Italy after St. Francis of Assisi.  His statues and pictures are everywhere...from pizza parlors to the dashboards of taxis.  His appeal is his simple submission to whatever God asked of him, even to bearing the wounds of Jesus for 50 years.  We often think these wounds are just symbolic, but the bleeding and the pain were real.  People flocked to attend Mass when he was celebrating, so much so that his superiors forbad him to say Mass publicly for awhile.  He accepted all and stands as a model for us who have our own crosses, large or small to bear.  When we think we can't bear them, let us look to Padre Pio for strength, or as he would have it, to Jesus himself.  Let us also ask for the grace to put our crosses in perspective, for compared to the cross Jesus carried, or the heavy crosses others are carrying, ours might seem very small and thus bearable.  If we look upon our crosses as a gift, and thank God for them, we are following in the footsteps of this humble priest.
Bro. Rene

Monday, September 22, 2014

St. Maurice and the Theban Legion

Most of us know little about this horrific tale of slaughter which took place around the year 287 in Switzerland at the order of Emperor Maximian Heruclius.  When Maurice and his six thousand legionnaires refused to offer sacrifice to the gods before an ensuing battle, they were all slaughtered.  We are appalled at the beheadings that we've witnessed at the hands of ISIS, but imagine six thousand men being beheaded or stabbed to death!  How strong must have been their faith!  It is said that Maurice continued to encourage his men to remain faithful until his own death.
We face our own temptations and failures with much less courage than Maurice and his companions.  We let our lives become muddled with self-pity, self-hatred, and despair, especially when we can't seem to change a pattern of behavior, or find a way of living that will give us peace.  We spin ourselves into a deeper rut, further and further away from the loving kindness and forgiveness of God.  We slaughter ourselves with our lack of trust in God.  Through the intercession of St. Maurice and the six thousand members of his Theban Legion, may we find the strength to stand up to the Tempter, and allow Jesus to forgive, heal and save us.
Bro. Rene

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unbounded Generosity

Today's Gospel parable of the landowner who hires workers at different times of the day and pays all equally has raised eyebrows and caused heated discussions since Jesus first presented it.   Why didn't those who worked all day receive more than those who were worked only one hour?  Business logic would certainly stand on their side.  But again, we are not dealing with human logic, but with the "logic" of God which does not always fit into ours.   No one can measure God's generosity; where would we be if he were not abundantly forgiving and generous to us?  What have we done to merit the countless blessings we receive each day?  This parable is not about human justice or just wages, but about the unbounded generosity of God which invites us, challenges us to do likewise.
Bro. Rene

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Church in Korea

The story of the rise of the Catholic Church in Korea is one of those that makes it clear that God is besides us and it is his efforts along with ours that make things work.  Lay people, in the 17th century, not priests and religious, began the process of evangelization in Korea as a result of some literature about Christianity which arrived in the country from Japan.  Soon the small community of initial believers grew and by the time the first missionary priest arrived, it had grown to 4,000. When it had grown to 10,000, it was enough to come to the attention of the government which began a series of persecutions in the 19th century.  Pope Saint John Paul II canonized 98 martyrs during his trip in 1984, among whom were Andrew Kim Tae-gon, and Paul Chong Ha-sang, whose memorial we keep today. "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church", wrote Tertullian, a second century theologian,"  and the Church in Korea continues to grow, now numbering 5 million Catholics.  Persecutions continue world-wide without much publicity, and the Church continues to grow.  When we have doubts, we might just look around us and see that God is with us, asking for our love and trust.  From our own little sufferings and inconveniences our faith can and will grow.
Bro. Rene

Friday, September 19, 2014

Loving Jesus

The Italians (and many others) of New York City celebrate the Memorial of St. Januarius (San Gennaro) with a procession, music, food, and much festivity.  He was the Bishop of Benevento during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, remembered for the last and one of the most widespread of the Roman persecutions. San Gennaro and his companions were to be devoured by wild beasts, but they refused touch them, so authorities had them beheaded.  A vial of the saint's congealed blood has liquified on this day and other days significant in his life, for centuries with no scientific explanation.  He is the patron saint of Naples.
His life inspires us to love Jesus with our whole being, not in the abstract, but in the people who are parts of our lives.  God shows us his love through them, and we show our love of him through our love of others.  It's very real, it's very concrete, not just words. May our blood flow warm and loving in the planned and unplanned events of this day.
Bro. Rene

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Am What I Am

As much as he loved the people of Corinth, Paul had to defend himself against the contentious situations and challenges they threw up against him.  When his authority was questioned, now mind you, Paul was the one who brought the faith to them and established the Christian Community there, he reminded them of the truth that he delivered to them and that, yes, he was once a persecutor of the believers in Jesus, but "by the grace of God, I am what I am".  and that grace has not been ineffective.  (1 Cor 15:10)
How many times in our own lives have we been questioned or challenged, or even in our own minds, has our "past" arisen in our imaginations and given us the feeling of unworthiness?  It is then that we must take the stance of St. Paul:  "by the grace of God I am what I am."  We sing of Amazing Grace, and truly it is...for it transforms, energizes and turns darkness into light.  May we never falter because of the opinion of others, or our own self-doubt.  No, grace makes all things possible:  a persecutor into an apostle, a sinner into a saint.
Bro. Rene  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Love Never Fails

Last night before going to bed I received an e-mail describing the latest incursion of ISIS into a city in Iraq where they began systematic beheading of children.  This morning there is news of their most recent video with severe threats to the United States and stating that the War is just beginning.  At Mass we heard the famous passage from 1 Corinthians 12 about love.  It is worth picking up the Bible to read it today in light the the hate that increases every day.  Jesus surely wishes us to experience peace in our hearts and to be at peace with our neighbor.  When we've had a hard day, we know what a gesture of love can do to pick us up and set us on course today.   May we go out of our way today to show love to others, and pray that the love that never fails will resolve the tense situation in the Near East, and stop the concerted efforts of ISIS to convert by killing the innocent, especially children.
Bro. Rene