Friday, February 23, 2018

Bring Your Gift

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Prayer and Action

How often do we ignore the poor around us? At the very least, take time to see them. Smile. Make eye contact. Set aside some amount of cash each week to give to people you see on the street. If you don't want to give money, keep snacks or personal care items in your car. Don't just feel guilty today—take action!

Let this prayer guide our steps:
Let us ask the Lord for the grace
to always see the Lazarus who knocks
at our heart and for the grace to go outside
of ourselves with generosity,
with an attitude of mercy,
so that God's mercy can enter our heart.

—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek
franciscan media


"I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God's Holy Will, not my own."
— St. Gabriel Possenti

"God sees you in secret. Know that he sees into your very depths, infinitely farther than you do yourself. Make a simple, lively act of faith in his presence. Christian soul, place yourself entirely under his gaze. He is very near. He is present, for he gives being and motion to all things. Yet you must believe more; you must believe with a lively faith that he is present to you by giving you all of your good thoughts from within, as holding in his hand the source from which they come, and not only the good thoughts, but also whatever good desires, good resolutions, and ev¬ery good act of the will, from its very first beginning and birth to its final perfection. Believe, too, that he is in the souls of the just, and that he makes his dwelling there within, according to these words of the Lord: 'We will come to him and make our home with him' (John 14:23). He is there in a stable and permanent way: he makes his home there. Desire that he should be in you in this way. Offer yourself to him as his dwelling and temple. Now come out, and with the same faith that enables you to see him within you, look upon him in Heaven, where he manifests himself to his beloved. It is there that he awaits you. Run. Fly. Break your chains; break all the bonds that tie you down to flesh and blood. O God, when shall I see you? When will I have that pure heart that enables you to be seen, in yourself, outside of yourself, ev¬erywhere? O Light that enlightens the world! O Life that gives life to all the living! O Truth that feeds us all! O Good that satisfies us all! O Love that binds all together! I praise you, my heavenly Father, who sees me in secret."
— Jacques-BĂ©nigne Bossuet, p.4-5
Meditations for Lent

"Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:4-6


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Saint Polycarp

(c. 69 – c. 155)

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, disciple of Saint John the Apostle and friend of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century.

Saint Ignatius, on his way to Rome to be martyred, visited Polycarp at Smyrna, and later at Troas wrote him a personal letter. The Asia Minor Churches recognized Polycarp's leadership by choosing him as a representative to discuss with Pope Anicetus the date of the Easter celebration in Rome—a major controversy in the early Church.

Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has been preserved, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi in Macedonia.

At 86, Polycarp was led into the crowded Smyrna stadium to be burned alive. The flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger. The centurion ordered the saint's body burned. The "Acts" of Polycarp's martyrdom are the earliest preserved, fully reliable account of a Christian martyr's death. He died in 155.

Polycarp was recognized as a Christian leader by all Asia Minor Christians—a strong fortress of faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. His own strength emerged from his trust in God, even when events contradicted this trust. Living among pagans and under a government opposed to the new religion, he led and fed his flock. Like the Good Shepherd, he laid down his life for his sheep and kept them from more persecution in Smyrna. He summarized his trust in God just before he died: "Father… I bless Thee, for having made me worthy of the day and the hour…" (Acts of Martyrdom, Chapter 14).

Saint Polycarp is the Patron Saint of:


Friday of the First Week of Lent

Reading 1 Ez 18:21-28

Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way
that he may live?

And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because he has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, he shall die.
You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!"
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8
R. (3) If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the LORD
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
Let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?

Verse Before the Gospel Ez 18:31
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD,
And make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

Gospel Mt 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you,
unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny."


Meditation: Ezekiel 18:21-28

Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Optional Memorial)

Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? (Ezekiel 18:23)

Herbert Kappler was the head of the German security forces in occupied Rome during World War II. In addition to security duties, he oversaw the deportation of thousands of Jews to concentration camps. He was also behind the Ardeatine Massacre, in which 335 Italian men were killed in reprisal for a resistance bombing that killed 30 German soldiers.

After the war, Kappler was sentenced to life in prison. It was not long before he wrote to ask for a visit from his wartime enemy, a Catholic priest named Hugh O'Flaherty. Msgr. O'Flaherty had thwarted Kappler time and again, forging documents, hiding Jews, and aiding Allied troops. Despite the fact that Kappler had put a bounty on his head during the war, O'Flaherty accepted his invitation and visited him regularly. Within just a few short years, Kappler joined the Catholic Church and experienced God's forgiveness for what he had done.

Msgr. O'Flaherty had every right to reject the invitation to visit his former enemy, a man with blood on his hands and who had caused untold pain in Rome. But look what happened because he chose mercy! He is a living example that God derives no pleasure from the death of the wicked.

We all face the decision to be merciful toward those who have hurt us or wronged someone we know. Our situations probably won't be as dramatic as Msgr. O'Flaherty's, but they will still be challenging for us. But think of what God can do when you try to forgive. Think of how people's lives can change because of your decision to extend mercy—especially when it seems that you have every right to turn away.

Take a minute now to think of someone who needs your forgiveness. Can you give them the chance for a new start? Remember that God doesn't want anyone to die in sin. Ask him to give you the same grace that he gave Msgr. O'Flaherty. Ask him to help you look an opponent in the face and forgive him. You never know. You might be the instrument that God uses to bring that person to a deeper conversion.

"Jesus, help me to be an instrument of your mercy!"

Psalm 130:1-8
Matthew 5:20-26


Our Lord says today "Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way
that he may live?" In Luke 15:7 Jesus our Lord says ""I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." All I can think of right now is our ultreya last night, the gathering of cursillistas those having lived a cursillo, those called to live a certain way, and rightly so, the cursillo means "short course in Christianity". We are called to live together, not separate, no loners allowed. I love it. It is what propels me to be with you right now. But it is perhaps the single hardest ministry I am in. It takes a great toll on my heart, a big weight. It has cost me over the years many tears, many days away from loved ones, and weekly hardships. Why then, why do I continue...the fight? It is not a fight. It is a labor of love. If it is a fight, it is a love fight. In my little town, there are probably close to 100 cursillistas. In our Ultreyas, we don't have but a tenth. But God does wonders with a tenth, a tithing. He is so amazing. I sit in parish council meetings and hear how little is given and how the church still makes it and grows, and I am just amazed. Faith goes a long...long way.

Let us pray: "If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand? Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication." God hears His sheep. He does. Are you His sheep? He hears what no one else can....the heart. So let's get to the heart of the matter.

Our Lord takes the commands from Our Father and takes them a step further, ""You have heard..., You shall not kill; ....But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment". Whoa! Just being angry can land me in fires of hell, or punishments? Just looking at someone lustfully can land me in hell? Just thinking bad thoughts can get me to hell? Yup.

But what about all this mercy talk and God is love talk. Why? Why is there pain and suffering in innocent. Yup. Why do unborn children suffer every day, thousands are killed? Why? How is that God's fault? Right? It all begins with a nasty thought, and the nastiest of all? Selfishness. This is why God says "your thoughts are not my thoughts" and "my ways are not your ways". It has been said that "only Saints are in Heaven". Protestants teach otherwise, a false doctrine, making it seem that all who just say one line are once saved, always saved. False. Many people suffer because of someone's anger. Feel the wrath of hell through anger. Yet, you expect these angry people that die that way to prance right into heaven because they said a line...I mean....a lie? Let us be truthful. Be faithful. Be honest with God. Be sincere. If you fast, let it be a labor of love. Let it be one of true repentance. Saint Max Kolbe wanted to be a Christian Saint to the "max". And he suffered for it. He suffered a death for a reason most would never. He took the place of a stranger on what could be called a firing squad, a death squad. What kind of person does that? Someone with an extraordinary love burning in their hearts, that's who. You are reading this because you are being called to be a "max" Saint, because Kolbe said "I don't want to be just a saint, I want to be a great saint". He proved by actions that love lives. Jesus wants our lives to prove that love lives.

And so, we were gathered last night, and I kept waiting for a brother to walk in that said he would come, and maybe a sister that I had invited. It was so beautiful in the ultreya, we are gathered, for God, talking about God, praying to God, sharing about our lives with God, and sharing food, praying for the food, singing to God, singing about God. It was heaven. And I was waiting for a person to repent, leave what they were doing, and join us in Heaven. There would've been so much rejoicing....had they come.
You see, this Christ thing, is not just a thing. It is a lifestyle, but more. Because you live and breathe Jesus. I wake up this morning, step outside, and I look at the fog, and I recall the life and death experience of a woman that said she was in a fog and asked "what is this fog thing" and they replied to her "it is the breath of God".

I breathe it in today. And I am grateful. Wow God, you are amazing!

I breathe in mercy...I inhale what you exhale and it gives life....



First Friday of Lent
"It is only in adversity that we come to know
whether we have made any progress in goodness."
Adversity tends to purify our motives, showing
what truly explains our actions. Each person can
easily imagine more loving family members, more
helpful coworkers, and more loyal friends.
God did not create us to live in a "what if?"
world but rather in this one—right here, right now,
with all our gifts and especially with all our blind

Praying with Saint Anthony

Jesus, you had more right than anyone else who
has ever lived to say, "That's so unfair!" Give us
courage to defend our rights without becoming
paralyzed by the injustices that we have suffered.

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