Friday, March 2, 2018

Then I beg you

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Transform Yourself This Lent

How does transformation happen? Ladder-climbing Western culture, and the human ego, made the Gospel into a message of spiritual advancement—ascent rather than descent. We hopefully advance in wisdom, age, and grace, but not at all in the way we thought. Jesus got it right! He taught the way of the cross and not the way of climbing. We come to God much more by doing things wrong than by doing things right. God leveled the human playing field by using our sins and failures to bring us to divine union. This is surely the most counterintuitive message of the Gospels—so counterintuitive that it largely remains hidden to this day in plain sight.

—from the book Yes, And...: Daily Meditations by Richard Rohr
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"Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God."
— St. Ignatius of Loyola

"Our Blessed Lord, bound like a thief, is conducted through the public streets of Jerusalem accompanied by a large body of soldiers who indulge their rage and hatred by ill-treating Him in every possible way, and surrounded by a multitude of people who overwhelm Him with insults and maledictions, and rejoice over His misfortunes. Jesus advances, His feet bare, and His strength utterly exhausted by all His mental and bodily sufferings, offering up the ignominy and tortures He is now enduring, to His Eternal Father, for the salvation of my soul. The soldiers render His position still more painful, by inviting people to approach and see their renowned prisoner, while Jesus proceeds on His way in the midst of them, with a humble demeanor and with downcast eyes, to teach us what value we should set on the esteem and honor of the world, and the applause of men. But a few days previously Jesus had passed through these same streets, applauded and honored by the crowd as the Messiah, and now, abandoned even by His disciples, He is followed only by perfidious enemies who seek His death, and unite in deriding and insulting Him as a malefactor, and the last of men. Such is the duration of the honors and praises of the world! Learn hence to seek the good pleasure of God alone, to labor for the acquisition of a right to the immortal honors of Paradise, and to practice patience under humiliation, from the example of Jesus."
— Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus, p. 79-80
The School of Christ Crucified

"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will."
2 Timothy 2:24-26


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Saint Agnes of Bohemia

(1205 – March 6, 1282)

Agnes had no children of her own but was certainly life-giving for all who knew her.

Agnes was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. She was betrothed to the Duke of Silesia, who died three years later. As she grew up, she decided she wanted to enter the religious life.

After declining marriages to King Henry VII of Germany and King Henry III of England, Agnes was faced with a proposal from Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. She appealed to Pope Gregory IX for help. The pope was persuasive; Frederick magnanimously said that he could not be offended if Agnes preferred the King of Heaven to him.

After Agnes built a hospital for the poor and a residence for the friars, she financed the construction of a Poor Clare monastery in Prague. In 1236, she and seven other noblewomen entered this monastery. Saint Clare sent five sisters from San Damiano to join them, and wrote Agnes four letters advising her on the beauty of her vocation and her duties as abbess.

Agnes became known for prayer, obedience and mortification. Papal pressure forced her to accept her election as abbess, nevertheless, the title she preferred was "senior sister." Her position did not prevent her from cooking for the other sisters and mending the clothes of lepers. The sisters found her kind but very strict regarding the observance of poverty; she declined her royal brother's offer to set up an endowment for the monastery.

Devotion to Agnes arose soon after her death on March 6, 1282. She was canonized in 1989.

Agnes spent at least 45 years in a Poor Clare monastery. Such a life requires a great deal of patience and charity. The temptation to selfishness certainly didn't vanish when Agnes walked into the monastery. It is perhaps easy for us to think that cloistered nuns "have it made" regarding holiness. Their route is the same as ours: gradual exchange of our standards—inclinations to selfishness—for God's standard of generosity.


Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Reading 1 Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons,
for he was the child of his old age;
and he had made him a long tunic.
When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons,
they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.

One day, when his brothers had gone
to pasture their father's flocks at Shechem,
Israel said to Joseph,
"Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem.
Get ready; I will send you to them."

So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan.
They noticed him from a distance,
and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.
They said to one another: "Here comes that master dreamer!
Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here;
we could say that a wild beast devoured him.
We shall then see what comes of his dreams."

When Reuben heard this,
he tried to save him from their hands, saying,
"We must not take his life.
Instead of shedding blood," he continued,
"just throw him into that cistern there in the desert;
but do not kill him outright."
His purpose was to rescue him from their hands
and return him to his father.
So when Joseph came up to them,
they stripped him of the long tunic he had on;
then they took him and threw him into the cistern,
which was empty and dry.

They then sat down to their meal.
Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead,
their camels laden with gum, balm and resin
to be taken down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers:
"What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?
Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites,
instead of doing away with him ourselves.
After all, he is our brother, our own flesh."
His brothers agreed.
They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
R. (5a) Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
When the LORD called down a famine on the land
and ruined the crop that sustained them,
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, sold as a slave.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
They had weighed him down with fetters,
and he was bound with chains,
Till his prediction came to pass
and the word of the LORD proved him true.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
The king sent and released him,
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.

Verse Before the Gospel Jn 3:16
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son;
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

Gospel Mt 21:33-43, 45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
"Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, 'They will respect my son.'
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
'This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.'
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"
They answered him,
"He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times."
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit."
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.


Meditation: Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28

Here comes that master dreamer! (Genesis 37:19)

Pope Francis has given many homilies focused on hope. He often urges us not to give any room to bitter, dark thoughts. "If you are on the ground, get up!" he says. "If you feel empty and demoralized, ask the Holy Spirit to fill your nothingness again." Most important, he says, "Don't be afraid to dream!"

Joseph certainly wasn't afraid to dream. Neither was he afraid to share his dreams with his brothers. The only problem was that Joseph's dreams usually portrayed him being blessed and in a position of power over his brothers. When they heard about these dreams, they became offended. They looked on Joseph as a starry-eyed visionary and sarcastically called him a "master dreamer" (Genesis 37:19).

Any one of us might react the same way. Faced with someone else's expectant hope, especially if it seems to be at our expense, we can feel irritable or offended. Instead of encouraging the "Josephs" around us, we seek to bring them down to reality. We would never entertain such lofty, unrealistic dreams. And that's too bad because the Holy Father's message often includes an encouragement of the very same youthful hope that Joseph had.

Often enough, our resistance arises from our own experiences of hurt. We carry the insecurity of our past failures or the sting of a difficult estrangement. We conclude that hope-filled dreams are delusions—our own dreams or somebody else's. If this sounds familiar, here's some good news. God helped Joseph keep his hope alive. During years of imprisonment and slavery, he kept sending Joseph dreams as promises of his goodness. He wants to do the same for you. He wants to open the door for you to increase your hope.

No matter your age, God wants to give you a young and hopeful heart. So ask him for a heart that is free to dream and that helps other people dream. Let him wash away any fear or bitterness that might quench your dreams or make you try to quench someone else's dreams.

Remember, hope is a beautiful gift from God. So the next time someone shares their dreams, say yes to that hope. And feel free to do the same for yourself.

"Lord, free my heart to hope. Help me to dream along with you."

Psalm 105:16-21
Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46



"They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver." How mean, right? Jews sold Jesus for silver. They hated the master dreamer...the Master Himself. Sounds mean right? Before you judge these wretched men, let us consider our own misdeeds, how we "miss the mark" which some call...sin.

Before so, let us pray: "Remember the marvels the Lord has done. When the LORD called down a famine on the land and ruined the crop that sustained them, He sent a man before them, Joseph, sold as a slave." Joseph was sold. Joseph becomes the savior. It is the story of the suffering servant.

Let us go to our Lord.

In the Holy Gospel, our Lord gives the reality of things, of how people are with God's things. We obsess over things and posses them, thus becoming obsessed and possessed not simply by things, but by the evil of the obsessions. A spanish reflection ended with:
"Father Silvio A. Ortiz says:
"Satan gathered all his little devils for a world summit of his henchmen and in the inaugural address said:" We can not allow Christians to establish an intimate relationship with God through prayer, the sacraments, biblical readings, sacrifices and penances, for once this relationship occurs, then we lose them and it will be impossible to take them to hell.
- In the churches and in the group meetings we shall invent gossip and divide the Christians so that they get out of there with their minds disturbed.
One of the present asked: And what can we do?
Satan answered: "Let us steal their time" so that they do not have time for God. What I want is for them to be distracted all day long.
- How will we do that? They asked.
And Satan answered:
- Take them to consumerism, that is, to spend, spend and spend. So that there is no time for children or for their loved ones. "

What is scary is that it is true. Smoke and mirrors distract you. Smoke is the haze of your busy day, and mirrors is so that you focus on yourself most of all. I am in the heat of various ministries, I see those with willing spirits and weak bodies. If you are weak, do the opposite of what is causing your weakness. I remember when I was in college, at the University, I knew I had to be self-motivated. When I wanted to exercise after work, I was famished, my body did not want to, burnt from work and study. But, with no energy, I mustered up enough to get to the gym. Somehow, amazingly, there was enough energy to do a workout. After much time of doing this, energy arrived to drive with more drive to the gym. It is like this in the beginning of a Christian life, and it is called the "purgative" way. Much trials are faced, much temptations, and much draining, suffering.. One guy once said "I will only continue this ministry so long as I keep enjoying it", in other words "if the cross gets heavy, I'm going to drop it". If we rely on feelings, we will fall on our face. You will betray God. The man ultimately dropped the ministry.
This is the case of those who betray Joseph. This is the case of those who betray Jesus. This is the case, this very day in our relationship with God. I am jealous and zealous for God. Do not betray our God. Do not fall into temptations...distractions. Do not look into those mirrors where the devil likes to play. Rather, look beyond. Look for Jesus. We were driving home last night, a few brothers, we were driving back from an out of town Ultreya we visited. I said in conversation "I have a theory, that Jesus appears in our lives, every single day...this is why I try to be kind to every single soul I encounter". But this theory, this disguised Christ theory, isn't far fetched. We are the body of Christ. We are in this together. I need you, and you need me.

I want the Body of Christ to be Holy...wholly His. Distractions have for the last several decades, pulled us far from God. Church is second place, people and things are being put into first place. God should come first. We are not equal with God; Once you think this, you have lost all your Heaven. God can make the earth disappear in an instant. But God says something more powerful..."I care for you more than you would ever believe."

"I am Love, and I need to Love". The world is healed by love. The world hated love and crucified Love. And the world got dark for a few hours...then light returned, lives returned, beginning with Jesus. The Word, Love, became flesh...and dwells among us....



Second Friday of Lent

"If the winds of this world's contempt blow and
beat against the Church, it stands fast because a
wise man has built it on firm rock."

The Catholic Church was in a tough spot during Anthony's lifetime. Parts of it were very wealthy and politically influential, but many people noted the contrast between what they saw and what Jesus
preached. Even so, the Church preached the very Gospel that people used as a yardstick to measure how far
It fell short. The word of God was broken open, sacraments were celebrated, and many people grew in holiness.

Praying with Saint Anthony

Gracious God, help us not to give up on your
Church because it still embraces sinners.

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