April 26, 2017

Where is Jesus?

A mother and father bring their small child to a shopping mall on an extremely busy day. They take turns keeping their eyes on the little boy and holding his hand as they move from store to store and then to the food court with a few bathroom breaks in between. Mommy suddenly glances around and her stomach begins to churn. She doesn’t see her child. But that’s okay, she thinks, he must be with Daddy.  But the father does the same thing. In a sudden moment of panic, he doesn’t see his child. But he calms himself and assumes he’s with Mommy.  Then the parents find each other, and neither one has the boy. They frantically start looking everywhere for their son.
"[The mother] is crying. In vain [the parents] run from [store to store]. No one has seen him. [The father], after useless attempts to keep from crying, cries too. [They] cry [their] eyes out and wail to heaven and earth."
Sounds like an understandable reaction of parents who lose a child. I have two small children and don’t even want to think about how terrifying it would be if one of them disappeared. But do I wail and cry every time I lose Jesus? Do you?

The quote above, adapted from the words of Saint Josemaria Escriva, is part of a reflection on the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary – The Finding of Jesus in the Temple, as Mary and Joseph searched for young Jesus for three days.
The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple by William Holman Hunt
"Where is Jesus? —The Child, my Lady!... where is He?  Mary is crying. —In vain you and I have run from group to group, from caravan to caravan: no one has seen Him. —Joseph, after useless attempts to keep from crying, cries too... And You... And I. Being a common little servant, I cry my eyes out and wail to heaven and earth... to make up for those times when I lost Him through my own fault and did not cry.  Jesus: may I never lose Thee again... Then you and I are united in misfortune and grief, as we were united in sin."
I reflected on this mystery repeatedly throughout the Lenten season and during the Triduum. How often do we lose Jesus? We lose him every time we sin. Every month, every day, every hour. Tragically, sometimes every minute...[To read the rest of this story, click over to ATX Catholic]

March 29, 2017

What Would Padre Pio Say?

[This is a guest post from Norine.]

Someone asked me to pray a novena to Padre Pio for an intention. I love novenas. Not everyone does. But I love them. As long as I had him on the phone for that intention, I asked him about a few other things. One of the things I asked him was what he would say to me if he were my confessor.
Padre Pio was famous for spending hours in the confessional. People came from miles around to experience the sacrament with him. He didn’t mince words in confession. If he didn’t think you were really sorry, he kicked you out. If you were truly repentant, he had a gift to know why you were sinning, and he would bring you right to the root of the problem. If you needed encouragement or solace, he gave it. Padre Pio did the work of God, setting people free in the confessional.

So, I asked him, “What would you say to me? Would you yell at me? Would you encourage me? What do I need to hear?”

I was pretty eager to go to confession the next time I was due. I finished my list of sins (which I’m not telling you), and the priest said, “Do you think God is always out to bust you? I think you don’t believe enough in His mercy.”

Now, I know perfectly well that God is merciful. But I realized I actually don’t know that God is merciful. Do you know what I mean? It’s one thing to say it, but there are some places of the heart that don’t know it yet. There are times I still feel guilty for making mistakes. There are past sins I find myself going over in my mind, even though the priest has clearly transmitted the absolution and it’s over. Do you ever feel that way?

The priest asked me what penance I wanted. How do you answer that? I could say, “What’s your heaviest penance? I’m a sinner.” But I said, “I don’t know…should I read something in the bible?” He gave me to read John 8, the story of the woman caught in adultery. I was to meditate on God’s mercy.

Padre Pio must have come to do the penance with me because I had a deep encounter with God as I read the story. The woman was dragged out, caught in the very act of adultery. And I imagined myself being pulled out of my home by every person I had ever sinned against or sinned with. They were angry and they wanted me dead. They pulled me through the street, calling me names and hurting me. I felt such heavy shame as I was publicly outed for my sins.

They wanted to stone me and I agreed. I could have thrown the first stone at myself, I was so despondent. But we didn’t stop. We kept going. We were going to see Jesus.

On this point, I was genuinely surprised. I mean, obviously, I know that Jesus is the judge. But actually, I didn’t realize that He was the judge.  Do you know what I mean? I realized, in this place of shame, I had already judged myself as guilty. I let the group judge me as guilty. But I’m not the judge. And people who accuse me aren’t the judge. Jesus has the final say. Do all of the places of your heart know that?

We got to Jesus and I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen. But He said something I didn’t expect at all. He said, “This one is precious to me. You can’t have her.” And everyone had to leave.

Precious. He loves me. He wants me.

What He did not say was, “Actually, she isn’t guilty.” My guilt was not in question. He merely said He wasn’t calling me out on it. He wanted me anyway. He was wiping out that debt so He could have me. He thirsted for my soul and His thirst was going to be quenched.

It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about them. It was about Him... [To read the rest of this story, please click over to ATX Catholic.]
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March 1, 2017

You Are "That Man"

Once upon a time there was an important man who oversaw a big group. He was very wealthy and had many responsibilities. To his credit, the man loved the Lord and knew that everything he had was from God. But somewhere along the way his love of God began to slip. Feeling entitled and prideful, the man began making some devastating decisions.

The group under his authority had to go out on a big project. Instead of going along with them, the man decided to stay home and delegate. He enjoyed his time relaxing at home and taking long naps. One day after a nap, he noticed a beautiful woman and became intrigued.

He asked people about this woman and found out she was the wife of one of the men who was away working on the big project. With the husband out of the way, the rich man summoned the woman. He saw her as an object – his object. He was consumed with lust. He sexually assaulted her then sent her home.

The woman did not tell anyone about this. Her assailant was her husband’s boss, and she did not want to risk him losing his job. But when the woman found out that she was pregnant, she sent word back to the rich man. He panicked.

He ordered the husband to return from the project, hoping that the worker would be so happy to see his wife that they would sleep together to cover up who the real father was. But the husband was so dedicated to his job and focused on his work that he never went home.

So the important man came up with another plan. He invited the husband to eat with him and got him drunk. Again, he hoped the husband would go home to his wife and sleep with her. But it did not happen.

Now the rich man was desperate. There was only one thing left to do. He decided he’d have to have the husband killed on the job and make it look like an accident. Word of the death eventually got back to the wife, so the rich man promised he would take care of her and the child.

This is a horrible story filled with pride, laziness, lust, rape, lies and murder. Sounds like a Hollywood movie. But this was not a work of fiction. It is the story of King David.

Tragically, King David did not even realize how much he had sinned until God sent the prophet Nathan to retell the story but without telling him who it was about. King David was so angry about the story that he said the sinner deserved death. Nathan said, “You are that man.”

That moment of seeing the sin and understanding the sin brought King David to write Psalm 51, which is the Psalm at Mass today... [To read the rest of this story, click over to ATX Catholic.]

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January 4, 2017

Have You Met a Modern-Day John the Baptist?

We sure could use a guy like John the Baptist around here. If Jesus happens to casually walk past me one day like he did in today’s Gospel reading, I sure hope that someone like John the Baptist will point Him out to me if I’m not paying attention.

Saint John the Baptist
"John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus."
When I read the Gospel story of The First Disciples a few days ago, it reminded me of The Road to Emmaus when I reflected on whether I had encountered Jesus during a long day of travel. While I always hope and pray that I will see the face of Jesus in everyone, I know that I fall short. We all do. Maybe seeing John the Baptist is the next best thing.

Perhaps Jesus walked past me in the days leading up to Christmas through the end of the year. And if I didn’t notice Him, I wonder if these people I did notice were modern-day John the Baptists, trying to lead me, either actively or passively, to follow the Lamb of God through their acts of kindness, charity and sacrifice:
  • The medical technician who worked late into the evening just a couple of nights before Christmas to stuff me and other patients into a smaller-than-a-coffin MRI machine. (Santa gave me a cervical herniated disc as an early Christmas present.)
  • The relatives who traveled to my home on Christmas Eve, saving me and my immediate family from having to make a trip out of town.
  • The priest who raised the Host at Christmas Mass (and every other Mass) and, just like John the Baptist, said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
  • As I served as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at Christmas Mass, the parishioner who gave me a forgiving smile as I offered the Host and accidentally said, “May you receive God’s blessing today” instead of “The body of Christ” because the previous four people in my line had come forward for a blessing.
  • The workers who apparently had to do some urgent repairs of a building at my parish on Christmas day.
  • My four-year-old nephew who insisted on giving me a “Disney’s Finding Dory Calculator Set” as a Christmas present. (In his defense, I do fit in the recommended age range of “3-and-up.”)
  • The person who wrote this message from God on a chalkboard inside a restaurant where I took my younger daughter for a daddy-daughter dinner date: “The next time you swear, use your own name instead of mine!”
  • The older gentleman at the next table in the same restaurant who smiled at my four-year-old daughter when she was being a little loud.
  • The mechanic who was covered head to toe in grease after working on my wife’s car but quickly washed his hands so he could shake ours.
  • The other driver at a four-way stop who waved for me to go even though I'm pretty sure she got there first.
  • Every single person, especially strangers, who said “Merry Christmas” or "Happy New Year" to me over the past couple of weeks... [To read the rest of this story, click over to ATX Catholic.]

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January 1, 2017

Happy New (Saint) Year

Need a helping hand in 2017? Head over to the Saint's Name Generator to get a randomly selected saint.

I've been using this tool each year for the past several years to select a patron saint for the year. My new saint for 2017 is St. Raymond Fitero who, according to catholic.org, was born in Spain, was a Cistercian warrior abbot and the founder of a military army of Christian soldiers. His feast day is March 15.

St. Raymond Fitero (Credit: nobility.org)

He joins an already strong lineup of my annual patron saints:
  • 2017: St. Raymond of Fitero
  • 2016: St. Wenceslaus
  • 2015: St. Radegunde 
  • 2014: St. Cajetan
  • 2013: St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
Get your patron saint for the new year today!

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