Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quick Bytes #63: The Lord's Prayer

... and forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us...

The way I see it, we have two choices:

1) Stop saying the Lord's prayer, lest we get what we ask for
2) Start actually forgiving those who trespass against us

Friday, July 26, 2013

When ...

- When you are sad, call on John 14
- When you don’t feel loved, call on Romans 8:38-39
- When you have sinned, call on 1 John 1:8-9
- When you are facing danger, call on Psalm 91
- When people have failed you, call on Psalm 27
- When God feel far from you, call on Psalm 139
- When your faith needs encouraging, call on Hebrews 11
- When you are scared, call on Psalm 23
- When you are worried, call on Matthew 6:25-34
- When you are hurt, call on Colossians 3:12-17
- When you feel no one is on your side, call on Romans 8:31-39
- When you are seeking rest, call on Matthew 11:25-30
- When you are suffering, call on Romans 8:18-30
- When you feel you’re failing, call on Psalm 121
- When you pray, call on Matthew 6:9-13
- When you need courage, call on Joshua 1
- When you are in need, call on Philippians 4:19
- When you are hated because of your faith, call on John 15
- When you are losing hope, call on 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
- When you are seeking peace, call on John 14:27
- When you want to do good works, call on John 15
- When you want to live a happy life, call on Colossians 3:12-17
- When you don’t understand what God is doing, call on Isaiah 55:8-9
- When you want to get along with others, call on Romans 12:9-21

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Three Most Important Virtues

St. Augustine can be said to be the first Catholic novelist with his "Confessions". Some people have claimed that his story is boring, but I find it real and engaging. In fact, what makes St. Augustine so accessible in all his writings is his simplicity, a mark of the great spiritual directors who always manage to get to the heart of the matter without numerous twists and turns. Where else can you find something this deep in so few words?

"...the three most important Virtues are Humility, Humility, and Humility." 

-Augustine of Hippo, 354-386

This brings to mind the final phrase in the Divine Praises:

Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

July: Devoted to the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

Praise be to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, by whose precious blood we know and will know the love, generosity and protection of Our Father forever.  In the past the Litany of the Precious Blood was recited after every Mass in July.  It is a beautiful litany that reminds us of the love of Jesus and reinforces in us the awe and reverence we should have at the power of his precious blood.

1 Peter 1:18-19

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.

Revelation 7

9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

From Father John Hardon, December 26, 1987:

Devotion to the Precious Blood is not a spiritual option, it is a spiritual obligation, and that not only for priests, but for every follower of Christ. I really believe, and I hesitate even saying this, but I really believe that one of the symptoms of modern society (and I would even include, sadly, modern Catholic society) one of the symptoms of a growing, gnawing secularism is the lessening and the weakening of devotion to the Precious Blood. Devotion, as we know, is a composite of three elements: It is first- veneration, it is secondly- invocation, and it is thirdly- imitation. In other words, devotion to the Precious Blood of Christ, the Lamb of God who was slain, is first of all to be veneration on our part, which is a composite of knowledge, love and adoration. We are to study to come to a deeper understanding of what those two - I am afraid for many people - casual words, Precious Blood, really mean.
I found this passage in the oldest document, outside of sacred scripture, from the first century of the Christian era - to be exact, from Pope St. Clement I, dated about 96 A.D. Says Pope Clement:
"Let us fix our gaze on the Blood of Christ and realize how truly precious It is, seeing that it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of conversion to the whole world."
To understand the meaning of the Precious Blood we must (otherwise the mystery will be lost on us), we must get some comprehension of the gravity of sin, of the awfulness of offending God, because it required the Blood of the Son of God to forgive that sin. We are living in an age in which to sin has become fashionable. But we believe that we are here for only a very short time. We further believe that Christ when He told us the way that leads to damnation is broad and many there are who walk that way, that the way that leads to eternal life is narrow and there are few who walk that way. I am watching every syllable I am saying. The Church has never pronounced infallibly on the number lost and the number saved, but she has canonized St. John of the Cross and made him a Doctor of the Church. Says John of the Cross: "I believe that the majority of the human race will be lost."
This veneration of the Precious Blood, which is the first element in our devotion to the Precious Blood means that we have a deep sensitivity to the awfulness of sin. Sin must be terrible. It must be awful. It must be the most dreadful thing in the universe. Why? Because it cost the living God in human form the shedding of His Blood.
Devotion to the Precious Blood means - beyond veneration which means understanding, grasping and loving, loving Jesus Christ in the shedding of His Blood - it further means that we invoke Christ under the attribute of His Precious Blood. . . . . I thought I would read a few invocations from the Litany of the Precious Blood;
"Blood of Christ, Only-Begotten Son of the eternal Father."
What are we saying? Are we saying that that Blood was the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father? Frankly, yes. Because we know that term, Precious Blood, is not just a symbol, not just a title. It identifies that quality of the Only-Begotten Son of the Eternal Father which Christ wants us to constantly have in mind, namely, that the Only-Begotten Son of the Eternal Father suffered. Suffered for us.
"Blood of Christ falling upon the earth in the Agony."
. . . . (T)he Church infallibly defined: Every drop of Christ's Blood in the Agony in the Garden, every drop He shed on Calvary, every drop was united hypostatically with the Second Person of the Trinity. Every drop of that Blood was adorable.
"Blood of Christ, Price of our salvation."
The more I lecture, the more I teach, the more people I deal with, the more I have come to identify two words: love and pain. If one person claims to love someone else, the one who claims to love, infallibly - if there is genuine love - is not only resigned to enduring pain -- pain is the proof of love, pain is the price of love. That's why God became Man: that He might be able to endure pain, especially the pain of draining His Blood out of love for us. May I recommend to all of you to promote the recitation of the litany of the Precious Blood?
Finally, devotion means imitation. In other words, if Christ showed His love for us by the shedding of His Blood, we are to show our love for Him - I mean everything I am saying - we are to show our love for Him by the shedding of our blood. That is what the Church means when she has us say that when Christ offers Himself daily on the altar in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we are told to identify that as our sacrifice - His and ours. He, the Head of the Mystical Body, can no longer suffer, but thank God, we can! . . . . And I don't hesitate recommending praying for the gift of martyrdom. But even if it is not God's Will that we shed our blood for Christ, to manifest our love for Him physically, let's make sure, absolutely sure, that we let no opportunity go by without shedding our blood spiritually. And that, my friends, no matter what our state of life, no matter what our vocation may be, if we are Christians, we are meant to shed our blood!


Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus

V/ Lord, have mercy.
R/ Lord, have mercy.
V/ Christ, have mercy.
R/ Christ, have mercy.
V/ Lord, have mercy.
R/ Lord, have mercy.
V/ Jesus, hear us.
R/ Jesus, graciously hear us.
V/ God, the Father of Heaven,
R/ have mercy on us.
V/ God, the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R/ have mercy on us.
V/ God, the Holy Spirit,
R/ have mercy on us.
V/ Holy Trinity, One God, 
R/ have mercy on us.

R/ for the following the response is: "Save us."
Blood of Christ, only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father,
Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word of God,
Blood of Christ, of the New and Eternal Testament,
Blood of Christ, falling upon the earth in the Agony,
Blood of Christ, shed profusely in the Scourging,
Blood of Christ, flowing forth in the Crowning with Thorns,
Blood of Christ, poured out on the Cross,
Blood of Christ, price of our salvation,
Blood of Christ, without which there is no forgiveness.
Blood of Christ, Eucharistic drink and refreshment of souls,
Blood of Christ, stream of mercy,
Blood of Christ, victor over demons,
Blood of Christ, courage of Martyrs,
Blood of Christ, strength of Confessors,
Blood of Christ, bringing forth Virgins,
Blood of Christ, help of those in peril,
Blood of Christ, relief of the burdened,
Blood of Christ, solace in sorrow,
Blood of Christ, hope of the penitent,
Blood of Christ, consolation of the dying,
Blood of Christ, peace and tenderness of hearts,
Blood of Christ, pledge of eternal life,
Blood of Christ, freeing souls from purgatory,
Blood of Christ, most worthy of all glory and honor,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world.
R/ spare us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
R/ graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
R/ have mercy on us.
You have redeemed us, O Lord, in your Blood.
R/ And made us, for our God, a kingdom.

Let us pray. Almighty and eternal God, you have appointed your only-begotten Son the Redeemer of the world, and willed to be appeased by his Blood. Grant we beg of you, that we may worthily adore this price of our salvation, and through its power be safeguarded from the evils of the present life, so that we may rejoice in its fruits forever in heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord.
R/ Amen.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

No Trivialities

As no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, so no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on Christ.

- Saint Gregory of Nyssa (335-395)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Quick Bytes #62: Handling Jesus

(This post was inspired by Victor's excellent post here.)

If Jesus was in front of you, would you take him and toss Him carelessly over your shoulder?

Would you grab at Him, nearly crushing Him with your hand?

Would you reach for Him mindlessly while thinking about the traffic you'd face leaving?

Would you hold out your hand with nonchalance, with the other hand in your pocket?

Would you mutter something under your breath out of habit?

Of course not.

You would welcome him with full attention, thanks, reverence and humility.

You would cradle him with hands like a throne ... fit for the King that He is.

And you would shout Amen! so the world really believed that you really believed.

You would treat Him just like you do every time you receive the Eucharist...


Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Name of the Lord

Jesus taught, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . . but seek first his (your heavenly Father's) kingdom and his righteousness . . . . Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you will get. . . . Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."  (Matthew 6:25a, 33, 7:1-2, 24-27)

This past Sunday the Lord impressed upon me the need to get to know him and his name more and to make that name of his known.  The scripture he led me to seemed to indicate to me that talking, writing on this blog, in any way that causes hearers, readers to forget God's name is a way of leading people astray.  The scriptures I was reading were from Jeremiah.  It was God's word towards self-declared prophets, but still I found some food for thought in these.

How many times had I read something in the Bible about God's name, wondered: what is up with God's name?; what is God's name?; and then did nothing to seek for the answers.  So first the convicting readings, and then the answers.  Emphasis added by me.

"I did not send these prophets, yet they ran!  I did not speak to them, yet they prophesized!  How long are there to be those among the prophets who prophesy lies and are in fact prophets of their own delusions.  They are doing their best, by means of the dreams they keep telling each other, to make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name in favor of Baal.  I have a quarrel with prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, Yahweh declares, who recount them, and lead my people astray by their lies and their bragging. I certainly never sent them, or commissioned them, and they serve no purpose for this people, Yahweh declares."  (Jeremiah 23:26-27, 21, 32)

"And let him who receives a word from me, deliver my word accurately!  Had they been present in my council, they could have proclaimed my words to my people, and turned them from their evil way and from the wickedness of their deeds!"  (Jeremiah 23:28b, 22)

Humility is something that we can learn from the Lord and only grow in by the grace of God.  After all pride, which in essence is idolatry, was the cause of the original sin, and its residual is still strong part of our human nature now.  I think the way the Holy Spirit preserved Mary as sinless was to teach her early about the primacy of being humble, and clothing her in grace to perfectly grow in this virtue! 

Some of us, me for example, require more of God's grace to grow in the virtue of humility than others.  Many saints have mentioned how humility is primary in order to grow in intimacy with God.  I think humility is also necessary in order to hear and be led by God in whatever way he chooses to communicate with us.  Studying and meditating on the name of the Lord gave me a peacefulness in my soul.  I started a Bible study on the name of the Lord Sunday, and I'll probably be still in that study until the day when I can no longer read or listen to the Bible.

Just reading the passages on the name of God turned into praising God.  Praising God and humbling oneself before God in praise is unfailing way of defeating anxiousness, and any efforts by the unseen evil spirits to distract me from my God-given purpose in this life and the next.  Before I go to those verses, I want to relay what happened last Saturday at the Witness to Life at an abortion clinic in downtown Chicago.

I was blessed to actually get to talk with one of the young women that was brought to the abortion clinic for a surgical abortion.  I've been going twice a month for over 1.5 years and this was the first time I've had such a conversation.  I totally missed her, and was distracted by some other dramas that were occurring around the clinic.  Another counselor noticed her standing alone under a tree and went up to talk with her.  She needed a phone to call for her step mother, because her mother had brought her to the clinic demanding that she have an abortion.  It was an iphone 5 that I particularly like, so I told her, "I am not going to listen to your conversation, but I need to stay close you know, because it is my phone."

I didn't try to listen, but I did hear a few things and in general was hearing the emotion in the call.  The girl was upset and on brink of tears several times.  She mentioned that her mom was calling her names as part of the pressure to have the surgery.  She needed someone to get her out of there.  After she was done she stepped over to return my phone.  Neither of us moved.

I found out that she was homeless, just graduated, played small forward in basketball, and was pregnant.  Her mom was pressuring her to do this, and she didn't want to.  I said many things to try to connect with her, and I was very nervous the entire time.  Some things I said were probably unhelpful "Oh, I played guard because I was considerably shorter than you."  Something I said that I think was helpful was, "You are God's Beloved child, and you do not need to dwell on anyone calling you a slut or saying mean things in order to get you do this.  Your baby within you is God's Beloved child too.  You are beautiful, and I am sure this baby is going to be beautiful too."

She said, "I hope it is going to be a boy."

Me, very encouraged, "Trust God to provide for you and this baby.  God's providence is like a parachute.  Until you pull the string you have no idea how well it works.  I think you know God, and I encourage you to call this number (pointing to the center address and phone number on the sheet).  They have residential care, and funds to provide for you during your pregnancy and for caring for the baby after.  Also, please find a Bible read, and pray.  Trust God." 

I noticed I was nervous up until the time I mentioned the unseen, but most important reality, "You are God's Beloved child."

Now for the scriptures -

"God is both refuge and strength for us,
a help always ready in trouble;
Yahweh Sabaoth is with us,
our citadel, the God of Jacob.
Be still and acknowledge that I am God,
supreme over nations,
supreme over the world." (Psalms 46:1, 7, 10)

* citadel:  fortress, stronghold; Sabaoth:  of Hosts, as in angelic army inclusive of powers, principalities and all the other orders of angels.

"Blessed are you, Yahweh our God
from everlasting to everlasting,
and blessed be your glorious name
surpassing all blessing and praise!

You, Yahweh, are the one, only Yahweh,
you have created the heavens,
the heaven of heavens and all their array,
the earth and all it bears,
the seas and all they hold.
To all of them you give life,
and the array of heaven worships you." (Nehemiah 9:5b-6)


Praise, servants of Yahweh,
praise the name of Yahweh.

Blessed be the name of Yahweh,
henceforth and for ever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
praised be the name of Yahweh!

Supreme over all nations is Yahweh,
supreme over the heavens his glory.
Who is like Yahweh our God?
His throne is set on high" (Psalms 113:1-5)

"But from farthest east to farthest west my name is great among the nations, and everywhere incense and a pure gift are offered to my name, since my name is great among the nations, says Yahweh Sabaoth." (Malachi 1:11) 

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (130?-200?) explains that this is the Eucharistic sacrifice foretold (The New Jerusalem Bible, Saints Devotional Edition, p. 1197).  For indeed when the pure, immaculate and holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are offered from the farthest east, to the farthest west, incense and a pure gift are offered to God's name.

What is God's name?  The Blue Letter Bible has a great page on the Old Testament names of God.  Yahweh Sabaoth is used over 285 times in the Old Testament and especially in Malachi.  Over 43.6% of the verses in Malachi reference the name of God as Yahweh Sabaoth.  Why?

From the English Standard Version Study Bible, p. 1775:
There is no greater comfort than the fact that the Lord has his invincible heavenly armies standing at the ready.  It is like the comfort that Elisha prayed for his servant at Dothan when they were surrounded by the Syrian armies: 

"'O Lord (Adonai), please open his eyes that he may see.' So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:17).  Perhaps it is like the comfort felt by Jesus before the cross:  "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53). 

Have you ever read 2 Maccabees?  It is an exciting book of the Bible.  In it Judas Maccabeus leads a rebellion against the Hellenists that were oppressing the Israelites, he said, "They may put their trust in their weapons and their exploits . . . but our confidence is in almighty God, who is able with a single nod to overthrow both those marching on us and the whole world with them." (2 Maccabees 8:18)  Judas and his followers humbled themselves before God, prostrating themselves in the Temple, and begging for his mercy and kindness, "they and the populace with them begged the Lord with lamentation and tears to send a good angel to save Israel." (2 Maccabees 11:6)  What happened? 

"They were still near Jerusalem when a rider attired in white appeared at their head, brandishing golden weapons.  With one accord they all blessed the God of mercy, and found themselves filled with such courage . . . " (2 Maccabees 11:8-9a)

I found this beautiful explanation of God's name of Yahweh Sabaoth:

The name of God is "the God of Hosts".
"Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts" is one of the frequent titles or names of God in the Old Testament. It is cited 260 times according to one scholar, 285 times according to another (cf. Theol. Dictionary of the OT [German edition], 6, 876-892). Though used less in the historical books, it is found very frequently in the prophets.
"It is the most sublime and magnificent proper name of God" (ibid., 692). 

Every day at Holy Mass we call upon God by this name, uniting ourselves with the holy angels when we sing: "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth–Lord God of hosts", as it was formerly translated.
I pray this mediation on God's name was a blessing to you as it was to me.
Three more scriptures, for the road:
"Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us."  John 17:11b
"The name of Yahweh is a strong tower;
the upright runs to it and is secure." Proverbs 18:10
"And now war broke out in heaven, when Michael (God's champion whose name means 'who is like God') with his angels attacked the dragon.  The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven.  The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth and his angles hurled down with him.  Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, 'Salvation and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now the accuser, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.  They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life."  (Revelation 12: 7-11)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Determination of the Saint

Nothing will be able to separate me from the will of God, neither anxieties, nor sorrows nor toil nor contempt nor temptation nor creatures nor demons nor darkness, not even death itself, because, in life and in death, I want all, and in all things, the will of God.

- Saint Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Quick Bytes #61: Seventy-Two

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others 
whom He sent ahead of Him in pairs.
                           - Luke 10:1

And the seventy-two said to the Lord, "Lord, we will 
go proclaim your word ... as soon as we get a chance.  
We're really busy, with work, the kids practices, 
John's birthday party, etc.  We should have more free
time next year.  Can you check back with us then?"
                           - Humans 20:13

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Quick Bytes #60: Independence

Today, in the United States, we celebrate our Independence as a country.

It is important, however, to remember that God was the first one to give us the gift of independence.  The freedom to do as we wish - whether right or wrong.

Which, ironically, means we need to be even more dependent, on God.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Peter, Thomas and Paul - The Connection

Sometimes, God allows some bad things to happen. At the time we don't understand why; but sometimes, in time, God allows us to see the reason behind His will.

Peter knew Jesus for about three years. He had heard Him teach and preach and had witnessed many of His miracles. Yet, at the most important time, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.

How bad is that? Terrible you might say. God allowed it to happen.

But let us consider the alternative. When Jesus was arrested the crowd was ugly and distrustful of Christ. Some may have even been frightened of what was happening. Had Peter not denied Christ and claimed to have known Him as a follower the chances are he would have been arrested and hung from the nearest tree. The same fate would have awaited the other Disciples who fled.

So ... who would have built the Church after this?

God allowed the denial to happen so that Peter survived the original upheaval which followed Christ's arrest and Crucifixion. Peter and the Disciples had to survive to build the Church.
Thomas too knew Jesus well. Yet he disbelieved the Resurrection. Just as bad as Peter's denial, some might say.

As a result, Jesus appeared to the Disciples a second time and gave Thomas the chance to put his finger in the wounds of Christ. The event was witnessed by the other Disciples and recorded in history.

Unwittingly, by his action Thomas did us all a favour. Had he not doubted we would have lost a valuable piece of evidence of Christ's Resurrection. By doubting, Christ's re-appearance to the Disciples and what He said to Thomas has been recorded for us to read and believe. 

Paul's job was easy. He had to seek out and persecute the early Christians. He witnessed and approved of Stephen's death and was eager to follow on with more arrests and deaths in order to stifle the Good News of Christ. Now how bad is that? And God allowed it to happen.

Yet God had other plans. He could use the energy and eagerness of such a zealot. There's no better spokesman for a cause than a person who has been converted. So God literally shook the man off his horse and made him blind in the process. The result, as they say, is history.

In all three cases God allowed bad to happen and turned it for the good.

A great reminder when things don't go so smoothly for us at times.

God bless.