The Greatest Mystery

The Catholic Faith is one of mystery. There is so much we find difficult to explain or understand, at least we lay people. How often have you heard homilies struggling to explain the Trinity or the Eucharist? Yet there is still a greater mystery, the greatest in all of Christianity in my opinion; how could Jesus love us.

How could He love me so much that He was willing to die for me, the screw-up with all my sins? How could He know all the sins I would commit, all the times I would reject Him or put things before Him yet love me enough to go to Cavalry? It is believed in the Garden He saw all the sins ever committed including yours and mine yet He willingly laid down His life so that we may have eternal life.

Yet even that was not enough for Him. He loved us so much at the Last Supper He created the Eucharist so that we could receive Him and draw close to Him. He sits now in our Tabernacles waiting for us to come visit Him. He passionately yearns for a relationship with us.

What is also amazing is that His love for us is not just limited to our salvation but all- encompassing. He cares deeply about every aspect of our lives and ardently yearns to pour His love upon us. “By His stripes we are healed”. He cares about our health, careers, relationships, our hopes and dreams, our passions and fears; every aspect of our lives, everything we can think of. Nothing is too big or too small for Him to care about. If it is important to us it is important to Him. Our job is to open ourselves to His awesome love.

Why He loves us so is the mystery we have difficulty wrapping our brains around. We are so unlovable so selfish it is difficult to comprehend such a selfless love. Yet that is the nature of Jesus, of God. He is Love Incarnate. It is impossible for Him to go against His nature and not love us even with all our faults. Who can understand all this?

Start Over With God

Have you ever wished you could start over with God, just leave behind your past and start from scratch as if you had never sinned? Do you want to come back to the Church but don’t know how? Do you feel that you are too great a sinner or been away too long?
The good news is that you can come back; you can start all over with God. It doesn’t matter if the only time you’ve gone to church for the last thirty years has been Christmas and Easter. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been to confession in decades and don’t remember how to go to confession. None of this matters.
In the 1930’s Jesus appeared to a humble Polish nun, St. Faustina and practically begged people to come to Him and trust in His mercy. He passionately wants our salvation. He passionately wants us in heaven with Him. He asked for a special feast the Sunday after Easter, the Feast of Divine Mercy. Jesus promised that on Divine Mercy Sunday the floodgates of Heaven will open. He promised that grace upon grace will be poured upon the earth. On this feast He wants to bless us beyond our imagination. He wants to wipe out all the punishment for our sins. We can be like a newly baptized person. All of our sins and their punishment can be wiped out. It doesn’t matter how great a sinner we are. Jesus wants to set us free. Think about it! We can start over!! He tried to make it as simple as possible for us to receive His graces.
How do we do this? What does Jesus ask of us? He calls us to true contrition for our sins? We need to make a good confession as close to the feast as possible and receive the Lord in the Eucharist that Sunday. We are called to pass on God’s Mercy to others through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Jesus desires us to celebrate and accept His Mercy. We are called to trust in Him.
If we only understood how passionately Jesus loves us and wants us to return to Him. Look at His words recorded in the book, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Jesus told Faustina to write” Tell the world about My mercy and My love. The flames of mercy are burning Me. I desire to pour them out upon human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them…Tell (all people), My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls.” (1074)
Later she writes “My dearest secretary, write that I want to pour out My Divine life into human souls and sanctify them, if only they were willing to accept My grace. The greatest sinner would achieve great sanctity, if only they would trust in My mercy. The very inner depths of My being are filled to overflowing with mercy, and it is being poured out upon all I have created. My delight is to act in a human soul and to fill it with My mercy…” (1784)
Jesus also said “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy…He who trusts in My mercy will not perish, for all his affairs are Mine…(723) Encourage souls to place great trust in my fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the unmeasurable depths of My Mercy.(1059) “The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.”(1273) “Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with my divine peace at the hour of death.”(1520)
Elsewhere in the Diary of St. Faustina (1485), Jesus is quoted as saying “Be not afraid of your Savior, O sinful Soul…be willing to talk openly with your God of mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish His graces on you. How dear your soul is to Me! I have inscribed your name upon my hand; you are engraved as a deep wound in My Heart.”
A little further in the Diary He says “My Child, Do you fear the God of Mercy? My holiness does not prevent Me from being merciful….You can come to me at any moment, at any time; I want to speak to you and grant you grace. My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart.”
These are Jesus’ words. “I will never reject a contrite heart.” Never! He will never reject a contrite heart. What better news can there be! We can start all over on the Feast of Divine Mercy. We can have all the punishments we deserve for our sins no matter how great wiped away.

Come Home This Easter!

This Easter don’t just visit the church but come home to stay. You see it isn’t about the priest, deacon or sister who might have hurt you or even the modern-day Pharisees and gossips. It is not about the pope. It’s not about your family who nags you and it’s not even about going to hell.
It is about the God who loves you passionately, who ardently yearns to bless you, the God who wants to pour out His love upon you. It’s about a God who loves you so much that He took your sins upon His back and suffered through the most painful death in history. It is about a God who wants to bless you more than you can imagine, a God who desires a real personal relationship with you, a God willing to let you know Him.
It is about the God of love, an infinite unfathomable love that we don’t deserve. We don’t have to earn His love. In fact we can’t earn it. That doesn’t matter. He knows every sin we’ve ever committed and every sin we will ever commit. He loves us anyway.
If we only understood how passionately Jesus loves us and wants us to return to Him. Look at His words recorded in the book, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Jesus told Faustina to write” Tell the world about My mercy and My love. The flames of mercy are burning Me. I desire to pour them out upon human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them…Tell (all people), My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls.” (1074)
Later she writes “My dearest secretary, write that I want to pour out My Divine life into human souls and sanctify them, if only they were willing to accept My grace. The greatest sinner would achieve great sanctity, if only they would trust in My mercy. The very inner depths of My being are filled to overflowing with mercy, and it is being poured out upon all I have created. My delight is to act in a human soul and to fill it with My mercy…” (1784)
Jesus also said “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy…He who trusts in My mercy will not perish, for all his affairs are Mine…(723) Encourage souls to place great trust in my fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the unmeasurable depths of My Mercy.(1059) “The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.”(1273) “Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with my divine peace at the hour of death.”(1520)
In the Diary of St. Faustina (1485), Jesus is quoted as saying “Be not afraid of your Savior, O sinful Soul…be willing to talk openly with your God of mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish His graces on you. How dear your soul is to Me! I have inscribed your name upon my hand; you are engraved as a deep wound in My Heart.”
A little further in the Diary He says “My Child, Do you fear the God of Mercy? My holiness does not prevent Me from being merciful….You can come to me at any moment, at any time; I want to speak to you and grant you grace. My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart.”
These are Jesus’ words. “I will never reject a contrite heart.” Never! He will never reject a contrite heart. So why believe that we are hopeless, that we can’t start over, that it is too late? You are God’s beloved! God loves you more than we can ever imagine. His love is perfect even though we’re not.
Don’t believe the lies that Satan will tell you; that you’re too great a sinner that God will never forgive you. Can any of your sins compare to those of John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace. He was the captain of a slave ship. He was responsible for hundreds of people being sold into slavery. Yet He found God’s grace and love.
Come home this Easter to the one who loves you despite everything you’ve ever done wrong. Come home to the God who waits patiently in the Tabernacle for you to come. Come home to the God of Infinite mercy and love!

Why Won’t We Be Healed?

Jesus said “Come to Me, all you who are burdened…”. Why don’t we come to Him? So many people accept illness or just get by when they don’t have to. Our faith tells us that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. Scripture (Hebrews 13:8) tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We know from the gospels that Jesus healed all those who came to Him in faith. Why do we walk into church not expecting miracles?
Why don’t we experience miracles at mass? Could the fault be ours? Could it be that we never expect miracles? Could it be that we insist on healing on our terms not Christ’s? We want to be healed physically but refuse the spiritual, emotional and relational healing that Jesus wants to give us first? Are we too stubborn to change or give up our sins? Do we refuse to give up our sins? Are we too full of pride to let God in?
Are we like the people of Nazareth who were so used to Jesus that they couldn’t imagine Him performing a miracle? Have we gotten so used to receiving Communion that we’ve forgotten the God who is present in all His Divinity? Have we forgotten the power, glory and majesty present in the Eucharist? Has Communion become an empty ritual rather than a miraculous encounter with the Creator of the Universe? Is the problem that we expect nothing to happen and therefore receive nothing?
Is it that we don’t believe that God loves us that much? Do we think we’ve messed up so much that we’re unworthy of healing, that we deserve to suffer? Do we not believe God’s promise in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God? Do we not believe that by His stripes we are healed?
God wants to bless us every time we receive Communion. We have to open ourselves up to His infinite love and allow Him to bless us. We have to say yes to His agenda. Open your heart and say yes. Allow Jesus to knock your socks up. Let go of the fear, the pride or anger that blocks you from His awesome love and grace.

A Faith Worth Dying For, part II

As the New Year begins I think about all of those who gave their lives for the faith this past year. People are still being persecuted today for their faith. In countries like India and Egypt Christians were attacked in church. We have been persecuted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and even parts of the Philippines. You risk your life just to go to mass.
Why? Why are people willing to risk their lives for the faith? Why not just convert to Islam or whatever? What do they know that we are missing? Each weekend an average of 31% of American Catholics go to mass and so many of them go late and leave early. We act more like we are punching a time clock or getting a ticket punched rather than worshipping the God who created the Universe? Why?
What do they know that we don’t? What is it about our faith that makes people willing to give up their careers, homes, businesses and move to another country rather than give up their faith? Why are they willing to sacrifice everything for their faith?
We need to find out. We need this year to take a good look at our selves and our faith to see if we can discover the priceless treasure we’ve been missing. We need to take the time to really look at what our faith is really about, a relationship with a loving God who passionately longs to have us with Him for all Eternity, the God who gave us Himself in the Eucharist so we don’t have to wait for heaven to know Him; the God who ardently longs to bless us, the God who gave His life for us on Calvary.
We have a faith worth dying for. Millions across the years have given their lives rather than abandon their faith. Even today people are willing to die for their faith. How important is your faith to you?

Can Catholics Be Saved?

One of the most aggravating situations I’ve dealt with recently involved a Christian music festival I recently attended. Several people tried to convert me to their faith. What especially annoyed me was the fact that they didn’t try to convert members of other Protestant denominations but the Catholics and those who didn’t go to church at all.
There’s seems to be an acceptance of other Protestant denominations but not of Catholics. As long as you belong to a Bible believing church and have a relationship with Christ you’re okay. It is annoying because the Catholic Church is the original Bible believing church to begin with. We cover the whole Bible at daily mass every three years. We do not cover only the scripture that the pastor likes to preach on but the entire Bible including books that the Protestants deleted.
Secondly, this is the Church founded by Jesus Christ and passed on by the disciples. Our mass is based on the prayers and words that He said at the Last Supper when He celebrated the Passover. Protestant services can’t make that claim. We are also the only ones to have all the Sacraments He instituted. We don’t receive Him symbolically we receive Him physically in Communion.
They make a big deal of being saved but exactly what does that mean? It means that you admit to God that you are a sinner and that you cannot be saved on your own. You believe that Jesus died for your sins and that you accept Him as your savior and invite Him to be Lord of your life. You ask Him to have a relationship with you.
Does this mean that you never sin again? Not really, but you are called to confess your sins as soon as possible. Often at these festivals, people pray this prayer for the second, third, fourth or fifth time because they’ve fallen away from the fervor of their first conversion and feel the need to recommit themselves.
What about Catholics? Can they say this prayer? Yes there are several published by Catholic organizations. There is the miracle prayer which basically says the same thing and has a bishop’s imprimatur. The Marians of the Immaculate Conception have a prayer titled “Dear Lord Jesus, I Need You” which basically says the same thing. (The Marians run the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, Massachusetts) Many Catholics say these prayers not once but daily.
The big thing is to accept God’s grace for salvation. Without God’s grace no one could be saved. Both Catholics and Protestants agree on that. Many people don’t realize it. There is a misconception that Catholics try to earn salvation through works. Our works are really our response to God’s love. If God loved us so much to die for us then we should return that love by our actions. We do so by loving His children.
As I said the big thing is accepting God’s grace. We do that every time we go to Reconciliation. We do that every time we go to mass. We do that every time we receive Communion. We do that every time we pray or read Scripture. We may not realize it or think of it that way but every Sacrament; every prayer is an opportunity to open ourselves up to the graces God wants to give us.
Every time we receive the Eucharist is an opportunity to ask Jesus again to be our savior and to work on our relationship with Him. Every Eucharist is an opportunity to open ourselves up to Jesus and to allow Him to change our hearts. Every time we devoutly receive Communion we ask Jesus to have a relationship with us whether consciously or subconsciously. The very act of walking up to Communion is a form of responding to an altar call. The difference is that we go to Jesus not a human.

Jesus, help us to be aware of all that we do in our faith of all the graces You pour out on us through Your Sacraments. Help us to understand so that we can explain our faith to others and be strong in our faith. Amen

Faith of Our Fathers

This morning’s song at mass, A Living Faith (Faith of our Fathers), made me think. We have a faith that has endured for almost 2000 years. It has survived persecution by the Romans, attacks by the Pagan tribes that invaded Europe, the Islamic attempt to conquer Europe, the Reformation and persecutions in France, Spain, England, Mexico, Korea, Vietnam and Japan to name a few places. Our faith has survived Communism. Despite the martyrdom of hundreds of thousands we have remained true to the teaching of Jesus.
We have such an awesome faith. When we kneel or stand at the Consecration of the mass we join Mary herself, St. Peter, St Patrick, Joan of Arc, Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Elizabeth Seton and all those in our family who have gone before us in worshipping the Lord. We are privileged to be part of the Communion of Saints and part of a Church built on eternal not popular values. We belong to the one Church created by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Our Church is accountable to Jesus Christ not the masses. It is God’s Church not a social club. Our doctrines are shaped by the Holy Spirit not opinion polls.
We’ve been given such tremendous gifts in the Sacraments especially the Eucharist. We are challenged as St Augustine said to become what we receive. Each time we receive Jesus we should become a little more like Jesus, humble, more loving, forgiving but also more obedient.
We have to remember Jesus was obedient unto death. His prayer in the Garden was “Thy will be done”. He is our model of what it means to be Catholic. We are called to love others as ourselves, to judge not lest we be judged as to forgive others as we want God to forgive us. We are also called to be obedient to the Church teachings.
Our faith has been passed down generation after generation for almost 2000 years. We are not free to just change it for the sake of convenience or political correctness. We cannot redefine for ourselves the teachings of the Church and call ourselves good Catholics. If we take it upon ourselves like Henry VIII or Martin Luther to reject certain teachings of our Church we aren’t practicing the same faith that St. Dominic preached. We aren’t following the faith that Mother Theresa followed. We aren’t following the faith that the martyrs gave their lives for. We aren’t in communion with the saints in heaven or the Church on earth. What we are doing is denying our faith and the Church Christ set up.
We have a faith worth dying for, one that hundreds of thousands have died for. We should be defending our Church and faith. Now is the time to stand up for our faith not abandoning it. There can be no such thing as a pro abort Catholic or a Catholic for choice. That isn’t what it means to be Catholic. Rejecting or denying part of our faith means we reject the faith.
We are once again a Church under attack and persecution. Make no mistake about it. We are under attack because we stand against those who exploit women for profit, abortionists and pornographers. We are under attack because we stand for what is right rather than an anything goes philosophy. We are under attack because we believe and teach that God is real and calls us to be better than the world around us. Like the Roman martyrs we refuse to worship the false gods of modern society.
It is time for our generation to stand up for our God and our faith. Like those before us we must be willing to make sacrifices rather than deny our faith.