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World Mission Day, Journey of Faith

World Mission Day, Journey of Faith

 

Today the entire Church celebrates World Mission Day, an event created by Pope Pius XI in 1926.  Since that time, now nearly 100 years ago, the Pope composes a message for the reflective meditation by Catholics worldwide.  It is intended to deepen the missionary consciousness and commitment of all the faithful.  The title of this year’s message is: “You shall be my Witnesses,” (Acts 1:8).

Pope Francis begins by noting that the celebration of World Mission Day is to remind us that “the Church is missionary by nature” and that “the call of every Christian [is] to bear witness to Christ.”  Just as Christ was the first “missionary” of the Father, “every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ.”  Indeed, “to evangelize is the very identity of the Church.”

A Deeper Look.  If we pay focused attention to Christ’s call, we will appreciate many aspects of “the mission Christ entrusted to the disciples.”  All disciples “are urged to live their personal lives in a missionary key; they are sent by Jesus to the world not only to carry out, but also above all to live the mission entrusted to them; not only to bear witness, but also and above all to be witnesses of Christ.”

“The essence of mission is to bear witness to Christ, that is, to his life, passion, death and resurrection” and to his “love of the Father and of humanity.”  “Missionaries of Christ are not sent to communicate themselves….  Instead, theirs is the supreme honor of presenting Christ in words and deeds, proclaiming to everyone the Good News of his salvation, as the first apostles did, with joy and boldness.”

Further Insight.  Pope Francis goes on to say that “when it comes to Christian witness, the observation of Saint Paul VI remains ever valid.”  Paul VI noted: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he listens to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 41).  It is noteworthy that Saint John Paul II quoted this same insight it his mission encyclical (Redemptoris Missio 42).

Pope Francis goes on to assert that “the testimony of an authentic Christian life is fundamental for the transmission of the faith.”  Yet, the proclamation of Christ’s person and message is equally necessary.  In short, this means that for evangelization

“the example of a Christian life and the proclamation of Christ are inseparable.  One is at the service of the other.  They are the two lungs with which any community must breathe, if it is to be missionary.”

Personal Invitation.  Pope Francis requests each of us to become a “consistent and joyful witness of Christ” and a “force of attraction for the growth of the Church.”  “I exhort everyone to take up once again the courage, frankness, and parrhesia [boldness] of the first Christians, in order to bear witness to Christ in word and deed, in every area of life.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Send me your Holy Spirit, O Lord,

that it may in turn send me

out into the world to witness to your love,

your mercy, your justice, and your truth.

Give me your grace, my God,

to love as you love, to be merciful

as you are merciful, to be just

as you are just and to live the truth

that you alone are God, all loving,

all merciful, and all just.

Send me out each day from my room,

my home, my comfort zone

to a world that longs for true peace.

Give me wisdom to proclaim

your good news no less through silence

than through words,

through deeds no less than

through holy patience waiting

for the right time to act.

Above all help me to live your Gospel

in everything I do or say and

find your presence in everyone I meet.

For you alone are the creator of all,

the savior of all humankind and

the redeemer in whose divine image

everyone on earth is made.

Amen.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

An Urgent Call, Journey of Faith

An Urgent Call, Journey of Faith

 

Only a few weeks ago, we all listened to the reports of the devastation and suffering caused by hurricane Ian, particularly in Florida.  Personally, I still vividly remember that in late September 2009 the Philippines suffered a “double-hit” of two back-to-back typhoons.  Typhoon Ondoy dumped the equivalent of over one month’s rainfall on Manila and the surrounding areas in less than 24 hours.  The situation was urgent.

Solidarity in Suffering.  Many people manifested their solidarity and compassion during these tragic events in Florida and Manila.  I remember Muelmar Magallanes, the 18-year-old construction worker who saved the lives of 30 people in Manila during the height of the storm.  After he had moved his own family to higher ground, he went back to do the same for some 30 others.  A strong swimmer, Muelmar’s last rescue mission was a 6-month-old baby and mother.  He then succumbed to fatigue and the strong currents carried him away.  Time magazine named him one of the top ten heroes of the year. 

Missionary Urgency.  The Church asks all of us to frequently reflect on the urgency of mission.  This theme dominates Saint Paul’s second letter to Timothy, today’s second reading.  Paul exhorts Timothy with the strongest of words: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus … proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” 

Profound Insights.  In his mission encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Saint Pope John Paul II reflects on “missionary urgency.”  Listen to his words: “Mission is an issue of faith, an accurate indicator of our faith in Christ and his love for us” (RM 11).  The pope goes on to say that “in the Church’s history, missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith” (RM 2).  And again, “The Lord is always calling us to come out of ourselves and to share with others the goods we possess, starting with the most precious gift of all—our faith” (RM 49).

John Paul II is asserting that mission will only flourish if it is built upon “our faith in Christ and his love for us.”  Only when we are deeply convinced of Christ’s personal love for us, will we be energized to tell others the good news.  A sense of the urgency of mission emerges from an awareness of God’s profound love.

Personal Commitment.  To meet the urgent needs caused by natural disasters, all try to do their share; the same principle holds true for spreading the Good News of Jesus.  It is an urgent imperative; all are called to serve the Church’s mission; some are even invited to give heroic service.  Remember Muelmar Magallanes; he gave his life in service.  So did Jesus on the cross.  You and I need to ask: How deep is my faith?  Is mission urgent for me?

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lord, who always hear the cry of the poor

and that all be saved by your truth

may I recognize my neighbor in need

and acknowledge that I may be the answer

to their prayers.

I confess I feel overwhelmed and helpless

in the face of tragedy and suffering.

Let me not refuse to do anything

out of fear I can do nothing

but let my efforts and offerings

no matter how small, by your grace

be multiplied to feed the multitudes.

Accept, then, my Lord and God, my gifts

of time, talents, and prayers as but

the first fruits of my faith in you.

Together with brothers and sisters of faith

may we answer your urgent call to help

that the world may be healed, fed and freed

to build your kingdom here on earth.

Amen.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Surprising Model of Virtue, Journey of Faith

 

Today’s Gospel from Saint Luke narrates the merciful action of Jesus in curing ten lepers.  Certainly, to be healed of such a horrible affliction is a great gift, flowing from Jesus’ compassion.  Surprisingly, only one returns to express his gratitude to Jesus.  Thus, Jesus asks: “Ten were cleansed, were they not?  Where are the other nine?  Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  And, as Saint Luke notes: “He was a Samaritan.”

Today’s Gospel presents the “grateful leper” (Lk 17:15-19).  Recently on July 10, we heard Jesus’ parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Lk 10:29-37).  During the Lenten liturgy on the Third Sunday of Year A, we hear about Jesus and the “Samaritan woman at the well” (Jn 4:1-42).  To Jewish ears during the time of Jesus praising the virtues of Samaritans would be shocking.  Yet, Jesus three times holds up foreign Samaritans as examples to be imitated.

Gratitude.  This beautiful virtue, is not a single, one-time expression; Christians approach life, people, and events with a constant “attitude of gratitude.”  Allow me to propose “ten commandments of gratitude.” 

(1)  Recognize your many blessings.  Recall the copious gifts you have received: family, health, friends, faith, opportunities.  Each moment and stage of life brings new blessings; we are gifted again and again. 

(2)  Reflect on the source of gifts.  We do not earn gifts; God is the source of our richness.  Treasure God’s generosity.

(3)  Recall frequently: gifts are meant for sharing.  All we are and all we have are gifts.  Our person, our talents, our richness are meant for sharing, not hiding or hoarding.  What you have received as a gift, give as a gift (Mt 10:8). 

(4)  Remember, remember, remember.  Continuous remembering is central to making our past graced moments, small or large, present and alive in our lives.

(5)  Be grateful in all seasons.  Gratitude is not only a fair-weather virtue; prosperous times and difficult moments are equally opportunities to give thanks. 

(6)  Guard against the enemies of gratitude.  Self-pity, jealousy, and resentment attack and drive out genuine gratitude.  Be done with asking: Why me?  Is life fair?

(7) Practice acts of gratitude daily.  Express and manifest thankfulness regularly;

develop the habit of manifesting gratitude.

  (8)  Enrich your personality through gratitude.  Grateful people are at peace with themselves, with others, and with what they have.

(9)  Place gratitude at the center of your prayer.  Prayer from the heart is replete with thankfulness.  Grateful persons turn easily to God in prayer. 

(10)  Become a Eucharistic person.  The Greek word, Eucharist, means thanksgiving. Sharing Christ’s love in the Eucharist can transform us into loving, grateful, serving persons, permeated with an “attitude of gratitude.”

Like the thankful leper, we are to constantly praise God for his gracious mercies.  Like Jesus himself, we are to see sincere goodness in other people—even in those we did not expect.  Do we have the eyes of Jesus—eyes of mercy?                           

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Prayer for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fill my soul each morning with your praises,

O Lord, for the gift of another day and may each evening

find my heart overflowing with gratitude

for all your graces and blessings in my life.

For the gift of life, health and love

I give you thanks, O Lord!

for family, friends and neighbors

I give you thanks, O Lord!

for each challenge, each setback,

each failure I give you thanks, O Lord!

for each breath, each step, each day

I give you thanks, O Lord!

Above all, for faith in your providence,

for hope in your promises and for love of your presence

in the Eucharist, In my heart, in my soul, in my life,

and in my world, I give you thanks, O God,

my Lord and my Savior.

Amen.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Fanning the Flame of Mission, Journey of Faith

Fanning the Flame of Mission, Journey of Faith

 

Today’s second reading comes from Saint Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  Its opening chapter contains much practical inspiration for all Christians on the theme of mission; it describes the gift of the missionary vocation and provides specific advice on how to actively engage in mission.

With evident emotion and intensity, Paul speaks forcefully to Timothy: “Stir into flame the gift of God”!  Kindle it afresh!  Keep it in full flame!  The fire must constantly burn at full force!  A truly expressive image of mission and the missioner!

Ordinary Image.  Allow your imagination to create the scene of a street vendor, who vigorously fans the charcoal embers, so that they will glow and produce heat to roast the corn or barbecue the chicken.  Such is the image of the missioner, the “flame-fanner”!

Baptismal Commission.  We all have received a special gift, the fire of the Holy Spirit, through our baptism.  Paul had both baptized as well as “laid hands” on Timothy; he reminds Timothy (and all of us) that our baptism needs repeated strengthening.  The exercise of the gift is not automatic; it needs constant revitalization.  In a word: “Stir into flame the gift of God.”  Develop a more lively sense of mission.  Allow the fire of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to burn brightly—in all the unique situations we encounter each day.

Church-in-Mission.  We are a missionary Church, “missionary by nature” in the thought of Vatican II (Ad Gentes 2).  The Church is to be “a community aflame with missionary zeal to make Jesus known, loved and followed” (Ecclesia in Asia 19a).  Is this true or are these empty words?  Has the flame of mission become a smoldering, dying ember?

Profound Insight.  I love a beautiful quote by the German theologian, Emil Brunner.  He insightfully noted: “The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.”  The essence of fire is in the burning.  One may have wood, newspaper, kerosene, and matches, but fire is only fire when the burning is activated.  We are truly and authentically Church only when we are actively engaged in the mission of evangelization.

Dynamic Mission.  Fan the flame of mission!  Keep the fire burning brightly!  Founders of

Religious Congregations have often used the “fire” image.  Saint Anthony Mary Claret noted: “One who burns with the fire of divine love … works to inflame others with the fire of God’s love.”  Saint Ignatius of Loyola often repeated: “Ite, Inflammate Omnia.  Go, set the world on fire!”

Every Christian is challenged:  Fan the Flame of Mission—in your own heart as well as in the hearts of other Christians.  Realize that: “A fire can only be lit by something that is itself on fire” (Ecclesia in Asia 23b).  Mission is all about igniting and spreading fire (cf. Lk 12:49).  Let us implore the Holy Spirit to enkindle anew the Pentecostal “tongues of fire” in our hearts!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Prayer for 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Spirit of the all-loving, living God,

fan to flames the fire of faith

you first kindled within my heart and soul

when you claimed me as your own

at my baptism and throughout my life.

Let not the cold embers of my past

nor present disappointments overshadow

the burning brightness of your presence.

Fill my empty heart with renewed zeal

to share your love and your truth

with everyone I meet, no less with

my neighbor than with strangers living

a world away. Help me share the spark

of your love with everyone I meet

that they too might set the entire world ablaze

with undying love for you.

I offer you my words, however few, and

my actions however insignificant

as my sacrifice of praise to shatter

the darkness of this world with

the blazing glory of your mercy

you, who live, love and create

as a holy Trinity of unquenchable grace.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Amen

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Open the Gate of Your Heart , Journey of Faith

Open the Gate of Your Heart , Journey of Faith

 

All of us are quite familiar with today’s Gospel from Saint Luke (16:19-31) which narrates the parable of the poor man Lazarus lying at gate of the rich man Dives.  We also hear it proclaimed every year on Thursday of the second week of Lent.  The parable actually illustrates that our attitude to our needy neighbor is actually our attitude to God himself.  As John says: “One who does not love the brother that he can see, cannot love God whom he has never seen” (1 Jn 4:20).      

Blind Indifference.  Note that Dives did not act harshly toward Lazarus; he simply turned a blind eye to him and ignored his needs. In a word, he closed his heart to him.  Again, we are confronted by the words of John: “If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw one of his brothers in need, but closed his heart to him, how could the love of God be living in him?” (1 Jn 3:17). 

Pope Francis Speaks.  In his message for Lent 2016, the Pope offers us some profound reflections on authentic wealth and poverty.  He writes: “… the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such.  They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor.  This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars.”

“The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow.  It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep….  Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion.  As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see.” 

Art Enriches Faith.  Today’s Gospel parable is richly illustrated in the work of contemporary artist James Janknegt (Lenten Meditations).  This Texas artist seeks to “paint the parables” in what he calls “modern day American vernacular.” 

Janknegt’s painting of today’s parable depicts the rich man as “an all-you-can-eat glutton wolfing down large portions of takeout food.  The sore-plagued beggar is the man of the streets with a bedroll and companion dogs.”  Friends, you are invited to explore Janknegt’s striking contemporary parable paintings; they are readily available on the internet.  They will certainly enrich your faith reflection on the relevance of Jesus’ parables for contemporary society!

Deepening Awareness.  We all need to accept our own poverty and lack of social awareness; Pope Francis has often spoken about the “globalization of indifference” in contemporary society.  After all, it is only by embracing our own poverty that we become more human, more “open-hearted” to others (especially the poor), and ultimately more at peace with ourselves.

             

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Prayer for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Poor in spirit we come before you, Lord,

with open and empty hands begging

to receive your grace and your word
as our daily bread.

You, who looked with mercy on

poor Lazarus at the door of the rich man,

may we be ever mindful of the blessings

we have received and open our hearts

to share with those who have less.

Grant that we might acknowledge our own

spiritual poverty that we, like Lazarus,

may at length rest in the bosom of Abraham.

Above all, open our eyes to recognize

our brothers and sisters in need

that with open hands we might share

your blessings with all and with

open lips proclaim your love to and for everyone.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Our “Jesus Option” – Serving the Poor, Journey of Faith

Our “Jesus Option” – Serving the Poor, Journey of Faith

 

Today’s first reading is taken from the prophet Amos, known as the “prophet of social justice.”  He warns against anyone who “tramples upon the needy and destroys the poor.”  The Church continues to challenge us to make a clear “preferential option for the poor.”   This is more than just a nice-sounding phrase or a clever play on words.  Today we seek to understand this important dimension of living our Christian faith.

A Unique Phrase.  When speaking about the “option for the poor” we are in the area popularly known as “Catholic Social Teaching.”  This vision of the Church concerns the human person in society and covers all spheres of life—political, personal, social, economic, and spiritual.  At the center of this teaching is the inviolable dignity of the human person; it includes a holistic approach to human development and a just structuring of society.

Brief History.  The phrase “preferential option for the poor” was first used in 1968 by Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe.  The term was later picked up by the Catholic bishops of Latin America.  Pope John Paul II used the term, expanding its use to include spiritual as well as material poverty.  Pope Benedict XVI embraced this option as a true Catholic obligation. 

Pope Francis.  Francis follows the same preferential option.  One can simply recall the theme of his 2015 visit to the Philippines: Mercy and Compassion.  In Tacloban City, the “ground zero” of a devastating typhoon, Francis said: “If today all of us are gathered here, fourteen months after the passage of Typhoon Yolanda, it is because we are certain that we will not be disappointed in our faith, for Jesus has gone before us.  In his passion, he took upon himself all of our sorrows.”

Scriptural Basis. In several important aspects, Jesus himself can be seen as one of the “poor.”  He “emptied himself” to share our humanity (Phil 2:7); he became a native of a despised village (Jn 1:46); he was known as the lowly carpenter’s son (Mt 13:55).  Jesus resisted the temptation to carry out his mission through the use of glory and power (Mt 4:5-10).  He was the innocent victim of persecution and was executed after an unjust trial.  

Jesus’ Ministry.  In his public ministry, we see that Jesus is God’s mercy in person; his is a ministry of compassion for the little, lonely, least, lost, and last of society.  His parables show his identification with the poor, e.g. Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 29-37), Lost Sheep (Lk 15:4-7), Lost Son (Lk 15:11-32). 

Final Judgment.  In the Last Judgment narrative, Jesus directly identifies himself with the poor and needy; he says: “I tell you solemnly, as long as you did it to one of these least brethren of mine, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).  The Gospels are filled with examples of Jesus’ own “option for the poor” of his day!  We pray for the grace to daily follow the “Jesus option” in our personal lives! 

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Prayer for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our hearts yearn to see you

face to face, Lord, and our souls

long for your presence each day.

By faith I see you in the Blessed Sacrament

and by justice I find you in the poor, the prisoner, and the oppressed.

By love I find you in sinners and

by grace I kneel before your presence

in my soul.

O most merciful Lord, may my eyes

never cease to seek and find you

no less in my neighbor and my enemy

than I do in sacred scripture and prayer.

May I never cease to seek, see and serve you

in the least of my brothers and sister for in serving

them I serve you in helping them, I’m helping you

and in treating all with dignity I do you honor,

who became human and lived among us and died

that we might live life to the full.

Amen.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Mercy: Beating Heart of the Gospel, Journey of Faith

Mercy: Beating Heart of the Gospel, Journey of Faith

 

Pope Francis is truly a “pope of mercy”; he has focused the Church’s attention on the theme of mercy and the poor.  His document, Misericordiae Vultus (MV) (The Face of Mercy), proclaimed an entire year of mercy, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the close of Vatican II (1962-1965).  Francis says: “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.  It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace…. Mercy [is] the bridge that connects God and man” (MV 2).

God, Father of Mercy.  Scripture clearly affirms that God is “the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation” (2 Cor 1:3).  Our God is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4).  One of Jesus’ best-known parables found in today’s Gospel is that of the “merciful father” (though often known as the parable of the prodigal son): Lk 15:11-32.  The magnanimous father shows his overflowing love, mercy and compassion to both of his sons.

Jesus, Face of the Father’s Mercy.  In Jesus of Nazareth, mercy has become living and visible.  Indeed, whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9).  Jesus’ entire life and “his person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously….  The signs he works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy.  Everything in him speaks of mercy.  Nothing in him is devoid of compassion” (MV 8).  Jesus “felt deep compassion” for the crowds (Mt 9:36).  Jesus spoke many parables devoted to mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the father with two sons (Lk 15:4-7, 8-10, 11-32).

Church, Community of Mercy.  “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life.  All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy.” (MV 11).  “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel….  Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (MV 12).    

Mary, Mother of Mercy.  “My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy….  No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary.  Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh….  She treasured divine mercy in her heart….  Her hymn

of praise (Lk 1:46-55) was dedicated to the mercy of God….  At the foot of the cross, Mary, together with John, the disciple of love, witnessed the words of forgiveness spoken by Jesus.  This supreme expression of mercy towards those who crucified him shows us the point to which the mercy of God can reach” (MV 24).

Our Practice of Mercy.  Mercy is demanding; it is not easy; yes, its demands are often inconvenient and unpredictable; it impinges on our personal plans and schedules.  Mercy is not only giving things, but giving ourselves.  Become rich—rich in mercy!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Prayer for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Name of God, eternal font of mercy,

I come before the throne of grace

your unworthy and humble servant

begging forgiveness, wisdom and healing.

With open hands and open heart

I bow before your infinite love

ready to receive all blessings or burdens

with which you may give me confident Jesus,

your Son and our Lord, will stay by my side and help

me bear all my crosses with dignity and peace.

Extend your mercy to our church

that we may welcome others into

our family of faith with open arms.

May Mary, mother of mercy,

be a safe and secure haven

against all temptations and evils

the world flings against us

that we might stand firm against

all trials and tribulations

and extend your mercy to everyone

we meet this day.

In Jesus’ Name we pray.

Amen

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

The Cross: God’s “Foolish” Wisdom, Journey of Faith

The Cross: God’s “Foolish” Wisdom, Journey of Faith

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes a forceful statement: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  Saint Paul in the second reading speaks of one of his own crosses, his imprisonment.  In many of his letters Paul explains his profound insights on how we are to view Christ’s cross as well as our own crosses, thus, becoming Christ’s disciples.

Paul asserts that the message of the cross, of Christ crucified, was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (cf. 1 Cor 1:22-23).  The Jews were expecting a glorious and powerful king who would vanquish their enemies.  For the Greeks, as Thomas Aquinas notes, “it seemed opposed to human wisdom that God should die, and that a just and wise man should willingly give himself over to a most shameful death.”

A Scandalous Message.  Contrary to the expectations of both Jews and Gentiles, the Gospel proclaims a crucified Messiah.  Utter foolishness!  However, Saint Paul vigorously asserts that the cross remains central in Christian life: “here we are preaching a crucified Christ” (1 Cor 1:23); again, “during my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ” (1 Cor 2:2).

The crucified Christ is God’s way of fully sharing our humanity.  During his earthly life, Jesus experienced the whole range of human joys and sufferings.  Though divine, Jesus was totally and completely human.  Also, Christian faith holds that Jesus remains fully human—even in the glory of heaven.

Divine Foolishness.  Jesus experienced the full reality of physical and mental pain on the cross.  The crucifixion is God’s radical manifestation of his solidarity with us in all our sufferings.  Is this a stumbling-block?  “Absolutely not!” would be Saint Paul’s answer.  This “crucified Christ” is “the power and wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom; God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:24-25).

We are invited to constantly measure our lives against the way of Jesus, against the

pattern of the Gospel, against the norm of the cross.  And, this is not easy to accept.  Here we are dealing with paradox, with measuring rods of effectiveness not according to human wisdom, but in accord with the foolishness of God!

Living into Mystery.  As we journey through life with all its joys and sorrows, we can recall a simple formulation of how Jesus is in solidarity with us.  We cannot have a “cross-less Christ” [an “uncrucified” Jesus]; yet, we never have a “Christ-less cross” [sorrows or sufferings where Jesus is absent from our lives].  Indeed, a profound paradox, one of the central mysteries of our faith!

The cross is still a stumbling block and foolishness to many.  However, to us who have been called, it remains “the power and wisdom of God.”  In short, Christ crucified is central for living as Jesus’ disciples.                                

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

  

Prayer for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hold your cross ever before my eyes,

Lord Jesus Christ, that I might never forget the depth,

breadth and magnitude of your love for me and all humanity.

Your crucifixion reveals there is no sin

we can commit nor evil we can do

that will ever make God stop loving us.

With patience, humility and grace

may I carry the crosses others lay

on my shoulders for my daring

to speak your truth or help others

whom society calls my enemies.

And like Simon of Cyrene may I also

help my brothers and sisters

to carry their cross and

accompany them on their way to you.

Lord Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen,

help me transform my wounds into

fountains of healing for others.

I offer you my faults and weaknesses

to be changed into wellsprings of grace

that all my brothers and sisters

might recognize your presence

in one another.

Amen.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Walk Humbly with your God, Journey of Faith

Walk Humbly with your God, Journey of Faith

 

Today’s first reading and Gospel focus our reflections on humility.  They also remind us of that popular biblical passage from the prophet Micah (6:8): “This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Many people may have a mistaken notion about “Christian humility.”  It is not centered on thinking low of yourself or even denying your true worth, gifts, and talents.  We readily accept that we are weak and sinful individuals, yet we always remain beloved creatures fashioned in God’s own image (Gn 1:26-27).  Authentic humility is based on the recognition and thankful awareness that the virtues we have all originate in God’s love and grace.  In addition, even if we fall into sin, authentic humility requires us to honestly acknowledge our faults and accept our need for God’s forgiveness.

Mary as Model.  Christians can look to Mary as a shining example of humility, for even when she is told by the angel that she had been chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah, the very Son of God, she referred to herself as the mere “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).  It is noteworthy that the word “handmaid” in the original New Testament Greek is: doula, which literally means “servant/slave.”  Such was Mary’s humility; she put her life totally at God’s disposal.

Mary’s humility shines out further as she gives all glory and praise to God for the privileges she has received.  She declares in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-49): “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid [slave].” 

Reflection of John Paul II.  In his homily for the fiftieth anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s definition of the dogma of Mary’s assumption into heaven (November 1, 1950-2000), Saint John Paul II noted that in her Magnificat “Mary shows what constituted the foundation of her holiness: deep humility….  Before the mystery of grace, the experience of a particular presence of God who has rested his gaze upon her, Mary feels a natural impulse of humility….  It is the reaction of someone who is fully aware of her own littleness before the greatness of God.”

The Pope continues: “This humility of spirit, this complete submission in faith, is particularly expressed in her ‘fiat’: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.’”  Truly, “the greatness of the gift corresponds to the depth of humility.”

Conclusion.  In its most profound and most beautiful sense, humility simply means to strive to be like Jesus, Mary, the saints, and many other ordinary Christians that we personally know.  We seek to imitate Jesus, who said: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).  Humility invites us to be like Jesus, who said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45).  It means to “walk humbly with your God” (Mi 6:8).   

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

  

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

I kneel before your heavenly throne,

Lord God of heaven and earth

worshiping in awe your boundless mercy

and grateful for your abundant grace

for in your love and compassion

you formed me out of the earth

and breathed into me

your life-giving Spirit.

O Lord, you fashioned me in your image

and became one with all humanity

that we might reflect your glory

in everything we say and do.

Lord, we are not worthy of so great a gift

but you remain ever faithful to us

healing our wounds and forgiving our failings,

faults and weaknesses.

Behold, I am not worthy yet still

you call me to your table of love

and communion with all your saints and

Souls of the just, both great and small.

All that I do and have and accomplish

springs from your Providence, O God.

Despise not my lowliness but accept

my life as tribute to your greatness.

Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Walk Humbly with your God, Journey of Faith

Dining in the Kingdom of God, Journey of Faith

 

In our Gospel today we hear Jesus using the word “kingdom” twice.  The Gospels reveal that Jesus used this term Kingdom nearly one hundred times; yet, he never defined it, even though it is a central theme in his teachings and parables.  It refers to God’s ultimate victory over all the enemies of humanity: sickness, hatred, greed, jealousy, and even death itself!

Pope Francis in his 2015 Christmas message to the Roman curia quoted a wonderful description of the Kingdom.  Francis asked his listeners to “savor the magnificent prayer, commonly attributed to Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, but pronounced for the first time by Cardinal John Deardon.”  Friends, for your meditation, here is that prayer in full.   

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.  The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.  We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.” 

“No statement says all that could be said.  No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.  No pastoral visit brings wholeness.  No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.  No set of goals and objectives includes everything.”

“This is what we are about.  We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.” 

“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.  This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.  It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”

“We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.  We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.  We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Saint Oscar Romero.  Since Pope Francis mentioned Oscar Romero, I add a brief biographical note about him.  One of the Church’s significant contemporary saints is Romero, the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador in Central America.  He was assassinated on March 24, 1980 as he was celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence cancer hospital. 

On February 3, 2015 Pope Francis officially declared Romero a martyr of the Catholic faith; he was beatified on May 23, 2015 and canonized on October 14, 2018.  Romero was known, respected, and loved as a defender of the poor during one of the most difficult periods in El Salvador (1970s-1980s), during which five priests, numerous catechists, and countless Catholic laity were assassinated.  Romero authentically lived—and died—for the Kingdom.  I’m sure he, to use Jesus’ words, now “reclines at table in the Kingdom of God.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

  

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Accept, O Lord, God of all,

my small sacrifice, my little contribution,

my insignificant prayer, my daily offering

to the glory of your Name

in service to your kingdom.

As the flower surrenders its fragrance

and the lark her song freely and without reserve

so too do I now offer each breath

each action and each thought

to help build your Kingdom on earth.

Asking in return only to know your love

and grace more abundantly that,

together with all the saints and

blessed souls we might live lives

of purpose, meaning and joy

as a foretaste of the eternal

Kingdom where you reign

Lord Jesus, forever more.

Amen

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

ABOUT MARYKNOLL

We are a Catholic Society of priests and brothers based in the United States. We are dedicated to missionary work overseas in over 20 countries. Additionally, we animate Catholics in the United States to follow their own baptismal call to share God’s compassion and love with the poor, the sick, and all those in need.

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L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Timothy O. Kilkelly)

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is overseen by our General Council, led by Superior General Rev. Lance P. Nadeau, M.M.

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L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)

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(Africa) Education and Formation of African Clergy

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Africa Region will provide tuition assistance to African clergy, male and female religious at institutes of higher education or specialized training. Read More

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The calling of a lifetime
The life of a Maryknoll missioner is challenging, fulfilling, and deeply rewarding. Follow your baptismal call to mission by sharing God’s compassion with the poor, the sick, and people most in need.