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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.

   

   

Leveling the Praying Field, with Dr. Ansel Augustine

Leveling the Praying Field, with Dr. Ansel Augustine

Ansel Augustine offers a personal and historical perspective on issues of race and inequality in the church as he considers the challenges posed by the rise of Millennials, Gen Z, and future generations.

A recent study on diversity in the Catholic Church revealed that 72 percent of Gen Z, which is majority non-white, consider racial equality to be one of the most important issues today.

And yet the church has been slow to respond. This tells us that “ministry as usual” from a Eurocentric perspective will not work. In response, Augustine provides insights as to how the church can respond to racial injustice not only in our changing society, but more importantly, how the church can stay relevant and real for this justice-hungry generation.

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.

   

   

Apostle of Compassion, Journey of Faith

Apostle of Compassion, Journey of Faith

 

“We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” the opening words of today’s second reading (Heb 12:1-4), describe the presence of many holy people in the Church.  You and I, while we are both holy and sinful ourselves, belong to this community of Jesus’ disciples.  What a great privilege!  We are constantly inspired by the example of our fellow-disciples to be faithful Christians in all life’s circumstances.

Favorite Saints.  All of us have our special saints.  Allow me to tell you some details about one of my own favorites, Jozef Damien de Veuster, popularly known as “Damien the Leper.”  Certainly, he belongs to that “great cloud of witnesses” for us.  Damien’s poignant story offers each of us hope and inspiration.

The seventh of eight children, Joseph was born in 1840 on a small farm near Louvain in Belgium.  He chose the name Damien when, at the age of 19, he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.  In 1863, Damien’s own brother—an ordained priest—was assigned to the Hawaii mission, but fell ill when a typhus epidemic broke out in Louvain.  Damien, still a seminarian, petitioned his superiors to take his brother’s place.  He left for Hawaii in 1863 and arrived six months later; he was ordained in Honolulu in May 1864.

Compassionate Service.  Damien served for nine years on the Island of Hawaii.  In early 1873, he was among the priest volunteers who offered themselves to serve the lepers who were segregated on the island of Molokai, since there was no known cure for the dreaded disease which was ravaging the island archipelago.  Damien’s assignment letter from Father Modeste, his religious superior, read: “You may stay as long as your devotion dictates….”  Damien read that letter over and over again—until his death sixteen years later at age 49.

From the outset, Damien aimed to restore a sense of personal worth and dignity in all 8,000 lepers.  He ministered to the gravely ill, bringing the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion and anointing bedridden lepers.  He encouraged people to assist him.  He taught his people to farm, to raise animals, to play musical instruments and sing.  He did not surrender to destructive self-pity.  His cheerful disposition and desire to serve touched the lepers’ hearts.  In all things, his lepers came first.

Fidelity amidst Trials.  Damien faced challenges and misunderstandings, particularly from some who attacked his moral life, even asserting his leprosy was contracted through sexual contact.  As a sensitive, compassionate pastor, Damien knew that close contact and touch are necessary to communicate love and concern.  Thus, leprosy ultimately claimed him.

Damien strove to configure himself to Christ.  He died on April 15, 1889; it was Holy Week.  His example of service of the poor inspires us not to forget the poor right in our midst.  We all rejoice to belong to the “great cloud of witnesses.”  Saint Damien, pray for us!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

  

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My dearest Lord Jesus

thank you for filling our world

and enlightening human history

with a glorious cloud of witnesses

to encourage and inspire us

with their lives of faithful service and who

intercede for us who struggle here below.

Like stars that brighten the night sky

your saints and holy ones shatter

the darkness, sorrow and hopelessness

that overshadows our world and

fills those who long for a better life

with hope for a better tomorrow.

Raise up new saints for our time

that together we might overcome

all sadness and despair

and enter that new creation for which

all the saints and prophets longed

and for which Christ and all saints longed.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Wise Use of Material Goods, Journey of Faith

Wise Use of Material Goods, Journey of Faith

Our Gospel today from Saint Luke centers around the theme of possessions—both earthly and heavenly.  Twice Jesus gives some clear, focused advice: “One’s life does not consist of possessions.”  “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”  Jesus is clearly speaking about how the material things of this world are to be properly used to enhance our own lives and the lives of others.

Perspective of Jesus.  A perusal of the New Testament reveals multiple passages where Jesus expresses his views.  “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and termites destroy and thieves break in and steal.  But store up treasures for yourself in heaven….  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also….  You cannot be the slave of both God and money” (Mt 6:19-21, 24; cf. Lk 12:33-34).

To the rich young man who asked how he could possess eternal life, Jesus responded: “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then, come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).  Similarly, Jesus tells us: “When you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing” (Mt 6:3).  Admittedly, these are some of Jesus’ “hard statements”!

Additional Biblical Insights.  The Book of Ecclesiastes (5:9) notes: “He who loves money, never has money enough; he who loves wealth, never has enough profit.”  The Psalmist advises (62:10): “Put no trust in extortion, no empty hope in plunder; though riches may increase, keep your heart detached.”  Proverbs (23:4) asserts: “Do not weary yourself with getting rich.” 

Saint Paul writes to his beloved disciple Timothy: “As long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that.  People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions….  The love of money is the root of all evils” (1Tim 6:8-10).

Deeper Reflection.  Carefully note that Jesus and the Bible are not asserting that money and material goods are evil.  We all need a variety of material goods (food, clothing, shelter) to live a dignified human life.  There is absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to secure the physical well-being of your own self and your family; actually, it is demanded of us as responsible adults.  Our loving God requires it!

Contemporary Challenges.  Probably one of the most serious challenges facing many Christians today is “rampant consumerism.”   Pope Francis (Evangelli Gaudium 53) has warned against such consumerism; it creates “an economy of exclusion and inequality” among the poor and marginalized.  We have created a “throw-away culture” which continues to spread (cf. LS 34).  We all must name for ourselves some obstacles in our modern society and life-style that harm us personally and as a people—hampering our entry into the Kingdom of God.

James H. Kroeger, M.M.        

  

18TH Sunday in Ordinary Time

You have blessed me, Lord,

with life and love, faith and hope,

things the world and money

neither know nor can they buy.

May I be content, Jesus, with what

food, clothing and possessions I have.

Grant that these may never own

nor possess me but may I always

be ever mindful of and generous toward

those I meet who have less than I do.

Let me be as generous toward

the poor and less fortunate

as you, Lord God, have been toward me.

May I never be envious of those

who appear to have more than I

for I do not know what crosses or burdens

they bear in secret or what hardships

they endure or wounds they carry.

Lord, I come before you with open hands

that I might receive blessings from you

and through me you might bless others.

Help me Lord to use all I have and am

to advance your kingdom on earth

by lightening the burden of all I meet

that together we might walk toward

the fulfillment of your promises forever.

In your name I pray.

Amen.

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

Knowing God as Compassionate Father, Journey of Faith

Knowing God as Compassionate Father, Journey of Faith

 

Knowing God as Compassionate Father

Christian creeds address God as “the Father, the almighty.”  Calling God “Our Father” is a personal address, asserting his care for all creation, especially for all humanity.  God is called “Father” 170 times in the Gospels [Mark (4); Luke (15); Matthew (42); John (109)].

Prayer to the Father.  God’s fatherhood is a clear hallmark of Jesus’ life and prayer.  Frequently, Jesus prays to his Abba.  He calls God “my Father” (Mt 11:26; Lk 10:21).  His mission is from the Father (Jn 11:41-42).  During the last supper he addresses his Father (Jn 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25).  Jesus turned to his Abba in the crisis moments of his life: Gethsemane (Mk 14:36; Mt 26:42), Calvary (Lk 23:34).  His dying words are: “Father, into your hands I commend by spirit” (Lk 23:46).

Expressing Our Faith.  Addressing God as “Our Father” is already an act of faith; it reflects both our relationship to God and to others.  Jesus taught his disciples this prayer on different occasions.  The New Testament preserves two versions: Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.  Because Jesus the Lord taught this prayer to his disciples, it is known as the “Lord’s Prayer.”  Tertullian called it “the summary of the whole Gospel,” and Saint Thomas Aquinas said it is “the most perfect of all prayers.”

Structure of the Our Father.  The first half of the “Our Father” expresses our faith by praising God, asking that “your kingdom come.”  The second half of the “Lord’s Prayer” consists of petitions.  For example, praying for our daily bread means doing our part and sharing in the Church’s mission to relieve hunger and deprivation.   

Our Petitions.  We ask forgiveness with the sincere promise to forgive others.  We also ask that we would not be led into temptation, though we accept that, in fact, God allows testing as a way of determining the depth and genuineness of our faith. As we plead for this grace, we also commit ourselves to “bear each other’s burdens” (Gal 6:2); we are manifesting our commitment to readily serve our neighbors.      

Pope of Mercy.  Francis, the “pope of mercy,” has focused the Church’s attention on the theme of mercy.  Recall his 2015 document, Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy), wherein he proclaimed an entire year of mercy.  Pope Francis affirms that Jesus’ entire life and “his person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously.”  Jesus is moved with

mercy/pity/compassion when he sees people in need.  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.  For Pope Francis, God’s mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life and mission.  “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.”  “Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy” (MV 12).    

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

  

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Father in heaven hear our prayer

on behalf of all your children

hungry, suffering and crying

here below.

Not just for want of food,

but also for want of love;

not just from wounds and scars

but also from broken hearts

and shattered dreams,

not just from losing family and friends,

but from losing their way to you.

Heavenly Father, you who hear

the cry of the poor,

open our ears to hear them as well.

Open our eyes to see their pain

and open our hands to help them up.

You who forgive our sins

give us the strength to forgive others.

You who give us our daily bread

give us strength to give up everything

that holds us back

from loving you with all our hearts,

all our minds and all our lives.

In Jesus’ name we pray

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.

OUR GENERAL COUNCIL

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

(Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Lam M. Hua, Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, 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.

OUR FOUNDERS

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

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)

PLACES WE SERVE

EVANGELIZATION, PARISHES, AND PROJECTS

USA

STORIES OF MISSION

(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

Stories of Our Global Mission

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.