Friday April 20th 2018

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST April 22nd, 2018

For my word this weekend I would like to continue with extracts from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in today’s world. As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday today, we can also be thankful to God for the witness and the teaching of the present Shepherd of the Church, who always speaks to us in a way that we can all comprehend, but also challenges each of us to accept our personal call to holiness.

THE LORD CALLS

10. With this Exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; cf. 1 Pet 1:16). The Second Vatican Council stated this clearly: “Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect”.

11. “Each in his or her own way” the Council says. We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable. There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us. The important thing is that each believer discerns his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them. We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness. Indeed, when the great mystic, Saint John of the Cross, wrote his Spiritual Canticle, he preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all. He explained that his verses were composed so that everyone could benefit from them “in his or her own way”. For God’s life is communicated “to some in one way and to others in another”.

12. Within these various forms, I would stress too that the “genius of woman” is seen in feminine styles of holiness, which are an essential means of reflecting God’s holiness in this world. Indeed, in times when women tended to be most ignored or overlooked, the Holy Spirit raised up saints whose attractiveness produced new spiritual vigour and important reforms in the Church. We can mention Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Saint Bridget, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. But I think too of all those unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of their witness.

13. This should excite and encourage us to give our all and to embrace that unique plan that God willed for each of us from eternity: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5).

FOR YOU TOO

14. To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.

15. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God’s love, “like a bride bedecked with jewels” (Is 61:10).

16. This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.

17. At times, life presents great challenges. Through them, the Lord calls us anew to a conversion that can make his grace more evident in our lives, “in order that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). At other times, we need only find a more perfect way of doing what we are already doing: “There are inspirations that tend solely to perfect in an extraordinary way the ordinary things we do in life”.When Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân was imprisoned, he refused to waste time waiting for the day he would be set free. Instead, he chose “to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love”. He decided: “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way”.

18. In this way, led by God’s grace, we shape by many small gestures the holiness God has willed for us, not as men and women sufficient unto ourselves but rather “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet 4:10). The New Zealand bishops rightly teach us that we are capable of loving with the Lord’s unconditional love, because the risen Lord shares his powerful life with our fragile lives: “His love set no limits and, once given, was never taken back. It was unconditional and remained faithful. To love like that is not easy because we are often so weak. But just to try to love as Christ loved us shows that Christ shares his own risen life with us. In this way, our lives demonstrate his power at work – even in the midst of human weakness”.

YOUR MISSION IN CHRIST

19. A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for “this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.

20. That mission has its fullest meaning in Christ and can only be understood through him. At its core, holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life. It consists in uniting ourselves to the Lord’s death and resurrection in a unique and personal way, constantly dying and rising anew with him. But it can also entail reproducing in our own lives various aspects of Jesus’ earthly life: his hidden life, his life in community, his closeness to the outcast, his poverty and other ways in which he showed his self-sacrificing love. The contemplation of these mysteries, as Saint Ignatius of Loyola pointed out, leads us to incarnate them in our choices and attitudes. Because “everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery”, “Christ’s whole life is a revelation of the Father”, “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption”, “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation”. “Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us”.

21. The Father’s plan is Christ, and ourselves in him. In the end, it is Christ who loves in us, for “holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full”. As a result, “the measure of our holiness stems from the stature that Christ achieves in us, to the extent that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we model our whole life on his”. Every saint is a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people.

22. To recognize the word that the Lord wishes to speak to us through one of his saints, we do not need to get caught up in details, for there we might also encounter mistakes and failures. Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we grasp their overall meaning as a person.

23. This is a powerful summons to all of us. You too need to see the entirety of your life as a mission. Try to do so by listening to God in prayer and recognizing the signs that he gives you. Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received. Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.

24. May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life. Let yourself be transformed. Let yourself be renewed by the Spirit, so that this can happen, lest you fail in your precious mission. The Lord will bring it to fulfilment despite your mistakes and missteps, provided that you do not abandon the path of love but remain ever open to his supernatural grace, which purifies and enlightens.”

 Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST April 15th, 2018

We are greatly blessed to have Pope Francis as our spiritual Shepherd in these times. Apart from his pastoral care to peoples all over the world, he continues to inspire us with his teaching and homilies each day. Just a few days ago, he released an Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in today’s world. It is a vitally significant message to each of us as we strive to live out our Catholic faith. I propose to use the coming weeks to offer extracts from the Pope’s Exhortation, in order to give all of us an opportunity to reflect on how we can personally respond to the call to holiness.

“ 1. “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me and be blameless” (Gen 17:1).

2. What follows is not meant to be a treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification. My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4).

CHAPTER ONE

THE CALL TO HOLINESS

THE SAINTS WHO ENCOURAGE AND ACCOMPANY US

3. The Letter to the Hebrews presents a number of testimonies that encourage us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1). It speaks of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon and others (cf. 11:1-12:3). Above all, it invites us to realize that “a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1) impels us to advance constantly towards the goal. These witnesses may include our own mothers, grandmothers or other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim 1:5). Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.

4. The saints now in God’s presence preserve their bonds of love and communion with us. The Book of Revelation attests to this when it speaks of the intercession of the martyrs: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge?’” (6:9-10). Each of us can say: “Surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God… I do not have to carry alone what, in truth, I could never carry alone. All the saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me”.

5. The processes of beatification and canonization recognize the signs of heroic virtue, the sacrifice of one’s life in martyrdom, and certain cases where a life is constantly offered for others, even until death. This shows an exemplary imitation of Christ, one worthy of the admiration of the faithful.

THE SAINTS “NEXT DOOR”

6. Nor need we think only of those already beatified and canonized. The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness” In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people.

7. I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.

8. Let us be spurred on by the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest members of that people which “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, spreading abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity”. We should consider the fact that, as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross suggests, real history is made by so many of them. As she writes: “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly, the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed”.

9. Holiness is the most attractive face of the Church. But even outside the Catholic Church and in very different contexts, the Holy Spirit raises up “signs of his presence which help Christ’s followers”. Saint John Paul II reminded us that “the witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants”. In the moving ecumenical commemoration held in the Colosseum during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, he stated that the martyrs are “a heritage which speaks more powerfully than all the causes of division”.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST April 8th, 2018

As we gather together this weekend to celebrate our Sacred Liturgies, the Church invites us to continue to share in the joy of Easter, and to focus on the endless Mercy of God, to each of us and to all the world. This Sunday is known to us as Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a time for us to give thanks for the mercy of God in our own lives, but also an invitation to share the mercy of God with one another in the ordinary events of our daily lives. As I so often do, I would like to make use a recent homily of Pope Francis on the spiritual value of this beautiful Feast.

“Saint John, who was in the Upper Room with the other disciples on the evening of the first day after the Sabbath, tells us that Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you!” and he showed them his hands and his side (Jn 20:19-20); he showed them his wounds.  And in this way, they realized that it was not an apparition: it was truly him, the Lord, and they were filled with joy.

On the eighth day Jesus came once again into the Upper Room and showed his wounds to Thomas, so that he could touch them as he had wished to, in order to believe and thus become himself a witness to the Resurrection.

To us also, on this Sunday which Saint John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, the Lord shows us, through the Gospel, his wounds.  They are wounds of mercy.  It is true: the wounds of Jesus are wounds of mercy.

Jesus invites us to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief.  Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love.

Through these wounds, as in a light-filled opening, we can see the entire mystery of Christ and of God: his Passion, his earthly life – filled with compassion for the weak and the sick – his incarnation in the womb of Mary.  And we can retrace the whole history of salvation: the prophecies – especially about the Servant of the Lord, the Psalms, the Law and the Covenant; to the liberation from Egypt, to the first Passover and to the blood of the slaughtered lambs; and again from the Patriarchs to Abraham, and then all the way back to Abel, whose blood cried out from the earth.  All of this we can see in the wounds of Jesus, crucified and risen; with Mary, in her Magnificat, we can perceive that, “His mercy extends from generation to generation” (cf. Lk 1:50).

Faced with the tragic events of human history we can feel crushed at times, asking ourselves, “Why?”.  Humanity’s evil can appear in the world like an abyss, a great void: empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life.  And so, we ask: how can we fill this abyss?  For us it is impossible; only God can fill this emptiness that evil brings to our hearts and to human history.  It is Jesus, God made man, who died on the Cross and who fills the abyss of sin with the depth of his mercy.

Saint Bernard, in one of his commentaries on the Canticle of Canticles (Sermon 61, 3-5: Opera Omnia, 2, 150-151), reflects precisely on the mystery of the Lord’s wounds, using forceful and even bold expressions which we do well to repeat today.  He says that “through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of [Christ’s] heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high”.

Brothers and sisters, behold the way which God has opened for us to finally go out from our slavery to sin and death, and thus enter into the land of life and peace.  Jesus, crucified and risen, is the way and his wounds are especially full of mercy.

The saints teach us that the world is changed beginning with the conversion of one’s own heart, and that this happens through the mercy of God.  And so, whether faced with my own sins or the great tragedies of the world, “my conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: ‘he was wounded for our iniquities’ (Is53:5). What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ?”

Keeping our gaze on the wounds of the Risen Jesus, we can sing with the Church: “His love endures forever” (Ps 117:2); eternal is his mercy.  And with these words impressed on our hearts, let us go forth along the paths of history, led by the hand of our Lord and Saviour, our life and our hope.”

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST April 1st, 2018

Once again, on behalf of our Redemptorist Community, I would like to wish all of you, along with all your loved a very blessed and joyful Easter. Our hearts are filled with special joy this year because, at the Easter Vigil, eleven people will have celebrated the gift of being fully received into the Catholic Church. I thank each of them, along with the members of our RCIA programme, for their fidelity through the 40 weeks of preparation for this great event. It is my hope that they, and many others of us, will feel the call of the Lord to serve Him, through the many ministries of our parish community. I have already written my Easter letter to you a couple of weeks ago. So today I turn again to Pope Francis and would like to share with you the homily he preached last Easter Sunday.

“Today the Church repeats, sings, shouts: “Jesus is Risen!”. But why is this? Peter, John, the women went to the Sepulchre and it was empty. He was not there. They went away with their hearts closed in sadness, the sadness of defeat: The Teacher, their Teacher, the One whom they loved so much had been put to death; He is dead. And there is no return from death. This is the defeat. This is the path of defeat, the path towards the Sepulchre. But the Angel says to them, “He is not here, He is Risen”.

It is the first announcement: “He is Risen”. And then the confusion, the closed hearts, the apparitions. But the disciples stayed locked in the Upper Room the entire day because they were afraid that what happened to Jesus would happen to them. The Church does not cease to say before our losses, our closed and fearful hearts: “Stop, the Lord is Risen”. But if the Lord is Risen, why is it that these things happen? Why is it that there is so much adversity: illness, human trafficking, human slavery, war, destruction, mutilation, vengeance, hatred? Where is the Lord then?

Yesterday I phoned a young man with a grave illness, an educated young man, an engineer, and while talking to him, to give him a sign of faith, I said: “There are no explanations for what is happening to you. Look at Jesus on the Cross. God did this to his Son, and there is no other explanation”. And he answered: “Yes, but He asked His Son and the Son said ‘yes’. I was not asked if I wanted this”. This moves us. None of us is asked: “Are you happy with what is happening in the world? Are you willing to carry this cross further?”. And the Cross goes forth and faith in Jesus comes down from it. Today, the Church continues to say: “Stop. Jesus is Risen”. And this is not a fantasy. The Resurrection of Christ is not a celebration with many flowers. This is beautiful, but this is not it. It is something more. It is the mystery of the discarded stone which becomes the foundation of our existence. Christ is Risen. This is what it means.

In this throwaway culture where what is not needed is just used and disposed of, where what is not needed is thrown away, that stone — Jesus — the source of life, is discarded. And with faith in the Risen Christ, we too, pebbles on this earth of pain, tragedy, acquire meaning amid so many calamities. The sense to look beyond, the sense to say: “Look, there is no wall; there is a horizon, there is life, there is joy, there is the cross with this ambivalence. Look ahead, do not close within yourself. You pebble, acquire meaning in life because you are a pebble near that rock, that stone which the evil of sin discarded”. What does the Church tell us today before so many tragedies? Simply this: the discarded stone is not really discarded. The pebbles which believe and stick to that stone are not discarded. They have meaning, and it is with this sentiment that the Church repeats from the bottom of Her heart: “Christ is Risen”.

Let us think for a while, each of us, think about the daily problems, the illnesses we have been through or of one that a relative has; let us think about wars, human tragedies and with simplicity, with a humble voice, without flowers, alone, before God, before us, let us say, “I do not know how this is, but I am certain that Christ is Risen and I have put a wager on it”. Brothers and sisters, this is what I wanted to say to you. Go home today repeating in your hearts: “Christ is Risen”.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST March 25th, 2018

There is a film which I have heard of for so many years, but which I have never actually seen, probably because it was made years before I was born. It is called The Quiet Man, and I believe it starred John Wayne. But the title of the film has always reminded me of St Joseph, who throughout the Gospels comes over to us as a quiet man, always serving God in his life with Mary and Jesus. On Monday we celebrated the Solemnity of his feast, and again I would like to turn to Pope Francis, who has offered us many beautiful words on the significance of St. Joseph in our spiritual lives.

Five years ago, on the Solemnity of St Joseph, Pope Francis celebrated the Mass inaugurating his Petrine ministry. He chose 19 March precisely as he has always seen in St Joseph the strength and the wisdom of God.

Pope Francis in his own words on St Joseph:

19 March 2013: Homily during the Mass inaugurating his Petrine ministry

“Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason, he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly.

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

16 January 2015: Discourse to families in Manila

I have great love for Saint Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of Saint Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So, when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath Saint Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words, I tell him: pray for this problem!

Next, rising with Jesus and Mary. Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act (cf. Rom 13:11). In our families, we have to get up and act! Faith does not remove us from the world but draws us more deeply into it.

Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us. Like Saint Joseph. The gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph so that he could care for it. Each of you, each of us – for I too am part of a family – is charged with caring for God’s plan. The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth. So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm.

20 March 2017: Morning homily, Casa Santa Marta

“Today I would like to ask that St Joseph grant all of us the ability to dream because when we dream great things, good things, we draw near to God’s dream, what God dreams about us. That he might give to those who are young people — because he was young — the ability to dream, to take risks and to take on the difficult tasks seen in their dreams. And that he might give to all the fidelity that generally matures in upright behaviour, since he was just, which grows in silence—in few words–and grows in that tenderness which is capable of safeguarding one’s own weaknesses and those of others”.

Fr Gerard, CSsR

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Garden of Remembrance Project update

Gallery

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