God is Love

Our call to love is reiterated again for us today in the First Letter of John: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (NAB, 1JN 4:7-8) If we wish to unite ourselves with God, then we must unite ourselves to love, and love is action.

We oftentimes think of romanticized love that conjures up all kinds of feelings and emotions, but love is action, putting another before ourselves. Love requires humility, where we recognize the inherent dignity of each other; we are, after all, each created in the image and likeness of Almighty God. Love implies commitment, dedication, and consistency. Even when one considers that moment of “falling in love,” it turns out not to be a moment at all. There isn’t one single thing that a person does for us that evokes such feelings and emotions. Rather, it is the consistent pattern of behavior over time that yields love; it is the continual presence and commitment of the other who is concerned for us and our wellbeing.

Jesus’ love for us isn’t a mere historical event or a single act revealed in a Roman execution. His love for us is continuous, without beginning or end. He is with us at every moment of each day. He continuously lays down his life for us, sustains us, showers us with his grace, gives us the gifts of the Spirit, comforts us, has mercy upon us, forgives us, and graciously blesses us in so many, many ways.

Lord, you call all people to yourself in love. It was this love which manifest itself so perfectly in your Holy and Sacred Passion, where you laid down your very life for me. Give me courage and strength through humility, that I may act according to your Holy Will, to love those whom you have put in my life, so that I may be more perfectly united to you. Amen.

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The Spirit Dwelling Within

We may have heard the phrase that “Christians live in the world, but are not of the world.” While it is true that we are temples of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God dwells in each of us, the world is occupied and oftentimes driven by the Evil One, the spirit of darkness and death. We are nevertheless assured of God’s presence in us, however, as John tells us in his letter: “Those who keep [God’s] commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit whom he gave us. You belong to God, children, and you have conquered [the Evil One], for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.” (NAB, 1JN 3:24, 4:4, 6)

We have nothing to fear in this world as we are members of the Body of Christ, the same Christ who conquered death and sin. There is nothing in this world that is more powerful than the love and grace of God, and we, as children of the Father, have the freedom to live according to the Law of Love, for we have received by faith, through grace, the indwelling eternal Spirit of God. In the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come … on earth as it is in Heaven.” We bring about the Kingdom of God in this world as we live virtuously, by loving God and our neighbor through the faith we have received and in the hope of eternal life in the perfection of that same Kingdom in Heaven.

When I am frightened or challenged by the spirits of this world, give me confidence and strength to turn to you, Lord, realizing and remembering that you have already defeated the Evil One, his offer of sin, and the consequence of death. I am a child of the Kingdom; I am a child of God, and the Spirit that dwells in me is greater than any spirit in this world. Allow me to be a light in this world of darkness and despair, where sin seems to abound, to make known your love in all that I do. “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.”  Amen.

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Sacrifice & Forgiveness

The Twelfth Day of Christmas!

We are reminded today that Jesus not only came to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament, but also to undo the Fall of humanity. The loss of Eternal Paradise by our First Parents came through sin, and death became its result. “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Caine who belonged to the Evil One and slaughtered his brother.” (NAB, 1JN 3:11-12) Murder is clearly a sin and violation of the Law, but Jesus brought us a new Law of Love, where even the sin of anger, the basis and motivation behind murder, leads to the same judgment: “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (MT 5:22) “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.” (1JN 3:15)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ IS the Gospel of Love, for Jesus is himself love eternal. We are all sinners and rightly deserve death, but we, as children of God, have received the Good News of Jesus with certainty, and “we know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (3:14, 16, 18)

We have been culturally deceived by childhood movies and fairy tales, along with our cultural norms, into believing love should not entail sacrifice, that it’s supposed to be “happily ever after,” but the Truth of love can be found in the Passion of our Lord, in reflecting upon his great love, after having been physically and mentally tortured, beaten, humiliated, abused, abandoned, and crucified, while dying on the cross, he utters, “Father, forgive them.” (LK 5:34)

Lord, make me a person of forgiveness and mercy. I have been forgiven much, yet I hold back mercy, love, and forgiveness from others. Take away my anger and fill me with your love, your True love, love that knows sacrifice, love that knows You. To lay down myself means, at a minimum, to give up my selfishness, my desires, and my ego for love of you. Give me the grace and gifts I need, and when I am tempted, let me remember your Great Passion and see the Crucifix from which you spoke forgiveness. Amen.

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Grace & Righteousness

The Eleventh Day of Christmas!

Children, let no one deceive you. The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil…. In this way, the children of God and the children of the Devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother.” (NAB, 1JN 3:7-8, 10) Our righteousness is interior, flowing from the heart as a result of God’s abundant grace. Our actions and good works result from the desires and gifts which God has already given us through his salvific grace. Thus, our cooperation, our “yes” to God, and the assent of our will are not particularly exclusive to us as individuals, but are rather ultimately and fundamentally from the Creator himself. All that is good is from God, and the righteousness of his people is the glorification of his grace acting in love.

We are children of the Covenant of Love. Our redemption and salvation are a result of that same love, a deep and incomprehensible love according to which God sent his Only Son into the world, to complete His Passion so that we might receive mercy and forgiveness, atonement for our sins. It is the Love of God, a love like none other, that redeems us and continuously calls us to conversion and unity with him. We are to love our neighbor as Christ, to see Jesus in each other. True righteousness is revealed as we are conformed through his Law of Love and his Covenant of Communion to be Christ in our world, to be his act of love.

Lord, you love me with an unfailing love. All that I do, all of my gifts, and all of my good desires come from you through your grace. Thank you for choosing me, who is unworthy, but is made worthy by you. Allow me to see you in those around me, in my family and friends, in my coworkers and neighbors, and in the suffering, marginalized, and rejected of this world. I want to live your Law of Love; give me your grace. Amen.

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Child of God

The Tenth Day of Christmas!

Not only was Jesus born into an earthly family to Mary and Joseph, he established, through his eternal saving act of redemption in the sacrificial paschal mystery, the very family of the Almighty, the Body of Christ, whose head he is. We are members of that same Family: “If you consider that God is righteous, you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him. See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” (NAB, 1JN 2:29-3:1)

We are truly brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, through him and in him, and thus we are begotten of God and are rightly called his children. This family of God is also the Body of Christ, his Church, which remains united with Jesus as one. Thus, the Church and Christ are one in unity, a unity in which we participate imperfectly as we grow in sanctity toward our final perfection, our heavenly reward. Unfortunately, we are plagued by the sins of humans, the Body of Christ suffers, just as any family is afflicted by the unloving behavior of its members. Yet, we still remain as children of Almighty God and are compelled to treat each other as brothers and sisters in the most intimate sense, united in one Lord and Savior, willing to sacrifice ourselves for each other in accordance with Covenant of Love.

Heavenly Father, I am your child and you love me beyond my comprehension. Whatever happens to me on my daily journey are providential opportunities for me to grow closer to you, to grow in holiness and perfection, and to be more like your Son, Jesus. Give me guidance and strength to help my brother and sister who is in need. When they fail or when they hurt, the whole Body suffers. Make me resolute in reaching out in faithful love to those whom you put in my path, that your will may be done and your Son glorified. Amen.

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One Truth

The New Year has begun. As we continue to celebrate the Christmas Season on this Ninth Day, we are drawn to reflect on the truth that the earthly Jesus, the child and son born of Mary, is truly the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ. It is common in today’s society to accept all views as equally valid or true, because many do not see truth as absolute. This is a most insidious creation of Satan, the Father of Lies, for he knows that God himself IS Truth! Thus, if anyone’s perspective or opinion is to be understood as truth, well, there cannot be an unchanging, infinite, eternal God; plain and simple.

In John’s First Letter, we hear, “I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth. Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist. No one who denies the Son has the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well.” (NAB, 1JN 2:21-23) We live in a time of lies. We are drowning in lies, and worse, we have accepted that lies disguised as “personal truths” are ok. Love compels us to the Truth, and if we are to accept lies as truth, we have denied love as well, for to truly love our brother or sister means to desire the very best for them, and that is the Truth that is Jesus Christ and his teachings handed down from generation to generation from the Apostles.

Father, give me strength and courage to love my neighbor and myself with the love which comes from you. You are Love and you are Truth. May my life always be one of compassion, forgiveness, and mercy, as I live out and proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ in the world. Let me not be distracted by the lies that are rampant today, but let your light shine into these places of darkness so that Truth and Love may prevail. Amen.

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Mary, Our Mother

On this Eighth Day of Christmas, we mark the beginning of a New Year. It was on this day, scripture reminds us that the infant born to Mary was named: “When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (NAB, LK 2:21) Although the name “Jesus” was quite common just over 2000 years ago, Joseph and Mary gave him this name in accordance with the instructions from the Angel Gabriel. His name means “God saves” in his native language, as it is a combination of Ya, which is short for Yahweh, and hoshea, which means “salvation.” The Letter to the Galatians reminds us, “Brothers and sisters: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.” (GAL 4:4-7)

Salvation came to us through the birth of a child, and his mother Mary, through her “Yes” to the invitation of God, became the Tabernacle of God, the very Mother of God, as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was conceived in her womb. It is the woman Mary who brought this life into the world, and she is rightly to be given special recognition, adulation, and love, for she is the purest of disciples. Just as the waters of the Red Sea were split open, freeing God’s People from slavery and establishing a covenant through the Law, the waters of Mary’s womb broke open, giving birth to the Son of God who would bring freedom to all through a New Covenant established in love. We are the sons and daughters of inheritance, chosen by God, and having accepted his invitation, also call Mary our mother, just as Jesus himself did.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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