Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us!

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English: Painting of Maria Goretti.

English: Painting of Maria Goretti. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Father Ron was so inspiring this morning at Mass at Saint Mary Catholic Church.  I am abandoning my normal format to make sure this message gets through.  As I reflected on the readings that were chosen specifically for her optional memorial, as well as the story of her life that Father Ron had read for part of his homily, I realized that if we took the attitude of this 12-year-old girl towards the virtue of chastity, we would have very few young people who struggled with purity before marriage.  It may have been an inference that Father Ron made to the fact she is a model of purity that is much-needed in this world today, but I think the thought I had expounds on his inference.

The thought was that if every person would consider death over impurity, in other words that they would prefer to die than violate the commandment of God to save sex for the Sacrament of Matrimony.  Imagine the young man who is trying to pressure the girl he is dating to take this relationship to the next level that is told that his girlfriend would prefer that he just kill her and not violate her purity.  Understandably, this sounds crazy for those parents that have daughters that are dating the guy that might actually take her up on it.

However, if we look at this from the other side, maybe it might shine some light on the wisdom here.  What if every time a woman, young or old, was to offer her purity to a man in a way that incited his flesh to desire to take her as his own in a way that was meant for the marriage bed, he informed her that he would rather that she were to kill him, and not cause him to desire to violate her purity.  I imagine myself preferring to be stabbed in the heart with a knife, rather than ever be incited to violate a woman’s purity.

If you look at the life of Saint Maria Goretti, you may understand this line of thinking a little better.  For my part, I will probably develop this idea just a little better before I ever share it with our youth, but if we look at this line from the gospel chosen for the memorial of Saint Maria Goretti, it might shed an even brighter light on the purpose and meaning of the reference I made above to preferring death to sin.

(John 12:24-26) :  Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life* loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

Furthermore, in the first reading, Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians…

(1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a):  The body, however, is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body.* Do you not know that your body is a temple* of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.

Finally, the collect prayer from the beginning of Mass is the best prayer to encapsulate my hope in the intercession of Saint Maria Goretti in my life and the conversion of the whole world…

O God, author if innocence and lover of chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen!

If today was your funeral, would you attend the service?

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English: Atlantic Ocean (Feb. 6, 2008) Electro...

English: Atlantic Ocean (Feb. 6, 2008) Electronics Technician 3rd Class Leila Tardieu receives the sacramental ashes during an Ash Wednesday celebration aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian May (Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Gift:  Wisdom  – With the gift of wisdom, we see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise person, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of our lives take on deeper meaning. The matters of judgment about the truth, and being able to see the image of God.

 

Reading:  For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:  “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor 5:21-6-2)

 

Observation:  Today, we celebrate the beginning of Lent.  It even feels weird to write that we are celebrating the beginning of forty days of fasting, almsgiving and deepening our prayer life, as we prepare for Easter.  However, as I grow in my faith, I am realizing that this season that precedes Easter, reminds us of the suffering that will always come before the party.  Of course, if the party is a Jesus party.  My title today is basically pointing out that we remind ourselves of our human frailty on Ash Wednesday, and as we do so it can feel like we are celebrating the fact that we will die someday.   I am just wondering, in our busy lives, would we find time to celebrate our own passing from this world to the next, or would be too busy?

 

Personification:  Faithfulness. Maybe I have started focusing too much on the fruit of faithfulness lately, but it seems to me that it is only when God graces me with it, I am targeting my efforts of evangelization and prayer quite effectively.

 

Prayer:  Lord, continue to challenge me with your will for me and never let me be complacent with the gift you grace my life with daily.  I ask this, as always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…Amen!

 

The New Jerusalem…by Jason Roebuck

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Of course, I mean no disrespect to GK Chesterton‘s work entitled “The New Jerusalem” by giving that title to my post today.  I know that his book deals with a time in history when the Jewish people had not yet been given a state to call home in Israel, but I think the title fits, if you read further into my reflection on today’s Mass readings.  Of course, it could help if you read Today’s readings, as well as the Office of Readings that I prayed before beginning this reflection.

Gift:  Wisdom- With the gift of wisdom, we see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise person, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of our lives take on deeper meaning. The matters of judgment about the truth, and being able to see the image of God.

Reading:  

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,

for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep still,

Until her vindication shines forth like the dawn

and her salvation like a burning torch.a

Nations shall behold your vindication,

and all kings your glory;

You shall be called by a new name

bestowed by the mouth of the LORD.  (Isaiah 62:1-2)

Observation:  I was reminded by my ten-year old son last night as I finished up with faith formation classes with the Hispanic community at our parish and he was heading out of the 5 o’clock Mass, that this first reading can be a powerful reminder of our calling as Christians.  He had committed to memory that first verse and repeated it back to me.  As I read it again this morning, along with the second verse and the rest of the readings, I realized that the prophet was talking about us too.  It is not just the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, but the rebuilding of our souls through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Especially for me, having allowed myself to be held in the Babylonian captivity of

English: Roebuck Surgery, Roebuck House, Roebu...

English: Roebuck Surgery, Roebuck House, Roebuck St (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

this world, before waking up to the original call that God laid on my heart.

Personification:  Joy.  If I am going to be able to display the fruit of joy, I must remember that God has called me to be a new creation.  I don’t know about the part about being called by another name, because I believe I would have to become a member of a religious community to do that, but maybe there is something to that.

Prayer:  Lord, help me remember to display the fruit of joy in my life today and thank you for all you do to keep me faithful to your word.  I ask this, as always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.  Amen!

In case our relationship with him is based on what he has done for us?

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English: Jesus of patience, the work of Pablo ...

English: Jesus of patience, the work of Pablo de Rojas (XVI) Español: Jesús de la Paciencia, obra de Pablo de Rojas (Siglo XVI) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Gift:  Fortitude (Courage) – With the gift of courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risk as a follower of Jesus. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or even physical harm and death.

 

Reading:  Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,j and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people.k Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:14-18)

 

Observation:  Death has no power, except if it eternally separates us from God.  The devil had that power to have people remain in their sin, and be lost forever, but we were made free from death by the power of Jesus.  If you read the gospel for today’s Mass, you will hear about his power while he still walked the earth.  His greater power is only fulfilled through his faithful followers, whom he called brothers, who can see in his willingness to suffer death, that he has transferred his power to them to carry out his mission of saving sinners from death.

 

Personification:  Patience. It is important that I remember to have patience with others, the way that God has had patience with me.  If I can display the fruit of patience today, by not blowing anyone up, especially my children, with my words, than I will be well on my way to being able to be patient with anyone.

 

Prayer:  Lord, please show me the way to display the fruit of patience with my children.  You know how they get under my skin and I know it is your power to make them listen the first time.  I ask this, as always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.  Amen!

 

 

 

Should we walk like him or live like him?

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English: Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus

English: Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gift:  Piety (Reverence) – With the gift of reverence, sometimes called piety, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the Church. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love.

Reading:  This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:e whoever claims to abide in him ought to live [just] as he lived. (1 John 2:5b-6)

Observation:  What would Jesus do?  As I am sure I have said before, I think the question should be, what would I do, in light of all the Jesus has done for me?  The first translation that I read in the readings today, said that if we claim to abide in him, we should walk as he walked.  It reminded me of all the times that I wore my sandals and felt like somehow I was walking like Jesus.  I think John is speaking more about walking in the light of truth and not letting sin lead your life.  If I am going to follow a life, I feel like I might have more chance of following Mary, since she was not begotten by God.  I am called by my Sacrament of Confirmation to be led by the Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit makes a dwelling for the Lord in my heart, it is still a whole lot different than what Mary was called to do.  I go back to what I said earlier, I think it is less about me following their example literally and more about living my life in a way that pours out for others, like Jesus and Mary did.

Personification:  Generosity. If I am going to display the fruit of generosity in my life, I must continue to ask for others to help in our ministry to the youth in our parish, and be willing to do whatever is necessary to help them feel comfortable with leading the next generation to a better understanding of our faith.  This generosity is not allowed to hold back because of embarrassment from past sins or even present sins for that matter, if we are going to take part in mentoring young people to be the next leaders in our church.

Prayer:  Lord, let me be an example that leads people to an authentic relationship with you that is based on truth and not the illusion of faith that too often exist in our church today.  I ask this, as always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…Amen!

 

With all that God has done for us, can we not offer him our children?

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St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gift:  Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe) – With the gift of wonder and awe (fear of the lord), we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love.

Reading:  I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.” Then they worshiped there before the LORD.  (1 Samuel 1:27-28)

Observation:  It seems to me that we spend a lot of time in this country worrying about our children.  Thanks be to God that means plenty of us, Christians, pray for them to be delivered from the evil forces that would gladly take possession of them, if they were left alone without God protecting them.  I read this reading this morning, again, thinking about how thankful we should be, like Hannah was, after she was given her child, she delivered him to the priest in the temple.

Personification:  Peace. It is only when I realize the way my children are being delivered from evil, that I can be at peace about the future that God has prepared for them.  To make a display of this peace I need only look to Saint Francis and his prayer of peace to be a guide for me.

Prayer:  Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.  Where there is injury, pardon.  Where there is doubt, faith.  Where there is despair, hope.  Where there is darkness, joy.  O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is giving that we receive; it is pardoning, that we are pardoned; and it in dying that we are born to eternal life.  I as this, as always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…Amen!

Guard your eyes…Close them, if necessary!

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Fear of the Lord

Fear of the Lord (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

Gift:  Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe) – With the gift of wonder and awe (fear of the lord), we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love.

Reading:  He who practices virtue and speaks honestly,
who spurns what is gained by oppression,
brushing his hands
free of contact with a bribe,
stopping his ears lest he hear of bloodshed,
closing his eyes lest he look on evil.  (Isaiah 33:15)

Observation:  As we were praying the morning prayer this morning, I was reminded of the fact that when a Victoria’s Secret commercial comes on, I avert my eyes from the screen or even close them until it’s over.  The reason isn’t that I believe the women to be evil, but the message that Victoria’s Secret is selling is evil.  Somehow, the devil has the world convinced that if a woman can allure a man with their body, it will lead to love.  Now, I know that God can work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  (See Romans 8:28)  However, earlier in the 8th chapter of Romans, the Word says, “For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace. For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God; it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:5-9)  The second part about stopping his ears lest he hear of bloodshed was meant for my wife, but the last part was meant for me, for sure.

Personification:  Love.  Real love is concerned with the things that are revealed to us through the spirit.  If I am going to display the fruit of love in my life, I must be concerned only with those things that are revealed to me through the Word of God and the tradition of the church.  However, I must remember to discern by going back to the Catechism, if necessary, the real meaning of our sexuality and how I need to guard myself against the salaciousness, that is all too prevalent in this world today.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner…Amen!

Dear God, am I to be a fisherman or a hunter?

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Rembrandt - Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction...

Rembrandt – Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem – WGA19091 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gift: Wisdom- With the gift of wisdom, we see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise person, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of our lives take on deeper meaning. The matters of judgment about the truth, and being able to see the image of God.

Reading:   Therefore, the days are coming—oracle of the LORD—when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt”; but rather, “As the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north”—and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on their own soil.  (Jeremiah 23:7-8)

Observation:  The title for my post today comes from the scripture that is referenced at the bottom of the page where this scripture is found.  It referenced Jeremiah 16:14-15, which said essentially the same thing as we find in today’s first reading, but it added in the next few verses an explanation of what it called the double punishment.  I was left wondering if God was calling me to be a fisherman, or was he asking me to hunt down the offenders of his will.

Personification:  Faithfulness  I am focusing on the fruit of faithfulness today, and I prayed to hear the way I should carry out the message that I heard this morning.  I heard the message at Communion Service that I need to be willing to say, “Yes”, like Joseph did when the angel told him to bring Mary into his home, even though she was pregnant with something that was not his fruit.  He was asked to name him, and thereby become his earthly father, even though he did not have a part in his conception.  There is no Canticle of Joseph that I know of, but you see that he just followed the will of God by doing exactly what the angel told him.

Prayer:  Lord, may my family and I fulfill your calling by doing exactly what we are told by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  If it seems that we are not being inspired by the Holy Spirit, may you send us an angel in our dreams.   I ask this, as always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.  Amen.

Her response sounds strange, because we are conditioned to take the credit…She didn’t!

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Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli (1503) Oil...

Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli (1503) Oil on wood, 232 x 146 cm Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gift:  Knowledge – With the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God’s Revelation, especially as expressed in the life and words of Jesus Christ. A person with knowledge is always learning more about the scriptures and Tradition.

Reading:  And Mary said:* “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;w my spirit rejoices in God my savior. (Luke 1:46-47)

Observation:  In one of the selections for today’s Gospel reading that ends with the beginning of Mary’s response, called the Canticle of Mary, we hear about her relative, Elizabeth, greeting her by paying her a most amazing compliment about how she is most favored by God.  She could have said, “Oh well, you know, clean living and clean heart leads to Holy favors!”  She didn’t though, she said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  How much more should this be my response when I am paid a compliment?  Not because of my greatness, but because of His grace that has done so much for me.

Personification:  Gentleness.  Since I am programmed, by the society I live in, to learn how to take a compliment, and do it by remembering that I should give thanks to the other people who helped me to be able to do these things, I think I often forget to give praise and glory to God, who is the one who deserves it.  I hope that I can display the fruit of gentleness, like Mary does in her Canticle and in her response to the Archangel Gabriel when he announces that she will be giving birth to our savior.

Prayer:  Lord, unlike Mary, I don’t know what you have planned for me, but I want to answer the way she did when presented with your will for me.  Be it done unto your servant according to your will.  I ask this, as always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…Amen!

If we accept forgiveness from God, why are we still waiting?

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English: The healing of the paralytic : wall p...

English: The healing of the paralytic : wall painting in the baptistry of the domus ecclesiae in Dura Europos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Gift:  Wisdom- With the gift of wisdom, we see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise person, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of our lives take on deeper meaning. The matters of judgment about the truth, and being able to see the image of God.

 

Reading:  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?  (Luke 5:23)

 

Observation:  If we are truly Christian, we should accept that we are forgiven for our sins by the power of God, who sent his Son to suffer and die in place of the punishment that we deserve for the life that we have lived to this point.   So, now are we waiting like the scribes and Pharisees, who Jesus had to perform the healing of the paralytic man for, to prove that He has the power to forgive sins.  Today, I am asking myself about all the things in my life, that are like the paralytic man, that I am waiting to be healed to prove that Jesus has the power to forgive my sin.  I need to accept my paralysis and redeem it with the power of forgiveness that comes from the grace of God.

 

Personification:  Faithfulness.  The fruit of faithfulness is a great fruit for me to display today to prove to God that I am no longer waiting to see miracles to believe.  How do I show faithfulness, but by being present for the work that God is doing in and through me today.

 

Prayer:  Lord, help me recognize your goodness in everyone I meet today and be a vehicle of your grace to all the ones that you would have me embrace with your love.  I ask this, as always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit…Amen!