Monthly Archives: August 2016


Looking ahead to this coming Sunday’s gospel [Luke 14:25-33], the command to carry our cross will be presented to us by Jesus. Disciples carry their crosses… with Jesus; others don’t.

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot by my disciple.

We might focus on the cross as God’s mercy towards us and then our mission of mercy on behalf of God and the building of the Kingdom of God. Daily we have the decision of being cross-carrying disciples of Jesus or not. St. Augustine in some thought-provoking words once said:

The one who created us without us does not want to redeem us without us. The act of redemption enables us to say ‘yes’ anew in faith or to withhold our assent. As much as the act of redemption is exclusively Christological [an act carried out by Christ in his death and resurrection] it is at the same time inclusive and involves us.

In an article, The Cross: The Ultimate Sign of God’s Mercy, in the magazine The Priest [September, 2016], Msgr. Peter Vaghi wrote:

The Cross is the ultimate sign of mercy, the mercy for each and every one of us revealed on the Cross by His victory over sin and death by which our salvation was won. We must never be afraid to look at the Cross, to ponder its meaning ever anew, to wear a Cross, publicly to show ashes in the sign of the Cross, to have a Cross in our offices or on our desk. Embrace the Cross. Kiss the Cross on Good Friday. It is where mercy took on a human face, a face of perduring love. It was our salvation form ourselves and for God. We must focus, as well, on the pierced heart of Jesus, the merciful heart of Jesus, from whence came blood and water. We must focus on the face of innocent suffering. It has many faces. We must finally focus on the face of the Father, rich in mercy.

Mercy is thus the sum of the Good News, of the entire Gospel itself. For by His wounds we are healed [see Isiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24]… Cardinal Kasper in his book of mercy [p. 82] wrote:

To believe in the crucified Son is to believe that love is present in the world and that it is more powerful than hate and violence, more powerful than all the evil in which human beings are entangled. Believing in this love means believing in mercy.



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After studying the gospel from last weekend, Luke 14:1, 7-14, I have a greater appreciation not only of the gospel passage but also of Jesus’ humor:

when you are invited [to a wedding banquet}, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The humor for Jesus was watching everyone fighting for the seats of honor so they can win the esteem of others. Jesus’ sadness about this search for esteem is that the one who humbles himself/herself will be exalted/esteemed. In this gospel story, Jesus was not only teaching us about the importance of true humility but also He was asking to question the motives behind our actions.

Likewise at the end of the gospel when Jesus told the host of the banquet to:

when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Why do we do the acts of mercy that we do? Once again Jesus is asking us to question the motive behind our actions. If we are humble people, then we see ourselves in the blind, the lame, the crippled, and those who cannot repay our acts of mercy. They are one with us and we are one with them. As Paul described the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12: when one part of the body suffers all the members share in the suffering; and one member of the body is exalted all the members share in the joy. In addion Paul said:

God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. [1 Corinthians 12:24-25]

As I shared with my congregation this past weekend, Saint John Paul II said at the beginning of this new millennium that the great challenge for the members of the body of Christ will be to live and to practice a spirituality of communion. We share in one another’s burdens and in one another’s joys. Let me share with you his words in the Apostolic Exhortation, Novo Millennio Iuente, #43:

To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium …But what does this mean in practice? …A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as “those who are a part of me”. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a “gift for me”. A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to “make room” for our brothers and sisters, bearing “each other’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.


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Immigration policy is an important topic, and a controversial one, during this presidential election year. Welcoming the stranger among us is one of the works of mercy that we are encouraged to do. I know from personal experience that telling prison inmates that they are members of the St. Thomas parish community gives them an important sense of belonging. They have not been forgotten nor have they been abandoned. In Sunday’s gospel in Luke 14:1, 7-14 Jesus encouraged the host of the banquet to invite those who could not reciprocate the invitation to attend the banquet: the blind, the lame, the crippled, etc.

While our presidential vote will help establish what the next president will do regarding immigration, we should never forget our brothers and sisters, Christians in the Middle East, who are living in exile; are refugees in foreign lands; and are seeking a welcome from others. I was reading an article that spoke about the members of the Body of Christ who are suffering persecution from radical elements and who are living in deplorable conditions. Let me share that article written by Kevin Jones with you. We can certainly keep these exiles in our prayers and support humanitarian organizations that seek to alleviate their plight.

Toronto, Canada, Aug 4, 2016 / 01:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Middle East Christians need help to survive, and leaders in the relief effort have outlined what the average Catholic can do.

“They can speak out. They should talk with their parish. And they should pray,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, told CNA Aug. 3.

Echoing his call to action was Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil in northern Iraq.

“Pray for them. Tell their story. Raise awareness about persecution. Give aid,” he said. The archbishop encouraged Americans and Canadians to try to put pressure on their politicians “to really adjust the whole political vision of America, Canada and the Middle East.”

The plight of Middle East Christians and other minorities was a major focus of the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus held in Toronto. Several Middle East bishops attended alongside other bishops and the order’s delegates from around the world.

The convention came exactly two years after the Islamic State group’s capture of Mosul and the expulsion of tens of thousands of Christians. In Iraq’s neighbor Syria, civil war has raged for five years, with the Christian minority especially affected.

“These communities that still speak the language of Jesus have the right to continue,” Anderson told reporters Wednesday. “They must have equal rights.”

He called on Western governments to make aid conditional on human rights for minorities.

“The perpetrators of genocide must be brought to justice,” he said.

Anderson pointed to the Knights of Columbus’ $11 million in support for Middle East Christians and other minorities like the Yazidi people Since 2014. The relief effort has tried to address shortfalls in humanitarian relief caused by Christians’ avoidance of refugee camps, which they consider dangerous.

The Catholic fraternal organization has also helped lead the effort for a Congressional recognition of genocide.

Anderson cited the latest issue of the Islamic State magazine Dabiq. Its cover story, titled “Break the Cross,” highlighted a photo of an Islamic State partisan taking down a cross and setting up the flag of the extremist group that holds territory in Iraq and Syria.

The issue also shows a photo of Pope Francis labeled “The Enemy.”

“What could be more clear?” Anderson asked. “They are targeting Christians for extinction and they are making no secret about it.”

Archbishop Warda said he keeps hope alive for Iraqi Christians by reminding them that they are not forgotten. Aid from abroad that helps them secure decent housing, schools, clinics and other services helps them know this.

Iraqi Christians’ plight is better compared to the Yazidi population, but their families who have fled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are in a “dreadful” situation.

Anderson urged North American Catholics to contribute financially “even a little bit” to the Knights’ Christian Refugee Relief Fund and pass the word to their fellow parishioners.

Yousif Thomas Mirkis, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk, said American and Canadian Catholics can learn from Iraq’s Christians.

“Share knowledge, share hope, and share concern,” he said, even suggesting some visit his diocese. “If you come, only three days in Kirkuk is better than three hours of explanation.”

In his view, many North Americans have difficulty understanding the situation and are isolated from global problems.

The Islamic State group has now gone global, according to the archbishop. He pointed to a professed Islamic State ally’s attack on a night club in Orlando as a moment of awakening, and as an opening for Iraqi Christians to help Americans.

“We are aware. We are educated. We speak Arabic. We write in Arabic. We can help. We can advise,” Archbishop Mirkis said.

The Syrian situation was also a topic in Toronto. Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo told reporters Syria was “a wonderful country” that is now destroyed.

“When I think about it, yes, sometimes I am almost crying… because it’s terrible,” he said. “The people there have no more food for their children, no work or income, and are under constant attack.

“Our people are terrorized and we are really in a big danger of disappearing… because an exodus has begun.” He has a plea for those who want to help the Church: “help us. Help us by stopping this savagery.”

Archbishop Warda said he keeps hope alive for Iraqi Christians by reminding them that they are not forgotten and that “God is with them.” Aid from abroad that helps them secure decent housing, schools, clinics and other services helps them know thIs.

In Iraq, Archbishop Mirkis runs a university to help young people of all religions resist the negative forces in the country.

“I gather many students, Muslim, Christian and Yazidi. I help them to stay in Kirkuk and to attend university. I have 400 students. In this way I build the future,” he said.

Like Archbishop Warda, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Yousseff III Younan of Antioch invited Catholics to visit Christians in safe parts of Syria to learn the humanitarian and political problems for themselves.

The patriarch at times voiced positive sentiments towards Syrian president Bashar Assad, whose violent crackdown on protesters helped trigger the Syrian Civil War.

He said Assad supported Christians and other minorities against extremists.

“We are not siding with Assad, nor with his party, nor with his government,” Patriarch Younan added. “We patriarchs and bishops side with the people, who endure this kind of hecatomb that fell on Syria and Iraq.”

Pope Francis in his message for World Youth Day in 2014 had these words for us when facing the challenges of life:

It is not an easy journey [following Christ], yet the Lord promises us his grace and he never abandons us. We face so many challenges in life: poverty, distress, humiliation, the struggle for justice, persecutions, the difficulty of daily conversion, the effort to remain faithful to our call to holiness, and many others. But if we open the door to Jesus and allow him to be part of our lives, if we share our joys and sorrows with him, then we will experience the peace and joy that only God, who is infinite love, can give.

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This Sunday at Mass we will be confronted with the theme of humility. As the saying goes, if I have tell someone that I am humble, then probably I am not. In the book Virtues for Ordinary Christians, the author connects self-esteem and humility in this way:

Humility acknowledges the truth about ourselves. Humility is the middle ground between pride and self-pity. Self-esteem is that virtue that makes humility possible. If humility concerns how we interact with others, self-esteem pertains to how we live with ourselves. If humility perfects the way we stand among others, self-esteem perfects the way we see ourselves. If humility is about public discourse, self-esteem is about interior dialogue. If we are humble, when someone compliments us for something that we have done, then the humble response is simply “Thank you.”

The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews will sound strange and seem like it has nothing to do with humility. But it also speaks of humility when we approach God especially in the Eucharistic liturgy. We approach the God who holds us in existence and from whom we have received all of our gifts and talents:

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them. No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Maybe as a help for us to understand this reading from Hebrews that we will hear at Mass, let me share with you an explanation by Fr. Carrol Stuhlmueller, an Old Testament scholar, from his book, Biblical Meditations For Ordinary Time – 10-22:

In this passage from Hebrews the author compares once again an Old Testament institution or incident with its parallel in the New. The Old Testament, therefore, is not dead and useless; only by being alive and respectable can it contribute wisdom and direction. The author compares Mount Sinai with Mount Zion or Jerusalem. When Moses approached Mount Sinai, the Book of Exodus surrounds it with a “blazing fire… gloomy darkness and storm… and trumpet blast,” phrases from today’s reading which echo Exodus 19. The Israelites were forbidden to draw close to the mountain, “so fearful was the spectacle.”

We draw near “to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels in festal gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of the just made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to [his] sprinkled blood.” Rather than kept at a distance by a fearful spectacle, we are invited to draw near.

Yet who among us dares to march up to the first place in the heavenly assembly? The Book of Exodus and its account about Mount Sinai remain a strong reminder of how unworthy we really are. In fact, this chapter 12 of Hebrews ends with a seasonable warning: “offer worship acceptable to God in reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. [Hebrews 12_28-29]

Our reverence and awe are directed not just toward God but also toward the entire gathering which consists of: myriad of angels, assembly of firstborn, and spirits of the just made perfect. It is not groveling to make-believe but healthy honesty to feel unworthy; or to put it the other way around, it is a normal sense of respect and appreciation for our brothers and sisters who are far holier than we ever gave them credit to be!

Yet we are encouraged to draw near to them by a phrase at the end of v. 24 [which was omitted from the reading at Mass] “the sprinkled blood [of Jesus] which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” We have all been washed in the blood of this lamb of God [Revelation 7:14]; we have been nourished by this blood [John 6:55]. Together all of us form one body in Christ [1 Corinthians 12:27] for the precious blood of Jesus courses in all our veins. This bonding in the sprinkled blood of Jesus attracts us and draws us ever closer to the assembly of saints.

The Scriptures then, particularly today’s reading form Hebrews, enable us to realize in ourselves a healthy kind of humility and allow love to attract us forward in a humble sense of appreciation.

Saint John Paul II spoke about the humility that we should have as we approach the altar at Mass in order to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. In his final encyclical about the Eucharist, he wrote  (#49):

The bread which is broken on our altars, offered to us as wayfarers along the paths of the world, is panis angelorum, the bread of angels, which cannot be approached except with the humility of the centurion in the Gospel: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof ” (Mt 8:8; Lk 7:6).

He also wrote about our gathering with the heavenly hosts as indicated by the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews:

This is an aspect of the Eucharist which merits greater attention: in celebrating the sacrifice of the Lamb, we are united to the heavenly “liturgy” and become part of that great multitude which cries out: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10). The Eucharist is truly a glimpse of heaven appearing on earth. It is a glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem which pierces the clouds of our history and lights up our journey. #19]

A significant consequence of the eschatological [end of time] tension inherent in the Eucharist is also the fact that it spurs us on our journey through history and plants a seed of living hope in our daily commitment to the work before us. Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of “new heavens” and “a new earth” (Rev 21:1), but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today.33 I wish to reaffirm this forcefully at the beginning of the new millennium, so that Christians will feel more obliged than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens in this world. Theirs is the task of contributing with the light of the Gospel to the building of a more human world, a world fully in harmony with God’s plan. [#20]

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Can I have a small taste of that? Do you like “nibbles” of things? A small sample to see if you like some type of food, for instance. If you go to the grocery stores, especially the larger ones, they have tables set up which provide a “nibble” of some type of food in hopes that you will buy more. One of the intentions of the Eucharist is to give us a “nibble” or a “foretaste” of what heavenly life is like. With that experience we are to run this earthly race with more determination in order to win the prize of eternal life with God. The bishops at Vatican II wrote the following in the document about the liturgy #8:

In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory

If heaven is all about love, and mercy is love’s second name, have our experiences of mercy given us a “nibble” of what heaven is like? Have we ever reflected on that fact and how an experience of mercy has helped us in our knowledge of God? One of my “memorable” experiences of mercy happened when I was young and playing “catch” with a baseball with my twin brother. We were playing next to several cars parked on a driveway. At that time whenever I threw a “pop fly” up in the air, the ball always had a curve in its trajectory. I threw the ball up intending for my twin to catch it. Yet to my horror the ball curved and landed in the middle of the windshield in my dad’s car. Crack! The windshield was ruined. At that age I did not know how much a windshield on a car would cost. I assumed a couple of million dollars. I debated about running away from home instead of telling my dad. But that didn’t seem like a wonderful option. I didn’t get any support from my brother since after all I had thrown the ball. So with great fear I marched into the house to tell my dad. He simply went out, examined the windshield, and had it fixed. I don’t remember any lectures about playing catch away from cars, although I had already learned that lesson. I was not grounded for the rest of my life. I was simply forgiven. Mercy is wonderful!!

Another mercy experience happened when my family was visiting my dad’s grandparents. My dad’s sister and her family, which included several younger children, were also there. WARNING: don’t let young children read the rest of this story. My brothers and I who had recently discovered that there really is no Santa Claus shared this information with our younger – and still believing in Santa Claus – cousins. We were convincing enough that we ruined the Santa Claus dream for them. At that time I don’t think that my brothers and I realized what we had done. But now I do. I know that my aunt and uncle were not happy with what we did that day. But they did forgive us.

If our experiences of mercy have provided us with a nibble or a foretaste of heaven, maybe we could share a little bit of heaven today with someone by offering them an experience of mercy. Be merciful for God is merciful.


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Pope Francis in a homily on February 16, 2014 spoke about what is hidden in our hearts. He used Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel: “nothing that comes from without soils the soul. Only what comes from within, from your heart, can soil your soul”.

Being honest with yourself is not easy! Because we always try to cover it up when we see something wrong inside, no? So that it doesn’t come out, don’t we? What is in our heart: is it love? … Is there hate? … “I love everyone except for this one, this one and that one!”. … What is in my heart, forgiveness? Is there an attitude of forgiveness for those who have offended me, or is there an attitude of revenge — “he will pay for it!” We must ask ourselves what is within, because what is inside comes out and harms, if it is evil; and if it is good, it comes out and does good.

In that homily Pope Francis also referred to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount; “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘you shall not kill’. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother has killed him in his heart”.

Regarding these words of Jesus, Pope Francis said:

And whoever insults his brother, kills him in his heart, whoever hates his brother, kills his brother in his heart; whoever gossips against his brother, kills him in his heart. Maybe we are not conscious of it, and then we talk, “we write off” this person or that, we speak ill of this or that … And this is killing our brother. That is why it is important to know what is inside, what is happening in my heart…. And we must ask the Lord for two graces. The first: to know what is in our own heart, not to deceive ourselves, not to live in deceit. The second grace: to do what is good in our hearts and not to do the evil that is in our hearts. And as for “killing”, remember that words can kill. Even ill-will toward another kills. Often, when we listen to people talking, saying evil things about others, it seems like the sin of slander. The sin of defamation had been removed from the Ten Commandments and yet to speak evil of a person is still a sin. Why is speaking ill of another a sin? Because there is hatred in my heart, aversion, not love. We must always ask for this grace: to know what is happening in our heart, to constantly make the right choice, the choice for good. And that the Lord help us to love one another. And if I cannot love another well, why not? Pray for that person, pray that the Lord make me love him. And like this we move forward, remembering that what taints our lives is the evil that comes from our hearts. And that the Lord can help us.

So today let’s wear some spiritual “heart monitors” to make sure that mercy is filling our hearts and not the attitudes and ideas that destroy our hearts.

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I share with you in today’s blog some words about mercy that Saint John Paul II wrote in his encyclical letter about mercy, Dives in Misericordia, the God who is rich in mercy. The letter is an awesome one and not too long. I might suggest that we try tackling the letter in small pieces during this Year of Mercy. The quote that I share with you is from paragraph 13 in Dives in Misericordia:

The Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy-the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer-and when she brings people close to the sources of the Savior’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser. Of great significance in this area is constant meditation on the Word of God, and above all conscious and mature participation in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. The Eucharist brings us ever nearer to that love which is more powerful than death: “For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup,” we proclaim not only the death of the Redeemer but also His resurrection, “until he comes” in glory.114 The same Eucharistic rite, celebrated in memory of Him who in His messianic mission revealed the Father to us by means of His words and His cross, attests to the inexhaustible love by virtue of which He desires always to be united with us and present in our midst, coming to meet every human heart. It is the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation that prepares the way for each individual, even those weighed down with great faults. In this sacrament each person can experience mercy in a unique way, that is, the love which is more powerful than sin. This has already been spoken of in the encyclical Redemptor hominis; but it will be fitting to return once more to this fundamental theme.

It is precisely because sin exists in the world, which “God so loved…that he gave his only Son, that God, who “is love,” cannot reveal Himself otherwise than as mercy. This corresponds not only to the most profound truth of that love which God is, but also to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which is man’s temporary homeland.

Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Conversion to God always consists in discovering His mercy, that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind as only the Creator and Father can be; the love to which the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is faithful to the uttermost consequences in the history of His covenant with man; even to the cross and to the death and resurrection of the Son. Conversion to God is always the fruit of the”rediscovery of this Father, who is rich in mercy.

Authentic knowledge of the God of mercy, the God of tender love, is a constant and inexhaustible source of conversion, not only as a momentary interior act but also as a permanent attitude, as a state of mind. Those who come to know God in this way, who “see” Him in this way, can live only in a state of being continually converted to Him. They live, therefore, in statu conversionis; and it is this state of conversion which marks out the most profound element of the pilgrimage of every man and woman on earth in statu viatoris [being in the state of a pilgrimage]. It is obvious that the Church professes the mercy of God, revealed in the crucified and risen Christ, not only by the word of her teaching but above all through the deepest pulsation of the life of the whole People of God. By means of this testimony of life, the Church fulfills the mission proper to the People of God, the mission which is a sharing in and, in a sense, a continuation of the messianic mission of Christ Himself.

The contemporary Church is profoundly conscious that only on the basis of the mercy of God will she be able to carry out the tasks that derive from the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and, in the first place, the ecumenical task which aims at uniting all those who confess Christ. As she makes many efforts in this direction, the Church confesses with humility that only that love which is more powerful than the weakness of human divisions can definitively bring about that unity which Christ implored from the Father and which the Spirit never ceases to beseech for us “with sighs too deep for words

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Let me share with you some words written by Sister Faustina Kowalska in her Diary: Divine Mercy in my Soul. Sister Faustina is the inspiration behind Divine Mercy Sunday and the Divine Mercy picture which have the words:  Jesus, I trust in you. As I read her words, the prayer in effect is asking Jesus to make our whole bodies instruments of mercy for others. After I read the prayer for the first time I thought that if I say this prayer daily I will need to say an Our Father afterwards asking for God’s grace – His daily bread – to fulfill the words of the prayer. Maybe you will have the same reaction.

I want to be completely transformed into your mercy and to be your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes pass through my heart to my neighbor.

Help me that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbor’s soul.

Help me, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbor’s needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors, and take upon  myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks 

Help me, that my feet may be merciful so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May your mercy rest upon me.

O my Jesus, transform me in yourself, for you can do all things.



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Monday, August 15, we celebrated the Assumption of Mary into heaven. Yesterday (8/22/16) we celebrated the Queenship of Mary. Pope Francis has a special devotion to Mary, the Undoer of Knots. In an address on October 12, 2013, he talked about Mary as the undoer of the knot of sin. And I might add that through the “undone” knots we come to experience God’s mercy. Let me share with you some of the pope’s words. After the pope’s comments I have included some brief information about this devotion to Mary, the Undoer of Knots


This event of the Year of Faith is devoted to Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Mother of the Church, our Mother. The statue of Our Lady which has come from Fatima helps us to feel her presence in our midst. It is a fact: Mary always brings us to Jesus. She is a woman of faith, a true believer. But we can ask: What was Mary’s faith like?

  1. The first aspect of her faith is this: Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56). What does that mean? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council took up a phrase of Saint Irenaeus, who states that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith” (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4).

The “knot” of disobedience, the “knot” of unbelief. When children disobey their parents, we can say that a little “knot” is created. This happens if the child acts with an awareness of what he or she is doing, especially if there is a lie involved. At that moment, they break trust with their parents. You know how frequently this happens! Then the relationship with their parents needs to be purified of this fault; the child has to ask forgiveness so that harmony and trust can be restored. Something of the same sort happens in our relationship with God. When we do not listen to him, when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.

But we know one thing: nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace. And Mary, whose “yes” opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy. We all have some of these knots and we can ask in our heart of hearts: What are the knots in my life? “Father, my knots cannot be undone!” It is a mistake to say anything of the sort! All the knots of our heart, every knot of our conscience, can be undone. Do I ask Mary to help me trust in God’s mercy, to undo those knots, to change? She, as a woman of faith, will surely tell you: “Get up, go to the Lord: he understands you”. And she leads us by the hand as a Mother, our Mother, to the embrace of our Father, the Father of mercies.

Francis has a special devotion to The Blessed Virgin Mary, Untier of Knots. It is the name of a Baroque painting entitled Wallfahrtsbild painted by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner (1625-1707) in 1700 and displayed in the St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Bavaria.

The painting depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary standing on the crescent moon, as how she typically is depicted under her moniker, the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of the Revelation or Our Lady of Guadalupe. In it, she’s surrounded by angels and crowned with a circle of twelve stars, while the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove and hovers over her. In her hands, Mary holds a long knotted rope which she unties. Her foot rests on the head of a “knotted” snake clearly representing Satan. Below her is the Prophet Tobias with his dog and the Archangel Raphael traveling to ask Sara for her hand in marriage.

Pope Francis saw the image while studying in Germany and took it as his own personal devotion; he’s subsequently promoted the veneration of this Marian moniker throughout Latin America.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the first to describe the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Untier of Knots in his Adversus haereses (“Against Heresies.”) The saint creates an analogy between Eve and the Virgin Mary, describing how “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith.”

The painting was donated around 1700 by Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel (1641-1718), a priest of the Monastery of Saint Peter in Augsburg. He donated it in celebration of the reconciliation between his grandfather Wolfgang Langenmantel (1586-1637) and grandmother Sophia Rentz (1590-1649). The couple chose not to divorce, through the assistance of the Austrian priest Jakob Rem, a Jesuit from Ingolstadt who asked the Blessed Virgin Mary “to untie all knots and smoothen them” between the couple. Immediately peace was restored between the couple and the divorce didn’t occur.

Interestingly, the first church to be named in her honor was dedicated in AD 1989 in Styria, Austria in response to the crisis created by Chernobyl Nuclear Tragedy in Ukraine.

That was a particularly hellish knot.

This Catholic devotion has promoted throughout South America ever since Pope Francis, when he was still known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ. He bought a postcard of the painting at the German chapel in which the painting is displayed and brought it to Argentina sometime in the 1980s.

The Jesuit connection aside, Pope Francis, prior to becoming Pope Francis, had this Marian image engraved on a chalice he gave to Pope Benedict XVI. The same silversmith has made a duplicate of this chalice and will present it to Pope Francis on behalf of the Argentine people.

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This past weekend, the gospel [Luke 13:22-30] dealt with salvation. The question posed to Jesus was whether only a few would be saved. Of course, Jesus died for all and He wants all to be saved. Salvation is a manifestation of God’s mercy and God shares His mercy with everyone. As we come to the latter part of this Year of Mercy, do we ever think much about the end point of mercy, which is heaven? I guess that anything that we say about heaven will fall short of the actual reality. How can we use words to describe the indescribable? I share with you a few thoughts and images of heaven, some more recent and more ancient. If our concept of heaven is something that truly inspires our hearts, then we will run this earthly race to win the prize of God’s mercy… heaven.

Pope Benedict when he was writing his encyclical about hope, Spe et Salvi, he provided a wonderful image of heaven based on love. After all, heaven is God and God is love:

Spe Salvi #12: The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. “Eternal”, in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it. To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality—this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John’s Gospel: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22). We must think along these lines if we want to understand the object of Christian hope, to understand what it is that our faith, our being with Christ, leads us to expect.


The bishops at Vatican II discussed heaven in the document, On the Church in the Modern World (#39), wrote:

We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away; but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart. Then, with death overcome, the sons of God will be raised up in Christ, and what was sown in weakness and corruption will be invested with incorruptibility. Enduring with charity and its fruits, all that creation which God made on man’s account will be unchained from the bondage of vanity.

Therefore, while we are warned that it profits a man nothing if he gain the whole world and lose himself, the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age.

Hence, while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ’s kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.

For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: “a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.”On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower.

A more ancient source about heaven is St. Francis de Sales in his book, Introduction to the Devout Life, where he wrote:

Imagine a lovely, calm night, when the heavens are bright with countless stars. Add to the beauty of such a night the utmost beauty of a glorious summer day, without the sun’s brightness overcoming the clear brilliance of moon or stars. Even so, all this beauty falls immeasurably short of the glory of Paradise – that bright and blessed country, that sweet and precious place!

Consider the beauty and perfection of the countless inhabitants of that blessed country: There will be millions and millions of angels, cherubim, and seraphim; the glorious company of apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and saints. What a blessed company! Any one of them shines with a glory that surpasses all the glory of this world. So what will it be to behold them all, to sing with them the sweet song of the Lamb? They rejoice with a perpetual joy; they share a bliss unspeakable, and delights that never fade.

Consider how they enjoy the presence of God, who fills them with the richness of the vision of his face, a perfect ocean of delight. They have the joy of being forever united to their Head. They are like happy birds, hovering and singing forever within the divine atmosphere, which fills them with inconceivable pleasures. In heaven each one vies with the others, without jealousy, in singing the praises of the Creator. ‘Blessed are you forever, dear and precious Lord and Redeemer, who so freely gives us of your own glory!” they cry. Then God in his turn pours out his ceaseless blessings on his saints: “Blessed are you, my own forever, who have served me faithfully, and with a good courage.”

In this light, resolve to give up whatever might hinder you on the way to heaven, and to do whatever will help you get there.


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