Monday, July 28, 2014

Prayer of St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier, Patron of the Missions

At the end of the Ramadan, I would like to invite you to pray this prayer by St. Francis Xavier, Patron of the Missions:

O God, the everlasting Creator of all things, remember that the souls of unbelievers we made by Thee and formed in Thine own image and likeness.

Remember that Jesus, Thy Son, endured a most bitter death for their salvation.

Permit not, I beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thy Son should be any longer despised by unbelievers, but do Thou graciously accept the prayers of holy men and of the Church, the Spouse of Thy most holy Son, and be mindful of Thy mercy.

Forget their idolatry and unbelief, and grant that they too may some day know Him whom Thou hast sent, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Salvation, our Life and Resurrection, by whom we have been saved and delivered, to whom be glory for endless ages. Amen.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Buried Treasure

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Christian property marked for confiscation
The Muslim terrorists who took over the city of Mosul in Iraq declared a caliphate and started calling themselves the Islamic State (IS). They started marking Christian properties with the letter Nun (the Arabic equivalent of our letter N) which stood for Nazarene, the name which Muslims call Christians even from the time of Mohammed. These Christian properties were marked for confiscation by the Islamic State. Thursday 2 weeks ago, they made announcements that all Christians living in Mosul may choose from the following: Convert to Islam, Pay heavy taxes, Leave Mosul, or face death. The Christians were given until the next day, Friday, to comply with these demands. The Christians packed a few of their belongings and started to leave the city. But at checkpoints, they were told to surrender their cars, their jewelry, money, public documents and were allowed to bring nothing except the clothes they were wearing. For a week now, the city of Mosul, which was once inhabited by the highest number of Christians in Iraq, is now empty of Christians for the very first time in 1, 800 years.

These Christians could have chosen the easier alternative. They could have chosen to simply convert to Islam. In that way, they would have kept their properties and even their lives. But no, they chose to keep their Christian faith. They chose to abandon everything they had except their faith in Jesus. This is how much they valued their faith. To these Iraqi Christians, the kingdom of God is indeed a treasure buried in the field and a pearl of great price. To them, the kingdom of Christ is worth giving up everything they have in order to keep it. They would rather give up everything they owned than abandon their faith and convert to Islam. And now, they are suffering on account of their loyalty to Jesus. As if being reduced to poverty were not enough, these Christians continue to suffer because the Muslims have cut off the electrical and water supply of the towns that adopted them. Their miserable condition is indeed a very difficult test of faith. However, in their present suffering, they are being conformed to the image of Jesus who is the “firstborn of many brothers and sisters.” There seems to be no end yet to their sufferings and yet we are confident. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” The Iraqi Christians are giving a fitting witness to Jesus, a testimony which is a spectacle to the eyes of men and angels. Men see their sufferings but angels see their victory. “Those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he in turn glorified.”

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Nurturing the Seed which is the Word of God

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Like any seed, the Word of God possesses so much potential for life. It has the capacity to germinate so long as it is accepted by hearts that present no obstacles for its growth. The parable of the Sower is fulfilled in this very place where we are. The same Word of God was heard by everybody here present. But it will not produce the same fruits in all of us because we received the same Word of God in different ways. Some heard the Word but did not listen simply because they never considered God’s word as worth listening to. There is an outright rejection by hearts that chose not to believe in anything God says.

Some were willing to give the Word of God a try but they immediately give up at the sight of the Cross that comes with discipleship. They simply do not want to suffer for the sake of Christ. Some are willing to accept the Word of God but are overcome by love of material things and worldly anxieties. Only those who are willing to renounce attachments to worldly things and to embrace the Cross are the ones who will bear abundantly the fruits that the Word of God promises to bring into their lives.

The secret to cultivating the Word of God into our lives is rather simple. First, we have to listen to it, accept it and believe in it. “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ears of your heart…welcome it and put it to practice,” so said the Rule of St. Benedict (prologue: 1)

Then, we should allow the Word of God to convert our hearts. We should be willing to let go of worldly attachments that stifle the desires of the spirit. We should will to be free from “slavery to corruption” in order to live in the “glorious freedom of the children of God.” “Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ; discipline your body; do not pamper yourself, but love fasting.” (Rule of St. Benedict 4:10-11)

Then, of course, we must embrace the Cross because there is no authentic discipleship without it. Willingness to endure sufferings for the sake of obedience to the will of God is a necessity for following Christ. “The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience.” (Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue:2) It is difficult to obey the commandments of the Lord but this is the only way to real life. “All who come to Christ will live forever.” (alleluia verse)  “Sufferings of this present time are nothing as compared with the glory to be revealed for us,” so said St. Paul in the 2nd reading.

This is the part which the Lord asks of us. For his own part, the Lord will always water the seed planted in our hearts with the Holy Spirit whom he gives to us through the sacraments we should frequently receive. Therefore, let us constantly draw from the well of the sacraments the water of life which we need to nurture the seed of the Word of God planted in us. Christ plants the seed, we cultivate it with our cooperation, and the Holy Spirit provides the growth. Let us strive to bear the fruits of the Spirit so that we may be able to present to the Lord a rich harvest! 

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The King is Meek and Humble of Heart

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

In our celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, we saw that when the Lord Jesus established his Church, he gave St. Peter the keys to his kingdom. When we talk about kingdoms, we often have images of kings and queens, royalty and nobility, palaces and vast territories. There is always something grand in our idea of kingdoms. Thus, we think that those invited into the kingdom should be the best, the brightest, and the strongest. Thus, the words of the Lord might come as a surprise for he invites the humble into his kingdom, he reveals the secrets of the same kingdom to the little ones: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

The Catechism teaches us: “The Kingdom belongs to the poor and the lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to ‘preach good news to the poor’; he declares them blessed, for ‘theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.’ To them, the ‘little ones’, the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.” (CCC, 544.)

The Kingdom belongs to the poor and the lowly because he, the King himself, is humble, meek, and gentle of heart. He is rich and powerful for “all things have been handed over to (him) by the Father.” And yet, he is “meek and humble of heart.” He is in possession of the most profound secrets for “no one knows the Father except the Son,” and yet, he hides this secret from the wise and the learned and reveals them to little ones. “Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst, and privation. Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love towards them the condition for entering his Kingdom.” (CCC, 544.)

Here we see how the mind of God is so much different from the mind of the world. We see here how the way of the Spirit is so much different from the way of the flesh. Power, wealth, influence, pleasure – all these deemed as important by the flesh are unimportant to the Holy Spirit. In fact, these are even dangerous for “if you live according to the flesh, you will die.” Being the little ones to whom the Lord Jesus revealed the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven, we should put to death the deeds of the body and take Christ’s yoke upon ourselves. Christ’s yoke is his humble submission to the Father’s will. He humbled himself, obediently accepting even death on a Cross. And this is the irony: the more we insist on doing our will, the more we live according to the flesh, the more enslaved we become, all the more we become burdened. But when we die to our will and take up the yoke of Christ, the more we find rest for ourselves, all the more do we become truly alive.

Therefore, let us live by the Spirit. Let us take his yoke upon ourselves and learn from him who is meek and humble of heart. Striving to fulfill his will, we have no fear of being burdened. For the Cross which we embrace is his Cross. The will we submit to is His will. His yoke is easy and his burden is light!

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!