Be Holy, Be Happy!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Gospel Maximum of Love and Holiness

Third Week of Lent
Reflection for Sunday, February 24, 2008
by Msgr. Andrew Vaccari

Traveling on a pilgrimage through the Holy Land a number of years ago, the hot summer days always made the members of our group thirsty. Taking a drink of that cold bottled water was a tremendous relief, soothing and refreshing. And there was no substitute for it. But no matter how many times we drank it, the thirst always came back after a while. The experience reminded me of the promise of Jesus in the Gospel today, when he says to the woman of Samaria: "whoever drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty; no, the water I give shall become a fountain within him, leaping up to provide eternal life."

The Jews and the Samaritans were notorious for hating each other. The Jews felt that the Samaritans had made many religious concessions, and that their practice of the faith was impure. The Samaritans, for their part, taunted the Jews. In addition to the differences between Jews and Samaritans, it was considered inappropriate for a Rabbi to talk with a woman in public.

So when Jesus encounters and converses with the woman at the well, his disciples are astounded. Jesus is ready to break down the barriers between the groups. He is at the well at the exact time the woman comes for water and begins a conversation. He tells her he is thirsty but it is not primarily physical water he wants. He wants to win her for the Kingdom!

He wants you and me as well. His profound thirst, here and on the cross, is for our human love. He yearns to be that water welling up inside of us, quenching our spiritual thirst. We must recognize and admit the times we have tried to drink from other sources.

In this season Lent, we do well to repent of the times we have turned to other ways to satisfy our yearnings, our hopes and our aspirations. Our sins have left us thirsty. and we have to keep returning again and again, because we are never satisfied. And they have left the Lord thirsty again. After five husbands, and who knows how many other relationships, the woman at the well finally finds peace when she comes to Jesus. Yes, she will have to come to draw water again from that physical well, but her soul has been satisfied with the water of eternal life!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When you're weary...

When reading today’s gospel, we often think about the many sermons and essays we’ve encountered over the years that deal with Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The synthetic threads between today’s first reading and gospel lend themselves easily to reflections about the “living water” that Our Lord offers us.

As I was praying with this gospel in preparation for Sunday, my attention was diverted from the theme of "living water" and seemed riveted on the words that mentioned that Jesus was tired. In my imagination I could picture him, climbing up toward the well with his friends from the dusty paths in the heat of midday. Weary, with muscles throbbing from the walk, he sits to rest while the disciples offer to go into town for food. In my mind’s eye, I watch him sitting there, rubbing his feet, squinting in the bright sun as he sees his friends go on. It is good to have some quiet time! He leans back against the stones of the well and closes his eyes for a brief moment.

His few seconds of peace and rest are broken when he hears her approach. Opening his eyes, he sees her, and he knows her. His heart fills with compassion! He doesn’t see her as the ‘damaged goods’ that the town gossips about, he doesn’t see her culturally lower status as a woman, he doesn’t see her ethnic background or the errors of her religious beliefs; he simply sees her. He knows she has spent a lifetime of “looking for love in all the wrong places” and now he is here to show her what true love is.

Jesus, who Scripture tells us was tired, begins to engage her in conversation. He puts aside his own desire for a few precious minutes of solitude, he overcomes the fatigue of his long, dusty journey, he ignores the social mores of the time-- all for the sake of reaching this woman who the rest of the world would view as insignificant. He spends himself once again. What love!

In this season of Lent, it is good to remember the example of Our Lord, whose love for us was not just demonstrated in the ultimate act of His death on the cross, but in daily sacrificial acts for others.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Gospel Maximum of Love and Holiness

Second Sunday of Lent:
by Nick Emanuel
"Lord, it is good that we are here." St. Peter, maybe a little impetuous, proclaims what James and John must have been thinking as well. And as Jesus' face "shone like the sun," one can only imagine the overwhelming sense of hope that filled their hearts at that moment. And without this hope, how could they have suffered the trial of Jesus' crucifixion? Would Peter have become another Judas, if he had not seen the glory of the Lord and been filled with hope?

The Transfiguration of our Lord which our former Holy Father, John Paul II brought to the forefront with the luminous mysteries, is a sign of hope. It points to things yet to come, it is the promised glory of our Lord's Resurrection. During this season of Lent, meditate on the Lord's shining face and how it brings hope in the midst of suffering. Hope tells us that all will be well, that in the end there will be no darkness, only light. That all will be transformed in the love of the Father.

Second Sunday of Lent: Mt. 17:1-9
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,and led them up a high mountain by themselves.And he was transfigured before them;his face shone like the sunand his clothes became white as light.And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,conversing with him.Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,“Lord, it is good that we are here.If you wish, I will make three tents here,one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”While he was still speaking, behold,a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,then from the cloud came a voice that said,“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;listen to him.”When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrateand were very much afraid.But Jesus came and touched them, saying,“Rise, and do not be afraid.”And when the disciples raised their eyes,they saw no one else but Jesus alone.As they were coming down from the mountain,Jesus charged them,“Do not tell the vision to anyoneuntil the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Friday, February 8, 2008

First Sunday of Lent - The Gospel Maximum!


by Kay Parlor, Nebraska Local Pro Sanctity Director

“If you are the Son of God…”

In today’s gospel reading, the evil one uses this phrase twice as he puts forth temptations to Christ in the desert. The challenge to Jesus to defend His identity by a show of power is remarkable. Surely the tempter is aware of just Who he is speaking to, so why the word “if”? Also, as we read this with our 21st century eyes, it seems ludicrous to us that he would try to appeal to Our Lord’s pride or might because we have the knowledge of the ignominy of the cross.

We see in Jesus’ response that he does not fall into the trap. He doesn’t even dignify the challenge with a direct response, saying something like, “Of course I’m the Son of God you ninny, but doing that stuff just isn’t my style!” He simply recalls the Word.

What does that mean to me, as a wife and mother trying to live the call to holiness this Lent? The words “If you are the Son of God…” stop me in my tracks because they could be spoken to me. Pope St. Leo the Great once said, “"Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God."

I am a daughter of God! Am I aware of my dignity as such or do I have “an identity crisis”? Do I know who I am and where I am going? Pope John Paul II often quoted the following line from Guadium et Spes (24): “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” How do I see my Lenten experience in light of those words? What is the gift of self that I am being called to offer? As temptations present themselves (and they already have, even though Lent has just begun!) can I draw on the strength I gain from my union with Jesus Who is the Word, truly present in the Eucharist?

In the third temptation of today’s gospel, the evil one tries to entice Jesus with the things of this world. In this age of conspicuous consumerism we can easily fall into the trap of all the things that lure us away from Our Lord. In a passage from an earlier gospel this week, Jesus puts things in perspective for us. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (Lk. 9: 25) As a beloved child of God, do I want to jeopardize that relationship by getting caught up in the lure of “things”, status, power, etc.?

Is my heart rightly disposed? (We pray from Psalm 51: “Create a clean heart in me, O Lord…”) What are the true motives for the choices I make?

I had to laugh when, on Ash Wednesday, a man went to great lengths to draw the attention of everyone in the room to the fact that he had washed off his ashes after Mass so as not to appear “in Walmart or some other such place” like the hypocrites in the gospel of that day. Even when trying not to put on a false show of piety, we can fall into the trap! And I was laughing not at him but because I could see myself doing the same foolish thing. We’re so human! The beauty of it is that Our Lord loves us just as we are because He sees our true dignity as His children.

As I go through the days ahead, I will continue to reflect on Christ’s humble yet resolute response to the temptations laid before him in the desert.

(This is a new series, The Gospel Maximum: An Invitation to Love and Holiness, please let us know if you would like to contribtute for a reflection on a Sunday Gospel: - Teresa)


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Please remember to pray for the Priest Clergy Conference in Columbus, NE today!

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Gift of Conversion

My Mother, My Confidence!

Bishop Robert Carlson, Bishop of Saginaw, recently released a Pastoral Letter on Penance: Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician. It is a marvelous gift for the people of his diocese and for all of us! In addition to a clear catechesis on the Sacrament, the letter contains several meditations scattered throughout, inviting the reader to deepening conversion through lectio.

Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician: Pastoral Letter on Penance

This is something we cannot keep to ourselves! Please read it, pray with it, talk about it, share it! We will continue to post fruits and reflections from this powerful letter on the blog throughout Lent. May we receive and ponder this gift with Mary.

Our Lady of Trust - Mama!

Central States Our Lady of Trust Celebration
by Kay Parlor, Local Pro Sanctity Board President

My heart has been so full of joy since yesterday’s celebration of Our Lady of Trust! Despite an unexpected snow band that swept the region earlier in the day, the room filled with people who have such great love for Our Lady! (And in typical Pro Sanctity fashion, they spanned all walks of life, cultures, and ages.) I can just imagine Our Mother’s joy as she looked down upon all those beautiful faces!

All, young and old, joined in praying a beautiful meditative rosary as the celebration began. Somehow, the little ones knew to behave for “Mama” and the reverence and devotion were keenly apparent. In this age where media-saturated children have developed short attention spans, these precious little ones defied the cultural trend.

We were treated to a beautiful talk about Our Lady given by Fr. Damien Cook, a holy priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha with a deep love for the Mother of Jesus. Fr. Cook masterfully managed to sprinkle humor, scripture, and theology throughout his talk. One of his key themes was from a Latin expression which states, “Of Mary, there is never enough.” Fr. Cook also shared a personal story of Mary’s intercession in his teen years that assured him of the need to trust.

Marian songs composed by member Stephen Tefft (many with lyrics by Bishop Giaquinta) were interspersed throughout the event, creating the perfect atmosphere. As is customary at all Pro Sanctity events, the tables were laden with a wide variety of delicious treats generously provided by our friends.

Long time Pro Sanctity member, Chris Peters, led the children in their own Festival of Faith during Fr. Cook’s talk. Chris is a teacher who just has a special way of relating to relating to young people and she planned fun activities which included a Trust Walk. The older children graciously stepped in to lend a hand with the younger ones in the true spirit of our Pro Sanctity family.

Special thanks go to local board member, Mary Alice Lanspa, who coordinated the celebration. Though she made it look easy, a lot of prayer and work goes into such a big event. Mary Alice attended to every detail, from securing the hall at Mary Our Queen parish (isn’t it appropriate we’d be there on Our Lady’s day?) to inviting our speaker to calling on volunteers to bring treats to finding someone to help with the children’s program and much, much more. It is a delight to see so many of the Pro Sanctity family grow in their love for the Movement and, out of that love and desire to spread the call to holiness, they give so generously of their time and talent.

The memory of this celebration of love for Our Lady of Trust will linger for a long time: as we recall bits of Fr. Cook’s talk that spark reflection, as we pray again the rosary mediations, and as we continue to support each other in growing in holiness!


Sunday, February 3, 2008

DAY NINE - Model of Trust

Mary - Model of Trust

By National Spiritual Advisor of the Pro Sanctity Movement,
Msgr. Andrew Vaccari

Today we rejoice in the great celebration of Our Lady of Trust. For nine days we have been praying and preparing, reflecting and looking with eager and open hearts, asking her to draw us to the perfection of the Father. We do not want to loose heart or become discouraged, although we might be tempted to do so when we see the greatness of the task which lies before us. It is exactly in moments such as these, when the magnitude of the call to holiness impresses itself on us, that we look to Our Lady and renew our trust in her.She is the model for us, the model of all the virtues. Today we call upon her as the Model of Trust because she placed her entire being into the loving hands of the most merciful Father. Without knowing where the future would lead, she gave herself to the mission and the plan of God. It was not a trust without foundation. No, it was a trust that drew on the whole history of her people, the Chosen People, led by God through the desert and through the centuries. It was a trust nourished by the Scriptures and the faith of her family and people around her. It was a trust that shines through the pages of the Gospel into our hearts today.We too are called to be people of trust, strengthened by how God has lead his people through the centuries. God has watched over and guided the Church, through all the ups and downs of history. God continues to form us through the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church, through the good example and the faith and the prayer of others around us in the Christian community.

May our trust remain strong, and with the help of Mary our Mother, may it shine through to everyone around us, so that all may become Saints!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

DAY EIGHT: Pregnant with Hope

The Holy Father, in the opening paragraph of his encyclical, Spe Salvi, writes: "Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey."

Mary was given this Hope; she bore this Hope.

Yes, Mary had hope in the midst of an arduous circumstance, which gave her the strength and trust to continue in the journey the Father asked of her.

But even more than this great virtue she possessed and exercised, she was pregnant with Hope Himself! Her redemption, her Hope, came in the form of the little child growing within her.

Imagine the difference it would make in our day if we lived it in the confident assurance (hope) that Christ desires to grow within us and transform the us, to be the Hope of the us, to Redeem the us. Mary carries Hope and Redemption into the world because she carries Christ. May we, like Mary, have hope in the midst of all; may we carry Hope and Redemption everywhere we go because we, like Mary, are pregnant with Hope, pregnant with Christ.

Friday, February 1, 2008

DAY SEVEN: Woman of Understanding

Mary - Woman of Understanding
by Nick Emanuel, Pro Sanctity Board Member and Teacher

Lk 2: 48-51
When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You." And He said to them, "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?" But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them.
And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Mary may not have understood why her Son did what he did, but in faith she knew it was necessary. How often do we think we need to know the reasons for the events in our lives, how often do we ask, "Why Lord?"

Mary teaches us that true understanding can only come through faith, in believing that God really does seek our infinite good. Rather than persist in asking Jesus his reason for being absent(by the way, how many parents would blow their stack if their adolescent son responded to their questions with questions of his own?), she believes in her Son, accepting his response and treasuring "all these things in her heart."

She shows us true understanding of the ways of God.