You were chosen to be a saint

by  Fr. Steve Grunow

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. The Saints are the great heroes of our Faith. The Church describes a Saint as a person of “heroic virtue”.   This means that while many Christians might be willing to settle for lackluster accomplishments as disciples, the Saints engage their relationship with the Lord Jesus vigorous creativity and absolute dedication. Most often, the work of the Saints will go unnoticed and unseen. Saints are not celebrities, and those Saints who capture the attention of the world, view that renown as the imposition of a cross.

Most Saints will disappear into the mission of the Church.

In heaven, we will know the profound impact thousands of hidden Saints had on our lives, but here on earth, as I said, most of the Saints move about and work among us, and do so for the most part unnoticed and unseen.

The work of the Saints is not completed with their deaths. The Saints know better than most Christians that life here in this world is not merely an end in itself, but a means by which God prepares us for a greater and more important mission in heaven. No one who is in Heaven is indolent. Heaven is not a place of indifference to this world but one of interaction and intercession. This means that the Saints continue their mission as disciples of the Lord Jesus, supporting and sustaining the Church, acting to help and support all the baptized.

The first scripture for today’s Mass of All Saints is an excerpt from the New Testament Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is one of the most mysterious, complex, and misunderstood books of the Bible. It is a theological commentary on events from the past, present and future and it communicates important spiritual insights through fantastic images and symbols. The common impression is that the Book of Revelation is about the end of the world, and as such people are often terrified by its content.

But, properly understood, the Book of Revelation is not simply frightening, but reassuring, as it foresees the victory of God in Christ over all the dark powers, worldly and otherworldly that oppose him.

The Book of Revelation is not simply about the end of the world, but the beginning of a new world in which the great enemies of God, and therefore the enemies of humanity are defeated by the power of God in Christ. These enemies are sin, death and the devil.

The conflict between the dark powers of sin, death and the devil has consequences for the Church as it engages her mission in the world. The Church is opposed as Christ was opposed. The Church suffers as Christ suffered. And in all this, the Saints are on the front lines of the battle.

The Book of Revelation displays all that I just described in symbolic or metaphorical terms. What you heard about was a vast assembly of people from all over the world, clothed in white, who proclaim the coming victory of God in Christ. Who are these people? The text tells us- they are Christians whose heroism was revealed in their willingness to be killed rather than renounce their Christian Faith or cooperate with the dark powers.

Thus, our first scripture for today is about a particular kind of Saint- the martyr. We live even right now in an age of martyrs as multitudes of Christians in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are persecuted and killed because they are disciples of the Lord Jesus. We might think that the greatest challenge to the Church today is whether or not we should conform to secular values, but far more important than this is the brutal fact that for millions of Christians, professing and practicing the Christian Faith can cost you not just your livelihood, but also your very life.

On this day when the Church celebrates the Saints, it would be good for us to remember, that what is demanded of us as followers of the Lord Jesus is often times far less than what it demanded of others.

We are not compelled by circumstances to die for our Faith in Christ, but are we willing to live for it? If our sacrifice is not to be that of a martyr, what is the sacrifice we will offer?

Our second scripture is a brief passage from the First Letter of John, in which the evangelist articulates an important insight about our identity as Christians. We are not as Christians merely members of a faith-based social club, an ethnic or cultural association, political action committee, or supporters of a 501C3 non-for-profit initiative. In the words of Pope Francis, the Church is not an “NGO”- a non-governmental social service organization.

What are we then? The evangelist John tells us- we are the children of God.

This means that God has made us in Christ his beloved children, and just as children are an expression of their parents love, so too Christians are meant to be for the world an expression of God in Christ’s love.

Being a child of God, means aspiring to be like the One who is revealed to be God’s only beloved Son- Jesus Christ. Being a child of God is not just some privileged title, but a responsibility, an identity, a mission that a Christian accepts. The Christian, as a child of God, is meant to be an expression to others of Christ himself. Thus, when a Christian is baptized, he or she is proclaimed to be what is termed an “alter Christus”, that literally means “another Christ”.

The Saints are expressions of Christ-likeness par excellence. The Saints “re-present” Christ to us and through the Saints Christ acts and introduces himself to us. Saints are not just nice, friendly people who do good things for society, but they are Christians who aspiring to serve Christ as disciples, are given the gift of becoming ever more and more like him.

And that observation brings me to an important clarification: when a Christian is baptized, what is happening to that person is not just inclusion into a community. No!

What happens when a Christian is baptized is that person is chosen as Christ to be like him- a person is chosen by Christ to be a Saint. The realization of your life as a Christian is not simply that you become a member of a faith based club or matriculate through faith-based institutions, but that you become a Saint. That’s what Baptism is all about, indeed, that’s what the Sacraments are about, indeed what the whole life of the Church is about. Being a Christian is about being chosen by Christ to be a Saint. “You have not chosen Christ, he has chosen you!” You will never begin to understand what the Christian life is all about until you understand this universal summons to holiness, this summons to be a Christian, which is God in Christ choosing you to be a Saint!

Finally, in his Gospel, the Lord Jesus presents what are known as “The Beatitudes”- a proclamation of those who are truly blessed by God and who enjoy God’s favor.

In worldly terms the blessing of God, the favor of God is many times construed in categories of worldly success or exemption from the harder facts of human existence. Some consider God’s blessing to being the recipient of prosperity and wealth, talent and good looks, power and prestige. God’s favor happens, according to some, when they are exempt from having to suffer or to struggle. Christ the Lord upends these kinds of expectations, and declares that the blessing of God and the favor of God is given, not to those who have the most, but those who have the least; not to those whom the world esteems as successful, but to those who seem to the world to have failed; not to those who have power, but to those who seem to have no power at all; not to those whom the world considers to be significant or influential, but to those who go mostly unnoticed and unappreciated.

In other words, in his Beatitudes, God in Christ announces a revolution!

Blessing is not getting what we want, but having the opportunity to give to others what they truly need. God’s favor is not an exemption from the hard facts of life, but God’s favor is found within the hard facts of life.

The Saints will exemplify in their lives the Beatitudes of the Lord Jesus, their blessing and favor will look like the strange blessing and favor that the Lord Jesus describes. The Saints will not only exemplify the Beatitudes in the decisions they make about the way they live, but also in whom they will seek to serve and choose to associate with. The Saints will seek the company of the kinds of people that Christ describes in his Beatitudes.

Consider the decisions you have made about your life. Have these decisions made you a person whose life looks like the life described in the Beatitudes? Consider the people with whom you associate and whom you esteem. Are these people like the people described in the Beatitudes?

And in our answers to these questions is the challenge for all of us would be saints, saints in the making- do our decisions make of us men and women of the Beatitudes? How many of the people that we seek the company of and consider to be our friends look and live like the kinds of people Christ describes as being truly deserving of his blessing and favor?


Link:

http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/you-were-chosen-to-be-a-saint/5301/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialmedia&utm_term=fb-wof&utm_content=you-were-chosen-to-be-a-saint&utm_campaign=blog-post

Have you seen what you are looking for? 

(C) Sabbath
Question: Have you seen Stevie Wonder’s house?
         Answer: Neither has he. Stevie Wonder is blind.
       It is possible to have something right in front of you and still not be able to see it.
     There are only two occasions where the Gospels record Jesus weeping: at the death of his friend Lazarus (see John 11:35) and in today’s Gospel. Coming within sight of the city of Jerusalem, Jesus wept over it (v. 41).
       Today, Jesus beheld Jerusalem and wept over it. He wept for its failure to recognize the presence and see the manifestations of the Kingdom of God right in her midst. Jerusalem was waiting for the Messiah when, right in front of her, is the Kingdom of God personified in Jesus.
          I once saw a poster showing Superman on one side and Clark Kent on the other. At the bottom it read: “Many girls dream of meeting Superman but walk past Clark Kent every day.” We dream of God manifesting Himself to us in a Superman-kind-of-way, in the process missing the many Clark Kents He sends our way. The world waited for a Messiah, but all it got was a “baby.”
       What is my point? We ask for God’s blessings but oftentimes we want God to give it the way we want them, on our terms, on our conditions, on our calendar, according to our specifications.
       Remember the story of the village guy who lost his house in a fire and prayed to God for help? When an ax fell from heaven, he ranted at God saying, “Are you mocking me? I didn’t ask for an ax!” God replied saying, “I sent you an ax so you can begin cutting trees and build yourself a house.” God’s blessings don’t always come the way we want them packaged. There is no doubt about it. God will manifest His providence and power. We just have to trust and sharpen our eyes to recognize the many Clark Kents He sends our way. Fr. Joel Jason
 

REFLECTION QUESTION: Have you been impatient and discouraged lately? Might not really be a case of God being silent, but you being blind.
 

Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus. To reach out and touch Him. And say that we love Him. Amen

THE WAY OF THE KINGDOM

(C) Sabbath
 

The proclamation of the Kingdom of God and its action in human history was the central teaching of Jesus’ ministry. At His very first public appearance, Jesus declared, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15). People began expecting for the coming of that kingdom. They thought of it as a political kingdom, ruled by a political Messiah, who would liberate Israel from Roman occupation.

When they did not see and hear signs of that kingdom happening and coming to fruition, they became impatient and demanded from Jesus where and when they will see the fulfillment of that kingdom. But Jesus was talking about a different kind of kingdom — a Kingdom where God’s will and His precepts take first place in the hearts of men, a Kingdom that roots out the stronghold of sin in the heart and transforms men and women to become salt and light of the world, renewing the face of the earth. Like that of a seed, it grows imperceptibly in silence. That is why Jesus says the growth of the kingdom is “not something that can be observed nor a matter of pointing ‘it is here’ or ‘it is there’” (see verses 20-21).

Today, with evil happening all around us, it’s very easy to be discouraged and cynical. Is the Kingdom of God really present in the world? Is God really involved in history or has He abandoned it?

When a tree falls, everybody notices it, for it makes a loud noise. But hardly anyone pays attention to the countless trees in the same forest that grow, bear fruit and give life constantly, regularly, imperceptibly — in silence. Let us not be fooled and seduced by the noise that one falling tree creates, overshadowing the many others who continue to flourish in silence.

Good news never make the headlines, they say, because they don’t sell newspapers. Make no mistake about it, the Kingdom of God and its action is among us, accomplishing its purpose, in its own proper time, in its own gracious way. Fr. Joel Jason

 

REFLECTION QUESTION: Are you paying attention to the many imperceptible ways God is reaching out to you?

May I be ever attentive to You, O God, and the manifold ways You will reach out to me today. Amen.

THE DYNAMISM OF THE GOOD NEWS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Col 1:1-8; Lk 4:38-44

The scripture lessons of today speak about the Good News of God.  Unfortunately, the fact is that today the Good News we proclaim does not sound like good news.  Not only in our preaching but even in our lives, we reflect not only stale news but even at times bad news.  But stale news is a contradiction in terms.  News, to be news, must be new.  If it is no longer new, then we can hardly call it news.  But it is not just news that we are called to proclaim, but the Good News.

How is it that our Good News has become stale or bad news?  The reason given in today’s gospel is simply this:  we want to domesticate the good news of God.  In the gospel, the people wanted to keep Jesus all for themselves.  So they tried to prevent Him from leaving.   Jesus must have been tempted to stay back in the village where He had healed many people.  He had indeed become very popular and well-sought after.  In fact, when things were going on so well for Him, it would not have made sense for Him to leave the place.  Yes, Jesus must have felt the temptation to build His own kingdom.  After all, who would want to leave a place when one is loved, known, idolized and always the center of attention?

There is a great temptation for us today to domesticate the Good News by insisting that everything remain unchanged.  Indeed, in the world today there is an opposition between the traditionalists and the progressives.  On one hand, there are those who do not want to see the Church changing to adapt to the new situations and the demands of our time.  They want the gospel to remain as it is and face the danger of redundancy as the message no longer resonates with our people.  Truth of course cannot be changed, but we need to know whether we are holding on to the truths or simply the facade.  Truths need to be applied to new situations because of new challenges.  Truths need to be represented in a new language and in a new context.

The demons too wanted to domesticate the good news by deceiving us into believing that we know Jesus when we do not.  That was why they proclaimed Jesus publicly as the Son of God.  Of course, Jesus rebuked them.  Why?  One might wonder.  Simply because Jesus knew that if the people heard from the demons that He was the Son of God, they would have been blinded from searching for Christ themselves.  The people would have deceived themselves into thinking that because they knew about His origin, they also knew Him personally.  Then they would not be bothered to seek Jesus for a deeper relationship.  It is just like those who have attended some talks on prayer and leave the seminar thinking that they now know all about centering prayer when in truth they have never even put it to practice on their own.  They have mistaken an intellectual knowledge of God and prayer for personal knowledge.   Indeed, for many of us who have been long in the faith, we think we have heard everything and that there is nothing more for us to learn.  We are no longer docile, receptive and teachable.   Those of us who study too much theology have a danger of thinking that we know much about God when our knowledge is mere cerebral knowledge, a knowledge that does not even affect the way we live our lives.  When there is no radical conversion or integrity of life in accordance with what we know or teach then we should be wary of thinking that we have the Good News.

How, then, can we preserve the Good News so that it will always remain good and fresh?  We can do so only if we recognize that God and life are dynamic.  Anything that is static is dead.  They are found only in the cemeteries and museums.  Anything that is alive is always dynamic.  Therefore, we must avoid the danger of settling down to our comfortable and set ways of living.  This can manifest itself in many ways.  For example, many of us get used to the routine of Church practices; the routine of parish life; the routine of prayer life.  Faith has become merely a culture, a way of life that we live without thinking or understanding.  We are doing what good Catholics must do, observing all the customs and laws but often without understanding and personal conviction.  At other times, it could be the set ways of thinking, the fixed ways of praying and understanding God in our lives; the lack of courage to change, to take risks and to venture out.   Undoubtedly, it is less risky to maintain our status quo than to take up new challenges in life.  But the fact is that, when we settle for a perpetuation of our status quo, we are settling for less in life.  Life will remain stagnant and there will be no growth.

On the other hand, those who do not enslave God and enslave themselves to their comfort zones and are willing to dance with the dynamism of life, will always find life alive.  Take the Christians in the first reading for example.  They were really living the Good News because they were in love with each other.  Of course, love is always creative and dynamic.  That is why people in love are always full of surprises.  When we fall out of love, creativity also dies.  Indeed, Jesus was a man who was truly alive because He had this deep love for His fellowmen.  That was what motivated Him to move on and to declare in no uncertain terms to those who wanted Him to stay that “To other towns I must announce the good news of the reign of God, because that is why I was sent.”  Indeed, if Jesus had chosen to stay, and even if He had been of use to the people there, it would have been more for Himself than for His fellowmen.

For this reason, we need to let go.  To the extent that we are willing to let go of our security and our needs, to that extent we will find life challenging and exciting.  But we can let go only if, like Jesus, we withdraw daily and often to re-examine our motives for doing things.  Prayer helps us to keep our perspectives right and prevent us from settling down to our neat concepts about God and life and our daily living.  Indeed, when things are getting too comfortable for us, perhaps, it is time for us to change.  In a nutshell, the Good News can retain its vigour and power only when we realize that we are pilgrims along the way.  Like Jesus, we must always move on in life, for that is the very nature of life and our calling.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
© All Rights Reserved

Pope’s Morning Homily: Be Prepared If Lord Comes Like a ‘Thief in the Night’

http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-morning-homily-be-prepared-if-lord-comes-like-a-thief-in-the-night

Christians are to comfort each other through good works and kind words and not with useless chatter.

In his first public daily Mass at his residence since his summer break, Francis called on Catholics to realize our God lives and will come to find us, and therefore, to live accordingly, reported Vatican Radio.

In the responsorial psalm, the Pope noted how we repeat the words, ‘I am sure I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,’ and then posed a question to those present.

“Are you certain you will see the Lord?” he asked.

Like Job, Francis said, despite many misadventures, we are to firmly believe we’ll see Christ with our own eyes and let this give us hope.

“It’s true, He will come to judge and when we go to the Sistine (Chapel) we see that beautiful scene of the Last Judgement,” the Pope said. “But we must also believe that He will come to find me because I see Him with my eyes, I embrace Him and am always with Him.  This is the hope that the Apostle Paul tells us to explain to others through our life, to give witness to hope.  This is the true comfort, this is the true certainty: ‘I am sure I will see the Lord’s kindness.'”

In today’s letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul encourages early Christians to let hope grow in their hearts until the final day in which they meet him, the Pope recalled. Francis stressed how the Apostle also warned that this day could arrive without warning, like a “thief in the night.”

Though the thought of lack of notice could be frightening, Francis reminded those gathered that Jesus is coming to bring salvation to those who believe in Him and to have hope, comfort and help each other.

“Let us ask the Lord for this grace: that seed of hope that he has planted in our hearts so it germinates and grows until our final meeting with Him.”

“‘I am certain that I will see the Lord.’ ‘I am certain that our Lord lives.’ ‘I am certain that our Lord will come to find me’: This should be the horizon of our life.  Let us ask the Lord for this grace and let us comfort each other with good works and kind words, (let’s go) along this road.”

“This is my advice, ‘comfort each other.’ Speak about this: but I’m asking you: do we speak about this, that the Lord will come and will we meet Him? Or do we speak about so many things, including theology, things about the Church, priests, religious sisters, monsignors, all this?  And is this hope our comfort? ‘Comfort each other,’ comfort those in the community. In our community, in our parishes, are we speaking about this that we’re waiting for the Lord who comes?  Or are we instead chattering about this and that to help pass the time and not get too bored?”

The Pope concluded by exhorting the faithful to live lives they would be at peace with the day the Lord gives a surprise visit.

Pope Francis: Christian comfort is in Jesus not in chatter

http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-christian-comfort-is-in-jesus-not-in

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis said Christians should comfort each other through good works and kind words and not with useless chatter. He was speaking on Tuesday (1st September) during his homily at his first morning mass at the Santa Marta residence since the summer break.

Taking his inspiration from the St Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians about the need for a strong faith and hope in a final meeting with Christ, the Pope noted that the apostle wrote that the day of the Lord can arrive without warning “like a thief” but Jesus is coming to bring salvation to those who believe in Him. My advice, he said, is to comfort each other and help each other and this comfort will give you hope.

“This is my advice, ‘comfort each other.’ Speak about this: but I’m asking you: do we speak about this, that the Lord will come and will we meet Him? Or do we speak about so many things, including theology, things about the Church, priests, religious sisters, monsignors, all this?  And is this hope our comfort? ‘Comfort each other,’ comfort those in the community. In our community, in our parishes, are we speaking about this that we’re waiting for the Lord who comes?  Or are we instead chattering about this and that to help pass the time and not get too bored?”

Pope Francis explained how in the responsorial psalm we repeat the words: ‘I am sure I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living’ but then asked the question: are you certain you will see the Lord?  He advised us to follow the example of the prophet Job who despite his many misadventures maintained his belief in the existence of God and that he would see him with his own eyes.

“It’s true, He will come to judge and when we go to the Sistine (Chapel) we see that beautiful scene of the Last Judgement.  But we must also believe that He will come to find me because I see Him with my eyes, I embrace Him and am always with Him.  This is the hope that the Apostle Paul tells us to explain to others through our life, to give witness to hope.  This is the true comfort, this is the true certainty: “I am sure I will see the Lord’s kindness.””

Just as St Paul encouraged the early Christians, the Pope reiterated the saint’s advice to those in the Church today. “Comfort each other with good works and help each other. In this way, we can go ahead.”

“Let us ask the Lord for this grace: that seed of hope that he has planted in our hearts so it germinates and grows until our final meeting with Him. “I am certain that I will see the Lord.” “I am certain that our Lord lives.” “I am certain that our Lord will come to find me”: This should be the horizon of our life.  Let us ask the Lord for this grace and let us comfort each other with good works and kind words, (let’s go) along this road.”

(from Vatican Radio)

The Ball and I

For me, Engineering mixes well with faith. Or engineering can be a way to strengthen one’s faith. It all started when I opened a book in Fluid Mechanics and see a picture similar to what is shown below. At first glance, what you see is what you get. A ball surrounded by a flowing fluid. But thanks be to God, looking to it on a deeper perspective yields something.

A fluid flowing (e.g. blowing air)  is like the problems of our life. The blow sometimes could be strong, just like our problems.

Now, imagine if we are standing in front of the ball. When the air blows stronger, who is hit first? It’s us.

Now if one will hide behind the ball, when the air blows stronger, the ball is hit and one can see that upon collision with the ball, the wind blows in different directions. The ball is like the Lord. 🙂

So when we are discouraged and overwhelmed with the trials life may bring, let’s ask ourselves: Where am I? Chances are, the answer is: we are in front of the ball instead of the ball being in front of us.

—–

Image is taken here.