In Atonement for Our Sins

Today the Church celebrates the second Sunday of Easter which, since 2000, is also Divine Mercy Sunday. The following are excerpts from ewtn.com which explain today’s feast. My door for Confession is open 24/7.

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg

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During the course of Jesus’ revelations to Saint Faustina on the Divine Mercy He asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to the Divine Mercy and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. The liturgical texts of that day, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, concern the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, the Tribunal of the Divine Mercy, and are thus already suited to the request of Our Lord. This Feast, which had already been granted to the nation of Poland and been celebrated within Vatican City, was granted to the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization of Sr. Faustina on 30 April 2000. In a decree dated 23 May 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.” These papal acts represent the highest endorsement that the Church can give to a private revelation, an act of papal infallibility proclaiming the certain sanctity of the mystic, and the granting of a universal feast, as requested by Our Lord to St. Faustina.

Concerning the Feast of Mercy Jesus said:

Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. (Diary 300)

I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. (Diary 341)

This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of my tender mercies. (Diary 420)

On one occasion, I heard these words: My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. * [our emphasis] On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy.

Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary 699)

Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it. (Diary 742)

I want to grant complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy. (Diary 1109)

As you can see the Lord’s desire for the Feast includes the solemn, public veneration of the Image of Divine Mercy by the Church, as well as personal acts of veneration and mercy. The great promise for the individual soul is that a devotional act of sacramental penance and Communion will obtain for that soul the plenitude of the divine mercy on the Feast.

*The Cardinal of Krakow, Cardinal Macharski, whose diocese is the center of the spread of the devotion and the sponsor of the Cause of Sr. Faustina, has written that we should use Lent as preparation for the Feast and confess even before Holy Week! So, it is clear that the confessional requirement does not have to be met on the Feast itself. That would be an impossible burden for the clergy if it did. The Communion requirement is easily met that day, however, since it is a day of obligation, being Sunday. We would only need confession again, if received earlier in Lenten or Easter Season, if we were in the state of mortal sin on the Feast.

Alleluia–Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen! All of us at Assumption and the Pope Francis Outreach Center wish you and your family a blessed Easter. After forty days of Lent, we now celebrate fifty days of Easter. A wonderful explanation of the season of Easter and its joyful praise comes from St. Augustine. Below is his reflection (Office of Readings, 5th Saturday of Easter) on the “Alleluia” that we happily sing at Easter.

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg

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Our thoughts in this present life should turn on the praise of God, because it is in praising God that we shall rejoice forever in the life to come; and no one can be ready for the next life unless he trains himself for it now. So we praise God during our earthly life, and at the same time we make our petitions to him. Our praise is expressed with joy, our petitions with yearning. We have been promised something we do not yet possess, and because the promise was made by one who keeps his word, we trust him and are glad; but insofar as possession is delayed, we can only long and yearn for it. It is good for us to persevere in longing until we receive what was promised, and yearning is over; then praise alone will remain.

Because there are these two periods of time – the one that now is, beset with the trials and troubles of this life, and the other yet to come, a life of everlasting serenity and joy – we are given two liturgical seasons, one before Easter and the other after. The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future. What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life; what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess. This is why we keep the first season with fasting and prayer; but now the fast is over and we devote the present season to praise. Such is the meaning of the Alleluia we sing.

Both these periods are represented and demonstrated for us in Christ our head. The Lord’s passion depicts for us our present life of trial – shows how we must suffer and be afflicted and finally die. The Lord’s resurrection and glorification show us the life that will be given to us in the future.

Now therefore, brethren, we urge you to praise God. That is what we are all telling each other when we say Alleluia. You say to your neighbor, “Praise the Lord!” and he says the same to you. We are all urging one another to praise the Lord, and all thereby doing what each of us urges the other to do. But see that your praise comes from your whole being; in other words, see that you praise God not with your lips and voices alone, but with your minds, your lives and all your actions.

We are praising God now, assembled as we are here in church; but when we go on our various ways again, it seems as if we cease to praise God. But provided we do not cease to live a good life, we shall always be praising God. You cease to praise God only when you swerve from justice and from what is pleasing to God. If you never turn aside from the good life, your tongue may be silent, but your actions will cry aloud, and God will perceive your intentions; for as our ears hear each other’s voices, so do God’s ears hear our thoughts.

2018 Holy Week Schedule

Holy Thursday March 29, 2018

There will be no 12:10 PM Mass
Mass of the Lord’s Supper 7:00 PM

Good Friday March 30, 2018

There will be no 12:10 PM Mass
Confession 12 PM to 3:00 PM
Stations of the Cross 3:00 PM
Confession again after Stations of the Cross
Passion of the Lord 7:00 PM

Holy Saturday March 31, 2018

There will be no 12:10 PM Mass
Vigil Mass 7:00 PM

Easter Sunday April 1, 2018

Mass 10:00 AM

Why do Catholics Call Priests “Father”?

Last year, I gave you several examples in this column of answers to the question of “Why do Catholics do that?” It was wildly popular, so I’ve decided to give you more! Actually, I don’t think any of you ever commented about it haha. Anyway, I’ve been doing the same Q & A with the fabulous group from RCIA at the start of each of our weekly meetings. We’ve gone over why we make the Sign of the Cross, use a crucifix, pray the rosary, use statues of saints, and receive ashes at the start of Lent. Feel free to ask me about these anytime!

Why do Catholics call priests “Father”?

We heard in the Gospel (Mt 23) at last Tuesday’s Mass Jesus say to the crowds, “Call no one on earth your father”. Protestants like to bring this up to Catholics when asking why we call priests “Father”. They take this saying of the Lord literally and isolate it which is their common practice with certain Scripture verses. That can be dangerous because lines like this taken literally and by themselves contradict Scripture itself. The Bible calls men on earth “father” all over the place. For example, the fourth commandment is “honor your father and mother”.

We have to take Mt 23:9 in the context of the entire passage. The Church asks us to do this with each Scripture passage and with the whole of Scripture. In other words, we are to have a “global view” when reading the Bible. This global view helps us to see what Jesus is saying in Matthew 23. He is railing against the scribes and the Pharisees for loving the salutations of “Rabbi”, “Father”, and “master”. They are into the prestige of being a religious leader, and have gotten carried away with spiritual pride. So, he is basically saying that we should call no one on earth “Father” who only loves the title of father.

Jesus shifts quickly to the real fathers on earth: those who reflect the “one Father in heaven”. And, the greatest example of this is Jesus Christ himself. His whole mission is to reflect the Father in heaven. He is referred to as the Word (Logos in Greek). He is the Word of the Father. He speaks of the Father and communicates the Father to us. He is the knowledge of the Father. His whole mission is to reflect the Father so that we come to know the Father through him. So, any father on earth that lives Christ is reflecting God the Father.

Every Catholic priest is known as alter Christus (another Christ). Everything I just wrote about Christ becomes true about Catholic priests, especially in the sacraments (when priests act in persona Christi – in the person of Christ). So, we call priests “Father” because they reflect the love and mercy and goodness of God the Father in Christ. We know that the early Church referred to the Apostles (the first priests) and their successors as “fathers” by the following passages:

“Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”.

  • 1 Cor 15:4–“Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”.
  • Acts 7:2–“And he replied, ‘My brothers and fathers, listen…”
  • Acts 22:1–“My brothers and fathers, listen to what I am about to say to you in my defense”

There’s no doubt that we should not use the term father lightly. The term carries great significance to us when it applies to our biological and spiritual fathers. But, the ultimate point that the Lord is making and that the Church has honored for 2,000 years is that we call fathers all those who show us God the Father.

May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,

Fr Greg

Freedom from Fear

“He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified” – Mk 9:2-10

Have you ever had an experience with the Lord that terrified you? We normally don’t use the word “terrified” in our faith because it implies fear (the opposite of faith). Other Catholic translations of today’s Gospel referring to Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration use the words “frightened” and “exceedingly afraid”. We might use words like “in awe” or “overwhelmed”. I like the translation of “terrified” because it connotes both faith and fear on the part of the Apostles. It was unlike anything they had ever seen or experienced, so they didn’t know what to think initially. They were probably in shock! They were being introduced to a whole new supernatural realm. It took some getting used, I’m sure. Rest assured, it was all good, just new.

I will use the word “terrified” to describe some experiences friends have had with the Lord. One lady was terrified with a vision recently on a retreat. It occurred during Eucharistic Adoration and healing prayers. As the priest prayed over her, she had a vision of the Blessed Mother. And, she saw her mother and grandmother on either side of Mary! She began to cry uncontrollably. It was all good, but overwhelming. The vision brought her much peace, and likewise her family when she told them about it.

Last year, a buddy of mine visited our rectory. He had a lot of stress in his life, and it was really getting to him. After hanging out some, we went into the rectory chapel and I exposed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance on the altar. I left him alone with the Lord for a while. He told me later the Lord spoke to him very clearly (and he’s not mentally ill, Ms. Joy Behar): “can you let me take over for a while?” The Lord’s voice asking to take control of his life was clear as day, and he began to sob. The experience was terrifying in its power, but also ultimately brought him great healing.

Three years ago, a married couple began taking the miraculous powder of Our Lady of Milk in hopes of conceiving a child for the first time (after trying for four years). They also had Rosa Mystica (a statue of our Lady with its own powerful history) in their home at the time. During this grace-filled time, they had a terrifying vision one night. A single handprint appeared on their dining room window above Rosa Mystica just after they finished praying one night. It was not a handprint they ever saw before then, and they saw it only once afterward. It certainly seemed to them that it was the hand of God. It was terrifying but comforting. Within a few weeks, they conceived their first child.

The second time that I heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood was terrifying. It was on a retreat and during Adoration. It was my second year of seminary when I was 50/50 on whether I was called or not. I was begging the Lord to give me an answer about my vocation, and I resoundingly heard, “I am calling you to be a priest”. As with my friend, it was clearly the voice of the Lord. My heart skipped a few beats, and then it started racing. “Be careful what you wish for!” Tears began to roll down my face. This was it. The answer. Then, over the next 30 minutes or so, He gave me a clear vision of what my priesthood would look like. I was terrified but excited.

Many of us have the experience of being terrified at some point in our faith. It’s bound to happen because we are dealing with the supernatural realm which is unfamiliar to us. More than that, though, God can surprise, overwhelm, and even terrify us with how awesome He is and how intimately He loves us.

May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,

Fr Greg

The Beginning of Lent

Happy Lent!? It’s hard to believe that Lent is upon us already, but it’s good to get going with it, in my opinion. As you read the words of Msgr Thomas Wells below, you might think that he wouldn’t say the same. But, he did see this as a holy season even if he didn’t particularly enjoy it. I don’t know how many of us will enjoy this Lent, but I hope that we will experience it as a gift. My prayer is that it will be a season of grace and freedom for all of us.

May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,

Fr Greg

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I know some people who look forward to the coming of Lent with a sense of anticipation – even of joy. They look forward to the Church’s invitation to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to give them a spiritual shot in the arm. Not me! I see that Lent begins in ten days, on Ash Wednesday, and I groan within. Not for me the call to penance and self-denial. However, whether received with joy or dread, this great season of grace is upon us. In the days before Vatican II, there were three weeks of preparations for Lent, where Catholics were encouraged to decide how they were going to observe the season. The Church, wisely, wanted to encourage people to take advantage of these six weeks in the desert with the Lord.

…Following Jesus is hard! Picking up a cross and carrying it toward a share in crucifixion goes against the grain. Even the Lord Himself dropped his Cross three times. The crosses we choose for ourselves during Lent should remind us of how weak is our commitment; they should attempt to attack with some vigor areas of weakness in our lives. The person who sees a possible addiction to work that affects family relationships should attack that addiction; the person who is tight with money, using any excuse to avoid giving it away, should dramatically commit to fighting that self-sufficiency that we think money can guarantee. The person who has heard friends and family make the comment, “You’ve always got to be right,” should begin the painful process of examining pride and a competitive spirit and recognize that it is tough to need God if I am always right.

Finally, we must resolve to take seriously the call to prayer. For many of us, the things of God are not first in our lives. I knew God was important to my parents because they taught me to pray and because they often talked about the things of God. If only an Our Father and a Hail Mary at the time of grace, we must begin to pray as families. Individually, many of us can participate in the only perfect prayer, the Mass. We can take the first ten minutes of our daily commute to say the Rosary. We can open the Bible and meet Jesus in the Gospels. And, most especially, in this season of repentance, we must plan to take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and go to confession.

30 for 30 — Adoration

“Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?”

-Mt 26:40

ESPN has a series of sports movies that it calls “30 for 30”. Starting February 21, we will begin our own 30 for 30. On that day, we will extend Eucharistic Adoration in the church to 9 am – 5 pm and continue it each Wednesday in Lent.

Whenever the Eucharist is exposed, at least two people should be there (one is always required). So, our sign-up sheet in the church vestibule includes two people for every half hour during those eight hours (except for 12-12:30 for Mass). So, my quick Gonzaga math (!) tells me that 2 people times 15 half hours equals 30 people. That means we are asking for 30 people to commit for 30 minutes of Adoration during Lent. 30 for 30!

What we be even better, of course, is if all 30 people made a full hour of Adoration. Jesus desires that of us (e.g., Mt 26:40).

Parishes that have stepped up their hours of Adoration have received extraordinary graces. Dioceses that have grown Adoration in their parishes have experienced an increase in vocations particularly with the priesthood. For individuals, God gives many graces to those who adore Jesus in the Eucharist. So, I promise you that the Lord will reward our parish and each one of you for going 30 for 30! He is never outdone in generosity.

Below are some quotes and testimonies about Eucharistic Adoration from www.eucharisticadoration.ie.

I hope that 30 of us experience the graces of Adoration this Lent and write our own testimony one day!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr. Greg

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Indeed, this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in Him, will have eternal life. Him I will raise up on the last day” – John 6:40.

“I have a burning desire to be honored in the Blessed Sacrament” – Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

“What we need in every parish, to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament frequently in holy hours of prayer” – St. Teresa of Calcutta.

“The most efficacious way to grow in holiness, is time spent with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament” – Pope Paul VI

“The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in the Sacrament of Love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and contemplation that is full of faith…May our adoration never cease” – St. John Paul II

“The zeal to carry evangelization to the ends of the earth comes from contemplation and adoration of the Lord Jesus” – Pope Francis

Testimonies

In recent times I had a feeling I wanted to do more than go to Mass each week. I felt in recent times, as if the Lord was calling me to do a little more. Then one Sunday a few months ago, a speaker from the Apostolate of Eucharistic Adoration was speaking at all the Masses in our Parish. During his talk he invited people to think in terms of a weekly commitment to Eucharistic Adoration.

Weekly Adoration for at least two days a week was about to begin in our Parish. There was emphasis on the need for commitment of an hour a week and that the spiritual benefits to individuals, families and the parish were enormous…since I have started weekly Adoration I look forward so much to my hour with the Lord. It is now, even after a short time, a real priority in my life. I continue to pray that other members of my family will follow. I keep telling them how much it means to me and that you have to experience it to appreciate it. – Angela

“…the most peaceful time of the week, my hour at Eucharistic Adoration” – Mary.

“I have been coming to weekly silent Adoration for a good while now. It just amazes me that anytime of the day, I can find Jesus here waiting for me. We are so fortunate to have such a treasure in our parish. Long may it last!”

“…Adoration…was the first time in years that I experienced peace in my life and I wanted more of this…It has made such a difference in my life…I am still very busy at various things but the hour in Adoration seems to help me to have a clearer head and do things more effectively and efficiently.

I now realize after all these years that the busier you are the more you need the Lord and one of the places to find Him is in the Adoration Chapel.”

Iraqi Christians Return Home

We hear about the “enormously large city” of Nineveh in today’s first reading (Jonah 3). Nineveh was the largest city in the world for many years and was a capital city in the Assyrian Empire. It is located in present-day Iraq, commonly known as part of Mosul. I was recently reading about Nineveh and the work that the Knights of Columbus are doing to restore Christianity in post-ISIS Iraq. This has brought much encouragement and hope to those Christians who have been terribly persecuted and exiled, of course, but also to those of us who have been praying for them for years. Here are excerpts from an article, “Iraqi Christians Return Home” (koc.org, 11/1/17).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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The photograph on the floor of Sabhia Franco’s destroyed house in Karamles recalled more peaceful times in Iraq. The black and white picture showed a crowd watching a float passing in a parade. Atop the float is a cross standing beside a mosque. “Peace comes to a peaceful community “is written below. On the back of the photo in blue ink: “Mosul Spring Festival 1970. “

Franso said those memories have now been replaced by the horror of more recent events. The 66-year-old woman and her 85-year-old husband were among the last of the nearly 10,000 inhabitants of Karamles to leave after Islamic State fighters overran their village on the Nineveh Plain in August 2014. Robbed at gunpoint and then forced to flee on foot, they have spent the last three years living nearly 50 miles to the east in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Now, with ISIS driven from northern Iraq, they are among the first families to have returned to their ancestral homeland, thanks in large part to an initiative launched by the Knights of Columbus at the 135th Supreme Convention in St. Louis Aug 1…

A newly erected cross stand in a Karamles plaza that was devastated by Islamic State militants who had overrun the town until it was liberated in October 2016.

…Since 2014, the Order’s Christian Refugee Relief Fund has donated more than $13 million in humanitarian assistance, primarily in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region.

“Without the help of the Knights of Columbus, the Christians of Iraq would have disappeared, “said Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, under whose auspices much of the refugee relief has been provided.

The K of C initiative to resettle and rebuild Karamles is part of the Nineveh Reconstruction Project, administered in partnership with the international papal charity Aid to the Church in Need as well as local Christian communities.

In October last year, at the start of the military operation to liberate Nineveh province, Iraqi security forces drove the Islamic State from Karamles. Nearly nine months later, in early July, the remaining fighters were dislodged from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, located just 20 miles west of Karamles. Today, only isolated pockets of Islamic State resistance remain elsewhere in Iraq.

In September, the government restored electricity to Karamles, though as with other towns across Iraq service has been patchy.

“Water is on for six to eight hours a day, “said Father Thabet Habib Yousif, who is overseeing the restoration of the town from a busy church hall filled with paint, plaster and plumbing fittings.

…Already, more than 120 families are back home, living in houses that have been restored through the K of C-supported Nineveh Restoration Project.

“This project has had an immediate impact on the displaced people from Karamles, “Archbishop Warda said. “Before, most of these people were completely filled with uncertainty. They wanted to move back to their homes, but most of them had no money to repair them. This project has allowed them to begin moving back as a group, which has made all the difference. “

Calling the project, a “tremendous success, “Archbishop Warda added that more help was critical. “We still have several more towns that need a project like this in order for them to be stabilized enough so that the long term rebuilding of viable communities can take place.“

After local militias known as the Nineveh Protection Units, consisting largely of Assyrian Christians, took charge of security for the village and nearby towns, his family was not afraid to return.

“We have faith in God, “he said, “and also the guards who protect the village. “

… “We’re sleeping easy with the security, and there’s electricity and water, “ (Shafiq Shabi) said. “This is a happy ending to a sad story.”

Listen for God with your heart

“How can I hear God?” One woman asked this with some exasperation at Bible study when we discussed today’s first reading (Sam 3) of Samuel hearing the voice of God. It is a question to which we all want the answer. Every day. St. Teresa of Avila taught that “Jesus is always speaking to us; the question is, are we listening?” If we are men and women who pray daily, read and meditate on Scripture regularly, and come into the Real Presence of the Lord in Adoration, then we are listening. Of course, these are not the only ways to hear God, but they are the best.

To that point, we will increase our hours of Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesdays starting in Lent. I will explain the significance of this for us as a parish in the days ahead. For each of us, it will provide a tremendous opportunity to hear God. The first time in my life that I heard the voice of God was when I started praying in Adoration. I promise you that God will reward whatever time you give to adore Jesus, and it very well might be an experience of hearing Him.

I thought that the words of another priest would help would be more beneficial when it comes to hearing God. So, here is a good reflection by Fr. Killian J. Healy at www.catholicexchange.com. See you at Wednesday Adoration!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg


 

God does not have to use external words and signs to attract our attention and convey ideas to us. He enters our minds directly. He speaks secretly, noiselessly, as befits the Divinity. It is only by faith that we know He is working in us. For example, God once spoke in a special, hidden way to St. Peter, who then confessed Jesus to be the Son of God. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona,” said our Lord. “For flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father in Heaven.”

St. John tells us that we will know all things from the Holy Spirit: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” St. Paul says that God enters our very thoughts: “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”

God also enters our hearts and inspires us to holy desires. “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening; and the Lord touched her heart to give heed to what was being said by Paul.”

Thus, the Scriptures and the Church tell us that God speaks to us in the silence of our minds and hearts. He speaks to all men, but all men do not hear Him. God speaks to our mind and heart when we kneel to meditate or to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. He enters our mind when the passing things of time excite our thoughts. It is He who gives us holy thoughts to conquer our temptations. It is He who stirs up within us the desire to persevere against all adversaries.

Perhaps we have never realized that God is illuminating our intellect and inspiring our will. Yet He does just that. That is why we are told not to do all the talking in prayer. For, if we continually recite vocal prayers without pausing now and then to think, we will stifle the thoughts and desires that God wishes to excite in us.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux tells us how she listened to the voice of God. “I know and have experienced that ‘the Kingdom of God is within us,’ that our Master has no need of books or teacher to instruct a soul. The Teacher of teachers instructs without sound of words, and though I have never heard Him speak, yet I know He is within me, always guiding and inspiring me; and just when I need them, lights, hitherto unseen, break in upon me. As a rule, it is not during prayer that this happens, but in the midst of my daily duties.”

But we are not only to listen; it would be folly to remain in a state of mental blankness, waiting for God to speak. No, prayer is a loving conversation, and, when the Holy Spirit moves us, it is time to begin our part of the colloquy.

One way, then, to practice the exercise of the presence of God is to listen to God, to be aware that He speaks to us, to be ever conscious that God can use all things to communicate with us.

Can you write your story of faith? This was a question I recently asked a friend as we were discussing our journeys with the Lord. She pondered it, and then thought it would be hard mainly because she didn’t know exactly how she came to be a devout Catholic. She kind of laughed at herself while she was saying this, and it might seem humorous to us, too. But, some in our own congregation might have the same thought: how exactly did I come to really believe in and follow the Lord? Today’s feast of the Epiphany might help to pinpoint exactly the struggle for my friend or anyone else. What was our epiphany about the Lord and when did we have it?

When we talk about the Epiphany, we are referring to the outward manifestation of the Lord to the Magi and to the world. He is revealed to them as the Christ, and they “come to do him homage”. Their epiphany occurred through a star which led them to the baby Jesus. They were “overjoyed” during this experience, and gave treasures to the Lord of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When we hear that they “departed for their country by another way” , we can interpret it as this event changed their lives. This would be the starting point in their stories of faith.

I have described to you my journey of faith in homilies, but I don’t think I’ve written it here in any great detail. Please forgive me if I have! My epiphany happened with the Eucharist. My “star” was Msgr. Thomas Wells. And, it happened when I was 21 years old. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools through the first half of college. Even though I was taught Catholic doctrine at home and in school, not much sunk in the first 21 years of life. I was a clueless Catholic.

But, then, one day, Msgr. Wells and I were talking about the Eucharist. He said, “Greg, ‘this is my body’ means this is my body”. Epiphany! That was the first time I had really heard the teaching on the Real Presence. And, it blew me away. I had heard those words (“this is my body”) hundreds of times before at Sunday Mass, but they never really registered in my mind or heart. And then, after the one-sentence epiphany (or revelation), I saw everything differently: God, Mass, the Cross, the Church, Confession, and life. I began to “do him homage” at daily Mass and Adoration, and was having the same experience of being “overjoyed” as the Magi. Of course, this all changed my life as it did theirs.

In talking to many people for the past 25 years, I realize that not many can point to one moment – and certainly not one sentence – as their epiphany of who Jesus really is. For many, it has been engrained in them since childhood. They have always just believed. But, they have had a multitude of personal epiphanies about the Lord as Savior, Master, brother, friend, Good Shepherd, Prince of Peace, Healer, Divine Physician, etc. For others, the epiphany came as adults, and often in a way that Christ appeared to them in a personal way. That is really the underlying point to our epiphanies: an encounter with the living God in a person, Jesus Christ. Yes, the Magi were overjoyed at “seeing the star”, but only because it “stopped over the place where the child was”. They were so happy because they were encountering the Son of God. As much as I liked Msgr. Wells for 5 years before my epiphany, I didn’t find true joy until he led me to encounter the Son of God in the Eucharist. That’s when the Lord and faith became personal. That’s when an epiphany had taken place, thanks be to God.

So, here is the epiphany formula for the Magi and hopefully all of us:

  • God will show you a star – something or someone that will lead you to where He is.
  • God will reveal Himself to you in a personal and profound way.
  • Do Him homage.
  • You will be overjoyed in your encounter with Him.
  • Offer Him gifts (e.g., your life as gold)
  • Go home a different way (i.e., change your life)

Christ is born!

Fr Greg