Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Mark 14:1-15:47

In searching for truth, sometimes it takes a simple but pointed sign to find a deep meaning to a reading. When standing up for what I believe in as a Catholic Christian (as a child of the Universal Church) and after 35 years of viewing the world though several different eye glasses (free willed lenses, political lenses, theological lenses, sociological lenses, and economical lenses), I’ve grown to not be afraid to ask questions about what I’ve seen. My final (and by final I mean current and more stable) corrected lenses have me seeing the world and humankind with utmost compassion, respect, love, and non-judgment.

Many non-believers or misinformed believers cannot wrap their heads around the value of many churches or cathedrals, built with thousands or even millions of dollars invested. You will always have a passionate debate when there is money involved, whether in regard to how it’s spent, collected, or distributed in society.

Prior to Jesus’ final days on Earth, while preparing to celebrate the Passover supper with his twelve disciples, he encounters a woman and a leper named Simon in the town of Bethany. Jesus receives a final anointing from the woman of quite expensive perfumed oil; she pours the whole amount over his head. Other indignant people in the room snarl at this act, calling it a waste. But Jesus quickly rebuts and defends her for her action.

The woman's motive, which focused initially on the Lord who was present before her, is to give freely with no care for the costly value of the container of perfumed oil which, if sold, could have fed herself, her peers, or a good number of the poor. Our Church remains universally committed to the same freely given offering of charity, prayer, communion, and outreach to the world to aid in removing the darkness of sin and poverty, and to successfully transform fear into solid belief though the ongoing preaching of Good News, given every single day. Because of our Church, people are given the opportunity to hear the Good News 365 days a year through daily mass, which aids in bringing them closer to God. Jesus states that there will always be suffering and poverty to attend to. If it wasn’t for thus continuous epidemic and struggle, we as a people of free will would not be converted towards good. A perfect world will not create a perfect person. For God to make everything correct would not teach us life lessons.

In our Church, to this day, perfumed oil continues to be given to everyone open and willing to receive God’s love. Perfumed oil is physically poured upon us in Baptism and in Confirmation, and in the Sacrament of the Sick.

Humankind created cathedrals and churches (our rock or cornerstone) in hope that, for each generation, they will stand untarnished by sin. Jesus says, “I won’t be here much longer” shortly before fulfilling his prophecy and being freed through death. But we believe that the tabernacle (his inner shrine) where Jesus’ body is kept in every single Catholic Church is considered his room, his furnished house of worship, which will never be a “waste” because of its price tag. Our cash value on our Earthly life is unimportant; we know money, possessions, or other treasures do not carry over with us in Heaven. What matters and what is taught by our Church is our willingness to love God first and, through that love and faith, how we put our hearts into the hands of the less fortunate in order to bring everyone into the same afterlife promised by Him.

Chris Galvan
St. Mary's YAM
St. Mary of the Assumption, Whittier

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 12:20-33

In our Gospel reading today we hear the words: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” I can’t speak for everyone, but I have (had) no idea how this works. I couldn’t see how if something dies, it would bear fruit. Dead things do not do good – the suburbanite in me was perplexed. So, I did what any self-respecting young adult would do – I googled “how wheat grows.” And my response was typical of my net surfing, “oh, cool.” Cool indeed.

One grain, buried under the earth, unseen by all, gives way to the fragile life within it. The exterior falls away and one single stalk bursts from within and makes its ascent toward heaven. Nourished by the soil, sun, and water this single stalk comes to one single head – full of seeds. When these seeds are pollinated and fertile, ready to bear new life, the wheat stalk begins to die. Once all dried out, the seeds can be harvested…. And the process goes on.

The wonder of Jesus is that once we get His imagery, it takes almost no imagination to see where we might fit into this picture. Times of feeling buried, unseen, and fragile find meaning when set in the context of growth and maturing. Reaching for the heavens we seek our final end, our nourishment, and our hope. Trusting in the providence of God, our single gift of self can bear much fruit if we are willing to give ourselves to our mission – the bearing of Christian life wherever we go. And, suddenly, my own feelings of fragility and limitedness fall away and the life of Christ in me finds expression in the light of the Gospel.

Blessings to you this Lent. May the simple wonders of God’s creation bring you a renewed appreciation for His care and conviction of our profound and simple mission within this same creation!

Jillian Cooke
Fr. Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata
West Covina

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Lent

John 3:14-21

God's love for us is unconditional. It is the magnitude of this passage that reminds me how great that love is. This passage also reminds me that he sent Jesus not to condemn us but to make everyone like children of God.

I am reminded of this short video called "Lump."  The narrator is the father of two young boys, and he tells a story that so clearly paints an interpretation of God's love. His story portrays one of his sons caught in a series of lies. The child runs and hides, consumed with shame, guilt and fear. Upon finding his son, his father does not react out of anger, but with compassion. He pulls his son into his arms and says, "Nothing you could ever do, could make me love you less."

It is not uncommon for young adults to get lost. Not only is this the time to figure out what God has called us to do, but we are also living in a time of hardships and challenges! The economy is rocky. If you have been searching for a job, the stress can be exhausting. You may be struggling in a relationship that is just not working or that could be unhealthy. Family or friend issues can be consuming and complicated. You may be dealing with multiple problems, only magnifying each one more and making hope seem nonexistent. You may get down on yourself, and you may not consistently make the right decisions. Sometimes when it rains it pours!

I have similarly felt just like the hiding child in the story- ashamed of all my failures, consumed with guilt, completely lonely, and totally unworthy. All of my problems have caught up with me. It is when I am at my most vulnerable state, that God rushes in, embraces me, and reminds me just how much I am loved.

Just like the father says in that story, there is nothing you could ever do that could make God love you less. Isn't that amazing? God's love is far greater than our troubles. It doesn't matter to God if you have messed up. It doesn't matter to God what you have done. He loves you just for being you! He loves you so much that he sent Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice for your sins! This is a huge sacrifice and it's all for you! It's a beautiful, unconditional love that God has for us all. No matter where you are in your journey, I encourage you to reflect over this passage, and open yourself to God's love.

Michelle Cantu
Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Third Sunday of Lent

John 2:13-25

“Zeal for your house will consume me.”

This Sunday’s Gospel (John 2:13-25) tells the story of Jesus driving out the vendors & money-changers from the temple area. He said to them, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Armed with a whip, he drove them out of the temple area and stood before the Jews without fear, filled with conviction and ready to defend the sacred space.

I always love reading this passage. Every time I hear it, I envision Jesus approaching me just as He approached that temple with that same look of determination and compassion in His eyes. I imagine Him fighting for my temple…fighting for my life. I can see Him driving out the temptations of this world that bombard me, the sins I’ve committed time and time again, the things in life that persuade me to sell myself short of what I’m really worth, and the obstacles that separate me from Him. Even when I fail I know that there is still hope, and His powerful response resounds in my heart, “Destroy this temple…and I will raise it up.” In a way, Jesus has been my knight in shining armor, filled with zeal to win my heart and save my soul.

During this season of Lent, reflect on the times that Christ has saved you from your own distress. What parts of your life are in need of some salvation? How has He been your knight in shining armor?

Natasha Asinas
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Los Angeles

Friday, March 2, 2012

Second Sunday of Lent

Mark 9:2-9

The Transfiguration

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.”

Every day of our lives we are called to have a real life encounter with the living God, just like the disciples on the mountain. When we experience the love of God in such a profound way as this, we begin to realize that there is no force in the world more powerful then His love. We start to grab a hold of what this life is all about. It becomes a challenge to contain the peace and joy that consume our souls. We recognize that there is no limit to God’s love, and naturally start to reveal His truth and faithfulness through our words and actions.

During this Lenten season God desires to transfigure us into the children he has called us to be. He invites us each day to meet with him and experience an intimate and genuine love. He reminds us that we were created in His image, made to be good and holy disciples. He speaks to our hearts and whispers in our ear. He utters words of encouragement telling us that we are worthy of his grace. Ultimately, we are all destined to live in His light and shine God’s glory.

Shanelle Marie Almaguer
St. Louis De Monfort, Santa Maria