Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Don't Believe in God, But I Miss Him

O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
   It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
   your faithfulness comes from me.  (Hosea 14:8)

For many of us, today’s first reading resonates deep within us. Like the people of Israel, we have wandered from our first love, trying to find our own solutions to life’s problems. Because we want to look relevant, we try every worldly solution and ignore those proposed by the God of revelation. With each failed experiment, we find ourselves more and more depressed and filled with shame. With each failed experiment, we find ourselves more and more alienated from one another and from our selves. In his book: Nothing to Be Frightened OfJulian Barnes gave expression to this feeling of alienation, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.”  Throughout his book, Barnes tries to make sense of life and death when there is no divine keystone. As he puts his thoughts in print, he attempts to describe the void at the pit of his being. Try as he may, he cannot fill that void. It is God Who holds life and all its challenges in meaningful tension. Without knowing it, Barnes is struggling with the same issue that Saint Augustine addressed in his Confessions. “Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

The prophet Hosea tells the people that God will heal their defection and manifest His love for all that He has created. Our beings declare the grandeur of God and as long as we seek after anything less, we are overwhelmed by darkness and gloom. The emptiness is intended to awaken us to our true calling--that of praising and serving the one true God, because He is the cause of our joy. The Bible tells us that those who seek the Lord praise Him, because as they seek they find and when they find Him, they are overwhelmed with awe at His majesty. Conversely, those who do not seek Him find themselves consumed by darkness and gloom, grasping for things that can never bring them wholeness and peace. The mystery of divine love is that, in spite of our sinfulness, our hearts still long for God. It is because of God’s compassionate love that we can forget the evils that beset us and come to know Love’s embrace. 

As created by God and for God, we human beings are consumed by insatiable longing for truth, beauty and loveWe are always striving after something that exceeds our reach. Because we have been created in the image and likeness of almighty God, we will never find our ultimate fulfillment in this world. Lent is a time for us to seek the One we miss. Through prayer and fasting we can open our heart and listen for the voice of Him who is our rock and our salvation. Hearing His voice, let us run towards Him Who first loved us. Let us pray for the grace to love our neighbors well, so that our love may inspire others not only to miss the idea of God, but also to believe in Him. 

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you. Teach us to offer ourselves to your service and draw us to yourself. Bring us at last to your heavenly city where we shall see you face to face; through Christ our Lord (Collect from the 1984 Prayer Book, C of E).  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dealing with Resentment

The Scriptures are full of stories about dysfunctional families. Today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Genesis, tells the somber story about sibling rivalry. The brothers of Joseph were so envious of their brother that they detested their father’s love for him. Because they did not know how to communicate with each other, this resentment festered until they plotted together to kidnap and possibly murder Joseph. Like Cain before them, the sons of Jacob lost sight of the fact that they were supposed to be their brother’s keepers (Cf. Gen. 4:9). For many of us, this story is a hard read because it forces us to take a serious look at our own resent and jealousy issues. Family life and community relationships are delicate and often quite complex. The story of Joseph and his brothers allows us to take an objective look at how some of our own family relationships have broken down and how some of us have actually drifted apart. The longer the drift goes unchecked or addressed, the more we start harboring negative feelings and thoughts about the other family member. Unresolved family issues stifle the growth of the seeds of life-giving love that comes from forgiveness and reconciliation. 
Family life is very challenging and demanding. It demands openness and honesty. Without open and transparent communication, there can only be resentment and animosityThe story of Joseph and his brothers reminded me of a period of time in my own family. The United States was enmeshed in Viet Nam, my brother was in the Navy and I was a declared Conscientious Objector. Needless to say, my brother and I did not agree upon the war. Things got so out of control that we could not stand being in the same room together. He walked in and I walked out, and vice versa. At one point, my mother had had enough of our antics and knocked our heads together saying, “I did not raise you like this. You will not ignore one another!” After a number of awkward conversations, we came to the realization that a difference of opinion did not change the relationship that existed between us. Thanks to my mother’s intervention, these conversations led to reconciliation and a stronger bond of brotherly love. Pope Francis was right when he said, “Merciful men and women have open hearts. They always excuse the other and think of their own sins” (homily March 17, 2014). 
Forgiveness and reconciliation demand a great deal of grace and personal integrity. I came across this comment made by Gandhi. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong” (Mahatma Gandhi). By nursing resentments, we keep reliving painful stories that have been augmented 
I lived in painful stories and in visions of what could have been if I hadn’t been wronged. I blamed someone else for the life I didn’t have, and felt vindicated in the soul-sucking resentment I carried around from day to day. 
I realize it makes less compelling writing to talk so generally, but these stories aren’t only mine to tell. They involve someone I love and have since forgiven. So perhaps the kindest thing I can do both for them and me is not retell the story, but instead create a new one: a story about letting go. 
It’s a hard thing to do—to completely let go of something painful and forgive the person who may or may not have realized what they did. At my angriest point, I was convinced the person who hurt me did it with full intention and cruelty. I felt not a shred of compassion; just unadulterated pain and rage. 
Then I realized: unless someone is a sociopath, they are rarely without feeling. And if they’ve hurt another person, even if their ego prevents them from admitting it, odds are they feel remorse on some level. 
No one is purely bad, and everyone carries their own pain which influences the decisions they make. This doesn’t condone their thoughtless, insensitive, or selfish decisions, but it makes them easier to understand. 
After all, we’ve all been thoughtless, insensitive, and selfish at times. Usually, we have good intentions. And for the most part, we all do the best we can from day to day—even when we hurt someone; even when we’re too stubborn, ashamed, or in denial to admit the hurt we’ve caused. 
So how do you forgive someone when every fiber of your being resists? How do you look at them lovingly when you still have the memory of their unloving action? How do let go of the way you wish things had worked out if only they made a different choice? 
I decided to consult the an on line resource to learn how they’ve moved on from anger and resentment, and the first suggestion was to remember that the offender was once a baby and to view him or her in that way. It's easy to forgive a baby. 
--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Friday, March 14, 2014

Three Common Temptations

We have begun our Lenten journey. We are a few days into Lent. As for me, I am trying to exercise every day and hating it. But still I am on the path. The path may seem trivial; I mean exercising, giving up chocolate, giving up television, do not seem like very important things to do, but they are vital in going through the process of conversion. What rich support God gives!

All salvation history is summarized in the three readings for the first Sunday of Lent. The first reading begins with Genesis and the fall of man. God gives man every thing we need and Adam and Eve are only not to have one thing and that is precisely what they want. Why was God keeping this fruit from us? Was he being mean? No, God was trying to test us. He knows what is best for us and he knows what is best for us not to have. But he gives us free choice so that we can love him and follow him or not. Eve was looking at the fruit, and we often blame her for the fall in the Garden of Eden, but where was the man who was given the gift of woman, the one person to love? He was right next to her, not somewhere else in the garden. He should’ve said to her, “No, Eve,” but he didn’t.

The second reading says that through the sin of one man, sin and death entered the world. Creation was harmed by the sin of Adam and Eve. This was the sin of silence. The Savior came to save us from the three sins which we enter into everyday. These sins are the basis of the temptation in the desert.

The first sin is the temptation to hunger, desire, passion, rest, pleasure, food.  “If you are hungry, turn these stones into bread,” satan said to Jesus. Jesus says, “No. Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The second sin is when the devil takes Jesus to the top of the Temple and tells him to throw himself down. Now we know you cannot do this. We understand that we can’t jump off high places and survive. But what is this sin showing? It’s showing the sin of presumption. Presumption is the sense that says it doesn’t matter what I do, because God can’t condemn me. I have goodwill. I know God doesn’t mind. It doesn’t matter to God, we say. Oh, doesn’t it? We are very good at convincing ourselves that God doesn’t care about what we do, but there will be consequences for our actions. God looks at the intentions. “If we aren’t faithful in small things, how can we be faithful in large things?”, Jesus asked. We should never presume on God’s good graces.

The third temptation is when Satan said to Jesus, “Look at all the cities in the world. I will give you all of these if you will bow down and worship me.” This is the temptation for worldly things. All of my things, all of my stuff. More, more, more.

I would bet that all three temptations bother many people at the end of Mass on Sundays. As Mas is ending, they are thinking that they want to leave Mass early to go to breakfast because they are hungry for their donuts and coffee and French toast. This is the first temptation, the temptation to satisfy their worldly and bodily desires. The second temptation fits in here also. “God doesn’t care if I leave before the last hymn is sung. After all I’ve been here for Communion.” How do we know if God cares or not? Is worshipping God the first thing in our mind or getting out of the parking lot the first thing? Jesus said to the apostles, “Could you not watch one hour with me?” Mass is ending, and we begin thinking of the things of the world. We have someplace else to go, something else to do. This is what we are thinking about, as Mass ends.  How many things come before God in our lives? How many countless examples do we experience per day where we are tempted?

Lent is our chance to recognize these sinful desires. Is God present or is he not in my life? Jesus is being tempted in the Gospel. He is God and man, and he was tempted, so how do I think I am going to avoid the same temptations when I am only human? When was Jesus tempted? He was tempted after 40 days of fasting when his body was weak. Satan comes to us when we are feeling weak, depressed, too busy and stressed out. He comes when our strength is undermined. We need to build up habits to help us to live virtuous lives when we are at the end of our 40 days these habits that will keep us from slipping. We need to build habits that will put God first before bread, before things, before presumption, before the blessings of the world. May God be first in our lives.

Transcribed as closely as possible from a homily by Father Jacob Meyer

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tribute to Ameil (Doc) Klein (brother Philip Julius, CFP), died 22 February 2014

A few years ago, the Confraternity of Penitents received an inquiry from Ameil (Doc) Klein, a retired American physician who was living in Germany with his wife Helene. Doc had battled cancer off and on for many years, but, despite the struggles and the brushes with death, he kept an upbeat and off beat sense of humor, a profound joy, and an ever deepening faith. All of these came together in Doc's teaching and performing country line dancing, a marvel in Germany who thought of him as the dancing cowboy. Doc and Helene often danced for elderly patients in nursing homes, who loved the performance, and also taught many others how to dance. 
Doc dancing. When Doc sent this photo, he said that this is how he would like to be remembered.
When it was apparent later in 2013 that Doc was losing  his battle with cancer, he received permission from the CFP Visitor to complete his Novice 3 lessons as quickly as possible and pledge and vow for life. This Doc did on October 13, 2013 (the day the sun danced at Fatima in 1917). He took the privately vowed name of brother Philip Julius after Saint Philip Neri, a saint who had a deep faith and an offbeat, upbeat sense of humor that could laugh best of all at Philip himself, and after Pope Saint Julius who was a strong defender of the faith during the Arian controversy which claimed that Jesus was not really divine and had not coexisted with the Father forever. 

Doc (br. Philip Julius) reading his pledge and vow at the Mass of his pledging, October 13, 2013 in Germany.
Doc's joy and faith and sense of humor all show themselves in a meditation he wrote in which he described himself as a little dog at the feet of Christ. His story inspired the Dog in My Pocket and Dog at the Manger, both of which are offered through the CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop.

Shortly before his death, Doc (br. Philip Julius) called the CFP Office and said how he was so very, very blessed. He wished everyone could have the experiences he was then experiencing as he was dying. So many people came to visit him and Helene, so many told him how much he had meant to them, how much he had done for them, how his example strengthened their faith, and he didn't know what he had done. He could not think he had done much at all. But he was so blessed to have these visits and this strong faith. While he didn't say that he had phoned to say good-bye, we knew that was the case.

Doc (br. Philip Julius)  returning to his seat following his pledge and private vow.

Doc (br Philip Julius) and his wife of 59 years, Helene, following Doc's pledge and private vow to live the CFP Rule for life.
Doc (br PJ as he liked to call himself with a smile, or br Pajamas if he really wanted to laugh) had been in a race with his ailing spiritual director to see who would first meet Jesus. Doc (br PJ) won. 

We had all been praying for our dear brother Philip Julius and our prayers were answered. Helene told us that Doc (br. Philip Julius) passed away on February 22, 2014, at 7 pm, at his house surrounded by his friends as he wished to die. He was fully aware and grateful for all. His death was very peaceful. Helene said that Doc had a beautiful funeral Mass of the Resurrection in which the priest talked about Doc's entire life from birth to death and many people were present and weeping. The music was so uplifting, and people remarked that they had never heard a sermon like the one the priest said for Doc. This gave Helene great strength. Doc (br. Philip Julius) is buried in the woods under a large tree which is what he wanted. 

Doc (br. PJ), we will pray for you, but we also ask you to pray for us! We gave you this assignment when we spoke to you before you died. So do remember us here, still on the journey. You are the model of who a penitent should be--peaceful, joyful, humble, joyful, faithful, with total reliance on God and His Will. Oh, do pray for us. May God develop in us more of your qualities, dear brother. We are so grateful for having known you as a dear penitent brother in Christ!

--Madeline Pecora Nugent

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Have Engraved You on the Palm of My Hand

But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,
   my Lord has forgotten me.’ 
Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
   or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
   yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49: 14-15)

Anyone who has a “Rambo” or “Terminator” notion of the God of Israel may have a hard time accepting the image of God that Isaiah presented in the first reading. For a moment, I would like you to give up your preconceived notions of the God of the Old Testament and allow the poetry of Isaiah to resonate in your soul. The Old Testament writers provided many images for God: shepherd, king, rock, eagle, potter, father, etc. Our ancestors in the faith contemplated the passage of Genesis wherein it was written that God created man in His image and likeness. As they pondered the tensions residing in the human soul, they had no problem relating to a God who was just and merciful, stern and compassionate.

Earlier in his prophetic utterance, the prophet described God as giving birth to a new creation, “But now, I cry out as a woman in labor, gasping and panting” (Is. 42:14). In today’s first reading, the prophet spoke of God’s motherly love. God responds to the pain and suffering of His people by assuring them that just as a mother’s love is unconditional, so is His. Then God takes the image a step farther. He says that even if a mother’s love should fail, His love never would fail. The prophet tells the people that God would never forget the people to whom He gave birth. In the verse following today’s text we find these memorable words: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Is. 49: 16). With these words in mind, it would be good to remember the account of Jesus showing Himself to the disciples after the resurrection: “Look at my hands and my feet. See that it is I myself” (Lk. 24:39). In the person of the Son, the God of the exiles became an exile Himself. By dying on the Cross, Jesus engraved the signs of suffering, sin and death on His body. By rising from the dead, He grafted those wounds to His glorified body for all eternity. Allow me to blend the two passages together. “Behold it is I. Look at my hands and my feet. See how I have engraved you on the palms of my hands for all eternity.”

We need to ponder the hands and feet of Jesus. We need to find in those wounds all our sins, all our sufferings and all our shame. We need to see how Jesus conquered sin and death and transformed them into everlasting life. Looking at those glorious wounds we will find the bond, the connection, the care and the tenderness that God has for us. We need to stretch out our hands to His and allow Him to hold us. Our circumstances may be different from those of the exiles, but our emotional state is very much the same. Some of us may feel alienated from the Church. Some of us may have grown cynical about the political system. Some of us have drifted from our roots and have no place to call “home”. The words Isaiah spoke to his people should find a resonance within us. It seems that no matter how various aspects of society deteriorate, there is one person who is always there for us – MOM.

Life is much bigger than politics, family roots and financial security. Surrounded by people who expend all their energy striving after all these things, it is easy to become dependent on material things and self-sufficient. It does not take too long for us to realize that the ways of the world don’t work. However, this discontent does not mean that we do not experience the Presence of a Power greater than us that gives us peace of mind and heart. Breaking with convention and making use of the image provided by Isaiah allows us to give a name to this powerful presence. As he did to the exiles, the prophet Isaiah speaks to our deepest hurts and pain. Finding ourselves alone with our misery, Isaiah proposes access to the One who could heal our hurts and nurture us to fullness of life. The prophet Isaiah addresses the longings of the human heart when he speaks of a mother’s love and tells the people that God’s love is just like that. In this vane, we hear the words of Jesus in today’s gospel passage. Our Lord and Savior wants to open our eyes to God who is concerned about us and our well-being.  If we accept this description of God, then we can lower our inner anxiety level about ourselves. If we surrender our lives and wills to the love and care of God, we can turn to those who are in distress knowing that they are the focus of God’s concern.

Jesus would have us remember: God is the creator, everything else we pursue is created.  Focusing on created things can cause us to forget God, who is the source of all that is good.  If God is our focus, then the things that concern God about our world should also concern us as well.  Our worth is what we have within us and that is a free gift of God. Nothing we own, or can do for ourselves, gains us value in God’s eyes -- God’s grace is the only sure source of our true “greatness.” Let us pray:

Dear Jesus, the only true center of my life and my choices, thank you for your tender, continually faithful love for me. I'm especially grateful for your patient love when I try to be independent and fail to depend upon you, fail to trust your care. Let me rest in you alone today. In all you call me to do today, let me surrender my anxiety. Let me be courageous and bold in my concern for sharing your love for others. Let me place my life in your hands. Let me fall into your loving embrace so that I can serve you and your people with greater freedom, without fear, with greater zeal, with greater fire. Thank you. (Found on Website of Creighton University)

Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Read to Holiness Is Always Under Construction: Thoughts on Ash Wednesday

But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6: 17-18)

I’ve always wondered why the Church uses this reading on Ash Wednesday. Here is the reading, telling us to wash our faces and anoint our heads, and we hear this right before we receive ashes on our foreheads and then go out into the world to be a witness to other people. Here we are, making a big public statement that we are holy Christians who have gone to Mass and receive our ashes on Ash Wednesday. This seems to be in contradiction to the Gospel reading from Matthew.

But there is no contradiction. The ashes are not to be a boast as if to say, “Look, everyone, I got my ashes!” or to say, “Look how holy I am. I’ve been to Mass.” The ashes are to make us look at the intent of the heart.

The Lord asks us for acts of penance as a way of responding to the call to conversion. The ashes are for us to acknowledge the fact that we are made of dust and unto dust we shall return. When signing us with the ashes, the priest may say, “Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” By my sins, I should certainly be turning back to dust, but the Lord has come to me and will deliver me.

In Scripture, sinners put ashes and dirt on their heads to show that they were repentant of their sins. This was a popular way of proclaiming conversion. “Turn from your sins and believe in the Gospel” is another phrase that a priest may say when placing the ashes on someone’s forehead. Receiving the ashes is a proclamation that we will begin again, that we will start anew, that we will press forward in our conversion. I wear the ashes because, although I deserve death, I am delivered from death by the Lord.

The Church tells us to repent and turn back to God and to believe in the Gospel. Don’t we already believe in the Gospel? If we didn’t believe, would we be at Mass receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday? Our belief in the Gospel does not lead us to a full embracing of the Gospel. If we fully embraced the Gospel, we would be in heaven! Venerable Solanus Casey was often praised for his goodness and even called holy to his face. To these remarks he would say, “Pray for my conversion.” Yes, we believe in the Gospel, but we need a deeper belief. A holy priest is fond of saying, “The road to holiness is always under construction.” So much construction needs to be done. We get in God’s way and He has to clear the path to call us to a deeper conversion.

We have to allow the life of the Gospel to really flow in our lives. Our lives are sometimes like a flooded river that is choked with uprooted trees, branches, and debris. The river drags all of this junk downstream and then it hits a snag on the banks and everything backs up. The debris chokes the flow of the river and blocks it from moving forward. This natural dam needs to be removed in order to release the flow of the river and allow the water to move freely. We must be freed of the junk in our lives so that the grace of God can flow more freely.

God always challenges us to go deeper, to seek deeper. We need a good examination of conscience every day. We need to look deeper into our hearts and explore the seven deadly sins in our lives. Which one needs to be addressed first and conquered? Which sin is blocking the flow of God’s grace in my life? How does it express itself in my life? How can I remove this sin? What is God asking me to do in response to my sin? What corporal or spiritual work of mercy will help me to overcome this major sin in my life?

For example, is sloth blocking my generosity, masquerading as selfishness? Am I unwilling to go out of my way to help someone else? If sloth is blocking the growth of the fruit of generosity, I can overcome that sin by doing spiritual and corporal works of mercy for someone.

What fruits of the Holy Spirit am I lacking in my life? What is blocking the development of those?

Lent is not just about giving up this or that, but by doing it with an eye toward maturing in the grace of God and embracing the Gospel more fully. May God give us the grace to enter Lent t with a desire for true holiness so that by Easter the sin that has blocked God’s mercy and grace in our lives has been removed and we are finally freed to experience God’s blessing.

--Transcribed as best as possible from the Ash Wednesday homily of Father David Engo, Franciscan Brothers Minor

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Eight Choices of the Blessed Mother Mary

We all have the freedom to choose, the freedom to choose good, to avoid evil, the freedom to love. Pope John Paul II was fond of saying that with freedom comes responsibility. Our choices affect other people’s lives, they can affect many lives. One choice can affect thousands. We need to understand the consequences of our decisions. The question becomes, does someone have the right to choose evil? What happens to a society were one can make a choice and act contrary to nature?

Let’s consider the choices made by THE woman, the choices made by the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the first woman to speak with Jesus and she has the highest glory in heaven.

The first choice is when Mary chose to present herself to God in the temple at the age of three. She made a gift of herself to God. We may think that this is something a three-year-old could not do, but we don’t know what decisions a person who is full of grace could make. Mary was not only full of grace, but she also had the fullness of her intellect which went along with the fullness of grace. Scientists say that we use only a very small part of our intellect. We have no idea what choices we could make if we had the full use of our intellect. Therefore it makes perfect sense that Mary, who had the freedom of choice and the fullness of grace and intellect, could make such a choice to give herself freely to God. She desired to give herself to God alone. This expanded her heart so that she might become the temple of the Most High. She became the new temple of God who presented herself in the old temple to God. Am I making this choice myself? Do I truly belong to God? Have I truly pledged myself to Him? Do I remain open to the presence of God within?

Mary’s second choice is to enter into the virginal marriage with St. Joseph. Joseph and Mary’s home was a model for the human person. A marriage is to care for the body and soul of the partner, and both Mary and Joseph had respect and reverence for the holiness of the other. How attentive are we to other people’s dignity? Do I respond to the Sermon on the Mount?

Mary’s third choice came in her yes to God’s request that she be the mother of His Son. “Let it be done unto me,” she said. This freely made choice altered us all. The world would never be the same again. By Mary’s yes God was made man in the sacred Temple of Mary’s womb, set aside by God and reserved for His abode; Christ was conceived. This was Mary’s choice. She chose life for Jesus and life for all of us. Mary is called the seat of wisdom. This is not because of anything regarding her intellect, but because on her lap sat Jesus who is Wisdom. She was His seat, the seat of Wisdom. Do I make the choices that allow God to become alive through me? Have we made the choice to let God be present in our homes, in our families, in our friendships? Are we finding Christ through the persons we meet? Are we seeing Christ there?

Mary’s fourth choice was to be a Christ bearer. Each of us can choose to be a Christ bearer. Mary carried Christ to meet Elizabeth. She brought Elizabeth the Incarnate Word. She served her in charity, and the children in the womb of both Mary and Elizabeth greeted one another. John the Baptist must have learned humility from his mother Elizabeth. When Elizabeth greeted Mary, she said, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Her son John the Baptist was to say to Jesus, “Why are you coming to me to be baptized? I should be baptized by you.” In the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, the Queen met the subject and served her. Do we choose to serve others? Do we freely and willingly bring Christ to the world? Do we care for the sick and the poor? Am I a Christ bearer? Do I have this disposition of Our Lady?

Mary’s fifth choice was the choice for poverty. Poverty was a radical choice. Mary left Nazareth to go to Bethlehem, with no idea of what that would mean. She and Joseph chose a stable, a feed box, and swaddling clothes for the Son of God. They made a choice to be refugees when they fled to Egypt. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Mary was poor in spirit. She chose to enter into the painful circumstances and accept them with a loving acceptance. She accepted the rejection of the people of Bethlehem. She responded with Christian charity to evil. She chose to enter the Passion of Jesus and suffer evil with him. Do we choose to embrace the circumstances that are beyond our control? So many circumstances are out of our control. We can accept them freely or we can be angry at them. We can will them to God and choose them as well.

Mary’s sixth choice was the gift of her Son to us all at Cana. She recognized that they had no wine. Jesus said to her, “How does this concern of yours affect me?” He was basically saying that His hour had not yet come, but Mary said, “Do whatever He tells you,” thus saying that His hour had come. These are the last words of Mary recorded in Scripture. The hour was in relation to His death. Mary said yes to her giving of Jesus to us. She said to the world that Jesus will be offered for us. Jesus said, “For this reason I have come into the world.” Mary knew that for this reason she gave Him to us. Are we giving Christ to others? Are we doing whatever He tells us?

Mary’s seventh choice was the choice of the cross. Jesus said from the cross to St. John, “Behold your mother,” and to Mary, “Behold your son.” John took the Beloved Mother into his home. Christ wanted her to become a mother to us all, to all humanity. This was a free choice which Mary accepted for the sake of all the world. The world now has a Mother capable of loving us all. Do I receive Mary as my Mother? Am I making a radical choice to be a Marion person given to our Lady?

Mary’s eighth choice was at Pentecost. There she with Christ chose to give us Mary’s spouse, the Holy Spirit. Luke mentions Our Lady’s presence in the upper room as the Church was being formed. Am I open to receiving the Holy Spirit? Am I eager in working for the Holy Spirit? Am I on fire with love for Jesus Christ? Have I opened my heart to His? Do I allow the Holy Spirit’s fire to blossom forth, to clarify and to come upon me?

Our choices have consequences to the world around us. They radically affect others’ lives. We can accept the presence of Christ in the world and choose the goodness of God. We have been given the gift of free will by God to do good, to love God with all of our heart and to choose to love one another. We can choose to do good and avoid evil so as to love and protect our world.

Transcribed as best as possible from a homily by Father David Engo, FBM