Monday, December 14, 2015

Opening to the Mercy of God

The Prophet Isaiah reminds his hearers that God is One and there is no other than He. Nothing comes into existence or stays in existence if He does not will it.

The Scriptures tell us that we are earthen vessels, the works of God’s hands. For us to contend with God is as senseless as a lump of clay to contend with the potter working the wheel.

It is God Who makes and shapes us for His own purposes. It is God who fills us with heavenly graces, as rain on the meadows, making them fruitful.

We are preparing for the day when Christ will return in glory, bringing with Him an abundance of graces and all spiritual blessings: peace, pardon, righteousness, and eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom. From the creation of the world, Christ has been appointed to be the Savior of the Human Race.

As we continue to journey through the days of Advent, let us open our hearts to receive the Light and Life of the world Who took flesh in the immaculate womb of the ever-virgin Mary.

Despite the numerous accounts of violence from every corner of the civilized world, God continues to speak a word of peace and reconciliation to His people. But here’s the rub. In order to be reconciled, we have to repent of our sins and return to the embrace of Love that we have avoided.

The healing grace of peace and forgiveness is freely offered to all who are willing to turn from their sinful ways. The season of Advent reminds us that God’s salvation is close at hand and that His divine majesty is manifested in the incarnation of His Only-begotten Son.

This year of Mercy reminds us that God loves the world so much as to give each and every one of us the opportunity to reclaim the greatness that is ours as children of God.

As disciples of the Word Made Flesh, it is important that we convert and become people of truth and mercy. Laying bare our hearts to the One Who knows and loves us, we are called to become a community of mercy and spiritual healing.

The Just Judge will look at the humble, broken-hearten, repentant sinner with the eyes of love and bind up the wounds that are presented to Him.

Yes, God loves us so much that he even rejoices and takes pleasure in us. He loves us with gratuitous love, love without limits, and without expecting anything in return. In mercy the Lord manifests the glory of His justice.

The Son of God become Flesh in the womb of Mary shows God's tender kindness to confused followers, to weak sinners and to the sorrowful of heart. He walks with us, he shows us the path of love, lifts us up in our falls, holds us to our labors, and accompanies us in all circumstances of our existence.

The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of mercy and grace. The poor and marginalized are graced to hear the Good News. No sin can cancel his merciful closeness or prevent him from unleashing the grace of conversion. However, we have to cooperate with it.

This year of mercy affords us an opportunity to stand humbly before the gaze of divine love and allow God to recreate us in His image and likeness so that we might radiate the glory that shines on the face of Christ.

The light that leads us--is it Christ’s or is it someone else’s? People will hear the words that we utter, but they will judge us by our actions. However, only if we are pure of heart will the Good News of salvation bear fruit in our time.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Friday, December 11, 2015

Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Go Now

Years ago, Kenny Chesney sang a song: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now.”

When you discuss death and final judgment, most people freak out. The mention of these topics makes us face our fragility. It reminds us that any notion of invincibility we may have is an illusion.

Reflecting on the familiar passage of St. John of the Cross, Madeleine L’Engle wrote: “In the evening of life we shall be judged on love, and not one of us is going to come off very well, and were it not for my absolute faith in the loving forgiveness of my Lord I could not call on him to come” (Madeleine L’Engle).

Love in Action

We live in a world that enslaves us to our past, whereas the Kingdom of God beckons us into a future of promise and hope. The One Who will judge us at the end of time is the One we have served all our lives and upon whose providence we have depended.

The love of God assures us of God’s love for us. Love teaches us to be willing to endure pain and suffering for the sake of the kingdom. Recall these words written to Timothy: “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12).

When the Lord returns in glory, we will be standing in the presence of the One Who loved us so much that He sent His only Son to rescue us from the evil in the world and in us.

“And all of us who have had the veil removed can contemplate the glory of the Lord. And the Lord will transform us into His image with increasing glory. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The Synod Fathers expressed it this way: “[Jesus] showed the true meaning of mercy which implies the restoration of the Covenant. This appears clearly in his encounters with the Samaritan woman and the woman taken in adultery, in whom the awareness of sin is awakened in the presence of the gratuitous love of Jesus. Conversion is an ongoing commitment for the Church which embraces sinners in her midst and holy and at the same time in need of purification applies herself ceaselessly to penance and renewal. This striving for conversion is not a human activity alone. It is the dynamism of a contrite heart drawn and moved by grace in response to the merciful love of God who has loved us first. God offers the free gift of his forgiveness to anyone who is open to the action of his grace” (Final Relatio, #41; translated by Bishop Michael G. Campbell).

When we stand before the Flame of Divine Love, the whole mystery of the Cross will be revealed to us. Illumined by the Light of Love, our eyes will be opened and we shall be able to see clearly, knowing ourselves for the first time as we are known.

We shall have the Light of Life and our faces will radiate the glory of the Lord. If we open ourselves to the power of His boundless and eternal love, then the Father will see in us what He sees and loves in His Son.

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner and when you come again in glory, remember me and receive me into your kingdom.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy.

Every year, people grumble about preparing for Christmas. There is so much shopping to do; so much baking to do; so much card-writing to do; so much decorating to do; etc. Yet, all the grumbling aside, we would never think of not doing any of it. We humans are a strange lot!

The problem is not Christmas. The problem is that we are not consistent in the way we celebrate God greatest gift to the world.

Seeking the Lord Jesus who is the face of the Father’s mercy should be a way of life for believers. Like the patriarch Jacob, we are often surprised to discover that we have been in the Presence of the Lord, even though we were not aware of it (Cf. Gen 28:17).

Learning to extend the mercy of God to all we meet, year-round, will fill us with joy, serenity and peace. Celebrating the mercy that God extends to us in Christ allows us to love others as we have been loved.

This lifestyle of extending mercy and celebrating newness of life in Christ becomes the bridge that connects us to God and to one another. It opens our hearts to the hope of being loved and being capable of loving others.

 As the Church prepares to enter into the extraordinary jubilee year, let us dedicate ourselves to extending to others the mercy that God has extended to us.

We live a life build on the Rock that is God, Who is ever-faithful and Whose mercy is everlasting.

The Eternal Word, Who took flesh of the Ever-virgin Mary stands at the door of mercy and extends His healing touch to all who would cross the threshold. Those who trust in God shall receive from Him grace that will transform them into the likeness of His beloved Son. The Lord is the refuge of sinners Himself and the dwelling place of all who call upon His name.

God’s forgiveness knows no bounds. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all sin and hate.

The breath of the Holy Spirit gives newness of life wherever it blows.

Reconciliation with God is made possible through the paschal mystery and the mediation of the Church.

Thus God is always ready to forgive, and he never tires of forgiving in ways that are continually new and surprising. If there is a shortage in forgiveness, it is because we have gotten tired of asking for it.

In the Letter to the Romans we read: “There is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For if the many died by the sin of one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, superabound to many” (Rom. 5:15).

The grace and mercy of God, made tangible in the person of the Son totally outweighs the offense.

Saint Augustine, says: “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy”.

Let us not be afraid to approach the throne of mercy. Let us not grow tired of asking for forgiveness nor of extending forgiveness to anyone who asks it of us. When we perform random acts of mercy, we are making visible and tangible the power and the glory of the God.

Father Jerome Machar OSCO

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Opening the Door to Mercy

As He opened the Holy Door, Pope Francis prayed: “[O God] Continue to pour out on us your Holy Spirit, that we might never tire of turning with trust to the gaze of him who we have pierced, your Son made man, the shining face of your endless mercy, the safe refuge for all of us sinners in need of pardon and peace, of the truth that frees and saves.”

Pope Francis Opening the Holy Door

Whenever God invites someone to follow Him, He gives them tools – grace -- for success. By His grace, the Holy One leads His people in the way of deliverance, but we must be willing to surrender to His will. God rewarded His people’s fidelity by blessing them with peace and freedom from captivity. Those who have been in exile will know the joy of coming home. God’s pledge to us is made tangible in the Incarnation of the Word from Whom flows every blessing.

God’s Word is directed to anyone who is willing to receive it and put it into practice. The Word-Made-Flesh is seen as a man, totally submissive to the will of His heavenly Father. As the God-Man He lives in our midst as our Mediator and Redeemer. The apostle Thomas was right when he acknowledged Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28). As the shepherd of our souls Christ leads us to lush pastures and as Lord of Lords, He invites us to the Banquet of Life. He shows us the marks of love in his hands and takes us by the hand encouraging us to follow in His steps. It is not enough to hear the invitation, we must respond if we desire to be saved.

As servants of the Word made Flesh, we are invited to enter into dialogue with the Word of Life and allow that Word to echo throughout our being. Because that Word is living and active, it can and will recreate us, if we allow it. It is sad to think that we can act like the children in Jesus' parable. “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’" (Matthew 11:17) We can quarrel with the movements of God on our behalf and refuse to dance and sing in accord with His promptings. O, that we were responsive to the promptings of God’s grace. The doors of Mercy have been thrown open! Will we cross the threshold? Salvation and forgiveness require a response on our part. It is not enough to listen to the Word! We must surrender to its message and participate in the building up of the Kingdom.

God has revealed His plan of salvation to the whole world. The Good News has been proclaimed from age to age. It remains for us to hear and surrender. The just man will be judged by his actions. I will close with a stanza of my favorite poem written by John Henry Newman -- The Pillar of the Cloud.

LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

-- Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Monday, November 16, 2015

Your New Name: One Like Christ

Throughout the history of Israel, the prophets used shocking, sometimes grotesque, images, depicting the end of time.

They lived in difficult times. The prophets hoped, by their shocking language, to draw the veil back so their hearers could get a glimpse into the future when God would exert power on their behalf.

That's the kind of language we hear in the Gospel with its images of: a darkening sun, the moon not giving off light and the unshakable, predictable stars, falling from their positions in the sky. All that was relied on will crumble.

End of the World

Over the din and the tumult, the Lion of Juda roars. Who can ignore Him? The light of Christ overpowers the enveloping darkness. We are assured that the kingdom, which Jesus inaugurated by His life, death and resurrection, will ultimately be victorious.

The name “Michael” means: Who Is Like God. The prophet Daniel depicts him as entering into the battle with a mighty shout that no one could ignore.

Through the transforming waters of Baptism, we have been grafted into the Body of Christ. Having been baptized into Christ, we have been given a new name: One like Christ.

One Like Christ

Recall these words of the apostle: “It is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me” (Gal. 2:20).

The putting on of Christ is not merely a ritual act, but a new birth, a total transformation. We are to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of Light.

All those who have committed their lives to Christ lay claim to the title “Christian” which I will translate: One Like Christ.

Those who are known as One Like Christ must walk in the light of day and avoid the works of darkness. This means that we must put on the character qualities and virtues that reflect our identity as being One Like Christ.

In Christ, the old-Adam is crucified and the new creation has begun; sin and death no longer have authority over us because we have been brought of newness of life by grace. This newness of life is not for us alone, rather, it is for others.

Like Christ we are called to make ourselves poor so as to enrich others. We live in a state of dependence on Christ and, strengthened by Christ, we offer support to our brothers and sisters in need.

All who claim the name One Like Christ must be willing to stand in the breech and intercede for God’s people in need. Not only that, we must be willing to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to all who walk in the valley of darkness and live under the shadow of death.

Those who are One Like Christ shall become shining lights, guiding others onto the path that will lead them out of darkness, and that path is Christ. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being.

Because God so loved the world, we have been call by Christ to be One Like Christ. Because we have been loved, we can dare to love. Pope Benedict XVI wrote these words to youth of the world in 2007: “Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love.”

We who are One Like Christ are to observe the signs of the times and set our sights on the kingdom that is to come.

By being vigilant, we are to avoid the corruption of secular thinking and put on the mind of Christ.

May we begin, employ, and conclude each day attending to Christ's word, obeying his precepts, and following his example, that whenever he comes we may be found watching.

Those who are One Like Christ must do only that which they see their Father doing. Christians have been saying for many years that "Jesus is coming soon".

We definitely have the sense that things will not continue as they are forever, but that major shakeups are likely to occur someday, in such a way as to affect everybody on the planet.

We have no reason to be anxious about the end of the world or live in fear of a great worldwide catastrophe. Our faith tells us that, because Jesus rose from the dead, the new creation has, in fact, begun.

When Christ ascended to heaven in glory, He entrusted the care of the new creation to us.

Our participation in the new creation echoes the story of Genesis when Adam and Eve were charged with the maintenance of the Garden.

Those who are One Like Christ have a part to play in God’s ultimate plan. They must look beyond the struggles of this world and keep their focus on the world that is to come. Only then will they experience the victory of God and set their sights on the things that truly last.

The Lord is in control of everything, and He has already revealed His ultimate victory over sin and death. When He returns in glory, He will usher in the end of the world as we know it and transform the earth into his dwelling place.

While we wait in joyful expectation for the revelation of the Kingdom, we live by faith, doing the works Christ has given us to do. In response to Jesus' teaching we must do as Jesus himself did: help people know the love of God; put an end to injustice and exploitation; reach out to the rejected and depressed; the lonely and unborn; prisoners and the despised.

When you make your daily examination of conscience, ask yourself this one question: What is my name? I hope your answer is: One Like Christ.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Humanity Is Created for Eternity

The scriptures tell us that the world is a marvel that was handed over to Adam as a sacred trust. The earth, out of which the human race was formed, was intended to provide sustenance for all the children of Adam and Eve.

Walking in the light of God’s loving gaze, we were to know peace, joy and happiness.

Having been created in the image and likeness of God, we were to open ourselves to God, following the example of the flowers of the field that open themselves to the rays of the sun.

We have only to recall these words of Saint Paul, “For God who said, ‘out of darkness let light shine,’ is He who has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, which shines from the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

Shielded from the Light of Glory, we cannot grow to our full potential. Separated from the mercy of God, we are condemned to live in a land filled with shame and guilt, a land devoid of joy and peace.

Bathed in the light of Glory, we are empowered by God to bring creation to fulfillment. We know that there is more to us than skin and bone.

By using our gifts and talents, we journey towards our heavenly homeland. The challenge placed before us is to live in this world with our hearts set on our heavenly homeland. This becomes more challenging when secular society wants to believe that HERE is all that we get.

With the Apostle to the Gentiles, we need to announce: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we are waiting with longing expectation for the return from heaven of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

It is pleasant to bathe in the warmth of the sun; but it is better to allow the light of the Gospel to shine in our heart. As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul. The treasure of Gospel light and grace is put into earthen vessels that are the handiwork of God.

As disciples of Christ and heirs of the kingdom, contrary to secular thought, we know that there is more to being human than meets the eye. By the power of God’s grace working in us, we can stretch ourselves forward, so as to become more and more like Christ.

Whoever has heaven in sight must press forward to it, in holy desires and hopes and constant endeavor.

Believers make Christ all in all and set their hearts on their heavenly homeland.

Those who have the Lord for their God, have his Spirit for their Guide; they are led by the Spirit.

God, in Christ, is our joy. He who emptied Himself of all glory and grandeur fills us with transforming grace, making us a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Saint Irenaeus said it most beautifully: “The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, Who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows Himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that He may give life to those who see and receive Him…. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.”

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Monday, November 9, 2015

Purgatory Explained for Children

If anyone understands the doctrine of purgatory, it is little children. 

If you ask children, “Do you love your parents?”, they will say, “Yes!” 

“And do they love you?” “Yes!” 

“And when you do something really good, are they excited about it?” “Yes!”

“And when you do something wrong, do you get punished?” “Yes.” 

Yep, you do get punished when you do something wrong. Case in point, end of doctrinal study. 

It is right and just that you get punished, even though we might not think it at the time. Because when you do something wrong, your parents want to teach you not to do it again. So when you get put in timeout with your nose in the corner and have to do it for 20 minutes, when you get out, are you excited? Of course you are. You do not want to go back into timeout, do you? So you change your behavior. 

Punishment causes us to change. If we do not change our lives in this world, there will be a reckoning. We must change, because there is no confessional after death. The beautiful grace that we have here on earth, to go in and have our sins forgiven, isn’t there after we die. 

Our Lord taught us, “If you are going to court, settle before you get to the judge. The judge will not free you until you have paid the last penny.” 

When we are not perfect before we die, we go to purgatory. That is the place where all the desires we have for the world are taken away from us and replaced with the pure love of God, which we are all called to. 

Losing those worldly desires is like the burning and refining fire that makes metals shiny and pure. Because of our sinfulness, we tarnish ourselves, like metal tarnishes, but the Lord wishes to make us beautiful and perfect. The fires of purgatory are what help us to get to that point of beautiful perfection.

So let us pray for all our loved ones who have died, to help them on their way. Are you happy to get help when you need help? Yes. Because when we ask for help, it means that we cannot do it on our own. 

And so it is with the souls in purgatory, because after we die, we cannot merit grace, we cannot do anything for ourselves. We were already given the chance during our lives to merit that grace. So it is up to the saints in heaven, and we the church militant on earth, to pray for the holy souls in purgatory, to help release them into heaven.

We have no reason to mourn without hope, because purgatory is a one-way street. Everyone who goes to purgatory, is getting into heaven eventually. Some of us need more help than others. And so that is why we need to pray for the souls. And so pray for your loved ones who have died. All Souls Day is a day when we should all sacrifice and pray for the souls. But we can do this every day of the year.

Have you ever seen a priest wear black during Mass? Why do you think we wear black on All Souls’ Day? 

Because Jesus cried when Lazarus died; it was a sad day. And guess what, your parents are not happy to put you in the corner and punish you if you do wrong. And just as they are sad to punish you, so was our Lord sad to see sin cause death. God did not want death, we chose death through sinning. So we wear black on All Souls’ Day to remember the sadness of sin causing our death.

--Father Jacob Meyer