Saturday, March 29, 2014



Seeing with God's Eyes - JESUS heals us of our blindness...

John 9:1-41 9 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing...
We are all born with some form of blindness. Blindness can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or economical. Sin is a type of blindness. In this world the blindness of others is apparent every day. Our world is seemingly falling apart due to this type of carelessness for one another. The lack of love in the world portrays a nearsighted vision that is only concerned for oneself.
Many of you know that we recently celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racism on March 21. That commemorated the killing of 69 people by police in Sharpeville, South Africa who were silently protesting Apartheid laws. Nelson Mandela’s recent passing reminds us of action in the face of political and social blindness. However, there is another little known story of racial blindness. Ruby Bridges was the first black child to enroll in an all-white school in New Orleans, in the United States. When she entered most of the white children were pulled out and a mob of people protested at the doors of the school. Even the teachers refused to teach this “black” child. The one person agreed to her was Barbara Henry from Boston, Massachusetts. This teacher was brought in to teach Ruby as no one else would.

Ruby was alone in her class for over 1 year. US marshals were sent to escort her to school since she was threatened with death and even presented with a black baby doll in a wooden coffin. Her mother told her "Remember, if you get afraid, say your prayers. You can pray to God anytime, anywhere. He will always hear you." So Ruby prayed on her way to school but she said, "I was praying for them." She prayed, “Please be with me, I'd asked God, and be with those people too. Forgive them because they don't know what they're doing.” The people of that community who protested were blind to the black community. Her father lost his job and even her grandparents lost their sharecrop farming land that they farmed for 25 years. It took the actions and prayers of Ruby and the government to open their eyes. In this way Ruby’s suffering was used to manifest God’s love. Ruby had God’s vision that helped her see through the blindness of her community.
Similarly, Jesus explains that the blindness of the man, in the Gospel, was used to “display the works of God”. Sin and suffering in our lives can also be used to show God’s grace. Jesus used the physical elements of mud and water to heal the man. This story alludes to the sacrament of Baptism that provides Divine grace to open our eyes to God’s truth. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39) In the sacraments God enters our souls in a spiritual way to heal our mortal blindness. Sacraments are visible signs of God’s grace. Jesus used mud, spit and water to heal the man born blind. These physical elements are necessary in the administering of the sacraments. Sin causes us to be interior blind to God and people. By partaking in the sacraments our souls are illumined by Christ.

In many countries the blindness of people can reach extremes. Becoming a Christian can mean a death sentence for you and your family. How little we suffer compared to so many others in the world.

Mother Teresa was born in Macedonia in 1910 she became a nun at the age of 18. Reaching out to those suffering was why this young nun chose to leave her teaching position and minister to the poor in India. Mother Teresa once told the story, “One day I picked up a man from the gutter. His body was covered with worms. I brought him to our house, and what did that man say? He did not curse. He did not blame anyone. He just said, “I’ve lived like an animal in the street, but I’m going to die like an angel, loved and cared for! It took us three hours to clean him. Finally, the man looked up at the sister and said, “Sister, I’m going home to God.” [they Baptized him] And then he died. I’ve never seen such a radiant smile on a human face. He went home to God. See what love can do!” How many of us have ever been blind to the needs of a homeless person, or even one covered with worms. Mother Teresa received God’s spiritual sight with the sacraments she participated in on a daily basis.
 Her daily prayer relates to this Gospel,
Dear Jesus, help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with Your Spirit and Life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel Your presence in our souls. Let them look up, and see no longer us, but only Jesus!
Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.  The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be ours.  It will be You, shining on others through us. Let us thus praise You in the way You love best, by shining on those around us.

Through prayer she was able to truly see the needs of God’s people and thus start her work in the slums of Calcutta. Her order now has 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries that minister to the poor, sick and dying but are grounded in faith, prayer and the sacraments. Mother Teresa had God’s vision.
There is a different blindness in North America now. There is selfishness, indifference, complaints, greed, pride, vanity, judgment, criticisms, ridicule, anger, hatred which consume our society. This is often the cause of much of the suffering in our world today. Like a ripple in the waters causing a wave our sins can affect the world. God allows sin this world as a part of our free will. However, the sufferings we endure here when united with him will bring us glory in heaven. Sufferings often help us see clearly the needs and sufferings of those around us. When sufferings come it may seem that God has abandoned us. However, how many of us look back and see how sufferings have opened our eyes to deeper truths about God, others and ourselves. In our sufferings we have the example of Jesus who suffered for us and suffers with us. God is not blind to your sufferings rather he uses them to bring about good as in this Gospel story.
We can be freed from our sinful blindness by our participation in prayer, the sacraments and by our efforts to be good to others. This Lent is a time for ametanoia or a turning away from sin and back to God. We need God’s strength to do good – this is why prayer is important too. But we can change our lives and others by our good works. Patience, humility, silence, kindness if practiced well on a daily basis can change the world. We must begin with ourselves by refraining from actions that cause suffering in others. This Lent is a challenge to refrain from evil and do good. We can smile at others. Remain silent in the face of adversity. Take time to listen to the needs of others. Do random acts of kindness. Refrain from excessive eating or spending. In these ways we gain Godly vision of the world, others and ourselves. 
Dear God, help us see people and all your creation with loving eyes,
with a Godly vision that remembers that we are sinners,
with a Godly vision that forgives,
with a Godly vision that gives hope,
and with a heart that loves you and everyone forever...Amen

by: Miriam Westen, M.Ed., M.A. Theology, is a speaker, writer, teacher and Choir director/organist. She is the Editor of Catholic News World on the site , which is read in over 200 countries.

POPE FRANCIS meets with Blind and Deaf Organizations

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday met with members of the Movimento Apostolico Ciechi (Apostolic Movement for the Blind) and the Piccola Missione per i Sordomuti (Little Mission for the Deaf), who were holding a joint “Days of Sharing” in Rome.

The two Catholic organizations were reflecting on the theme “Witnesses of the Gospel for a culture of encounter.” Pope Francis told them the word “encounter” in their theme presupposes another encounter, the one with Christ.

“In effect, to be witnesses of the Gospel, we must have met Him, Jesus,” Pope Francis said. “One who really knows him, becomes his witness. Like the Samaritan woman – as we read last Sunday – This woman met Jesus, spoke to Him, and her life changed. She returned to her people and said ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Messiah?’”

 Pope Francis said the Samaritan woman is the kind of person Jesus loved to meet and make disciples: the marginalized, the excluded, the despised.

“But we think of the many people Jesus wanted to meet, overall those people marked by illness and disability, to heal and restore them to full dignity,” he said.

The Holy Father said it was important for these people to become witnesses to a “new attitude”, which may be called a culture of encounter.

He compared this culture with a culture of exclusion and prejudice typified by the Pharisees who called Jesus and those he healed “sinners”, and believed disability to be God’s will.

“The sick or disabled person, properly starting from his fragility, from his limitations, can become a witness to encounter: The encounter with Jesus, which opens to life and faith; and the encounter with the other, with the community. In fact, only those who recognize their own fragility and their own limitations can build fraternal relations and solidarity, in the Church and in society.”

Text from Vatican Radio website 

Today's Mass online : Sat. March 29, 2014

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 242

Reading 1       HOS 6:1-6

“Come, let us return to the LORD,
it is he who has rent, but he will heal us;
he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds.
He will revive us after two days;
on the third day he will raise us up,
to live in his presence.
Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD;
as certain as the dawn is his coming,
and his judgment shines forth like the light of day!
He will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth.”

What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your piety is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that early passes away.
For this reason I smote them through the prophets,
I slew them by the words of my mouth;
For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Responsorial Psalm                  PS 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21AB

R. (see Hosea 6:6) It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.
Be bountiful, O LORD, to Zion in your kindness
by rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem;
Then shall you be pleased with due sacrifices,
burnt offerings and holocausts.
R. It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.

Gospel                 LK 18:9-14

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Farewell Mass for Cardinal Pell of Australia with thousands attending

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese RELEASE
28 Mar 2014

Cardinal Pell with his brother Bishops and Archbishops following the Mass 
Nearly three thousand people attending Cardinal Pell's farewell mass at St Mary's Cathedral on Thursday night.
They travelled from all over Sydney, the north and south coasts and interstate.
Bishops and Archbishops from around Australia were there along with priests of the Archdiocese and seminarians.
Community leaders and leaders of other faiths as well as politicians and government representatives filled the pews.
The Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese, Bishop Peter Comensoli - who will remain in the position until a new Archbishop is announced by the Pope - said the mass for Sydney's eight Archbishop reflected everyone's deep appreciation for the Cardinal's faith, vision, generosity and untiring service.
Cardinal Pell leaves for Rome shortly to take up his role as Prefect of the new Secretariat for the Economy - a new position to oversee the management of Vatican finances.
After a week when the Royal Commission seemed to dominate the media, Cardinal Pell was among friends and well wishers.
During his homily he told the gathering it was a "bittersweet experience to move on from a job that you have loved".
However he said;"I go willingly and happily, well aware of at least some of the costs of parting and aware that I will be shedding one set of burdens but only for another."
Cardinal Pell told those gathered that before he was inducted as Archbishop of Sydney in 2001, he went to pray at the tomb of then-Blessed Mary MacKillop for the spiritual wellbeing of the Archdiocese.  He repeated that pilgrimage before his farewell Mass, asking the intercession of St Mary of the Cross for the continued blessing and strengthening of Catholic life in Sydney under the leadership of his successor.
Cardinal Pell said that a Bishop often wonders what the secrets of religious vitality are.  For us, he said, "the secret to our vitality lies in the person of Jesus Christ, in following His teachings, in recognising His redemptive activity, through putting into practice community building, through putting into practice that He achieved through miracles and that we can do now through ordinary, everyday science".

Thousands gathered in St Mary's Cathedral for Cardinal Pell's Thanksgiving and Farewell Mass 
"What we are firstly on about is faith in Christ, faith in God, and the moral struggle."
On Pope Francis: "His teaching is Christ-centred, very basic, a call to conversion.  He believes in worship, the vertical dimension, adoration of the one true God."
"Our believing is not irrelevant for the rest of our lives.  Despite all of the differences between us, we will be united in our one, true faith."
Cardinal Pell's final words of the homily were; "May the Lord, our God, be with you, as He was with our ancestors.  May He never desert you or cast you off.  May He turn your hearts towards Him so that you may follow His ways and keep His commandments and laws and all the ordinances He gave to your ancestors.  And I make this prayer that your hearts may be fully and wholly with the Lord, our God, following His laws and keeping His commandments, as at this present day.  And may God bless you all.  God bless you and thank you for at least, from my point of view, a wonderful 13 years."
The Cathedral erupted in applause.
Following the Mass the priests and seminarians formed a "priestly guard of honour" as Cardinal Pell walked down the centre aisle of the Cathedral, again  to applause ,and then past the priests and seminarians and into the sacristy for the last time.
Leaving the Cathedral many people also commented on the magnificent music and song under the direction of Thomas Wilson. The Cardinal has always been an enthusiastic and encouraging supporter of the Cathedral music department.
All were invited to supper after the Mass in the Cathedral Hall however it took the Cardinal more than half an hour to walk the short distance - with music and singing he was constantly stopped by families and students who want to thank him and wish him well.
There were more blessings and photographs in the hall  and finally Cardinal Pell slipped away - perhaps to pack, at last.



Sts. Barachisius and Jonas
Feast: March 29

Feast Day:March 29
Died:24 December 327
They were monks at a monastery in Perisa (modern Iran) and were arrested during the persecution conducted by Sassanid King Shapur II (r. 309-379). Barachisius and Jonas were giving spiritual support to other martyrs when they were taken into custody. Refusing to abjure the faith, Jonas was crushed to death, and his body cut to pieces. Barachisius had brimstone and boiling pitch poured down his throat.

(Taken from Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Saints)



POPE FRANCIS at 24 hour Confession service - "The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever," Share

JCE - Pope Francis went to Confession himself after the service - 53:08 on the video -
Vatican Radio RELEASE: 
Pope Francis delivered the homily at a penitential service over which he was presiding in St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday afternoon. The order of the celebration included Psalms, readings from Sacred Scripture, and hymns, all focused on the theme of repentance and God’s boundless mercy.

The service was a part of the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, being celebrated throughout the Rome diocese and in many local Churches throughout the world, in which the faithful receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then become special ambassadors of Christ’s mercy, inviting people to avail themselves of the Lord’s forgiveness in churches that are to remain open through the night.

Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks…


In the period of Lent, the Church, in the name of God, renews the call to conversion. It is the call to change one’s life. Conversion is not a matter of a moment or a year, is a commitment that lasts a lifetime. Who among us can be assumed not to be a sinner? No one. The Apostle John writes: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).” This is what happens in our celebration and throughout this day of penance. The Word of God we have heard introduces us to two essential elements of the Christian life.

The first [is]: put on the new man. The new man, “created according to God(Eph 4:24),” is born in Baptism, where one receives the very life of God, which makes us His sons and incorporates us into Christ and his Church. This new life allows one to look at reality with different eyes, without being distracted by things that do not matter and cannot last long. For this we are called to abandon sinful behaviour and fix our gaze on that, which is essential. “Man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. (Gaudium et Spes, 35)” Behold the difference between the life deformed by sin and the life illumined by grace. From the heart of the man renewed according to God come good behaviors: always to speak with truth and avoid any lie; to steal not, but rather to share what you have with others; especially with those in need; not to give in to anger, resentment and revenge, but to be gentle, magnanimous and ready to forgive; not to fall into backbiting that ruins people’s good name, but to look more rather on each person’s positive side.

The second factor [is]: Remain in my love. The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever, will never end because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives strength to get up and start anew, because with pardon the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. Our Father never tires of loving and His eyes did not grow heavy in looking at the way home, to see if his Son who left and was lost will return. And this Father does not tire of loving even His other son, who, though he remains ever in the house with Him, nevertheless does not take part in His mercy, His compassion. God is not only the source of love, but in Jesus Christ calls us to imitate his own way of loving: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. (Jn 13:34)” To the extent that Christians live this love, they become credible disciples of Christ in the world. Love cannot stand to remain locked up in itself. By its very nature [Love] is open, it spreads and is fruitful, [it] always generates new love.

Dear brothers and sisters, after this celebration, many of you will make yourselves missionaries to the experience of reconciliation with God. “24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative in which many dioceses all over the world are participating. To everyone you meet, you will communicate the joy of receiving the Father’s forgiveness and regaining full friendship with Him. The one who experiences the mercy of God, is driven to be the creator of mercy among the poor and the least. In these “littlest brothers and sisters” Jesus waits for us (cf. Mt 25:40). Let us go to meet them! And we will celebrate Easter in the joy of God!

Text from  Vatican Radio website 

Pope Francis "Confession is not a court of condemnation, but an experience of forgiveness and mercy!"

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday spoke to participants of a “Course on the Internal Forum,” which deals with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the ministry of Confessors.

In his discourse, Pope Francis spoke about how the annual course helps “the Church and Confessors to better carry out the ministry of mercy, which is so important.”

He reminded priests that the Holy Spirit is the “protagonist” of the ministry of reconciliation, calling on them to “always be ‘men of the Holy Spirit.’” As such, priests must welcome penitents not with the attitude of a judge, but with “the charity of God, with the love a father who sees the son returning, the shepherd who has found the lost sheep.”

For this reason, the Pope said, priests are called to be generous in making themselves available for Confession. “We must never forget,” he said, “that the faithful often have difficulty approaching the Sacrament of Confession.” And so, priests must work hard to encourage people to draw near to the Sacrament “of mercy and forgiveness.”

Here, the Holy Father said, priests must avoid both rigorism and laxity. “Confession is not a court of condemnation, but an experience of mercy and forgiveness!”

Finally, recognising the difficulties encountered in Confession, Pope Francis encouraged priests to take particular care in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In particular, he said “it’s good that in every parish, the faithful know when they can find priests” available to hear Confessions.

Below, please find the complete text of Pope Francis’ to participants in the course offered by the Apostolic Penitentiary: 

Dear Brothers,

I welcome you on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum. I thank Cardinal Mauro Piacenza for the words with which he introduced our meeting.

For a quarter of a century the Apostolic Penitentiary, aware of the importance of this ministry, has offered, especially to new priests and deacons, the opportunity of this course, in order to contribute to the formation of good confessors. I thank you for this valuable service and I encourage you to take it forward with renewed commitment, building on experience gained and with skilful creativity, to always help the Church and confessors to better carry out the ministry of mercy, which is so important!

In this regard, I wish to offer a few thoughts.

First of all, the protagonist of the ministry of reconciliation is the Holy Spirit. The forgiveness that the Sacrament confers is the new life sent by the Risen Lord by means of His Spirit: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain, are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). Therefore, you are called to always be “men of the Holy Spirit,” witnesses and heralds, joyful and strong, of the resurrection of the Lord. This testimony is read on the face, is heard in the voice of the priest who administers with faith and with “unction” the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He welcomes penitents not with the attitude of a judge, not even with that of a simple man, but with the charity of God, with the love of a father who sees the son returning and goes to meet him, [with the love] of the shepherd who has found the lost sheep. The heart of the priest is a heart that knows how to be moved, not by sentimentality or mere emotion, but to the “tender mercy” [viscere di misericordia] of the Lord! If it is true that tradition points out the dual role of doctor and judge for confessors, we must never forget that as a doctor he is called to heal and as a judge, to absolve.

The second aspect: if Reconciliation transmits the new life of the Risen Lord and renews baptismal grace, then your task is to give it generously to others. To give this grace. A priest who does not attend to this part of his ministry, both in the amount of time spent and in the spiritual quality, is like a shepherd who does not take care of the sheep that were lost; he is like a father who forgets the lost son and neglects waiting for him. But mercy is the heart of the Gospel! Don’t forget this: mercy is the heart of the Gospel! It is the good news that God loves us, that He always loves the sinner, and with this love draws him to Himself and invites him to conversion. We must not forget that the faithful often have difficulty approaching the sacrament, whether for practical reasons, or because of the natural difficulty of confessing one’s sins to another person. For this reason it is necessary to work hard on ourselves, on our humanity, never to be an obstacle but always to favour drawing near to mercy and forgiveness. But many times it happens that a person comes and says, “I haven’t confessed for many years, I have this problem, I left Confession because I found a priest and he told me this,” and you see the imprudence, the lack of pastoral love, in what that person says. And they draw away, because of a bad experience in Confession. If there is this attitude of a father, that comes from the goodness of God, this would never happen.

And we must guard against two extremes: rigorism and laxism. Neither is good, because in reality they don’t take charge of the person of the penitent. Instead, mercy truly listens with the heart of God and wants to accompany the soul on the path of reconciliation. Confession is not a court of condemnation, but an experience of forgiveness and mercy!

Finally, we all know the difficulties often encountered in Confession. There are many reasons, both historical and spiritual. However, we know that the Lord wanted to give this immense gift to His Church, offering to the baptized the security of the Father's forgiveness. It is this: it is the security of the Father’s forgiveness. For this reason, it is very important that in every diocese and in the parish communities, particular care is taken of the celebration of this Sacrament of forgiveness and salvation. It’s good that in every parish the faithful know when they can find priests available: when there is fidelity, the fruits are seen. This is particularly true for the churches entrusted to religious Communities, which can ensure a constant presence of confessors.

To the Virgin, Mother of Mercy, we entrust the ministry of priests, and every Christian community, that they might always grow in understanding the value of the Sacrament of Penance. I entrust all of you to our Mother and I bless you from the heart.

Text from Vatican Radio website 

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