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Monday, April 25, 2016

Love One Another As I Have Loved You

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
5th Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

“Love one another as I have loved you."

In today’s Gospel (John 13:31-35), Our Lord is preparing for His passion, and as He prepares, He gives His disciples a new commandment. 

What is this new commandment? It is love.  “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is a commandment that every person must live if he or she wants to attain to eternal life.

Although Our Lord Jesus speaks of love as a new commandment, it is technically not new. For example, the commandment to love one another is found in the Old Testament in the Book of Leviticus Chapter 19 where God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yet, there is something new about this commandment: Our Lord introduces Himself as the standard for love. We must learn to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus has shown us the most perfect example of love. Even though He is God, He humbled Himself and came into the world as a slave. He suffered the most extreme torture on the cross so that we can come to know God’s love for us and share in His love for all eternity!

The love that Christ gives us is a love that renews our entire person. It is a love that divests us of our former selves and clothes us with a new self. Therefore, when we love as Jesus loves, we become a new man or a new woman. We clothe ourselves in the white of purity so that we can share in the very life of God at the end of time.

We get an image of our new life with God at the end of time in today’s second reading (Revelation 21:1-5). Saint John sees a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth -- the world we live in today -- passed away. John sees the holy city, a new Jerusalem, come down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband.

John hears a voice saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God… for the old order has passed away.”

Our world is passing away. Our Lord is coming again soon to establish His Kingdom of pure love. Whatever is not of Christ's love will be purified or destroyed.

Therefore, if we want to share in eternal life,  we must strive to follow Our Lord’s commandment of love.

Such a commandment is not a superficial love. Our Lord’s love on earth was faithful, sacrificial, and truthful. His love was selfless and whole. Our Lord’s love was a commitment to His Father. He calls His disciples to follow His example of faithfulness and commitment, loving God and one another. 

Love means we want the best for the other person. We want to help all who God places in our lives to go to heaven. But love always requires truth. It requires that we don't live the lies that society teaches us but the divine truths Christ handed down to us.

To live love in truth is not easy. It requires sacrifice. Yet, sacrifice and difficulty are essential if we want to attain eternal life. We are reminded of this in today’s first reading (Acts 14:21-27). Saints Paul and Barnabas remind the disciples to persevere in faith, saying, "It is necessary that we undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

If we want to enter into the Kingdom of God, it is necessary that we undergo many hardships. We must make many sacrifices.
In our time and culture today, people don’t want to sacrifice. We want things easy. Yet, faith is not meant to be easy. Faith requires a change of direction, and this means that we must be stretched to the limits of our endurance.

Our Lord has said that if we want to be His disciples, then we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross. As Christians we are called to deny whatever in our world is contrary to God’s plan of eternal life.

The cross is a contradiction today. Many  seek to indulge in the pleasures of the world, to live as they want.  Our society teaches  there is no sanctity in marriage, nor is life sacred. The world's message is just use one another, and your own body as you want. Your bodies do not belong to God, but to yourself. 

Yet, Jesus teaches this is not so. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. God created our sexuality as a means to share in His love. In fact, the gift of sexual union between a man and woman in marriage is the most perfect and sacred way that humanity can share in  God’s love. But the world has trampled on this most sacred gift, turning it into an act of selfishness, perversion, and self-gratification.

Fr John Paul Shea 
My brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel our Lord gives us a new commandment. He teaches us that we must love one another as He has loved us. Our Lord’s commandment is not easy, but it is a commandment each one of us must embrace if we want to be His disciple and attain to eternal life. May God bless us and help us.

Did you enjoy this sermon? There are many more. You might like I Am the Good Shepherd    

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Please Lord

A Heartfelt Prayer

By Christopher Ziegler

Please, Lord Jesus, have pity on me, 
For I am weak.

My will is broken and weary.
I cannot love you as you love me.
Your love for me is mighty and binding.
My love for you is real but frail.

Yet I know that by your mercy and by your grace,
I can become what you want me to become.
I believe it and know it to be true.

You are powerful. 
You made me. 
You can heal me.
Please, Lord, I want to be healed!

Cure me and make me holy,
For the glory of your name.

Christopher Ziegler can be found @CZWriting on Twitter

Friday, April 22, 2016

I Am the Good Shepherd

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
4th Sunday of Easter, April 17, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today, we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday where we are reminded we need Our Lord Jesus Christ to protect us and guide us on our Christian journey so that we can attain eternal life.

In the beginning of today’s short Gospel (John 10: 27-30), Our Lord Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. No one can take them out of my hand. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
As we hear these words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are reminded that the goal of our Christian life is to become one with Our Heavenly Father. Our Lord Jesus, who is the second Person of the Trinity, is one with His Father, and He has come into our world so that we can live forever as one with His Father in Him. 

In other words, God wants us to share in His Life for all eternity. Yet, if we want to share forever in God’s munificent plan then we must listen to the voice of Jesus Christ in the scriptures and the teachings of our Church, and we must live our lives accordingly.

In today’s first reading (Acts 13:14, 43-52),  Paul and Barnabas are preaching, but the Jews rejected the words of Christ. 

In the midst of this rejection, what does Paul say? “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life we now turn to the Gentiles.” 

As Paul reminds the Jews of their condemnation for rejecting the preaching of Christ, let us be reminded that we too can condemn ourselves as unworthy of eternal life by rejecting the truths that God has given to us. 

It is easy for us to think we can enter into heaven even while living a life that contradicts the teachings of Christ and His Church. But this is not so! 

No, heaven is not easy to attain. In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, Our Lord
says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate that leads to destruction is wide and the broad, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that lead to life. And those who find are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
My brothers and sisters, following our Church and its teachings is to enter by the narrow gate. Our Lord Jesus Christ is Our Shepherd who wants to lead souls through this gate. He wants to protect us from the influences of the world in which we live today that separate us from God and His plan for us! God wants us to be one with Him in His Son Jesus Christ. Yet, if we want to live as one with God for all eternity, we must first be purified of whatever is not of God’s kingdom.

In our world today we hear much about tolerating sin. For example, now that so called same sex “marriage” is legal in our country, the spirit of the world tells us that our Church needs to be more tolerant toward or even embrace immoral relationships.

Yet, let us be reminded that acceptance does not bring souls to Heaven. Only the Truth will lead souls to heaven, and those who knowingly reject the truths of our faith by not striving to change their lives in accord the word of God “condemn [themselves] as unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46).

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He wants to save us from our sins. God sent His Son into our world so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life. Yet, our belief must be real. Our belief means conversion and a change of life! 

Our Lord calls us to deny the ways of the world. These ways  lead us away from the necessary sanctify that will allow us to live with Our Heavenly Father for all eternity. 

Let us ask Our Good Shepherd to protect us and keep us safe from everything that leads us away from eternal salvation. Let us strive to become one with Our Lord Jesus for all eternity by living lives worthy of this great gift of eternal life that God wants for each of us. Amen!
Early Christian Image of the Good Shepherd

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Redemptive Solution

A Humble Queen's "Yes!" Paved the Way for the Resurrection

by Edwin Rodrigues of Chandigarh, India 
who can be found on Twitter @EdwinEd1667 
Dedicated to our Baby Emma, miscarried before Oct. 8, 2005. She is close to the Humble King through the Humble Queen, The Father and The Holy Spirit. This piece is also offered in honor of Mother Angelica who died on Easter, March 27, 2016, and was buried on April 1.

I Am Who Am conceived us in His eternal plan of love. He transcends time, space and the weakness of our human flesh. 

He created the angels, who are far above us in nature and in the order of Creation. Alas! The most brilliant of them was blinded by his own light, rebelled, fell from heaven and took with him one third of the stars in the night.

They were defeated, but clung to their deceitfulness and vainglory!! He who could not tolerate the Creator’s glory and majesty couldn’t digest the fact that the Second Person of The BlessedTrinity would take upon Himself  a human nature. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14) 

So when Adam breathed the Breath of God’s Life, Satan choked. He began using his evil genius to trip Adam, who had Eve by his side. She was the greatest masterpiece of creation.

Satan had his companions. But among them there never was any love or true unity and that increased his misery. 

Divine Life -- when shared among the Persons of The Trinity and with Adam and Eve -- is creative and productive. Love and sharing are inherent in them.

Satan -- on the other hand lives (if that form of existence can be called living) -- but he is divisive and destructive. Hate, pride and selfishness consume him.

But God’s grace in Adam and Eve was too much for Satan to overlook. He mounted another assault. Deceit!!! Diabolical hatred made him take advantage of Adam and Eve’s pristine, finite awareness.
The father of lies planted the seed of pride. Alas! Our first parents succumbed.

But Jesus saw how infinitely saddened and offended His Eternal Father was. Jesus knew the consequences of Adam and Eve’s willful disobedience. He told His Father that He Himself would undo the infinite magnitude of man's offense.The Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father and The Son, also consoled The Father. He accompanied Jesus on His mission to save the human race. While Jesus hung on the cross, the Spirit turned the blood of human suffering into the wine of divine love. 

When Jesus took on human flesh, He  humbled Himself and -- with His Father’s nod -- agreed to become one like us. But how could He become one like us in all things except sin? 

Precisely because He’s God, He came with a redemptive solution; for nothing is impossible with God.  From outside the constraints of time and space, He knew a way…for He is The Way!
That Way required a new Eve, namely Mary. For when the old Eve was cast out of Paradise by the Angel, the first annunciation was made.

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

But many generations would live their lives before the Immaculate Conception would enter history so that all generations would call her blessed.

Hush. Imagine, the Creator relinquishing the splendor of Heaven; and entering the created House of God, the first living tabernacle -- Mary, most pure and humble. 

She never refused God anything. And yet God is a Perfect Gentleman. He did not take for granted her choice. He sought her permission to become the Seed in her womb. Such Seed would bear Fruit that would undo the effects of original sin and thus crush the head of Satan. The forbidden fruit would no longer poison and harry the lives of mankind.

She is Our Lady of The Victory! Victory achieved through obedience: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord!"

Adam and Eve fell prey to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Mankind's exile began. But God so loved the world that Jesus took it upon Himself to redeem the first exile from the Garden of Eden with His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

It was Eve who consented to the devil’s wicked proposal and consumed the forbidden fruit. But the humble Mary -- the New Eve -- allowed the Fruit of Life to develop in the Eden of her sinless womb. "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to Your Word," Mary's human will echoed exactly the "Yes!"  of the Divine Will.

Pride went before the Fall but Mary's humility paved the way to Christ's Rising in the Resurrection!! How sweet is the humility and obedience of Mary!! 

O Mary, conceived without sin, obtain for us the grace to imitate you and your Divine Son, Who is meek and humble of heart. Amen!

Did you enjoy this post? There are more by this author! See The Word Was Made Flesh...He Lived Among Us

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Letter to People of Life

Dear Friends Who Teach Natural Family Planning and Defend the Sanctity of Marriage,

It was good to read in your artistically designed letters, the manner in which God is working in your marriage and bringing the "Gospel of Life” to other couples in the Tucson and Phoenix Dioceses.

The contraceptive culture has such a strong grip on people both inside and outside the Catholic Church; functioning almost like an “anti-Eucharist” among catechized non-Catholics and non-catechized Catholics. I read so many articles by people of faith idolizing artificial contraception as “manna” from heaven. Jesus said,
“Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and died.” (John 6:49) What a poignant message to modern society. 
Effects of The Contraceptive Mentality
By your choice to support a “Culture of Life,” there will be persecution. I would say the car accident you suffered through is one such persecution. Be not afraid, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) 

The secular culture pervades our way of thinking and acting in many unrecognizable ways. It is only when a person collects the mind of Christ revealed in His Sacred Words, the lives of His Saints, the Doctrines of His Catholic Church, and abides in Him sacramentally that a person’s conscience is established. What an abused word “conscience” has become.
Every shepherd unwilling to take a stand for Christ floats the phrase “we must respect personal conscience.” A choice between two objective goods is a work of conscience. A choice emphatically rendered by the Church
identifying what is good and what is evil is an objective expression of Christ’s conscience. A person who argues, “my conscience supersedes the conscience of Christ as revealed in His Church” is simply rationalizing the power of sin, which stems from ignorance, weakness, fear and indifference.

Susan and I have a friend in Albuquerque, who gave up all forms of media. She said, “Watching and listening to the passions of the world drains my soul, leaving little passion for Christ.” I think it is in Mark’s Gospel, that Jesus tells His disciples to “listen and watch” while they were on their way to Jerusalem. It is interesting that the entertainment genre “Walking Dead” has become so popular today. The Walking Dead are people with no direction. What a terrible condition.

Another fruitful way of collecting the mind of Christ is by observing God’s creation through the gifts of reason and faith. Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both written so much on the necessity of humanity to rediscover the complimentary natures of reason and faith and integrate both within all aspects of human life. The secular world values “reason alone” and so many non-Catholics value “faith alone,” both giving birth to “personal conscience alone.”

It sounds -- based upon Susan’s recent visit -- that the Lord is asking you both to support another project, dealing with, “discovering the image of the Most Holy Trinity within the created human body.” I guess it could be called, “God’s Image Project.”

Susan purchased a lily plant for Easter. It is in our kitchen and every so often aromatically speaks to us, asking for water. I thought about Jesus’ words,
“Do you not see the lilies of the field? I tell you not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.” (Matt. 6:29) 
Beguiled by a Lily
One day for a brief moment I could see within the delicacy of the lily the literal reality of Jesus’ words. It was as if Jesus (the master designer) was saying, “You have no idea how much care went into the design and development of that plant. If you could only see the joy that the beauty from that one lily plant brings creation, you would learn the meaning of the purpose of life, God’s plan for each person, and how to trust in His Mercy.” 

Tragically, a materialist dissecting, measuring, and quantifying lily stem cells would only discover defects and evidence that the
A materialist's idea of a good time
universe is not the result of intelligent design. Your ministry of teaching couples about the gift of fertility is a formidable response to materialists like Alice Roberts, physician and anatomist, who argues in her book, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us, that aesthetics demonstrates inefficiency and lack of intelligent design. 

For people like Alice Roberts -- who are now dominating so many medical professions – beauty is amoral with no ethical reality but efficiency is the only ethic the matters and the only reality that demonstrates intelligence. “If you are the son of God, command these stones to turn into bread.” (Matt. 4:3) (Satan’s words to Christ.) Such is the thinking behind euthanasia, abortion and contraception, and the increasing practice of hospitals to issue “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) orders even for children chocking on meat.

It is our prayer that God continues to protect you both as He shepherds your family, parishioners, co-workers, and students through your ministry.

Yours in Christ Jesus and Mary,

Lorenzo  Fox

Sunday, April 3, 2016

We Glory in the Resurrection and God's Divine Mercy

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today, we glory in Our Lord’s resurrection and the new life that we are given in Jesus Christ. 

We celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday -- the opportunity to reflect on the Easter message  in a deeper and more profound way.

The resurrection of Our Lord is the hope for every Christian. Jesus has come into our world to bring us divine life, and His resurrection from the dead is a witness that every person is offered this hope of salvation. 

We hear in today’s Gospel (John 20:19-31) that Our Lord Jesus appears to His disciples after He has risen from the dead. He shows them that He is still in His flesh, revealing the wounds from His hands and His side. He tells   Saint Thomas, the doubter who did not at first believe, to touch His wounds. 

Yet, while Our Lord shows the reality of His humanity after He had rose from the dead, He also emphasizes His divinity. Jesus appears to His disciples even though the doors were locked. Jesus walked through walls, and He performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples.

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus has indeed risen from the dead! This is what we believe as Christians! Yet if we want to reap the benefits of the resurrection, then we must demonstrate we truly believe that Our Lord has risen from the dead by the ways in which we live our lives. 

We hear in today’s Gospel that when Thomas witnesses the miracle of Jesus' resurrection, Our Lord asks him,
“Have you come to believe because you have seen me?” Our Lord then adds, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

These words to Thomas are given to us! None of us were there when they crucified our Lord. But, we are Our Lord’s Church today.

We did not see Our Lord when He rose from the dead, but we are the ones who are called today to be witnesses of the manifold grace that our good and gratuitous God wants to give us thorough the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son! 

Yet, the question that we must ask ourselves today is if we truly believe that Our Lord has risen from the dead, do we live our lives in expectation and longing for the glory of heaven? Do we treat our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit so that we can live with God for all eternity?

We live in a time today where the resurrection of Our Lord is not believed by the majority of the people. Our culture denies the resurrection because we as a people do not  live for heaven. Our culture lives for the flesh.

The immorality of our society today is leading many persons  toward eternal destruction. In 1917, the Blessed Mother told the children at Fatima that more souls go to hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason! 

The resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to live new lives. Every one of us was created by God to live with Him forever in both body and spirit. But we must choose to live with God forever by the ways in which we live our lives. 

Our Lord teaches us that this current world is passing away and He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. All of us will be given new bodies. 

Whether our new bodies will enjoy eternity in heaven or suffer in the fires of hell is up to us.  

In today’s second reading (Rev 1:9-19), Saint John is given a vision of the end times. Our Lord tells Saint John, “Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.”

My brothers and sisters, if we want to know what happens afterwards, all we have to do is read the rest of the Book of Revelation. In this book we are told that this world in which we live is going to change drastically. In fact, this world is rapidly changing right now!

Today our Church not only celebrates the resurrection of Our Lord, but today our Church also celebrates Divine Mercy. Our
Lord gave us this message less than 100 years ago because it is extremely pertinent to our times today.
Our Church was given the revelations of Jesus, Divine Mercy, through a Polish nun, Saint Faustina, who lived during the early 20th century. She lived in a critical time of human history -- the horrors of World War I. But before her death in 1938, she predicted a second world war -- "[another] war, a terrible, terrible war," and asked the nuns to pray for Poland.

Overall, Our Lord’s words to Saint Faustina seem to indicate urgency in presenting Our Lord’s message of salvation. God knew that  wars and violence, immorality and dangers, would continue to escalate. And faithful Catholics would desperately need to pray for God’s mercy upon the world. In fact, Our Lord told Saint Faustina that she would be used to help prepare the world for His final coming.
St  Faustina Kowalska
Secretary of Jesus, Divine Mercy
He told her to tell the world about this great mercy because the awful day, the great day of justice is near!

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus has indeed risen from the dead, and He is coming again soon as the just judge. But He doesn’t want anyone to perish. This is why Our Lord suffered on the cross and rose again from the dead! Let us believe in the resurrection of Our Lord by the ways in which we live our lives. 

Let us not live for a world that is perishing, but let us live for life eternal. For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!