a hungry generation

The Gospel from today, Luke 11:29-30, reads: “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation.'”

My generation is hungry. We seek fulfillment, gratification, depth. We’re looking everywhere, but we’re finding our answer in all the wrong places.

With the best of intentions, we seek to be completely fulfilled by our imperfect human relationships. We are possessed by our obsessions over attaining lifestyles and achieving goals. And unfortunately, many of us try to fill (or to numb the pain of) that hunger with alcohol, drugs, pornography… the list goes on.

Yet Jesus Christ came to claim us from these superficial counterfeits for what can truly satisfy. He is our shepherd looking for His lost sheep. And He comes to offer us His perfect Love: the only human love that will fill that inner hunger: that deep loneliness in our human heart.

No one else will ever do. For only His love is… Divine.

St. Ambrose once said: “Today Christ is yours, yet each day He rises again for you.” We need not seek a single sign again, for Jesus is resurrected every day in the Most Holy Eucharist!”

In a generation looking everywhere but the Cross, and feeding off of the ephemeral, may we look to Christ, and feed on the Eucharist: He who was, and is, and ever shall be, world without end! Amen.

Jesus: a “Daddy” at <3

Jesus teaches us the “perfect prayer” today, the Our Father (Gospel reading; 8:51-59). He tells us that we are not to babble in our prayers, for Our Father in Heaven already knows everything.

I find the part about not babbling very… comforting. Jesus is saying that we truly are the children of God, and this is how He sees us: as His children. He knows exactly what to do to take care of us.

A baby doesn’t need to go on and on about how his diaper needs to be changed. He or she may simply cry in discomfort, and his mother or father knows exactly what to do (swap that dirty diaper for a clean one!) and does it.

Our prayers to Our Father are like our cries to Heaven. In teaching us the Our Father, which says “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” Jesus shows us that that simple cry out to God for His will to be done is enough! We cry out to Our Father that we need Him, and He provides us with what He knows we need.

May we always have childlike trust in the Lord, most especially when we are most anxious. And while He is Our Father “who art in Heaven,” He is closer than we think! For He is Our “Abba”– Our “Daddy”!– and He provides for us when we call out to Him, though sometimes not in ways we would prefer. However, He is always loving us with His Fatherly love, and giving us what is best for us, even when we cannot understand it.

Jesus was tempted! for 40 days straight, too…

Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:12-15) starts off with a very powerful sentence: “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.”

Two very profound points are made in this statement.

First, the Holy Spirit drives Jesus out into the desert– where He will be tempted! This is quite a thought. The Holy Spirit knew that Jesus could handle the temptation, and that He could grow in that temptation; this is why the Spirit “drove” Our LORD into the desert! The Spirit didn’t lead Christ into the desert; He didn’t tell Christ to go to the desert. He DROVE Christ into the desert! Wow.

Perhaps this is why God made us human. Sometimes, our emotions drive us into the very desert of our hearts. Perhaps God created us this way because He wanted us to be at this place at times so that we could grow closer to Him: He Who is the only oasis in this vast, arid, empty land of our broken hearts. This is where we are tempted to sin and, worse yet, despair over that sin.

Yet this precisely where God wants us to be sometimes: in the face of sin. For it is only when we arrive at this place that we realize that we are so desperately in need of Him, the Living Water. This is where He can heal our broken hearts– when we come crawling to Him.

Secondly, we must note from the Gospel reading that even Jesus Christ suffered temptations on earth. St. Gregory the Great gave a homily 1400 years ago nearly to this day in which he reiterated the fact that even Christ, the Perfect Man, underwent “the test” from God.

Yes, Christ suffered temptations even though He was the Perfect Man Who never sinned. This means that, contrary to what we may think, we are no worse of a soul if we face temptations. Rather, we must look to our temptations not only as occasions of sin, but as occasions of love: in them– when we resist them– we may grow in our love for God!

God wanted to show us what perfect human Love was; He did so by sending us His Son, God Made Man. Like Christ, perfect love on our end does not mean never facing temptations. Perfect love on our end means battling those temptations like Christ did and try our best to love like Perfect Love loved.

When we fight to live a life of virtue, we show Christ just how much we love Him, and just how much His Passion and Death means to us! In this spirit, we may even feel more united to Christ when we face temptations. While we battle our own temptations, may we gain strength by imagining that we are side by side with Christ as He faced temptations for forty days straight in the desert.

May we always be humble of heart when the Spirit drives us into the desert of temptation. And may we always be wise, and continue on, knowing that we will find that oasis of Living Water– Christ Himself– in that very place. Christ is ready to fill us with His grace at the most difficult moments of our life– including our most difficult temptations.

afraid, yet comforted… my home? a tiny speck in His heart!

The Gospel of St. Luke says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

The former sentence from this passage is one of the most scary lines in the Gospel to me. I’d always like to think that I have some sort of control in my life. Yes, I must be responsible about my duties; I must listen as closely to Jesus about what my vocation is and entails, and follow Him. But Jesus truly asks me to completely LOSE my life to Him.

On the other hand, however, the latter sentence from this passage is one of the most comforting lines in the Gospel to me! It is so romantic and beautiful to think that God has made me for Himself; He wishes to possess me fully. In fact, only in Him can I ever find my own self and my own life. Only in Him do I have a home. My heart was created to abide in His heart, and there is a tiny speck in His most sacred Heart for just me alone. This is what my place in Heaven looks like.

At times, I get a little anxiety when I wonder: “Well, am I giving everything to God? Am I giving Him my all? Every part of my life?” Yet God teaches me to have no anxiety at all, and to trust Him. I once heard a Norbertine priest, Fr. Charbel, say that not trusting in God hurts Him more than sinning. So long as I look to selfless Love Himself, and try in my utmost humility to do what I think He wants me to do, He will be smiling down on me.

Faith is a journey, and it will only see its completion when I meet this Romantic Lord of mine face to face. As expounded upon in the book Divine Intimacy, God has so graced me with the virtues of faith, hope, and love, that they may one day turn into understanding and possession in Heaven. Yet that last virtue, Love (Himself!), will still be the same in Heaven!

Instead of “saving” my life and gaining the whole world, It is He to whom I hope to be completely vulnerable, and to lose my heart– for what I have to gain is everything, the point of my entire existence: for my heart to one day rest in His (St. Augustine)!

faith without works? DEAD.

The Gospel antiphon today reads: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).

Interestingly, I believe that Matthew 4:4 sums up Catholicism quite succinctly. I know that St. Matthew is saying that we are not sustained only on earthly bread. Rather, we are sustained by Our LORD Who comes to us in Communion in the form of Divine Bread, and that bread that we consume is not “just a symbol”: it is Our Savior! However, just as we cannot sustain our souls on earthly bread, so too can we not simply receive the Lord in the Eucharist (on mere physical terms) and believe that we will be sustained.

Holy Communion is not magical! For instance, if a lifelong sinner and non-believer receives Our Lord in the Eucharist while lying on his deathbed, this does not mean that he will automatically go to Heaven if he consumes Our Lord in the Eucharist! No, our love relationship with Our Lord is one that involves the body and the soul– and moreover, the heart.

Our Heavenly Bread is Jesus Himself; He comes into our bodies. Yet in order to let Jesus truly save us, we must cooperate with Him by also “[living] on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” What does this mean? We must not only receive Jesus in the Bread; we must also listen to His every word and act on His words, in love!

Jesus Christ IS the New Testament.”Testament” is a translation of the word “Covenant.” What is a covenant? A covenant is an exchange of persons.

At Mass, in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Jesus gives Himself to us in the form of Bread and we give ourselves to Him. In addition, in the Liturgy of the Word, Jesus gives Himself to us in Holy Scripture. And after that end-of-Mass “commissioning,” when the priest (who acts in the place of Christ) says, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!”– THAT is when we are sent out into the world to “[live] on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

In James 1:22-24, Holy Scripture admonishes: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.”

It can be really hard being a Catholic twenty-something in a generation where moral relativity reigns and everything goes. Yet living our covenant life with Christ means both receiving Him in the Eucharist and living out our faith through our works: living on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God!

Catholic twenty-somethings, do our actions show that we even know ourselves? If we look at ourselves in “a glass,” we should be able to see Christ in us. We should be confident knowing that He is Our Master, Our Lord, Our Love.

James 2:26 clarifies further: “For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead.” Receiving Our Heavenly Bread and listening to Him is not enough. We must believe and we must demonstrate our love for Our Eucharistic LORD through our actions. Yes, we are most fully alive when we receive His flesh and His blood in the Eucharist and when we try our very best to live “every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”!

Every good work we do is merely completed by the Holy Spirit working through us. We give our “go.” And our fuel is grace: it is Christ in us, Who we receive in the Eucharist!

Catholic twenty-somethings, this generation of ours is tired of hypocrites. Most especially during this Lenten season, may we always strive to walk the way of Christ! And may we never become discouraged if we fall a hundred times or a thousand times a day. For we ourselves do not merit Heaven through our works; Christ has already done that through His flesh and His blood.

All we must do is follow Him and give Him our flesh and our blood, as well as our actions, and not just our lip service! He will build His Kingdom through us. All we must do is give our joyful and humble, “Yes, LORD!”.

love rEVOLution

“Late have I loved You. You searched for me, I looked for you. What took me so long?” These lyrics are from a current day song by Matt Maher, but they echo the words of St. Augustine as written in his Confessions.

Reflecting on the Gospel of today (Luke 5:27-32), in which Jesus says: “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners,” St. Augustine comes to mind. St. Augustine is such a great saint because he fell so far down close to hell that when His Lover Christ called him back out of that dark abyss, after he finished the race on earth, he was raised to that same height in glorious Heaven, as Christ had poured grace upon grace into his soul!

In today’s Meditation, St. Catherine of Sienna says: “No, He finds a delightful way– the most sweet and loving way possible; for He sees that the human heart is drawn by love as by nothing else, as it is made of love. This seems to be why humans love so much, because they are made of nothing but love, body and soul. In love God created them in His own image and likeness, and in love father and mother conceive their own children, giving them a share in their own substance.”

What I find profound about St. Augustine’s conversion is that he was looking for love in women because he unknowingly saw the traces of God’s beauty stamped in them.  When he realized this in his conversion, it brought him to the ultimate clarity that God’s beauty and love was the Ultimate Beauty and Love, Who bestowed all such beauty and love into all of Creation, most especially His very daughters. This made St. Augustine realize that he was attracted to women because they showed him God– but that to truly love them, he had to see women the way that their Creator saw them: with pure love, and not as objects (lust).

“I was looking outside…” are the following words to the Matt Maher song. Yes, St. Augustine was looking outside because God has stamped His Most Lovely image and likeness in all of Creation, and especially in humans, His crowning glory. As children of God, we often forget that He loves us, cherishes us, and prizes us so: we were made by Him, and we are His crowns!

However, we do not respond to Perfect Love perfectly. By no means. Our sinful nature (which, however, can be strengthened by grace and by living virtuously!) inclines us to hurt He Who is love and He Who loves us perfectly. Yet He still loves us as a Father and allows us to share in His Love, and even co-create life with Him in our own domestic churches; in them, we are called to image His Triune Nature! O, how merciful and loving and romantic is Our Lord!

St. Catherine of Siena says that we are “made of nothing but love, body and soul.” I see my entire life as this amazing Love story where God seeks me, whispers for me, calls out my name! My body was made to glorify Him; my soul was made to glorify Him. I was made in love for Love.

Love has met me through faces of other people, and through the hearts of other people, family and friends; and, in a holy courtship now, I have never more strongly felt such love that images this eternal exchange of Love that is the Holy Trinity. I now more deeply understand the immense love of the Holy Family, but moreover, that infinite, endless, unrelenting, powerful, passionate love that is Our Triune Lord!

May we never forget to see God in one another, hidden (all over) in those around us, and most especially in those we love. Satan most strongly tempts us not to love God and not to love the people whom we truly love the most. He wants to divide us, but Christ wants us to be one– this is precisely what we are in the reality of Holy Communion. Let us always win this spiritual battle with LOVE!

waiting for the Bridegroom

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Gospel reading: Mark 9:14-15)

God has always been in my life; He has come into my life in His own ways, big and small. In meeting Him, and becoming close to Him, He began to shape my heart so that it would be content with only Him and Him alone– most particularly, in the Holy Eucharist.

Eventually, it was God Himself who graced me with the gift to become keenly aware of that spiritual hunger within me for Him. Like Fr. Andre Louf, OCSD says, “The day comes when a hunger and thirst for the living God are born within him and, over and above all earthly sustenance, are engraved into his body.” Every corner of my soul and every inch of my body needs the nourishment of God– most particularly, in the Heavenly Bread that comes down to earth!

By the grace and mercy of God, I believe that I know all too well what this hunger for Him is. It means that no matter how busy my life is, no matter how confusing, no matter how chaotic, Jesus Christ is there, my Bridegroom, waiting for me, pining for me to receive Him there at the altar at Mass. He is waiting for us to become one: to fill me with His True Presence, and to receive me totally also. How could I ever forget Him? And yet, my fallen nature inclines me to do so.

I fervently desire to be like one of the Ten Virgins waiting for the Bridegroom in the middle of the night. They were prepared. Their lamps were lit. Moreover, those lamps burned all the night through. The Ten Virgins had enough grace, trust, faith, hope, and love to wait for their Bridegroom and to be ready to join Him at any moment’s time. It was in their lack of sleep and in their waiting with joy with their lights burning brightly, that they went to meet the Bridegroom.

Like the Ten Virgins, may I always have hope that Love Himself will surely come find me! And may I always be ready, holy and pure, to meet Him.

losing my life for LIFE

A manifesto to fellow Catholic twenty-somethings…

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Gospel reading: John 9:22-25)

Sex, money, power. Now there’s nothing wrong with sex, money, and power. But the way our generation sees it all is infested with lies. The culture of death? Everywhere. Yet the Gospel was written thousands of years ago. Jesus Christ came thousands of years ago. Though the darkness has gotten darker, and the temptations are so much higher… has anything really changed?

As Catholic twenty-somethings, we say a firm “no” to the worship of sex, money, power. Not only are we going against our current culture; we are trying to revolutionize what has been since the beginning of time!

Yet with Christ, the old passes away, and ALL is made new (as in the “Tantum Ergo,” Christ is ever ancient, ever new). We’re trying to undo centuries, thousands and thousands of years, of lies, with a Son of God whose life has no end, who is timeless.

Newton’s second law says that every force has an equal and opposite reaction. Well, God always defies this law spiritually. As Christians who turn to the LORD to bring light to the darkness of the world, not only do we have the power to push satan away (the “equal and opposite reaction”); we also have the power to re-create the face of the earth! We are given more than just equal counter force. We are given an abundance of grace.

Jesus promised that in losing our lives, He would give us LIFE, and give us life more abundantly (John 10:10). We were made for so much more than just sex, money, and power.

Jesus says that “whoever wishes to lose his life will save it.” We must cooperate, too. Yes, we have a hand in our redemption. It is our choice, day by day, moment by moment, to continually lose our lives to a Savior.  It is our choice, day by day, moment by moment, to choose LIFE. 

So moment by moment, may we turn from the false idols of our current society, and may we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  Catholic twenty-somethings, we aren’t just rebels. We are rebels with a cause. This spiritual warfare is worth the fight! Christ awaits. Light and life awaits.

 

My GOD, a JEALOUS Lover

He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane,
I am a tree

Bending beneath the weight of
His wind and mercy

When all of a sudden, I am unaware
Of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are and
How great your affections are for me

“How He Loves Us”

I flipped through my February Magnificat today and re-read the February 9th Gospel. The Greek woman, the Syrophoenician, begged Jesus to drive a demon out of her daughter and said, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps” (Mark 7:24-30).

This woman showed humility beyond compare; she begged God for His healing touch, and this is precisely what led to Jesus to show her His compassion and love. After she persisted and willingly lowered herself so, He immediately healed her daughter.

St. Claude de La Colombiere said: “Do not lose courage when you have begun so well to struggle with God. Do not give him a moment’s rest. He loves the violence of your attack and wants to be overcome by you. Make importunity your watchword, let persistence be a miracle in you. Compel God to throw off the mask and say to you with admiration ‘Great is your faith, be it done as you wish. I can no longer resist you, you shall have what you desire, in this life and the next.'”

All I could think about when I read this Gospel and this meditation was this…

“Yes, He is jealous for me!”

Truly, my God is a jealous God. He is a jealous Lover! And He wants my soul, He wants my heart, He wants my body, He wants all of my actions. He wants my everything.

And it’s funny just how much he wants me to pursue Him… just the way He pursues me.

God wants me to love Him as I have loved no one else on earth. God wants to be overcome by me. He wants me to romance Him, so that He can no longer resist me so…

I feel like a lot of my years going to LifeTeen Mass in high school consisted of God romancing me: Showing me that He was the Perfect Man, the only One who would every truly understand everything about me and provide me with everything I needed. The only Man who could love me perfectly! And no wonder: He was God Made Man, the Ultimate Sacrifice. The Story of the Cross? The Ultimate Love Story.

Yet over a decade since I fell passionately in love with Our Lord, it seems that now He is begging me to do the same: to romance Him with my longings for Him, most especially during the most dry and arduous times of my life.

And most especially during this liturgical season of Lent, I know that I can give Him as many offerings as possible: my own secession of small kisses upon His brow, my own token of affection for His Passion and death on the Cross. No, not even my martyrdom could compare to what He has done for me.

For when my soul is dry and suffering, this is when JESUS wants not only to flood my soul with His grace, with His living water. No. After doing that, He wants to put that flood out with an even greater flame of His intense, powerful, mighty, consuming, arduous, passionate– or shall I say, Passionate!– LOVE.

And who can compare to God?

“His love is a hurricane, and I am a tree! Bending beneath the weight of His wind and His mercy”

JESUS is the Ultimate Lover– the Ultimate Romancer of the inner core of our heart that only He knows. There is a deep, dark abyss in my heart that only the Flame of the Holy Spirit can fulfill and quench.

My Lord has a “jealousy as hard as hell, the lamps thereof are fire and flames”; and His love cannot be quenched or drowned by floods (Song of Songs 8:6). There are no words.