She Saw Her Risen Lord: The Solemnity of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 (The Holy Year of Mercy)

J.M.J. May the Risen Christ through Mary, Witness to the Risen Lord, grant to each and all a very joyous Easter Sunday and Eastertide.

Imagine the incredible boldness with which Saint Peter proclaimed the Risen Christ. The stirring message of the first Pope that we hear in today’s First Reading was clear, understandable, and unmistakable: Jesus of Nazareth has triumphed over sin and death and lives among us through the preaching of His witnesses.

The steadfast conviction of Peter, which now over 2,000 years later we note with amazement and even awe, did not just appear from nowhere. Since the Holy Spirit found Peter the fisherman to be open, He endowed him especially on Pentecost Sunday with many gifts to be used in sharing far and wide the Good News. Peter’s rock-like determination came from Heaven above.

But the courage animating Peter after the Resurrection of Christ was not always so evident. He denied that he knew Jesus three times shortly after having attended the Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening. In fact, when Peter ran to the empty tomb with Saint John the Evangelist on the first Easter Sunday morning, he was a confused and broken man. He seemed to be the furthest thing from a heroic disciple of the Master.

Why the turnaround? To whom do we attribute Peter’s passage from fear to such audacity?

The Holy Spirit! The Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity enlightened the mind of Peter and steeled his will for the fierce battles ahead. Perhaps there would always be tense situations and regrettable conflicts to confront, but Peter would not be afraid. Why? Because Peter was anointed with the Holy Spirit—the same Holy Spirit, in Peter’s own words, with which Jesus Christ was anointed. Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, lives by the Holy Spirit.

Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit and having been pardoned for his sin by the Risen Lord, took to heart and applied the sentiments contained in the famous passage in the Letter of Staint Paul to the Romans (8:14–17):

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The same Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

With the Lord’s help, Peter cast aside the blinding terror that once plagued him and was robed in the sinless, white garment of the Lamb.

Inspired by the example of Peter, who moved from trepidation to confidence, we ask for that similar transformation which comes directly from the Holy Spirit. We also can experience that stunning alteration from death to life. Regardless of our past misdeeds, when we turn to Christ and acknowledge our belief in Him we “will receive forgiveness of sins through His Name.” With the Psalmist we delight to sing: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”

We have every expectation that when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead, we “will appear with Him in glory.”

For those who surrender to the Holy Spirit and accept the power that only He can give, the possibilities for spiritual growth are endless.

We are lost without the Holy Spirit. But with Him, there is no limit to our increase in holiness.

Easter Sunday is here again. Jesus Christ wants to remain with us always. We have a serious choice to make: to live, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, for the Risen Christ or to live for ourselves.

Our Lord desires that the joy of this Easter day reside within us. He doesn’t want us to fall back into slavery to sin. Rather, He invites us to cling to Him, because “with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

By our Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the Lord has lessened the stubborn snares of Satan within us. But we must always be on the lookout because the Evil One likes nothing better than to deceive us by making sin look attractive. While he can tempt us at any moment, he is particularly active when we feel satisfied or safe and immune from him, because that is when we let our guard down.

To ensure that the Risen Lord Jesus stays with us, we pray daily and receive the Sacraments often, especially Confession and the Most Holy Eucharist. We invoke Our Blessed Lady, who saw her Risen Son, and seek her maternal intercession. We read Sacred Scripture and perform acts of charity and self-denial.

Christ has conquered sin and death. Now is the time for us to run with St. Peter to the tomb and discover that Jesus Christ has risen as He promised. He is not there . . . He has thrown off the shackles of death and lives forever, awaiting our entrance into Paradise.

Let us not disappoint Him. May we yield to the Holy Spirit and follow Christ here on earth and one day to Heaven. His everlasting joy will be ours. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Chosen by the Most Blessed Trinity: Wednesday, March 16, 2016

J.M.J. "Hail, Holy Lady, Most Notable Queen, Mother of God, and Mary Ever-Virgin! You were chosen by the Heavenly Father, Who has been pleased to honor You with the presence of His most holy Son and the Divine Paraclete. You were blessed with the fullness of grace and goodness. Hail, Temple of God, His Dwelling Place, His Masterpiece, His Handmaid!"

--Saint Francis of Assisi (+1226)

Our Lady and Perserverence: Saturday, March 12, 2016

J.M.J. Our Blessed Mother is the model of perseverance, which "in a broad sense, is the pursuit of an undertaking or endeavor until its completion. In a strict sense, it is the pursuit of a good despite annoyances which originate in some factors usually extraneous to the endeavor." (Dom Gregory Manise, O.S.B., in Dictionary of Moral Theology, compiled by Francesco Cardinal Roberti).

No matter what God asked Mary to do, she "saw it through" until the end. Neither her fidelity nor her joy could be stifled.

O Mary, help us to imitate you in your perseverance!

The Most Pure Virgin: Wednesday, March 9, 2016

J.M.J. "Hail, most pure Virgin Mother, worthy of praise and veneration, fount of gushing waters, treasure of innocence, and splendor of sanctity! O Mary, lead us to the port of peace and salvation, to the glory of Christ Who lives in eternity with the Father and with the Holy Spirit."

--Saint Germanus I (circa 634--733-740)

Conforming Our Wills to Christ Like Mary: Tuesday, March 8, 2016

J.M.J. We lift up our heads to Jesus Christ, He Who is Our Lord and Savior.

His Ever-Virgin Mother, far from being an obstacle to our union with God, knows how we are to conform our wills with Christ's. She herself did it perfectly.

Her fiat at the Annunciation becomes ours every moment of our lives. She never retracted hers. May we never retract ours.

Dear Mother, Please Greet Our Sisters: Monday, March 7, 2016

J.M.J. The recent hideous murders of four Missionaries of Charity in Yemen and those near to them is a startling reminder of the Mercy of God.

It is the merciful Lord Who rewards those who are faithful. No one can be faithful on his own. He requires the Grace of Christ.

These faithful Sisters loved God and Our Lady, and they served His people.

May His judgment on them be merciful and their everlasting happiness immediate.

The Cause of Our Joy: Sunday, March 6, 2016

J.M.J. Saint Peter Chrysologus (c.380-c.450), Bishop and Doctor, whose Feast is July 30, was convinced of the necessity of devotion to Mary. He penned these words about 1,600 years ago: "He who is not awestruck by this Virgin's spirit and who does not admire her soul is ignorant of how great God is. Heaven trembles, angels quake, creation cannot bear it, nature is helpless--yet a girl carries God in her womb; she receives Him into herself and offers Him a dwelling place."

For Saint Peter Chrysologus, such a truth evident in the following demands that the faithful everywhere honor that fair woman we salute in the Litany of Loreto as "the Cause of our Joy": "Truly blessed is she who was greater than the heavens, stronger than the earth, vaster than the globe. For she alone contained within herself that God Whom the world cannot contain: she bore Him Who bears the world; she gave birth to her Father; she nursed Him Who nurtures every living thing." 

"O my Jesus" after Each Decade of Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary: First Saturday, March 5, 2016

J.M.J. On July 13, 1917, about four thousand persons were gathered in Fatima, Portugal for the apparition of Our Lady, who informed the children that they should specifically recite the Most Holy Rosary in honor of “Our Lady of the Rosary.” Before the trio saw a very frightening vision of Hell, Our Blessed Mother encouraged them:

Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say 
many times, especially whenever you make 
any sacrifice: "O Jesus, it is for love of You, 
for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation 
for the sins committed against the 
Immaculate Heart of Mary."

After the vision of Hell, Our Lady said:

When you recite the beads (that is, pray the Rosary), 
say after each mystery: 
"O my Jesus, forgive us, 
save us from the fire of Hell. 
Lead all souls to Heaven, 
especially those who are most in need."

(The "Fatima Prayer" most often recited today is substantially the same but slightly different in words: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.")

The reason why I use the Fatima Prayer after the end of each Decade is because Our Blessed Mother asked the three little shepherds of Fatima to recite it. 

True, the Church does not command us to use it; however, for me the Fatima Prayer is a reminder of my connection to Our Lady, to her request made nearly a century ago and to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta.

And the sentiments expressed in the Fatima Prayer are so valuable and relevant to our era.

Finally, based on my years in Rome and the fact, as reported to me just yesterday by persons from India and the Philippines, that many of the Faithful throughout the world use the Fatima Prayer after each Decade, I am convinced that Our Lady's request resonates and is embraced around the globe.

Thus, we have another inspiring indication that we as members of the Universal Church are united under Our Father in Heaven, in Christ Jesus Our Risen Lord, through the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, with Mary Our Ever-Virgin Mother, Saint Joseph Our Patron, the Holy Angels and the Saints.

No One Knows the Sacred Heart of Jesus Better than the Immaculate Heart of Mary: First Friday, March 4, 2016

J.M.J. There was--and remains--a strong link between Christ and His Chaste Mother. Jesus, the Son of God, is the Son of Mary. Although authentic disciples of the Master are extremely close to Him, their bond differs from that enjoyed by the Madonna with Jesus.

Let us explore that unique link between the Son and the Mother.

When Mary uttered her history-altering fiat, she gave permission for the Logos--the Eternal Word Who is the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity--to take her flesh and dwell in her virginal womb. The physical body of Jesus came from stainless Mary. Therefore, there is truth in the statement: Body of Christ, Body of Mary.

But even before the Annunciation, Mary was filled with the supernatural virtue of charity at the moment of her Immaculate Conception. Charity is the virtue that renders one most like God. Of course, Jesus was rooted in charity because He is God. That charity united Mary and Jesus.

The Heart of Christ was Our Blessed Mother's source of strength. She fulfilled God's mysterious plan for her life by accepting sanctifying grace--"God's life"--that only comes from the Lord. Mary enjoys unsurpassed physical access to her Son in Heaven. She also has unparalleled spiritual access to Him because of her unceasing prayer directed towards Jesus.

Without exaggeration, we may assert: all that Mary accomplished was first inspired and completed in the Heart of Jesus.

Our Lady leads us to adore her Son. Our genuine veneration of the Madonna ends in sincere adoration of Jesus. In Mary in Our Life (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1954), Father William George Most, Ph.D., wrote that Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) declared in his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor (May 8, 1928) the importance of authentic devotion to the Most Sacred Heart. "True devotion to the Sacred Heart consists in two things, which can readily be reduced to one--consecration and reparation" (page 205). Consecration means that we "dedicate ourselves and all that we have to the Divine Heart of Jesus" (ibid.); by our love we return to the Creator the love that He bestowed on us. Following consecration is reparation, which is necessary "if that Uncreated Love (that is, God Himself) has been neglected by forgetfulness or violated by offenses" (page 206).

It is through the Ever-Virgin that consecration and reparation are made. Pope Pius XI penned: "May the most gracious Mother of God smile upon and favor these our prayers and undertakings, she, who since she brought forth Jesus the Redeemer for us, nourished Him, and offered Him as a Victim at the Cross, and is called the Reparatrix, in virtue of her intimate union with Christ, and an altogether singular grace of His" (page 207). His Holiness prayed: "Loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation. . . " (page 208).

Father Most maintained: "Thus it is clear that our need of Mary will never end; she is the Mediatrix of All Graces; all (graces) descend to us through her. And the way for us to ascend to the Sacred Heart of Christ is through the Immaculate Heart of His Mother: ad Cor Jesu per Cor Mariae!" (page 211). To the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary!

Father Most argued that since the two Hearts are so aligned, then they "should also be closely united as objects of our devotion" (ibid.). We adore the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and we venerate the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

We cannot help but to draw the conclusion that seems very obvious: the Pure Immaculate Heart constantly beats in unison with the Most Sacred Heart, given the similitude between Mary and Jesus.

Although we do not measure up to Our Lady's outstanding holiness, may our hearts beat in union with the Two Hearts! 

Our Lady of Fatima and Perseverance in the Life of Saint Katharine Drexel: Thursday, March 3, 2016

J.M.J. How do we obey the requests of Our Lady of Fatima despite the problems of our era?

The Fatima message is not complex. Rather, it is simple and straightforward. Yet, we need God’s unfailing grace to reply to Our Blessed Mother’s entreaties. And we must persevere.

Saint Katharine Drexel was almost completely immobile the final eighteen years of her life due to a grave illness. Since she could no longer leave the Convent to assist her Sisters “in the field,” she embraced adoration and contemplation.

She did not complain but tried their best to complete the work that the merciful God had entrusted to them. May that also be true for us.

Confidence in God is to undergird all that we accomplish. Without trust in Him, we flail away in whatever we attempt.

He is with us and wishes to guide us in our endeavors. He is our loving Father Who cares for us. Therefore, we surrender to Him.

We are enriched and unified when we pursue the virtue of perseverance like Saint Katharine.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Most Precious Blood of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Saint Katharine Drexel, pray for us.

Mary's Transparency: Wednesday, March 2, 2016

J.M.J. "There was nothing in the Virgin that could obscure or conceal Her Son, nothing that would impede the complete manifestation of the divinity that dwelt within Her. The Lord never encountered the slightest obstacle in His Mother; on the contrary, He found in Her such 'transparency' that it was as if one could see Him through Her."

--Father Federico Saurez

Mother, Model and Guide: Tuesday, March 1 2016

J.M.J. A new month signals another opportunity to live in Christ.

With Mary as our Mother, Model and Guide, we can go forward, loving and serving the Lord God as He desires.

Let us hasten to do all that is required to love and follow Christ. Our Lady points the way.