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Archive for September, 2011

   O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: We are all the work of your hands.” (Isaiah 64:7) This well-known image from Scripture gives us a good idea of the way God wants to shape our lives with his grace. Just as a potter shapes a lump of clay into a vessel, so God wants to shape us into vessels of his grace—vessels that can hold his divine grace and pour that grace out to the people around us.

We are the crown of God’s creation. We are wonderfully and beautifully made. But we also have our fair share of imperfections. Wise and patient potter that he is, God is always working to make us more perfect. He is always working to shape us into the image of his Son, Jesus. While it may seem like an impossible goal, this is God’s dream, his grand plan for each and every one of us. And so he continually pours out grace to make this dream into a reality.

Abnormally Born. By the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Paul wrote these words as a response to some people in Corinth who felt that he was a lesser apostle, not worthy of the same respect that Peter or John deserved. Paul told them that, because of the way he was before his conversion, he probably was most undeserving and most unworthy of being an apostle: “I persecuted the church of God.” But then he went on to say: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:9,10). His encounter with God changed him from what he was—a persecutor—to what he is now—an apostle.

The other apostles knew Jesus when he walked the earth. They lived with him; they heard him preach; they saw him heal people and drive out demons. They even saw him as the risen Lord on Easter Sunday! Paul, on the other hand, was “born abnormally” (1 Corinthians 15:8). He didn’t have a three-year apprenticeship with Jesus. He didn’t hear the Sermon on the Mount or sit at the Last Supper or witness Jesus’ Ascension. Quite the opposite: He persecuted the people who did these things!

And so Paul’s message is clear: God can touch anyone with his grace—even people who persecute and kill. We don’t have to be scholars or saints to be touched by God. We don’t have to be perfect. We might be overly zealous or violent like Paul. We might be a dishonest tax collector, like Zacchaeus. We might be in an improper sexual relationship like the Samaritan woman in John 4. It doesn’t matter. God can still touch us with his grace. He can change anyone’s life!

A Noble, Godly Character. After his conversion—after he was “born abnormally”—Paul found his life beginning to change. The most obvious change was that he stopped persecuting Christians! But beyond that, Paul found his whole character undergoing a shift. Jesus had shown him that in persecuting Christians, he was really persecuting the Lord (Acts 9:4-5). Imagine the shock that must have been! All this time, Paul thought he was serving God by arresting these people, and it turns out he was hurting God instead! That realization must have been painfully humiliating and personally devasting.

How did this change Paul’s character? It taught him not to trust his instincts but to examine his thoughts, his motives, and his assumptions (2 Corinthians 10:5). It turned him into a servant of God instead of a defender of his earlier convictions. Now, rather than trying to protect what he considered to be the purity of Judaism, Paul devoted himself to learning from the Lord and serving God’s plans. He discovered the joy of being led by God rather than by his ideas about God. He saw the pride and self-centeredness that were behind his old approach, and he knew he needed to live a different way.

While it may sound like all this happened overnight, that’s not really accurate. And neither did it happen automatically. No, Paul had an important part to play, and he had to work at it over time. He had to choose to walk away from his former life as a Pharisee and persecutor of the church. He had to learn how to read the Hebrew Scriptures in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. He began to pray in a new way. He had to examine his heart and his motives in a new light. He began to put away the pride, self-righteousness, and violence that were part of his old way of thinking and put on the mind of Christ, the model of humble self-sacrifice.

In short, Paul cooperated with God’s grace.

God’s Grace and Our Work. Brothers and sisters, we all need God’s grace if we want to see our character become more like Christ. At the same time, we also need to practice our faith every day, relying on the power of God’s grace to change us in ways that we simply can’t change ourselves.

Medical students become doctors because they study, learn, and pass their exams. From the moment they begin medical school, they are expected to take on a doctor’s mindset. They are expected to think and act like doctors. The harder they work at it, the more their character is shaped, and the more they become real doctors. The same is true for us, but with one major difference: We have God’s grace lifting us up, inspiring us, and filling us with hope and confidence.

Before his conversion, Paul was a passionate Pharisee. He loved his Jewish upbringing and he treasured the Law of Moses above all else. In his attempt to be faithful to God, he knew he was living a demanding but rewarding life. But once he experienced the grace of God, Paul put all his skill and training to work for the sake of the gospel. He used his understanding of theology, logic, and philosophy to form his arguments about Jesus and the new way of Christianity. He used his innate determination to spread the good news of the kingdom. And his skill, talent, and determination were all magnified by the power of divine grace!

Just as he did for Paul, God wants to give us his own dreams and desires—the dream of seeing people brought to the Lord, the desire to change the world. If Paul were with us today, he would tell us that a noble, Christlike character comes as we allow God’s overflowing grace to fi ll us—in prayer, through the sacraments, and through the Scripture—and as we work hard at building our character and serving the Lord. If we do this, we too will be able to say with Paul: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

It’s a Mystery. Grace is a free gift that we have to cooperate with. We can’t earn it, but we must embrace it. Grace is God’s work in us, but at the same time we have to work with that grace if we want it to have an effect on us. It can sound confusing, can’t it?

In the end, the best word to describe grace is probably “mystery.” Somehow, God pours his grace into us, and somehow this grace moves us to change our lives. Somehow, often when we least expect it, we come face-to-face with God, and this encounter changes our lives dramatically. This is the real mystery behind God’s gift of grace.

Think about St. Paul. He wasn’t looking for grace. He was actually fighting against the Lord. But then one day, as he was walking down a road, a fl ash of light appeared to him out of nowhere, and Jesus asked: “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Paul didn’t just have a vision that day. Along with that vision came a flood of grace, mysteriously changing Paul’s heart.

It’s not just the great saints of the past whose lives were changed by grace. Think about the last retreat you went on. That retreat wasn’t just a nice time away from your everyday routine. It was an encounter with God’s grace. It was Jesus reaching out to you and offering you a deeper experience of his love—an experience that helped you become more like him. The same can happen during Mass, at Adoration, as you are caring for a sick child, or even as you are taking a walk. God never stops reaching out to us!

As we said in our first article, grace is all around us. It flows around us like a river, lifting us up and carrying us to the Lord. Most of the time that river flows quietly and gently, but there are times when it rushes over us and engulfs us in God’s love and mercy. Those are the moments when God is offering us something special. We can’t control them. We can’t predict them. We can only welcome them when they come, and try our best to cooperate with them.

We hope that the articles have helped show you how gracious God is. We hope they will help you embrace the moments of grace that God offers to you. If you remember nothing else from the articles, just remember this one promise: God’s grace—his free, unmerited, gift of his own life and love—never fails!

Source:  Word Among Us, September 2011 Issue

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   It’s hard to sustain a regular life of prayer. Why? Why is it so difficult to pray regularly?

Some reasons are obvious: over-busyness, tiredness and too many demands on our time, constant distraction, spiritual laziness, worship services that bore us, and methods of prayer that leave us flat and inattentive.

But there is another reason too, suggested by monks and mystics. The problem we have in sustaining prayer, they say, is often grounded in the false notion that prayer needs to be interesting, exciting, intense, and full of energy all the time. But that is impossible, nothing is meant to be exciting all the time, including prayer and church services, and nobody has the energy to always be alert, attentive, intense, and actively engaged all the time.

Sometimes we don’t pray regularly precisely because we simply cannot find within ourselves the energy, time, intensity, and appetite for active participation that we think prayer is demanding of us. But prayer respects that, even if spiritual authors and liturgists often don’t.

Prayer is meant to respect the natural rhythms of our energy. Praying is like eating and, as we know from experience, you don’t always want a banquet. If you tried to have a banquet every day, you would soon find coming to the table burdensome and would look for every excuse to escape, to sneak off for a quick sandwich by yourself.

Eating has a natural rhythm: banquets and quick snacks, rich meals and simple sandwiches, high times with linen serviettes and low times with paper napkins, meals which take a whole evening and meals which you eat on the run. And the two depend upon each other: You can only have high season if you mostly have ordinary time.

Healthy eating habits respect our natural rhythms: our time, energy, tiredness, the season, the hour, our boredom, our taste.

Prayer should be the same, but this isn’t generally respected. Too often we are left with this impression: All prayer should be high celebration, upbeat, with high energy. The more variety the better. Longer is better than shorter. Time and tiredness should never be a consideration. During prayer, nobody should ever look at a wristwatch. People at a prayer service need not be told how long the service will last. The solution to boredom and lack of energy is more variety and imagination.

No wonder we are often lack the energy to pray and want to avoid church services.

Monks have secrets worth knowing. They know that if you pray regularly boredom and lack of energy will soon begin to wear you down. The answer then is not so much new prayer forms and more variety, but rhythm, routine, and established ritual. For monks, the key to sustaining a daily life of prayer is not so much variety, novelty, and the call for higher energy, but rather a reliance on the expected, the familiar, the repetitious, the ritual, the clearly defined. What’s needed is a clearly delineated prayer form which gives you a clear durational expectancy and does not demand of you an energy that you cannot muster on a given day.

There are times of course for high celebration, for variety and novelty, for spontaneity, and for long celebrations. There are also times, and these are meant to predominate just as they do in our eating habits, for ordinary time, for low season, for prayer that respects our energy-level, work pressures, and time constraints.

It is no accident, I suspect, that more people used to attend daily church services when these were shorter, simpler, less demanding in terms of energy expenditure, and gave people attending a clear expectation as to how long they would last. The same holds true for other prayers, the office of the church and basically all common prayer. What clear, simple, and brief rituals provide is precisely prayer that depends upon something beyond our own energy. The rituals carry us, our tiredness, our lack of energy, our inattentiveness, our indifference, and even our occasional distaste. They keep us praying even when we are too tired to muster up our own energy.

There is much to be commended in stressing that prayer, particularly liturgy, should demand of us real energy, real participation, and real celebration. It is meant to be demanding, but sometimes, I fear, we misunderstand what it is asking of us and sometimes too, I think, we are working too hard at it and are not letting the rituals themselves work hard enough

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a little mantra he would sometimes use when he was preaching to a young couple on their wedding day. He would tell them: “Today you are young and very much in love and you think that your love will sustain your marriage. It won’t. But your marriage can sustain your love!”

That’s true too for prayer. We think that good intention and energy will sustain our rituals of prayer, but they can’t. Rather our rituals of prayer can sustain our good will and our energy.

by: Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

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   Nothing. That is what Peter and the others caught after fishing all night. Nothing. (Luke 5:1-11) After a long night with no sleep they are now washing their nets by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus needed a suitable place to preach to the crowds and commandeered Peter’s boat. Peter was undoubtedly tired and disappointed after a fruitless night’s work but he had a generous heart and provided Jesus with the pulpit he needed. Jesus’ command to fish again after catching nothing all night did not make much sense, and in any case the fish would have a better chance of seeing the boats and nets in the daylight. A second time we see Peter’s generosity; he goes fishing at Jesus’ request. What a reward he got. Not just one boat full of fish, but two boats full of fish, and so many fish that the nets began to tear and the boats were at the point of sinking. Jesus’ generosity has more than matched the generosity of Peter.

We can imagine that if Peter had a very successful night fishing he would not have wanted to go fishing again. Surely the fact that he caught nothing prepared him to go out again to fish. Having nothing prepared his heart to listen to what Jesus would say and carry it out. It is very often the case since then; having nothing prepares our heart to receive Jesus, and there are many types of such emptiness preparing our heart for Jesus. If our hearts are full of other things we do not have room for Jesus. When we have nothing, we have room for Jesus.

God speaks to us in our own language sometimes, for example, by means of a miraculous catch of fish. When Jesus was born, those studying the stars saw a special star in the sky. In Acts 10, Peter was hungry and God gave him a vision of all kinds of creatures commanding him to eat, to show that no person is unclean in God’s eyes. In today’s Gospel, God speaks again in our language; Jesus gave Peter the fisherman a huge catch of fish to symbolize his future ministry.

Now we see another kind of emptiness in Peter as he says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8) He recognizes his unworthiness before Christ but once again Jesus fills that emptiness, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10) Peter received a miraculous catch of fish because he had nothing but a generous willing heart. Now he receives his vocation from Jesus when he acknowledges his unworthiness. So it is okay to have nothing and be unworthy. Jesus provides more than we would have hoped and calls us despite our unworthiness. All that is necessary is the generous willingness of Peter and Jesus does the rest.

by:  Fr. Tommy Lane, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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It is interesting to read in the Bible that those   whom God    called did not always immediately say “Yes” but sometimes hesitated a great deal before finally answering God’s call. When God called Moses he objected many times to God’s call. God said to Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Ex 3:11) and Moses replied, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh…?” Then in the Book of Exodus there is a long conversation between God and Moses and several times God has to reassure Moses that he will be with him to help him but each time Moses finds some new excuse for not answering God’s call. The next excuse Moses gave God was, “but suppose they [the Hebrews] will not believe me or listen to my words, and say to me, ‘Yahweh has not appeared to you’?” (Ex 4:1). Again God reassured him but Moses found another excuse, “Please my Lord, I have never been eloquent…for I am slow and hesitant of speech.” (Ex 4:10). Again God reassured Moses but once again Moses made an excuse, “Please, my Lord, send anyone you decide to send!” (Ex 4:13) It was quite a struggle for God to get Moses to answer his call. Moses knew that it would be difficult to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and he hesitated many times when called by God but eventually he answered the call. He surrendered himself and his way of thinking to God who knows what is best.

Another great person of the Old Testament who struggled with his vocation is the prophet Jeremiah. God said to him,

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I appointed you as prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5)

But Jeremiah did not respond with faith, at first he responded with lack of faith like Moses. He said, “Lord Yahweh, I do not know how to speak, I am only a child.” (Jer 1:6) But after an interior struggle Jeremiah answered God’s call.

There are other great characters in the Old Testament who did not hesitate like Moses and Jeremiah but who responded in faith immediately to God’s call. God asked Abram [Abraham] to leave his country for a country he would show him where he would make him a great nation (Gen 12:1-3). And immediately we read, “So Abram went as Yahweh told him…” (Gen 12:4). Here there is no struggle with God, Abraham’s faith enabled him to say yes to God immediately. Another example of saying yes to God quickly is the prophet Isaiah. He saw a vision of God in the temple in Jerusalem and heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (Isa 6:8) And immediately he responded, “Here I am, send me.” (Isa 6:9) All these four great people said yes to God, Moses and Jeremiah after a struggle, and Abram and Isaiah responded quickly in faith.

Not everybody who was called in the Bible answered God’s call. In Mark 10:17-22 the rich young man turned his back on Jesus’ call. The young man had kept all the commandments since his youth and we read that Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him. Jesus asked him to do one more thing, to sell what he had and follow Jesus. But the young man’s face fell at these words of Jesus and he went away sad. He went away sad because he wanted to follow Jesus and he wanted to keep his possessions. As in the case of Moses and Jeremiah, the twin responses ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ were struggling within him. Answering God’s call held a fascination for him but it was also frightening. He wanted to have everything but that is impossible. He had to make a choice but he did not have the generosity to put Jesus before his possessions. Answering God’s call is exciting but as in every decision we make it involves saying no to other possibilities. The young man had a vocation but he freely chose not to answer it because he did not want to say no to some of the possibilities that life offered him. But in saying no to his vocation he surely lost out on greater possibilities and greater potential for happiness. We read that he went away sad. How could he be happy since he had just rejected Jesus’ call to him?

From these characters in the Bible, and there are many more stories of vocation in the Bible, we see that it takes faith and courage to answer God’s call. We also see that not everyone who was called did answer the call. This reminds us on this Sunday, Vocation Sunday, to pray for those being called by the Lord that they will have the courage and generosity to answer God’s call. Let us pray for those who are in seminary and religious houses at this time discerning if they have a vocation that the Lord will guide and bless them. Let us pray for priests and religious that the Lord will continue to bless them in their vocations. I encourage you to continue to pray for vocations throughout the year, not just today. Pray that many will say to God like Mary, “Be it done unto me according to your word.”

by: Fr. Tommy Lane, faculty member at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland

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   The world needs CHRIST …

   Christ needs YOU!

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The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM)

I N V I T E

YOUNG LADIES, 18—35 years old

What:

A DAY OF PRAYER and RECOLLECTION

When:

1st Sunday of the Month,

October 2, 2011

Time: 10:00 am—4:30 pm

Where:

Divine Master Convent

Alo Private Road, Escario Street

Cebu City

For more information, please Contact:

Sr. M. Sonia, pddm   or  Sr. Mylene, pddm

Phone number  253 2672

Email  pddmvoc.cebu@gmail.com

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A prayer the community recites every Friday, throughout the year, together with the lay faithful who comes to 6:30am Mass in our chapel is the Prayer for Priests…

Whether you’re near or far, do be one with us in supporting vocations to the Priesthood and in continually praying for Priests throughout the world.

PRAYER FOR PRIESTS

O Almighty God, our Father, look upon the face of your Son, and for love of Him who is the eternal High Priest, have pity on your priests.

Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands.

Keep them ever close to you, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

Jesus, our eternal High Priest, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for young priests; for your dying priests; and for the souls of your priests in purgatory.

But above all, I commend to you priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I assist; the priests who give me your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed me about you and your Holy Scriptures; the priests who helped and encouraged me to accept you as my Lord and Savior; and all the priests whom you sent to touch my life and those of my loved ones. Amen.

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