Reflections
Faith is a relationship, not a set of beliefs about God but an experience of God.

Untitled 1Jesus reveals to us an image of God as Father, but he drew his image from somewhere: his faith, culture, and sacred history. In Hosea 11:1-4 we see an example of an Old Testament passage on our Father – God as Father to Israel:

When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, Sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms;
but they did not know that I cared for them. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks; I bent down to feed them.

Mark has only four references, all of which are picked up by the other Synoptics.

Luke has about a dozen references to the Father, where Matthew has over thirty. These seem to be concentrated in the “Sermon on the Mount” and other places where Jesus is teaching. Many places where Luke uses the word “God,” Matthew will use “Father.” “My Father, your Father, the Father – all these expressions are used, but Matthew appears to like the adjective, “heavenly” or “in heaven” when referring to God as Father. This title may be a way of closing the distance between us and God: it is not the Law that effects this kind of filial closeness with God, but the relationship revealed by Jesus.

John: Reading the references in John’s Gospel — which are numerous! — it occurs to me that this issue of the relationship with the Father is central to the drama of the Gospel and the entire mission of Jesus.

A Reason to Kill Jesus…

Untitled 2The drama is set in John 5:18, after the cure of the sick man at the pool in Bethesda. Here it gives the reason the Jews wanted to kill Jesus: not only the fact that he broke Sabbath observance, but that he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal to God! In case we don’t get it, this is precisely the reason given as Jesus stands before the crowd with Pilate (Jn 19:7): “We have a law that says he should be put to death because he made himself the Son of God.”

Throughout the Gospel Jesus is clear that this is not his doing; it is a gift of the Father. Some other key references from John’s Gospel include:

• “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30).
• “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (Jn 16:28).
• “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21).

This is Your Father Too!

But, then, the coup de grace: this is your Father, too!

Catholic Schools in Philadelphia have seen a revitalization in finances and quality of education thanks to the initiative of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, says a group that collaborated with him on the effort.

“While fund-raising certainly helped, the faith and wisdom of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was equally important,” the Faith in the Future foundation said. “He recognized the passion of lay leaders – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – for these schools and he empowered them to take action.”

A Collaborative Effort for our School Children

Untitled 1Archbishop Charles Chaput from Philadelphia, PA.
The archdiocese began a partnership in 2012 with the Faith in the Future to increase fundraising and new leadership in overseeing Catholic school management. “We need to have ongoing interest on the part of the donor community – not only Catholics but people who share our commitment to education – the ongoing support of the archdiocese of course, and our people and our pastors are all included,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said at the time, according to the Catholic Philly.

The foundation is now in charge of 17 high schools and four special education schools. The program started off in 2012 with nearly 13 million dollars in donations and has increased to 19.4 million in 2016. In a recent column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the group's leaders lauded Archbishop Chaput for his part in the growing success of the city's Catholic schools. Faith in the Future works to fund the school's operational deficits then reinvests the surpluses into new programs. The organization also oversees improvements to operations and market strategies to further promote enrollment.

From Gloom to Great Hope

In the beginning of 2012, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was planning on closing 44 elementary schools, four high schools, and displacing nearly 24,000 students. Among other challenges, the archdiocese felt heavy financial strains from organizational issues and abuse scandals.


Editor: Our La Salette Missionaries have been ministering for over 75 years in Myanmar and we are watching and praying for them and those they work with and for that they may attain the religious freedom and justice they deeply desire.

Mark in his Gospel for Easter Sunday talks about the anxiety of women who were going to the tomb of Jesus. The tomb was sealed with a huge stone. To see Jesus and anoint his body the women needed someone to roll down the huge stone. The women were asking among themselves: “Who will roll the stone for us?” But to their surprise, the stone was already rolled away and they saw a young man who said to them: “Christ is going before you to Galilee” – from death to life, from despair to victory over death.

Like Jesus, Myanmar was once crucified

Yes, Myanmar was once crucified. Our people were called Good Friday people. Many thought there is no resurrection. But the country has ‘moved’ from some tombs. But we need to roll down many stones. Who will roll down the stone for the people of Myanmar so that they can encounter the Christ of peace and harmony?

The Church in Myanmar works with all the people of Myanmar to roll the heavy stones and make the resurrection of hope a reality. There are some more stones to be rolled down and move towards the Good News.

Editor: This article was written in French by Fr. Pierre Liaud, M.S. (1865-1930), first published in 1897 in his book, "The Mystical Flowers of the Mountain of La Salette (Les Fleurs Mystiques de la Sainte Montagne de La Salette)". This article has been edited and expanded.

Untitled 1Fr. Pierre Liaud, M.S. (1865-1930) with his students
The mother of God chose two herders who were watching their cows on the Mountain of La Salette to be the fortunate witnesses of her merciful apparition. These children belonged to extremely poor families. They were young and they gained their daily bread in humble service. Both were profoundly ignorant of the things of God, as well as of human affairs. They did not possess that knowledge which children of their age commonly have.

In the Apparition of La Salette and later, the Blessed Virgin, however, perhaps in order to bring out the power of her Son, preferred them to all those whom riches and education and virtue and talents seemed to have prepared to receive her confidences and to communicate her august message to the world….

“Shepherd my people, Israel”

In the scriptures we hear about God’s preference in choosing shepherd to speak to God’s people. When the voice of the Lord God made itself heard by Moses in the burning bush, the future liberator of the people of Israel was shepherding his father-in-law's flock (Exodus 3:1-17).

Prayer is seeking the face of God.

Untitled 1The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”

This is what prayer is – the loving dialogue, the back and forth, the give and take of the child of God in conversation with the Father.

It is important for you to speak to God naturally and honestly, as your friend and father, talking from your heart to his heart.

The Five Movements of Lectio Divina

I also want to recommend one of the most ancient forms of Christian prayer — lectio divina, the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture as a dialogue with God. If prayer is conversation, then we need to listen to God as much as we talk to him. “When you read the Bible, God speaks to you,” St. Augustine said. “When you pray, you speak to God.”

Lectio divina turns our reading of the Scriptures into a private audience with the living God, who comes to us lovingly and speaks with us in the pages of the sacred texts. There are different approaches to lectio divina. I follow a kind of classical method, which involves five “movements” — reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation and action.

You can use this approach with any biblical text. But I recommend that, for your daily practice of lectio divina, you pray united to the Church’s liturgy, using the Gospel reading for each day.

Full Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on the Death Penalty, March 19, 2017

Untitled 1“God proved his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

On the third Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of John tells us how the Samaritan woman – having found in Jesus the “living water” she had longed for – left her jar of water by the well (John 4:28). Like this woman, the stubborn Israelites in the first reading, who are dying of thirst in the desert, have been led to a rock (Exodus 17:6).


Perhaps we can think of this rock as Christ himself, stricken and afflicted on the cross but gushing forth with life-giving water, making it possible for God’s people to cross over the barren desert of hatred, sin and death into the promised land of fullness of life.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ – let us not allow our wells to be poisoned by bitter water; let us uphold the sanctity of life and make a stand against death penalty.

We are not deaf to the cries of the victims of heinous crimes. The victims and their victimizers are both our brothers and sisters. The victim and the oppressor are both children of God. To the guilty we offer a challenge to repent and repair the harm of their sins. To the grieving victims, we offer our love, our compassion, our hope.

On the day the death penalty law was repealed by the Philippine Congress on June 24, 2006, the lights were turned on in the colosseum in Rome. History tells us how many people – among them, countless Christian martyrs – were publicly executed in that infamous arena.

We need to understand that our Christian formation will take our whole lifetime. This should come as no surprise to us, since our ultimate goal in life is none other than for each one of us to be “alter Christus,” another Christ. And can anyone dare to say that he is Christ-like enough?

Untitled 1This is what God wants us to be, since we have been created in his image and likeness. And Christ who, as the second person of the Blessed Trinity and the perfect self-image of God, is the pattern of our humanity as well as our savior and restorer of our God-like image after we spoiled our original creation through our sin.

Learning to know Christ better

We need to go to Christ. For his part, Christ is doing everything to bring us back to God from whom we come and to whom we belong. We need to spend time to know Christ better so as to love and serve him as is proper to us, being children of God.

We can be sure that that time spent with him will certainly be no waste of time. In fact, it will be the best way we can spend our time, because we would be with someone who really matters in our life.

Life and Learning Go Together

The duty to take care of formation is coterminous with life itself, which will always give us lessons. And that’s because the basics and essentials, the absolute, old and the permanent truths, which we may already know, will always have to cope and somehow need to get enriched by the incidentals in life, by the relative, innovative and changing things.

Untitled 1Consideration of racism is grounded in fundamental scriptural beliefs: equal dignity of all people, created in God’s image; and Christ’s redemption of all. The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells this out:

The equality of (people) rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: “Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design”(1).

The Moral Judgment on Racism

Moral judgments on racism, based on equality, are consistent: “any theory or form whatsoever of racism and racial discrimination is morally unacceptable”;(2) and “racism is not merely one sin among many, it is a radical evil dividing the human family...”(3).

Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story – one of his three “great parables”(4) – to answer “Who is my neighbor?” His response addresses entrenched divisions between Jew and Samaritan and sets the stage for the unity of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). This unity admits “no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex...”(5).

The Many Faces of Racism

Catholic teaching “emphasizes not only the individual conscience, but also the political, legal and economic structures...”(6). Racism is about people and about group behaviors and societal organization. Individual racism includes conscious acts, spontaneous attitudes, “the tendency to stereotype and marginalize,”(7) indifference, and “the triumph of private concern over public responsibility...”(8).

Untitled 1Original pencil drawing of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) by Peter Cataloni, hanging in home of La Salette Missionaries, Attleboro, MA
In this globally-connected world, it doesn’t seem that one person can do much to change the course of history, of countries, of cities or even of families. Our challenges are many and it’s often difficult to know where to begin.

In 1979 when Mother Teresa of Calcutta was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, many saw this as an affront to those with political power and expertise who were working hard at solving the world’s challenges to maintain or attain peace in many troubled lands.

A Simple Plan

In response to those who protested her canonization, officially proclaiming her a saint (one who now lives with God), Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of the Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency AsiaNews, said: “She didn’t have a plan to conquer the world. Her idea was to be obedient to God.”

It seems that, in comparison to the multi-national efforts at achieving world peace, Mother Teresa’s efforts were quite insignificant. Yet, in her own words, she explains in her elegant simplicity:
 
“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one.

“You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.’ So you begin... I begin.

“I picked up one person (because he was terminally ill and alone) – maybe if I didn't pick up that one person I wouldn't have picked up all the others. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less.

“Same thing for you. Same thing in your family. Same thing in the church where you go. Just begin... one, one, one.”

I Am God’s Pencil

Her approach is deceptively simple and yet quite challenging. In describing her motivation to serve the lost people of society, she explains that she simply did this for Christ: “I am nothing. He is all. I do nothing on my own. He does it. This is what I am, God's pencil. A tiny bit of pencil with which (God) writes what he likes.”

(Scriptures from the Fourth Sunday of Lent:
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-14)

Untitled 1If you have ever been questioned by people who don’t want to believe you, you have a good idea of what the man born blind went through. And so you also know what the two children who saw Our Lady of La Salette experienced.

They were first subjected to interrogation by the mayor, who did not want his town associated with anything like an apparition, and was by no means disposed to believe in it himself. He even tried to bribe Mélanie, whose family was desperately poor, to deny what she had seen and heard.

After all, who could reasonably be expected to believe that the Blessed Virgin could come to this remote place, and to such persons as these? But, as we read in the first reading, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”

Even the clergy were naturally skeptical. The last thing they wanted was to have a fraud perpetrated in the name of Our Lady. They, too, questioned the children, trying to trip them up; but, unlike the mayor, they came away convinced of two things at least: these children were not lying, nor were they remotely capable of making up such a story and such a message.

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Do you pray well my children?

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”