Fr. Mike's Reflections
Reflections by Fr. Mike Messaro, M.SS.CC., Chaplain of the National Shrine Grotto
Lent is Rewarding
Jesus was preparing his disciples for Good Friday and Easter. On March 1, Ash Wednesday, Lent will begin. What might seem, to many, like a most unpleasant, even dreaded time of the year, Lent can be our most rewarding season. If we allow ourselves into its spirit, Lent can be the time of the year that gets us back on the track that will lead us to the happiness we pursue throughout the rest of the year, often in many of the wrong ways and wrong places.
Lent is the season for prayer and self-discipline for the purpose of shaping and molding us into the
people that not only God would like us to be, but which we ourselves will be grateful to have become.
All who want as much heaven-on-earth as they can get, and all of heaven in eternity, should welcome Lent with open arms and hearts. This is what James in his letter advises as the basic disposition for making a good Lent:
"Submit to God, resist the devil and he will take flight. Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, purify your hearts...Be humbled in the sight of the Lord and he will raise you on
high.” James 4:1-10 God gives special graces for making a good Lent. Let us do all we can to make good use of them.
"The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men who will put him to death; three days after his death he will rise.” Mark 9:30
It Takes God to Make it Happen
When we begin new projects or get into a new way of life we are often full of confidence. Nothing is going to stop us from carrying it through to a successful completion. But as time passes we find ourselves losing some of the confidence. Obstacles and difficulties we did not expect start entering the picture, we begin worrying about things we had not thought of before. Doubts about our ability to continue begin discouraging us. The more we worry, the more we doubt, the more we get discouraged. What happened to all that confidence we started out with? Many people quit whatever it is they started and get into something else. Why? Because we are made in such a way that many things we just cannot handle on our own.
That is especially true when it comes to our spiritual life, its growth and perfection. We need help! No matter how hard we try we cannot make our own holiness happen. There is no spiritual practice, no daily routine that is going to make saints out of us. We must work at our holiness, but it takes God to make it happen. The letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 3:7-14) tells us that our spiritual development can only be accomplished by beginning and remaining in partnership with Christ. "We have become partners of Christ," it tells us, "if only we maintain to the end that confidence with which we began."
Our confidence can be maintained only when we place it in the right person and keep it there. Never start anything or do anything without Christ. Only he can bring about your spiritual success.
God Became Man ~ Luke 10:21-24
Do we realize how fortunate we are? The Son of God became man to save us from the eternal punishment due to our sins and we are among the minority in the world who know it and accept it as fact.
Imagine! God becoming Man, and living amongst us! He has personally experienced our joys, our pains, our hopes, our disappointments, and he found out firsthand how hard it is to resist temptations from the devil and the world. Did God not know all these things before? Isn't he all-knowing and all-wise? Of course! And as such, he knew the question would always be popping up in our minds, "How could God who is pure in Spirit possibly understand us who have bodies with feelings?" "How could God know life as we know it?" But now there is no longer any need for that question.
God became human and experienced for himself the reality of everyday human living. Jesus has shown that God understands us better than we understand ourselves. He loves us more than we love ourselves. What is there not to be happy about at Christmas time!
"Blest are the eyes that see what you see," Jesus told his disciples. "Many prophets and kings wished to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." Yes, we are most fortunate. We are among those who see, hear, and accept God becoming Man with the eyes and ears of faith.
God's Eternal Love
Some people are called hopeless romantics. They are in love with the idea of love. They invent in their minds the person of their dreams, and when someone comes along who gives them even a smidgen of special attention they look upon him, or her, as that person, to pour into that person's life all the goodness of their hearts. God has done something like that.
God is love. He has loved from all eternity. He has imagined for himself what we might call "objects" for his love. And he created them. That THEM is US! He loved us before we existed from all eternity. And when he judged the proper time to have come, he gave us life.
The light of day did not yet exist. There was no sun or moon or earth, there was not even a universe. God loved us before the first grain of sand or the first drop of water came to being. If the secret can be told, it was for us that he made them and all else besides. Because of his love for us God's heart enfolded us, cherished us, and protected us, until the time he saw best to form a body for us and breathe into it a breath that gave us life. God loves all of us, he always has, and our very existence is a sign and a proof of his love.
God wants us to accept his love and love him back. For he knows that if we do, he will be able to give us all that our hearts desire: Heaven.
Do we have anything to be thankful for this Thanksgiving? Indeed we do! All we have to do is look into the mirror and see there the reality of God's love. Have a Happy Thanksgiving Day! It's another gift to us from God.
God's Will ~ Luke 11:27-27
Jesus praises his mother, but not as the woman in the crowd praises her. The woman in the gospel was obviously an admirer of Jesus. For we find her praising his mother for producing such a special child and raising him to become such a wonderful man. "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that nursed you." However, Jesus does her one better. "Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it," he replied. Jesus praises his mother for her faith in God and for her actions that came from that faith. And he put all who imitate her up on her pedestal.
It was Mary's adhering to God's wishes that made it possible for the Son of God to come into the world as a human being; it is our adhering to the teachings of Jesus that keeps him in the world to put into practice his saving work.
When Jesus ascended into Heaven, he did not end his involvement in human history. Instead, He promised to be with his apostles and with us till the end of time. And not just like the invisible man, doing things in his own unseen body. He operates in today's world by doing things in our bodies that are visible.
Most good things will not get done unless we do them; the will and wishes of God will not happen on our planet until people believe in him and do as he asks of them. Mary did God's will and produced the savior of the world. Now we are to do God's will, and make it possible for him to do the practical things required in this century for saving people we can touch by our lives.
God Is In All ~ Luke 6:20-26
What would you consider to be the basic quality Jesus wants in all his followers? Love? Compassion? Generosity? A forgiving heart? All of these, of course. Jesus wants us to have all of these qualities which are basic to being like him. But what must underlie all these for any of them to kick in and take hold? Let me suggest. How about "Openness?"
We must be open to the world outside our own personal worlds. Our minds must be aware to lives other than our own, that we are not the be-all and end-all of everything. Our eyes must be able to see beyond our own noses, our hearts must be able to be concerned with the hearts of others; the needs, the dreams, the desires of others. The things St. Paul tells us to avoid are things that close us to the world and people outside ourselves. "Fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, lust, anger, quick temper, malice, insults, foul language, lying etc., are all things that concern ourselves. And the fruit coming from them is blindness, unconcern, me first and me only at all times.
To sin is to concern ourselves with ourselves. And when sin becomes a way of life we become closed to the world beyond our noses, to the people we are told to love. Self-concern, selfish living and sinning shuts us up within ourselves. Love for others, compassion towards others, generosity to others, and forgiveness of others becomes impossible to the person whose focus in life is self-satisfaction. Our hearts and souls must be open if we wish to become the Blessed that Jesus in the gospel is talking about. Paul is not trying to take away all the fun from our lives. He is merely trying to tell us what closes us to everybody else. SIN!
God Can Open Our Eyes ~ Matthew 11:25-27
It is not those who are wise in the things of the world who are blessed, it is those who are wise in the things of heaven. And heavenly wisdom may come to anyone regardless of age, position, or degree of education. The spiritual minded, young or old, of high intelligence (IQ) or low, those are the ones with whom God is able to communicate. That is what Jesus is referring to when he says: "Father, Lord of heaven and earth, to you I offer praise; for what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children."
People who are sincerely interested in learning the things of God, not merely out of curiosity but so they can live their lives according to his way, are open to learning from him at any time of the day through both expected and unexpected avenues of communication. God can open our eyes to the truth when we are praying, he can enlighten us while we watch television. God can instruct us in the things of heaven while we read the Bible, he can illuminate us while we are reading the newspaper. God and his wisdom can be discovered in every word that is said, in everything that is done, in all that we experience - when we truly desire him to be the center of our lives.
"Father, Lord of heaven and earth, to you I offer praise; for what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children." Let us pray that we always will remain one of those children.
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily (gates close at 5 p.m.).
Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.