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On this page, you will find homilies preached by the priests who celebrate the English Mass in our church. Homilies will usually be posted a few hours after Sunday Mass. For the Homily Archive in other years, open a tab above.

The Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, Year C

Reading I: 2 Samuel 5:1-3
Responsorial: Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
Reading II: Colossians 1:12-20
Gospel: Luke 23:35-43

On today’s solemnity, we worship Jesus under the title of King. Imagine my surprise, the first time I read the Gospel for Christ the King, in Year C. How could Luke’s account of Christ’s crucifixion illustrate the universal kingship of Jesus? Jesus couldn’t do much for the other men who were crucified with him – his own hands and feet were nailed to the cross. Where is the King of the Universe in this picture? The King of the Universe — helplessly crucified between two criminals?

The two criminals give the impression of two warring spirits: One of them throws down a challenge: ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.’ His despairing question – he does not really believe that Jesus is the Christ – echoes the whole of human experience when it seems that there is no God ruling over the lives of men. So many countless millions have asked themselves, ‘Where is God in my suffering?’ ‘Why do so many horrible atrocities happen?’ ‘If God is good, and all-powerful, why doesn’t he do something to stop this?’ ‘Where is God, who reigns over the whole universe?’ And some, looking at suffering, come to the conclusion: ‘You are not the Christ.’

My brothers and sisters, we can hear the same questions echoing in our hearts when God seems to be crucified and helpless while we struggle with illness, unemployment, loneliness, broken relationships and all the evils that plague fallen mankind.

In such times, we must remember and listen carefully to the response of Jesus to the unbelieving Pontius Pilate: ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world…my kingdom is not here’ (Jn 18:36).

Jesus is pointing out to Pilate, a merely human ruler, that the kingship of God is not like our human kingship. God is powerful and mighty not in brute strength or political authority but in his humility.

In today’s Gospel, Luke shows that, at the moment when he seems defeated, Jesus is in fact accomplishing his greatest victory, because all that he wishes to do is ‘to save others. This he does, not by the majestic use of power or a dramatic manifestation of his glory, but rather through a humble giving of himself in which the mercy of God is offered to everyone in an act of overwhelming generosity’ (Sean Goan).

Today we honour a King whose greatness lies in his love for all and for his humble service of those who are the least important in the eyes of men. His crucifixion is the greatest revelation of Christ’s humble love. And this is the quality of true kingship, which is nothing but to serve.

Reading about the Crucifixion on the Solemnity of Christ the King demands that we ponder our relationship to this crucified King, because ‘Jesus does not seek servants who grovel before his throne in the hope of being granted favours; he is looking for disciples who can stand before the cross and see there their own worth and the worth of every other human being’ (Sean Goan).

It is tempting to stand on the side of the criminal who doubts Christ’s kingship, to blame God for the evils that our own sins have caused in the world. It’s a lot easier to demand, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us’, than to declare Him the King of our lives, and adore him for his immeasurable sacrifice which opens to us the possibility of being with him in heaven.

Let us remember that God’s kingdom is not of this world, so that while we live in this world, our lives may ever echo the prayer of the good thief: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Reading I: Malachi 3:19-20a
Responsorial: Psalm 98:5-6, 7-8, 9
Reading II: 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19

I don’t know if you have noticed, but it seems to be part of the Polish national character that we tend to focus on the bad side of life. So I have often heard that we live in difficult times. But what times can not be called hard or difficult?

In the Gospel today, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Undoubtedly, when his listeners heard the prediction of harsh persecution followed by disasters, fear must have filled their hearts. In fact, his prediction was fulfilled in seventy AD, when the Jews rebelled against their Roman masters: the Temple was destroyed, thousands were killed, the city was levelled and the people who survived fled in terror. Today, there are places where our Christian brothers are persecuted because of the name of Jesus. Even here in Christian Europe, we can experience hostility because of our faith.

I’d like to suggest that Christians can always expect suffering, persecution, or something that challenges our faith. This is why Christians need to be prepared at all times to be persecuted for their faith.

Jesus encourages us with the words: ‘Do not be terrified.’ But he also gives us a promise that when persecution comes, it has a purpose: ‘It will lead to your giving testimony.’

Dear Brothers and Sisters, if we belong to Christ, nothing can separate us from him. Neither trouble, nor hardship, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness nor danger, nor the sword can separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:32).

If today’s world seems to be an evil place, that is reason for you to give testimony. The bad things happening in the world should not make you feel hopeless or depressed; they should draw you closer to God. Neither political problems, nor economic or social problems, nor a hostile neighbour or employer, nor even your own relatives should be able to defeat you, because ‘[You] know whom [you] have believed’ (cf. 2 Tm 1:12).

Jesus promises us today that he will enrich us in all the graces we need in time of tribulation. It means that in confrontation with any evil, by the grace of God we will endure and even triumph.

Saint Paul suffered many hardships, beatings, poverty, hunger and persecution, but it only spurred him on to preach the Gospel. Despite his trials – or maybe we should say because of them – he was able to encourage the Christians of Philippi, saying, ‘I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me’ (Phil 4:13).

So if you feel any anxiety or suffer any kind of persecution or rejection, let your heart be calm about the future, because ‘by your perseverance you will secure your lives’ (Lk 21:19).

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Reading I: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
Responsorial: Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
Reading II: 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Gospel: Luke 20:27-38

In today’s Gospel, we hear about a dispute about the resurrection between some Sadducees and Jesus. The Sadducees and the Pharisees were both parties of Judaism, but they differed over belief in the resurrection.

Rather than talk about why they disagreed, I’d like to focus on Jesus’s answer.

He refers to Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush to show that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. By identifying himself as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’, God confirmed that all of the faithful live in his presence.

The resurrection of the dead is real; it’s true. What consequences does this reality have for our daily lives now?

If we know that we are destined for eternal life, the problems of this world take on a different significance.

If we know that we are on our way to eternal life, no illness, no defeat, no difficult relationship, no material or spiritual poverty will sway us from the path.

When we keep our eyes on our goal, those real, sometimes painful problems become milestones along the way to heaven.

The more confidence we have in this truth, the less we will fear the perils and problems of this world, because we know that ultimately, all things work to good, for those who trust in God, even if we only see this good on the day of our resurrection. When we believe in the resurrection, we know that nothing can be so broken, so corrupt, so seemingly ‘dead’ that it cannot be healed by God’s love that it cannot be restored to life.

‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ is your God. You and your life are precious to God.

So, dear brothers and sisters, strengthen your confidence, that God wants all of you — your body, your soul, your heart — to be alive, to be raised up.

Find your greatest difficulty, ‘the thorn in your flesh’ (cf. 2 Cor 12:7), and change your way of thinking from, ‘God, I have a great problem’ to, ‘Problem, I have a great God.’

Because, as St Paul said, when we are firm in our faith in the resurrection, we can be convinced that ‘neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)
Amen.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Reading I: Wisdom 11:22-12:2
Responsorial: Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
Reading II: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

When I was child, I had a tree-house. I built it with my siblings and cousins. I remember that it was wonderful to have our own secret place, high up in a tree, away from the intrusions of our parents.

Zacchaeus, come down!I think that we never really outgrow the desire to have a secret place of our own. We try to hide ourselves. We try to build a self-contained, self-sufficient life, not to escape from our pesky parents, but to hide ourselves from God.

In today’s Gospel, we read about Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in Jericho, and evidently a pretty good tree-climber. Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree in order to see the Lord pass by.

But probably to the great surprise of Zacchaeus, Jesus noticed him, came closer, looked up into the tree and addressed him by name: ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’

Imagine the scene: a high-ranking professional man up a tree. Do you ever see a respectable businessman or government official sitting in a tree in Wrocław? I don’t think so. But if a businessman did climb a tree and hide among the leaves, would anyone look up and notice him?

The Gospel tells us that Zacchaeus was short, and so he had to climb a tree to see over the heads of the crowd around Jesus. But with everyone’s eyes focused on Jesus, climbing a tree also meant that most people would not notice Zacchaeus.

We have to remember that in the eyes of society, Zacchaeus was a public sinner. As a tax-collector for the Romans, he was seen as a collaborator with the occupying enemy. Moreover, the tax system allowed tax collectors to make a personal profit by demanding more than people owed in taxes. So his fellow Jews considered Zacchaeus to be both a traitor and an extortionist. When we read that Zacchaeus was ‘a chief tax collector,’ we should understand that, to mean ‘a very great sinner.’

When we understand his position in Jewish society, Zacchaeus climbing the tree takes on more significance. He’s a bit like a child who wants to hide from his parents by climbing into a tree, above his parents’ heads. As a collaborator with the ruling elite, and a wealthy man, Zacchaeus is revealed as someone who looks for the safety and security of a rich, full, life. But it is a life that is far from God and separated from his fellowman. Like a fractious and rebellious child who escapes to a tree-house, Zacchaeus must have thought that he could live in isolation
from both God and society.

But Jesus literally calls him out: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”

There are some questions implicit in Jesus’s request: ‘Where do you live – in a tree? I don’t think so. Where is your house? What is your true home?’

Jesus came to ‘seek and save what was lost,’ and his encounter with Zacchaeus echoes God’s encounter with Adam and Eve when they sinned and tried to conceal themselves among the trees in the garden. But God called them out of hiding, asking, ‘Where are you?’ (Gn 3:9).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, God is still seeking us; he calls to each of us, ‘Where are you? Come out of hiding and let us go together to your true home.’

We have many reasons for hiding out from God. Maybe because of a sinful relationship, poor choices or bad habits we have abandoned him, and we don’t know how to return. Maybe in our childish pride, we seek a kind of happiness that has as much in common with true happiness as a tree-house has with a real home.

But learn from the story of Zaccheus: Jesus didn’t demand that Zaccheus change his life, because from Jesus’s perspective, ‘everything and everyone is holy.’ However, when we use things incorrectly and with evil intentions, we profane what is holy, and reduce people and things to an unholy level (cf. Prior Christian Leisy, OSB).

Jesus is not out to reproach you for your sins, weakness or bad choices. He simply wants to meet you where you are, and lead you home to where you truly belong.

So if you find a little Zacchaeus in your life; if you are looking for God secretly; if you want to change your life, but you do not know how, today’s gospel reading is especially for you.

Just ask yourself if there is any area in your life that you want to hide, anything that makes you want to isolate yourself from others and hide out from God.

If you have lost your way back home, listen and trust in the words of our Lord: ‘The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost’ (Lk 19:10). Come out quickly from your hiding place, and receive him with joy.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
Responsorial: Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23
Reading II: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14

There are two people in today’s parable. Both of them went up to the temple area to pray, to stand before the face of God.

All of us here do the same. But note that when the Pharisee went to the temple, he didn’t really pray.

Likewise for us, it’s possible to come to church, to take time for prayer, but not to meet God.

The two figures in today’s Gospel, the Pharisee and the tax collector, can be interpreted as two warring spirits within us. We want to pray, but something prevents us from real prayer.

So let’s ask ourselves what interferes with our prayer. And let’s try to find some practical ways to make sure that we pray both with our lips and with our hearts – but most importantly, with our hearts.

One of the benefits of celebrating Mass in English is that I have to read the English translation of Scripture texts I have heard or read many times in Polish. Reading in a different language opens my eyes to deeper levels of meaning in God’s word.

For example, I noticed that “The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself”.

He was simply talking to himself, not to God. This is not a dialogue, but a monologue. I had an experience like this myself, when I was afraid to tell God everything I should reveal to him, while being open to hearing things from God that I might not want to hear. So I simply prayed for the intentions that I wanted. Today I know that it would be better to ask God to speak to me, and reveal how he sees me and my situation.

So if in your prayer you find problems and people that you do not even want to mention, be on guard that you are not simply talking to yourself.

We often forget to thank God for his goodness to us. So the Pharisee began on the right track when he said, ‘O God, I thank you.’ But he immediately derails into self-satisfied conceit. He does not praise God the Father, the giver of all good gifts. He praises himself: ‘Thank you, that I’m so much better than everyone else around me.’ This kind of ‘prayer’ is simply using God to express one’s own pride – the first and most deadly of the cardinal sins, the sin of Satan.

Saint Paul corrected the Corinthians for exactly this fault: “What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor 4:7)

Even if, in our own opinion, it seems that we are better than other people, that does not mean that our superiority is something we have achieved by ourselves. Rather than thinking about how much better we are than other people, it would be better to stand in front of a mirror and repeat the words of St Francis: “What a man is before God, that he is, and nothing more.”

In the Gospel, we heard the Pharisee say, “I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.” Maybe you’ve heard some of these modern equivalents to the Pharisee’s boast:

“I was an altar boy when I was in school.”
“I have been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.”
“I do not eat meat on Friday.”
“I have three copies of the Bible at home.”
“I go to confession regularly — once a year.”

When I hear such remarks, I want to ask, “Yes, but are those things the essence of your faith? Is that all that God wants for your life?”

Telling ourselves about our “good deeds” or our pious practices is just soothing our consciences and assuring ourselves that we are “good enough.”

Obviously, the prayer of the tax collector is just the opposite of the prideful Pharisee. He begins his prayer with the same words: “O God.” But his prayer is less elaborate than the Pharisee’s because he brings to God the only thing that is truly his own: his sins. Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector has only one thing to offer in his own self-defence: his humility. And that is enough for God, because God “hears the cry of the poor.”

We should imitate the tax-collector every time we stand before God. The first thing we should do is acknowledge that we are sinners, that we are weak.

We need to remember that ultimately, we’ve got nothing to be proud of. This is the key to real prayer, and it is accessible to all of us.

In a few minutes, we will kneel before God, present in the Eucharist. It depends on us if we meet Him in our prayer at that moment. We can kneel in front of Him like the Pharisee or the tax collector. Do not be afraid of what will happen if you go before God and confess your sin and weakness, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Exodus 17:8-13
Responsorial: Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Reading II: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
Gospel: Luke 18:1-8

When I was in seminary, our spiritual director gave a conference in which he asked us to imagine what the world would be like if everyone prayed all the time – or at the same time – ‘thy kingdom come!’ He said that if we all prayed this way, we could hasten the day when Jesus comes again in glory.

‘Thy kingdom come!’ This is the essence of the Lord’s Prayer.

Human beings cannot by themselves bring about God’s kingdom in this world. We can only receive it. We receive it as the fruit of our prayer.

Today, we heard Jesus say that we should ‘pray always, without becoming weary.’ This means that prayer should suffuse our whole lives.

Often when I hear confessions, people tell me about their problems with prayer. They are discouraged by a feeling that their prayer is not good enough. The wonder if it makes any sense to keep telling God what they need, over and over again.

In this light, the story of the widow and the unjust judge gives us much to think about. The parable teaches us some important points about what it means to ‘pray always,’ and how prayer can bring the peace of God’s kingdom into your heart.

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that when it comes to prayer, we are all like the widow. That is, we need to accept the truth about ourselves: that we are not all-powerful; that many things are out of our control. Until we accept that our lives are entirely in God’s hands, we cannot enter into real prayer. Then, when we are in trouble, we will be comforted in knowing that ultimately, everything is in God’s hands. In fact, the more weak and powerless we feel, the more powerful our prayer is.

Another thing we notice in the parable is that the widow kept bothering the judge. This shows us that every moment of our life is a good time for prayer, to talk to God about what we need, to entrust ourselves to God, to confide our fears to him, to share our happiness with him. We can pray in our thoughts, in a single sentence or a sigh of helplessness — in any time of the day or the night, just like the widow. But our prayer does not have to be confined to words. Our daily tasks and duties can be a kind of prayer, according to the well-known verse, ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ You can pray on your way to work, walking through a city park, enjoying the autumn colours, or while preparing a meal. How? By intentionally offering everything you do for the greater glory of God.

The most important lesson from today’s Gospel is not to give up on prayer. The most important gift that prayer brings to our lives is not the fulfilment of our wishes, but the very fact that we can pray, that God allows us to come into closer communion with him. Every prayer enlarges our hearts to receive greater grace than we expect.

It is also a good exercise in humility to ask others to pray for us. In doing so, we acknowledge that only God can help us. We have an image of this help in the first reading, when Aaron and Hur supported Moses’s hands. We can also “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

Today Jesus encourages us to pray and not to give up; to believe in the power of our prayer — constant, humble prayer — prayer that can bring more into our lives than we can imagine; prayer that brings the kingdom of heaven on earth.

We can pray with confidence, because we pray to the One, “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph 3:20-21).

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Exodus 17:8-13
Responsorial: Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Reading II: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
Gospel: Luke 18:1-8

When I was in seminary, our spiritual director gave a conference in which he asked us to imagine what the world would be like if everyone prayed all the time – or at the same time – ‘thy kingdom come!’ He said that if we all prayed this way, we could hasten the day when Jesus comes again in glory.

‘Thy kingdom come!’ This is the essence of the Lord’s Prayer.

Human beings cannot by themselves bring about God’s kingdom in this world. We can only receive it. We receive it as the fruit of our prayer.

Today, we heard Jesus say that we should ‘pray always, without becoming weary.’ This means that prayer should suffuse our whole lives.

Often when I hear confessions, people tell me about their problems with prayer. They are discouraged by a feeling that their prayer is not good enough. The wonder if it makes any sense to keep telling God what they need, over and over again.

In this light, the story of the widow and the unjust judge gives us much to think about. The parable teaches us some important points about what it means to ‘pray always,’ and how prayer can bring the peace of God’s kingdom into your heart.

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that when it comes to prayer, we are all like the widow. That is, we need to accept the truth about ourselves: that we are not all-powerful; that many things are out of our control. Until we accept that our lives are entirely in God’s hands, we cannot enter into real prayer. Then, when we are in trouble, we will be comforted in knowing that ultimately, everything is in God’s hands. In fact, the more weak and powerless we feel, the more powerful our prayer is.

Another thing we notice in the parable is that the widow kept bothering the judge. This shows us that every moment of our life is a good time for prayer, to talk to God about what we need, to entrust ourselves to God, to confide our fears to him, to share our happiness with him. We can pray in our thoughts, in a single sentence or a sigh of helplessness — in any time of the day or the night, just like the widow. But our prayer does not have to be confined to words. Our daily tasks and duties can be a kind of prayer, according to the well-known verse, ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ You can pray on your way to work, walking through a city park, enjoying the autumn colours, or while preparing a meal. How? By intentionally offering everything you do for the greater glory of God.

The most important lesson from today’s Gospel is not to give up on prayer. The most important gift that prayer brings to our lives is not the fulfilment of our wishes, but the very fact that we can pray, that God allows us to come into closer communion with him. Every prayer enlarges our hearts to receive greater grace than we expect.

It is also a good exercise in humility to ask others to pray for us. In doing so, we acknowledge that only God can help us. We have an image of this help in the first reading, when Aaron and Hur supported Moses’s hands. We can also “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

Today Jesus encourages us to pray and not to give up; to believe in the power of our prayer — constant, humble prayer — prayer that can bring more into our lives than we can imagine; prayer that brings the kingdom of heaven on earth.

We can pray with confidence, because we pray to the One, “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph 3:20-21).

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: 2 Kings 5:14-17
Responsorial: Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Reading II: 2 Timothy 2:8-13
Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

‘As Jesus continued his journey…’

‘As they were going they were cleansed.’

Jesus is still on His way to Jerusalem. And we are travelling together with Him.

Trying to find ourselves in today’s Gospel reading is not difficult, because there is only Jesus and ten lepers.

And yes, we are the lepers because of the sins we have committed.

Each of us has a kind of leprosy in our life. It can be sickness, rejection, addiction, anxiety, guilt or shame. It is something we would like to hide, but that is impossible. It’s something that makes you feel ashamed. It separates you from others. It makes you feel worse than other people.

We have just heard in the Gospel that ten lepers asked Jesus for healing and all ten of them were healed.

But note one detail: they were cleansed of their leprosy on the way.

We, too, can be cleansed of the consequences of sin and the leprosy of shame as we struggle to obey God’s commandments.

God wants us to keep moving, to keep on the path, to follow after him, even though we are not yet completely cleansed.

Sometimes people excuse themselves by thinking, ‘I will be a Christian and follow Jesus after I get rid of my sins, weaknesses and problems. I need to be holy to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.’

But that’s not what Jesus told the lepers. He told them, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ The priests were in Jerusalem, the Holy City. How could lepers, who were forbidden to mix with crowds, confidently walk into Jerusalem and approach the priests in the Temple?

And yet Jesus told them to go, and they obeyed him.

So if you feel that you are not good enough to pray, to attend Mass or even go to confession because you are such a sinner, too full of the leprosy of shame and weakness; if you are afraid that the priest or other people in church will reject you, in fact, the opposite is true.

Jesus does not want you to suffer in silence and isolation. He wants you to step out in faith, and show yourself to other people.

‘Go and show yourselves to the priests’ means ‘Do not isolate yourself in your problems, your pain, or your shame. Let someone help you; let someone care for you. Open yourself to healing and freedom.’

In the privacy and safety of the confessional, Jesus-the-healer waits in his priest. There we can approach Jesus for healing, showing him our leprosy, and the pain and suffering that it gives us.

It is a very striking thing that the healing of the lepers took place ‘on the way.’ It was a process; but the process was invisible to the lepers. They only saw the beginning – their sores and pain – and the end – perfect healing.

Jesus often works this way in our lives. Sometimes we are looking for divine intervention in a sudden, dramatic way. But God prefers to help us in a hidden manner; he heals us so gently and tenderly that we don’t even feel or notice the process. We can look back and reflect on how many of our requests and needs were filled ‘on the way’ in our lives, and we may not have noticed our prayers being answered because it took longer than we expected. And like nine of the lepers who were healed, we may have never stopped to thank God for his goodness.

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to ask you what was more important in the healing of the ten lepers: Was it restored health, dignity and freedom? Or was it the gift of faith?

Ten lepers were healed and could return to normal lives in human society. But only one ‘returned to give thanks to God.’ This should help us understand those times in our lives when getting what we ask from God would not be good for us, would be an obstacle to our faith.

God can do anything, but not everything that we ask of him will help us to gain salvation.

When we take an honest look at ourselves and see the leprosy of shame, it means that we are in need of God’s help, his mercy. We have to admit that we are in need of healing.

This need of healing is an invitation to follow Christ, to enter onto the path that he walked, to take up your cross. Along the way, perhaps when you are not even aware of it, God will give you the healing that you ask for.

But getting favours from God is not the way to salvation. Faith is what leads us to salvation.

Today, let us look back over the course of our lives and look for the ways God has already healed us, freed us from sins, and cleansed us from our shame. Let us turn to him and glorify him, fall at his feet and thank him, so that he may one day say to us, ‘Your faith has saved you.’

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
Responsorial: Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Gospel: Luke 17:5-10

Today’s Gospel has personal meaning for me. To tell the truth, when I was ordained in May, I had no idea that my first assignment would be to this parish in Wrocław. Moreover, I never suspected that I would be responsible for the Pastoral Centre, leading the charismatic renewal group in the parish, and teaching in middle school. If it had been up to me, I would have made completely different choices.

But now I am sure that all of this is God’s plan for me. Through these things, God is opening my heart to greater faith and trust, because nothing is how I expected it would be. Accepting God’s plan is the best way to get closer to Him.

So when I read the Apostles request to Jesus – Increase our faith – I breathed a sigh of relief: I’m not the only one who needs more faith. And now you, too, can rest easy, knowing that even priests can struggle with doubts.

The Apostle’s request makes me stop and consider how often I pray for greater trust in God. I prefer to pray for practical help to cope with my duties at school and in my ministry, to help someone in confession, to interest my pupils in their lessons, to find enough time for prayer and exercise.

But in the midst of these practical problems, I often forget to pray to open my heart for deeper faith, rather than just to solve a particular problem. I forget that all those challenges can be gifts from God to help me make progress in my spiritual life.

My Brothers and Sisters, I suppose you have an endless list of things to do, and problems to solve. But stop and ask yourself whether all those tasks and problems are not really an opportunity for you to get something — deeper faith.

So whatever you are doing and wherever you are, keep praying: Increase my faith, Lord! Increase it.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Responsorial: Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
Reading II: 1 Timothy 6:11-16
Gospel: Luke 16:19-31

In last week’s Gospel, we heard how we should use material things to gain the kingdom of Heaven.

In today’s gospel we have a continuation of the readings of last Sunday. Once more Jesus does not condemn the rich for being rich, but he wants to teach us how to use possessions in order to be saved. And, moreover, in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, he shows us that it’s not what we have, but what we do — our acts of love — that count most in God’s judgment.

This parable is a kind of warning against losing our eternal perspective. Lazarus and the Rich Man saw each other every day, but the rich man was so self-involved, that he never paid attention to Lazarus sitting on his doorstep. He dined sumptuously each day, but never noticed that Lazarus was starving.

It is interesting to note that in contrast to Lazarus, whose name means, ‘God has helped,’ the rich man is not named. He is just — ‘the rich man.’ This detail shows us how we can become so identified with our wealth, our possessions, so that our true identity as children of God is effaced. The rich man’s fault was his selfishness, which made him blind to the needs — and even the existence — of his brothers.

So let’s follow the parable to the end and shift our perspective, to the perspective of Lazarus resting with Abraham. When we take this perspective, our brotherly love will make us more perceptive of the needs of our neighbour. From the perspective of heaven, we see the limits of this world, and that it is more important to do good, than to be anxious or obsessed with what we wear and what we eat.

The Christian, who knows that this life is short and that heaven is eternal, will be eager to ‘fight the good fight for the faith…until the appearing of the Lord’ (1 Tm 6:12a, 14b).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, if you keep your thoughts trained on heaven, your eyes will be open to what God wants you to do now.

Józef Mehoffer , Station II: Jesus takes up his Cross Franciscan Basilica, Kraków

Józef Mehoffer , Station II: Jesus takes up his Cross
Franciscan Basilica, Kraków

In our Franciscan Basilica in Cracow we have a chapel with the Stations of the Cross. There are beautiful paintings of the Passion of Jesus. In one of them, Jesus is carrying his Cross, surrounded by hostile crowds of well-dressed people. At the bottom of the image, the artist shows a dog licking Jesus’s wounds. Only the dog recognizes his Creator and the Redeemer of the world.

This painting gives us a hint that in the Lazarus ‘lying at our doors,’ — in our families, streets, and towns – Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is hidden. Blessed are those who see with the eyes of faith, recognize the suffering Lord in others, and help them. It is the surest way to make our way to heaven, where ‘”what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Cor 2:9).
Amen.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Amos 8:4-7
Responsorial: Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
Reading II: 1 Timothy 2: 1-8
Gospel: Luke 16:1-13

Last week, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we heard what God is like. He is a merciful Father even to those who take advantage of his generosity and squander his gifts, provided that they repent and return to him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us how we can be good stewards of the gifts that God has given to us.

The Parable of the Unjust Steward can be a bit confusing, since on the face of it Jesus appears to be commending dishonest behaviour. We can ask ourselves how Jesus could possibly hold up that steward as an example for his followers.

But our first impression of the parable is misleading. Jesus did not advocate dishonesty or fraud. What Jesus is doing here is, showing us how clever and creative people can be in working for material gain, while we are often lazy and lack initiative when it comes to seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (cf. Mt 6:33).

The key to today’s reading is faithfulness: faithful service to God as opposed to slavery to the goods of this world.

Jesus is not suggesting that those who love God should not possess any worldly goods. It is a false notion among some Christians that renouncing all material possessions is the best way to get to heaven. But this is a false idea, because Jesus never taught that only the poor would reach heaven. Simply not having material goods is not a guarantee of holiness.

We are physical beings, living in a physical world, which God created and called ‘good.’ So we need to know how to use material things prudently and properly.

But we are also spiritual beings, destined for eternal life with God, and so we also need to know how to be clever in our pursuit of holiness and eternal life.

Looked at this way, God’s gifts of material goods are a means to a heavenly end. We need material things to maintain our physical bodies, but we need them more, in order to do good. This approach does not exclude being rich or materially comfortable. But it does teach us how to keep a godly balance between having things and using things.

I do not wear glasses, but I don’t need glasses to notice a kind of farsightedness that, in my opinion, twenty-first-century Christians seem to lack. When we are concerned about the good of the Church, we seem to prefer to see tangible results – something we can measure or count. We rejoice at the consecration of a new church or the dedication of a new shrine. But it seems that in many parishes, there is little concern for growing in faith or living an active, devout Christian life. We work hard to pass laws that prohibit activities the Gospel forbids, because that is easier than forming the consciences of the faithful to choose right, and avoid evil. It’s easier to see that a law has been passed or a church has been built, than to measure the holiness of the souls in the congregation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I challenge you today to re-assess the material goods – as well as your talents and gifts – that have been entrusted to you by the grace of God.

Do you look at them as things that you have, or as things that you can use for the good of others? The dishonest steward in today’s Gospel sought to gain the friendship of his fellowmen, and to be welcome in their homes when he was expelled from his master’s house.

How can you use God’s gifts to you in friendship with him so that you will be welcome in his heavenly kingdom?

St Francis was fond of quoting the Letter to Galatians as encouragement to his friars: ‘Brothers, therefore, while we have time, let us do good to all men…’ (Gal 6:10).

I would ask you to reflect today on the ‘opportunities’ that God has put in your life – material goods, talents, free time, personal qualities – and ask God to show you how to use those goods to do good to others.

Amen.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Responsorial: Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
Reading II: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15:1-32

I don’t know about you, but I’m not on a diet. So far, I don’t need to.

Probably Jesus was not on a diet, either. But when we pay attention to the meals described in the Gospel of Luke, we can see that Jesus did have a particular dietary habit. It’s not to do with what he ate, or when he ate, or how he ate. It’s to do with who he decided to eat with.

He consciously chose to eat meals with socially unacceptable people – sinners. We see this habit again at the beginning of today’s Gospel: ‘Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”’

And Jesus, knowing what was in their hearts, told them three parables with one theme. In each parable, that which was lost is found, giving cause for great joy.

And so we hear about the one lost sheep among a hundred; the one lost coin among ten; and the one lost son out of two.

You are all no doubt very familiar with these parables. But today I would like to ask you, who do you think is the audience for these parables? Is it the sinners or the righteous? The publicans and prostitutes? Or the Pharisees and scribes?

This triptych of parables speak of conversion, but what if the conversion that Jesus is aiming at is not the conversion of the sinner to righteousness, but a conversion from self righteousness to true righteousness — the self-righteous, who have still not taken their place at the table of mercy; the self-righteous, who judge others, and consider them to be the sinners.

For in rejecting the so-called ‘unrighteous,’ they also reject the Father, who loves all his children unconditionally.

And so those who think they have a right to salvation — a personal invitation to the heavenly banquet — are excluded. And those who feel their unworthiness to approach the banquet accept God’s mercy as a gift.

And what about us? Have we already taken our seat at the table of mercy with Jesus and our brothers?

Or maybe we’re more like the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal. Maybe there are people in our lives whom we would rather exclude from the table of God’s mercy: because they have a different world-view; because they have different political ideas; because they are not believers; because of the bad things they have done to us; because they are public sinners; because in the eyes of the world, they are not important.

As a Pole, it makes me sad to look around and see how divided people are in this country, especially when I reflect that the majority of Poles are Christians.

If there is anyone in our life whom we think should not get into heaven, it means we are like the Pharisees. It means we are the elder son in the story of the Merciful Father: we offend both our brother and our heavenly Father, when we stand aside and refuse to rejoice over the return of a lost brother.

Today’s parable ends with the Merciful Father’s invitation to his righteous son: ‘we must celebrate and rejoice! (Lk 15:32). This is God’s invitation to us, to join in his infinite love for each of his children, and to accept his love in your own life. Sinners like the Prodigal Son understood this invitation: they went rejoicing to the feast with the Merciful Father. The self-righteous elder son should do the same.

And if we are truly righteous, as the Older Son thought he was, we too, will enter into the Father’s joy.

The lesson is simple: ‘all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rm 3:23). So come in and take your place at the table with Jesus, where both you and your brother can rejoice in his mercy.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Wisdom 9:13-18b
Responsorial: Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17
Reading II: Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Gospel: Luke 14:25-33

In last week’s reading, Jesus told the crowd that attendance at the heavenly banquet depends upon an invitation from God, and God invites those who recognize their lowliness and their need of salvation.

In today’s Gospel Jesus demands total dedication from His disciples and also from us. Words about hating our relatives may sound controversial or confusing, but they do not mean abandoning or ignoring your family, but loving them less than you love God.

We usually care about our loved ones. It is natural.

But there is sometimes a danger of abandoning your relationship with God for the sake of human love or for the sake of what we call human love.

For me, the commandment to love God and neighbour is like a knot in the cord of my Franciscan habit. It cannot be untied and it should not be, because love of God and love of neighbor are not in contradiction, but rather, are inextricably bound up together.

St John wrote: for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 Jn 4:20).

The sixth-century Christian monk Dorotheus of Gaza gave a kind of rule that can be helpful in loving both God and neighbour correctly:

Imagine that the world is a circle, that God is the center, and that the radii are the different ways human beings live. When those who wish to come closer to God walk towards the center of the circle, they come closer to one another at the same time as to God. The closer they come to God, the closer they come to one another. And the closer they come to one another, the closer they come to God (Różne pouczenia pożyteczne dla duszy, VI).

By this correlation we can easily check at least two things in our lives.

Firstly, if love between people is true and pure, then they will be coming closer to God because of their love. This is wisdom worth pondering by engaged and married couples.

Secondly, we can tell if our prayers are true and pure. We may frequently address God in prayer, but if our prayer does not bear fruit in greater love for our fellowman, something is wrong with our prayer.

The true disciple of Jesus does indeed love God more than any mere human. And he loves his neighbours to grow closer to God. These two – love of God and love of neighbour – are a knot that can never be unbound.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Responsorial: Psalm 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
Reading II: Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14

The parable that Jesus told in today’s Gospel, about refusing to take the seat of honor at a banquet inspires me to speak to you today about humility.

To begin, it’s useful to consider what humility is not. Humility is not an inferiority complex or a negative self-image. A humble person does not deny his real talents. That would be a lie. Humility also doesn’t mean hiding our talents. Our Lord warned us against wasting our gifts in the Parable of the Talents, which was read in the Gospel at Mass yesterday.

Moreover, humility does not mean that we let other people walk all over us. In our relations with others, we should be free to say what we think, and express our needs; we should also be able to give and receive fraternal correction which is an essential part of true love.

We see this last point in today’s Gospel. Jesus went to dine at the home of a leading Pharisee and he addressed his parable to them to convert their hearts. He didn’t care about political correctness or ‘being nice’; he wanted to heal the Pharisees’ sickness of self-righteousness. So being humble doesn’t mean always holding one’s peace. It means being true, even if speaking the truth risks alienation from individuals or groups.

This commitment to truth begins to answer the question of what humility really is. Humility is rooted in truth. It is true that we are weak and sinful human beings. In preparing the homily for last Sunday, I discovered that the word ‘humility’ comes from the Latin word ‘humus,’ which means ‘soil.’ Being humble, then, has a sense of being close to the ground, or even being ‘of the soil.’ But that soil from which we come has been ‘inspirited’ with God’s grace. Although we are humble creatures, we are also gifted, graced and unique. We are – each of us – unrepeatable gifts of God. Being made in the image and likeness of God, we have an inner core of goodness that nothing can destroy. God loves each one of us – each of you – with an unconditional love that we can neither merit nor earn.

Worldly wisdom has given humility a bad name, so why should we want to embrace this virtue?

Because we are Christians, and humility is the essential quality of Our Lord. The seventh-century Orthodox saint Isaac the Syrian called humility ‘the beauty of the Divinity.’ In the Incarnation of Christ, God in his humility took our human form. And in this way, our human humility is raised to the humility of God.

Moreover, humility is the great power in our spiritual life. It is a power that we sometimes forget. Around the year six-hundred, Saint John Climacus wrote a treatise called The Ladder of Divine Ascent. This work describes the soul’s ascent to heaven as 30 rungs on a ladder. In step twenty-five, St John speaks of humility using the image of a Valley: ‘This valley is a soul low and humble among the mountains, that is, it is filled with labours and virtues, and always remains lowly and stead-fast. David did not say, ‘I have fasted’, ‘I have kept vigil’, or ‘I have lain on the bare earth’, but ‘I humbled myself, and soon the Lord saved me’ (XXV, 14).

When I first read those words, they surprised me. I had never realized before that humility is the best means of spiritual development. I didn’t realize that what I needed was no more and no less than finding the truth about myself and accepting my true condition. Sometimes we want to advance spiritually by saying more prayers and doing more good deeds, without first grounding ourselves in humility. And yet this principle is so simple!

Today’s parable is not a lesson in good manners, but a lesson in the difference between God’s ways and our ways. Today’s parable is an echo of the Magnificat, the Blessed Virgin’s song of praise found in Luke’s Gospel: ‘[God] has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.’

Despite the lesson of today’s parable, we may still resist taking the lowest place. But what if the lowest place, is the place that God himself has chosen? For ‘being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.’ For this reason: ‘everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Isaiah 66:18-21
Responsorial: Psalm 117:1, 2
Reading II: Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

At the beginning of Advent last year, we began liturgical Year C, in which we read the Gospel of St Luke at Sunday Mass. The Gospel of Luke depicts Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. The first verse of today’s Gospel sums up that journey: Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.

‘Making his way to Jerusalem.’ In this ‘travelogue,’ the evangelist invites us to discover Jesus on the path to fulfilling his Father’s will.

As the Son of God, Jesus has only one destination: the Holy City. This means that he has only one desire: ‘to do the will of [the Father] who sent him, and to finish [the Father’s] work’ (Jn 4:34).

Jesus expressly outlines this work a few verses after the end of today’s Gospel reading, when he says: ‘I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem’ (Lk 13:33).

Our human condition can be described as the process of making our way through life. For Jesus’s disciples then and now, life is either a road to the heavenly Jerusalem or away from the heavenly Jerusalem. There are no other options; no alternative paths.

Why?

Because the direction we take in life is a matter of choosing whether or not to fulfil God’s will in our lives.

Jesus’s entire life was a journey back to his heavenly Father and he made our choice in life very clear: If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Lk 9:23).

Jesus tells us that as we follow him to the heavenly Jerusalem, we will encounter a gate.

What is this ‘narrow gate’ through which we must strive to enter?

Jesus Himself is that gate, because it is only through him that anyone can be saved.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he met people who were leaving the Holy City behind. In a similar way, Jesus is always moving toward us who, by our sins, have abandoned God.

At some point, everyone will encounter that Gate; everyone will be offered a chance to pass through that Gate; especially the people who are in most need of God’s mercy.

If you think you don’t need help, healing, salvation, the narrow gate is not for you, because you do not realize and admit that you need Jesus.

False self-confidence and self-righteousness shut you out from the promise of salvation.
In chapter 4 of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming a year of jubilee. He declared to the people that Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled in himself. This was the beginning of his public teaching as well as the start of his journey to Jerusalem.

A year of jubilee is a year of God’s mercy. It is an extraordinary year. Why? Because in His Son, Jesus Christ, God the Father inaugurated a jubilee of mercy that will never end.

Jesus is the narrow gate. But why is the gate of Divine Mercy difficult to pass through. Why is the great gate of mercy described as ‘narrow’. Maybe because both I and the demands of my ego cannot pass through it together.

The key to the gate of salvation is humility. To possess this key, we must first admit our sins.

The Russian Orthodox Saint Silouan, once struggled greatly with demons. In his struggle, God spoke to his heart, saying, ‘Keep your mind in hell and despair not.’ This message means that we should always be aware of our sins, but we should not fall into despair, but always depend on God’s mercy. The person who does not try to excuse himself for his sins will find it easier to pass through the gate of mercy than the person who is carrying the baggage of self-justification.

Given our tendency to make excuses for ourselves, we might well ask today, “Will only a few people be saved?”

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the first step to passing through the gate of mercy is repentance Only God has the power to save! On our path to the heavenly kingdom, we should not dwell on our victories but constantly acknowledge our weakness and our need of conversion to God. We can take encouragement from Saint Paul, who said, ‘I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor 12:10).

Keep this in mind when you examine your conscience and when you approach the confessional. Every time we come into church we approach the gate of mercy. We must approach this gate, again and again, because, as the Gate of Mercy Himself declared, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Mt 9:12-13).

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Reading I: Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Responsorial: Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 15:20-27
Gospel: Luke 1:39-56

Today, on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I ask God to bless you all through Mary’s intercession.

The Catholic Church preserves the truth about God through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As Catholics, we also speak of dogmas, doctrines and infallible statements. These terms are ways of talking about different truths about God that we believe as Catholics.

Dogmas are beliefs that are revealed in written scripture or handed down by word of mouth, through sacred tradition. The story of Mary being taken up into heaven, rather than her body being placed in a tomb, is not recorded in Scripture. It is a belief that has been handed down to us from the first Christians, by word of mouth. It is part of Sacred Tradition.

Some Christians reject the whole idea of Sacred Tradition, and insist that we can only believe what is written down in the Bible. But which came first – the Bible or the Church? Until the fourth century, the Church followed the Lord’s command to ‘preach the Gospel,’ by the spoken word. The Gospel of Mark was not written until thirty-five years after Jesus died, while the Church came into being on the first Pentecost. So the Church came first. The Gospel of John tells us that not everything that early Christians knew and believed about Jesus can be found in Scripture. John’s Gospel ends with the testimony that

“There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described…, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Saint Paul also taught, “brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours” (2 Thes 2:15). These ‘oral statements,’ passed on before the New Testament was written, are the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church. From the beginning of the Church, Christians believed that Mary’s body was taken up into heaven, and did not decay in a tomb. This makes sense, because Mary was free from sin and her body gave flesh to the body of Christ. Pope Pius the Twelfth formally defined this truth as doctrine in 1950.

I once heard a story about a parish priest. He had a parishioner who lived a very hard life. The parishioner didn’t have a job or a family. He often went to the priest for help. The priest gladly helped the poor man, and they became friendly. Over time, the man relied more and more on the priest. One day the police called the priest. They had found the man drunk, and sleeping in the street. All he had in his pocket was the priest’s phone number. So the priest was called upon to take care of the drunken man. The priest was happy to do it, because he felt that he was the man’s protector, and that little by little, he might be able to lead the man to a better life. That man could live in trust that at least the priest would not abandon him.

When we look back on our lives, we can feel like we have been wayfarers in this world. We have needed material and spiritual help. As we make our way through life, we can depend on Mary like that man depended on the priest.

Loving the Mother of Jesus and depending on her is not something theoretical. If we hold fast to Mary when we have troubles, she will never reject us. Trusting in Mary is not something we learn like a theory or a subject in school. Even if someone has a doctorate in Marian theology, that doesn’t mean that he has the same faith and trust as an old lady who pours out her heart to Mary in prayer. One memory of Mary’s loving intercession in our time of need is worth more than many theories about Mary.

When we love our Blessed Mother, we don’t need theories or logic. It is simple. We just love her like a mother, and depend on her as a child does. We can be familiar with her, and call her ‘mama’ or ‘mom’ as a child addresses his mother. When we call her ‘mom,’ we feel closer to Mary. Our ‘mom’ accepts us totally. Our ‘mom’ can always forgive our faults. When we do something wrong, ‘Mom’ can always make it right. When we are sick, ‘mom’ will make sacrifices to take care of us. That’s just how a mom is. Mother Mary is our ‘mom’ and we are always comfortable with her.

The Assumption of Mary gives us courage because we are quick to get tired, fall, and complain about things. Getting tired, falling, complaining means that our eyes are focused on this world. But the Assumption of our Bless-ed Mother makes us turn our eyes to heaven.

A child at its mother’s breast; a child who holds his mother’s hand; a child who holds onto her mother’s apron strings — goes wherever the mother goes. When we hold Mary’s hand; when we grasp her mantle in our hands; when we nestle close to her loving heart — we can also follow her to heaven.

Fr Thomas Bahn, OFM Conv.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Responsorial: Psalm 40:2, 3, 4, 18
Reading II: Hebrews 12:1-4
Gospel: Luke 12:49-53

Brothers and sisters, in today’s Mass we see prophets exercising their vocation of proclaiming God’s word. The prophet Jeremiah in the first reading and Jesus in the Gospel both experienced opposition and trials when they proclaimed God’s word in their time. But they were not defeated by their persecutors because they were conscious of their mission. They proclaimed the truth and followed God’s will, even though they were isolated in their suffering.

When Jerusalem was occupied by Babylon in five-eighty-seven to five-eighty-six BC, Jeremiah warned the people about the fall of the kingdom of Judah. But the people rejected Jeremiah because the prophet spoke in righteousness – a righteousness not shared by the kingdom of Judah. So he was considered an enemy of the people. The king’s supporters arrested and imprisoned Jeremiah, but Ebed-melech recognized Jeremiah’s righteousness, and convinced the king to save Jeremiah.

A prophet’s life is hard and difficult. When he was attacked, the prophet Jeremiah lamented, “Woe to me, my mother, that you gave me birth! a man of strife and contention to all the land! I neither borrow nor lend, yet everyone curses me.” But Jeremiah fulfilled his vocation to the last.

Jesus was like Jeremiah. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Here, baptism and fire refer to the Lord’s Passion. The Passion is described as flames that purify and blaze hotly. His passion is also described as immersion in the waters of suffering and death.

Each of us is also called to be a prophet in the Church. Normally, we prefer doing what is easy rather than what is hard; we prefer money and power to God’s humility. Furthermore, we are challenged today by secularity and false ideologies. It’s not easy for us to remain believers who are faithful to the vocation of being a prophet.

But we need to proclaim God’s Word and to declare his love and justice even in difficult situations as Jesus and the prophets did. Above all, we have to remember that our Christian path is to live in love, entrusting ourselves to God, and not to the powers of this world.

Believers don’t seek flattery from others. Believers aren’t interested in hearing their own praises. Believers don’t pretend to be good only to make a good impression. Believers speak the truth in the face of injustice, corruption, oppression, tyranny and idol worship. This means that the way to follow Jesus is to carry the cross, because speaking the truth may bring us tension and trouble, rather than peace of mind. Speaking the truth can cause division rather than bringing peace. But in the end, speaking the truth brings saving peace even though it seems to bring division.

Today’s world is like the time of Jeremiah. There is injustice and corruption in government and business, lies and repression in many countries. At the same time, the poor get poorer, and the rich get richer. People are used as a means to get money.

Today’s Gospel reading continues with some hard words from Jesus. He rebukes his audience: ‘You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?’ Jesus is speaking to people who don’t know what is right or wrong, who don’t know the true way of the Lord, who don’t see the signs of the times.

We have to purify our minds from vain and worldly things, and ponder God’s word, ‘keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith’ (Heb 12:2). If we do this, we will know what the Lord wants from us. Then we can walk steadily on the path he shows us. In this way, we can fulfill our vocations as prophets and be true Christians.

I hope that each of us, in our own state in life, will be true Christians and courageous prophets.

Fr Thomas Bahn, OFM Conv.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Wisdom 18:6-9
Responsorial: Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22
Reading II: Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
Gospel: Luke 12:32-48

Who are we?

We are Christians! And Christians are people who are waiting to meet Jesus.

Christians profess in the Creed at Sunday Mass: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”

We also profess that we do not look forward to living in this world, but we look forward to eternal life with the Lord. We say, ‘I look forward to…the life of the world to come.’

To whom do we profess this faith? To the Lord himself.

Yes, we are ‘waiting people’.

If this is so, what do we have to do as ‘waiting people,’ people who are waiting to meet with the Lord.

At baptism, we became Christian, so now we belong completely to Jesus.

But is it enough for us just to belong to Jesus?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the example of two different kinds of servants. These examples show us what we have to do.

The two servants had the same master. But the two servants revealed different attitudes when their Master was away.

One servant neglected his duties, beat the other servants, ate his master’s food, and got drunk. He thought that his master would return quite late, and so he indulged himself. He belonged to his master, but he lived for himself. His behavior was not worthy of his position.

But the other servant mentioned in today’s Gospel is different. This servant waits for his master’s return with his loins girded and his lamp lit. This servant prepared everything for his master’s return and he stayed awake waiting for him. He put his master’s wishes before his own desires. He cared more for his master’s comfort and pleasure than for his own. And he always had his master’s needs in mind. In short, this servant has a close bond with his master.

Today, I would like to point out that the great difference between the two servants mentioned in today’s Gospel is whether they are united with their master in their minds and hearts.

The fact that we belong to the Lord is not enough. It’s not enough that we belong to Jesus through baptism. It’s not enough just to become a child of God. We need to do more. Our thoughts must always be directed toward God; we have to seek God in everything that happens so that we do not miss the chance of connecting with God.

What connects us with God? Prayer is the way we connect with God. Prayer is the ‘tie’ that ‘binds’ us to God.

Recently we celebrated the Feast of St John Vianney, the parish priest of Ars, in France. He had a great reputation as a confessor, and crowds of people used to go to his small village to meet him. As they passed local farmers, visitors to Ars saw the farmers holding rosaries as they worked. In this way, the farmers were constantly connected to God through prayer.

We have to ask ourselves, What kind of servants are we now. Are we servants who keep awake, and wait for the Lord through constant prayer? Or are we the kind of servant who thinks of the Lord only once a week, at Sunday Mass.

With joy, today we hear Jesus’s voice again, in the Mass: ‘Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival…. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants! (Luke 12:37-38).’

Fr Thomas Bahn, OFM Conv.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Responsorial: Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Reading II: Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Gospel: Luke 12:13-21

I have just come back from Cracow, where I served as a priest during World Youth Days.

I am sure that for many Polish people, especially those who get their worldview from the media, the sight of thousands of joyful young Catholics gathered together from around the world is surprising.

Why? Because for many people, Christians are sad, anxious people who spend their lives in fear of punishment, and for whom happiness is something that only comes later, in heaven.

So, why did those cheerful, enthusiastic pilgrims spend their time and money coming to Poland, only to pray and listen to an old man in white robes? And why are they so happy standing in a crowd in the rain?

You could probably sum up today’s readings in many different ways, but personally, I prefer these words: Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:1). Isn’t that an apt description of Christian life? The life of someone who depends on God?

The material possessions that we need and use are good, because they were created by God, and scripture tells us that when God created material things, he ‘saw that it was good.’ Being rich is not a matter of possessions, but of our attitude toward what we have been given. We can have many possessions, and can even be a millionaire, and we can go to heaven. But on one condition: that our hearts are not divided.

Because we were created in God’s image and likeness, the desires of our hearts cannot be fulfilled by any created good. That’s why we lift up the eyes of our hearts to find what we really crave and long for.

I wrote my master’s thesis on the calling of Abraham. God gave a beautiful promise to the childless man. “Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” God was showing Abraham that he should not focus on what he had or did not have, but should place all his trust in the One who has given and is still giving everything.

From time to time, it’s good to change our perspective on life — to lift up our eyes from all the ‘stuff’ that can hide, literally, the face of God.

The word of God today helps us to do that, to find what we focus on instead of God.

In the second century, the tutor of Marcus Aurelius, Diogenetus, received a letter describing early Christians. The letter explained that Christians do not set themselves apart from others in language or location or customs. They live in this world as strangers and sojourners. ‘[W]hat the soul is in a body…Christians are in the world.’ Just as the soul lives in the body, but is not part of the body, ‘so Christians have their abode in the world, and yet they are not of the world.’

Dear brothers and sisters: World Youth Day has given us the image of thousands of young people from all over the world singing together, ‘I lift my eyes to the mountains; from where shall help come to me?’

May this experience remind us that ‘our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 3:20). Amen!

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Genesis 18:20-32
Responsorial: Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8
Reading II: Colossians 2:12-14
Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

Tashkent Resurrection, 2

Cross of the Resurrection, Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us how to pray to God the Father. A disciple asked Jesus how to pray, and he responded by giving us the most famous prayer, the ‘Our Father.’ Many people talk about prayer, but the Lord’s Prayer is the simplest and clearest prayer.

In the Catholic church in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where I worked, there is a special kind of cross. Usually the Cross shows us the Passion of Christ. But in Tashkent, it is different. It is the Cross of the Resurrection. On the Cross of the Resurrection, Jesus opens his arms the way a priest does when he leads the ‘Our Father’ during Mass.

On this Cross, Jesus seems to be saying to anyone who is suffering, ‘Come to Me.’ One day when I saw this Cross, I spontaneously opened my arms and started to pray, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven….’

At first, I prayed quickly, but then I slowed down. I had prayed the Lord’s Prayer many times, but I had never experienced it in the same way. After that, the Lord’s Prayer, which I had prayed by rote, became very deep.

This shows that our normal, everyday prayers can be transformed. It depends on our mental attitude and our concentration when we pray.

If our prayer can change this way, then what is prayer?

Prayer is a conversation with God. Believers communicate with God through prayer. They ask for what they hope for. And they try to discern God’s will in their lives.

But we must have a right relationship with God if we are going to pray well. We know that God answers prayers by giving us good things. So we might think that prayer is just a way to get what we need from God. This is not a good way to view prayer.

The Israelites had a special relationship with God. He is the living and true God. And they confided themselves to God with their entire being, like trusting children. Their prayer was a meeting between one person and another Person. It was also a meeting between free human beings and a free and sovereign God.

The God of Abraham revealed himself to be absolute being and we are like dust and ashes in his presence. He revealed Himself to us, first, and He is always with us. And as we heard in today’s psalm, He is the Lord, who answers us when we call on him.

So prayer is more of a reply than a question. When we pray, we are responding to God who revealed himself to us first, before we made the request. Through prayer, we participate in the life of Christ, who laid down his life for us.

When it comes to prayer, we have to reflect on two things. First, we have to be conscious of the words we are praying, and unite ourselves to Christ.

Second, we have to reflect on the conduct of our lives, so that our lives become a prayer through which we accomplish our vocation and fulfill God’s plan of salvation.

What is prayer for you? Have you really talked to God today?

Fr Thomas Bahn, OFM Conv.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Genesis 18:1-10a
Responsorial: Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 5
Reading II: Colossians 1:24-28
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in today’s Gospel, we find Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha. From St. John, we know that this house was located in the village of Bethany a few kilometers from Jerusalem. We also know that it was the family home of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who was resurrected by Jesus.

The meeting between Jesus and the two sisters looks like an ordinary meeting of acquaintances or good friends. So naturally there would be food and conversation.

But the Master’s visit might have been a surprise. In those days there was no phone, so you couldn’t call ahead and plan a visit. We can only imagine Martha’s feelings when she found out that she had to prepare a meal for Jesus and possibly for others who came with him. She had to figure out how to accommodate her visitors and if there was enough food in the house to feed them. Then there was the work involved in preparing everything and serving her guests.

Even if Martha knew that Jesus was coming, and when he would arrive, she still had a lot to do. So Martha was rushing around and working hard. And at some point, she realized that her sister Mary was not helping her at all. She was sitting like one of the disciples around Jesus’s feet, listening to everything he said. When Martha saw this, she was clearly upset. Martha didn’t like it, that her sister was leaving the work to her, while Mary did nothing.

Martha’s reaction is interesting. With guests in the house, it would have been natural for her to take Mary aside and tell her privately that she should be doing something useful, instead of sitting at the feet of Jesus.

But Martha takes a different tack. She asks Jesus to speak on her behalf. “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” Martha expects Jesus to intervene with her sister.

This shows that the relationship between Jesus and this family was quite intimate. Martha would never have involved Jesus in a domestic problem if it was a formal visit or he was a relative stranger.

Jesus’s answer is also surprising: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

On the one hand, he sees Martha’s efforts and he is sympathetic to her concerns. She has a lot to do and many worries on her mind. On the other hand, he emphasizes that there is something more important than housework and taking care of the needs of the body.

Through-out our lives, we constantly feel the tension between being and having. We need housing, clothes and food in order to live. And it takes a lot of work to meet these needs. Sometimes, taking care of material needs takes much more time and effort than we would like. We work so hard and long that we don’t have time for anything else. Our lives become endless work and worry about what we have to do.

Some people get too wrapped up in work, even at the expense of their family. A man’s desire to provide a better life for his family may lead him to overwork in the hope that he is helping his family. Meanwhile, family relationships suffer because the bread-winner is away from the home too much.

An example of this is people who go abroad to work because they can earn more money, more quickly. First, they just want to buy a home. Then, they need furniture and appliances. Of course, you should always have money saved, too.

And while the parents are working to provide all these material goods, the children suffer because they do not have both parents in the home or they are brought up by grandparents. Without close parental bonds, such children sometimes lose their way, fall into bad company, or get into trouble.

Does Jesus’s answer to Martha mean that we should not bother with work, and focus only on the contemplation of God? Even people who join contemplative religious orders cannot give up work, still less a parent who has children to support. Jesus’s point was to emphasize what is more important.
We cannot neglect the most valuable part of life. We have to have a well-ordered scale of values. We need to strike a balance between the needs of the body and the needs of the spirit.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, almost every day we are called to choose between having and being. We have material needs for shelter, clothes and food. We have spiritual needs, too — for love, happiness and closeness to God. We have to discern what we need most. Jesus said that there is only one thing that we need most. Which one is it for you?

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Responsorial: Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36-37
Reading II: Colossians 1:15-20
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37

If any of us finds him- or herself in the merciful Samaritan, it means that we do not yet understand the significance of this parable. After all, which of us would like to identify with the half-dead man lying next to the road? Nobody, because we would say we have nothing in common with him. We have high self-esteem.

Today’s parable, according to the oldest exegetical tradition of the Church, is a parable of the relationship between God and man, the merciful Creator and wounded creation. Christ is the Samaritan. Each of us and all of man-kind are the man who fell victim to robbers.

But let’s take a look at a few details.

The person who was robbed was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. The fact that he was travelling away from the Temple implies that that he was a person who had departed from God. Moreover, he was going downhill. Although the evangelist did not describe the robbers, we still know them well today. They are always the same three enemies: Satan, the world and the flesh, or the body. St John of the Cross taught that those three foes attack us throughout our lives (Precautions, 2). St John claimed that our most dangerous enemy is the flesh; in a word, ourselves.

But today we obstinately insist that world around us is responsible for evil – everyone with the exception of ourselves: politicians, the government, the media, climate change, bad laws, our neighbours, teachers, my father, my wife…

But until we get real, until we realize that we are beaten and helpless, we won’t be able to experience divine mercy. Until we recognize ourselves in that helpless, naked man, we will not experience God’s mercy. As a newly-ordained priest, I feel joy when I hear someone not only confess his sins, but also humbly admit to his weaknesses without trying to justify himself.

What about the priest and the Levite, who were also on their way? To what? On their way back from the Temple. Or maybe to the Temple. The Polish Benedictine and Bible scholar Fr Augustyn Jankowski suggested that they were on their way to the Temple, and that they were afraid to touch the man, because Mosaic Law regards a bloody person as ritually unclean. He adds that paradoxically “The priest and the Levite are going to church, but the Samaritan is the church.”

In this case, the question “Who is my neighbour?” becomes “Where is my neighbour?” They looked for God in their pious devotions, while the Samaritan had God in his heart. How? Because “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). So let us ask ourselves if we are willing to see God in people who make us uncomfortable or who are different from us. Maybe God wants us to cease our prayers in order to serve Him in our brethren. In his book Love One Another, Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote simply and profoundly: “The neighbor is not the one next door…. The neighbor is the one in need, or maybe even an enemy.”

Today’s Gospel tells us that “The Samaritan poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.” Those two remedies can stand for two sacraments that Jesus gave to His Church. The oil represents the sacrament of penance and reconciliation and the wine represents the Eucharist. In both of them God wants to heal our wounds, abundantly filling them with his love. Saint Paul says, “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom 5:20). Our failures open us up to God’s mercy. The most thought-provoking and moving testimonies of faith that I have heard were given by people who saw themselves as the worst of sinners. So all we need to do to experience God’s grace is to allow Him to penetrate our wounds completely. As Saint John Paul II taught, “reconciliation cannot be less profound than the division itself” (Reconciliatio et paenitentia, 3). Our healing will not be complete unless we give God permission to heal all our wounds, no matter how deep they are.

God does not set any conditions on his mercy. Do you want God’s forgiveness? Then you must help your enemy; you must forgive your enemy more than seventy-seven times. In that we are similar to the Samaritan and to God Himself. We can resemble Him in our mercy and pardon.

But if we want to be truly merciful, we must not be looking for praise or reward. We must simply remember that Someone has lifted us up and brought us back to life numerous times.

This Person says to you, “Go and do likewise.”

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Isaiah 66:10-14c
Responsorial: Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Reading II: Galatians 6:14-18
Gospel: Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Today is the first Sunday of the month. In lieu of a homily, we will have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass. The theme of this month’s adoration reflects today’s Gospel in which Christ sends out the disciples to preach the Good News. It also reflects the fact that this month the Church celebrates World Youth Day.

We will pray the Litany of Missionaries (with slight changes). You will find a copy of it in the Bulletin.

Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Christ have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. R/ Christ, hear us.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer. R/ Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.

God, Our Father, who desires all to be saved R/ Have mercy on us.
God, the Son Savior of the World, who died for us R/ Have mercy on us.
God, the Spirit who calls us all to know the Truth R/ Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Queen of Missionaries R/ Pray for the world.
St. Joseph R/ Pray for the world.
SS. Peter and Pau R/ Pray for the world.
St. Francis Xavier, Patron of the Missions R/ Pray for the world.
St. Therese of Lisieux, Patroness of the Missions R/ Pray for the world.

St. Monica (Algeria) R/ Pray for Africa.
St. Augustine of Hippo (Algeria) R/ Pray for Africa.
SS. Perpetua and Felicity (north Africa) R/ Pray for Africa.
St. Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan Martyrs R/ Pray for Africa.
St. Josephine Bakhita (Sudan) R/ Pray for Africa.
Bl. Isidore Bakanja (Congo) R/ Pray for Africa.
Bl. Ghebre Mikha’el (Ethiopia) R/ Pray for Africa.
Bl. Anuarite Nengapeta (Congo) R/ Pray for Africa.
St. Daniel Comboni (missionary to Sudan) R/ Pray for Africa.
All holy men and women of Africa R/ Pray for Africa.

St. Francis of Assisi (Italy R/ Pray for Europe.
St. Thomas More (England) R/ Pray for Europe.
St. Teresa of Avila (Spain) R/ Pray for Europe.
St. George (England) R/ Pray for Europe.
St. Joan of Arc (France) R/ Pray for Europe.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary R/ Pray for Europe.
St. Stanislaus Kostka (Poland) R/ Pray for Europe.
St. Brigid (Ireland) R/ Pray for Europe.
St. John Paul II (Poland) R/ Pray for Europe.
St. John XXIII (Italy) R/ Pray for Europe.
St. Patrick (missionary to Ireland) R/ Pray for Europe.
All holy men and women of Europe R/ Pray for Europe.

St. Martin de Porres (Peru) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (missionary to USA) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Maryland) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Peter Claver (missionary to Colombia) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Katharine Drexel (USA) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Toribio Romo (Mexico) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Mother Théodore Guérin (Indiana) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha (Quebec) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Juan Diego (Mexico) R/ Pray for the Americas.
St. Rose of Lima (Peru) R/ Pray for the Americas.
SS. René Goupil, Isaac Jogues &Jean de Brébeuf R/ Pray for the Americas.
Bl. Michał Tomaszek & Bl. Zbigniew Strzałkowski (missionaries to Peru) R/ Pray for the Americas
All holy men and women of the Americas R/ Pray for the Americas.

Sainted Martyrs of Japan R/ Pray for Asia.
St. John de Brito (missionary to India) R/ Pray for Asia.
Ss. Nikola Tavelić and companions (Palestine) R/ Pray for Asia.
Sainted Martyrs of Korea R/ Pray for Asia.
Ss. Lorenzo Ruiz & companions (Philippines, Japan) R/ Pray for Asia.
Sainted Vietnamese Martyrs R/ Pray for Asia.
St. John Gabriel Perboyre (missionary to China) R/ Pray for Asia.
Sainted Martyrs of China R/ Pray for Asia.
St. Nimatullah Kassab (Lebanon) R/ Pray for Asia.
St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara (India) R/ Pray for Asia.
All holy men and women of Asia R/ Pray for Asia

St. Damien of Molokai (missionary to Hawaii) R/ Pray for Oceania.
St. Peter Chanel (Wallis and Futuna) R/ Pray for Oceania.
St. Mary MacKillop (Australia) R/ Pray for Oceania.
St. Pedro Calungsod (Guam) R/ Pray for Oceania.
St. Marianne Cope (Hawaii) R/ Pray for Oceania.
All holy men and women of the Pacific Islands R/ Pray for Oceania.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world R/ Forgive us, O Lord.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world R/ Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world R/ Have mercy on us.

For the intentions of the Holy Father: Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be…

Priest: O God, who desires all Your children to be loved and saved, grant that your holy servants continue to protect and care for the world. And give us the courage to preach Your Word to all the nations. We ask all this through Christ, Our Lord. R/Amen

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21
Responsorial: Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
Reading II: Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Gospel: Luke 9:51-62

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Gospel tells us that when the time for Jesus to be on earth had been fulfilled, he went on a final journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers to prepare a place to rest along the way. His disciples could choose two routes to Jerusalem. One of them was shorter, but led through a village inhabited by Samaritans. The longer road avoided the Samaritan village. The disciples chose the shorter route, even though they certainly knew that they might have difficulty with the Samaritans, because Jews and Samaritans did not get along. The reason for their conflict was that the two groups had their own temples and worshipped separately. The Jews contended that if there is only one God, there can only be one temple. They therefore sought to destroy the Samaritans’ temple and abolish their mode of worship.

When the Lord’s disciples went to the Samaritan village to seek lodging and were refused, it made them very upset. James and John asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans. It is interesting that Jesus had never called down fire from heaven or killed anyone. But his disciples nevertheless knew that it was possible. They knew because Elijah had done such things. However, Jesus forbids them to do such a thing, and they depart from the village.

In some translations, when Jesus rebukes his disciples, he tells them that they do not know what spirit they have. They have his spirit — a spirit of mercy, mildness and patience.

The disciples were clearly in a state of confusion. For them, it was terrible and unacceptable that people did not want to welcome their Master. They desired revenge, and were ready to kill people who were unfriendly and did not offer hospitality to Jesus. On the one hand, this shows that they had the utmost respect for their Master. On the other hand, they wanted to act in a way that their Master would never condone.

This shows us how important it is in life, to keep searching for the spirit of Christ. To be his disciple is not only about fighting for him, but also persevering in his spirit.

Later in today’s Gospel, Jesus is approached by three people who would like to be his disciples. One says, “I will follow you wherever you go!” And Jesus replies, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

In this way, Jesus reminds us that he does not belong to this world. His disciples should not be following him because they expect him to provide them with a place to stay.

The second potential disciple is called by Jesus: “Follow me!” He replies, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answers him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” By his response, Jesus expresses the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel. Even very important duties like attending our father’s funeral should not cause us to delay responding to God’s call.

Another thing Jesus implies with this response is that those who do not know the Kingdom of God are, in effect, dead. They are alive, but their life is deadly, it leads to death. You can live, and at the same time, be spiritually dead.

The third prospective disciple said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”

To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

This exchange shows us that the call to discipleship requires an immediate reaction and answer to the call.

Being a disciple means giving complete attention to what you are doing. Jesus compares being a disciple to plowing in a field: you cannot plow straight lines if you are looking over your shoulder.

Likewise, being a disciple of Christ requires full concentration and devotion. Just as a plowman must always look forward, so a disciple of Jesus has to be focused on his vocation. All his attention must be concentrated on his task.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, today, the message of the Gospel encourages us to seek Christ’s spirit in our lives. You can either live according to your own spirit, or seek the spirit of Jesus. This applies to how we think, speak and act. Let it be our desire always to seek freedom in the Spirit of Christ, that we may use our freedom to find God’s plan for our lives.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1
Responsorial: Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Reading II: Galatians 3:26-29
Gospel: Luke 9:18-24

Dear brothers and sisters, today, Jesus asks his disciples who the people believe him to be. The answer to this question was and is a very important matter. Jesus knows who he is, and that he has a mission. But what about those who look at him and listen to him?

Jesus was certainly a kind of phenomenon. First, he lived quietly in Nazareth and kept to his trade. As a carpenter he probably had many clients not only from Nazareth. So people knew him as a good craftsman. Suddenly, the talented carpenter leaves his workshop and begins a completely different sort of work. He begins to teach and he teaches with such power that it’s as if he had never done anything else. When this happens, and Jesus begins performing miracles, he becomes a sensation, and draws huge crowds.

Who is this man who yesterday was a craftsman and today is a teacher and miracle-worker, a healer who even raises the dead?

Since Jesus does not explain himself, people begin speculating about this phenomenon. There are several theories going around: for some, Jesus is John the Baptist; others think he must be Elijah or another great prophet from the past, who has returned to the world. These theories would explain why Jesus has the knowledge and power to perform miracles.

But Jesus refines his question to his Apostles: “But who do you say that I am?” It is no longer enough to report the rumors that are going around. You have to come to your own conclusions. You have to have an answer. On behalf of the disciples, Peter answers: “The Christ of God.” Peter knew the right answer to Jesus’s question.

Peter’s answer acknowledges both that Jesus comes from God, and that he has a mission.

The Messiah was the person for whom the Jews had always been waiting. His coming from God was to secure the future of the Chosen People. It meant that he would lead the nation to victory. He was expected to do many things: first, to drive out the Romans, then to conquer other nations. The advent of the Messiah was expected to be the beginning of a great, victorious war and the exaltation of the Chosen People over their neighbors.

But we see that right after Peter’s declaration Jesus outlines quite a different mission for the Messiah: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

There is nothing here about military conquests or the emergence of a strong Jewish army. There is only information about the fate of the Messiah, which is not in the least attractive: suffering, rejection by religious leaders and then death and resurrection. We are dealing here, with the humility of the Messiah and only at the very end, with his resurrection.

So all the expectations that people had about the Messiah were not God’s plans. God had a different solution to their distress. The exaltation of the Chosen People would happen in a completely different way.

The question Jesus posed to his disciples is still valid. Each of us can be in the position of Peter and answer the question for ourselves. Who do I think Jesus is? Who is Jesus to me?

Of course, the answers that we know from the Catechism will be true, but they are not the answer expected here. Here, the question is more personal: Who is Jesus in my life? How do I recognize him? Is he a character in the Bible who lived thousands of years ago? Is he a teacher who preached and performed miracles? Is he God, who is present in Holy Communion? Is he someone I can make real contact with today, and who provides me with everything I need in this life? Is he a guide and advisor, to whom I listen in all the situations in my life?

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the answer to the question of who Jesus is for me, is fundamental. That answer gives us the answers to all of our most pressing questions. When we discern who Jesus is, we discern the truth about ourselves and our destiny. Then, even following on the way of the Cross will make sense. When God is with us, even suffering makes sense, and leads to the joy of resurrection.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: 1 Kings 17:17-24
Responsorial: Psalm 30:2, 4,5-6 11, 12, 13
Reading II: Galatians 1:11-19
Gospel: Luke 7:11-17

Since this Sunday is the first Sunday of the month, as usual, we will have Adoration and Benediction of the Holy Sacrament in lieu of a homily.

The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Solemnity, June 3, 2016). In June, it is customary to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heard of Jesus. Our adoration this Sunday, will consist of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, other prayers, and hymns. You can participate in the litany using the paper you’ll find in your Bulletin or by reading the responses from the slides.

Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Sacred Heart of Jesus: He will reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

I am King; I must reign. (cf. 1 Cor 15:25)

V/ Lord, have mercy.
R/ Lord, have mercy.

V/ Christ, have mercy.
R/ Christ, have mercy.

V/ Lord, have mercy.
R/ Lord, have mercy.

V/ Jesus, hear us.
R/ Jesus, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father. Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of Infinite Majesty, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Sacred Temple of God, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Tabernacle of the Most High, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, House of God and Gate of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, enriching all who invoke you, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, loaded down with opprobrium, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our offenses, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, obedient to death, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who trust in you, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in you, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all the Saints, Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
R/ spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
R/ graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
R/ have mercy on us.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
R/ Make our hearts like to yours.

Let us pray. Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of your most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which he offers you in the name of sinners; and to those who implore your mercy, in your great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever.

R/ Amen.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: 1 Kings 8:41-43
Responsorial: Psalm 117:1, 2
Reading II: Galatians 1:1-2, 6-10
Gospel: Luke 7:1-10

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Gospel presents us with the problem of faith. The Roman centurion is an example of faith.

Centurions were officers in the Roman army. Their name implies that they commanded one hundred men, but in reality, they commanded sixty to eighty. Service in the Roman army lasted twenty years. Soldiers were forbidden to have a family. Often, when they retired from the military, Roman soldiers settled in the place where they had been stationed.

This is probably the case with the centurion in today’s Gospel. He lived among the Israelites and had a good relationship with them. The delegation which he sent to Jesus explained that this centurion loved the Chosen People, and had even built a synagogue for them.

The centurion must have heard stories about Jesus healing people. And so he asked the teacher from Nazareth for help. To this end, he sent a group of elders from his village to intercede for him with Jesus. The story explains that he felt unworthy of asking Jesus for help personally. The centurion’s request is unusual, because there are no stories of Jesus healing someone from a distance.

But the centurion believed that if Jesus had the power to heal, then Jesus could heal his servant from a distance. He based his reasoning on his experience in the army: “For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

The Roman army was characterized by the strict discipline of its soldiers. Because of their army’s discipline, Rome was able to conquer almost the entire civilized world. So for the centurion, there was no question that when a commander gave an order, his subordinates would obey.

The centurion’s declaration of faith was recorded in the Gospel of Saint Matthew and is echoed to this day in the holy Mass: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word….’

Jesus holds up the centurion as an example of faith, declaring to his followers, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

When we bring our petitions to God, we often dictate the terms of how God should answer our needs. We think that God should do this or that thing for us. The centurion, on the other hand, recognized that Jesus did not have to heal his servant in the ordinary, human way, by coming to him or touching him. Jesus could heal him at a distance, simply by willing it.

The kind of faith that the centurion shows is very precious. A person who has that kind of faith knows that God is watching over him, and he does not demand signs from God. He does not look for proof that God remembers him, but believes and trusts God no matter what happens.

This kind of faith is like that of a child who is trapped in a burning house. He stands at the window and calls for his father to save him.

The father stands below the window and calls to his son, ‘Just jump. I will catch you.’

The child replies, ‘I cannot see you. I do not know where to jump. I’m afraid!’

But his father tells him, ‘Never mind. I can see you. Jump and I will catch you.’

If the child did not believe his father and take a leap of faith, into his father’s arms, he would perish in the flames. But if he believes his father, he will be saved.

When we make our requests to God, we are also in some doubt. Does God really hear me? Does God want to do the thing I’m asking of him?

Faith, however, requires trust. We need to believe that God knows our situation and will definitely help us. But we still wonder if God will help us on our terms, do things the way we think he should do them. It is better to ask the Lord for help without imposing on him demands of when and how he will help us. God will find the time, place and means to solve our problems.

Dear brothers and sisters, today’s story of the healing of the centurion’s servant teaches us deep faith. Such faith is based on complete trust in God, that whatever he wills is what is best for us.

God is greater than all our enemies, and all of our problems are held in his omnipotent hands. When he is watching over us, nothing can harm us, and we have no reason to be afraid of anyone or anything. When we have such faith, even death loses its terror, because death is only leaping into the arms of the loving Father.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Reading I: Proverbs 8:22-31
Responsorial: Psalm 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Romans 5:1-5
Gospel: John 16:12-15

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

St. Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise about the Holy Trinity, endeavoring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.

Once while walking along the shore, St Augustine saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.

St Augustine asked, “What are you doing?”

“I am going to put the sea into this hole,” the boy replied.

“But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water” said Augustine.

The boy replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

Pope Benedict taught that the three Persons of the Trinity are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, and the Spirit is love. God is entirely and only love, pure love, infinite and eternal.

‘He does not live in splendid solitude; rather He is the never-ending source of life who…gives and communicates himself’ eternally.

‘We can get some idea of the Trinity’s constant self-giving and self-communication because ‘everything that exists…down to the smallest particle exists in relation to others.’

When we contemplate the ‘God of relation,’ we see ‘creative love.  Everything comes from love, [and] tends toward love.’

‘The strongest proof that we are made in the image and likeness of the Trinity is this: only love can make us happy, because we live in relation to others, we live to love and to be loved.’

Dear brothers and sisters, on this solemnity of the Holy Trinity, let us contemplate our own relationships, and pray that they will be transformed by the God of love.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

The Solemnity of Pentecost

Reading I: Acts 2:1-11
Responsorial: Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Gospel: John 20:19-23

Dear brothers and sisters:

Today’s Solemnity of Pentecost invites us to meditate on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. Looking at the Apostles before and after Pentecost, we see a huge difference.

Before receiving the Holy Spirit, the community of Christ’s disciples was frightened and confused. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, the community was transformed. They were completely different people. They spoke with power, in languages they did not know. Suddenly, they had abilities they did not have before.

The Holy Spirit came down from heaven and remained with them. The Holy Spirit is still on earth, living and active. For the Holy Spirit to be manifest in all His power, He works through people. We need to be open to the Holy Spirit. When we let the Spirit of God into our lives, and look for His guidance and help, miracles can happen.

I recently heard the story of a married couple. For a long time, both had been searching for a spouse. Both were involved in the Neocatechumenate movement. The girl was frustrated that she had not met any good men, and she began to pray intensely. There was going to be a large gathering of the Neocatechumenate movement, and she thought it was a good chance to meet someone. The only problem was that there were limited places at the meeting, and she was not selected to go. But then it happened that a delegate became ill, and this young woman was able to go in her place. When she was on the train, she opened the Bible to look for inspiration, but the pages she turned to, were all about Saint Peter. Still, she hoped that some-how she would get a sign that her prayer for a husband would be answered.

When she arrived at the meeting, the church was full. She found a seat and took part in the Mass. At the sign of peace, the young man sitting next to her offered her peace and said, ‘I’m Peter.’ When the young woman heard this, she said, ‘You are going to be my husband.’ Today they are married.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul wrote: “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” This means that without the Holy Spirit, we cannot even pray. Every time we pray, we do so through the power of the Holy Spirit. All that we have, and all the gifts that God wants to give us come to us through the Holy Spirit.

It’s necessary for us to co-operate with the Spirit of God in a more conscious way. We have to pay more attention to the Holy Spirit. We have to give Him more freedom to work in our hearts, thoughts and actions. The Holy Spirit does not want to work in us and through us by force or without our knowledge. He wants our conscious cooperation. He wants us to invite Him into our lives; to share our joys with Him; to thank God for everything as Saint Paul taught us, so we may glorify Him. And when problems arise, we can seek the help of the Holy Spirit. When we have a difficult meeting or situation, He will teach us what to do and to say. He will give us words that we could not think of on our own — wise and persuasive words. The words will stay with us, we will remember them and learn from them, because the words were not ours, and their wisdom did not come from us. The wisdom came because we asked for it, and the Holy Spirit gave it to us.

Cooperating with the Holy Spirit requires peace, inner peace, the peace of God. When we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, in full awareness of His great power, we are full of peace. This peace does not admit feelings of resentment and impatience. It is also far from pride. Even when miracles happen, the peaceful person knows the miracle came from the Spirit of God, and not from his own piety. The peace of God also guarantees that our thoughts, words and deeds will be filled with love.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the solemnity of Pentecost invites us to discern the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and in each of our lives. His role is worth contemplating. It should invite us to cooperate with Him. It may be that a miraculous encounter with the Holy Spirit awaits us, through which we will achieve great things. Let us be the instrument of the Holy Spirit, through which God’s will may be done. Our cooperation with the Holy Spirit will be fruitful, both for us and for the people to whom we are sent. Let us repeat the words of the famous prayer, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.’

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

The Ascension of the Lord

Reading I: Acts 1:1-11
Responsorial: Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Ephesians 1:17-23
Gospel: Luke 24:46-53

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Solemnity of the Ascension invites us to meditate on the reality of heaven. We do not have much information about heaven. Jesus told his disciples that he still had much to say to them, but they were not yet able to receive it.

Our ideas about heaven are comparable to what a horse might imagine his master’s room to be like. The horse would think that his human master had a room full of oats and hay, lumps of sugar and other treats. But of course, the horse’s idea of a perfect home has no similarity to a real farm-house.

In our earthly life, we have certain desires and needs. We spend most of our life pursuing these desires and meeting these needs. We long for these things, and so it seems to us that heaven should be the perfect fulfillment of our earthly desires and needs.

However, heaven is the realm of God, and so we will be surprised by what God has prepared for his chosen ones. Probably it will be for us like a man moving from a small shack in the forest to a beautiful mansion. A man who spent his whole life in a dark wood and never left the forest would only be able to imagine a life similar to what he knows. Modern construction techniques, comforts and conveniences would be unimaginable to him. He would not be able to imagine life on a beautiful estate until he experienced it.

So when we think about the heaven to which Jesus ascended, we should not go into too many details, because our imagination will lead us astray. We should be more like tourists embarking on a trip to an unknown country. They operate on trust. They believe what they have heard about the country they are going to. They trust their travel agent. They don’t expect to be cheated or misled. And so when they make their trip, they are satisfied.

Before his Ascension, Jesus charged his disciples with a certain duty: “the Christ [will] suffer and rise from the dead on the third day…. [R]epentance, for the forgiveness of sins, [will] be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Christ’s disciples were to be witnesses of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. They were also to preach repentance and forgiveness to everyone. That was their mission. That was the work that they had to do: announce the Risen Christ who calls us to conversion and forgives our sins.

As a chaplain in a hospital for cancer patients, I often wonder why people delay conversion and the possibility of having their sins forgiven. People approach the sacrament of reconciliation only when severe or fatal illness prompts them to re-examine their lives. When they realize that their lives hang in the balance, they begin to think about God. Until then, they lived as though heaven was to be found on earth, and they would never face death.

When we repent and receive forgiveness for our sins, we already enter into the joy of the redeemed. Our lives become meaningful. We see before us, the path we must follow. We are given a vision of true happiness. We live in anticipation of the joys that follow this life. Life becomes simpler and even failure, illness or hardship cannot rob us of our hope and joy.

Dear brothers and sisters, our ideas about heaven should be based more in confidence and faith than in specific ideas and images Jesus leads us into his realm. We don’t know what it will be like, but we can be sure that it exists and has been prepared for us. It is a kingdom that is reached by a narrow path. It is only found by those who are faithful and who persevere, who search for it through conversion and the sacraments.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reading I: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Responsorial: Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Reading II: Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
Gospel: John 14:23-29

Today is the first Sunday of the month, so as usual, we will have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass, in lieu of a homily.

Our adoration today will focus on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s praise of our Lord. As bearer of the body of Christ in her womb, Mary praised God for His wonderful deeds in a hymn of praise called the Magnificat, from the first word of the hymn in Latin (My soul magnifies the Lord…, here rendered ‘proclaims the greatness of the Lord’). It is appropriate that we should proclaim the greatness of the Lord in the sacrament of His Body and Blood – the Eucharist:

Mary, Mother of the Eucharistic Lord; Mother of Mercy

Mary, Mother of the Eucharistic Lord; Mother of Mercy

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Reading I: Acts 14:21-27
Responsorial: Psalm 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13
Reading II: Revelation 21:1-5a
Gospel: John 13:31-33a, 34-35

Dear Brothers and Sisters, today’s Gospel recounts one of Jesus’s last messages to his disciples. It was when they were gathered in the Upper Room just before his arrest, that the disciples heard Jesus’s call to love one another: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

Why is love so necessary to the disciples of Christ?

In the Gospel of Saint John, we read that God is love. God’s nature is the source of love. The Trinity is a community that is the fullness of love. So where there is love there is also God.

If a man has perfect love in his heart, he can be sure that he is on the right path. A heart filled with love is the source of joy. Whoever has love in his heart is happy. When people are in love with a boyfriend or girlfriend, they are smiling and happy.

It is hard to imagine the bliss of someone who is able to love God and every human being with his whole heart.

The human heart longs for love. We are made in such a way that without love, we are rest-less and dissatisfied. There is a story about a missionary who saw a Bedouin lying down in the desert with his ear against the sand. The missionary was intrigued, and asked the Bedouin what he was doing. The Bedouin replied that he was listening to the desert which was crying because it was not a garden.

Human hearts often cry from lack of love. The loveless heart knows that something is missing, but it does not know what. People are afraid to open up to love. Many people think that if they let love into their hearts, they will be hurt. Painful experiences can cause people to avoid others. It is safer for such people to keep others at a distance or push them away than to open their hearts to others.

Jesus gave his new commandment of love to his disciples in the context of washing their feet. first washes his disciples’ feet, and then invites them to follow his example, even though these same disciples will soon run away and hide when Jesus is arrested.

Jesus understands love, as service to one another. At that time, only slaves washed other people’s feet. So Jesus is calling on the disciples to serve one another. Everyone should humble himself and look out for the good of his brothers. The humble service that Jesus proposed to his disciples, he himself performed to the end. First he washed the feet of his disciples with water, and then he bathed every human being with his blood, which flowed from the Cross. He gave himself as a victim. He is both the one who is sacrificed and the one who offers himself as a sacrificial victim. His love has no limits. He gave himself for the salvation of the world, but this world does not understand it. Often the world was his enemy. When people blinded by hate pierced his hands and feet with nails, he prayed to the Father, ‘forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

Love is connected to our feelings, and feelings are difficult to control. They arise and develop in their own way. Feelings seem to appear from nowhere. Sometimes they disappear suddenly, or ‘great love’ turns into great hatred. It seems that it is useless to decide, ‘from now on, I will love everyone as I love myself.’ Our reason cannot simply command our emotions. On our own, we are not capable of the love that Jesus calls us to. Only he can put it into our hearts. How, then, can we find that love which Christ tries to teach us. First, you have to open your heart as much as possible and be benevolent toward others.

The kind of love that Jesus showed his disciples is like a beautiful garden that requires a lot of work. First, you have to fence off the garden, till it, and remove all the stones and weeds. When the ground is prepared, you can sow seeds and plant flowers. Then you have to wait with care and patience before everything is growing according to plan. Eventually the garden will flourish. It will be beautiful, and many will approach it with joy, seeking its beauty.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, today Jesus presents us with a difficult task, because it is not easy to love every human being. We naturally only feel love for a few people who seem sympathetic to us. Loving everyone seems impossible. But the things that are impossible for us are possible for God. To grow in love, we have to rely on his strength. Only God can teach us to love. Our task is to begin with tolerance, kindness, benevolence and openness to others. By taking small steps, we will finally come to love. God, who sees our efforts, will help us, and what seemed to be impossible will become a reality.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Reading I: Acts 13:14, 43-52
Responsorial: Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5
Reading II: Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
Gospel: John 10:27-30

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today’s short gospel carries a lot of meaning. Christ speaks of his sheep. We can ask what Jesus’s sheep are like. For one thing, the sheep follow the voice of their shepherd. It is important for sheep to do this. Sheep that do not listen to the voice of their shepherd are in danger.

When I worked in Russia I drove through the steppes of Kalmykia by car. The steppes are vast regions covered with grass. At one point we stopped to rest. When we were standing looking over the steppe, which stretched to the horizon, we noticed two little lambs. There were no houses, people or flocks in sight. There were only these two young sheep, which apparently had become separated from the flock. The sheep ran in our direction. They confidently expected that where there were people, there, too, would be the flock. But as they approached, they stopped at a distance and looked at us in confusion. The people they saw were similar to their shepherd, but the flock was not near.*

For sheep, the shepherd’s voice indicates where they will find water and food. His voice also gives them security. But two things are necessary. The sheep has to hear the voice of the shepherd and has to obey him. If the sheep does not do this, it will be alone. It is in danger that it will not find food or water, or it will become prey for wild animals.

Our lives often feel like a journey over high mountains, or through the wilderness. Not having a guide and protector is like being condemned to death. Dangers are everywhere. Heeding the shepherd’s voice is absolutely necessary for the sheep not to fall victim to the hazards around them.

We choose from many paths and possibilities. Some are good for us, and some lead to destruction. Man learns from his mistakes. But there are some bad choices that are so serious that you cannot recover from them. The damage done is beyond repair.

We only have one chance at life. Life is not a computer game, where the player gets several lives: he is killed and then goes back to start and begins again. In real life there is only one chance. It cannot be missed. Jesus’s sheep follow him and he gives them eternal life. But the sheep need to do their part. They must be vigilant because the shepherd is in motion. They have to keep their eyes on him, so they are not left behind, and don’t lose contact with him. They need to see and hear their shepherd. Only then are they safe and nothing can threaten them.

No one is able to snatch away Jesus’s sheep. The Father who en-trusted the flock to Jesus is greater than all. It is very important for us to feel safe. Safety gives strength and fullness of faith. When there is fear, there is no certainty. We lose faith and trust in our Shepherd. Like a sheep left alone with its struggles, we become paralyzed by fear and cannot move. And if you cannot move, the distance between you and the shepherd increases.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, today’s Gospel invites us to be vigilant. We need to be open to the words of our Shepherd. Jesus wants to lead us through our lives. He wants to lead us through all difficulties and dangers, and into eternal life. But we need to know how to conduct our lives according to the will of Christ. He knows the solutions to our problems. He knows what is best for us. When we choose a path in life, we have no idea where it will lead. But God knows very well. In his care we are always safe and on the right path.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

* For those who wonder what happened to the lambs, they left the lambs where they found them, because taking them away would have been stealing someone’s valuable property, and because the shepherd would be looking for them and would eventually find them.

Third Sunday of Easter

Reading I: Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
Responsorial: Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
Reading II: Revelation 5:11-14
Gospel: John 21:1-19

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Gospel tells about how the Apostles felt lost after the crucifixion of Jesus. For three years, they had been a united community. Jesus was the head and the spirit of the group. He told them what to do and when to do it. They were open to the new ideas that Jesus taught them, and they followed him. Now that they were alone, the Apostles were confused. They were like a group of tourists in an unfamiliar city, who have lost their guide. They were used to following the guide and not worrying about where they would have dinner or stay for the night. Now, without their guide, they have no idea which way to go.

So when they were left to their own resources, the Apostles decided to return to their former occupation. It’s Peter’s idea. He says, ‘I’m going fishing’ and the rest follow him. But their attempt to return to the past is unsuccessful. Their fishing trip ends in failure: they catch no fish. They worked all night and ended up with nothing to eat and no fish to sell. They did not find blessings in the work they chose, because they had been called to something else entirely.

At this point, Jesus appears on the bank and asks them for food. It seems like he wants them to face the consequences of their choice to go fishing. They have to admit that they have caught nothing. So he instructs them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat, and promises them that they will catch something.

The Apostles don’t recognize Jesus. They’ve been fishing all night, casting the net right and left, and they caught nothing. Why should they keep working on the advice of a stranger? Probably without much hope, they cast their net as instructed. And it turned out that his advice was good. They caught an entire net-full of fish. Now they have to be curious: they had fished all night and caught nothing. Who is this man who gave them such good advice?

The first to recognize Jesus is John, who says to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ Surely it is John’s love that helped him recognize the stranger on the shore. Peter reacts quickly. He’s no longer interested in the fish he was seeking all night. He tucks in his garment and jumps into the water immediately, so he can get to his Lord as soon as possible. Probably that long, fruitless night of fishing had convinced him that he could not return to his previous life. The old way of life was no longer possible.

Jesus himself had prepared a meal for his Apostles. There was bread and fish waiting for them on shore. But that was not enough. They needed some of the fish that the Apostles had just caught. So at Jesus’s command, Peter goes to the net, where there are one-hundred and fifty-three fish. This number is significant. At that time and place, one-hundred and fifty-three species of fish had been identified. The number of fish symbolized catching all the fish it was possible to catch. Peter had been called by Jesus to be a ‘fisher of men.’ This catch of one-hundred and fifty-three fish is a sign of Peter’s vocation to ‘catch’ the people of all the nations of the earth.

After feeding his Apostles, Jesus asked Peter some difficult questions about love. He asks him, ‘Do you love me more than these?’ The question is repeated three times, and whenever Peter answers ‘yes,’ he is instructed to feed Christ’s sheep.

This repeated, three-fold question is painful for Peter. He remembers very well that he had denied Jesus three times. But now Peter has changed. He has been enriched by this experience and his love is certain. Peter is sure that Jesus knows that he loves Him.

After Peter’s profession of love, Jesus foretells Peter’s eventual arrest and martyrdom. From that moment on, he would follow his Master to the Cross.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, today’s Gospel teaches us that we must persevere in the path God has called us to. Even in times of doubt, we must carry on. When we are open to his word, Jesus will show us what we have to do. We have to follow his teaching, because only then will we succeed. If he tells us to try again when we have failed, it may seem pointless, but we will have success if we listen and obey. And our actions must be accompanied by love. It is the love of God that gives human toil meaning, especially if you are working in his name.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Second Sunday of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday

Reading I: Acts 5:12-16
Responsorial: Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Reading II: Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
Gospel: John 20:19-31

Today is the first Sunday of the month, and Divine Mercy Sunday. As usual, we will have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass, in place of a homily.

Because it is Divine Mercy Sunday, our adoration will take the form of a decade of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection

Reading I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Responsorial: Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Reading II: Colossians 3:1-4
Gospel: John 20:1-9

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s celebration of the Resurrection invites us to follow the development of the first witnesses of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus is central to our faith. If there was no resurrection, then there would be no eternal life. If there was no resurrection, then all our pious practices would be empty gestures that do not lead to anything.

For the disciples, Jesus’s empty tomb was proof of his resurrection. Later, they would meet the Lord and their faith would gain a sounder basis.

The first witness of the resurrection was a woman. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early in the morning. She went there because the burial preparations had not been completed. She probably wanted to complete the preparation for burial because there was much to do, and bodies deteriorated quickly in the hot climate. Or maybe she was prompted to go to the tomb early in the morning because she was so distraught over the passion and death of Jesus that she could not sleep.

When Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb, she noticed that the stone had been rolled away. The stone was a great disk that stood upright and covered the entrance to the tomb. It would take several men to move it. When Mary Magdalene saw that the body was gone, she ran to tell the disciples. It is not by chance that the first Apostles she told were Peter and John. Peter was considered the head of the community of the Apostles, and John was especially beloved of Jesus — the only Apostle who was not afraid to be present at the crucifixion.

When Peter and John heard Mary Magdalene’s news, they ran to the sepulcher. They wanted proof that the woman’s words were true. You have to understand here, that in those days, a woman’s testimony was admissible in the Roman court, but it had no value in the Jewish court.

The Apostles did not arrive at the tomb at the same time. John, who was younger, ran quickly and reached the tomb first, but he did not go in. He gave precedence to Peter, who arrived second. When they inspected the tomb, they did not find Jesus’s body. They found the burial cloths lying in one place, and the cloth that had covered Jesus’s head lying rolled up nearby. The arrangement of these cloths is significant: if someone had taken the body, he would not have wasted time removing the burial cloths. He would have taken everything together. Even if someone had unwrapped the body, the body coverings would not have been in the position that they were found: the same position they had when Jesus’s body was inside them. Only the cloth that covered his head was rolled up and set aside.

Seeing the empty tomb and the burial cloths was enough for Peter and John to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. What they saw reminded them of something Jesus had told them, but which they had not understood at the time: that he would rise from the dead. When they remembered how Jesus had raised Lazarus and others from the dead, it was easy for them to believe that they were witnessing the fulfillment of the Lord’s words about his own resurrection.

Dear Brothers and sisters, we can build our faith on the faith of the Apostles. Their transformation from frightened disciples to courageous witnesses of the resurrection tells us that they were completely convinced of the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. We can see that their faith was completely transformed.

Our faith, too, can be transformed. When we fully believe that Christ rose from the dead, and that we, too, will be resurrected, then our lives will be transformed as the Apostles’ lives were. Death will no longer be a terrible fate. In the words of Saint Francis, we will think of death as our ‘sister’, because through death, we will meet with our Master in his Kingdom. Belief in the resurrection also changes our perspective on life. Our scale of values changes when we have faith in our resurrection. A life based on belief in ‘the resurrection of the body and life everlasting’ is full of hope, joy and deep meaning.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion

Reading I: Isaiah 50:4-7
Responsorial: Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Reading II: Philippians 2:6-11
Gospel: Luke 22:14–23:56

On Palm Sunday, the Gospel is very long. Since another Mass follows ours immediately at 5PM, there is not enough time for a normal homily.

This Sunday, then, we will have a special ‘visual homily,’ a meditation on the Passion of our Lord using images from traditional Catholic art. We invite you to enter into this meditation imaginatively, calling to mind the suffering of Our Lord and the sorrow of His Mother during Christ’s Passion and death.

You can download the Powerpoint presentation of the visual meditation by clicking this link: Palm Sunday, visual meditation on the Passion

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Reading I: Isaiah 43:16-21
Responsorial: Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Reading II: Philippians 3:8-14
Gospel: John 8:1-11

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Gospel brings us yet another attempt to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. The scribes and Pharisees decided to use a woman who had been caught committing adultery. The law said that a woman guilty of that sin should be stoned to death. The matter was simple. They caught the woman red-handed, and they had the witnesses they needed. So they could immediately proceed with the execution of the judgment.

But in this case, they wanted to implicate Jesus. What did they need him for? Jesus was increasingly popular with the people. People came to him because of his miracles and because he healed people from all kinds of diseases. Furthermore, they said that he taught with power. For the Pharisees and scribes, therefore, he constituted a threat because people were leaving them to follow a new teacher. To win the people back, they had to do something immediately. Catching the woman in adultery was a great opportunity.

After leading the sinful woman to Jesus of Nazareth, they asked the teacher what they should do about her. According to the law, a woman who committed such a sin must die. Now, Jesus was known for his kindness and mercy toward sinners. So his enemies knew that presenting Jesus with this woman would put him in a difficult situation. If he says that she should be stoned to death, it would reveal a hard heart. But if he says she should not be punished, he would be disobeying the law. It seems that whatever he says, Jesus will look bad in the eyes of the people.

But Jesus has another way of resolving the problem. He does not respond to their question right away, but just writes something on the ground. When his opponents demand that he respond, he gets up and says, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’

When they heard this, the woman’s accusers dispersed, beginning with the elders. Jesus’s reply defeated them, and they were no longer in the mood to judge or stone anyone.

Did Jesus’s reply make them conscious of their own sins? Or is it as some people think, that by writing on the ground, Jesus indicated that he was aware of their sins?

In any case, they all dispersed and only Jesus and the woman remained.
‘Woman,’ he asked, ‘where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

This story shows us that we are all sinners. We have no right to judge and punish someone else for his sins when we, too, are sinners. You have to rid yourself of your own sins before you can throw stones at someone else for his sins. It is better to ask God’s mercy for ourselves than to set ourselves up as judges.

I once read the testimony of a nurse. She worked an overnight shift, from Saturday to Sunday morning. The work was hard and exhausting. When she got off work Sunday morning, she decided to go straight to morning Mass. She knew that she had a full day ahead of her at home, where she needed to prepare a meal for her family, and that it would be even harder to pray if she went to Mass later in the day.

Because she was so tired after working all night, the nurse dozed off during the homily. Then she heard the comment of one pious lady to another, ‘See that? She partied all night, and now comes to church to sleep.’ The woman’s comment made the nurse very sad, because her judgment was untrue and unfair.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, there’s no point in judging others. We know that even with careful investigation and presentation of evidence, the courts are sometimes wrong in their judgments, and years later we find out that an innocent person was falsely convicted of a crime. How much more wrong can we be when we judge others without knowing all the facts or giving the other person a chance to defend himself?

Let us therefore be merciful to one another, as God is merciful to us.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Reading I: Joshua 5:9a, 10-12
Responsorial: Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Reading II: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Today is the first Sunday of the month. As usual on the first Sunday, we will have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass in lieu of a homily.

Adoration will follow the theme of the Gospel (the Parable of the Prodigal Son). Here are the prayers:

Prayer of the Priest:

Father of mercy, like the prodigal son we return to you and say: “I have sinned against you and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Christ Jesus, savior of the world, we pray with the repentant thief to whom you promised paradise: “Lord, remember me in your kingdom.” Holy Spirit, fountain of love, we call on you with trust: “Purify my heart, and help me to walk as a child of light.” We pray and bless you, Father of mercy, Jesus Savior, Holy Spirit of love, now and forever.

Reader: No one has strayed too far from God; no lost child who seeks him will be unforgiven. Let tears come, springing from our repentance, and leading us to the joy of returning to the Father.
All: “I shall get up and go to my father.”

Reader: Nothing is lost to God; no wound is too deep for his healing hand. Let grace come, bringing conversion of heart, and the joy of walking in friendship with the Son.
All: “I shall get up and go to my father.”

Reader: Nothing is finished for God; no darkness is devoid of hope for light. Let us embrace his loving mercy, and live in the light of his Spirit.
All: “I shall get up and go to my father.”

Prayer before Benediction:

Priest:
Let us pray. Father of peace, we are joyful in your Word, your Son Jesus Christ, who reconciles us to you. Let us hasten toward Easter with the eagerness of faith and love. You live and reign forever and ever.
All: Amen.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Third Sunday of Lent

Reading I: Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
Responsorial: Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9

Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ!

We are in the midst of the Lenten season.

Lent is a time of penance, of the transformation of our hearts – a holy time, a time given to us to become aware of who we are and where our lives are leading.

In Lent, as Christians, we have to remember our dignity as children of God and the great price at which we have been redeemed.

Lent is a time of conversion.

Today is the third Sunday of this holy time. In the Gospel, Jesus tells the story of a fig tree that grew in an orchard and of the gardener who took care of the orchard.

The owner of the orchard saw that the fig tree was not bearing fruit, and he ordered the tree to be cut down.

However, the gardener asked for a year of grace for the tree, and promised he would do everything to help the tree produce fruit. The tree got a reprieve from the owner, but also help from the gardener, so it would be able to bear fruit.

Jesus’s parable urged his listeners and each of us to repent, because the Lord is ‘merciful and gracious’, ‘slow to anger and abounding in kindness.’

The parable of the fig tree calls us to righteousness, because righteous people are ‘like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers’ (Psalm 1:3).

We must remember that only a convert: a man who trusts in the Lord and walks in His way – the way of God’s commandments, through the gospel, the way of love – is a happy man, a man who will reach the promised land.

The parable of the fig tree warns against wasting time. Jesus calls us to follow him. He tells us that this is already the season when our lives should be bearing fruit.

Lent is a time when we are called to realize this fact and begin to live a new life.

You may have heard the expression, “What’s the point of standing at the crossroads, if you have no desire to go anywhere?”

To repent is to turn to Jesus and follow His way, knowing that we are not alone; that He walks beside us.
To repent means not doing evil, but more important, it means gaining a desire to live in love, because ‘God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him’ (1 Jn 4:16).

In my life I have met a few people who survived clinical death. After that experience, they were deeply converted. They understood that life is too short and too fragile to be wasted on wandering in the wilderness. They realized that they had to get back to the true path.

Dear in Christ!

Today’s first reading showed us Moses standing before the Lord, who wanted to free His people from slavery to sin, and lead them into a land flowing with God’s grace, God’s mercy.

We have to stand before our Lord barefoot! It means that we have to expose ourselves to him completely. We need to humbly recognize and confess our sin, our weakness, our insignificance, sometimes our powerlessness and helplessness. At the same time, we must also recognize His greatness, omnipotence and holiness.

Our Lord is very near. He is like the gardener who gave His barren tree another chance, another year to bear fruit.

Let us repeat to Him today: ‘Lord, spare me for another year,’ but take care of me, give me the grace to change my life, to be finished with what is evil, to turn away from the bad path and to live with you and for you. Only you, Jesus, are the ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life,’ and when anyone trusts in you, his life will bear fruit.

Fr Stanisław Rochowiak, OFM Conv.

Second Sunday of Lent

Reading I: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Responsorial: Psalm 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
Reading II: Philippians 3:17-4:1
Gospel: Luke 9:28b-36

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Gospel tells how Jesus took with him Peter, John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. When he was praying, the appearance of his face was changed and his clothing became dazzling white. During his prayer, the face of the Lord Jesus changed. This may suggest to us that through prayer, our own faces and lives can be changed.

You may have heard the saying, ‘Tell me how you pray, and I will tell you how you live.’ Good prayer doesn’t just change how we look; it changes our lives.

The Lord Jesus, who prayed much and often, gives us a few tips on how to pray. The first thing we notice is his advice that “In praying, [we should] not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words” (Mt 6:7).

Prayer is not like shopping – the more money you have the more you can buy, so the more you pray, the more you get from God.

This approach reveals a hidden temptation to see prayer as a magical act. But it’s not the quantity of prayers that matters, but the quality. The words Jesus taught us at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer explain everything. We turn to God as Father, Abba – “Daddy.” We are like children, asking our father for help. A father knows his child, and knows what the child needs.

In God’s case, he knows everything we need before we even finish asking for something. So we don’t need to repeat our requests over and over again with many words. Good prayer means having the confidence of a child who knows that his father hears him, remembers him, and will provide an appropriate response to his needs.

Too often our prayers are thoughtless. When we recite even the most beautiful prayer without thinking about it, with no feelings attached, we are like a child in pre-school reciting a text he doesn’t understand. He only wants to finish without making a mistake.

Imagine if someone talked to us that way, reciting a long text quickly and mindlessly. He rattles off his lines like a magic spell that’s supposed to automatically elicit a response from us. Few of us would have the patience to listen to the whole speech. Instead, we would ask the person to tell us briefly and in his own words what he wants from us.

Another problem we have with prayer is the matter of what we ask of God. Recently, when I celebrated Mass in the chapel of the hospital, I asked the faithful to suggest petitions that we could raise to Almighty God. The congregation began to list their requests. Then I asked them to compare their requests with the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer.

It turned out that only two of the seven petitions which were offered were in the spirit of the petitions in the Our Father.

This experiment shows us that we have a problem with what we pray for. We do not pray for what God wants to give us; we pray for what seems desirable from our point of view. But that is not necessarily the best thing for us from the point of view of God.

Another aspect of prayer which Jesus draws attention to is forgiveness. You may ask why Jesus reminds us to pray to forgive other people. What’s the point?

We need to pray to forgive others because when someone does evil to us, it is as if we are infected with evil. Evil touching our hearts is like a virus infecting the body. To heal the body, we have to destroy the virus. If the body cannot destroy the virus on its own, we use medicine to destroy the virus.

It is similar with evil. To be close to God, who is perfect goodness, we must let go of evil, which includes a desire for revenge. If we do not, we are not able to meet God. So when we ask for forgiveness for our own sins, and we wish to be forgiven, we must first forgive others who have done evil to us.

Dear brothers and sisters, the example of Jesus who prays and is transformed by prayer is an invitation to us to do the same. We must constantly improve the quality of our prayer, so that it is pleasing to God. Having deep faith in God and forgiving others from our hearts will help us to pray well. When we can shut out distractions and pray from the depths of our hearts, we can be sure that we will be heard.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

First Sunday of Lent

Reading I: Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Responsorial: Psalm 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15
Reading II: Romans 10:8-13
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13

We all know about magnets. They are pieces of metal, but more than ordinary metal.  Nature has put a special force or power in magnets.  It’s called the power of attraction.  To attract means ‘to draw something to oneself.’

That’s what a magnet does: it strongly pulls other objects to itself.  Some scissors have magnetized tips so you can easily pick up pins and needles that have fallen to the floor. Workmen use magnets to pick up dropped screws and nails.

Thinking about magnets helps us understand what temptation is.  We often use the word in daily life.  For example, we might say, ‘I was tempted to stay online all night.’ ‘I was tempted to pretend it was not my fault.’ ‘I was tempted to cheat on my taxes.’

When we say this, we mean that we were strongly pulled in a certain direction; we were driven towards something that appeals to us.  It attracts us or draws us, like a magnet.  Then I have a choice — to give in or to resist; to do something or not.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is given choices. The Spirit led him into the desert, where He was tempted by the devil. The sentence shows us how temptation works: the Spirit leads us one way, but temptation draws us in another direction.

We could say that Jesus was tempted by the “Three P’s”: Pleasure, Pride and Power.

He was tempted by pleasure – to satisfy His hunger with bread.

He was tempted by pride, to throw Himself down from the Temple and expect a miracle would save Him from being hurt.

He was tempted by power, to have all the kingdoms on earth serve Him.

Luke tells us that Jesus successfully resisted all three temptations.

Now, as we look at ourselves, we see our own temptations.  We, too, are often tempted by the three P’s:

Pleasure tempts us to eat or drink too much; to satisfy the urging of lust with people we are not married to.

Pride tempts us to show off, to pretend to be more important than we are, to act like we know more than other people, or that we are rich, or more pious than others.

Power tempts us to try to be the boss, to tell others what to do. We want to be in control of our lives, and may do anything to reach a position of authority.

But we have seen what Jesus did when He was tempted.  Do we follow His example?

Sometimes we say, ‘The temptation was too strong; I could not resist.’  Or, ‘It was too much for me; I had to give in.’ The truth is that no temptation is beyond our strength.  Saint Paul assures us: ‘No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial He will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it’ (1Cor.10:13).

In fact, this is what temptation really is: a trial or a test.  It is a test of our freedom.

Have you ever thought about this?  If we never had to make any choices, we would not know that we are free. Temptation gives us the opportunity to become more aware of God’s gift to us: our freedom.

There are people who think that a temptation is almost a sin.  Or they think that if you are tempted, then you will sin.

Such people forget that we are free. Sin is not something I fall into; it is not something I am pushed into; it is also not something that simply happens to me. Sin is something I choose.

Yes, I choose to tell the truth or the lie. I choose to do business honestly or dishonestly. I choose to treat others fairly or unfairly. I choose to forgive or not to forgive. I choose to be helpful or not to help those in need.

And that’s the difference between a magnet and human temptation.  When metal is attracted by a magnet, it cannot resist.  It’s only an object; it is not free.  But when we are attracted by sin, we can resist because we are free.  As humans, we can overcome temptation.

Most of us are life-long Catholics. We are used to going to confession. We are used to preparing for confession by recalling our sins and numbering them. Then, we go to the priest, tell him our sins, and get God’s forgiveness.

On this first Sunday of Lent, I invite you – God Himself invites all of us – to do something more. It is good to acknowledge our sins and ask for God’s pardon.  But it is also good – and God expects us – to try not to sin. In other words, to overcome temptation.  How do we do this?

We have to look not only at our sins, but also at what causes us to sin.  We need to dig deeper and find the root of our sins.  What leads us to lie? Why are we tempted to cheat others? On what occasions are we tempted to sexual sin?  What prompts us to gossip about a neighbor?

We can all make our own list. Then, let us tell God that we want to avoid those situations that lead us to sin. Let’s pray to God to do for us what Paul promised in God’s name: that He will give us a way out of the trial and be able to bear it. When we do this, we will be more like Jesus, who overcame His temptations.

Fr Michał Kurzynka, OSPPE

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
Responsorial: Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

Today is the first Sunday of the month. As usual, there will be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass, in lieu of a homily.

Please remember that Ash Wednesday is this week. The Mass schedule in Polish parishes will be the same time as on weekdays. You are welcome to come to Św Karol for Mass at 6.30, 7.00, 8.00, 10.00, 12.00, 17.00, 18.00 and 19.00 for the liturgy and distribution of ashes. There will not be an English Mass on Ash Wednesday.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Responsorial: Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17
Reading II: I Corinthians 12:31–13:13
Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today’s second reading tells us about the role of love in the life of each human being. To consider this topic the first thing to ask is, ‘What is love?’

Probably many of us would find it difficult to answer that question. On the one hand, it seems easy because everyone knows about love. But providing a precise and clear definition is not so easy.

There’s a story about a pair of twins who were still in the womb.

The first twin asks the other, ‘Do you believe in life after birth?’

The second twin replies, ‘Sure. Something has to be there. It seems to me that the only reason we’re here is to get ready for whatever comes next.’

‘That’s stupid’ the first twin says. Life after birth can’t exist. What would it look like?’

‘I don’t know, but I think there would be more light. Maybe we would run around and use our mouths to eat…’

‘That makes no sense! We can’t run! And who ever saw anyone eat with his mouth? The umbilical cord, feeds us!’

‘Well, I don’t know, but we will see our mother, and she will love us and worry about us.’

‘Mother? You believe in mother? And who is that, in your opinion?’

‘Well, she’s all around us. Thanks to mother, we live. Without mother, we would not live.’

‘I don’t believe it. I’ve never seen any mother, so she can’t exist.’

‘Yes, but if you are quiet, you can hear her sing or feel her stroking our world. So I’m still sure that real life begins after birth.’

Sometimes we are like the twin who doubts that he has a mother who loves him. We do not recognize or believe in great, omnipotent love. We are not able to understand the role of love in our lives. We cannot believe that love transcends our world, goes beyond death and encompasses the eternal.

As Saint Paul says, prophesying, knowledge, faith and alms-giving are worthless without love. Love gives everything value and meaning. We can understand this if we accept the teaching of Saint John that God is love. Then it all becomes clear that without God, nothing matters and nothing makes sense.

We need to remember that the more love we have in our hearts, the more God dwells within us. The more hatred or dislike we harbor in our hearts, the more we move away from God. There is no room in our hearts for both love and hate. Whoever thinks he can both love God and hate his fellow man is wrong. Our hearts are either filled with love or filled with hate.

Just as fish need clean water to live, so love needs a heart free from hate.

Dear brothers and sisters, today’s readings invite us to accept the fact that God knows us and loves us. If you want communion with God, you must cultivate love. Love is what each of us is looking for. God who knew us and loved us from the beginning, created our hearts with a desire for love. We will only be happy when we satisfy our desire for love. And nothing will satisfy us except the fullness of love, which is the love of God and the love of our fellow man.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Responsorial: Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Gospel: Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
Reading II: 1 Cor 12:12-30

Dear Brothers and Sisters

In today’s first reading, we hear about how Ezra read the law of Moses to the people. The people had assembled and asked Ezra to read the law aloud to them. From morning until noon the people stood and listened to Ezra read. They were hungry for the Word of God. They were looking for inspiration. They wanted to know how to live.

Are we like them today?
Are we also hungry for the Word of God?
Do we want to hear what God wants to tell us?
Are we attentive to the scriptures when they are read at Mass?
Do we remember the readings after we leave church?
When we seek our path in life, do we search for it in the light of Scripture?
Do we use the Internet to access the Word of God and to read pages that will build up our faith?

We need to treasure the Word of God and search the Scriptures often. Doing so, will lead us to a better quality of life.

In the second reading, we heard Saint Paul preach on our roles in the Church. Saint Paul reminds us that the community of believers is diverse, and that each person is necessary to the Church. Everyone has his work to do, and no one can say that the contribution of one member is more important than the work of others. We are one body, and each member complements the others. Each of us has a special role to play. Knowing this, confirms our value to the entire community.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus gave much thought to her role in the Church. As a contemplative nun, she lived apart from the world, and wondered where she fit into the Body of Christ.

She wrote: ‘Meditating on the mystical Body of Holy Church, I could not recognize myself among any of its members as described by Saint Paul — or was it not rather that I wished to recognize myself in all? [Love] provided me with the key to my vocation. I understood, that since the Church is a body composed of different members, the noblest and most important of all the organs would not be wanting. I knew that the Church has a heart, and that this heart burns with love, and that it is love alone which gives life to its members. I knew, that if this love were extinguished, the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, and the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I understood that love embraces all vocations, that it is all things, and that it reaches out through the ages, and to the utter-most limits of the earth, because it is eternal’ (Story of a Soul, p. 122).

Saint Therese found her role in the Church in the form of love. She wanted to be the heart of the Church. She wanted to be the heart of her community.

She fulfilled this role in becoming the patron of missionaries. One who never left the convent became the patron saint of those who travel around the world preaching the Gospel. Each of us is necessary to the Body of Christ in the Church. Everyone has a special role to play. We should feel honored that God has called us to our particular task.

On the other hand, looking at other people, we must remember that each of them also has a special role in the Church. We should appreciate each of them, and remember that the Church needs them. We cannot underestimate the least member of the community.

Think about a time when you have hurt your little finger. Compared to the whole body, it is no big deal. But we all know how difficult it is to function normally when one finger hurts. The pain does not allow us to function normally. Life isn’t so pleasant when performing the simplest task causes us pain. For a person to feel good, the whole body must be healthy.

Today’s Gospel tells us about a time when Jesus went to the synagogue, something he probably did often. He read aloud a passage of prophecy: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’

He then commented on the reading, saying, ‘Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’

Those words are the conclusion of today’s readings. They would seem to be a reason for the community to celebrate. People were living in a time when prophecies were being fulfilled. However, we know that the people of Nazareth did not accept Jesus’s teaching. They could not believe that Isaiah’s prophecy could be fulfilled through Jesus, whom they knew simply as the Son of Mary and Joseph. Their resentment was so great that they wanted to kill Jesus. They took him up to a cliff to throw him off of it, but they were not able to. Jesus’s neighbors were not ready for the coming of the Messiah. It did not enter into their heads that the Messiah could be someone they had known from childhood.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today’s readings give us a lot to think about. First, they invite us to enter into the Word of God, so that we may listen carefully and fulfill God’s Word. Second, we are invited to consider our role in the Church, to discover how we are called to serve the community, and to take up this call with joy.

Finally, in the Gospel, we are witnesses to the fulfillment of prophecies. We need to be alert to those moments, and appreciate them. Let us open ourselves to God when he comes to us in the circumstances of our lives, and through other people.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Isaiah 62:1-5
Responsorial: Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Gospel: John 2:1-11

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s second reading, we heard that there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit and there are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. This message reminds us that all our gifts, talents and abilities are given to us by God. They come from a single source. This means that they are not our own achievements, but purely a gift. We are not given these gifts for our glory or aggrandizement. Nevertheless, the gifts are given to us for a purpose.

In the Church, we believe that the gifts of the Spirit are given to individuals so they can build up the community. Therefore, if someone has a gift, he should not think about how to use it to benefit himself, but for the good of his fellow-man.

To appreciate our gifts, we must first have gratitude for what we have been given, and then humility, since what I have been given is not mine because of my own personal merit. Then there is the matter of what to do with our gifts. We cannot fail to develop our gifts because we do not want the responsibility that comes with the gift.

A tramp came into a village and set up camp under a tree to spend the night. Suddenly, one of the villagers ran up to him and said, ‘A stone, a stone! Give me a precious stone!’ The tramp asked, ‘What stone?’ The villager replied, ‘Last night I dreamed that if I went out of the village at dusk, I would meet a stranger who would give me a precious stone, and I would be rich forever.’

The tramp looked into his bag and took out a stone. He said, ‘I picked this up along the way a few days ago. You can have it.’

The man looked at the stone in amazement. It was a diamond, as big as a man’s hand. He took the diamond and walked away.

That night, he was tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep. The next day, at dawn, he ran to wake the tramp and said to him, ‘Give me the wealth you have that allows you so easily to give up such a big diamond.’

Our gifts and talents should not inhibit us. They can’t close us off to others. What we have received freely should be freely given away.

Today’s Gospel tells us about the Lord’s first miracle. It happened during the wedding feast at Cana, where Mary and the Disciples of the Lord were also present. During the wedding, it turned out that there was no wine. For the bride and groom and their family, it was a serious problem. To have no wine at a wedding is something that would be talked about for years to come.

Mary noticed the problem and turned to the Lord Jesus. He responded as if he had no desire to help, saying, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” But Mary reacted as though she had not heard him, saying to the servants: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ She knew her Son and what he could do, so she was sure that he would help.

This story shows us that Mary is well aware of what we need, and is ready to intercede for us. It’s important for us to remember that we have such a great source of help.

The command, ‘Do whatever he tells you,’ still applies today. Is not our faith about doing what the Lord Jesus tells us to do?

Dear Brothers and Sisters, today’s readings invite us to reflect on our gifts and talents. They are about recognizing what the good Lord has given us. It’s about recognizing our charisms, so that we will give thanks to God and try to use them in our lives for other people, not just for our own good. The more you have, the more you should be a servant. May our lives be a fulfillment of what the Lord Jesus has commanded us. May we know his Word, meditate on it, and apply it in our lives. And remember Mary, who knows our problems and intercedes for us to grow in strength and confidence.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

The Baptism of the Lord

Reading I: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Responsorial: Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Reading II: Acts 10:34-38
Gospel: Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

A man made his confession like this: ‘I swore a lot, but I also prayed a lot, so it balances out. I drank a lot, but I also fasted a lot, so it works out evenly. I stole a lot, but I also gave alms, so that balances, too.

At this point his confessor lost patience and retorted: ‘God created you and the devil takes you to hell! That balances, too!’

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Today is the Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord. It’s a day for looking at our lives as Christians. Maybe we think of ourselves like the man in the story – that we have a balanced life.

The Baptism of the Lord reminds us of our own baptism, its consequences and responsibilities. In this relativistic world, baptism is a firm reference point. It is the sacrament of being washed clean by the grace of God; the sacrament of our adoption; the sacrament of our rebirth and new life.

As Christians, you have been baptized. What does it mean to you?

Some people make up their own private religion without God’s commandments, or with their own edited moral code, because modern man tends to treat religion like shopping at the supermarket. Many people who themselves as Catholic, have made their Christianity a private matter. They accept what they like, while they reject what is difficult. For example, they agree with the Church that stealing is wrong, but reject the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. They don’t base their moral choices on the commandments of God and the teaching of the Church, but according to their personal views. They believe in God, but a God who is obedient and subordinate to them. What is the value of baptism for such people?

At this time of year, we still hear Christmas carols and the nativity scene is still displayed, but today’s Gospel takes us thirty years into the future, to the Jordan River, where John is baptizing Jesus. Maybe it is surprising that the Church’s liturgy moves on so quickly from the Christmas narrative. But when we consider the entire Gospel, the birth and childhood of Jesus are only a small part of the story of Jesus’s life.

The Evangelists mostly wanted to write about Jesus’s public life and teaching, and finally they went into great detail about his passion, death and resurrection. Their purpose was to inspire faith, to show who Jesus Christ is.

In the Church, we end the period of celebrating the Nativity with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus went to John the Baptist and asked John to baptize him. John replied, “I need to be baptized by you, and you are coming to me?’ He also said that Jesus would baptize with the Spirit. Through the centuries, the Church has obeyed Christ’s mandate to baptize the faithful. Saint Peter commanded baptism from the beginning, saying to new converts, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:38). In the beginning, adults responded to the Gospel and they were baptized along with their whole families. In the next generation, baptized parents began bringing their new-born children for baptism. Baptism of adults is associated with conversion from evil and sin. Baptism takes away original sin. It welcomes us as new children of God and strengthens us with the Holy Spirit, enabling us to live in the grace of God.

Baptism has always been associated with the need for repentance and life with God. When an adult is baptized, he makes a conscious and voluntary choice to accept faith that was witnessed to him. Today we mainly baptize children, so most of us don’t remember our baptism. Our parents, guided by their faith, brought us to the doors of the church and asked the priest to baptize us. They gave us our names and asked God to have mercy on us. They also promised that we would be brought up in the faith. We were adopted through baptism, not because we declared our own faith, but because our parents believed. At our baptism, the priest said to our parents: ‘You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so, you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?’

Our parents answered, ‘Yes.’ They understood and were ready. At our baptism, they swore in the church, at the altar, before God. They taught us to fold our hands in prayer, to make the sign of the cross, to pray; they took us to church, and raised us according to God’s commandments. They prayed for us.

Baptism is the first sacrament, and also the most important. It opens the gates of heaven to man, but it is also a commitment that parents enter into.

Initially, at their marriage, the husband and wife answer ‘Yes’ when the priest asks them, ‘Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?’

They are asked again at their children’s baptism. Every parent takes personal responsibility before God for honoring the promise that he makes. Besides taking care of their children’s physical needs, parents need to ask themselves if they have kept their promise to bring their children up according to the law of Christ and his church.

The feast of the Baptism of the Lord should be an examination of conscience for parents and godparents. After the parents, Godparents are also responsible for the Christian upbringing of their godchildren. This is not about giving beautiful and expensive gifts on birthdays, but setting a good example, passing on the faith, and praying.

Fathers and mothers, are you raising your children in the Catholic faith? God-parents, how many godchildren do you have? Do you participate in their Christian training? Do you know how the children live and what they do? Do your godchildren have a relationship with God? Do they go to Mass?

And what about your own children? How have you presented God to them as their savior or as an enemy? How has their baptism and your upbringing helped your child in life? If it has helped them, you can be happy; if not, you must pray for them without stopping.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

The Epiphany of the Lord

Reading I: Isaiah 60:1-6
Responsorial: Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Reading II: Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, or as it is commonly known, the Three Kings. This feast is a reminder that the newborn Jesus came into the world for all people. Today’s readings highlight that in a special way.

The Child Jesus was sought by wise men who were also kings from the east. Guided by the star of Bethlehem, they went to Jerusalem and asked about the newborn king. This prompted the Chosen People to check the prophesies about the Messiah. The Gospel tells us that the unusual astronomical phenomenon that guided the Magi was a star.

Over the centuries, there have been many theories about what the star was. Some thought it was the planet Venus, shining on the horizon. But since Venus was well-known, it’s doubtful that these clever astronomers were guided by that planet.

A more popular theory is that the star was really a comet. To this day, the star is often depicted as a comet. Some thought that the Wise Men’s star was Halley’s comet, which appears every 76 years. But it would have appeared already in 12BC, so that’s unlikely.

In addition, comets were usually thought to be bad signs, portents of calamities, but the Magi interpreted it another way. Furthermore, people had known about comets for a long time. It’s not likely that the Evangelists would have used the word ‘star’ if they meant a comet.

Another idea was that the star in the Gospels was a super-nova, which explodes and can be seen for a long time, even in daylight. But astronomers had been keeping records of supernovas, and none are recorded between the year 135 BC and 173 AD.

Nowadays, the favorite theory is one created by Johannes Kepler in 1606. Kepler’s idea was that it was a conjunction of planets that – when they all lined up – looked like one huge, bright star. And we know that there was such a conjunction around the time of Christ’s birth.

Only one thing is clear. The kings offered to Jesus myrrh, frankincense and gold. This raises the question of the symbolic meaning of these gifts.

At the beginning of the eighth century, the Venerable Bede offered an interpretation that is still meaningful today. Gold represents something that is beautiful, valuable and glorious. It represents the dignity of Jesus as a king. Incense was used in temples during the sacrifice as a symbol of prayer. This shows us that Jesus is God. Myrrh was used to anoint the dead and was added to wine to give strength to condemned criminals. The gift of myrrh foretells the passion of the Lord and his burial.

So Jesus was brought gold because he is a king, frankincense because he is God, and myrrh because he was a man.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the story of the Magi in today’s Gospel invites us to pay attention to what is happening around us, and at the same time, to ask ourselves if God is trying to say something to us. Also, when we see that God wants us to do something, we should be ready to make an effort. The Magi left their homes, business and family and went on a long journey. Are we ready to make a special effort for God?

Finally, the Wise Men had great faith. When they saw a child lying in a poor stable, they had no doubt that he was the king heralded by the star. May they be an example for us, so that we can read the signs of God and be willing to take concrete action.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Second Sunday after Christmas, Year C

Reading I: Sirach 24:1-2, 8-12
Responsorial: Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
Reading II: Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18
Gospel: John 1:1-18

Because today is the first Sunday of the month, there will be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass in lieu of a homily.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Reading I: Numbers 6:22-27
Responsorial: Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Reading II: Galatians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we celebrate the New Year and the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. This day reminds us how quickly time passes. It seems like we just celebrated the first day of 2015. Today, we begin 2016. It lies before us like a clean slate.

This is a good time for thanksgiving for the past year, when there were good times and bad times. However, as Saint Paul says, give thanks for everything. We accepted the good things with joy. Difficulties forced us to make an effort, and sometimes taught us important lessons. It is good to learn from our choices and experience. Our failures, challenges and successes teach us how to be good disciples. At the thresh-hold of the New Year, we stand before Mary, the Mother of God. We honor her as the Mother through whom the Son of God came to us. He is the giver of all life — the life we have received as a gift. Where there is a gift, there should also be thanksgiving. Giving thanks to God for all of life — the good things and the hard times — is pure justice, because life is a pure gift, and not something we could earn or merit.

Life is like a sandwich. A sandwich is made of plain bread, but it is filled with good things. When you put the bread and the fillings together, it’s delicious. If you ate the bread and the filling separately, one item at a time, it would not be nearly as satisfying.

In the same way, we should accept everything that life brings to us, the joyful and good, and the difficult and sad. If for some reason you are not happy, have a look around and you’ll quickly find people whose lives are harder.

Over the years, people have used statistics to create an image of what life would be like if we imagined the world’s population as only one hundred people.

Out of one hundred people, 17 would not be able to read or write; 93 would not have a university degree.
Seventy-eight would not have a computer. Twenty-three people would be homeless. Out of one hundred people, one would be dying of starvation and fifteen would be under-nourished, while twenty-one would be overweight. Of the one hundred people, thirteen would not have clean drinking water.

In most cases, people who have hard lives are not to blame. Are they responsible for being born in a poor country instead of a rich one? Did anyone offer them a choice of the family they would be born and grow up in? Were they able to program for themselves a life-time of good health? You get what you are given in life, and there’s no asking for a refund. Whatever our conditions, life is a gift to be accepted with gratitude.

If you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself, consider this:
— You will probably live until next week. One million people will die.
— You are not living in a war zone; you are not in prison; you are not starving or being tortured. Five hundred million people around the world suffer one or more of those things every day.
— You were able to come to church today without fear of being arrested or killed for your faith. There are a billion people in the world who do not have such freedom.
— If you can afford a place to live, food, health-care and clothing, you are not poor.

Dear brothers and sisters, today’s feast encourages us to give thanks. May we accept everything God gives us with grateful hearts. May we look to the new year with hope and renewed strength. And may the blessing of God be with us in good times and in bad.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Reading I: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Responsorial: Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
Reading II: Colossians 3:12-21
Gospel: Luke 2:41-52

Dear Brothers and Sisters

Today, the first Sunday after Christmas, the Church commemorates the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The readings today draw our attention to the theme of family relationships and the problems in families. They also give us advice on how the family should function.

The reading from Sirach encourages respect for parents, saying that whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever reveres his mother stores up riches. Whoever honors his father will have the joy of children, and his prayers will be heard.

It is interesting that the inspired author promises the blessing of God and the joy of children to one who respects his parents. A person calls down God’s blessing on himself when he honors his parents, and at the same time fulfills one of the Ten Commandments. Doing so gives a good example to your own children, who in the future will delight you with their good character. People who look after their parents in their old age will be cared for by their own children when they become old themselves. The way you treat your own parents is the way your children will treat you.

I remember a story about an extended family who lived in the same house. The young parents lived with their children and the elderly grandfather. The old man was clumsy and sometimes broke dishes or spilled food on the table or on his clothes. It was therefore decided that the old man should no longer eat at table with the family, but sit in the corner and eat off a plastic plate. The aim was to avoid more broken dishes and to spare the family from having their dinner spoiled by having to watch the old man eat.

Later, the young father saw his son building something out of wood. He asked what his son was making. The little boy replied, “I’m making a trough for you to eat from when you are old.”

Sirach also teaches us, “take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not, as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not, all the days of his life.”

You don’t need an extra-ordinary reason to be grateful to your parents and care for them in their old age. It is enough that they gave you life. No one can give a greater gift. Add to that, the hardships of raising children, and it is enough reason, to be grateful to our parents.

In the second reading, St. Paul gives some more useful advice about family life: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heart-felt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.”

I recently met a man, who said that he and his wife had been together for more than fifty years. I asked the secret of their long relationship: how did they cope with problems? He replied that you have to yield to the other person. He didn’t say anything about great love or friendship. He just said that you have to give way to one another.

Saint Paul also tells us, “Be thankful.” Most likely he meant “be grateful to God,” because a grateful person is one step closer to happiness. Gratitude means appreciating what you have. It means rejoicing in everything you have and experience as a gift from the Creator. Gratitude within the family strengthens family bonds, increases goodness and inspires love. The Apostle to the Gentiles also advises families to let the word of Christ dwell deeply with them in their daily life. It is therefore necessary to know the word of God, and use it to admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. When we know the word, we can share it with our loved ones.

According to Saint Paul, the head of the family is the husband. This does not imply absolute power; his authority over his wife must be exercised in a spirit of love. He is not to be a dictator, but a loving husband.

According to Saint Paul, children should obey their parents. Sometimes this causes problems. As children get older, they want to make decisions themselves, and their parents do not let them. This leads to conflicts.

I think that in such cases, children should follow a simple rule: Whoever owns the house is in charge. If you live in your parents’ house, you follow their rules. When you grow up, you will have your own home, and then you can make the rules.

Saint Paul also has advice for fathers regarding how they raise their children: “Fathers, do not provoke your children.” A father’s actions need to be wise and calm, to show the next generation the best values.

Dear brothers and sisters, in the Word of God we have rich teaching about family life. If we could live fully by the advice in Scripture, so many unpleasant family situations could be avoided.

Let the Bible be our guide through life. Let it be our treasury from which we continually extract wisdom and an example of how we are to live, so that we can love, and be loved in return.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Christmas

Reading I: Isaiah 52:7-10
Responsorial: Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Hebrews 1:1-6
Gospel: John 1:1-18

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

As we heard in today’s second reading, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.”

Christmas is the moment when the Son of God comes into the world. God uses the best and most worthy messenger to tell us his will.

In today’s Gospel, Saint John reminds us, that in the beginning everything was the Word, and the Word was with God and was God and through the Word everything came into existence.

In this case, “Word” is used in a solemn and lofty sense. In our lives we use many words. Our words have different meanings and convey a variety of messages. Words can be simple and direct; or they can be arcane terms that few people understand. Our words may be true or false. Words can heal; they can also wound. It depends on who utters the word, and the speaker’s intention.

Nature gives us some interesting facts to reflect on. Everyone has one tongue; most people have thirty-two teeth. The tongue is soft and supple. The teeth, however, are hard, and sometimes sharp.

Is this not a sign that the tongue should be governed to speak appropriately? The teeth are like guards set in place to make sure that no improper words slip out of our mouths. And yet how often our tongues utter words that are shameful. How often our speech is used to hurt and discourage instead of building up and sustaining someone who is in trouble, hurt or struggling.

Instead of giving hope; our words sow evil. So let our words be good seeds so that others who hear them are strengthened to do good, and to find a good solution to their problems.

Today Saint John reminds us that the world came into being through the Word, but the world did not know him. The world does not know the one by whom it came into existence. The Lord came to his own people; but his own did not receive him. God’s word is either despised or belittled.

Just as in Bethlehem, houses were closed against Mary and Joseph when they awaited the birth of the Savior, so often our hearts are closed to God’s Word. God wrote us a beautiful letter in the form of the Bible. Many of us have this letter on a shelf in our homes. Sometimes it is in a place of honor. But has everyone here read the Word of God from beginning to end? Do we have the desire, and do we make the time, to read and re-read God’s Word and meditate on it?

Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the birth of the Son of God. Let this be an opportunity for us to give thanks for the gift of salvation. Let our words, following the example of God’s Word, bring solace and love to the world — and let our words be instruments of mercy and goodness. Let us cherish the Word of God that he has given us in the Scriptures. May God’s word be the inspiration and nourishment of our spiritual life.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Reading I: Micah 5:1-4a
Responsorial: Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Reading II: Hebrews 10:5-10
Gospel: Luke 1:39-45

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s Gospel, we see an interesting meeting between Mary and Elizabeth. Mary went in haste to Elizabeth, because only Elizabeth could understand what had happened in Mary’s life. After her encounter with the angel, and knowing Joseph’s doubts about her pregnancy, it was important for Mary to talk to someone who could understand her situation. For Mary, it was impossible to talk to anyone else and share her extraordinary news. People might have thought she was crazy. But Elizabeth was able to understand God’s ways, because she was expecting a child in her old age. So the two cousins could understand one another and share their joy in the blessing God was bestowing on mankind.

At the same time there was a different meeting going on — the meeting between John the Baptist and Jesus. The fact that John leaped in his mother’s womb indicates that John recognized Jesus. This first meeting is the beginning of their shared mission to fulfill God’s plan for the world.

In our life, we have many meetings, with many people, for a variety of purposes. Most of our meetings with others are for business or social gatherings. Relatively few of our meetings are for the purpose of developing our spiritual lives, or for prayer. But faith-focused meetings are the most important for us, because through them, we discover God’s will for our lives. It’s important for us to look for people who are searching for God’s will and to have a community that will help us to develop our spiritual lives. Through sharing our faith, we grow in faith ourselves, and our prayers and example enrich the faith of other people.

Before the visit of the angel Gabriel, Mary seemed to be an ordinary girl. After the meeting, she was pregnant, but to an outside observer, nothing had changed. Mary was full of grace, but only Elizabeth could see that. Apart from her and Joseph – after the angel had appeared to him – nobody else was aware of how God’s grace was working in Mary’s life and in the world.

Nevertheless, the situation was not easy for Mary. First, her idea of her marriage and the future completely changed. How could she possibly explain it to Joseph? Then Joseph somehow found out about the baby, and didn’t want to marry her. A woman in her circumstances could be stoned to death for adultery. Even after Joseph was visited by the angel and had accepted Mary, there were still questions and doubts. This child is the son of God; he’s the Messiah. But they were just an ordinary, poor family going to Bethlehem to be registered. They had no idea what would happen there, when the baby was born. They didn’t even have the normal things you need to provide for a new-born child.

And the next thing they knew, they found out that the child’s life was in danger, and they had to emigrate to a foreign country where they had no home, no contacts and no way to make a living. When Jesus was twelve, they went to Jerusalem and lost track of their son for three days. And this time, no angel came to tell them where to go, or what to do. During Jesus’s ministry, Mary stood by and saw him rejected by people who did not want to receive his message, and even plotted to kill him. Finally, she stood at the foot of the cross and watched her son executed like a desperate criminal.

What was Mary’s strength through all of these experiences? Elizabeth gives us the answer when she says, ‘Blessed are you who believed….’ Mary’s faith must have been very great indeed, for her to have remained peaceful, patient and open to God’s will through-out the extra-ordinary events of her life. When we are praying for our needs, we always want an easy, beautiful life: a good job, good health, a nice home, happy relationships. At the same time, we seldom pray to have a good spiritual life, strong faith, and a close relationship with God.

We should go to Mary for a model of how to have great faith in our ordinary lives. She can show us how to give thanks to God for every little gift that he gives us.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us open our hearts to understand how God blesses us every day, in everything we do. Like Mary, let us be open to a new plan for our lives. Let us have great faith in every situation – the good and the bad. And like Mary, let us be quick to accept God’s will in our lives, and make haste to fulfill it.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Third Sunday in Advent

Reading I: Zephaniah 3:14-18a
Responsorial: Psalm Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
Reading II: Philippians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 3:10-18

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we heard the preaching of John the Baptist. People asked John the Baptist how to apply his teaching to their lives. They wanted to know how to behave in their own state in life.

John taught his followers to pay attention to their relationships with other people, because faith is not only our relationship to God. He pointed out people’s basic material needs: food and clothing should be provided to the poor.

In John’s day, having food and clothing was enough to survive. Nowadays, our life is more complicated. Thanks to a high level of technology, people are isolated from one another. Today, people need to have real person-al contact with others. If we are people of faith, we will find time for our family, our friends, neighbors and co-workers. Now our attention is taken up by listening to and watching many things. We don’t have time to meet and listen to one another.

This situation has become so extreme that in one European country, computer programmers working for Google live at their jobs. Everything they do – including eating and sleeping – is done at a self-contained campus where they work. They seldom go out into the ‘real world’ for anything.
They are so disconnected from real life, that the idea of going out to a party is shocking to them.

Once I read a story about a young man who wanted to commit suicide. He got on an underground train to go to the river and drown himself. When he was on the train, another guy with piercing blue eyes was sitting opposite him, staring at him intently. The suicidal young man was so troubled
by the intense stare of the man opposite him, that he stopped thinking about killing himself.
For a few days, he kept looking for the other man. When he found him, he asked, ‘Why were you staring at me like that?’ The other man replied, ‘I could see that you were suffering, and I was praying for you.’

This story shows us that we don’t need anything special to take notice of other people and show our concern about their problems. It’s enough for us to be open to other people in simple ways, with attention, time, or a smile.

Different kinds of people went to John the Baptist. Some of them were tax-collectors, who worked for the occupying Roman government. The tax-collectors wanted to know how to behave in their situation. John’s answer was simple: stop collecting more than is due. The soldiers had a similar question. John told them not to use their power to get money out of people.

John’s teaching shows us that our faith is not only a matter of praying and following the commandments. We have to live our faith in the world, not only in the church. Our faith has to inform everything we do — at work, in our communities, in our leisure time.

John was very popular with the people. Some people thought he was the Christ. If John had told them that he was the Christ, they would have believed him. But John was a humble prophet.
He told the truth about himself: his baptism was a baptism of water, but the Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. To be humble and conform to the truth without compromise was essential to John’s character.

Dear brother and sisters! We can follow John’s teaching in our lives. First, we have to be open to other people around us. Second, we have to be good: good workers, good spouses, good parents, good neighbors, good citizens, good priests. Finally, we have to be humble. We have to recognize the truth about ourselves, and not try to be something we are not.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

Second Sunday of Advent, Year C

Reading I: Baruch 5:1-9
Responsorial: Psalm: 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Reading II: Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6

Because today is the first Sunday of the month, there will be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass in lieu of a homily.

Adoration will include praying the ‘O Antiphons‘ which are traditionally prayed in the last days before Christmas.

Fr Lucjan Szymański, OFM Conv.

First Sunday in Advent

Reading I: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Responsorial: Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
Reading II: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

The letter below is a translation of the Bishop’s Letter in Polish, sent out to be read in all the churches in the Diocese.

Wrocław, 16 November 2015

Pastoral Letter of the Bishop of the Diocese of Wrocław on the Year of Mercy.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

In 2014, during the Polish bishops’ Ad Limina Apostolorum visit to Rome, I spoke with Pope Francis, who expressed his deep conviction that the modern era is a special time of Divine Mercy. Pope Francis said that at this time when every person is in great need of mercy, that we – bishops and priests – should preach mercy and be guided by mercy in our pastoral ministry. He added that he himself experiences the action of the Merciful God, and that now in a special way, God is offering his mercy to every person.

It has been several months since that conversation, and the Pope has since then officially announced that on 8 December 2015, the Year of Mercy will begin throughout the Church. It is clear that the idea of the Year of Mercy has been developing in the mind of our Holy Father, and that it comes out of his own religious experience.

The Holy Father wishes that this Year of Mercy be celebrated not only in Rome, but that every local church will be directly involved and experience this ‘moment of grace and spiritual renewal.’ In response to this request, I would like to invite you, brothers and sisters, to celebrate the Year of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Wrocław.

This kind of jubilee year has deep biblical roots. The Lord God commanded the Chosen People that every fifty years, they would celebrate a year of jubilee, a special year of grace in which everyone was liberated from debt and slavery. God’s mercy frees us from slavery to sin and returns us to the friendship with God which man enjoyed at the creation of the world. Our sins and unfaithfulness turn us away from the Creator. We are like heirs who have squandered our inheritance and are unsure and confused; we have more fear of the future than hope. Many try to drown out the voice of conscience, escaping into an illusion of being free from sin. They have a weak sense of sin, little consciousness of guilt and they ridicule the Church because they do not sense their need for repentance and conversion. The Year of Mercy is a good opportunity to open up to the merciful Father who offers us forgiveness. From the beginning, God has been seeking sinful man; God takes the initiative in reconciliation. God’s love is always first. He recognizes that each of us is capable of change, and he upholds us in our change.

I care deeply that everyone can experience in this holy time, what the Holy Father Pope Francis has said: that God never tires of forgiving. The same Jesus who told us to forgive seventy-seven times gives us an example: he forgives us seventy-seven times. And every time he holds us in his arms. No one can take away the dignity that is given to us by the infinite and unwavering love of God.

In order to understand what mercy is, it is useful to look at the Latin word misericordia. This word, which translates into English as ‘mercy’ consists of two words: ‘cor‘, which means ‘heart’, and ‘miseri‘ which means ‘poor.’ God’s mercy is not a single act, but it is an attitude of mercy toward man, an opening of God’s heart to the poor, the suffering and those in crisis. God is merciful, because his heart is always open to people. The Advent season reminds us of God’s mercy. It is a time to prepare ourselves for an encounter with Christ. The Son of God became man above all to pass on to humanity the truth of God’s love.

Experiencing the truth of God’s love in our lives calls us to transcend our selfishness and practice mercy toward our neighbors. The Holy Father encourages us to think in a new way about works of mercy for the soul and body. This occurs on different levels: from considering how we can understand the works of mercy, to taking specific actions, so that the Word will become flesh in our way of life, our works of mercy and our words.

When we consider the depiction of the Last Judgment recorded in the Gospels, we see that Jesus primarily condemns the failure to do good. Christianity cannot be reduced to simply not doing evil. Christ warned his disciples that if their righteousness did not exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes, they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Mercy, therefore, is about more than ordinary justice. It’s about overcoming the selfishness that makes us deaf and blind to the bodily and spiritual needs of our neighbors. It’s about overcoming hardness of heart, especially when we meet with the misery of others.

Throughout the year, we are never lacking in opportunities to do works of mercy. Each of us is surrounded by people who are waiting for even the smallest gesture of kindness from us. This may mean spending time with them, visiting lonely people, talking to them. When we pay our taxes, we can give 1% to institutions devoted to helping people who are in serious need. In the Archdiocese we are especially helping the Wrocław Window of Life created by the Sisters of St Borromeo. Through this initiative, nine children have been saved. The sisters also run the St Jerzy Center, which helps the sick and elderly, as well as a family clinic and a center for the treatment of infertility. Despite many obstacles, the sisters are trying to create a gynecological and obstetric hospital and medical school in Lower Silesia. Our support of this initiative can be a very concrete work of mercy.

I believe that this Year of Mercy, and initiatives related to it, will help us all the more to be open to accepting God’s forgiveness and engaging in charity towards our brothers and sisters.

To facilitate the celebration of this extraordinary Jubilee Year, there are 30 churches within the diocese in which you may gain a plenary indulgence. I encourage pastors and the faithful to go to these churches, to receive the Eucharist there, adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and to approach the sacrament of reconciliation. I also invite everyone to the solemn inauguration of the Year of Mercy in this archdiocese, which will take place on December 8 at 3PM in the Cathedral, with the opening of the door of mercy. This opening of that door recalls the opening of the Holy Door in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and symbolizes the open arms of the merciful Father who awaits the return of each of his children.

As we begin to celebrate the Year of Mercy together, I bless you all from my heart

Józef Kupny

Metropolitan Bishop of Wrocław