Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Reflection

"This week is the week of joy: we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. It is a true, profound joy, based on the certainty that the Risen Christ dies no more, but is alive and working in the Church and in the world. This certainty has dwelt in the heart of believers since that Easter morning, when the women went to Jesus’ sepulcher and the Angels said to them: 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' (Luke 24:5). 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' These words are as a milestone in history, but also an 'obstacle stone' if we do not open ourselves to the Good News, if we think that a dead Jesus bothers us less than a living Jesus! Instead, how many times in our daily journey do we need to hear said: “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” How many times do we seek life among dead things, among things that cannot give life, among things that today exist and tomorrow are no longer, things that pass … 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?'

"We are in need of this when we shut ourselves in some form of egoism or self-complacency; when we allow ourselves to be seduced by earthly powers and by the things of this world, forgetting God and our neighbor; when we put our hopes in worldly vanity, in money, in success. Then the Word of God says to us: 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' Why are you looking there? That thing cannot give you life! Yes, perhaps it will give you the joy of a minute, a day, a week, a month … and then? 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' This phrase must enter our heart and we must repeat it...Today, when we go home, we will say it from our heart, in silence, and we will ask ourselves this question: why do I in life seek the living among the dead? It will do us good."

--Pope Francis, General Audience, April 23, 2014

Monday, April 10, 2017

Reflection for Holy Week

 
"Jesus reaches complete humiliation with his 'death on the cross.' It is the worst death -- that reserved for slaves and criminals. Jesus was considered a prophet, but he died as a criminal. Looking at Jesus in his Passion, we see as in a mirror the sufferings of humanity and we find the divine answer to the mystery of evil, of grief and of death. So often we perceive the horror of the evil and pain that surrounds us and we ask: “Why does God allow it?” It is a profound wound for us to see suffering and death, especially that of the innocent! When we see children suffering, it is a wound to the heart: it is the mystery of evil. And Jesus takes upon himself all this evil, all this suffering. It will do us all good this week to look at the crucifix, to kiss Jesus’ wounds, to kiss him on the cross. He took upon himself all human suffering, he clothed himself in this suffering.

"We expect God, in His omnipotence, to defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory. Instead, God shows us a humble victory which humanly seems a failure. We can say that God conquers in failure! In fact, the Son of God appears on the cross as a defeated man: he suffers, is betrayed, is despised and finally dies. However, Jesus allows evil to rage on him and he takes it upon himself to defeat it. His Passion is not an incident; his death – that death – was 'written.' Truly, we do not find many explanations. It is a disconcerting mystery, the mystery of God’s great humility: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (John 3:16). We think so much of Jesus’ grief this week and we say to ourselves: this is for me. Even if I were the only person in the world, he would have done it. He did it for me. We kiss the crucifix and we say: for me, thank you Jesus, for me."

--Pope Francis, General Audience, April 16, 2014

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent


"The Lord promises the Samaritan woman water that becomes in the one who drinks it a source springing up into eternal life (cf. Jn. 4:14), so that whoever drinks it will never be thirsty again. In this scene, the symbolism of the well is associated with Israel's salvation history. Earlier, at the calling of Nathanael, Jesus had already revealed himself as the new and greater Jacob. In a nocturnal vision Jacob had seen the angels of God ascending and descending above the stone he was using for a pillow. Jesus prophesies to Nathanael that his disciples will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending above him (cf. Jn. 1:51). Here, at Jacob's well, we encounter Jacob as the great patriarch who by means of this well had provided water, the basic element of life. But there is a greater thirst in man--it extends beyond the water from the well, because it seeks a life that reaches out beyond the biological sphere...

"John distinguishes between bios and zoe--between biological life (bios) and the fullness of life (zoe) that is itself a source and so is not subject to the dying and becoming that mark the whole of creation. In the conversation with the Samaritan woman, then, water once again--though now in a different way--functions as the symbol of the Pneuma, the real life-force, which quenches man's deeper thirst and gives him plenitude of life, for which he is waiting without knowing it."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth--Part One: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (New York: Doubleday, 2007), pp. 240-241

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Cleanse your vessel that you may receive grace more abundantly; for although the remission of sins is given to all equally, the communion of the Holy Spirit is bestowed in proportion to the faith of each. If you have labored little, you will receive little; but if your labor has been great, great will be your reward."

--Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 1, 5

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

 
"If the Lord finds in our hearts a faith, I do not say perfect, but sincere, genuine, then He also sees in us the living stones with which he can build his community. Of this community, the fundamental rock is Christ, the only cornerstone. On his part, Peter is a rock, as a visible foundation of the unity of the Church; but each baptized person is called to offer to Jesus their own faith, poor but sincere, so that He can continue to build his Church, today, in every part of the world."

--Pope Francis, Angelus Address, August 24, 2014

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Reflection

 
"God has not abandoned His people and did not let Himself be defeated by evil, because He is faithful, and his grace is greater than sin. We must learn this, because we are obstinate and do not learn it. But I will ask a question: what is greater, God or sin? God! And who wins at the end, God or sin? God. He is able to overcome the greatest sin, the most shameful, the most terrible, the worst of sins. With what weapon does God overcome sin? With love! This means that “God reigns”; these are the words of faith in a Lord whose power bends over humanity, abases Himself, to offer mercy and liberate man from what disfigures in him the beautiful image of God, because when we are in sin, God’s image is disfigured. And the fulfilment of so much love will be in fact the Kingdom established by Jesus, that Kingdom of forgiveness and peace that we celebrate at Christmas and that is realized definitively at Easter. And the most beautiful joy of Christmas is this interior joy of peace: the Lord has cancelled my sins, the Lord has forgiven me, the Lord has had mercy on me, He came to save me. This is the joy of Christmas!"

--Pope Francis, General Audience, December 14, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

"With eyes set on Christmas, which is approaching, the Church invites us to give witness that Jesus is not a figure from the past. He is the word of God who today continues illuminating the path of man. His actions, the sacraments, are the manifestations of the tenderness, of the consolation, of the love of the Father for each human being. The Virgin Mary, 'cause of our joy' always brings us back to joy in the Lord, who comes to free us from so many interior and exterior slaveries."

--Pope Francis, Angelus Address, December 14, 2014

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mid-Life Crisis Averted

Regrettably, due to my father's illness and passing, my family and farm responsibilities, and my new job as music director at a local parish, I haven't had much opportunity for serious article writing or blogging this year. I've been mentally drafting several articles and blog posts while being forced to postpone typing them up and publishing them. That just goes to show that other activities in my life have taken center stage lately, pushing my beloved career as a freelance author to the periphery.

However, I don't intend to abandon freelance writing altogether, so long as I have any free time left. There's a basic rule of life that you make the time for what's important to you; conversely, this means that how you use your time reflects your values and philosophy of life. I have my own business as a writer, not just because I enjoy it, not just because it enables me to think through important issues and form sound convictions on them and share those convictions with others, not just because I get a little income from it every now and then; above all, I write because God has entrusted to me the talent of being an author, so I must use that talent responsibly for His greater glory and the good of my fellow men and women.

Twenty sixteen has been a difficult but decisive year of my life, during which God has allowed me to "encounter various trials" (James 1:2) in order to strengthen me in certain ways, while also clearly showing me the path He wills me to take. During the last several years, while I was pretty secure as far as who I was, I was also going through a typical mid-life crisis. Although I enjoyed (and was kept plenty busy) writing and publishing articles and music, working as a handyman for my good Catholic landlord in the great outdoors, and singing in the choir at my parish, I nonetheless felt keenly that something was missing. The main issue was that I knew I wasn't making full use of the musical talents God has given me. Additionally, I was unsure whether music or writing should be my main focus as far as a lifelong career, and hesitant to choose one over the other since I was passionate about both--and if I should do both, how would I successfully combine the two?

Thankfully, our loving and providential God resolved my dilemma by presenting me late this summer with the wonderful opportunity to serve Him as the full-time music director at the sole Catholic church here in my home county. Although it was emotionally difficult for me to cease regularly attending Sunday Mass at my beloved registered parish in the next county, I knew deep down that it was God's will for me to seize this opportunity--and I'm sure glad I did. Not only do I play piano and/or organ at three Masses every weekend, I also get to write a short weekly column for the parish bulletin as well as a longer quarterly article for the parish newsletter. So while music has emerged as my primary career focus, with writing now being secondary, I get to use both my talents and pursue both my passions within the same ministry--all under the watchful and loving gaze of Jesus Christ Himself physically present in the tabernacle just a few steps away from my office. God is so good!

I hope to write something soon--late this year or early next--about the 2016 presidential election and our country's future under the new administration. Articles on other topics coming as well. Keep me in your prayers and stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

“The soul of one who serves God always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, and is always in a mood for singing.”

--Saint John of the Cross

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

"We, therefore, who have been called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, neither by our wisdom or understanding or piety, nor by the works we have wrought in holiness of heart, but by the faith by which almighty God has justified all men from the beginning: To whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

--St. Clement I, Letter to the Corinthians, 32, 4

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Those who sincerely say 'Jesus I trust in you' will find comfort in all their anxieties and fears."

--Saint John Paul II

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Losing the Battle

Daniel L. Soutar (1958--2016)
This past February, shortly after my father Daniel and I celebrated our fifty-eighth and thirtieth birthdays, respectively, my Dad was hospitalized and diagnosed with Stage IV colon and liver cancer. Although my Dad's health had been slightly and mysteriously declining during the previous year or so, this discovery nonetheless came as a shock to me and my mother and sister, because my Dad had always been the picture of health throughout his life. Promptly transferred from our little community hospital to the big one down in Roanoke, my Dad quickly consented to undergo emergency surgery to save his life; that went well, and to the surgeon's surprise, he had no pain afterwards. Always one to take charge of his own life as far as possible, my Dad unhesitatingly dismissed suggestions that he receive palliative care at home following the surgery. And while he briefly considered undergoing standard chemotherapy and radiation treatment, he ultimately rejected this course of action as imprudent given the undesirable side effects and the well-documented (but, for obvious reasons, not well-publicized) abysmally low success record of such treatment.

In place of this, my Dad proceeded to organize and wage his own vigorous, multi-pronged battle of diet, exercise, and nutritional supplementation against the demon that threatened to slay him. Based on research and advice obtained from his surgeon and several other health experts, my Dad's unique strategy included iron and protein supplementation, drinking freshly made carrot juice (which he forced himself to make daily despite his low energy levels), a strict sugar-free diet, almost daily half-mile to mile-long walks around the property, and a resolute determination to win this thing. And for a while, it looked like he would do just that. Despite some difficult adjustments, he recovered well from the surgery and was soon able to drive again. He made the one and a half hour trip to Roanoke by himself for the follow-up appointment with his surgeon, who was not only delighted with the progress he was making, but eager to learn more about alternatives to the standard cancer treatments.

In mid-May, however, we received the first clear warning sign that my Dad was actually losing the battle. That month, a CAT scan revealed that the cancer had grown and was now spreading to other parts of his body. Our good doctor friend looked at the scan and said that my Dad had two weeks left to live. At this point, where a weaker man would have surrendered to the inevitable and laid down to die, my Dad redoubled his efforts to defeat the cancer, praying for guidance and researching expensive alternative treatments. God led him to a remarkable product called Haelan 951, a bitter-tasting fermented soy beverage that's prescribed to treat protein calorie malnutrition. Within a few days of starting on this drink, he was feeling better and had more energy, and a few weeks later, he noticed that some of the tumors that he could touch and feel with his hand were shrinking. Two months later, my Dad was still alive, although his energy was steadily declining, his walks were getting shorter and less frequent, and he was gradually losing his ability to do things for himself. Interestingly, his last CAT scan in mid-July indicated that the cancer had expanded only slightly during the intervening two months. I'm convinced that the Haelan contributed significantly to slowing the growth of the cancer and enabling my Dad to live for three more months.

Towards the end of July, my Dad became bedridden and his breathing became more and more labored. During those final three and a half weeks of his life, which were very painful and difficult, my Mom and I were blessed with the opportunity to serve Jesus in disguise. It's one thing to talk about serving Christ in the poorest of the poor as a nice theory; it's another thing to actually do it yourself. It's certainly not easy to do, but it does have its rewards, even here on earth. As my ever-independent Dad progressively lost the ability to do things he'd always done for himself--which was initially frustrating for him but to which he gradually resigned himself--he'd be so grateful for the slightest thing my Mom or I could do to help. Whether it was bringing him a bowl of cereal or a glass of water or adjusting his pillows or whatever, he would look at us with his penetrating eyes and say, from the bottom of his heart, "Thank you--so much." That sincere gratitude helped make it all worth while. And furthermore, this opportunity to serve Christ in my Dad through simple works of mercy brought a mysterious joy to my heart.

On August 7, my Dad, being a good practicing Catholic, received the sacraments of Penance, Holy Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick from the hands of our beloved pastor, Father Joseph Wamala. My Dad's struggle finally ended peacefully, and he went to be with the Lord late in the afternoon of August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, his spiritual Mother to whom he had been devoted throughout his adult life.

Like so many others, although he fought valiantly, my Dad ultimately lost his battle with cancer. But from a spiritual perspective, my Dad was victorious, because he died in the state of sanctifying grace. I'll always treasure those last six months of his life that he was able to spend with me, my Mom, and my sister thanks to his determination to keep fighting the good fight--months during which we played games and watched movies together on Sundays, months during which we went to Mass and grocery shopping together, months during which I continued to learn from his seemingly inexhaustible fountain of good example and advice.

Although I'm not sure why God decided to take my Dad home to himself earlier than we (and he) reasonably expected, I trust that Our Heavenly Father knew what he was about when He allowed this to happen, that He allowed it to happen for some good reason, and that my Dad's early death is somehow a key part of His master plan for my life. Furthermore, my Catholic faith assures me that, whether his soul is currently in Heaven or Purgatory, my Dad is spiritually united with me and my living loved ones through the Communion of Saints, and that all of us who die in the state of sanctifying grace as he did will someday be permanently and irrevocably reunited with him in the unimaginable glory and joy of Heaven.

In the meantime, please keep my beloved Dad, along with me and my loved ones, in your prayers.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reflection for Today

“It is the heart of our Father, God is like this: he does not tire, he does not tire! And for so many centuries He has done this, with so many apostasies, so many apostasies of the people. And He always returns, because our God is a God who waits. From that afternoon in the earthly Paradise, Adam left with a penalty and a promise. And He is faithful, the Lord is faithful to his promise, because he cannot deny himself. He is faithful. And so he waits for all of us, along the history. He is the God that waits for us, always....

“God waits and also God forgives. He is the God of mercy: he does not tire of forgiving us. It is we who are tired of asking for forgiveness, but He never gets tired. Seventy times seven; go forward with forgiveness. And from a business standpoint, the balance is negative. He always loses: he loses in the balance of things, but conquers in love....

“He will make a feast for you. 'His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.’ The life of every person, of every man, of every woman, who has the courage to draw close to the Lord, will find the joy of the feast of God. So, may this word help us to think of our Father, the Father that waits for us always, who always forgives us and who feasts when we return.”

--Pope Francis, Homily at Casa Santa Marta, March 28, 2014

Friday, July 22, 2016

Quote of the Day


"Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus 'my hope': he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. 'Christ my hope' means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity."

--Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi Address, Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012

Monday, July 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Genuine human rights are inalienable and must be universally respected and advanced. In consequence, however, the term 'human right' must be strictly and prudently applied, lest it become a rhetorical catch-all, endlessly expanded to suit the passing tastes of the age. Such an elastic approach would discredit and undermine the very concept of human rights. A responsible exercise of human rights necessarily implies a faithful fulfillment of their corresponding responsibilities."

--Archbishop Bernardino Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, July 12, 2016