You might recall that my homily this past Sunday was about the Carmelite nun, St. Mariam of Jesus Crucified. She once had a vision where she beheld a chalice from which light streamed down on a dove to purify it. And in this vision, she heard a voice coming from the light, “If you wish to seek Me, to know Me, and to follow Me, invoke the light of the Holy Spirit, who enlightened the disciples and who enlightens all who call upon Him. I tell you, in truth, whoever invokes the Holy Spirit will seek Me and find Me.”
In the Gospel today, Jesus said, “work for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. This is the work of God: That you believe in the One He sent.” We cannot believe without the aid of the Holy Spirit, and we need that belief to permeate our entire lives. We know that believing isn’t just having faith but also being faithful. They are two sides of the same coin of True Belief.
So today I’d like us to focus on two things: 1) the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives, His being Lord of everything in our lives; and 2) the Power of the Holy Spirit and the greater release of the Spirit’s gifts and His power working in our lives. These go hand in hand; they will help to “turn water into wine” in our lives.
James Hudson Taylor once wrote, “Christ is either Lord of all or is not Lord at all.” I mentioned on Sunday that today’s homily would be about the Rule of Life, especially based on a video on YouTube called “Rule of Life,” by Fr. Chad Ripperger, a well-known exorcist. I’m now going to try to condense 30 minutes of information into 8 minutes.
Aristotle said, “The reason we develop virtue is, because once we have good habits, the moral life becomes easier.” Of course, it's also about sharing in God's goodness and growing in that. A byproduct is that the spiritual life becomes easier and more habituated in our lives. First of all, I’m going to talk about the basics of a Rule of Life, a way of life, an order to the lives we’re living. This might shed light on areas in your life that you’ve neglected or hadn’t thought about before. Perhaps you can take this information and direct it towards another person who may need to have Jesus as Lord of his or her life, along with a greater release of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Ripperger says the essentials, the basics, to growing in the spiritual life is to have a specific time that you get up in the morning and a specific time that you go to bed at night. He also says, given your state of life (your job, your family, etc.), you should pray at least four times a day: 1) In the morning, 2) midday—even if it’s just for a couple of minutes—3) in the evening, and 4) at night before going to bed. We’re going to flesh that out, but those are the bare bones.
He gives us a game plan for growing spiritually, which has four parts:
1. Making Private Vows
2. Keeping an Horarium
3. Rooting Out Defects
4. Building of Virtue
1. MAKING PRIVATE VOWS: A private vow is basically how you’re going to live your life. An important private vow for a layperson is to consecrate your life to Our Lady. Of course, it could also include making a private vow of virginity and other things. If you’re already consecrated to Our Lady, stay close to her as this private vow will help dictate what goes into your Rule of Life.
2. KEEPING AN HORARIUM. The word “hour” is related to the Latin word, “horarium”. An horarium is a schedule for your spiritual life. We must concretely schedule the Lord into our daily lives, including time for various spiritual practices. Fr. Ripperger says that a byproduct of the Fall of Adam and Eve is that people “want to do whatever they feel like doing, whenever they feel like doing it.” Every once in awhile, it’s ok to do that as we need some release, but we don’t want to tie up our free time with too many distractions. Of course, we also need recreation, but if you don’t keep an horarium or have discipline in your life, it will usually lead to spiritual laziness and the feeding of our appetites, wherein we can become a slave to such appetites. Not wanting to live by an horarium is a subtle form of selfishness.
Setting times in our lives, the best we can, pulls us out of our selfishness and makes growing in the spiritual life easier than before. We must want holiness with all our hearts, above all else. He said that many people have no consistency in their spiritual lives. People often advance in their spiritual lives but then they plateau or bottom out or get worse. He says that two reasons that this happens are because of 1) worldly distractions and/or a 2) lack of consistency in one’s prayer life.
Specifically, the horarium is a schedule we set for ourselves, including specific times for prayer, our family life, and our daily duties. An horarium will help us grow and keep us out of trouble. We need to be consistent with the time we get up in the morning and the time we go to bed at night. He says hardly anything good happens after Midnight. Having sufficient sleep will help us to have less distractions during our prayer time and will make spiritual warfare easier. That tip comes from an exorcist!
The bare minimum for every layperson’s daily spiritual life should be 1) praying the Morning Offering and saying the Rosary; 2) Examining one’s conscience; 3) Meditating at least 15 minutes—not just praying vocal prayers; and 4) spending at least five minutes a day in spiritual reading. This could be the Imitation of Christ or listening to a spiritually-nourishing recording. With spiritual reading, a little can go a long way.
Of course, there will be down time, vacation time. We can build on this spiritual horarium, too; for instance, adding Eucharistic Adoration at least once a week or attending daily Mass, according to your state in life. This will help not only with discipline but also with recollection. If we don’t think about God between morning prayer and the time we go to bed, there’s a problem. We’re going to be pushed about. Fr. Ripperger says that in order to consistently bring ourselves back to God, we should pray simple prayers throughout the day like, “I love you, Lord," or “Come, Holy Spirit!” He says if we want to open ourselves to the gift of mystical contemplation, mystical graces of God, we can’t be neglecting God during long stretches of our days.
3. ROOTING OUT DEFECTS. Know what things you struggle with and then create a game plan to root out these defects. For instance, if your problem is with overeating, perhaps you should not eat between meals or you should try to fast. If you binge-watch TV, set parameters for your viewing time. How are YOU going to root out your defects? Doing this is like bringing the spirit of Lent into our daily lives.
4. BUILDING OF VIRTUE. Fr. Ripperger says we should choose a specific virtue and work on it for a period of time—even if it’s just for a week or a month. Focus on it, concentrate on it, and work on it. He uses the example of a military boot camp in which the soldiers’ lives are brutally regimented. Eventually certain virtues can begin taking root from their regimented lives: discipline, following commands, obedience.
Finally, Fr. Ripperger speaks about families. He says that the average family should spend at least 15 to 30 minutes a day praying together, including the Family Rosary. The husband and wife should possibly spend another 15 minutes together. Of course, this is based on your state in life. He says that children, before the age of reason, need to be given a foundation and to learn about prayer and virtue by command and by training. After the age of reason, though still having an imposed external structure of prayer and virtue, they should be encouraged to start making virtuous choices, including prayer. After puberty, the training and commands should shift to counsel and encouragement. If a Rule is imposed on them after puberty, without having first been given a foundation, there will be a lot of trouble. They’ll revolt! However, Fr. Ripperger says it’s important for parents to determine the conditions for living in the household (which, I would add, would definitely include going to Mass together, whether teens like it or not—a household non-negotiable. Still teaching the “why’s” and encouraging the teen’s PERSONAL relationship with God will be essential. With a good foundation laid of virtue and prayer, parents will depend more on encouragement and counsel.
The total prayer time for most laypeople should be at least an hour a day. Know the essentials. When things get busy and life throws you curveballs, you may need to fall back on the bare minimum and certain prayer obligations. It’s ok to do that for a while, but then you need to go back to your regular horarium as soon as possible.
To wrap up, make Jesus the Lord of your life. Tell Him, “Lord, I’m clinging on to (name whatever part of your life is not spiritually edifying) and I’m afraid to give it up. Please be the Lord of that part of my life.” Or pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, release the gifts which were given to me in baptism and help me follow my Rule of Life.”
Let’s close our eyes and pray the prayer of St. Mariam that she heard in ecstasy:
“Holy Spirit, inspire me.
Love of God, consume me.
Along the true road, lead me.
Mary, my mother, look upon me.
With Jesus, bless me.
From all evil, from all illusion, from all danger, preserve me. Amen.”
5th Sunday of Lent (March 29, 2020)
J M + J T
"FROM EXILE TO THE PROMISED LAND"
Brothers and sisters, it’s just not the same here without your physical presence in our beautiful church. We’re in our respective “quarantines,” a word that comes from the Italian “quarantina,” meaning “forty days.” What a mysterious connection to LENT! However, we’re doing what we can to stay connected.
I’d like to briefly share some highlights of our efforts to stay connected with each other:
1. This past Saturday, I received the following email from Kristenne, Skyler’s wife, along with a picture:
"Hi Father,Maria and I were listening to your homily [from March 27] about the women smuggling the Bible into the concentration camp. However, Maria [their little daughter] heard the word "snuggling" instead, and so she brought her Bible over. Here's a picture of her interpretation of your homily."
2. I’ve heard from some parishioners who are responding to our current situation with inspiring acts of service. Amy Wen, who is in our RCIA program and will be coming into full communion with the Church, was inspired by Jesus giving His Blood and so has given her plasma to those in need. Margaret and Pat Blackwell emailed me offering their helping hands to the elderly and homebound in need. I connected them with “Hearts to Serve,” an initiative of our Archdiocese in which volunteers take calls, stock parish-based food pantries, or deliver food and household items to the homebound. Please visit their website to volunteer or receive assistance by clicking here X. Our own Fr. Philip has helped out some families with the new “golden calf,” a.k.a., TOILET PAPER!
3. The intensity of St. Therese’s Eucharistic Devotion has also come into greater focus for me. The other day, I talked to Blake outside of our Adoration Chapel (she is the coordinator of our Avila Young Adult Ministry). She was longing to adore Jesus and shared that, “You don’t fully realize what you have until it’s gone.” I’ve been impacted by the tears seen in the eyes of parishioners receiving our Lord Jesus in Holy Communion possibly for the last time for a while.
Those of you watching this Mass online are entering into a different sort of participation. Of course, it’s not a Sacramental participation, but it can be a real spiritual participation through offering your intentions, following the postures and responses, and by making an intentional Spiritual Communion with Jesus. As we do the best we can, may our DESIRE for Jesus in Holy Communion expand our hearts and deepen our union with Him!
Ezekiel 37 - 1ST READING: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD…”
The context here is of Ezekiel writing from EXILE during the Babylonian captivity. “Ezekiel is the prophet of the exiles…All his energies were directed toward keeping the exiles’ hopes alive…” . Ezekiel 37 is a prophecy of HOPE! For us, this means that our present “exile” won’t last forever. Thanks be to God! As many of you know, the directives from the Los Angeles Archdiocese only allow the Sacrament of Reconciliation at this time for those who are receiving the Anointing of the Sick due to “danger of death,” or who are under “extremely extraordinary situations.” This is HARD! It is hard for you and it’s hard for us priests to not be able to be there for you in this way. This, too, won’t last forever.
The directives also said, “As Pope Francis reminded us in his homily on March 20, 2020, priests are encouraged to remind the faithful, who are physically unable to attend individual Reconciliation, of the Church’s teaching on Perfect Contrition.” Paragraph 1452 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from the Council of Trent, states, “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to Sacramental Confession as soon as possible.”
John 11 - Gospel: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
As I reflected on this Gospel yesterday, I was looking at the CROSS. In our Carmelite Tradition, we have a plain, simple cross in our cells (rooms). This cross without the corpus stands for simplicity, that we’re to be on the cross with Jesus, along with a hint toward the resurrection. There is a common theme woven between our 1st Reading, 2nd Reading, and Gospel:
“O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them…”; “…the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…”; “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God…”
From EXILE to PROMISED LAND ~ from DEATH to LIFE ~ from ILLNESS to GLORY! “The glory of God is man fully alive,” St. Irenaeus once wrote. This means being fully alive in Christ! All this doesn’t mean that God takes away the exile or suffering immediately… WE COME TO HIS GLORY THROUGH THE CROSS. Our good Jesus didn’t come to save us FROM the Cross, but THROUGH THE CROSS. In Jesus, our WOUNDS become WELLSPRINGS. The hurts, pains, and wounds of our lives, THROUGH CHRIST—brought to Christ—can become springs of grace.
While I was in seminary, I went through a season of intense anxiety and scruples. There was a counselor at seminary named Dr. Galindo. One of our professors used to joke with some of his goofball students, “Go see Galindo!” Thankfully, the stigma of seeing a psychologist is rightly lessening. I made the excellent decision to get over the stigma and started seeing Dr. Galindo. One thing he told me was that we are all LEAKY PAILS, meaning: “IT’S OK! …we all have issues.” We are pails that are leaky, with wounds and brokenness. However, wherever the water spills through the cracks, NEW LIFE can spring up! And yet, it is so hard when we’re in the middle of the pain…
Jesus, through THE CROSS & RESURRECTION, is putting back together a world that has come undone (listen to Fr. Mike Schmitz’s homily). What has come undone points to a deeper problem. The source of undoing was humanity’s severing its union with God reverberating from the Garden of Eden. Our first parents distrusted their Father, turned from Him, the Source of Life, and hid. Distrust of God’s goodness and providential care for us, especially in the middle of difficulties that He allows for our ultimate good, can lead us to ask the question, “WHERE IS GOD?” To answer this question, let's use World War II as an example. Although the Nazis demonstrated the depths of evil that humanity can fall to, I’d like to offer just a few of the ways that we can recognize God’s light breaking through such shadows:
1. St. Faustina ~ When I was in Poland one summer, I was taken aback at how close St. Faustina’s monastery was to Auschwitz. It’s incredible to think that she was writing messages from Jesus pleading with humanity to turn to His mercy just years before World War II broke out, and from so close to one of the future centers of such unthinkable acts. Surely, the Lord was crying out through St. Faustina.
2. St. Maximilian Kolbe ~ Just a few years after the death of St. Faustina, St. Maximilian would lovingly offer his life at Auschwitz to save the life of a family man. Surely, the good Lord was powerfully present in this sacrifice of St. Maximilian.
3. St. Edith Stein ~ Surely, God was present as St. Edith Stein (aka St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D.) gathered other Religious around her to keep vigil at prayer after their capture. Surely, God was lovingly present as she brushed the hair and consoled the children of those mothers who had lost their minds as a result of terror and brutality.
4. Corrie ten Boom ~ Surely, God was present as Corrie smuggled the Holy Bible through two check points and a mandatory shower at Germany’s Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. This Bible would become a hidden source of light, grace, and transformation for Corrie’s cramped barracks of 1,400 women as it was read aloud and God’s word was uttered along the aisles through translators. (From the book, “The Hiding Place”).
WOUNDS became WELLSPRINGS, as Corrie would later work at one of the concentration camps after the end of WWII--a converted, transformed concentration camp that became a place of healing and rehabilitation to those devastated after the devastation.
HE IS STILL AT WORK TODAY through you and through me… "Help us, Lord!" Our saving Lord is alive and active through:
Those who are putting their lives on the line to care for others in this time
The daily prayer gatherings of our families united in Christ
Lawmakers and pro-life advocates trying to limit and END abortion.
“O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them…”
“…the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus
from the dead dwells in you…”
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God…”
With faith in Jesus, we will move from:
FEAR to TRUST
SUFFERING to UNION WITH JESUS
DOUBT to FAITH
LONELINESS to CONSOLATION
LUST to CHASTITY
RESENTMENT to THE FREEDOM OF FORGIVENESS
PHYSICAL BLEMISHES to INNER BEAUTY.
This is the sudden, or gradual, process of TRANSFORMATION when brought to Jesus THROUGH THE CROSS.
From VICE to VIRTUE…Many of you are familiar with Fr. Ripperger, the American exorcist with a PhD. In his teaching on spiritual warfare, he says that every temptation from the demons is only possible by God’s allowing them to happen. Almighty God allows this because He always wants to bring about good from the evil aims of the demons. He wants to bring about good from our efforts, inspired and supported by His grace, that we may grow in the virtue directly opposing the vice we are tempted to.
In the Holy Mass, we encounter THE CROSS. Thankfully, this encounter is a simple "art of the heart" and not rocket science! We focus on Jesus, straining past the lingering pain of our crosses the best we can and, with a simple movement of the heart and mind, we abandon our fears, sufferings, doubts, struggles, resentments, and special intentions to Him. Along with our loved ones, our struggles, gratitude, praise, and intentions, we entrust ourselves to Him as we join in His upward movement, His upward offering of self-giving love to the Father. Jesus takes our offering through His wounds and into His Sacred Heart, where both ourselves and our offerings lead to union with Him so that we then experience transformation.
From EXILE to PROMISED LAND ~ from DEATH to LIFE ~ from ILLNESS to GLORY! This is the sudden, or gradual, process of TRANSFORMATION when brought to Jesus THROUGH THE CROSS. No matter what the good Lord chooses to give us (and it will always be for our greatest good), we ought to desire and prize above all…Him! Our offerings unite us to the One who has loved us first, with an unconditional love, who loved us all the way to the Cross, who always welcomes the prodigal with unsurpassable mercy and rejoicing, who thirsts for us every moment of the day!
Let us continue to enter into the one offering of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout our day. Because Jesus is risen and among us, we can continue at any moment to unite ourselves, our crosses, and our gratitude with Him from the altars of our hearts. One powerful way of recalling His presence with us and His Holy Sacrifice for our sins is through the HOME ALTAR. This can help extend the spirituality of the Holy Mass, the greatest prayer, into our homes and give us and our families a spot to gather, pray, offer, receive, and unite with Jesus.
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25-26).
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to Hs eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5: 10-11).