Monday, February 27, 2012

Let All Who Have Ears Hear

While there has been much posted on the Internet regarding the Health and Human Services mandate, the Federally mandated health care program, and the American Bishops' outcry to this un-Constitutional act through their writings, homilies, and interviews, I am posting a homily that is on YouYube that lays the issues out for every American. We are at a critical time in our history. Please take the time to listen and let me know what you think. Here is the link:

Religious Liberty Homily by Fr. Sammie L. Maletta, Jr., Pastor

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Repent and Believe in the Gospel

First Sunday of Lent
Gn 9:8-15/1Pt 3:18-22/Mk 1:12-15

Lent gives us a time to more deeply contemplate our baptism and what it truly means to live as disciples of Christ. As noted in the first letter of Peter, baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is Christ who leads us to God—we cannot get to the Father any other way but through His Son, Jesus Christ, led by the Spirit.

This is where the last line of the Gospel is so critical. Continuing John the Baptist’s cry, Jesus proclaims, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The author of the Gospel, Jesus’ words are brought to life as example and lesson in all He does. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as He comes out of the dessert, through the Cross to eternal life. This is also the path we, as His disciples, are also called to walk.

The sad truth, however, is that so few truly know the Gospel. One question I always ask Catechists during formation sessions is, “If we are called to preach the Gospel—what is the Good News?” The usual response is a deer in the headlight look followed by numerous guesses usually focusing on being nice to our neighbors.

When Pope Benedict XI established the new Roman Dicastery promoting the New Evangelization in 2010, he opened the event with his Apostolic Letter Ubicumque et Semper. In the opening paragraph the Pope noted, “The Church has the duty to proclaim always and everywhere the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He, the first and supreme evangelizer, on the day of his Ascension to the Father sent the Apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20)” (US, 1).

While we live in a time of great scientific and technological advancements, it seems as if our culture has lost its moral compass. It is as if the more we know and can control in life, the less we feel we need God. Statistics note the fastest growing religious group is one identifying itself as “unaffiliated” (Pew Forum, Many note they believe in God, yet have little to no desire to belong to a community of faith. The result is the creation of individual gods—not the God of the Gospel that Christ came to preach and the one that we, as believers are called to proclaim, but a gospel based on individual ideas, philosophies, and truths. This is not the path to heaven.

Reflecting on the reality of our culture, Pope Benedict reminds us of this in his moto proprio on the New Evangelizaiton. “All this has not happened without consequences also for the religious dimension of man's life. And if on one hand humanity has known the undeniable benefits of these transformations and the Church has received further stimulation to give reason for the hope that is in her (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), verified on the other hand is a worrying loss of the sense of the sacred, even calling into question those foundations that seem indisputable, such as faith in a creator and provident God, the revelation of Jesus Christ only Savior, and the common understanding of the fundamental experiences of man, such as birth, death, living in a family, and reference to a natural moral law” (Ubicumque et Semper).

It is up to us as disciples to not let the Gospel go unheard. It is not enough to assume people will pick it up from our behavior—we must use the words and be intentional about our actions. The Good News must be proclaimed with a zeal and conviction, in its purity and rawness. I always tell Catechists that if they teach nothing else, they need to proclaim the message of John 3:16 over and over again: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  Every lesson, project, prayer, and activity should flow in and out of the core of the Gospel.

We need to understand, proclaim, and live the love that God has for us. It is a love that goes to the depth and length that Jesus did for us. From the leper to the Temple. From the manger to the cross. When we do, we will be the living example of God’s love in this world, drawing others to Christ, through whom salvation is known.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lent: Our Paschal Mystery Journey

I have to admit it—Lent is my favorite time of the Liturgical year. It is a time to reflect on who we are in relationship to God and who we need to be to be in union with Him. It is our walk through the Paschal Mystery with Jesus. A dying to our old ways and rising to new life in Christ.

Forty is a significant number to the people of God. It rained for forty days and forty nights before the waters subsided and Noah landed.  The Chosen People wandered for forty years in the desert before being led to the Promised Land. Moses was with God on the mountain for forty days.  God gave Nineveh forty days to repent. Jesus went out into the desert for forty days to pray, being tempted by Satan. The list goes on and on.  It is also significant that a woman is pregnant for forty weeks in the natural birth cycle.

Forty is a time of testing and trial. It is a time of struggle to overcome difficulties. It is a time to bear patiently as we allow new life to form in us—whether physically or spiritually. God’s hand in this miracle is the beauty of Lent. As we open ourselves up to His Presence in our lives, He fills us with grace and goodness. Lent is a time to contemplate what Christ has done for us so that we in turn may be the image of Christ for others. In the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

For St. Thérèse of Lisieux, contemplating the cross took on a deep meaning as she grew in the understanding of Jesus’ cry from the cross, “I thirst.” For what does He thirst? For souls—for your soul, for my soul, for all souls. This understanding spurred Thérèse on in her faith life as she strove to seek Christ in others as she was Christ to them. St. Edith Stein wrote, “Whoever comes to me, I want to lead to Him.” Each and every soul is precious to God and He wants all of humanity to be with Him for all eternity.

Lent gives us an intense time to examine how we can be more like Jesus. Through prayer and contemplation, fasting and abstinence, through sacrifice and works, let us walk with Him on the dusty, rocky, and perilous path to the cross. As He extends His hands and feet for us, let us extend ours in sacrifice for others. As He cries from the cross, let us hear His cries as those of the poor and comfort them in their suffering. As He gazes out from the cross on the people He came to save, let us look out with eyes of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. As He hangs in His nakedness, let us bare our souls to Him.

Lent is a glorious time, for we know that through our suffering comes the great glory of Easter, if we believe in the One who loves us so. Just as a woman suffers through the pains of labor to give birth, so our sufferings in sin, when released to Jesus, bear new life filled with joy. Let us be opened to Him in new ways, giving Christ greater glory as we work to relieve His thirst for souls through bringing all we know to Him.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Let Your 'Yes' Mean 'Yes'!

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Is 43: 18-19, 21-22, 24b-25/1Cor 1:18-22/Mk 2:1-12

The readings of this Sunday could not have a deeper meaning for Catholics as we examine the events of our government and mandates which threaten our freedom of religion. St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians, telling them of the faithfulness of God’s promise to them, as exemplified by Christ. Christ’s ‘Yes’ in following the Will of the Father led Him to the Cross—but ultimately to the victory over sin and death for all who believe.

In Mark’s Gospel we hear the familiar story of the paralytic, whose friends were so desperate for him to experience an encounter with Jesus in hopes of being healed they lowered him through roof of the home where the Lord was so as to encounter Him. When Jesus cures the man’s sins, Scribes in the crowd begin to accuse the Lord (among themselves) of blasphemy, for only God can forgive sins. Addressing the Scribes’ insinuations, Jesus then cures the paralytic of his physical affliction, telling him to “Rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” Those in the crowd are astounded and glorify God.

The words of the prophet Isaiah from the first reading were a warning for the people of his time, Christ’s time, and I daresay, for today as well:

The people I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.
Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob, for you grew weary of me, O Israel.
You burdened me with your sins, and wearied me with your crimes.
It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.

How are we like the people of Isaiah’s time? Have we placed our trust in God or have we abandoned Him in order to strike out on our own—becoming a nation who has lost its center, who is God? Have we become so paralyzed with sin as a country that we can no longer walk as a child of God? Have we become so desensitized to what is morally right and good that our own wants and needs are our only compass?

I have been reading blog responses on some of the national news sites regarding the Health and Human Service mandate requiring religious institutions to provide health care for employees. The voice of the Catholic Bishops of this country has been strong and clear. This is not solely an issue about forcing faith based companies to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or abortion to their employees, as the media would like us to think, but is more importantly a battle focusing on our First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, secured by our forefathers in the founding of this nation, affecting every single American citizen.

The response to these actions by God-fearing people is night and day different from those who, by very proof of their comments, are motivated by self-interest and very little to no understanding of the history of this country, the founding documents on which we stand, or belief in God. Sad to say, fewer and fewer in this country believe in God, let alone participate in a religious community of faith.

If there was ever a time to evangelize, now would be it! If we are a nation that places our trust in God, then we must fervently pray that He will give us the words to draw all to an understanding of the saving power of Christ. Despite statistics that may say otherwise—people are desperately seeking peace and happiness. We have the answer and it is not going to be delivered through a government program or policy!

Let us beg for God’s mercy for any part we played in contributing the culture of death that we are in, and as we move into the penitential season of Lent, reflect on ways that we can be beacons of hope and light in a world mired deep in darkness and sin.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Strength of Faith

One of my favorite Scripture quotes is from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13)

I thought of this as I walked into Mass this morning and could see an elderly woman coming down the snowy sidewalk, slowing pushing her walker through the slush. She had come from the apartments on Woodward, a couple of block from the Church. The weather was cold and yet she was coming to Mass. What love and devotion she must have to weather the cold, risk slipping on the ice, and slowly, every so slowly, to get to Mass. And yet she did.

The power of that image stayed with me all through Mass. I watched as she walked up to receive the Eucharist in her frail hands and with a strength all her own, knelt in prayerful thanksgiving after receiving. Christ was the heart of who she was--her every gesture radiated that.

I also thought about the final paragraphs in the Diary of St. Faustina:

"Jesus answered me, "I want you to become like a knight experienced in battle, who can give orders to others amid exploding shells. In the same way, My child, you should know to master yourself amid the greatest  difficulties and let nothing drive you away from Me, not even your falls."

"Most pleasing to me is this preparation with which you have received Me into your heart. Today, in a special way, I bless this your joy. Nothing will disturb that joy throughout this day..."

"You are a living host pleasing to the Heavenly Father. But reflect on this: What is a Host? A Living Sacrifice. And so?" (Paragraphs 1823-1825)

We all need to strive for the strength of faith of the woman who braved the elements to get to Mass, to receive Her Lord, to hold Him close to her heart. She knows the path to happiness and is willing to risk all to receive what He has to offer.

We are living in dangerous times. As Jesus tells Faustina, we need to be living hosts. Living images of Christ in the world. We need strength and He will provide. We are being called, like soldiers on the battlefield, to defend His Truth, His Church. We know the answer to the unhappiness and strife in the world is Christ. Much will be asked of us as we proclaim this message--but as Jesus left Faustina a question to contemplate--that question is ours as well..."And so?"

What is it He asks of us as we go forward in a world that is hostile to the faith? Please leave comments at the end of this post--your ideas will help to strengthen all of us. How do you gain strength to live your faith in bold ways?

Filling us with words to contemplate as we go out to enter the "mission fields", let us pray and reflect on the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, writing to them to give them strength as he speaks to us as well:

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with Truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:10-17)


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Be Imitators of Me as I Imitate Christ

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lev 13:1-2, 44-46/1Cor 10:31-11:1/Mk 1:40-45

Why do we seek Jesus? That question came to mind after reading the Gospel, where despite the request from Jesus to not tell anyone of his miraculous healing, the leper who was made clean proclaims this miracle to all. Having done that, Jesus cannot enter a town openly, for people flock from all over to have an encounter with Him.

Back to my question: Do I seek Jesus because of what He can do for me or do I seek Jesus because I want to be with Him for all eternity? In essence, who is Jesus to me: Santa or Savior?

St. Paul gives us the insights in his first letter to the Corinthians. Written around 50 AD, Corinth was a seaport at the crossroads of trade routes. This brought not only prosperity to the area, but also many vehicles for sin—moral depravity, prostitution, pagan cults—in short it was a culture very much like the one we live in today. Our moral compass is awry, we follow the gods of money, fame, fortune, good looks, and a myriad of other paths to happiness that only lead to destruction. One run through the TV offerings or a cruise through the newspapers and Internet confirms this!

The great evangelist, rather than painting a picture of doom and gloom, however, encourages the fledgling community of faith. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” He also reminds them to “Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews of Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Jesus did not promise His disciples an easy life. One look at the cross tells us that. What He did promise, however, is that He would never leave us orphans and that He would make us complete. He heals our imperfections and draws us, as we grow in holiness and virtue, into His heavenly home.

Thing is, Christianity isn’t a game of every man (or woman) for himself (or herself). Our salvation depends on how we live and love. We must live as models of Christ in this world, thus drawing others to Him. We are not to give offense—but at the same time—we are to always give glory to God. Our every action then must be a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. Our every action towards others must be one of love—as God defines it—unconditional and merciful, not selfish and self-centered. The result of living such a virtuous life is joy, peace, and the other fruits of the Spirit. As people draw close, intrigued by what it is that brings us such happiness, we can begin sharing the relationship we have with Christ with them. It is through this personal witness that others come to know Jesus in an intimate way as Savior and giver of eternal life, rather than a quick fix to this minute’s problems on the road of life.

When we take another look at the readings we need to ask ourselves, “Who are the lepers in our society? Who are the outcasts that cry out for compassion and love?” Blessed Teresa of Calcutta reminds us that we are to find Jesus in His most distressing disguise and love Him. It is as simple as that. Love Jesus forsaken in the world. We are called to seek not our own benefit, but that of the many, so that they may be saved. When we do this, we become a living Sacrament—the outward sign of Christ in this world, passing on the message of His love, hope, and grace.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Woe to Me if I Do Not Preach the Gospel!

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Job 7:1-4, 6-7/1Cor 9:16-19, 22-23/Mark 1:29-39

 “Is not man’s life on earth drudgery?” These opening words of Job set the tone for a less than hope-filled reflection on life. We’ve all had those kinds of days (or weeks, or even months), haven’t we? When we can’t see the forest for the trees and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily for us—we know that however dark and dreary life may seem or how many lemons life throws at us—there IS hope and Jesus is His Name! This is good news!

 St. Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Corinthians. He doesn’t preach the gospel because of the promise of fame or fortune. He does not evangelize because he loves the adulation of those who hear his words. In fact, preaching has gotten Paul beaten, imprisoned, and run out of town—yet he keeps at it. Why? Because of the message! “Woe to me if I do not preach it!” he says.

 I think we have forgotten why we need to preach the Gospel. It is not solely the job of the priests, bishops, or those tasked with ‘church work’. It is every single disciple’s vocation to spread the Good News. Sad to say, I have taught many a class or spoken to more than one group of teachers, catechists, and faithful asking the question: “If we are to preach the Good News—what is it?” The usual response is a deer-in-the-headlight look and the shrugging of shoulders. Our faith seems to have taken on the involvement of a spectator sport. It is now time that we come down from the stands and enter the playing field—for woe to us if we do not preach the gospel (we should all have John 3:16 memorized)!

 Jesus tells us in Mark’s gospel He came to preach—that is His purpose. He preaches not only in words, but through His actions and it is through His actions that even the demons recognize Him. Following His death and resurrection, Jesus gives the great commission to His disciples—“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.* And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus does not send His followers out unarmed. He sends the Holy Spirit to enkindle in their hearts a fire, zeal, and conviction that makes it impossible for them to not go forth and share the good news of salvation with all. So we have to ask today—where is the zeal? Where is the conviction?

 Our Bishops are standing up against the erosion of religious freedom that has taken place over the past several years. It is coming to a head in what could be called a show-down between a government that has chosen to ignore the very Bill of Rights that is the foundation of our nation and the rights of a people to freely practice their religion. Lest we forget what the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights is, let me quote:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 As a people of faith, we cannot sit idly by while our Bishops and other religious leaders take up the fight. In the words of St. Paul—“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” Woe to all of us if we do not speak out and have our voices be counted—for not only the rights and freedoms of our nation are at risk—but indeed, our very salvation!

For more information on the HHS Mandate and Conscience Protection and what you can do, visit:

Friday, February 3, 2012

And a Child Shall Lead Them...

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a 12-year-old boy who died tragically. He was autistic, which made it difficult for him to relate to people, despite the fact that he was extremely intelligent. Locked inside his body, he was unable to freely communicate and interact ‘normally’ by many people’s standards.

Sean, however, in his short life, made an impact. His funeral Mass was a testament to that. Hundreds of people gathered to offer condolences to his mother, father, and brother who were aching for the loss of their son and brother. Hundreds came to celebrate the life of this little man who, despite the fact that he had severe disabilities by many people’s standards, touched the lives and hearts of so many. Hundreds came together to pray and to stand in testimony of the hope that through faith in Christ, Sean is now with God in heaven—a place we all hope to be someday.

 As I sat amid the hundreds gathered and I looked upon his family, particularly his mother, I was once again reminded of how much God loves us. He sent his Son, who died for us so that we may have eternal life—life that is free of barriers, impediments, and limitations. He gave us His Blessed Mother, who watched as her Son—the one she cradled in her arms and lovingly cared for—died on the cross for us. In her we have an example of strength and faith that holds us up when our hearts are breaking. God loves us so much He sent His Holy Spirit, whose presence enflames the heart of the Church and builds the community of faith that, in times of great suffering, wraps its arms around us and holds us close.

 Why do I believe? Because it is times like these—when logically one could ask, “Where is God and why do things happen like this?” that I am assured of the generosity of God’s mercy and love. Through Christ’s sufferings, we have the gift of eternal life. Through our sufferings, we come to know the depths of this love so that we can share it with others.

 I think of Sean, who used to hum and sing behind me in Church every Sunday. While he will not be physically there, his song continues in the heavenly choir, where he freely sings in praise and worship to the One who loves us all. He will also remain forever in my heart, where I will cherish the young man who reminds me that nothing, no barrier or obstacle, can keep me apart from Christ!