From Within

The scripture is full of metaphors regarding light and darkness. Much importance is placed on remaining in the light and shunning darkness. However, there is also significance in the areas of light and darkness held within ourselves. A battle between the two wages in all of us; even if we have chosen to live a life with God, we are bound to hold some darkness within ourselves because of the sins of this world.

“For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9

Jesus ignites a light in each of us that will never falter. This light is filled with the power and authority of Jesus Christ, which will always overcome the darkness. Thanks to Jesus Christ, this light can and should be released to bring light to others. Jesus showed this to us when He cast out demons and eventually died on the cross for our sins.

“For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” Luke 4:36

The entire world could go dark, the sun’s fire could go out, and all the stars in the sky could fade away, but the light within us given only by God will never be extinguished. A time may be coming when this world will turn dark, but God has guaranteed for us true and everlasting light

A Revelation

The book of Revelations has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. Regardless of the deep meaning this scripture may hold, the way it is written will always provoke images of great beauty and wonder. The descriptions contained within it do not apply to anything in this world. Its words allow us to get a glimpse of what is not in this world, so it makes sense that we would struggle to understand their meaning.

What is clear from the book of Revelations is that Heaven will be glamorous. We were destined for glorious surroundings and a life more wonderful than anything we can imagine. Thanks to the grace of God, His only Son came to save us and to allow us to keep the faith that we may someday achieve the glory that can be found in the presence of God.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

The Lord has made several promises to His people, most of which refer to the coming of His Son in the gospels, but there are more that have not yet been fulfilled. The book of Revelations can instill some fear for this reason. The end of the world is based on many promises, but these are not completely understood because we do not know what the results will be yet.

This is why our faith is so crucial. We need to have faith that the Lord loves us. He loves us so deeply that we are permitted to see the glamour and glory of His world and have confidence that we are meant to share it for eternity

Entry to Heaven

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.'” Matthew 19:23

I seem to quote this gospel verse often lately. In this current age, this particular passage appears to reveal the truth of our world even more than the world where Jesus actually spoke the words. The world of today has become a world of abundance and privilege. Its rewards are easy to obtain, but doing without them or giving them up is a harder sacrifice.

The allure of the world can convince people that Heaven can be enjoyed right here on earth. This might be one of Satan’s greatest lies. He makes us want the cars, money, houses, whatever other signs of wealth others around us may have; then he leads us to believe we can’t live without these material goods. It is hard to sacrifice or forego what is right in front of our eyes when we don’t know because we cannot imagine the wonders Heaven has to offer.

Jesus asks us to take an even greater step further. “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are called first will be last, and the last will be first.” Matthew 19: 29-30

We are called to give up everything, in fact, even to give up ourselves for the Lord. Obviously, this is a difficult task especially in this world of grandeur, but we have to remember we are not of this world. This is a world of illusion; Satan lies and we believe we have to hold onto what we have worked to obtain in it. The truth is there is nothing in this world we can hold onto except the Lord and His words.

God never said life here on earth would be easy. The best life involves hardship and sacrifice, and that is why the last shall be first in Heaven

Grandfathers

Today is the feast of St. Lawrence, the patron saint of deacons, but it is also the birthday of my grandfather, who passed away a little over a year ago. I find it amazing that God always picks the perfect day for each person to be born. My grandfather was meant to be born on this day; the readings for it depict him exactly.

The responsorial psalm says, “Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.” For my entire life, I saw my grandfather live according to this quote. He was one of the most giving people I ever knew, and he gave without hesitation. He gave without expectation, concern for his own needs, or second guessing; he just opened his hand or his checkbook or his wallet, and he gave all of himself. It didn’t matter whether the recipient was a family member, friend, or stranger–he gave his all to all he met.

Scripture passages can come alive for the people who read them in many ways, but scripture can also find life through the lives of people who read them. My grandfather brought these passages to life because he is the man described by them.

“Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 6-8

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” John 12:26

The word of God is living and breathing. These scripture verses were breathed into my grandfather at his conception, and now thanks to his example, these scriptures live within me.

During the Fourth Watch

There are definite times when the Lord chooses to reveal himself to His people. We find evidence of this throughout scripture, as in today’s gospel, which is a perfect example, referring to the time of the “fourth watch.” This watch is believed to have occurred between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. It is also known as the last watch of the night. Jesus appeared to His disciples during this period of time in a more mythical sense than others because He actually walked on the water. Before the disciples recognized Him, they actually thought He was a ghost. However, once they realized it was Jesus, Peter proceeded to get out of the boat and walk on the water toward his Lord as well.

Unbelievable events often happen during the fourth watch, not just in Biblical times, but also in this age. God seems to draw close to His people at this time right before dawn. I am sure there are several reasons this time is significant for us and our spiritual journey. The fourth watch signals the end of night and the beginning of the day.

God asks us to spend this time in prayer; it is common to hear the advice to pray first in the morning. This is an ideal time to go to God and ask Him to bless the day ahead and to also take the opportunity to devote the day to God.
Praying first is the best activity for the start of any day, but Peter’s story in this gospel is an incredible example of the undeniable blessing Jesus can provide us when we go to Him at the darkest of all watches and offer Him our complete trust. The special quality this time of day holds can even have miraculous properties when we are open to the power of God. Of course, Peter did suffer doubt for a moment, but Jesus did not abandon him.

The fourth watch can be a time of great struggle, pain, possibility, and trust. This is when the fears and worries we hold for the day to come emerge, but then we allow the Lord to enter in to heal us and give us new hope. We may even feel that we can walk on water!

To See God

There have been moments in my life when I found myself in prayer and suddenly the whole world made sense. This happened in a grand and miraculous way that I could not put into words when I emerged from that prayer. Moments of complete revelation are so intense and physically jarring that I actually cannot bear being in that place for long, no matter how wonderful it may be. If that is what a conversation with God is like, I can empathize with Moses when I read about the times he spent with God. I understand why there were reasons for what he had to do in order to be worthy to enter the presence of the Lord.

Thankfully, we have Jesus, our own advocate and savior, to enter into our presence and allow us to experience God, His Father, without fear. Nevertheless, we must always practice acts of reverence.

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Matthew 13:41-42

Being blessed to be found worthy to be in the presence of God might just be the greatest experience anyone can have. We are fortunate to live in a time where we don’t have to follow such intense traditions to come close to Him, but that is no reason we should think it’s easier for us than it was for Moses. It might have been easier for Moses because every time he went to approach God, he knew he was properly prepared to hear the word of God. I am not always so confident that I am totally open and ready to hearing the entirety of what the Lord has to reveal to me.

Indifference

I listened to a homily given by a popular priest who streams his Sunday masses on YouTube. He observed that this world is currently dealing with the problem of indifference, and not because its people do not care or do not like to help their fellow men, but because they are constantly being overwhelmed by suffering. Society is bombarded by media streaming every catastrophe that occurs on this earth. The effect of this bombardment is we lose our ability to move, to take action. How can we help others when there is so much suffering everywhere?

The priest pointed out that we might need to limit our focus. He brought up Jesus as an example: His focus was always on the people right in front of Him. In fact, when Jesus lived among us, the idea of helping your neighbor actually meant you helped your own neighbor. Perhaps, instead of letting ourselves be distracted by everything affecting the whole world, we should concentrate on what is affecting our neighborhood, our family, or our friends. Jesus did this, and look what He accomplished. He saved us all.

One small act of kindness can create ripples that can truly make huge waves. As I read the first scripture for the day about Moses, I found myself wondering why God hasn’t done anything like that recently. It seems as though His people are once again in a situation similar to the Israelites in Egypt, oppressed by their government. Of course, it immediately occurred to me that if He were to part the Red Sea to save us, so to speak, would we even be able to recognize this miracle and act accordingly? With all the media to which we subject ourselves daily, would God’s saving grace be visible?

We as Catholics and Christians may crave a means to help our world, but the way we perceive its current state is causing indifference within us. We have the opportunity we crave right in front of us, in our own community, with the single mother of young children next door or the elderly couple across the street who have had their drivers’ licenses revoked. Together, we can begin to help the world with one act of kindness at a time.

Much is Given and Much is Required

To those to whom much is given, much will be required–this statement can be interpreted in many different ways. It is easy to take a purely materialistic view: if one has money, grand homes, a bountiful supply of food and many other goods, then that person will be required to give some of it away to help others. This is a valid interpretation, but God has never placed much attention on material goods. It is more likely that God is speaking directly to us, His children of deep faith. Our wealth lies in our love of and devotion to the Lord, and the greater our love for Him, the more will be required of us.

Take Moses, for example. He was given life, spared from slaughter and adopted by an Egyptian woman, when all other Hebrew male babies were being killed. His life was spared for a reason, though. God had immense expectations for Moses, including (but not limited to) saving God’s people from Pharaoh. Moses is just one of many examples of God choosing people to glorify the kingdom of Heaven.

It is crucial that people who are given much faith pay attention, for it is easy to forget or overlook all the blessings given to them.

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Psalms 95:8

We have the ability to say no to what God wills for us. It is all too common for people to harden their hearts because giving their lives to Jesus can be considered too much. During this current time in history, we are constantly lured by a desire to strive for an easy life. Society promotes this easy life through social media. God gives us a very different message, that it is only through struggle and hardship that we will find true happiness. Unfortunately, these truths are becoming more difficult to accept because they appear so far outside the realm of understanding.

The Gospel calls us to repent directly through Jesus and His humble request for us to do so. It will always be hard to choose the narrow road over the broader one, but if we have faith given to us by our Lord, we are guaranteed that it is the right road that will lead us to Heaven

Face God

“Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘Because I have seen God face to face,’ he said, ‘yet my life has been spared.'” Genesis 32:33

Jacob saw God and lived, and because human life prevailed, Jacob was re-named Israel. These are the type of stories from our Bible that we Catholics perceive as mysteries. We will never be able to fully understand them, but we are drawn to them because they resonate deeply within our souls. Perhaps this is because they are stories where God directly interacts with His creation.

We are part of God’s creation, and all human beings on this earth, whether they know it or not, long to be close to their Creator. Jesus, who is referred to as our Shepherd, sees His sheep and knows they desire to rest with their own Shepherd. In the gospel for today, Jesus is moved to pity because His people are abandoned and troubled. They are lost and need to return to the right Shepherd.

The biblical verses from both Genesis and the gospel are read as stories from the past. However, the world of today is changing, and more people are circling back to these past stories. Our modern times seem to hark back to an older time as we once again seek our Shepherd. “The harvest is abundant and the laborers are few.” Matthew 9:37

The time is coming when the sheep will go to their Shepherd again. God is drawing closer to us, and we may be fortunate enough to look upon His face and be spared, just like Jacob/Israel.

Feast of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Today we celebrate the feast of our patron, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. As we remember the life of this remarkable young man, let us reflect on four key components of his spirituality, the four pillars of our Frassati Fellowship of NYC.

Adoration of Christ in the Eucharist

The Eucharist was absolutely central to Pier Giorgio’s life. He received Christ with joy each morning in Holy Communion, and he carried Him forth to everyone he met throughout the rest of his day. Pier Giorgio knew that he could not rely on his own strength; rather, he sought to draw nearer to Jesus, that through relationship with Him and intimate communion, he might become a vessel for God in the world. He once wrote to his fellow young people, urging them to seek Jesus in the Eucharist:

And remembering that apostle of the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Father Pius X of venerable memory, I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharistic Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles, the struggles against passions and against all adversities, because Jesus Christ has promised to those who feed themselves with the most Holy Eucharist, eternal life and the necessary graces to obtain it.

And when you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire, then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God who has called you to be part of His flock and you will enjoy that peace which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted. Because true happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, in a letter to the members of “Catholic Youth” of Pollone, July 29, 1923

Spiritual Growth through Authentic Friendship

Within the Frassati Fellowship of NYC, we are blessed to have experienced firsthand the transformative grace of holy friendship. Pier Giorgio cherished his own friendships and prayed fervently for each of his friends. We can tell by reading his letters to them how sincerely he delighted in each of them, in all their little quirks and unique personalities. He was deeply grateful for the gift of his friends and was inspired and enlightened by their presence. Pier Giorgio fostered friendships in which each person encouraged the other to grow closer to God and become the people God had created them to be:

In this earthly life after the affection for parents and sisters, one of the most beautiful affections is that of friendship; and every day I ought to thank God because he has given me men and lady friends of such goodness who form for me a precious guide for my whole life. Every time I visit Clementina I’m edified by her great kindness and I think of the immense Good that such a beautiful Soul has certainly done and will do. Surely Divine Providence in His Marvelous Plans sometimes uses us miserable little twigs to do Good and we sometimes not only don’t want to know God but instead dare to deny His existence; but we who, by the Grace of God, have the Faith, when we find ourselves in the presence of such beautiful souls, surely nourished by Faith, we cannot but discover in them an obvious sign of the Existence of God, because one cannot have such a Goodness without the Grace of God.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, in a letter to Marco Beltramo, April 10, 1925

Love of the Outdoors

Pier Giorgio had a special awareness of God’s presence in creation. The mountains were the place where he could feel especially close to God, set apart from the distractions of everyday life and in awe of the beauty of nature. He reminds us of how powerful it can be to disconnect from all the noise that surrounds us and find peace in nature, appreciating the incredible beauty God has created for us:

Do you still intend to climb to the top of the Rognosa by the crest this spring, if God gives us life? I’m always ready because every day I fall in love with the mountains more and more and, if my studies would allow me to do it, I would spend entire days on the mountains contemplating in that pure air the Greatness of the Creator.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, in a letter to Marco Beltramo, August 6, 1923

A Heart for the Poor

Pier Giorgio’s devotion to God bore fruit not only in his friendships but also in his devotion to the poorest members of his community. He shared his joy with those most in need, never hesitating to sacrifice his own money or goods for the sake of others. He truly saw the presence of Christ in the poor, and he developed beautiful relationships with those he visited. He cared for them deeply, and his own faith was inspired by his encounters with them:

As we grow closer to the poor little by little we gain their confidence and can advise them in the most terrible moments of this earthly pilgrimage. We can give them the comforting words of faith and we often succeed, not by our own merit, in putting on the right path people who have strayed not out of malice. I think I can say that the Conference of St. Vincent with its visits to the poor serves to curb our passions, it gives us increasing incentives to get on the right road by which we are all trying to reach the great harbor. Seeing daily the faith with which families often bear the most atrocious sufferings, the constant sacrifices that they make and that they do all this for the love of God often makes us ask this question: I, who have had so many things from God, have always been so neglectful, so bad, while they, who have not been privileged like me, are infinitely better than me. Then we resolve in our conscience to follow the way of the Cross from then onward, the only way that leads us to Eternal Salvation.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, in a speech to FUCI students

On this ninety-sixth anniversary of Pier Giorgio’s entrance into heaven, let us remember his life with gratitude for the beautiful example he has given us of authentic holiness. Just as he was devoted to his friends on earth, he is still a most devoted friend to us in heaven. Let us seek his friendship, for he will be a sure guide to lead us closer to God.