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Thoughts and reflections on the Catholic Readings at Mass & whatever else suits my fancy!
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01/03/14
Holy Name of Jesus
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 9:33 am


On the church calendar for today we celebrate the feast of Holy Name of Jesus. The Holy Name of Jesus was invoked by the faithful from the very beginning of the church. Then in the fourteenth century it began to be venerated with liturgical celebrations. Saint Bernadine of Sienna and his followers zealously promoted the veneration of this Name throughout Italy and Europe. Then in the sixteenth century the Holy Name was introduced as a liturgical feast. In the year 1530 Pope Clement VII first permitted the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) to celebrate the Name of Jesus with its own proper Office.

What this feast is teaching us is to have Jesus as the center of our lives as Catholics and Christians. St. Bernadine wrote, “The name of Jesus that makes us children of God is a firm foundation of faith. The Faith of the Catholic religion is based upon a knowledge and recognition of Jesus Christ who is the light of the soul, the gateway of life, the foundation of eternal salvation.” Faith in Jesus Christ brings us salvation. It is through Jesus Christ that we are saved.

In this new year of 2014, a good New Year Resolution is to always remember to keep Jesus in the center of all we do. Let us remember to imitate Jesus in our devotion to God and our treatment of those that God has placed in our lives. The Holy Name of Jesus teaches us to love God with our whole mind and heart and to love others as we love ourselves.

During this new year let’s pray the Holy Name pledge that is used at at Holy Name Society meetings:

Holy Name Pledge

Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ true God and true Man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
I believe O Jesus.
That Thou are the Christ.
The Son of the Living God.
I proclaim my love.
For the Vicar of Christ on Earth.
I believe all the sacred truths
Which the Holy Catholic Church
Believes and teaches.
I promise to give good example
By the regular practice
Of my faith.
In honor of His Divine Name
I pledge myself against perjury,
Blasphemy, profanity and obscene speech.
I pledge my loyalty
To the flag of my country.
And to the God given principles
Of freedom, justice and happiness.
For which it stands.
I pledge my support
To all lawful authority
Both civil and religious.
I dedicate myself
To the honor of the Sacred Name of Jesus Christ
And beg that He will keep me faithful 
To these pledges
Until Death.

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12/22/13
God With Us
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 8:33 am

Reflections on the readings from the Fourth Sunday of Advent, found at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122213.cfm

Earlier this year, Pope Francis added the name of St. Joseph to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. Pope Francis cited St. Joseph as a model of kindness and humility and ordinary, simple virtues. “Through these virtues, this just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed over God the Father’s most precious treasures.”

As we get closer to the celebration of Christmas day, we focus our attention on the mystery of the Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God-with-us. We are called to respond in faith to something that surpasses human understanding.

In our gospel for today we see Joseph facing some serious problems. Mary, the woman he loves and is engaged to, is found to be pregnant! He knows he’s not the father, and so puts him in that awkward situation of responding to the situation according to Jewish law. Since he loves Mary, his reaction is to treat her with as much respect and kindness as possible. Under Jewish law, Mary could have been stoned to death since she was pregnant outside of marriage.

Instead, God intervenes by sending an angel to Joseph in a dream, and explains that the child Mary is carrying was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:20). Joseph, being the kind and humble man that he was, followed God’s will by taking Mary and the child Jesus into his home.

Further, today’s gospel presents the Child Jesus as a descendant of David, as someone conceived by the Holy Spirit and destined to save his people from their sins.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas this week, let us attempt to follow the examples of Mary and Joseph, both of whom were not afraid to respond to the will of God in their lives! They put their whole trust in God, and as a result, salvation through the birth of Jesus came into the world!

May we have the eyes of faith that Joseph had, to see beyond appearances to the presence of God-with-us. May that vision give us true Christmas joy and move us to a life of true Christmas love.

Merry Christmas!

1 comment
12/08/13
Humility
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 11:56 am

Reflections on the readings from the 2nd Sunday of Advent, taken from http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120813.cfm

You may recall the TV show that Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen had during the 1950’s. Over the years he covered many topis, but one in particular stands out for me. It had to do with the meaning of the virtue of humility. Archbishop Sheen explained that humility is truth about oneself. To deny one’s talents and abilities would not be humility for, as a virtue, humility requires that we recognize those qualities while also giving credit to God as their source. In other words, humility is truth and part of that truth is giving credit where credit is due.

In the gospel we hear of John the Baptist. What a site he must have been. The gospel tells us, that “John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” (Matthew 3:4). He was in the desert preaching repentance and pointing the way towards God. The gospel goes on to tell us that many people “from Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and being baptized in the Jordan river.”(Matthew 3:5-6). John could have enjoyed all the attention he was getting as people came to hear him speak about God. But in John’s humility, he pointed out that someone greater than he will come and baptize with the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 3:11). John was pointing the way towards Jesus and to God. He rebukes the Pharisees and Sadducees for their sin of pride and not truly repenting and turning their lives over to God. They were relying more so on the fact that they were children of Abraham rather than realizing that they need to turn their lives over to God. The fact that they were children of Abraham was a gift from God, and the Pharisees and Sadducess failed to realize this and failed to acknowledge their dependence was on God.

The gospel for today teaches us that we must acknowledge our sinfulness before God, repent of them, and then turn over our lives to Christ to live as children of God. In our humility we must acknowledge God as the source and center of all who we are. Then once we repent and turn our lives over to God, we must then point the way to God to those that God has placed in our lives. Like John the Baptist, we are to point towards Christ and encourage others to follow Him in the spirit of humility and repentance.

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

1 comment
12/01/13
Prepare the Way of the Lord!
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 7:55 am

Reflections on the First Sunday of Advent. Readings are from http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120113.cfm

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, marks the beginning of the new church year. Advent invites us to get ready for the coming of the Lord into our lives, as we prepare to commemorate His birth of nearly 2,000 years ago.

All over the media this past week there was talk of nothing but “Black Friday”, a day where the stores push and push to get people to come and spend and spend. There were even some stores opened on Thanksgiving evening. The push was to take people away from time with their family in order to go to their stores to spend money! That is how they want people to prepare for the coming of Christmas: going out and spending money for things that, in the scheme of things, has nothing to do with the Birth of Jesus.

Black Friday and all the chaos that surrounds it reminds me of the opening song from the musical Godspell from the late ’60’s. In the 1973 movie version of this musical, it has John the Baptist going throughout the streets of New York City, touching the lives of those he met. These were people that were obviously not happy in the lives they were living. There was a waitress, a ballet dancer, a cab driver, a worker from the garment district, an office worker, etc. These were people that you can see weren’t happy with how they were living their lives. There was something missing. That something was God.

John invites them, in song, to leave their previous lives behind and “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” In the film you see a transformation on all that answered John’s call to put God in the center of their lives.

Our readings for this first Sunday of Advent are calling us to to do the same. In the first reading from Isaiah, he sees a day when the nations of the world will come streaming to Jerusalem to learn the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2-3). Here they will recognize the importance of putting God’s will above their own. The same is for us, as we turn to the Church to learn of God’s will for us in our lives.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, we read,  “Brothers and sisters:You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” (Romans 13:11-12). To me, in our day and age, the “sleep” that Paul is referring to is the fact that a lot of us are more concerned with the buying and wrapping of “holiday” presents, rather than preparing our lives to accept God into the center of who we are.

Finally, in our gospel for this first Sunday of Advent, our Lord is encouraging us to “Stay awake”. He reminded his apostles, and us, of the days of Noah, where the people ignored the calling of God, through Noah, and continued living their lives in ways that precluded God (Matthew 24:37-39). Our Lord is reminding us to always keep the Lord in the center of all we do. It’s more important to keep God in the center of our lives, then it is to go out and get the latest electronics, gadgets, and whatever else the store is pushing us to buy. 

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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11/24/13
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 12:23 pm

      

Reflections on the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112413.cfm

Today is the last Sunday in the Church year before we go into Advent. Mother Church is giving us the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. To our American ears it must sound strange to refer to someone as “king”. It’s been well over 200 years since we fought the Revolutionary War to break free from British rule. Here in America, we don’t have Kings (or Queens) ruling over us. Instead, we elect our leaders. But we still  have this fascination with royalty. Recently we heard of Baby Prince George making his grand appearance and being Christened. So, we still have that fascination with royalty.

Today’s feast helps us to realize that there is still royalty in our life. That royalty is Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. He is to be the center of our life as Christians.

In our first reading from second book of Samuel, we see that David is finally recognized as God’s chosen King. It took a long time for this to happen because of Saul’s refusal to step aside - even though God rejected him for his spiritual failures.

In our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we hear St. Paul inviting us to give thanks to the Father for making us to fit in to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light (Colossians 1:12). Some understand this passage as the basis for  the absolute primacy of Christ. The world was made for Christ, the firstborn of all creation. He is the King of all creation. The king of the universe.

Our gospel from St. Luke is the familiar reading of Jesus on the Cross between the two thiefs. This shows the humility of Jesus as he dies on the Cross. The rulers as well the soldiers humiliate Jesus, indicating that obviously he could not be the chosen one, the messiah of God, or the king of the Jews, and end up on a cross. In their eyes, Jesus’ crucifixion proves that he was nothing more than an impostor. As Christians, we know that in just three day after his crucifixion, Jesus overcomes death by rising from the tomb. Jesus is no impostor, but rather king over life and death.

Jesus, through the cross, brings us repentance and salvation. The response of Jesus to the “good” thief is important. Jesus tells the ”good” thief,  “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43). This promise of Jesus highlights the key theme in the gospel of Luke that anyone who repents and turns to God will be forgiven.

Let us remember that Jesus is our King, the center of our life. Let us pray, with the thief, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). Then, when we have turned our life over to Jesus, we can be assured of being in Paradise with Jesus when it’s time for us to leave this world.

 

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

 

1 comment
11/15/13
Prayers and Support for Typhoon Victims in Philippines
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 2:02 pm

Last week the Philippines suffered greatly as a result of Typhoon Haiyan  that hit that island. There are 3,631 in the national disaster agency’s official death count. The number of injured is listed as 12,487. At least 1,179 were missing. These numbers are staggering and our hearts and prayers go out to the all those who have died, all those who are suffering and to their families.

I’ve been including the people of the Philippines in my prayers daily. In addition to my prayers I plan on sending a donation to one of the many relief efforts that are in place to help those who are in great need and are suffering greatly in the Philippines. I strongly encourage you to do the same.

Per the Catholic New York, parishes in the Archdiocese of New York will take up a second collection on their behalf at the weekend Masses the weekend of November 16-17th. If your at a parish in the Archdiocese of New York this weekend, please be generous in this collection.

Two other ways that I’m aware of to help is as follows. Our Lady of Pompeii Church is taking up a collection. Donations can be sent by mail or delivered to the office marked for the
Philippines at Our Lady of Pompeii Church, 25 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014.

The other way to donate is to the Episcopal Church of Our Savior, 48 Henry Street, New York, NY 10002. Checks to be made out to the church and in the memo, Philippine donation. When mailing, mark to the attention of Fr. Noel E. Bordador.

May the Lord grant peace to all the survivors, and may the souls of their dead, all all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.

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11/10/13
Final Resurrection
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 12:47 pm

        

Reflection on the readings from the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111013.cfm

In refuting the Sadducees in today’s Gospel, Jesus makes a point that sheds light on the mystery of the communion of saints, the mystery upon which the Church invites to reflect during this month of November.

Jesus reveals that his Father is “not God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive.” This claim has far-reaching implications. For if all are alive to God (even he dead) then - in the most important sense - all are alive to each other. In God, there is no yesterday or tomorrow; there is only the great “today” of eternity. In God, men and women of different ages and different lands jostle and rub shoulders. In God, we all become contemporaries and neighbors.

Final resurrection as the goal of all the living is a central truth of our Christian faith. It is very much a matter of faith and trust in God’s word because we have no proof or prior experience of such a life, nor can we say very much about it.

In our first reading from the second book of Maccabees, we hear of the bravery of the seven brothers and their mother, as they stood firm in their faith in God and His laws. God was the center of their very being. God was so important to who they were that they refused to disobey God’s laws, trusting that God will provide  them with life eternal in heaven. They chose to die at the hands of sinful people rather than to disobey God and hurt their relationship with Him. (2 Maccabees 14) Can we be as brave in defending our faith in God as these 7 men and mother were?

The things that God is asking us to believe about the afterlife are difficult things to accept and to believe. God asks us to believe without understanding. That is what faith is all about. Trusting that what God is telling us is true, even if we don’t understand it.  After all, as humans, we would not be able to understand the afterlife and the spiritual world in earthly terms, even if it’s explained to us.

Our Christian life is based on the firm hope that one day we will be perfectly united with the One who came to see us - Jesus.

In today’s readings we are called to put God in the center of our lives, to be living examples of what it means to be followers of God, trusting in his promise to eternal life in heaven.

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!

1 comment
11/01/13
All Saints Day & All Souls Day
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 3:47 pm

Readings for reflection on All Saints Day can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110113.cfm and All Souls Day can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110213.cfm

The Church starts the month of November with two important days: All Saints Day and All Souls Day. All Saints day commemorates those people, known and unknown, that are in the presence of God in heaven. We already know of the saints that the church commemorates throughout the year. But there are many more saints in heaven that the church does not commemorate, but are saints none the less. There are those members of our family who, after going through purgatory, are now in heaven, sharing the joy and happiness of being in God’s presence. These could be our parents, aunts, uncles, or brothers or sisters that have went before us.

All Souls Day commemorates those people that we know that have gone before us, but are still purgatory, awaiting entrance into the presence of God. It is through our prayers for them that helps them on their way to heaven and the glory of God. We pray for them during this time, so that they can pray for us and intercede for us when they get to heaven.

It is during this time of year in particular that I miss most my mother and grandmother. They were always there for me and my brothers and sisters while we were growing up. My mother and grandmother lived out the sermon on the Mount that Jesus preaches about in the Gospel of Matthew. By being always in service to their family, showing love and patience to those most important to them, they were “poor in spirit”, they were “merciful”, they were “clean of heart” and they were the “peacemakers” of the family. It is during this month of November that I pray for them most.

I’m sure there are those you love that are no longer with you now. Pray for them during this month of November. And when they are in heaven, they in turn will pray for you and intercede for you to the Lord our God.

 

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10/26/13
Our Lady of the Rosary
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 12:24 pm

October is the month of the Holy Rosay. The reason for this is that October 7th is the feast of the Holy Rosary. St. Pius
V established this feast in 1573. The purpose was to thank God for
the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto—a victory attributed to the
praying of the rosary. Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in
1716.

Tradition does hold that St. Dominic (d. 1221) devised the rosary as we know
it. Moved by a vision of our Blessed Mother, he preached the use of the rosary
in his missionary work among the Albigensians, who had denied the mystery of
Christ. Some scholars take exception to St. Dominic’s role in forming the
rosary. The earliest accounts of his life do not mention it, the Dominican
constitutions do not link him with it and contemporaneous portraits do not
include it as a symbol to identify the saint.

With all this in mind, the rosary has become a very important part of our lives as Catholic Christians and the importance of Mary in the role of our salvation. Mary is always leading us towards her divine Son. The rosary, when properly prayed, does just that. In whatever mysteries we’re meditating on: the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious, it points toward Jesus and what he did for our salvation. From his birth in the Joyful mysteries, to his resurrection in the glorious mysteries, Christ is the center of the Rosary. It also shows the willingness of Mary to be open to the will of God in her “Yes” to Gabriel  at the annunciation.

Whenever I pray the rosary, in addition to the intentions I choose to pray for, I remember one woman that I see every Saturday when I go to Morningside Nursing Home. When I enter her room with the Blessed Sacrament for her to receive, I notice that in her hands are her rosary. As I enter, I see her moving her lips in silent prayer the prayers of the rosary. She looks up and sees me bringing our Lord in Holy Communion, she then makes the sign of the Cross, and devoutly receives Holy Communion. Then continues with her prayers on the rosary. Mary led her to Jesus, and she was able to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Mary and Jesus are that closely linked.

I encourage you to pray the rosary on a regular basis (perhaps daily), and, with Mary, say, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

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10/15/13
The Little Way
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 4:23 am

           

 

 

“So
faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1
Corinthians 13:13

The
Church starts the month of October off with the celebration of the Little
Flower.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, or Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
and the Holy Face, O.C.D., was a French Discalced Carmelite nun. She is
popularly known as “The Little Flower of Jesus” or simply, “The
Little Flower”. She was best known for her autobiography, “The Story of a
Soul”.

She was born at Alencon, France in
1873. At an early age, and with permission of the Pope, she entered the Carmel
at Lisieux.

In her autobiography, she shared her
struggles to do great things for the Lord. She had a great desire to be a
missionary and to be a martyr for her Savior Jesus Christ. Instead, she finds
herself in a cloistered community, serving God in the simple tasks that she was
expected to do there.

On June 9th, 1895, she
started on her first draft of her autobiography, later titled “The Story of a
Soul.” In it she meditates on the 12th and 13th chapters
of the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians. She shares of her longing to be
a martyr. After meditating upon all the different gifts that God gives to those
who follow him, she realizes that it is love that drives them all. Without
love, no one can be a follower or believer of God. She states, “Love appeared
to me to be the hinge for my vocation.”

In her acceptance of the Will of God
in her life, she offered everything up to him, including the suffering she endured
after contracting tuberculosis. She never complained about the pain she endured
as a result of this disease. She continued to attempt to do what was expected
of her by her Mother Superior, without complaint, excepting all as the Will of
God. She embraced her cross and followed Jesus. In our daily lives, we, too,
are called to offer up all the problems and struggles we face constantly,
without complaint. We, like St. Theresa, are called to accept our sufferings as
our daily crosses.
  We are called to
humbly pick up these crosses, like our Lord, and St. Theresa in imitation of
Him, and do so with the love that can only come from God.

In 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13
that Theresa meditates upon, we hear of the call to discipleship that we are
all called to follow as baptized Christians. In the wisdom of St. Theresa, she
realizes love of God and neighbor needs to be part of all we do for the Lord.
We are all called to varying vocations. Some are married, some single, some,
like Theresa are called to religious life. In all these ways of life, there is
suffering, misunderstanding, difficulties, etc.
 But what is important in all that we do and
endure, we must have love at the center of our hearts. That is our vocation.

Once we accept this vocation of love from
God, then, we, like Theresa, can say: “In the heart of the Church, my mother, I
will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.”

 

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10/06/13
Faith
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 7:21 am

Reflections on the Sunday readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100613.cfm

The central theme in today’s readings is that of Faith and Service to God and His people. The first reading from the Prophet Habakkuk takes place in Jerusalem, held captive by the Babylonians 600 years before Christ. It seems to the people that the Lord is far from their situation and not interested in giving consolation to them. The prophet, though, consoles the people and encourages them to have patience and faith in God, “but the just one who is righteous because of faith shall live.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

In the letter to Timothy, St. Paul reminds us that, “…God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) It is in this power, love and self control that we can help our faith in God to grow. Following the Gospel of Christ, Paul tells us, will not be easy, but promises that God will give us the strength necessary to be obedient to Him and devoted followers (2 Timothy 1:8). St. Paul goes on further to tell us that we are to have faith and love in Christ Jesus, and to ask for help from the Holy Spirit that dwells in each of us (2 Timothy 1:13-14).

In the Gospel of St. Luke, the Apostles make the request, “Increase our faith.” Jesus responds, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6). Obviously, the disciples cannot do that, and so are challenged to consider just how little faith they, in fact, have.

Jesus goes on to remind the Apostles, and us, that being His followers is not about earning merit or gaining status. It is about giving service. As servants of the Lord we  have to be willing to be of service to Him through the service of those people in our lives. Then, when it’s time for you to meet the Lord at the end of your life, you can say, “‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” (Luke 17:10). Then the Lord will open the gates for you and say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

 

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10/04/13
St. Francis of Assisi
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 6:19 am

Today we celebrate the feast of probably one of the most famous saints of all time: St. Francis of Assisi. Born of wealthy parents in 1182, Francis grew up to be, in his early life, a party animal! Because of the wealth of his family, he was able to live a life of extravagance. While recovering from an illness, he realized the emptiness of his life. One day, while at a broken down chapel at San Damiano, he heard the words of the Lord say to him, “Rebuild my church!” At first he took the words literally, and started to repair the physical church at San Damiano. Then, by inspiration, he realized that the Lord was calling him to a greater calling: to bring all people to Christ!

We are all called, as Francis was, to “rebuild” the church by our way of life. We are called to have Christ at the center of our lives and to be examples to others who’s faith may not be as strong as ours. We do this by being examples to our family members and those others that the Lord has put in our lives! We are called to be joyful witnesses of the Lord and of the Catholic faith in all we say and do.

So, let’s rebuild the church by loving God and those in our lives!

2 comments
09/08/13
God is the Center of our Life
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 5:46 am

Refkections for the 23 Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/090813.cfm

In today’s Gospel we hear challenging words from Jesus. Words that surprise us. It’s words not of “Love God” and “Love thy Neighbor as thyself”. Instead Jesus, says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Pretty startling words from our Lord. What does he mean? How can we “hate” those that we love in our lives?

Up to this point, Jesus spoke about the self-centered rich people who refused to give up their wealth to follow him. He criticized the Pharisees who were hypocrites, just wanting to look good before people, but on the inside were hateful, self-centered people who didn’t really love God.

But now, Jesus turns to the crowd (and to us) and speaks these shocking words of “hating” those in our lives. Jesus in this text is using a word to attract attention and to get a point across that God is to be the center of all we do and who we are. To hate something here simply means to prefer it less, as compared to something else. What Jesus is teaching us is that as His followers, the demands of discipleship must come first. They must always come before any concern of family. Further, suffering, as a result of following Jesus, is to be part of every disciple’s experience.

In the two parables we hear from Jesus, the focus is on attaining heaven. In the parable about the tower, the planning and work for it’s construction represents the planning and work we do in our life to gain heaven. The foundation and work that goes into the effort of building that tower represents our commitment to that of following Christ. The final completion of the tower would represent our entrance into heaven, our ultimate goal.

In the parable of the king going to war, this represents the challenges we face in our daily life. Sending a delegation for terms of peace represents our commitment to the teachings of Jesus. Once we accept Jesus, we will have that true peace that can only come from him.

Finally, in today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) What Jesus is saying here is that all our possessions are not as important as our commitment to Him and the life He calls us to live. God must always be the center of all we do. Nothing else is more  important.

1 comment
08/29/13
Beheading of John the Baptist
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 6:16 am

                                                                                                                

Today’s scripture readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082913.cfm.

Today we commemorate the Beheading of John the Baptist. In the gospel for today from Mark 6:17-29, we hear of the grisly story of how Herod came to behead John.

As you will read, Herod had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. John bravely told the king that it is not proper for the king to commit adultery with his brother’s wife. As a result John was imprisoned. Herodias was angry at John for the truth that John spoke. Finally she finds a way to remove John from her life. Herodias’ daughter danced for the king and his guest at a party. By this point in the party the king was already drunk and was very much pleased with her performance. So he promised the girl anything she wanted. After consulting with her mother, she requested the head of John the Baptist. The king regretted this, but he didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his guests, so thus he gave the order to carry out the execution of John.

John was brave enough to speak the truth, even to the point of loosing his life. The king on the other hand, rather than accept the truth, and fearing to look badly in front of his guest, avoided the truth and caved in to his fear of how he would appear to other people.

Are we like John, brave in stating the truth of our Faith in Jesus Christ? Or do we hide our faith in Jesus Christ (who is the way, the truth and the life) out of fear of what others would think? If we see something that is wrong in our family or in our job situations, do we speak up and let others know how we feel? Or are we like King Herod, worried about what others would think of us?

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08/25/13
The Kingdom of God
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 4:07 pm

 

Reflections from the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time. The scripture readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082513.cfm

In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we read from the last chapter about people from all over the earth making their way to God’s holy Jerusalem. In this final chapter from Isaiah, we see a sharp contrast from the beginning of the book when Isaiah sees God’s people in pursuit of their own interests. They had turned away from God. But now Isaiah sees the people of Israel turning towards God.

In the gospel from St. Luke, we hear the question posed to Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” (Luke 13:23). It seams to me that the one who asked that question is more concerned with other people rather than their own relationship with God. In His response, Jesus is challenging us to be more worried about whether or not we are able to enter heaven: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” (Luke 13:24). Jesus is challenging us to be spiritually strong. He wants us to be lean in the spiritual life, not fat with the laziness of self-centeredness, hatred, greed, jealousy, lust, apathy, excess and other things that would prevent us from entering the narrow gate.

Growing spiritually requires some discipline. As we hear in the the reading from Hebrews, “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” (Hebrews 12:7) It is through this relationship with God that we learn how to grow spiritually and get spiritually fit to enter the narrow gate. It is through the trials in our lives that God brings us closer to him. Whether it’s someone at home who needs constant attention, or being unemployed, or loaded down with debt or hit by illness, it is through these things that we can turn to the Lord and ask help to grow closer to Him. It is in these things that we trust in the Lord for His help. We have to be willing to be open to God’s Will in all the situations in our lives.

Life in the Lord is more than just attending Sunday Mass (as important as that is). It’s about taking what we learn at Mass, and applying it to our daily lives. We can’t leave our faith at the church doors. We are called to bring that faith to our life and situations beyond the church doors. If we don’t, when it’s time for us to meet our Lord on judgment day, He will say, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” (Luke 13:27)

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08/14/13
Maximilian Mary Kolbe
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 2:28 pm

Today we commemorate another martyr from World War II. Maximilian Mary Kolbe was born on January 8th, 1894 in Poland. He entered the Conventual Franciscan Order and was ordained a priest in Rome in 1918. Fr. Kolbe had a great love and devotion to Our Blessed Mother and established a sodality called the Militia of Mary Immaculate. He went to the Missions in Japan, and under the patronage of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, was able to spread the Word of God in Japan. When he returned to Poland he was arrested by the Nazis and was imprisoned by them. On August 14, 1941, he gave the ultimate sacrifice to Our Lord when he offered his own life in place of another prisoner. The other prisoner was a husband and father and begged not be killed. Fr. Kolbe offered himself in place of that man.  

In his writings, Fr. Kolbe talks about the importance of obedience to those who have charge over our life in order to fulfill God’s will for us. He says, “Obedience is the one and the only way of wisdom and prudence for us to offer glory to God.” He goes on further to say of the Immaculate Virgin, “It is beyond all doubt that Mary’s will represents to us the will of God himself.”

Fr. Kolbe was obedient to God’s will in his life by offering his life in place of the his fellow prisoner. We, too, are called to serve God in those that are present in our lives. We may not be called, like Fr. Kolbe, to give up our lives as martyrs, but we are to serve those that God has placed in our lives. Our Lord says to all of us, “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

Let us, like Fr. Kolbe, always keep God in the center of all we do, and, with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, give praise and glory to God now and forever.

           

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08/09/13
St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
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Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 6:23 am

    

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, also known as Edith Stein. She was born to a Jewish family in Beslau, Germany, on October 12, 1891. She studied and taught philosophy. For a while she rejected her Jewish faith and considered herself an atheist. But after reading the autobiography of St. Theresa of Jesus (Avila), she had a conversion and in 1922 she was baptized Catholic. Her further search for a closer relationship with God led her to enter the Carmel in Cologne in 1933. It was there that she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Because of the persecution of the Nazi’s towards the Jewish people, she and her sister, Rosa, (who also converted and entered the Carmel) was arrested and brought to Auschwitz. It was on August 9th, 1942, that Edith and her sister Rosa was gassed and cremated.

This morning I was reflecting on some of the writings of Edith Stein during the Office of Readings, and it was clear that once she accepted Christ as her Saviour, she knew that His Cross would be the center of her life.  In these writings she says, “Contemplate the Lord who hangs before you on the wood, because he was obedient even to the death of the cross. He came into the world not to do his own will but that of the Father. And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God.”

Let us, like St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, remember to keep Christ on the Cross as the center of our lives as we struggle through life, knowing that God will be with us in all we do. Then we will eventually receive that eternal reward of eternal life in heaven, gazing upon the face of God.

Ave Cux, spes unica! (Hail Cross, our only hope).

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07/01/13
Following God
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 4:37 am

 

Reflection on the readings from the 13th Sunday in Ordinary time, found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/063013.cfm

In today’s readings from Mass, we have some challenges to face in our relationship to God. That of putting him first before all else!

In our first reading from 1 Kings 16b, 19-21, we hear the familiar story of God, through the prophet Elijah, calling Elisha. At this point in the book of Kings, Elijah had already fled into the wilderness to escape being put to death by Queen Jezabel. By this point, Elijah is frustrated and just wanted God to take his life. Instead, God sends Elijah to Elisha to continue as a prophet for Israel. Elisha’s care for others is clear in this reading. Before following after Elijah, he prepared a farewell meal for his family. After feeding his people with physical food, he will then be responsible for giving them spiritual food. Elisha, accepting the call of God though Elijah, will make God the center of his life and will share God’s message with others.

In our gospel for today (Luke 9:51-61) we see Jesus starting on His journey towards Jerusalem and his death. Throughout the gospel, Jesus is challenging us to always turn towards God. Jesus is not only talking about true discipleship, but living it! Jesus tells us that discipleship is not a job or career. It is a total way of life, focused on the kingdom of God.

Let us respond to Jesus by going out to “proclaim the kingdom of God” to those in our life! We do this not only by words, but in how we live. As St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”

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06/29/13
The Gift of Silence
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Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 9:03 am

           

Since yesterday afternoon (Friday, 06/28/2013) at 5:00 p.m. I have been on a silent retreat at Corpus Christi Monastery in the Hunts Point Section of the Bronx. At Corpus Christi lives the contemplative branch of the Dominican Order. These nuns spend their lives in faithful prayer to our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament. I’m able to join them in their rounds of prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, starting with the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer at 6:00 a.m., Mass at 7:15 p.m., Mid-day prayer, rosary, Evening Prayer and Compline. I’ll be here until just after Sunday Mass.

Since my arrival yesterday afternoon, I have experienced the loving presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and am able to spend time before him in adoration and prayer. The joy and peace I get from this is priceless. I am truly grateful for these beautiful servants of God and their love and devotion to Our Lord.

If you’re able to visit them, please do. Pray for them and for an increase in vocations to their way of life. In our society today, with it’s fast pace lifestyle, TV, internet, cell phones, and the constant distractions around us, it’s wonderful to have a community that leaves this all behind them to focus on giving praise and glory to God. Another aspect of their life is to pray for the priesthood. They are assigned men to pray for who have been ordained priest for the Archdiocese of New York. This is very valuable. Without the priest we have no Eucharist! So their prayers are much needed.

If you can, also, please support them financially. You can go to their webpage at http://bronxop.org/ to find out more about them and their contact information. Please be generous with them.

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06/22/13
Carrying Our Cross
Filed under: General
Posted by: Deacon Tom Tortorella @ 7:56 pm

 

Reflection on the readings for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 23, 2013. These readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/062313.cfm

In today’s Gospel from Luke we hear of Jesus alone with His disciples. It says that “Jesus was praying in solitude.” What was happening here is much the same as what would happen on a retreat. Jesus took the 12 off to a quiet place to be alone, to be in solitude, so He can continue to teach His disciples what it means to be His followers. They needed this time alone with the Lord to learn and to grow in what it means to be his followers.

We hear our Lord ask, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”(Luke 9:18). They respond “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” (Luke 9:19). After Peter tells the Lord that Jesus is “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:20) our Lord goes on to tell them that He must suffer greatly and be rejected, be killed and be raised on the third day (Luke 9:21). He goes on to say that if we are to be His followers we must also pick up our crosses and follow Him.

Now, does this mean that we must physically carry a cross as He did, and die like He did? No, what Our Lord is teaching us that in our daily life we will face various struggles. Struggles with family. Struggles with the job. Financial struggles. These are the crosses we must pick up, embrace, and offer to the Lord. It is in carrying such crosses that we will save our life and be with Him for eternity. (Luke 9:24)

If you have time over the next few months, may I suggest that you go on a weekend retreat to be alone with the Lord, to be in solitude with Him. The retreat could be a one day retreat or a weekend retreat (Friday evening until Sunday morning). There are retreat houses and places of prayer where you can do this (if you need help finding one, let me know). Spend time with Jesus reading scripture, attending daily Mass, and to attempt to be quiet and in solitude with Him to hear what He’s trying to teach you in your life. I’ll be doing a retreat next weekend and am looking forward to it. I hope you will find the opportunity to be with the Lord and make Him the center of your life!

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