By Fr. Tom Commons SVD

(Born: 01/22/1920, Ordained: 08/15/1947, Called Home to Heaven: 12/30/2004)

In the seminary when, as theologians, we began studying Hebrew, the text book we used was the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis. In English, the text reads: "the earth was a formless void" In Hebrew this is expressed in two words, "Tohu and Bohul?, meaning "a trackless waste, an emptiness." These two words, because of their negative quality, were used by the early Hebrews to express creation of all things from absolute nothingness. So "tohu and bohu" were used by us students to express total confusion and disorder. 

At the very beginning of Scripture, we are told that the Spirit of God hovered over the deep, over the waters, over this "tohu, bohu", thus implying that it was through the power of the Holy Spirit that this trackless waste and emptiness received order and purpose. And just before that first Pentecost, just before the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the shape of fiery tongues, the created world had returned, in a sense, to utter confusion and disorder. For God, in the person of Jesus Christ, had appeared within His creation and was crucified for His trouble. True, He had risen from the dead, but very shortly afterwards He ascended into heaven. So it seemed as if the world was left without its God. Even the Jewish people, who had been God's chosen ones, had refused to accept Him as their Messiah and at Christ's death, there on the cross, the temple ceased to represent Gods presence among them. For was not the curtain of the Holy of Holies within the Temple torn from top to bottom when Jesus bowed His head in death there on the cross? God had departed from His temple and had left a seemingly emptiness behind. Those few, who still believed in the Galilean, were huddled in the upper room in prayer. They seemed, at the moment, without purpose, frightened and fearful and, as at the very beginning, the Holy Spirit hovered over that trackless waste and emptiness; so now, for the moment, He hovers over a world which had rejected its God and was now seemingly empty and without purpose. And suddenly, with the force of wind and fire, the Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles and once again order and purpose filled that upper room.

It is a new creation because it is a new church. For the church, the bride of the second Adam, was formed as it burst forth from the pierced side of Christ as He hung upon the cross. It was given a new kind of life, the life of sanctifying Grace, as the Holy Spirit of God descended upon the twelve apostle in the shape of fiery tongues. As at the dawn of creation, so now in one moment, by the power of the Holy Spirit, there is a new order, a new purpose, a new beginning. He comes in wind and fire to express in a physical way the power and inspiration He will bring spiritually to the Church. Those who were mute before, began to speak; Those who were frightened and fearful gained courage and confidence. Because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, those who were listless become energetic, the weak become strong, the confounded, dedicated. Such was the power of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost. But that power still exists, it is still very much alive in the Church. But because we don't see it we hesitate to believe it. Christ could still speak those words to us today, the words He spoke to the people of His day, "Unless you see signs and wonders you do not believe."

St. Paul, in writing to the early Christians, said "Do you not know that you are temples of God and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?" Since the Holy Sprit dwells within us, we can be sure that He is there to strengthen and to inspire us. For after all, the only thing the Holy Spirit is interested in is our eternal salvation. Then, there are only two directions we can follow; toward God or away from God. Without the Holy Spirit's guidance and inspiration, we certainly would not be going in God's direction. Why? Simply because original sin has so tainted our human nature that of ourselves we are unable to go in the direction of God without the Holy Spirit's guidance. Did not Jesus tell us, "Without Me you can do nothing;" therefore our Savior will always be sure that the Holy Spirit will be very active in our lives.

Perhaps, for a better understanding, we can imagine that Jesus is the book which contains all the lessons we need for our salvation; and the Holy Spirit is the teacher Who enlightens our minds so that we might more readily understand what Jesus is trying to teach us.

In a newspaper article a reporter had asked concerning the Muslim religion, "How do you deal with a people who believe they have a direct line to God?" Perhaps this reporter had no faith; perhaps he was not a Christian. Certainly, he should have known that every Christian, who truly has the faith, believes he has a direct line to God.

On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the feast of our direct line to God, the Holy Spirit and the Son in His turn, promised to send the Spirit who would teach us the truth and would guide and help us to live that truth. For at the last supper Jesus told the apostles, "The Paraclete, Spirit Whom the Father will send you in my name, will instruct everything, and remind you of all that I told you." On the feast of Pentecost, the Spirit is given by Jesus to His Apostles as a completion of their ordination, for it is then that the apostles received the power to forgive sins. But the Holy Spirit did not become active only at Pentecost. In the beginning the Spirit of God hovered over the waters and brought order out of chaos. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who inspired the scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments. He is the one who descended as a dove upon Jesus when Jesus set out on His mission to bring truth to the world. Finally, there is one thing we can always be sure of is that the Holy Spirit does not dwell within us as one who sleeps.

(John 6: 1-15)

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves — this must be Christ's biggest and most significant miracle. It is narrated in all of the four gospels - twice in the gospels of Mark and Matthew, that is, six times in all. But it is more than a miracle. As John says, it is a sign. And it is as a wondrous, magnificent sign that we must look upon it in order to discover its rich and profound meaning.

We see Christ taking the loaves, giving thanks, and distributing them to well over 5000 people. More than 5000 are fed with just five barley loaves and two little fish; so much so that twelve baskets were filled with the leftover fragments!

My friends, this is surely a sign and a prophecy of the Eucharist! We see the fulfillment of this sign today when we visualize the innumerable multitudes who, from the rising of the sun to its setting and throughout the whole world are being fed with the Body and Blood of Christ. This is happening in the Eucharist, in the Holy Masses that are being celebrated daily in our Catholic Churches in all the nations of the world.

But we see that the people did not come to an understanding of this sign. They wanted to make Christ a king. Christ is a king, indeed, but not the type of king they had in mind. Christ does not want to be looked upon as a political king, or a warrior king, or a messiah who saturates men with earthly goods and treasures. No! Christ wants to feed us with the spiritual food of His living and life-giving Word and He commands us to eat His sacred Body and drink His most precious Blood.

He Himself will be telling us the meaning of this great miracle and sign as one continues reading the 6th Chapter of the Gospel of John.

So, in the presence of our Lord and Savior in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar, let us pray in the words of the hymn:

Come then good Shepherd, bread divine,

Display to us Thy mercy sign;

Oh, feed us, still keep us Thine;

So we may see Thy glories shine,

Infields of life divine.

Oh Thou, the wisest, mightiest, best

Our present food, our future rest,

Come make us each Thy chosen guest,

Co-heirs of Thine, and comrades blest

With saints whose dwelling is with Thee.


(John 6: 16-21)

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

When it was evening his disciples went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them: "It is I do not be afraid. " They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. (John 6: 16-21)

This story, my friends, gives us a picture of Christ praying on the mountaintop and watching His apostles struggling to save their lives in the raging storm. Then Jesus comes to them in a marvelous way - by walking on the waters. The apostles see Christ walking on the waters and they are terrified and afraid, thinking that they must be seeing a ghost. But Jesus reassures them saying: "It is I, l am with you! Be not afraid." Then Jesus calms the storm and immediately they arrive safe and sound at the place to which they were heading.

This again is more than a miracle. Like the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves for over 5000 people, it is a sign. It is a sign of Christ's presence in our lives. By these supernatural and superhuman deeds, Jesus is showing that He has divine powers. The Apostles are to come to know Christ as a divine person. For Christ will soon make mind-boggling and seemingly incredible claims for Himself. He will say that He is the living Bread come down from heaven. He will say that they must believe in Him who can give them eternal life. He will say that they must eat His Body and drink His Blood. The Apostles must come to know Christ as the Son of God, the God-Man.

This miracle of Christ walking on the waters and calming the storm is also a great sign for us. We have here a picture of the Risen Christ who watches over us and cares for us; and this particularly in the storms of our lives. Jesus comes to us. Jesus is present in our lives when we are in dangerous situations and when we are sick and suffering and when we have problems and difficulties. And He comes to us to help us, to protect us, to give us the grace and strength we need to cope with our agonies and anxieties. In our modern age Christ came to Blessed Sister Faustina to give us that inspiring picture of Himself as the Divine Mercy, insisting that it be inscribed with the words: "Jesus, I trust in you!". Jesus cares for us. Jesus helps us. Jesus saves us. Knowing that Jesus Christ is God, that He is the Sacred Heart, we must turn to Him in faith and prayer, and He will speak His assuring words to us: "Be not afraid, it is I, l am with you!" Now as we gaze on Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament, we pray:

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me,

May your Body and Blood be my food and drink

May your passion and death be my strength and life.

Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.

May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your Cross,

Let me not run from the love which you offer,

But hold me safe from the forces of evil.

Keep calling to me until that day comes,

When with your saints, I may praise you forever.


(JOHN CHAPTER 6: 22-36)

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

In the 6th Chapter of St. John's Gospel where Jesus Christ reveals Himself as the Living Bread come down from heaven. We have witnessed those two wonderful signs: the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the miracle of Christ's walking on the sea and calming the storm. Now the crowd of thousands of people seeks and finds Jesus in the town of Capernaum.

First of all Jesus points out to the people that they are not seeking Him for the right reasons. They do not know Him or understand Him. They are looking to Him for material goods and advantages. He tells them clearly that He is offering them a special food from God the Father in heaven. They should not seek for food that perishes, but for food that endures unto eternal life. This is the kind of food that He wants to give them.

So the people ask what they are to do to get this spiritual food. Jesus tells them that if they want to receive this spiritual food, they must believe in Him. Now they ask Him to give some sign to prove that He is a Prophet like Moses who gave their fathers the manna in the desert. Then Jesus tells them that they must come to know who He really is. He asserts that He is a Person greater than the Prophet Moses and that He is offering them Bread or spiritual food that is much greater than the manna their Fathers ate in the desert.

Jesus said to them: "I solemnly assure you, it was not Moses who gave you bread from the heavens. It is my Father who gives you the real heavenly bread. God's bread comes down from heaven and gives life to the world... ....I myself am the bread of life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry; no one who believes in me shall thirst again "

With these words we come to know the essence and the nature of our Christian faith. Our faith is not merely giving assent to a whole range of teachings that God has revealed. Faith summons us to a personal relationship with Christ whom we look upon and trust as our Way, our Truth and our Life, that is, our all and everything. So when Jesus says: l am the Bread of Life, he's telling us that He as a person is absolutely necessary for us and our all-embracing need. Simply put, Jesus is the sustaining and nourishing food of the Christian life.

We are being challenged by Jesus to move beyond the physical hungers of everyday needs to the deeper quests of the human spirit, that is, to search for the true and lasting Bread. This word of Scripture is a call to faith: to believe in Jesus; to enter into an enduring relationship with Him that involves leaving behind the old, corrupt ways of thinking. Faith means dying with Christ to self-centered thinking and to journey to God's Kingdom with Him. Without this Bread that is Jesus, our lives will fall apart. This is what Christ's homily is all about: making the connection between our personal relationship with Jesus and the experiences of our everyday life. And the primary source of what we believe is the sacred Word of Scripture.

(JOHN CHAPTER 6; 41 - 51)

The Jews started to murmur in protest because Jesus claimed- "l am the bread that came down from heaven." They kept saying: "Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? How can he claim to have come down from heaven?

"Stop your murmuring," Jesus told them. "No one can come to me unless the Father who Sent me draws him. I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets: 'They shall all be taught by God'. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father — only the one who is from God has seen the Father. Let me firmly assure you. HE WHO BELIEVES HAS ETERNAL LIFE. I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, for a man to eat and never die. I MYSELF AM THE LIVING BREAD COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, foreman to eat and never die. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

I can only say, this gospel you just listened to is terrific! Jesus says: He who believes has eternal life. Then He says: I am the Bread of life. Then He repeats saying even more emphatically: I am the living Bread come down from heaven. No wonder the people murmured. These are words that only a God could say. In explaining to them Jesus tells them that they do not really know him. They know him only as the son of Joseph, a poor and simple carpenter. They must get to know him and believe in him as a divine Person.

My friends, the bread, the food in our spiritual lives is the Word of God in the Scriptures, Scripture, the living and life-giving Word of God has a way of showing us how God enters into our lives and acts on our difficult human situations. There are many ways in which we can take up Holy Scripture and make it the daily bread of our spiritual life. Many of our Catholics today assemble weekly in little groups to share and study the Scriptures. They are nourished thereby and their lives are transformed by the word of God. And Mother Church offers us a magnificent menu of this spiritual food and drink in the readings of Holy Scripture that she places before us from day to day in Holy Mass. You will also find these readings in a daily Missal, Take up these readings. As Jesus says, you will be taught by God and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me.

In this gospel when Jesus speaks of Himself as the bread of life, He is referring to Himself as God's revealing Word. He is the Bread to satisfy our deepest hungers of life and the insatiable thirsts of the Spirit. Later on in His instruction He will speak of His presence in the Bread of the Eucharist. He feeds our faith with the bread of His Word before He nourishes our souls with His own Flesh and Blood. Therefore we have two tables in our Holy Mass: one for the liturgy of the Word; the other for the sacrificial meal.

When we read the Scriptures we must make the connection between the Word of faith and the experiences of our everyday life. That is connecting God's story with our story. This enables us to read the book of our everyday life in the light of the revealed book, the Bible. Thus in our Holy Masses we first attend to the table of the Word. The story of God's marvelous deeds is retold. Our memory is activated and our faith is nourished with the Bread of God's Word, In this way Jesus is for us the living Bread that came down from heaven, Jesus will go on to tell us that we must eat His Bread and drink His Blood in the Eucharist.

(JOHN CHAPTER 6: 60-69)

Many of the disciples of Jesus remarked: " This sort of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously?" Jesus was fully aware that his disciples were murmuring in protest at what he had said. (So Jesus asked them): “Does it shake your faith? What then if you were to see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words I spoke to you are spirit and life. Yet among you there are some who do not believe." (Jesus knew from the start, of course, the ones who refused to believe, and the one who would hand him over.) He went on to say: "This is why I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father."

From this time on, many of his disciples broke away and would not remain in his company any longer. Jesus then said to the Twelve: “'Do you want to leave me too?" Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, to whom shad we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe, and we are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Thomas Merton, the noted spiritual writer, says that the reading of Scripture should have a disturbing effect on us. By this he means to say that we are to take the biblical words seriously so that they truly affect our way of living and acting. Christ's teaching of Himself as the Bread of Life and the Eucharistic Bread that is to be eaten, certainly had a disturbing effect on His hearers. His teaching causes division. Some find His teaching hard and intolerable and so they reject it. Others believe and accept it. In our present day the same thing is constantly taking place. Many people cannot accept Christ and walk away from him.

Jesus hears their murmuring and complaining and, as He watches them walk away, He makes a final plea for their understanding. "Does this disturb you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend where he was before?" It is as if Jesus said: "If you cannot believe what I am saying now, how will you be able to believe when you see me suffer and die, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven." This will be a much greater obstacle to faith in Jesus.

Then Jesus continues: "It is spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” With these words, do not think that Jesus is now changing His teaching about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood - as if His words were to be taken as merely symbolical. To judge according to the flesh is to judge by external features. The point Jesus is making is that without the help of the Spirit a person is only 'flesh', and cannot open himself to faith in him. To believe, we must have the grace of the Spirit; for as Jesus said previously: "No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father."

The drama of this gospel scene continues. Jesus himself challenges His Apostles and asks them directly to decide whether they truly believe in him now that He has given them this revelation of himself, or whether they also want to walk away. They were His closest companions. Peter is the spokesman for them all, and makes a powerful profession of faith: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we believe. We have come to know that you are the Holy One of God." In replying Jesus demonstrates that He is aware of the fact that one of the Twelve does not believe in him. It is the evangelist who tells us that this one is Judas.

Like Peter we now stand before Christ and declare: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You are the living Bread come down from heaven. We believe that we eat your Body and drink your Blood under the appearances of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist. And we believe and proclaim your true, real, and living presence here in the Blessed Sacrament of this altar. Amen.

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

We cherish and treasure Christ's words in Chapter 6 of St. John's Gospel where Christ so wonderfully revealed His personality to us as the divine human person who is the living Bread come down from heaven and our food and drink on our journey of faith in this life. So today we will ask ourselves how we respond to this wondrous gift in our daily lives.

Christ is the living Bread come down from heaven in the Word of God that is given to us in the Holy Scriptures. No one can live a truly Christian life unless he or she enlightens and nourishes himself or herself with the Word of God. The best way of reading Scripture is by feeding oneself with the scriptural words as they come to us in the Liturgy of the Church, that is in Holy Mass and the Divine Office. The more time you devote to the thoughtful reading and studying of these words, the closer you will come to knowing, loving and serving God in living your Christian vocation, and the more you will grow in experiencing the presence of God in your life as you grow daily in faith, hope, and charity. Many Christians nowadays read and study the Bible not only personally in their own homes, but also in communion with their Christian brothers and sisters. There are many who meet together in small groups every week to share their scriptural thoughts and insights; and in this way the Word of God becomes living and effective, penetrating like a sword into their everyday living, enabling them to discern the reflections and thoughts of their hearts and souls.

The second way and even greater way in which Christ comes to us is in the Eucharist, in Holy Mass. The Eucharist is an event and a sacrament in which we find ourselves under the Cross of Christ who is giving us His Body and Blood to eat and drink. Nothing could be greater, more wondrous, more life-giving than this. The Eucharist is the source and center of the Christian life precisely because it brings Christ's paschal mystery into our midst. It gives us the Body and Blood of Christ, the sign of His ongoing presence in our midst. In the Eucharist Christ acts in and through the members of His Body. Christ acts as our Mediator, uniting our prayers to His, and offering them to the Father on our behalf. In the Eucharist Christ gives us a share in His resurrection. In the Eucharist we experience Christ's life through the gift of the Spirit, who prays in us and through us as the Spirit of Christ, our Redeemer and Mediator before God. The Eucharist provides us with food for our journey of faith. Receiving Christ in holy communion, He bonds us into communion with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

In addition to all this, we, in making our Holy Hour, experience Christ's intimate presence in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. We come to visit him, and, like Mary in her home in Bethany, sit down at the Lord's feet and listen to him speaking. Pope John Paul II tells us that "adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice". Again, as the Holy Father says, **It is pleasant to spend time with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, to be close to His breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in His Heart."

In conclusion let us pray: Come then, good Shepherd, Bread divine; show to its Thy mercy sign- Oh, feed us, keep us Thine, so we may see Thy glories shine, in the heavenly fields of immortality. Amen.

By Fr. Tom Commons SVD

(Born: 01/22/1920, Ordained: 08/15/1947, Called Home to Heaven: 12/30/2004)

Chapters 5 through 7 of St. Matthew's Gospel places before us the basic teachings of our Savior. These chapters are often given the name "The Sermon on the Mount." It is believed that this sermon on the Mount must have been given in His first months of His ministry while He was still in Galilee. It sounds the keynote of the new age which Jesus had come to introduce. This sermon has been called the Compendium of Christ's teaching, a summary of the Christian Faith. The sermon began with the beatitudes; it contains the various qualities that should be found in every Christian.

Matthew 5: 17-37, which seems long, rambling and disconnected, is really all of one piece. It is the continuation of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, beginning Matthew 5:1. This sermon of our Savior is thought to have been given in His first months of ministry while He was still in Galilee. It sounds the keynote of the new age which Jesus had come to introduce. This sermon has been called the Compendium of Christ's teaching, a summary of the Christian faith. The Sermon began with the Beatitudes. It cites the various qualities that should be found in every Christian. Poor in spirit, meek, ready to suffer from within and from without. This selfless outlook which has little attraction when we hear it, nevertheless is directed to an eternal reward.

As Jesus said, "For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." Next, Christ tells His followers that it is their duty to change the world, to change its moral values, to place before it uplifting motivating principles. They should be the salt that seasons the world with Christ's teachings. They should be the light, by teaching and explaining our Savior's doctrine by their example, by the way they live.

Matthew 5: 17-37 summarizes the norm of morality by which we must live, God's norm, built by the wisdom of God. He has come, Christ tells us, not to do away with the law but to bring it to perfection. To reveal the full intention of the Divine Lawgiver. What Jesus wished to emphasize is the norm of morality which must be followed in the new kingdom which He is going to establish.

Far from dying, the old law is to rise with new life, infused with a new spirit. The old law concerned itself mostly with external actions; the new dispensation will concern itself mostly with internal dispositions. Being internal dispositions, our neighbor will not notice them; but God will, and those interior dispositions, good or bad, will be judged. The old law was given amidst fire and thunder on Mt. Sinai, amidst power and majesty and accepted with fear. The new doctrine is given with gentleness and love but with no less seriousness and with no less gravity. And love can always ask more than fear can demand. In the old Law, God through His prophets, asked less of a people who had to be mastered by awe. But now the Son of God is asking more of those who are to be made free by love.

Jesus is giving as His principle: the law does not pass, it does not cease; on the contrary its moral commands remain and will continue in force. But the coming of the Messiah demands a new perspective, a deeper interpretation of the law. This new interpretation will not do away with external acts but it will emphasize the internal disposition of man's mind and soul and it will be as lasting as heaven and earth are lasting. Moreover, this new re-born law will be enforced with no less vigor than the old. Neglecting or ignoring those parts of the law which seem less significant will be noticed and will undergo judgment. The ideals of this new law will be greater because we will know that Christ will never be satisfied with the mediocre. Membership under the old law mainly demanded more fidelity in performing external actions; members of the new law must strive to make their external a dedication to the principles given them by Christ. In a word, our Savior is demanding more holiness, more sanctity from us than was demanded of those under the old law. Christ is emphasizing the superiority of His new teaching over the ancient teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. The superiority arises not from the mere fact that the life Jesus wants us to live is more focused on God and what He wants of us, but that we will have the added help of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

Throughout the rest of the Gospel Jesus is giving examples of exactly how His teachings are higher in spirit and more profound in thought than that of the law of Moses. In giving us these examples He uses the kind of speech called hyperbole; the technique of recognized exaggeration to stress and emphasize the lesson He is trying to convey. The old law said the one who committed murder was liable to the judgment. But now Christ is saying that the man who is angry with another is also guilty and liable to the judgment. Notice how He seems to equate murder with anger. However, that is not what He is doing. In the old law murder was punishable and, ordinarily anger was not. Here Jesus is saying that the person who is guilty of an interior act of anger will be judged just as a person who has committed murder, an exterior crime. He is not saying that they both will receive the same sentence, He is saying that even our interior acts, those not known to others, will receive judgment just as more serious sins will be judged. He is telling us in striking language that all sins will be judged, even the smallest acts of enmity will be a matter of accusation before a tribunal. The old law said that you shall not commit adultery, but in the new Christian dispensation, internal sinful intentions are condemned even if they are unaccompanied by an external act. In the Old Testament we hear very much about the law, and the law, by far the majority of the time, is dealing with a visible external acts.

In Matthew 5: 17-37, we might say that Jesus is informing His Apostles and us that we consist not only of a body but also a soul which has the faculties of thought, memory and will. And these are the most important faculties we have for the use of them is what gives morality to an act.

The first five books in the Bible are what the Jewish people called the law. They are Genesis (the beginning), Exodus (the Jewish people leaving Egypt), Leviticus (the laws for the priesthood and temple worship), Numbers (the names of the people of the various Jewish tribes together with some general laws), and Deuteronomy (a repetition of the laws together with some new ones). These hundreds of divine laws, contained in the Old Testament, were added among the human laws by the Scribes and Pharisee bringing the total of the laws into the thousands.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read about the first Council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. Since the Apostles realized that the Gentile converts were receiving the Holy Spirit just as the Jewish converts were, they came together to decide if the Gentiles would have to follow the Jewish laws. So St. Peter spoke to the Council in these words: "God, who can read everyone's heart, showed His approval of them (the Gentiles) by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as He had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since He purified their hearts by faith. (notice) It would surely only provoke God's anger now, if you imposed on the disciples (gentiles) the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support. Remember, we believe we are saved in the same way they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus."

At the death of the Son of God on Calvary, the whole world changed; the world of nature and the world of grace. When Jesus died on the cross, He flooded the world with grace. Up to that moment Our Blessed Mother was the sole exception to the possession of grace through her Immaculate Conception. And that was granted to her by way of exception because the Heavenly Father anticipated the graces which would be won through the death of His Son. So in Matthew 5: 17-37, Christ is trying to instruct His disciples that just like exterior acts, there are also interior acts that can condemn us or save us. Jesus died on the cross to provide us with all the graces we need to get to heaven. So let us not ignore them for we will be the losers. We would be very foolish not to make use of the graces Christ has made available for us. For they will make our good acts, both interior and exterior, very valuable on our way to heaven.

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

Earlier I told you how I found Christ, the Good Shepherd, present in my life as a priest. Now I want to challenge you to find the Good Shepherd as He is present with you in your everyday life.

The Shepherd cares for the sheep by nourishing them with good food and drink. In the gospels we will see how Christ looked upon the people of His time and pitied them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, first of all He began to teach them. Then He fed that vast crowd of over 5000 people by miraculously multiplying five barley loaves and a couple of fish. Then He explains to them that He is God's living bread come down from heaven. Finally He astounds them by telling them that He is giving them His own Flesh and Blood to eat and drink.

What happened long ago when Christ walked the streets and fields of Palestine can happen to you now in your own daily life. Christ feeds you first of all with the Word of God in the Scriptures, the Bible. "Indeed the Word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart". Christ is there for you when you take time to reflect on, and pray with His holy Word. Christ is there for you whenever you participate in the Eucharist with your mind and heart and soul. He is the living Bread come down from heaven to nourish you. But you must take and eat His Body and drink His Blood!

As the Good Shepherd Christ anoints you with the Holy Spirit with all His Grace and Love and Power. He sends His Holy Spirit to you, to dwell in your heart, to be with you always. But it is up to you to become conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

As Christ the Good Shepherd went about Palestine healing the people and curing all kinds of diseases and driving out demons, so Christ comes to you in His Sacraments of healing and anointing and the sacrament of confession and reconciliation. Christ is there, present in your life. But it is up to you to become more and more conscious of His


How do we get to really experience Christ in our lives? It is through our contact with the WORD OF GOD and the LITURGY, that is, in Christ's sacramental touch, His presence and action in you in Holy Mass and in the Sacraments, These two realities, the Word of God and the Liturgy are embraced and actualized in our lives in prayer. I speak of prayer in the sense that it is internalized and contemplative. This is prayer not just from the head and on the lips, but from the heart.

By Fr. Tom Commons SVD

(Born: 01/22/1920, Ordained: 08/15/1947, Called Home to Heaven: 12/30/2004)

For the feast of St. Joseph, we not only celebrate his feast as the husband of our Blessed Mother and as the foster father of her Son, we are also honoring him as the patron saint of the Catholic Church. Only St. Matthew and St. Luke's Gospels tell us about Joseph, and what they tell us is very little.

As St. Luke's words in the first two chapters of his Gospel must have originated primarily from our Blessed Mother; so St. Matthew's first two chapters must have stemmed from a source close to St. Joseph.

We know from Matthew that Joseph was from the tribe of Judah, of the family of David and although David was the most powerful and famous of the kings of Judea, his descendants no longer had any title to rank or riches. Down the centuries the Jewish people had not only been conquered, but had been led off into captivity into Babylon. Everything we know about Joseph, tells us that he was one of the under privileged poor. At the birth of our Savior, he probably could have bought a room in the inn if he had money and at the infant's presentation in the temple, he had to make the offering of the poor - two turtle doves.

He is called a carpenter; but the word used in the original language describes him as a builder. In his Gospel, Matthew mentions the angel informing Joseph of Mary's miraculous conception, the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth. St. Luke gives us the details of the birth, the circumcision, the presentation and the temporary loss of the child Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem. From this time Joseph disappears from the Gospel pages, and since there is no mention of him with Mary during the public ministry of Christ, it is probable that he died in the interval. Since he must have died in the company of Jesus and Mary, he is acclaimed as the patron saint of the dying. But the apocryphal gospels give us more details about St. Joseph. Apocryphal gospels are those gospels of unknown authorship and are regarded as fictitious. Some of them were actually heretical. There were as many as 21 of them. In the Council of Ephesus in 321 the Church decreed that there were only four true Gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These false Gospels tell us that Joseph, after the death of his first wife, (with whom he had children and after years of widowhood), won the guardianship of Mary in competition with other suitors. His dry staff was said to have blossomed into lilies while those of the other contestants did not. His former marriage was invented to help explain the texts in scriptures concerning the "brothers and sisters" of Jesus and the staff blooming with lilies as proof of the chastity of Joseph.

The Gospels remain therefore as the only reliable source of information about Joseph. Yet with the Gospels silence concerning other aspects of St. Joseph's life, they nevertheless have left a sharp outline of his character. Even though the writings of the evangelists leave no record of his words, they clearly present him as the patient instrument of God who does what is required of him with unquestioning faith. All these qualities, his pious observance of the Jewish law concerning the circumcision and the presentation of the two turtle doves as sacrifice, his faithful protection of Mary and Jesus during their flight into Egypt and their return, his willing acceptance of hardship, his prompt obedience to the demands of God, his constancy under trial and his calm dignity at all times, portray him as the just, the godly man, who can be proposed as a model for all Christians, and to Christian working men in particular.

As for our Savior, although Jesus had a divine nature, He also had a human nature, a nature just like ours; a nature that had to be taught to eat, to talk, to learn; a nature that would be affected by the conduct, the language, the religious attitude of those around it. So Christ's own attractive human character, with its sincerity, courage and deep charity was developed under the example and upbringing He received under Joseph. Yet Joseph's true greatness lies at a deeper level and the custom of addressing him as the foster-father of our Savior may be a little misleading. Such a term suggests a merely external exercise of parental authority. It would be more accurate to say that Joseph was in every way, short of generation, short of being His actual father, was the true father

of Christ, a term which the Gospels do not hesitate to use constantly. Jesus was truly the fruit of the marriage in which Joseph played an indispensable role.

Both Mary and Joseph are integral parts of the mystery of the incarnation and in so far as this mystery is extended through time in the mystical Body of the Word Made Flesh, St. Joseph continues his role of fostering, protecting and guiding the Church, not by any mere extrinsic title, but by the very nature of things. That is why Pope Pius IX in 1870 proclaimed St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church.

Finally, just a few thoughts on the faith of St. Joseph.

As Catholics, we believe that here on the altar, during Mass and Eucharistic adoration, Jesus Christ, God and Man, with His Divinity and Humanity is truly present in the Sacred Host. We believe it because we have been taught so. But we had more than just learning on which to base our faith.

We have 2000 years of tradition. We have the examples of thousands and thousands of saints and millions of ordinary people who lived their lives believing in the Real Presence. We have countless martyrs who gave their lives for their faith in the Holy Eucharist. We have books upon books narrating true miracles happening because of faith in the Eucharist. But St. Joseph never had the tremendous privilege to receive Christ in Holy Communion or to profess his faith in the Real Presence. But He had to believe that the revelation dreams he had, came from God; He had to believe that Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. He had to believe that that baby crawling on the floor, resting in His crib, nursing at His Mother's breast was the Son of God. For certainly Mary had told him the words of the angel that her child would be the Son of God. When he had to teach the child how to walk, and as a young lad, how to handle the tools and the more intricate things of carpentry, he believed he was teaching the Son of God. But he had had no years of teaching on which to base his faith. He did not have the faith of thousands, or the death of martyrs, or miracles on which to base his faith. He believed because he believed in the word of God and the word of Mary his wife. He must have had a strong and intensive faith.

Let us ask St. Joseph, the patron of the church, to intercede before his foster son, also present in the Holy Eucharist, that our faith in imitation of his will always be strong and enduring. Amen.

(Pray for all of us Fr. Tom on our journey to Heaven!)

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

We Catholics have a precious treasure ~ a jewel of a prayer - I'm thinking of the THE SIGN OF THE CROSS which you see me making now. And when we make this sign of the Cross we do it in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is, we make the sign of the Cross in the Name of God, our wonderful God, who is our loving caring Father, and of His Son who is our Brother and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit who is our spiritual life and our spiritual energy.

We begin our prayer of the Rosary with the sign of the Cross. In fact we begin most of our prayers with it. But remember, we are baptized and anointed in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Remember that in the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), our sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.; and remember that we begin our every Holy Mass in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is to sit on my bed and make the sign of the Cross, and I say slowly and deliberately: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the friendship of the Holy Spirit be with me this day. And that, my friends, makes my day!

The point is that when we make the sign of the Cross we are to express our love of God, our union with God, and our desire to commit ourselves to God and to serve God in everything we think, and do, and say. In other words, it is an expression of our faith, our hope and our love. Thus, when we begin our rosary we say three "Hail Marys", particularly for an increase of our faith, our hope and our charity in the mysteries of the life death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The sign of the cross is not a fetish, that is it is not an action that has some magical power in itself. Rather the sign of the cross is a prayer invoking the presence and the power of God, Without this understanding it becomes a meaningless or superstitious action.

Making our prayer in the form of a Cross is an acknowledgment and a sign that all our blessings and graces come to us only through the Cross and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

When you make the sign of the Cross, you must do it slowly and deliberately. You are dedicating and committing yourself to God and becoming conscious of His presence in all that you think and do and say. You are asking for God's blessing and protection. You are making a profession of your faith!

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

The Rosary is a precious treasure that Our Mother Mary has placed into our hands bringing us close to Jesus and immersing us into the mysteries of Christ, the mysteries of our salvation.(The Paschal Mystery).   The name Rosary gives us the picture of "a garden of roses." , Mary, our dear Mother and Queen, takes delight in a rose garden where myriads of her devoted children are engaged in its care. The Rosary is one of the greatest ways of bringing about our salvation which comes to us through Jesus Christ. For the Rosary is made up of the mysteries in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is through these sacred mysteries that we are saved. The prayer of the rosary is:


From this prayer we must note well that the Rosary is much more than the recitation of a number of Hail Mary's. The main part of the Rosary is to be found in the reflection, meditation and contemplation upon the mysteries of Christ in which we find our salvation. And then, and this is most important, we place ourselves inside these mysteries and our own personal life story is converted, animated and transformed in the process of our encounters with Christ. As Pope John Paul says: Each mystery of the rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man. At the same time it becomes natural to bring to the encounter with Christ all the problems, anxieties, labors and endeavors that go to make up our lives. To pray the rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother.  The rosary does indeed mark the rhythm of human life bringing it into harmony with the 'rhythm' of the divine. "

The Rosary is no charm, no fetish, no piece of magic. It is not meant to be a mere decoration or an ornament. It must be pursued reflectively together with the scriptural word of God, Praying the Rosary we do as Mary did, she, who cherished and pondered the word of God in her heart.

Now as I look back upon my many long years in the religious, priesthood and missionary life, I see that it was the Rosary that had a most profound effect in building up, nourishing and sustaining my spiritual life. In my devotion to the Rosary, I have found the fulfillment of what the Wise Man said of SOPHIA in the Book of Wisdom:

I prayed and understanding was given me. I entreated and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I esteemed her more than scepters and thrones. Compared with her I held riches as nothing. I reckoned no priceless stones to be her peer; for compared with her all gold is a pinch of sand, and beside her silver ranks as mud. I loved her more than health or beauty; preferred her to the light, since her radiance never sleeps. In her company all good things came to me. At her hands riches not to be numbered, ,.,„.,.,. I determined to take her to share my life, knowing she would be my counselor in prosperity, and comfort me in cares and sorrow, (Wisdom 7: 7-11. 8: 9).

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

The prayer of the "Our Father" is certainly the greatest of all prayers, given to us by Jesus Christ himself and it is in itself a compendium of the Gospel. To pray well, our every prayer, must be in the spirit and the essence of the prayer of the Our Father. Consequently the prayer of the Our Father is necessarily incorporated in the prayer of the Rosary.

If the prayer of the "Our Father" is the soul of the Rosary; the prayer of the "Hail Mary" is the Heart of the Rosary, It runs through the rosary as the blood runs through the Body, animating, nourishing and sustaining it.

In the Hail Mary, we have first of all, the words of the Archangel Gabriel who salutes the Blessed Virgin saying: “Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women.” Secondly, we have the words of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” The third part was added by the Church, and it is a solemn personal prayer asking for Mary's intercession.

It had never been heard that an angel showed reverence to a human being until the Archangel Gabriel reverently greeted the Blessed Virgin. Gabriel's greeting to Mary tells us that she was “full of grace”. Mary was full of grace because she was conceived and born without original sin. Again, Mary was so full of grace that it overflowed into her flesh and thus fitted her for the conception of God's Son. Ant now we know that Mary is so full of grace that her grace overflows unto all mankind.

Mary surpasses all angels and men in her close association with God. To indicate this the angel said: “The Lord is with thee.” With her, the Son of God was in her womb. Because she conceived of the Holy Spirit Mary was the Temple of God, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. Hence no greater praise could be addressed to her than that which is contained in the words: “The Lord is with thee.”

The Name "Mary" is befitting to her because it signifies “Star of the sea." Just as the star of the sea guides the sailor to port, so are Christ's followers guided by Mary to heavenly glory.

It was Elizabeth, the mother of Zachariah, who added to the angel's salutation with the words: “Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.” The Blessed Virgin Mary found Jesus in the fruit of her womb. So also do we find Christ, the fruit of Mary's womb. In the fruit of the Blessed Virgin we find sweetness and salvation. This fruit is blessed by God, because God so filled Christ that his grace overflows upon us who bow to Him in adoration. Mary is blessed; but still more blessed is her Fruit, which is Jesus.

How fittingly Mother Church has added our personal prayer for Mary's intercession with the words: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Our “Hail Mary's” are like background music in the prayer of the Rosary, immersing us into the mysteries of Christ so that with Mary we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

At the beginning of the rosary Mary teaches us to pray three Hail Mary's for an increase of faith, hope and charity. In this way Mary truly mothers and nourishes us; for nothing is more important in our Christian lives than these three virtues. They are called theological virtues because they are directed to God Whom we know only by faith; in Whom we place all our hope and trust and Whom we desire to love with  our mind and heart and soul and with all our strength.

Imagine that you have a beautiful and powerful automobile. Without fuel that car cannot move and so it is useless since it has lost its purpose. Without faith, hope and love a Christian is without life, spiritually dead. We can say that faith, hope and love are the very life of the Christian soul.

In practical terms we can say that faith is a belief in God, Who is the very center of our lives, Who is our all and everything. We live good lives so that we may be happy with God, not only in this life, but forever in the life of eternity. "The just man lives by faith". This means that we grow more and more conscious of God's active presence in our daily living. Faith means that we believe that the Risen Christ is our Lord and Savior and that as the Holy Spirit he dwells in our hearts protecting us, animating, enlightening, guiding and directing us.

Hope means that we place all our trust in God as the little child in the arms of the Father. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land. They trace the path that leads through the trials of life. Through the merits of Jesus Christ God leads us in the 'hope that does not disappoint'. Hope is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer."

Charity is the virtue by which we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. The Apostle Paul tells us how we practice love in our lives: "Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

From all this you see the part that faith, hope and charity plays in your everyday lives. And so we thank our dear Mother Mary who teaches us to begin our rosary with the prayer that faith, hope and love  will be ever growing and increasing in our lives.

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD


The Annunciation of the Incarnation of the Birth of Christ, made to the Blessed Virgin Mary is indeed the most momentous proclamation made to humankind since the Creation of the world, the beginning of history.

The story of the Annunciation has been encapsulated in a prayer called the Angelus. "Angelus" is a Latin word meaning "angel". This angel, named Gabriel, was sent by God to a virgin in the little town of Nazareth; and the virgin's name was Mary. The message is terrific, astounding, noble and precious. The Word of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is to become a Man. He is to take flesh, a human body. He will be called the Son of God. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David and He will rule over the House of David His ancestor, and His kingdom will have no end.

It was the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, who received this marvelous message. Naturally she was greatly disturbed by it and she asked the Angel "But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?” The angel then told her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.” With a faith much greater than the faith of Abraham, Mary received this message and accepted it. She said "Yes" to God with the words: "BEHOLD THE HANDMAID OF THE LORD; BE IT DONE UNTO ME ACCORDING TO THY WORD.

And then it happened; the greatest wonder the world has ever known, took place; and THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US. This means that in nine months time the little baby Jesus would be born into this world. He would grow up to be our Savior, our Good Shepherd and Healer. Through His death and resurrection our sins would be forgiven and we too would rise into eternal life.

This is the prayer of the ANGELUS. It is our Advent prayer that prepares us to celebrate the feast of Christmas, But it should also be our daily prayer; for what took place in this Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin is to take place in us too. God's messenger, the Angel, comes to us every day giving us the message of what we are to do and how we are to live. Like Mary we are to listen to God's word, and accept it and carry it out in our everyday living. Then Christ is born into our lives. For, Jesus promised us this when he said: "Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him," That's how Jesus, the Word, becomes flesh and dwells in our hearts!

And so we pray: Pour forth, we beseech Thee O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel; may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

The Mass for New Year's opens with this prayer:

The Lord bless you and keep you!

The Lord let his light shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The Lord look upon yog kindly and give you peace!

This blessing empowers us to choose to change, if we want to do so. Hoping for peace will not make it happen. God blesses us so us so that we might choose to look out for the good of one another along our pilgrimage way of faith. Each conscious choice makes it less of a vision and more of a reality.

Celebrating a New Year is all about celebrating time and life. Both time and life go together; you can't have one without the other. That's why at the beginning of a New Year in our lives it is good to think about how we use our time, and how we appreciate the time and life that God gives us.

ETERNITY is simply infinite time. It is time that is a perpetual NOW It is BEING in time. Right now our time is always passing away. But in ETERNITY time stands still. That's the reason why we need to look at the time we have now from the aspect of eternity. Our eternity of happiness or misery depends on how we use our time today. Our time is misspent unless we live a purpose-driven life.

After just celebrating Christmas, the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how fitting it is that the world today measures time from the number of years before and after Christ's birth, Jesus' coming and birth brings a new life, a new start for us. Things can and will be different for us if we let Christ into our lives, because Jesus brings grace, truth, light, peace and freedom. Now that we have celebrated Christ's coming into our world and His coming to us, it is most fitting that we should reflect upon how we are using our time, the days, the months and years that God is giving us.

For us Christians, Christ is our all and everything. Therefore, if we want to use our time well, we need to direct our lives to the peace and joy and the love of Christ. Make resolutions that will enable you to live your life with the wisdom of the Gospel. Make your life a faith pilgrimage. Use the gospel as your map and your compass. In practical terms make Christ your priority in the way you live and use your time. You do this by determining the time you spend everyday in prayer, in reading and listening to the Word of God, and in receiving the sacraments of the Church. The supreme law of your life must be to love God and to love one another and all the others in your life by caring and sharing, by giving and forgiving.

So resolve to:

Take time to think - it is the source of power.

Take time to read - it is the fountain of wisdom.

Take time to pray - it is the greatest power on earth.

Take time to laugh - it is the music of the soul. Take time to give - life is too short for a day of selfishness.

Take time to love - it is the key to heaven.

Then begin this New Year —

IN THE NAME OF JESUS, our Savior, Who is born, suffers and dies for us and brings us to resurrection into eternal life. And,

IN THE NAME OF MARY, who as our Mother nourishes us in the life of Christ.

Then, like the shepherds we shall go through this year, and alt the days of our lives, GLORIFYING AND PRAISING GOD FOR ALL WE HAVE HEARD AND SEEN in celebrating Christmas.

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

The Star of the Epiphany leads the Wise Men to Christ. Let us ask ourselves three questions about the Epiphany Sunday's wonderful gospel story; for the inner meanings of this story are more important than the outer details of history and astronomy. What indeed is the Star which the Wise Men saw and followed? What kind of a Journey do these Wise Men undertake? And, who are the modern WISE MEN in our world today?

Indeed, that wondrous Star dominates the story. It is a symbol of the grace of God that comes to all men and women in different ways. This grace points out Christ to us and puts Him into our lives. It is the grace of faith. To the Wise Men the Star fulfilled their reading of the prophecies. Many people see that wondrous Star, but most do not pay attention to it. God's grace surrounds us like the air we breathe, but people do not notice it. Like the Wise Men we must respond to the grace of faith in our lives through prayer and reflection.

Once God comes into our lives we need to respond to the grace His gives us. For the Wise Men this meant a difficult and dangerous journey, leaving their people, their home and possessions. Christ says to us: "Repent and believe the Gospel." And He says: "If you wish to be my disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me." Once the grace of faith has entered into our lives we too must respond to it by journeying to follow Christ. This means that we leave our natural way of looking upon things and enter into God's world, the world of the supernatural.

The Wise Men went to Jerusalem where they met the chief priests and the scribes who opened up the Scriptures to them, telling them where Christ was to be found in Bethlehem. Like the Wise Men we, on our journey of faith, must go to the Church where we will find the treasures of the Word of God. The cruel, cunning and wicked king Herod stands for the enemies we meet on our journey of faith. These try to deceive us and bring us to ruin. We meet them in the guise of worldly and materialistic minded companions who ridicule us and scoff at our beliefs.

How delighted the Wise Men were when the Star reappeared and pointed out to them the exact place where the Divine Child was. Grace, too, was given to them to overcome the surprise and disappointment of finding the Christ in such poor and humble circumstances. Christ comes to us in our lives in ways that are hidden and unexpected. We need God's grace of faith to recognize Him, to come to accept Him, to worship and adore Him.

The gifts the Wise Men offer are certainly symbolic. The gold is for Christ the King. The incense is for Christ, Who is God, Who is to be worshipped and adored. The myrrh foretells the passion and death of Christ. What are our gifts to the Christ Child? Let us offer Him the gold of our love and service, the incense of our faith and adoration; the myrrh of our obedience in carrying out His will in the way we live and think and act.

The Wise Men went back to their own country by a different route. Once Christ is believed and accepted things must be different for us. If Christ comes into our lives we will indeed change and live in a different way, that is, in the way the Gospel teaches us to live. It is the way of following Christ faithfully, turning away from the darkness and slavery of sin.

The star is God's grace in our lives. The journey is our journey of faith which means self-sacrifice and renunciation in following Christ. The modern Wise Men are the faithful and believing Christians. We are the Wise Men of today's gospel story!

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

There was a marriage feast at Cana. Christ was there. Our mother Mary was there. Christ's first disciples were there. It took place at the very beginning of Christ's public life. It was precisely on this occasion that Christ worked His first miracle. And what a miracle it was! I think it is the most cheering, joyous and heart-warming of all Christ's miracles All this happened because it was a marriage feast. Christ had a little secret in His heart that day. He was really celebrating the feast of God's marriage to the Church, to the human race. For, in the last analysis, that is the meaning of the Incarnation; the mystery of the Word made Flesh, the mystery of Christ becoming human.

1 say mis because in giving us this story the evangelist John tells us that this changing of water into wine was more than a miracle. John tells us that this miracle was a sign. And he tells us that this sign is that Jesus revealed His glory and His disciples believed in Him. " In other words Christ is the Messiah and we are receiving the abundant riches and blessings of the Messianic age.

Yes, my friends, we are living in this Messianic age. In our daily lives we have the water of baptism and the wine of the Holy Eucharist. Our baptism has transformed our lives into being God's beloved children,.*through which we cry Abba, Father." We have a new heart and a new spirit within us; that is, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. " Think of the gift and blessing of the Holy Eucharist when our earthly wine is changed into the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Holy Mass we eat Christ's Body and drink His Blood and live in intimate communion with Him.. Think of the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation, of confession, in which we have the forgiveness of our sins and receive the grace of freedom from the slavery of sin. Think, too, of the healing we receive in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. And call to mind the gift of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with His gifts of love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity.

In the sacrament of Christian marriage Christ changes the water of earthly love into the wine of a divine love. Only in Christian marriage will a man say to a woman and a woman say to a man: "I love you with all my heart and soul. I pledge myself to you, to have and to hold, always and forever. Your handsomeness, your beauty may come to an end, health may disappear into sickness; good times and possessions may be taken away; and yet I will love you until death do us part. I will be faithful to you and whatever happens, yes, whatever, I will not suiter this bond of love to be broken in the division, the failure of a divorce."

If we receive and cooperate with the grace of God, Christ is changing water into wine throughout our Christian lives. In each of the sacraments Christ takes earthly elements and transforms them into spiritual graces and blessings. Even the marriage feast of Cana is far surpassed in every mass which we celebrate when Christ takes our bread and wine and changes it into His Body and Blood.

Do you remember that beautiful parable when Christ told us about the great banquet? That banquet is symbolized in the Marriage Feast of Cana. We are all invited to that banquet. Are you accepting the invitation?

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

Luke 4: 16-21: Jesus came to Nazareth where he had grown up, and went, according to his custom* into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read, and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind., to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them; Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.

From this passage we can learn a lot about the WORD OF GOD, Holy Scripture, and how to appreciate it the more. It was a dramatic occasion when Christ Himself read the Scriptures in the synagogue of Nazareth. A Church building was called a Synagogue in those days. After His baptism by John, the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus and "anointed" Him into His office as the Messiah. That is why Jesus found the prophecy of Isaiah and made that the text for His teaching that day. How astonished and excited His fellow-kinsmen were, when Christ proclaimed: "This text is fulfilled today, even as you listen."

Herein is the power of the Word of God: in its "todayness", its "newness". Holy Scripture is living and active and is connected and applied to what is happening in our everyday lives. Scripture is intended as a mirror in which we can see our own lives reflected. This is the way we are to read, listen to, and hear the Word of God. For, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews says: the Word of God is living and active; sharper than any two-edged sword; it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12).

Living in the Word is a spirituality of one who hears the Word, studies the Word, ponders the Word, prays the Word, teaches the Word, and proclaims the Word, and one who brings the Word into every area of human living. When reading Scripture we are to be continually making connections between the Word of God and our daily living. Living in the Word transforms us and brings about a habit of mind and heart that enables us to delight in the Law of the Lord and meditate on his law day and night (Ps. 1). It enables us to pray always in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18); and to become more and more united to Christ and the Church as the Body of Christ. In this way we become prayerfully absorbed in the Scriptures,

The message of God's Word is meant for us. How do we hear it? Do we take it to heart? Or do we think its challenging message is intended for someone else? Do we break open the Word for others? The best advice I can give you is that you give priority time in your everyday life to the prayerful reading the Word of God and that you make connections of God's Word with your everyday living.

Listen to the words of Psalm 1: Happy indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked; nor lingers in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of scorners, but whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade. And all that he does shall prosper.

We pray: "Jesus, be my Way, my Truth and my Life through my pondering your Word every day and keeping it in my heart. Amen.

By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD

In the gospels Christ gives us the message of the Beatitudes, once in the sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew's gospel; again in the Sermon in the Plain as we have it in St. Luke's gospel, and, indeed, in the sayings of Jesus all through the gospels. For the message of the Beatitudes is at the very heart and core of Christ's teaching. I think we could call it "the spirituality of Jesus." We will be true disciples Christ only if we follow Him by making His spirituality our spirituality. If we search for the best spirituality of all, it is here that we will find it.

"Blessed" means, "Ah, the happiness of" and Beatitude is the happiness of the one who is in communion with God. The Beatitudes describe the character of those who, living under God's fatherly rule, made manifest in Jesus, enjoy that happiness, even here and now in this life, although its ultimate fulfillment belongs to the heavenly kingdom.

The Beatitudes are a love song -- a description of the sources of human happiness. The Christian dream of love is imbedded in permanent human happiness that can come only in living in union with God. All the "rules" Christ gives us are simply ways of staying in love with oneself, with others and with


Luke's account gives us four sources of happiness. The first is living our lives in a spirit of poverty. This means that we put our faith, our hope and our love in God and not in the things and possessions of this world. That is why unless we become like little children who place all their hope and trust in their parents, we must learn to place all our hope and trust in God.

The second source of happiness is living our lives with a hunger for God, When we empty ourselves of self-preoccupations we are filled with Christ's happiness. Those who are too filled with themselves will feel spiritually empty. Most people pass their days satisfying their various hungers. As our Christian life develops there are hungers that should be let go, so that we are empty enough to be filled with God. When the native human appetite is redirected away from self and toward God there can be a filling of the soul with divine and permanent satisfaction.

The third source of happiness is to be living our lives in a spirit of grieving. This grieving is in the sense of denying oneself and following Christ; desiring, thinking, doing and acting in the way the Gospel shows us. Our faith journey is a process of "letting go". Each time we let go there is a jolt, a small death of loss and pain. We cannot help grieving, but the outcome causes us joy.

The fourth source of happiness is found in living serenely by accepting hardships as a pathway to peace; by accepting persecution, ridicule, violence, pain and suffering for the sake of living faithfully to Christ. Jesus assures us that we are blessed, that we become heroes and saints and that we will have the ultimate victory - in our resurrection!

Christ's teaching is certainly revolutionary and counter-cultural. The Beatitudes are a series of bombshells. Each one is a challenge. The challenge of the Beatitudes is: "Will we be happy in the world's way, or in Christ's way?

Finally take notice of the word itself: BE-ATTITUDES - that is attitudes of your being, -- attitudes oozing out of your Christ-like personality. A true follower of Christ is always full of joy - despite all the sufferings, hardships, persecutions and martyrdoms of his present-day life.

Ask Jesus in prayer to help you make his beatitudes, the attitudes and values of your Christian life.