Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday

The Feast of Mercy.

The last Day of the Easter Octave - the Feast of Mercy - it is as if Christ calls out: Come to me, all of you, no matter who you are, where you are, what you are doing - no matter how far away.

Jesus told St. Faustina:

"I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners."He seeks us first, even though it seems like we seek him first, especially in times of trouble, danger, sadness and grief. As soon as we call, as soon as we pray - he hears us. He catches us when we fall and restores us to life in Him.

In my experience, the devotion to Divine Mercy has been like my foot in the door of salvation. Christ's invitation is really a 'come as you are' invite. "Come to me, all you who are heavily burdened and weighed down ..." He came to call sinners - those who are well do not need a doctor - those most in need of mercy do.

On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. 

Jesus to Faustina

Yet, even without these requirements, our Lord's invitation to those most in need of mercy stands out in a singularly unique manner on the Feast of Mercy. We can never measure or limit the extent and depth of his mercy. He told St. Faustina to go throughout the world, extending his invitation to come to him, to come to his image, depicted for her, and revealed for us, as the Divine Mercy, signed with the prayer, "Jesus I trust in you!" He promised unimaginable graces to those who turn to him:

"My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity."

I'm convinced He has many ways of grasping us and attracting us to his merciful love. When we trust him, and express that trust in prayer, no matter who we are or where we are at, he comes to us and can enter through any door, locked or unlocked. Time after time.

His Mercy endures forever!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Marianist Monday

Consider the predicament of a young woman, excited at the prospect of her upcoming marriage, looking forward to creating a home of her own, when suddenly all her plans, all her expectations are shattered.

When Luke's Gospel reports the Annunciation of Jesus' birth to Mary, we proclaim her blessed and "favored." But Mary may not have felt "blessed" or "favored." She had to accept first that all her life plans were about to be changed forever. She would bear a child, under truly unusual circumstances, and be transformed by that process in ways she could not ever imagine. Surely her relationship with Joseph was also now altered for all time. How would he react to her news? What could he say?

But despite the tumult that welled up inside her heart, Mary's response to the angel Gabriel's message is straightforward: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

In these words, Mary discovered the "secret" of living. It is giving! Mary offered up herself, all of her, to God's mysterious will and way.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Sunday Word

Some of us stumble in our life of faith, as did Thomas, because the empirical evidence is somewhat lacking. There is no proof for the existence of God, and there’s a lot that happens in this world that would seem to argue against a loving and powerful God. Thomas said he would remain an unbeliever. What do you say?

Others grab the pacifier of cultural respectability. Any faith journey that calls for a life of radical discipleship, a life that pits us against the world, that risks the ridicule of the chattering classes is not a life for us. We want our faith to be neat, clean, tidy, respectable and non-confrontational.

Some of us move on steadily in a life of faith, while for others faith is a lifelong struggle with doubt. Our neighbors may speak of an access to faith that seems unassailable, but we find ourself unconvinced, skeptical, saying the words but doubting their truth. Our academic training, professional expertise and life experience conspire to demand something solid to counter the doubt that refuses to go away.

The fact is, if we care enough to wonder, to question, to struggle for an authentic profession of faith, we may well be on the path to a life grounded in honest reliance upon God alone. Because for many, doubt may be the necessary step on the road to faith. Take Dorothy Day, for example.

Dorothy Day, the late founder of the Catholic Worker, described her inability to pray as she was coming to faith. Whenever she knelt, she would be overcome by doubt and shame — “Do I really believe? Whom am I praying to?” “Is prayer for the lonely and religion for the weak?”

But once while walking to the village to get her mail, she found herself praying again, this time out of a deep sense of thankfulness. Encouraged, she continued on, against her doubts. No matter how dull the day, how long the walk seemed or how sluggish she felt at the beginning, the words of thanksgiving that she prayed began slowly to move into her heart and shape her conscience in faith. She came to faith through doubt and eventually gave up her doubts as freely as a child drops her pacifier.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Easter Thursday

Two thousand years have come and gone, and the very same is true today. The resurrection is still being reported by people who have caught a glimpse of the risen Jesus in the middle of human life. Such sightings aren’t face to face, and they don’t include Easter morning foot-grabbing. But eyewitnesses still report that Jesus is alive and active, in the lives of both individuals and communities.

The risen Jesus works through individuals in surprising and life-changing ways.

Think about who, in your life, has been a bow for the flight of others. Such people reveal the risen Christ, alive and active in the world today.

In our Christian faith, the very same is true: Look at the findings that have been around for a while, enduring the test of time. Jesus is alive and well, in people who share the Gospel and act as a bow for the flight of others. He is active and effective, in communities that love God and neighbor while working to build up the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Christ is risen, just as the women and the guards reported.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Easter Wednesday

Through the resurrection, God fills the empty places in our lives. He does it for the initial followers of Jesus, for Paul, for the Christians of Corinth … and for us. 

The Good News is that we don’t have to earn or deserve this gift of new life. What we have to do is believe and be willing to follow Jesus into the future He is preparing for us. Although the apostle Paul was the least of the apostles, “unfit to be called an apostle,” he believed in the resurrection. The result was that God’s grace toward him was not in vain, and he was able to spread the Gospel. Mary and her companions felt a disorienting mixture of amazement and fear on Easter morning, but they responded when the young man gave the command, "Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you."

Believe in the resurrection. Follow Jesus into the future. These are responses we can make, responses that can fill our massive voids.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Easter Friday

The Shroud of Turin

Several years ago on Easter Sunday the Italian paper La Stampa carried an interview with Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the semi-official Vatican journal Civiltà Cattolica, insisting that Pope Francis did not intend to “enter into the dispute over dating,” and that he meant instead to make a spiritual point by saying that the man of the shroud “speaks to the heart.” In his written message, Francis said that the face in the shroud “invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. This image … speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.” “By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world to free us from its power,” Francis said.

Pope Francis dispatched a message for the new display of the Shroud in which he referred to the shroud as an “icon of a man scourged and crucified.” The use of the term “icon” rather than “relic” amounts to the usual Vatican caution, given that the Holy See has never officially pronounced on the shroud’s authenticity, though since Pope Julius II in 1506 it has encouraged devotion to the crucified Christ aroused by the cloth.

Benedict XVI also used the term “icon” in his message for a display of the shroud in May 2010, calling it an “icon written with the blood of a whipped man, crowned with thorns, crucified and pierced on his right side.” In that sense, Francis did not stake out any new position, and he didn’t go as far as some of his predecessors.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Marianist Monday

April, 2019

My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School, 

Since about the fifth grade, weight has been a constant impediment for me. Prior to that time, I was actually rather thin, and a decidedly picky eater. Family parties inevitably meant fights with my Grandpa Sottosanti as he would try to force me to eat fried zucchini flowers, eggplant parmigiana, and spaghetti with clam sauce. I wanted no part of these or most other foods. When my parents and I would shop for my school uniform or for an Easter suit, I remember my dad boasting, in a voice that could be heard throughout the store, “Well, unlike me, my son’s never going to have trouble finding clothes that fit.” 

And then, something – I don’t know exactly what – happened, and all that changed. Suddenly, I added all sorts of food to my daily intake, developed a huge appetite, put on more than a few extra pounds, and found myself heading to the “husky” section of men’s and boys’ clothing stores in order to find clothes that fit properly. 

And since then, weight has always been an impediment for me. It is a physical impediment, of course. My high-school classmates all know this, but most of you do not (until now): it took me until Christmas to run my freshman gym-class mile under nine-minute maximum time mandated by the Phys. Ed. Department. And this past summer, even after my hip surgery, I still got winded walking up to the tower at the Mohonk Mountain Preserve in upstate New York. I think some Brothers went running up that trail, perhaps even after they had climbed the socalled “Lemon Squeeze,” and I just scratch my head, wondering, “How can that be?” 

For most of my life, weight has been an impediment – and not only physically, but psychologically as well. As I’m sure most of you can guess, I’m not very athletic, and that has added to the weight I bear. It all adds up to low self-esteem, a demon I have had to battle for many, many years. 

In fact, a good part of my devotion to Chaminade and to the Marianists – and, therefore, a significant reason for my vocation – is that, here, I learned that I could be accepted, admired, and loved for who I am. I grew from the timid, roly-poly freshman to the quirky but self-confident junior who managed to beat the ultimate cool guy, Jimmy Noone, in the race for Junior Class President. And, in senior year, Jim beat me; he became president and I vice-president; but, no matter: We learned to respect one another, and to work fairly well with one another, and to bridge the divide – real or, more likely, imagined – between those who were cool and those who were not. 

I’m not sure if people understand that I still battle bouts of low self-esteem. Bro. Stephen? Bro. Stephen Balletta? No! He’s been teaching for forty years, and most students think he’s a pretty good teacher. And Bro. Steve is always talking in front of crowds – witness talks, vocation talks, school and community meetings, on and on and on – and seems quite comfortable at doing that. 

All true. But ask me to take a photograph or a selfie with you, and I’ll most likely slip away quietly to another corner of the room. “Why would anyone want a selfie with overweight, out-of-shape, poor posture, belthalfway-above-his-actual-waistline Steve?” 

I know that this is “stinkin thinkin,” as Fr. Francis Keenan, my Novice Master, used to call it, but it is still the lie that Satan tries to tell me most days of my life. I am not immune to his wiles; I suspect very few of us are. 

Here, at Chaminade, I learned that I could be accepted, admired, and loved for who I am. Many years later, as an adult, I think that this is such an important part of the mission of the Marianists. Every kid in our schools has a right to be accepted, admired, and loved for who he or she is. It is, I am quite sure, what Christ would want for all of the flock entrusted to our care. 

This is why, in recent months, I have been preoccupied by the ways kids don’t feel accepted, admired, affirmed, or loved. Just as weight was and still is an impediment for me, I see guys in my classes and in school dealing with all kinds of impediments. From time to time, the weight of it all seems to be crushing them. I am struck, for example, by the number of students who suffer from depression, and I applaud our schools’ administrations for taking additional steps to meet their needs. I have talked to young men who are gripped with fear because of their perceived inadequacies, or who are simmering with anger because of fighting at home or their parents’ divorce. I have more than a few students this year who have spoken about impediments and burdens that adults, let alone teenagers, would find difficult to bear. 

And into this mess walks the Risen Jesus, who desires to lift every burden and barrier, who seeks to cure every impediment – to lift anything and everything that impedes us, that blocks us, from experiencing the liberating love of God. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,” Paul tells us in Galatians 5. And yet many are burdened by a yoke of slavery, by an impediment that cripples them, that prevents them from living – to use a phrase that is a favorite of Pope Francis – God’s dream for them. 

Nor are our students the only ones to labor under impediments that keep them from experiencing God’s dream for them. We do too. Pride, anger, envy and all the other seven deadly sins are all impediments. Resentment and long-standing grudges are impediments to God’s love. Impatience and irritability, pessimism and self-loathing – these are all impediments that get in the way – seriously in the way – of experiencing God’s love for us and experiencing our love for one another. 

It is my fervent hope that our Marianist Communities and schools become places, are places, and remain places where every individual is accepted, respected, admired, cherished and loved for who he or she is – and for what he or she can become. I dream of Communities and schools where we are free of the impediments that hold us back, that weigh us down, that pull us apart, that prevent us from realizing God’s dream for us. “For freedom Christ has set us free” – free from all the impediments that keep us from truly experiencing God’s love for us and our love for one another. 

“Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Deacapolis. And people brought to Him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged Jesus to lay His hand on the deaf man. Jesus took him off by himself, away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) and immediately the man’s ears were opened, and his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” (Mark 7: 31 – 35)

 Ephphatha! Be opened! May we know the freedom that the Risen Christ wishes to give us, and then pay it forward to others, helping them to break down the impediments and to throw off the shackles that keep them from experiencing the freedom that is their birthright – and all of ours – in Christ. 

Happy Easter! 

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers, 

Bro. Stephen 

P.S. REGISER NOW: Sunday, May 19, 2019: “All Things New,” An Afternoon and Evening of Recollection for College-Age Men. Saragossa Retreat House. Mineola, NY. 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (one block east of the CHS main campus) 

Sign up at www.provinceofmeribah.com/register

Saturday, April 20, 2019


Into the dim earth’s lowest parts descending,
And bursting by Thy might the infernal chain
That bound the prisoners, Thou, at three days’ ending,
As Jonah from the whale, hast risen again.

Thou brakest not the seal, Thy surety’s token,
Arising from the tomb Who left’st in birth
The portals of virginity unbroken,
Opening the gates of Heaven to sons of earth.

Thou, Sacrifice ineffable and living,
Didst to the Father by Thyself atone
As God eternal: resurrection giving
To Adam, general parent, by Thine own.

John of Damascus, 8th Century
translated from Greek by John M. Neale in Hymns of the Eastern Church


Friday, April 19, 2019


Image result for Crucifixion

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing. 
                                                                                                                                      Luke 23:34. ...

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Holy Thursday was one of the most important days in all of history. It was a pivotal day in the life of Jesus Christ. Here are 10 things you should know about it and how we celebrate it today.

So what happened on the original Holy Thursday?

An amazing amount of stuff! This was one of the most pivotal days in the life of Jesus Christ.

Here are some of the things the Gospels record for this day

Sent Peter and John to arrange for them to use the Upper Room to hold the Passover meal.
Washed the apostles' feet.
Held the first Mass.
Instituted the priesthood.
Announced that Judas would betray him.
Gave the "new commandment" to love one another.
Indicated that Peter had a special pastoral role among the apostles.
Announced that Peter would deny him.
Prayed for the unity of his followers.
Held all the discourses recorded across five chapters of John (John 13-18).
Sang a hymn.
Went to the Mount of Olives.
Prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Was betrayed by Judas.
Stopped the disciples from continuing a violent resistance.
Healed the ear of Malchus, the high priest's servant, after Peter cut it off with a sword.
Was taken before the high priests Annas and Caiaphas.
Was denied by Peter.
Was taken to Pilate.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Marianist Monday

For us Marianists, the school is first of all a place where the key elements of a culture are transmitted by means of academic disciplines. For us, the school should also be a community of faith that promotes evangelical virtues through an explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Savior of all peoples of the world. Through the school we aim to form the whole person, increasing as much as possible the number of those committed to spreading the Gospel. Because of our mixed composition, we are able, especially in the school, to develop the educational community more widely. Through the schools, therefore, we are able to achieve the highest purpose of any culture, the development of the uniqueness of each person in a community of faith, learning, and service.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Father, forgive them

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We indeed are so much like that woman in last Sunday's Gospel with whatever our sin be, and even more like those others who were trying to stone her. It was ultimately our sins that formed the nails which hammered Christ to the tree. We killed him. We’re murderers. Those same judgmental  Pharisees were at the Cross taunting him, as if he were a sinner himself. But from that Cross, Jesus looked up to the Father and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” As we get ready to receive the body that was nailed to that Cross and have that blood come down from his five wounds into this chalice, may we truly run to God to forgive our sins, to help us to recognize just how merciful he has been with us, and to bring that joy of the reality of the forgiveness of sins out to those caught in the grip of sin, so that they might come to the Lord and finally live.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Sin no more

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If we’re going to be truly Christians, we always have to embrace the sinner. Notice I didn’t say the repentant sinner. We have to embrace the sinner, to love the sinner always, while, with Jesus, hating the sin and trying to sin no more and encourage others to do the same. Let us observe Jesus. When everyone had left, dropping their stones on the ground, Jesus found himself alone with the woman, stood up and said to her, “Woman, has no one condemned you?” “No one sir,” she replied. Then Jesus said with words he so desperately wants to say to each of us when we find ourselves enmeshed  n sin, “Then neither do I condemn you.” Jesus came down from heaven to save us, not to condemn us. But he does hate sin, and tells the woman, “Go and sin no more.” Jesus doesn’t pretend that adultery is all right, that these types of sins are fine. He wants all of us to stop sinning, now, and to come to him for forgiveness. If we do, then he will be able to say to us, as he does every single time we go to confession, confess all our mortal sins, with true sorrow and a firm intention to change our lives, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Friday, April 12, 2019

Live as sons and daughters

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The reason why Jesus’ message of forgiveness was so difficult for the Pharisees to understand was because they themselves had never truly experienced forgiveness of a God who loves them so much that he does forgive them. Their notion of the “law,” of religion, was all those things we “have to” do, but there was no joy in it. Anyone who enjoyed life for them was a sinner, and the Pharisee’s only justification in living such a miserable, loveless existence was the fact that others would have to “pay” for their misdeeds. When they caught someone in sin, they wanted the maximal penalty, and there was no room for any love or mercy, because like the older son in last week’s parable, they lived not as sons and daughters of God but as slaves of a severe master.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Law = No / Jesus =Yes

Image result for Thomas Jefferson crossing a river
I don't know whether you've ever heard the story about President Thomas Jefferson of the States. He and his men were crossing a swollen river on horseback, and there was a man who had fallen off his horse, and his horse had gone off and he was standing on the bank of the river. He waited while  several other soldiers passed over, and then he waved to Jefferson - unbeknown to him that that's who it was - and he asked the president to take him across the river. The president kindly obliged, and when he got over into the camp one other soldier asked him 'Why did you ask the President, of all people, to carry you over?'. He replied, 'Well, I didn't know he was the president. All I know is that on some faces is written the answer 'No', and on other faces there is written the answer 'Yes' - and his face said 'Yes''.

Law says 'No', Jesus and His grace says 'Yes'.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Mercy & Grace

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Mercy is not getting what you deserve - if someone has mercy upon you, that means you deserve to be condemned, but they are withholding that condemnation. Now justice is getting what you do deserve - you're worthy of condemnation, and the judge gives it to you. 

Now grace is different from those two - grace is getting, positively, what you don't deserve. You deserve to be condemned, and yet God lavishes His love and His goodness upon you. Can I put it very simply? Grace says 'Yes' to the sinner, the law says 'No' - have you got it? 

The Pharisees said 'No' to sinners, these so-called Bible scholars that want to tear John 8 out of our Bibles are saying 'No, you can't live any way you like and then come to for God's forgiveness, that's too good to be true!'. They say 'No', but Jesus says 'Yes', grace says 'Yes'.

Monday, April 8, 2019


Image result for Pope francis
Forgiveness is a new beginning and not a photocopy which is identically reproduced in every passage through the confessional.

We pass from being alone with our miseries and accusers, like the woman in the Gospel, to being raised up and encouraged by the Lord, who grants us a new start.

Pope Francis invites Christians to contemplate the image of Jesus crucified on the cross as a reminder that Christ did not point fingers at those who were sinful, but instead stretched out his arms and bore the weight of those sins upon himself.

The Lord knows us, however; he knows that the interior struggle is difficult, that we are weak and inclined to fall, that we often relapse into doing what is wrong. So, he proposes that we begin to relapse into goodness, into asking for mercy.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Sunday Word

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In a recent homily, Pope Francis reflected on today's Gospel reading, in which the Pharisees brought a woman accused of adultery and attempted to trap Jesus by asking him whether she should be stoned according to the law of Moses.
“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus replied.

Citing St. Augustine, the pope said once those who sought to stone the woman left, only Jesus and the woman remained, “mercy with misery,” because in his eyes, “that woman, that person” was what was of value.

“For him, the sinner comes before the sin,” the pope explained. “I, you, each one of us come first in the heart of God: before mistakes, rules, judgments and our failures.”

However, Christians must keep in mind that, without the love of God, evil cannot be overcome. Thus, the sacrament of reconciliation, the pope said, is the gift that helps “make room for the Lord, who forgives and heals.”

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Reclaim the treasure

When we read the Gospels, we find Jesus on the fringes where he meets those who have been tossed aside. There, Jesus heals lepers, forgives tax collectors, eats with sinners and welcomes a woman with a questionable reputation who came to a well in the middle of the day.

Jesus is the great Redeemer, reclaiming the treasure we often miss.

And he invites us to join him in this work.

God's way, as shown us in Jesus, is a tremendous recycling program, welcoming younger siblings back home and inviting us all to the party!

The older son missed the party. He refused to see the treasure in his younger brother, choosing instead to focus on the trash.

Are you coming to the party? We've got some recycling to do.

Friday, April 5, 2019

WE cast out!

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The scribes and Pharisees had reputations for giving up on certain segments of their society. People were labeled as sinners, tax collectors, Samaritans, adulterers and lepers. They were the "unclean," unwelcome in worship, unwelcome among those who saw their position with God as secure. The labeling was a convenient way of dismissing others and absolving themselves from any responsibility of caring for them. 

We shudder to think how people could do such a thing, but we see it still today. We, too, label people -- think of the possibilities! -- and thereby dismiss them, often subjecting them to social ostracism, not even willing to listen -- and thus, perhaps, to take a chance on learning something! 

We cast them out. We discard them. We consider them so much trash.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Become redeemers

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While his dad is celebrating the gift of his restored family, the older brother still sees trash. In his complaint filed with his father, he names his brother's sins as bluntly as he can, trying to convince his dad that the younger brother is a worthless aggregation of landfill trash.

But the dad isn't listening. He points to the value of both of his sons -- the one who has been found, and the one who was never lost. Both are treasures.

Then he invites his son to the party.

While the bulk of Jesus' story focuses on the younger son, the point may have more to do with the older one. The original audience for this parable isn't a nameless group of people gathered on a hillside. Luke tells us exactly to whom these words were addressed: Pharisees and legal experts -- older brothers -- who are grumbling about Jesus welcoming tax collectors and sinners -- younger brothers.

Jesus tells this story not only so sinners can know their value in the eyes of God, but also to call those who have been redeemed to become redeemers themselves.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

God is a great redeemer

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When the boy is still far from home, his dad spies him off in the distance. Setting aside his status as a patriarch and landowner, the father hikes up his robes, and sprints out to greet his son. When the young man begins the speech he'd planned for this moment, his dad isn't listening.

Dad doesn't want to hear about his son's mistakes. He doesn't need the young man to debase himself. Instead, the father is overjoyed. The true treasure he had lost when his son left home has been returned to him.

Calling for robes, rings and fatted calves, the father demonstrates that he sees in his son treasure, not trash. And that very love is transformative.

Many of us can put ourselves in the young man's place. We, too, have a voice inside of us that only wants to dwell on the garbage in our lives. We've made mistakes, and we hear over and over again that, like a discarded bottle or can, whatever was of value inside of us has been poured out.

Thankfully, God is a great redeemer who sees something very different.

Monday, April 1, 2019


"Dear young people, you have it in you to shout," 

Pope Francis