Branching-Out

Peter Yaremko

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The Sign of God’s Mercy

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Sep 11, 2016 7:00:37 AM

The Holy Cross is a sign of God’s mercy. God in his mercy allowed his Son to die in order to heal the rift caused by original sin.
 
The significance of the Cross can be found not so much in “suffering” as in “obedience”—Christ’s willing and passionate surrender to his Father.
 
This is the truth we must make our own—that we live for
God alone.
 
It sounds so simple, but sacrifice and surrender is never easy. St. Peter Damian, eleventh-century hermit, bishop, and Doctor of the Church, once preached these words: “There is no burden heavier than our ego. What tyrant is crueler, what master more pitiless for man than his own will?”
 
St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, described Jesus as our inspiration and model in following the will of the Father: ‘He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him.” (Ph 2:8-9)
 
It is through the wounds of Jesus that we can recognize and acknowledge the great mystery of his love and mercy. As St. Bernard said, “Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

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The New Saint of Mercy

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Sep 4, 2016 7:00:31 AM

On September 4, Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa, whose life sent the world a single, urgent message: that love and caring are the most important things in life.
 
Perhaps we can best understand why Mother Teresa is worthy of veneration and imitation by reflecting on some of her own words:
 
“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference toward one’s neighbor who lives at the roadside, assaulted by exploitation, corruption, poverty, and disease.
 
“Those who are a burden to society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have forgotten how to smile and no longer know what it means to receive a little human warmth, a gesture of love and friendship—they turn to us to receive a little bit of comfort. If we turn our backs on them, we turn our backs on Christ.
 
“Our love and our joy in serving must be in proportion to the degree to which our task is repugnant.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

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To Boldly Go

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Aug 21, 2016 7:00:27 AM

In case you haven’t noticed, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise: Innumerable television episodes over the decades, several movies featuring the original TV cast, three more movies in recent years with a new cast, and the latest movie in
cinemas now.
 
All the tales revolve around the central, now-famous theme: “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
 
Why bring all this up? Because the Jubilee Year of Mercy is our opportunity to boldly go forth to “rediscover the deepness of the mercy of the Father,” as Pope Francis
put it.
 
When Francis pushed open the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica to launch the Jubilee Year on December 8, 2015, he followed a rite of pilgrimage dating back centuries. An estimated 10 million faithful are expected to follow his lead and pass through the door during this Year of Mercy.
 
Most heartening, perhaps, is that God welcomes all who pass through the door. He “goes out to meet everyone personally,” Francis said, reminding us of the parable of the father who saw his prodigal son from far off, ran out to meet him, and showered the young man with mercy even before being asked.
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Earth On Fire

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Aug 14, 2016 7:00:14 AM

Many people blame religion for bringing strife into the world. They point to the Crusades and the Inquisition as examples.
 
But religion itself is not to blame. The blame falls on those who call themselves Christians, for instance, but fail to live according to Christ’s commandments of love and mercy.
 
This is what G. K. Chesterton meant when he said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
 
Christianity should be thought of as not so much a religion as a spiritual pathway towards union with God. In fact, “The Way” was a name adopted by the earliest Christians.
 
Paul, before his conversion on the road to Damascus, was obsessed with finding “any men or women who belonged to the Way,” so he could haul them away in chains (Acts 9:2).
 
Hear what Catherine of Siena urges: "Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire." Her words echo Christ’s, as recorded in Luke 12:49: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”
 
Want to help Jesus set the earth ablaze? Simply be who God meant you to be—a Christian who lives by the Gospel every day.
 
Our prayer today:
 

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To Wait with Love

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Aug 7, 2016 7:00:03 AM

Jesus spoke often of our need to be vigilant. For example, he told the story of the five foolish virgins who let the oil in their lamps run out before the arrival of the bridegroom and the story of the faithful and prudent steward whom the master left in charge of his servants.
 
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival,” Jesus promised.
 
But that is only half the story, because God displays his great mercy toward us through his own expectant and loving vigilance in waiting for us to return to him.
 
Pope Francis points out that patient waiting is a quality of God. In his book, The Joy of Discipleship, Pope Francis writes:
 
“God does not forget us; the Father never abandons us. He is a patient Father, always waiting for us! He respects our freedom, but he remains faithful forever. And when we come back to him, he welcomes us like children into his house, for he never ceases, not for one instant, to wait for us with love.”
 
And when we come to God in love and repentance, his heart rejoices. “He is celebrating because he is joy,” Francis says. “God has this joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Mercy of the Heart

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Jul 31, 2016 7:00:12 AM

While all the other apostles hid in fear while Jesus was being condemned and crucified, St. John stood silently on Calvary gazing at his suffering Savior. In turn, Christ looked down from the cross at his “beloved disciple” and placed his mother into John’s care.
 
St. John’s action in simply being present to Jesus on the cross is a model for us today.
 
He reminds us that the practice of mercy begins in the heart. We have no rival for God’s love, so we can simply remain still and silent and let the mercy of the Father wash over us. We ourselves can be merciful toward others, not only outwardly but in our hearts—in the way we think of them, without judgment but with love. “And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you" (Matthew 6:6).
 
Padre Pio, the sainted Capuchin friar, offered us this advice: “Go to your room and close the door and place yourself in God’s presence. He will see you and will appreciate your presence and your silence. Then he will take you by the hand....”
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Jesus the Rule Breaker

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Jul 24, 2016 7:00:28 AM

We are accustomed to the gentle Jesus, the humble carpenter who taught us to “turn the other cheek.” But there is another side to him—the bold breaker of rules when those rules do not serve justice, love, and mercy.
 
The gospel of Luke (6:1-5), for instance, tells of the Sabbath day when the disciples of Jesus picked and ate grain from a field as they were passing by. The Pharisees, of course, were quick to condemn them for “working” on
the Sabbath.
 
Jesus answered, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions." Then Jesus told them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
 
The lesson for us is that God’s mercy transcends rules and regulations. Any hour of the day is a good time to do good. Any day of the week is a good time to ask for God’s mercy. Any time at all is a good time to show mercy to a neighbor.
 
This is why Pope Francis urges us not to be afraid of making mistakes in our efforts to do good.
 
Our prayer today:
 

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The Greatest Virtue

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Jul 17, 2016 7:00:36 AM

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the canonization of St. Thomas Aquinas—July 18, 1323.
 
Aquinas is considered not only one of the greatest minds that formed the Catholic understanding of God and humanity but also perhaps the most brilliant philosopher since Aristotle, the ancient Greek thinker.
 
Pope Francis quoted Aquinas in declaring the Jubilee Year of Mercy we are now celebrating: “It is proper to God to exercise mercy, and he manifests his omnipotence particularly in this way.” In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Francis also reminded us that Aquinas identified mercy as the greatest of the virtues. Aquinas said that all the other virtues revolve around mercy. Not only that, Aquinas wrote, but it is through mercy that “God’s omnipotence is manifested to the greatest degree.”
 
On the feast of St. Nicholas in 1273, Aquinas was in chapel when he received a revelation that affected him so much that he completely stopped writing, leaving unfinished his great work, the Summa Theologiae (Summary of Theology). He reputedly explained to a colleague, “I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings seem like straw.’’ He died three months later.
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Special Graces in the Year of Mercy

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Jul 10, 2016 7:00:14 AM

Now that the summer vacation season is in full swing, perhaps we should think about making a trip to visit a Holy Door—a cathedral, shrine, or other designated church—as part of our celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Walking through a Holy Door is a spiritual journey that signals our deep desire for true conversion.
 
In addition to passing through a Holy Door, there are Year of Mercy graces that can be gotten through other practices:
 

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Our Right to be Happy

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Jul 3, 2016 7:00:27 AM

With the celebration this weekend of Independence Day, we remember that God’s mercy can be witnessed in both the freedom he offers us and the way he loves us.
 
Freedom is a big deal in the Gospel. However, freedom in the New Testament means something very different from the way we commonly understand that word today.
 
When Jesus says that “the truth will make you free” (John 8:36), he does not mean free to simply pursue material possessions, successes, and satisfactions or to gratify our every impulse and whim.
 
All these ultimately fade away. It’s when we buy into the idea that we have a “right” to be happy that we fool ourselves at the cost of failed relationships, unsatisfying ambitions, dispirited lives.
 
Jesus gives freedom a deeper meaning—freedom from the burden of excessively pursuing material attachments. Freedom from self-absorption, so we can discover the joy of serving others and thereby store up treasures “where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20)
 
Paula Huston writes in A Season of Mystery that Jesus is the way to inner, lasting happiness. Contentment, she writes, comes by valuing ourselves as our merciful God values us—simply for who we are.
 
This is the freedom offered by Jesus.
 
Our prayer today:
 

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