We have been going through the Beatitudes, with the next one being: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). I would suggest that this best corresponds to the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.”
Why? Is not coveting riches and one’s neighbor’s goods the source of most wars, murder, and
dissention in families? We discussed this disordered desire when covering the
first Beatitude and the 10th Commandment. Yet Christ tells us in the
Sermon of the Mount that the source of true peace is being good children of God
by trusting in our heavenly Father for our material needs.
“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives… What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11).
Dissension and warfare arises when disordered desires lead to unjust hoarding and stealing material goods. This doesn’t mean we should have no personal possessions.
Material possessions are necessary to us human beings because of our bodily
nature: our soul needs the body in order to act, such as to know and to love.
The body needs food for nourishment and other material objects as instruments
to extend the realm of our body’s activity. We would have very few parishioners
at St. Mary of the Angels if the majority of our parishioners did not possess
automobiles: cars extend the range of motion of our body. So, material
possessions can extend the range of good or of bad actions that we human beings
are able carry out. That is why we have a natural right to private property,
although this right is not absolute because it may conflict with the rights of
others to basic material possessions in order to live and fulfill their life’s mission.
The peacemaker prevents war by creating a situation of fairness and respect.
Parents do this within the family, by making sure that everyone has what they
need and that older children share their possessions (toys, clothes, food,
etc.) with their younger siblings. This is what all members of society should
do. Hoarding things for oneself only creates tensions and temptations for
others to steal. We often see this in a family, as when one child hoards all
the candy, the others look for ways to get their share, even if the child had purchased
from the store her/his hoarded treasure. The peacemaker parent will often
intervene ahead of time to motivate the child to do the nobler thing by sharing
her/his stash of candy with the others.
In the family, when one child takes something from another, the parent comes in as
peacemaker, encouraging the taker to return what was taken and to encourage the
other to forgive. Likewise, the peacemaking parent encourages older children to
understand their younger sibling’s desire to play with their toys, clothes,
etc. and how sharing them would build up good relationships for the future.
Often adult children will fight over their parents’ inheritance, destroying the
relationships built up over a lifetime. How sad to see families torn apart with
hatred for one another over such temporal gratuities. A good peacemaker would
put family relationships over any financial benefit s/he would hope to gain
from one’s family.
The same issues we see between siblings arise between nations who go into war. May we learn to “be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50) and to motivate one another to put aright without resentment the injustices we see and to share God’s gifts to us with
those in need.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Mercy Sunday is upon us, the day we celebrate God’s great mercy, which includes a willingness to forgive us even after we have crucified
his only begotten Son.
The resurrected Christ appears to Peter and the other
disciples after they have denied him and abandoned him. Without scolding or
berating them he restores them to his good favor, Christ also goes after the
two disheartened disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus because they lost
faith in him; he brings them back. He does this in his mercy and his mercy
Is God mercy? Is mercy essential to God’s divine nature?
Some have defined mercy as requiring someone in need of
mercy, with some sort of sin, imperfection, or fallenness. Mercy in this case
would require inferiority of the one receiving mercy from the superior merciful
one. If that were the case, then God would not be mercy because there is no
neediness, sin, imperfection, or superiority-inferiority in the Trinity, and
therefore there would be no mercy in him.
Yet Jesus Christ gives us a different concept of mercy. He commands:
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Matthew renders the
same passage as: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
perfect” (Matthew 5:48). In both places, mercy is presented to us as generosity
toward others independent of their response, which means to love everyone,
friend and enemy, just and unjust, “expecting nothing in return… and [so] you
will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35). This is the way the Son imitates
the Father, and how we are to come to share his divine sonship and enter the
inner divine life of the Trinity.
This concept of mercy does indeed apply to God. The Father,
with mercy, eternally shares all that he has with the Son expecting nothing in
return (cf. Matthew 11:27; John 3:35; 5:26; 13:3). Intra-Trinitarian mercy
implies no superiority over the one receiving mercy. It implies no sin,
imperfection, or fallenness. Certainly the sinner needs mercy and forgiveness,
but so does the woman who receives the merciful invitation to marriage from
Christ to become his bride. In this way the Blessed Virgin is grateful and
rejoices in God her merciful Savior (cf. Luke 1:47) even though she never
This is important for us, because Christ reminds us:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). If we
wish to receive the mercy promised us on Mercy Sunday—complete
forgiveness of all our sins if we go to confession, receive Holy Communion
worthily, and trust in his Mercy—we too need to be merciful, “even as
your Father is merciful.” This means our mercy toward others needs to be
conferred on others without any arrogant sense of superiority over those to
whom we are merciful.
Being like the older brother of the prodigal son will only
keep us out of the heavenly celebration (cf. Luke 15:25-32). Haughtiness,
superiority, pride, and looking down on others are all out of place with conferring
the kind of mercy that allows us to enter into Christ’s divine sonship with the
Father. Certainly we need to be merciful toward those who have harmed us, but
in doing so we understand that God has forgiven us million of times more (cf.
God’s generous mercy extends to all, whether sinner or not,
because he mercifully created us and he has invited us to share in the eternal
marriage feast of the Lamb and his bride. So, let us love one another as he has
loved us, entering into God’s eternal mercy by humbly being merciful ourselves.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Mary of the Angels,
Jesus Christ has risen, Alleluia, Alleluia! What joy it brings us to know that our
great Friend and Lord has not only died out of love for us, he has conquered
death itself and in return for our love he has rewarded us with Life!
Easter is about an encounter with the person of Christ: Mary Magdalene at the tomb,
the holy women returning from the tomb, the two disciples on the road to
Emmaus, the apostles in the upper room, and Thomas a week later. Easter should
mean that each one of us have an encounter with the person of Christ too,
whether in “the scriptures” or in the “breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:32-35).
Then our hearts will also “burn within us” with joy, and it will fill us with
confidence to be able to transform the world.
If through prayer, Scripture reading, and the Eucharist we have truly encountered
the risen Christ, then it will fill us with joy and confidence. So let people
know—with your smile and cheerfulness! Let people see our Lord within
you—not with a sullen seriousness, but with a joyful optimism! We know
that God has poured out his mercy on us in Christ Jesus, let us rejoice and be
glad, and then let your family, friends, and everyone else know that God loves
them too: for God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of
the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). As Pope Francis says: “The joy of the gospel fills
the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of
salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With
Christ joy is constantly born anew” (Joy of the Gospel, 1).
Thank you for all your prayers, time and help, and financial support for St. Mary of
the Angels. You are in our prayers.
Have a Happy and Blessed Easter! ¡Santas y felices Pascuas a todos! Szczęśliwy i błogosławiony Wielkanoc! Wesołego Alleluja!
St. Mary of the Angels Priests, Deacon, and Staff
In the first Gospel, we reenact our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem,
when he rides in triumphantly, seated on a donkey. This was
foreshadowed when David had his son Solomon mount his royal donkey and ride
into Jerusalem to take possession of his kingship. So now God the Father has
his Son mount a donkey so as to ride into Jerusalem to take possession of his
eternal kingship. This would fulfill also the prophecy of Zechariah: “Rejoice
greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your
king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an
ass, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).
St. Josemaría loved this scene of the Gospel, where Christ
manifests his humility by riding the gentle donkey. He would imagine himself as
that beast of burden, offering his King the use of his life and strength: “If
Jesus’ reign in my soul, in your soul, meant that he should find it a perfect
dwelling place, then indeed would we have reason to despair. But “fear not,
daughter of Sion; beloved, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’ colt” (John
12:15). Don’t you see? Jesus makes do with a poor animal for a throne. I don’t
know about you; but I am not humiliated to acknowledge that in the Lord’s eyes
I am a beast of burden: ‘I am like a donkey in your presence, but I am
continually with you. You hold my right hand’ (Psalm 72:23), you take me by the
bridle” (Christ Is Passing By,181).
Let’s let Christ reign over us through our work and study, in our friendships
and family relationships. Christ reigns by offering him our life in service,
just as did that donkey for Christ.
The second Gospel-the Passion of our Lord-also is about Christ’s kingship.
Christ marches into Jerusalem in order to be enthroned on the Cross. As St.
Josemaría writes in the Way of the Cross:
“Sentence is about to
be passed. Mockingly, Pilate says: Ecce Rex vester! Behold your King! (John 19:14). Infuriated, the chief priests
reply: We have no king but Caesar (John 19:15)… Offering no resistance, Jesus
gives himself up to the execution of the sentence. He is to be spared nothing,
and upon his shoulders falls the weight of the ignominious cross. But, through
love, the Cross becomes the throne from which he reigns…
Lord, where are your friends? Your subjects, where are they? They have left you. This running away
has been going on for twenty centuries… We, all of us, flee from the Cross,
from your Holy Cross.
Blood, anguish, loneliness and an insatiable hunger for souls… these are the courtiers around
your royal throne” (From station 1, meditation 4 and station 2)
Christ freely embraces the Cross, because by the Cross he redeems us and the whole world.
Holy Week is a wonderful time to accompany him, to experience his great love for
you and me. Don’t be afraid and let his love conquer you. Let him rule over
your heart and soul, over your body and your time. Then you will experience the
joy of Christ’s kingship, the joy of the Cross!
Happy Holy Week!
Fr. John Waiss
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8), such “that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Purity of heart is essential in order to see God because the union of a man and woman in a lifelong marriage reflects the image and likeness of God as a Trinity of persons. All sinful lust distorts marriage and thus distorts God’s image and likeness; and we cannot see God through a distorted image.
The Holy Trinity is an infinite, eternal, all-loving, and merciful God. Marriage reflects this through a lifelong, unconditional, mutual, and faithful gift of self between one man and one woman that is open to new life. Take away any of those qualities and God’s image and likeness becomes distorted.
For this reason, our Lord goes on to explain in the Sermon on the Mount:
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).
All divorce distorts how marriage reflects God’s love. Divorce says that the love between a man and woman in marriage is not forever—“until death do us part”—which should reflect God’s love as eternal. That is why God says: “For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16), “Because the LORD was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14). So, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).
God knows that marriage is not easy. To love another imperfect human being means sacrifice. For this reason St. Paul tells us that “those who marry will have worldly troubles… the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided… the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:28,33-34). So it shouldn’t surprise us that marriage is difficult. Yet with the crosses found in marriage we find Christ and the pathway to holiness.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Married persons need to keep themselves pure too. To put limits or conditions on their total, unconditional self-giving would also break and distort the image of God’s unconditional self-giving in the Holy Trinity. For a married person to say, “I give myself totally to you… except for my fertility,” or to say, “I accept you as you are unconditionally… with the condition we don’t get pregnant,” destroys spousal love by introducing a contradiction. Birth control is a form of adultery, as St. Paul goes on to say: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
Purity of heart is thus absolutely essential to see the true God and to have a happy marriage. Let us pray that each one of us in our particular state in life can exemplify this to others—especially to our young people—so that they can follow this example of true love and see God fully.
Fr. John R. Waiss