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Blog posts : "Deacon Tom Tortorella"

12 Days of Christmas

The scripture readings for the Feast of Epiphany can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/010415.cfm

There’s a popular song during Christmas time that I’m sure you’re familiar with. It’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This song refers to the time between Christmas Day (December 25th) and the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th). If you count those days, you will get the number twelve. The Catholic Church normally transfers this feast to the Sunday closest to January 6th. This year Epiphany will be celebrated on January 4th.

Epiphany is the feast that commemorates the visit of the Magi, found in the gospel ofMatthew, chapter 2, vs 1-12. After an audience with King Herod, the Wise Men found Mary & Joseph with the Child Jesus: “and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

The song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written with many symbols that can be applied to our Catholic Christian Faith. A few that comes to mind is as follows: The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25. The two turtle doves refer to the two testaments of the bible: the Old and New. The four calling birds refer to the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Eleven Pipers piping refers to the 11 apostles that remained faithful to Jesus.

Christmas, and the twelve days that lead up to Epiphany, calls us to always to search out Jesus in our lives. The Magi traveled a great distance to find the Christ Child. We as Catholics don’t have to travel as far as the Magi. We can find Jesus in each Catholic Church we enter. Jesus is in the tabernacle waiting for us to make him part of our lives.

Let’s make it a New Year’s Resolution to keep Jesus as the center of our lives throughout the coming year of 2015. 

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Be Watchful. Be Alert.

Reflections from the readings for the First Sunday of Advent, found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/113014.cfm

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It is the first day of the new church year. Advent is meant to be a time of patient, reflective waiting for the coming of the Messiah. How much time, though, do we really make for reflective waiting during this busy time of the year. We worry about getting the right Christmas tree for our homes, getting the Christmas cards ready to be mailed to those on our Christmas card list. We need to go shopping for all those on our Christmas gift list! Christmas shopping, wrapping presents! There's the Christmas pageant that many attend in their local churches! There's the Christmas (or should I say "holiday") party at work and other holiday parties we're invited to. There's also getting the house ready and cleaned for the Christmas guests we're expecting! All this work & activity to be done before Christmas! Who has time to be reflective in perpetration for the coming of Messiah into our lives at Christmas?

In the gospel for today we hear Jesus tell us to "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come." (Mark 13:33) Traditionally this was interpreted as meaning we should not let death catch us unprepared. True death is always a possibility. But the Advent terrain is broader than that.

As important as all those things that keep us busy at this time of year, we should not let Christmas catch us unprepared. During all the busyness of this time of year we need to also prepare ourselves to be spiritually ready for the coming of Jesus into our lives. Don't let Advent slip by without getting closer to Jesus and making Him the real reason why we Celebrate Christmas.

Take those opportunities during Advent that can help you get closer to Him! These opportunities may not come again. For instance, when sending Christmas Cards, write a personal note in a Christmas Card to someone who's had a rough year. If your church has a Giving Tree (or Jesse Tree), be extra generous. Be warm and kind to those sales clerks at the stores you frequent. They work hard this time of year and may need your kind words and appreciation.

If you're able to, maybe one day during the month, look for a way to volunteer to serve those in most need in your community. It could be at a food pantry or soup kitchen.

Finally, try to set aside some quiet time during each day to read the scripture readings the church has selected for daily Mass, leading up to Christmas. This allows you to grow closer to God by finding Him in Scripture.

Remember to be grateful for all the times the Lord has come to us!

If you do all this, you will find the true peace that can only come from knowing Jesus as your Saviour!

Praise be Jesus Christ: now and forever.

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

The image of the Advent Wreath is courtesy of Jonathunder (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Christ the King

The scripture readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112314.cfm

Today is the last Sunday on the Church Calendar and is known as Christ the King Sunday. The Feast of Christ the King is a recent feast. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 because nations and rulers were abusing their power at the time.

The term "king" may sound strange to our American ears. After all, over 200 years ago we fought the Revolutionary war to break free from the tyranny and abuse of King George. We have no kings or queens ruling over us. Yet, how often does the news media pay attention to the royal family in England whenever a major event, like the birth of a new child, takes place? After all, who really cares?

Almost 200 years before our own Revolutionary war there was another example of an abusive king. St. Thomas More, the 16th century Lord Chancellor of England, was beheaded for refusing to sign a letter asking Pope Clement VII to annul King Henry VIII'S marriage to Catherine of Aragon because she had not given him a son. He further antagonized Henry VIII by refusing to take an Oath of Supremacy declaring Henry Supreme Head of the Church of England. On his way to the scaffold, Thomas sent a message to Henry saying, "I die the king's faithful servant, but God's first."

Our gospel for this feast of Christ the King shows us how we are to live our lives. Not in service of kings & queens. Not in service to our selfish desires or lusts. We are to live the values of Christ's kingdom: that of service to others and of humility. We are called to have Christ at the center of our lives by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked. We are to welcome the stranger (the immigrant). We are to comfort the ill. And we are to visit the imprisoned. The imprisoned can be more than those who are doing time in jail. The prisoner can be the next door neighbor who is sick and lonely, and has no family or friends to visit. Being imprisoned in your own home can be just as bad (or worse) than being held behind bars.

The fulfillment of Christ's kingdom in large part relies on us. It relies on our possessing faith, hope, and love that are strong and far-reaching. Christ's kingdom relies on our willingness to - like St. Thomas More - give our best as our King's good servants. "... whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

The photo above was provided courtesy of John Stephen Dwyer

 

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Thanksgiving

Today America is celebrating the great American holiday Thanksgiving. It's a time when families get together in gratitude for the many gifts we have in our life.

A little history about Thanksgiving: In response to a joint request by both Houses of Congress, on Oct. 3, 1789, President George Washington proclaimed Nov. 26, 1789, as a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” If you wish to read more about this, you can go to http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/george-washington-abraham-lincoln-and-thanksgiving/


For me, I am grateful for my wife and my family and the many gifts God has given me in my life. May he bless you with His peace and love this Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas Season.

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

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Obeying God's Will

Reflections from the scripture readings for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092814.cfm

This reading from the gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 21:28-32, always reminds me of the challenge of raising children. Kids say and do things that drive us crazy! We ask them to do something, then they say no. Then they do it anyway. Or they say yes, and then don't do it! As a father of two children (now grown, thank God!), I can feel the frustration of the father in this parable of Jesus. We tell our kids to do their homework, then they respond, "no", only to think it over and do it anyway! Or they say yes, and end up not doing it. It is then that they realize (after getting in trouble with the teacher) that they find out that their parents were right all along!

It's the same with us and our relationship with God. The chief priests and elders are represented in this story as the ones saying "Yes" and not doing what God is commanding them to do! Outwardly they look like they are doing the Will of God, but inwardly they are filled with hate for those people who are considered the outcasts of society. They hate the tax collectors and prostitutes! The chief priests and elders are failing to show love and compassion to their neighbors!

The tax collectors and prostitutes are the ones that originally were telling "no" to God by how they lived their lives. They rejected God in their lives, only to later find that it is with God that they can find peace and happiness! They heard the preaching of John the Baptist, and went for repentance. They further heard the preaching of the Love of God from the mouth of Jesus. They turn their "no" to "yes"!

This parable applies to us today, too. There are times when we say "yes" to God, but then we see someone who is homeless and we judge him/her! Or we see an immigrant struggling to make a better live. Then we judge them and reject them. In so doing, we say "no" to God.

Then there are times when we say "no" to God when we hear of all these "rules and regulations" in the Church that are meant to help us come closer to God. We initially say no, but after some thought, we realize it's for the best, and we say "yes" to God.

Pray that we can always be "Yes" people in both words and actions towards God and those who need us!

Praise be Jesus Christ now and forever!

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Take Up Your Cross!

Reflections on the scripture readings for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Scripture can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/083114.cfm

A nun was explaining the Stations of the Cross to her class. When they got to the fourth station where Jesus, on the road to Calvary, meets his mother, the nun explained that, even though they could not talk to each other, mother and son simply used their eyes. "What do you think they said to each other?" she asked the pupils. The students gave many different answers. One child suggested that she said, "This is unfair." Another child suggested that she said, "Why me?" Finally, a sickly little girl raised her hand, got up and said, "Sister, I know what the Blessed Mother told Jesus. She said to him, "Keep on going, Jesus!" Why would a mother encourage her only son on the way to crucifixion to keep on going? Because a mother understands the Christian principle of "no cross, no crown."

The gospel of Christ is a coin with two sides: the cross and the crown. If we try to embrace the glorious side and reject the suffering side, we falsify the gospel. The same Jesus who said "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28) also said, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)

Following God and choosing to do His will is never easy. Jeremiah in our first reading found this out the hard way. He had to endure real hardship. In the verses just before the selection we read for today, a priest of Jerusalem temple had Jeremiah confined to the stocks. Those hearing the words of Jeremiah did not like much of his warnings that the kingdom will collapse. They regarded Jeremiah's words as treasonous and demoralizing. They could not see that Jeremiah was speaking for the true King of Israel; therefore his words were anything but treasonous. Though Jeremiah sounds frustrated in this reading, he comes to realize that he had to speak the word of God, even if it led to personal discomfort. 

In the gospel for today, our Lord is teaching us the importance of carrying our crosses, in imitation of Him. We can't escape the crosses that God places in our lives. What we need to do is to move beyond anger with ourselves or depression, so that we can arrive at where the cross is meant to lead us all the time - grace.

Place your trust in God and ask him to carry the cross with you. The crucified, glorified Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist. It is here especially that we can receive the grace, the strength, to carry our cross. It is here that we grow in faith, hope, and love. The cross will lead us to new life in Christ.

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

 

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Saint Monica

Today the Church commemorates the mother of St. Augustine, St. Monica. In a biography of her it says, "She was born at Thagaste in Africa of a Christian family. She was married young, to Patricius, and among her children was Augustine. He had a brilliant intellect and uncertain morals and his wayward spiritual career saw him at one time a Manichee and then a Neoplatonist." 

Monica is an example of what it truly means to be a Christian in the world, a follower of Christ. Her husband was an "unbeliever" and her children were not much better. Augustine, though being brought up a Christian, left his Christian faith behind to lead a life full of self absorption and selfishness. He lived with a woman without being married, had a child with her, a son, named, Adeodatus. He had a successful legal and academic career. But this was all leaving him feeling empty and unsatisfied. The prayers of Monica were starting to work.

As a result of her prayers, he returned to the Church and devoted his whole life to the knowledge and love of God. This was all thanks to the prayers of his mother, Monica. In her words to him, just before she passed from this world to the next, she said to Augustine, "For my part, my son, I no longer find pleasure in anything that this life holds. What I am doing here still, or why I am still here, I do not know, for worldly hope has withered away for me. One thing only there was for which I desired to linger in this life: to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. And my God has granted this to me more lavishly than I could have hoped, letting me see even you spurning earthly happiness to be his servant. What am I still doing here?”

As a result of her constant prayers and concern for Augustine, and his eventual conversion to the Catholic faith, she is considered to be the patron saint of mothers. Once converted, he is quoted as saying to God, "Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!" What beautiful words!

I use Monica as an example in my daily prayers to God. Not only do I pray for my own concerns and service to God as a deacon, I pray to God for my children. I pray that God guides them, as He once guided Augustine, through the prayers of Monica.

We are all called to pray as Monica did for those people in our lives that need to have God in the center of all they do. They can be our children, spouses, relatives, or friends. We are to pray for them to come to know God and to be in relationship with Jesus. Use Monica as an example to pray for those in your life that need God's love and care.

Praise be Jesus Christ now and forever!

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Assumption vs: Ascension

 

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:46-47

Every year the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in paragraph 966 "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." In the Orthodox Church it’s called The Feast of the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. The Feast commemorates the repose (dormition and in the Greek kimisis) or "falling-asleep" of the Mother of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Feast also commemorates the translation or assumption into heaven of the body of the Theotokos.

Our Lady’s whole life was centered on doing the Will of God. His Will was central in all she did. Look at how she responded to God, through the Angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

As a result of whom she is and how she lived her life, God chose to take her up to heaven, body and soul. Whether she “fell asleep” and was taken up to heaven, as the Orthodox teach, or was just taken up to heaven as we so often see depicted in artwork, surrounded by angels, on a cloud,  she was taken up to heaven by the power of God. Not by her own power. Further, we as Catholics are required to believe this. In 1854, with the Bull Ineffabilis, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. As a dogma, we, as Catholics are required to believe and accept it.

Regarding the Ascension of Our Lord, this occurred 40 days after He rose from the dead on Easter, and is the final act of our redemption that Christ began on Good Friday. On this day, the risen Christ, in the sight of His apostles, ascended bodily into Heaven (Luke 24:51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11). It was through His own power that He ascended into heaven. This is another central belief that we have as Catholics.

So, as you see, the difference between the Assumption of Our Lady and the Ascension of Our Lord is this: it was through the power of God that Mary was assumed into heaven, and it was through His own power that Jesus ascended into heaven.

Let us, like Mary, have God always in the center of all we do in our lives. Let us, like Mary, say, “Behold, I am the handmaid (servant) of the Lord.”

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Love of God and Neighbor

I recently heard a Buddhist proverb. It goes like this, "When we decry the suffering and pain around us, caused by other humans, Buddhist spirituality also reminds us of the suffering and pain borne by our actions, thoughts and speech. While I can't liberate the entire world from suffering even if I wanted to, I can do my part by trying to be mindful of the suffering I am causing or might cause. If all do likewise, then Buddhist spirituality says, we address the suffering in the world borne by human greed, hate and injustice." Reflecting on this proverb I was thinking of how we, as Christians, can live out this in our daily lives. 

It very much reminds me of the teachings of Christ and how we are to love God and to love our neighbor. In Matthew 22:36-40 (New International Version NIV) we read, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We, as Christians, are called to show love and respect to all around us. We are to be sensitive to how we treat others and how our actions may adversely effect those in our lives. There are those in our lives that we naturally are attracted to and find easy to love and to treat well. Then there are those in our lives that we find it uncomfortable to be with. We may even have people in our lives that we hate for some harm done to us or arguments we may have had. We hold on to those resentments that we have towards those people and grow to hate them.

We are called to love and forgive all those people in our lives, as God loves and forgives us. By letting go of hatred and resentment towards those in our lives, we are making the world a better place. It takes one person at a time to make the world better for those around us. We may not be able to resolve the hatred that is happening in the far reaches of the world, for example, between Israel and Palestine. But we can remove the hatred we have for those in our lives that we hold a grudge.

Further, we can offer our prayers to God for peace and mutual respect among all those in the world that hate each other. They may feel that their hatred is justified. But in order to have peace in the world, we must encourage mutual love, understanding, and forgiveness. It is only then that peace can start coming into the world.

And it starts with each one of us and with those that God has placed in our live.

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Sower & The Seed

Reflection on the Readings for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Scripture texts can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071314.cfm

In this sower and seed parable, do we always have to be the dirt? Why do we always have to be the dirt? It's depressing. Who really thinks they've yielded a hundredfold of awesome religious results? My money is on nobody-that would look like pride. Probably the same with sixtyfold. Most of us think we'll be lucky to make thirtyfold because we figure we're still limping along at eight or ten, maybe twelve tops. 

There are many ways of looking at and understanding parables. 

First, let's look at the sower. It's not only bishops, priests , sisters, brothers, and missionaries that sow the seed of the word of God. 

Parents, grandparents, and people in charge of a child, anytime they speak about the love of God, whether formal deliberate instruction, or just by how we love and treat them, are sowing the seeds of the kingdom of God.

For many of us, we would do well to speak of God and the events of salvation more often than we do. It can be at work, with family, with friends, or in social settings. We often hold back for fear of sounding "preachy" or of sounding like a phoney. Most people that we know, know our faults. But if you preach from the heart and show a true relationship with God, you can overcome those faults and show those in your life that relationship with God is important. You are planting the seed.

When we sow the seed of faith in God, don't worry about results. Our responsibility as Christians is to sow the seed of faith with those in our life. The results of that sowing is up to God. As Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said, "God does not call us to be successful; he calls us to be faithful." We may or may not see results. Some seeds may remain dormant for years before they reach maturity and growth. It's between those hearing the word and with God. 

This parable talks about seeds, as well. We can relate to the seed, too. Like the seed, we "die" to ourselves in order to give life to others. Parents, in may ways, give up sleep, time, and personal pleasures to give their children good things and save for the future. Teachers in school in many ways, too, "die", when they give their "all" for the children they are charged with to give education.

When you respond to the word of God by being the "sower" and the "seed", you, like the "dirt" can produce "a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." (Matthew 13:8)

Let us ask Jesus this day to enrich our understanding and increase our fervor. Let Jesus plant the seed in our hearts so we can produce manifold fruits in our live.

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Choice

This meditation is on the readings from the First Sunday of Lent and can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030914.cfm.

We hear in our first reading from Genesis about two trees in the middle of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Only one was forbidden. That is the one Eve, then Adam, chose. We know the rest of the story.

What is it about us humans? Is it because we don't like being told what to do? If someone says, "You can't," that is when we are tempted to say, "Oh yeah? Watch me." Whether it's a two-year old just learning to say, "No," a teenager challenging a curfew, or someone ignoring the speed limit. It doesn't matter: Rebellion, which usually translates into pride! It just seems to be who we are as humans! It was through the rebellion of our original parents that we get this rebellion from. It's part of that original sin that we are all aware of: we, like Adam and Eve, want to be like God.

It is because of this self-centeredness that the Church, during this time of Lent,spends a lot of time talking about sin, and encouraging us to turn away from it. On Ash Wednesday, when you received your ashes, you probably heard one of two choices spoken by the priest or deacon: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return." These two phrases remind us that we are all sinners, due to the original sin of our parents, Adam and Eve.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said of sinners, "The worst sinners are nice people who, by denying sin, make the cure of sin impossible. Sin is very serious, but it is more serious to deny sin." It is during Lent that we are to find that cure for sin!

In our Gospel of Matthew we also hear of temptation but with a far better ending than that of our story in Genesis. Jesus went into the wilderness of Judea and there He was also tempted. But here, instead, we have victory over the temptations. It was three times that Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, and three times Jesus won. The temptations that Jesus faced are no different than the temptations that we all face. 

In the first temptation, Satan knows Jesus is hungry, and also knows the power that Jesus has. So he tempts Jesus into turning stones to bread. Tie this in with fasting during Lent. Why should we fast and give up things during Lent? In our society, so driven by consumerism, we are all tempted to satisfy our human needs with food and drink, plus all the other luxuries that you see advertised on TV. Jesus teaches that, "We do not live by bread alone." There is more to us than what we eat, wear, or drive. There is something down deep within us that needs to be satisfied, a place only God can fill. To have God fill that center of our lives, the Church encourages us to fast and abstinence. Giving something up for Lent is not about self-punishment but about freedom that liberates the soul and makes space for God.

In the second temptation, Jesus is tempted to put God to the test by jumping from the Temple. How often do we turn to God in prayer to try to compel him to do something for us. Often we are looking for quick answers to our prayers and quick fixes to our problems. Instead, prayer is a time to be with God in repentance and conversion of life. Jesus says, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." We are to place our cares in God's hands and trust that He will always be there for us.

The third temptation is to seek the kingdoms of the world in the belief that fulfillment comes with power and control. Jesus teaches us a different way, "to do homage to the Lord alone." Fulfillment comes from following the Lord and in giving something of ourselves to others. We are serving God when we are helping others. 

During this season of Lent, take the time to be with the Lord in true repentance. Read scripture daily, and if it's been a while, make use of the Sacrament of Confession. Then we will come to know the power of Jesus Christ in our life if we are generous in our fasting, prayer and alms giving.

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Love of Enemies

Today's reflection is on the readings for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time and can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022314.cfm.

In our readings for today, from Leviticus and from Matthew, we are being reminded of the centrality of love in God's plans for us. As believers in the one true God and as followers of His Son, Jesus Christ, we are called to love everyone, without condition. We are to love all people as God loves them. In our first reading we hear, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18). In the gospel we hear Jesus tell his disciples (and us): "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same?" (Matthew 5:44-46).


Regarding the challenge that Jesus gives us in regards to turning the other cheek, we generally understand it to mean that the first response of Christians to violence is to be humble, meek, and mild. But lets look at the context in Jesus' time. At the time and place that Jesus lived, there was no such thing as toilet paper. Instead, everyone used their left hand for certain necessities. Not a pleasant thought, is it? Because people used their left hand for these "basics", they never, ever, touched anyone else with their left hand. When you struck someone on the cheek, you did so with your right hand, with the backhand if it was someone "inferior" to you, or with and open hand or fist for people of "equal status." If you turn your cheek after someone has backhanded you, they cannot backhand you again with their right hand. To strike again, they have to use a forward motion raising your status, or use their left hand, proving that they are uncouth. Further, turning the other cheek when you have been struck subverts the established order. It's hard not to hit back, and it takes courage to turn the other cheek, but doing so seeks to end violence by asserting the dignity of every human being.

In our call to live out our Christian vocation, we are called to stop the violence in the world by "turning the other cheek" and by loving & respecting all people, no matter how unlovable you think they are. God loves all people unconditionally. He loves those people that others want to reject. Whether gay, black, white, or Asian, God loves you totally. And God is calling us, His followers, to love all, without restriction! "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

 

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Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Love is in the Air

Every year on February 14th I think of a song from the late '70's. You may know it. The first line goes, "Love is in the air everywhere I look around." Today the world talks about love on Valentine's Day. What is Valentine's Day and what is true love? First a little history. St. Valentine was a 3rd century Roman priest. It was during this time that the faithful believers in Christ were being persecuted for their faith. On February 14th, about the year 270, St. Valentine was beheaded because he refused to denounce his faith in Christ. It was his love of Christ that led him to give his life as a martyr. This is what true love is. To be able to give your life for the one you love. In the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 13, vs 4 to 8 he talks about what love really is. In verses 4 & 5 he says, "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury..." Paul is teaching us to love Christ as he loved us, and to love others! Further, when you are giving flowers or chocolate to the one you love, remember you are to love them not only on Valentine's Day, but everyday! And you are to love them as Christ loves you. You are always to be patient, you are always to be kind. You are never to be jealous. All the attributes that Paul points out are to be used towards the one you love. Happy Valentine's Day!

 

Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com.  He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned  to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY.  He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.

Song quotation from: John Paul Young's "Love is in the air" Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

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