BKL221 “Repent, and believe in the gospel” – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff

Gospel MK 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

 

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  He was ordained on May 30, 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA.  Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to St. Mother Teresa.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the missionaries of charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world,  serving in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor.  Msgr. Esseff assisted the founders of the Institute for Priestly Formation and continues to serve as a spiritual director for the Institute.  He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians and other religious leaders around the world.   

The Sacrament of Healing – a reflection from Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. Esseff reflects on the Anointing of the Sick, known as one of the Sacraments of Healing.  He speaks of his personal experience with the sacrament and the importance of having it readily available for the faithful.  Msgr. Esseff also addresses particular issues related to laying on of hands.

 From the USSCB:

Jesus came to heal the whole person, body and soul.

In the Church’s Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, through the ministry of the priest, it is Jesus who touches the sick to heal them from sin – and sometimes even from physical ailment. His cures were signs of the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The core message of his healing tells us of his plan to conquer sin and death by his dying and rising.

The Rite of Anointing tells us there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament. A careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient.

When the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given, the hoped-for effect is that, if it be God’s will, the person be physically healed of illness. But even if there is no physical healing, the primary effect of the Sacrament is a spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or the frailty of old age.

~from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults en español

Pray

Learn

Act

Scripture: Mark 1:40-45

40 And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

We need Mary’s tender love – a reflection from Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. Esseff reflects on our need to reconnect with our source of life.  Our Mother can teach us how to pray.  Turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary to heard when we are afraid and anxious.  She waiting to lead you to her Son.  Let her help you discover your Abba.  Allow her, as mother, to show you how to receive the Spirit.  You are her child.  She is the one who waits for you now.

Reading 2 GAL 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  He was ordained on May 30, 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA.  Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to St.  Teresa of Calcutta.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world,  serving in the Pontifical Missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor.  Msgr. Esseff assisted the founders of the Institute for Priestly Formation and continues to serve as a spiritual director for the Institute.  He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians and other religious leaders around the world.  

“Nazareth – School of the Gospel” Building a Kingdom Love with Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. Esseff focuses on the importance of the family in our lives.  He uses the teachings of Blessed Pope Paul VI  in reflection.

 

Reflections at Nazareth

An Address of Pope Paul VI at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

(taken from “The Pope Speaks”, Vol. 9 #3, 1964)

At Nazareth Our very first thoughts must be turned toward Mary Most Holy, to offer her the tribute of Our devotion and to nourish that devotion with reflections that will make it genuine, profound and unique, in conformity with the plan of God. It is Mary who is full of grace, who is the Immaculate, the ever-virgin, the Mother of Christ and hence God’s Mother and ours, she who was assumed into heaven, our most blessed Queen, the model for the Church and our hope.

Before all else We offer Our humble filial promise to venerate her with that special devotion which recognizes the wonders God has accomplished in her; with singular homage manifesting the most holy, pure affectionate, personal and confident movements of Our Heart; with such devotion as causes her encouraging example of human perfection to shine upon the world from on high.

Then We present to her Our requests for what is closest to Our heart, because We wish to honor both her goodness and the power of her love and intercession. We pray that she may preserve in our hearts a sincere devotion to her. We beg her to give us understanding, desire, and then the peace of possessing purity of body and soul, purity in thought and word, art and love; the purity that the world of today attempts to shock and violate; the purity to which Christ has linked one of His promises, one of His beatitudes, that of penetrating into the vision of God Himself.

We ask therefore the favor of joining Our Lady, mother of the home at Nazareth, and her humble but courageous husband St. Joseph, in their intimacy with Jesus Christ, her human and divine Son.

Nazareth – school of the Gospel

Nazareth is the school in which we begin to understand the life of Jesus. It is the school of the Gospel. Here we learn to observe, to listen, to meditate, and to penetrate the profound and mysterious meaning of that simple, humble, and lovely manifestation of the Son of God. And perhaps we learn almost imperceptibly to imitate Him. Here we learn the method by which we can come to understand Christ. Here we discover the need to observe the milieu of His sojourn among us – places, period of time, customs, language, religious practices, all of which Jesus used to reveal Himself to the world. Here everything speaks to us; everything has meaning. Everything possesses twofold significance.

“The letter” …

The first is exterior, that which the spectators’ senses and perceptiveness can immediately derive from the Gospel scene. It is the impression gained by those who look merely at externals, who study and examine only the philological and historical trappings of the holy books, that part of which in Biblical terminology is called “the letter.” This study is important and necessary, but it is opaque to one who stops there, and even capable of engendering illusions and intellectual pride in the observer who approaches the external elements in the Gospel without clear vision, humility, a good intention, and a prayerful spirit.

… and “the spirit”

There is also an interior significance – that is, the revelation of divine truth, of supernatural reality – which the Gospel not only contains but also manifests, though, to be sure, only to the person who puts himself in harmony with its light. This harmony is due partly to uprightness of spirit, that is of mind and heart – a subjective and human condition which depends on the personal initiative of each person. At the same time it flows from the mysterious, free, and unmerited outpouring of grace, which, in keeping with the mystery of mercy governing mankind’s destiny, is never lacking; indeed, at the proper time and in the appropriate manner it never fails any man of good will. This second element, distinct from “the letter” of the Gospel, is called the “the spirit.”

It is here, in this school, that one comes to grasp how necessary it is to be spiritually disciplined, if one wishes to follow the teachings of the Gospel and to become a follower of Christ. Oh, how We would like to repeat, so close to Mary, Our introduction to the genuine knowledge of the meaning of life, and to the higher wisdom of divine truth!

But Our steps here are hurried, and We must take leave of Our desire to pursue here this never-ending education in understanding of the Gospel. Nevertheless, We cannot depart without recalling briefly and fleetingly some fragments of the lesson of Nazareth.

The lesson of silence…

The lesson of silence: may there return to us an appreciation of this stupendous and indispensable spiritual condition, deafened as we are by so much tumult, so much noise, so many voices of our chaotic and frenzied modern life. O silence of Nazareth, teach us recollection, reflection, and eagerness to heed the good inspirations and words of true teachers; teach us the need and value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of interior life, of secret prayer seen by God alone.

… of domestic life

The lesson of domestic life: may Nazareth teach us the meaning of family life, its harmony of love, its simplicity and austere beauty, its sacred and inviolable character; may it teach is how sweet and irreplaceable is its training, how fundamental and incomparable its role on the social plane.

… of work

The lesson of work: O Nazareth, home of “the carpenter’s son,” We want here to understand and to praise the austere and redeeming law of human labor, here to restore the consciousness of the dignity of labor, here to recall that work cannot be an end in itself, and that it is free and ennobling in proportion to the values – beyond the economic ones – which motivate it. We would like here to salute all the workers of the world, and to point out to them their great Model, their Divine Brother, the Champion of all their rights, Christ the Lord!

And so Our thoughts leave Nazareth and range those mountains of Galilee which once provided the natural backdrop for the words of the Divine Teacher. We lack time and sufficient strength to proclaim at this moment the divine message intended for the entire universe. But We cannot neglect to glance at the nearby mount of the beatitudes, which are the synthesis and summit of evangelical preaching, and to listen to the echoes of that discourse which, in this mysterious atmosphere, now seem audible to Us.

The motive of love

It is the voice of Christ promulgating the New Testament, the new law which both absorbs and surpasses the old, and raises human endeavor to the very peak of perfection. The great motive of man’s activity is a sense of duty which controls the exercise of his freedom. In the Old Testament it was fear; and at all times including our own it is instinct and self-interest. But for Christ, who is the Father’s gift of love to the world, the motive is love. He taught us to obey through love; it is love that moved Him to set us free. According to the teaching of St. Augustine, “God gave less difficult precepts to those who had still to be bound by fear; through His Son He gave more difficult ones to those whom He had deigned to free by love.”

Christ in His Gospel has spelled out for the world the supreme purpose and the noblest force for action and hence for liberty and progress: love. No goal can surpass it, be superior to it, or supplant it. The only sound law of life is His Gospel. The human person reaches his highest level in Christ’s teaching. Human society finds therein its most genuine and powerful unifying force.

We believe, O Lord, in Thy word; we will try to follow and live it.

Echoes of the Beatitudes

Now we hear its echo reverberating in the souls of men of our century. It seems to tell us: Blessed are we, if in poverty of spirit we learn to free ourselves from false confidence in material things and to place our chief desires in spiritual and religious goods, treating the poor with respect and love as brothers and living images of Christ.

Blessed are we, if, having acquired the meekness of the strong, we learn to renounce the deadly power of hate and vengeance, and have the wisdom to exalt above the fear of armed force the generosity of forgiveness, alliance in freedom and work, and conquest through goodness and peace.

Blessed are we, if we do not make egoism the guiding criterion of our life, nor pleasure its purpose, but learn rather to discover in sobriety our strength, in pain a source of redemption, in sacrifice the very summit of greatness.

Blessed are we, if we prefer to be the oppressed rather than the oppressors, and constantly hunger for the progress of justice.

Blessed are we, if for the Kingdom of God in time and beyond time we learn to pardon and to persevere, to work and to serve, to suffer and to love.

We shall never be deceived.

In such accents do We seem to hear His voice today. Then, it was stronger, sweeter, and more awe-inspiring: it was divine. But as we try to recapture some echo of the Master’s words, we seem to be won over as His disciples and to be genuinely filled with new wisdom and fresh courage.

 

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  He was ordained on May 30, 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA.  Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to St.  Teresa of Calcutta.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world,  serving in the Pontifical Missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor.  Msgr. Esseff assisted the founders of the Institute for Priestly Formation and continues to serve as a spiritual director for the Institute.  He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians and other religious leaders around the world.  

Spiritual Exercise #2 Dealing with Frustration with Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. Esseff was taken to the ER Thursday afternoon and then admitted to the hospital.  Believe or not, he wanted to continue his series of podcasts on the Year-end retreat for his listeners.  He phoned in this reflection from his hospital bed Saturday morning.  He discusses frustration with God and the marvels of His goodness when we surrender.  This is a very special podcast, please keep Msgr. Esseff in your prayers.

A Spiritual Exercise #1 “To Listen to God” with Msgr. John Esseff

Are you frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, especially after the holidays?  Have you been trying to do “good things,” but find yourself hitting a wall in your family, in your workplace, or in your ministry?  When to say “yes” or to say “no,”  when to speak and when to silent, when to stay and when to go,  and so forth. Everything hinges on listening to God and discernment.  Are you operating in the “Light?”

Today, Msgr. Esseff asks that you take an hour to enter into the inner self and to listen to what God wants you to do.  Write down what you hear God say in Psalm 139

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1Lord, thou hast searched me and known me!

2Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up;

thou discernest my thoughts from afar.

3Thou searchest out my path and my lying down,

and art acquainted with all my ways.

4Even before a word is on my tongue,

lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.

5Thou dost beset me behind and before,

and layest thy hand upon me.

6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high, I cannot attain it.

7Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?

Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

8If I ascend to heaven, thou art there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!

9If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10even there thy hand shall lead me,

and thy right hand shall hold me.

11If I say, “Let only darkness cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

12even the darkness is not dark to thee,

the night is bright as the day;

for darkness is as light with thee.

13For thou didst form my inward parts,

thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful.

Wonderful are thy works!

Thou knowest me right well;

15my frame was not hidden from thee,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.

16Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance;

in thy book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

17How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

18If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

When I awake, I am still with thee.

19O that thou wouldst slay the wicked, O God,

and that men of blood would depart from me,

20men who maliciously defy thee,

who lift themselves up against thee for evil!

21Do I not hate them that hate thee, O Lord?

And do I not loathe them that rise up against thee?

22I hate them with perfect hatred;

I count them my enemies.

23Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

24And see if there be any wicked way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!

What is the Christmas gift? – A Reflection from Msgr. John Esseff


What is the Christmas gift that has been given to you? What is the Truth?  Listen to find out why you need to “let go of the bar”  in order to receive it.

(** A special request – In this podcast, Msgr. Esseff mentions a particular health issue he is dealing with this Christmas.  Would you please consider offering a prayer for him as he lovingly embraces this particular cross?  Thank you and God bless – Kris McGregor **)

God’s Gift of Love – A Reflection from Msgr. John Esseff


“God’s Gift of Love” is a special reflection offered by Msgr. Esseff on this 23rd day of December 2017.  What is blocking your experience of the Father’s love?  Is there someone you need to reach out to? Will you let the Father love you this Christmas?

How Does Your Soul Magnify the Lord – An Advent Reflection from Msgr. John Esseff

Reading 1   1 SM 1:24-28

In those days,
Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull,
an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull,
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
“Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”
She left Samuel there.

Gospel  LK 1:46-56

Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months
and then returned to her home.

BKL218 “Prepare In A New Way” – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff

Gospel

MK 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  He was ordained on May 30, 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA.  Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to St. Mother Teresa.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the missionaries of charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world,  serving in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor.  Msgr. Esseff assisted the founders of the Institute for Priestly Formation and continues to serve as a spiritual director for the Institute.  He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians and other religious leaders around the world.   

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