Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Choose Wisely

03-18-2018Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

In an episode of The Twilight Zone, entitled “A Nice Place to Visit,” Rod Serling narrates the following story:

After robbing a pawnshop, Henry, aka, “Rocky” Valentine is shot by a police officer as he flees. He wakes up to find himself seemingly unharmed. A genial old man greets him. He explains that he has been instructed to guide Rocky and give him whatever he desires. The two travel to a luxurious apartment. Everything is free. Rocky concludes that he’s dead and believes he’s in Heaven and the gentlemen is his guardian angel.

Rocky visits a casino, winning every bet he makes as beautiful girls gather around him. But no one except Rocky and his “angel” is real. By and by, Rocky becomes thoroughly bored with having his every earthly desire instantly satisfied. No friends, no generosity, no love. Just absolute instant gratification. He calls the gentleman and tells him he is tired of Heaven and wants to go to “the other place” to join his friends. The gentleman’s response is the grand finale: “Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!”

During Lent, Hell should give us some pause. Or at least rethink it. Why not think of Heaven and Hell as places we choose according to the respective merits of each?  Think of all the choices we have in this life, then think of living with those choices for eternity. Lent is the time to chose: to choose Heaven or Hell. To choose life or death. As Catholics, we choose from which tree we will eat. Will we consume the poisonous fruit of the tree of Adam and Eve or will we choose the fruit of the tree on which Jesus was nailed?

Pope Emeritus Benedict said: “The Eucharist is the presence of the cross among us, the ever-present tree of life, inviting us to take the fruit of true life. When we receive the Eucharist, it means we receive the crucified Lord and accept the parameters of his life, his obedience, as the standard of our creatureliness. When we receive the Eucharist, we are choosing the obedience of Christ over the disobedience of Adam and Eve. When we partake of the Eucharist we are strengthened to resist the temptation to not be who we are called to be.”

Lent helps us to free ourselves from our refusals and our doubt concerning God’s covenant, from our rejection of our limitations and from the lie of our autonomy. May our Lenten practices direct us to the tree of life which is our standard and our hope.

As we finish this final week of Lent and prepare to walk with Jesus the road to the Cross, we should bear in mind that all of our preparation strengthens us to stand with Jesus during His Passion. As Lent 2018 comes to its conclusion we do well now to remember how we began: marked with Ashes, begging forgiveness having recognized our faults so that the Kingdom of God within us could shine forth from us. Pope emeritus Benedict put it this way in one of his Ash Wednesday homilies: “It {the Ashes} is essentially an act of humility that means: I recognize myself for what I am, a frail creature, made from earth and destined to return to earth, yet also made in the image of God and destined for him. I am dust, yes, but also beloved, shaped by his love, animated by his vital breath, able to recognize his voice and respond to him. I am free and therefore capable of disobeying him, of giving in to the temptation of pride and self-sufficiency.”


Fr. John B.