Sunday, February 16, 2014

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Christ gave his life for you, and do you hold a grudge against your fellow servant? How then can you approach the table of peace? Your Master did not refuse to undergo every kind of suffering for you, and will you not even forgo your anger? Why is this, when love is the root, the wellspring and the mother of every blessing?

He has offered me an outrageous insult, you say. He has wronged me times without number, he has endangered my life. Well, what is that? He has not yet crucified you as the Jewish elders crucified the Lord. If you refuse to forgive your neighbor's offense your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins either. What does your conscience say when you repeat the words: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” and the rest?

Christ went so far as to offer his blood for the salvation of those who shed it. What could you do that would equal that? If you refuse to forgive your enemy you harm not him but yourself. You have indeed harmed him frequently in this present life, but you have earned for yourself eternal punishment on the day of judgment. There is no one God detests and repudiates more than the person who bears a grudge, whose heart is filled with anger, whose soul is seething with rage.

Listen to the Lord's words: “If you are bringing your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and first go and be reconciled. Then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

What do you mean? Am I really to leave my gift, my offering there? Yes, he says, because this sacrifice is offered in order that you may live in peace with your neighbor. If then the attainment of peace with your neighbor is the object of the sacrifice and you fail to make peace, even if you share in the sacrifice your lack of peace will make this sharing fruitless. Before all else therefore make peace, for the sake of which the sacrifice is offered. Then you will really benefit from it.

The reason the Son of God came into the world was to reconcile the human race with the Father. As Paul says: “Now he has reconciled all things to himself, destroying enmity in himself by the cross.” Consequently, as well as coming himself to make peace he also calls us blessed if we do the same, and shares his title with us. “Blessed are the peacemakers, he says, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

So as far as a human being can, you must do what Christ the Son of God did, and become a promoter of peace both for yourself and for your neighbor. Christ calls the peacemaker a child of God. The only good deed he mentions as essential at the time of sacrifice is reconciliation with one's brother or sister. This shows that of all the virtues the most important is love.

St. John Chrysostom, c. 347-407

But all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Christ;
and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.
~2 Corinthians 5:18

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Life's Greatest Burden

The greatest burden we have to carry in life is self. The most difficult thing we have to manage is self. Our own daily living, our frames and feelings, our especial weaknesses and temptations, and our peculiar temperaments, our inward affairs of every kind, these are the things that perplex and worry us more than anything else, and that bring us oftenest into bondage and darkness. In laying off your burdens, therefore, the first one you must get rid of is yourself. You must hand yourself and all your inward experiences, your temptations, your temperament, your frames and feelings, all over into the care and keeping of your God, and leave them there. He made you, and therefore He understands you and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it. Say to Him, “Here, Lord, I abandon myself to Thee. I have tried in every way I could think of to manage myself, and to make myself what I know I ought to be, but have always failed. Now I give it up to Thee. Do thou take entire possession of me. Work in me all the good pleasure of Thy will. Mould and fashion me into such a vessel as seemeth good to Thee. I leave myself in Thy hands, and I believe Thou wilt, according to Thy promise, make me into a vessel unto Thine honor, ‘sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work’ (2 Tim 2:21).” And here you must rest, trusting yourself thus to Him continually and absolutely. ~from The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith, 1832-1911

Day after day, may the Lord be blest.
He bears our burdens; God is our savior.
~Psalm 68(67):20

Dear Lord, please deliver me from myself!  Amen.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lourdes -- "the real cure"

"Lourdes, she thought...  But quite suddenly she was riding again in the hospital train that made the annual pilgrimage, the only lay student nurse from the training school chosen by Sister William to help escort the convoy of bedridden patients from Belgium. The faith of the prostrate pilgrims that they would survive the journey, and, moreover, return from there cured, frightened her. Her pulse-readings, her diagnostic eyes, even her nostrils that knew the smell of death told her that some could not possibly live until Lourdes and she ran to Sister William crying, Fevers, blood-spitting, cancers advanced to screaming stage and not a sound out of any of them except crazy hopes; I've got three in the car who should be receiving last rites this very instant, Sister. And Sister William had stopped her with a look. No one will die en route, my child, they never do, she said. I've taught you many things, Gabrielle, but what you are soon to see is beyond my competence to describe or prepare you for. Now say a Pater for having called faith a crazy hope and go back to your duties.

"Lourdes was a bonfire in her memory. It was made up of thousands of candles and burning cries and a week of rising suns over an esplanade where stretcher cases lay side by side, end to end, waiting for a priest to come with a monstrance that gathered sun to its gold and blazed in the sign of the cross above the stretchers. With each individual benediction a new voice, hoarse, hysterical, screaming or murmuring, joined the storm of sound which carried the glittering processional forward like a wave that never crested or broke until the last twisted body had been blessed. O Jesus, Son of David, cure me…

"And there were cures, she remembered, which she could see in the archives of X-rays that had been made before and after baths in St. Bernadette's water, changes in tissue textures or even occasionally in the bone structures which she could read like print on a page.

"On the journey back to Belgium, taking care of the same number of cases she had escorted out, she remembered how she had looked at the faces she bathed, still worn and emaciated with disease. Inexplicably they seemed to have retained some of the glow that had played upon them when the stretchers had been carried into the candlelit Grotto at the foot of the Pyrenees.

"Their happiness! she exclaimed to Sister William on her rounds.

"Naturally, my child. That is the real cure. Not those debatable X-rays I saw you poring over with the doctors who consider only what films show. But this (Sister William inclined her head to the quiet wagon-lit as if the name of Jesus had been spoken), this is the visible grace given to all who go with faith."

~from The Nun's Story by Kathryn Hulme

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our Lady of Lourdes

Mary, the Mother of the Lord, has received from the faithful the title of Advocate:  she is our advocate before God.  And this is how we see her, from the wedding-feast of Cana onwards:  as a woman who is kindly, filled with maternal concern and love, a woman who is attentive to the needs of others and, out of desire to help them, brings those needs before the Lord.  

~Pope Benedict, 9/12/06 Homily 

Dearest Mary,
Mother Most Wonderful,
thank you for bringing all my needs
before your Beloved Son, Jesus.  
Please help me to do whatever He tells me, 
today and always.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Prayer for Salt and Light

You are the salt of the earth...  You are the light of the world.  ~Mt 5:13, 14

O sweet Jesus, make me salt of the earth, even if I must go through fire and water to become so; do not permit me to give scandal rather than savor, or be like soil sown with salt become sterile through my own fault, thus changing the work you gave me for your service into uselessness.

O sun of justice, from whom the stars of the Church receive light, make me like one of these stars, free from all darkness, so that from wherever you have put me I may come running quickly at your voice and joyously light up the world you created for your glory.

~Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. in Divine Intimacy

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  ~Matthew 5:16

We who have once for all clothed ourselves in Christ, and been made worthy to have him dwelling within us, may show everyone, if we choose, simply by the strict discipline of our life and without saying a word, the power of him who dwells in us.

Therefore Christ said: “Let your light so shine before all, that people may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.”

This is a light that reaches not only the bodily senses, but illuminates also the beholder’s mind and soul. It disperses the darkness of evil, and invites those who encounter it to let their own light shine forth, and to follow the example of virtue.

“Let your light shine before all,” Christ said; and he used the words “before all” advisedly. He meant, “Let your light be so bright that it illuminates not only yourself, but shines also before those needing its help.” As the light our senses perceive puts darkness to flight, and enables those travelling along a road perceptible to the senses to follow a straight course, so also the spiritual light which shines from blameless conduct illuminates those who cannot see clearly how to live a virtuous life, because their spiritual eyesight has been blurred by the darkness of error. It purifies their inward vision, leads them to live upright lives, and makes them walk henceforward in the path of virtue.

“That people may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.” Christ means: Let your virtue, the perfection of your life, and the performance of good works inspire those who see you to praise the common Master of us all. And so I beg each of you to strive to live so perfectly that the Lord may be praised by all who see you.

By the perfection of your lives attract to yourselves the grace of the Spirit so that the Lord of all creation may be glorified, and so that we may all be found worthy of the kingdom of heaven by the grace, mercy, and goodness of God’s only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, might, and honor now and for ever and for endless ages. Amen.

~St. John Chrysostom, c.347-407

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Purification of the Blessed Mother in the Temple

Ave Maria!  Last Sunday, February 2, we celebrated the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. While its main focus is the offering of the Child Jesus in the temple, this feast is also the celebration of the purification of His Virgin Mother.  

In his book The Mysteries of Mary, Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P. provides a rich meditation upon Our Lady's purification and her deep humility and steadfast faith.  He points out that the Law of Moses that required the mother's purification after the birth of her child was not binding for Mary, who was "totally pure; she has conceived and given birth to her child in a miraculous way." Nevertheless, she submits to the law, and "A legal purification is transformed into a mystery of purification."

Mary abides by the law, Father Philippe explains, in order "to remain hidden, so that her privilege may remain exclusively reserved for the glory of God.  This is the attitude of the lowly servant of God who, by divine instinct, wishes to live according to the proper demands of the common law in order to remain hidden, in order to be inconspicuous."  

By "divine instinct" the Virgin Mary, chosen by God Himself from all eternity to be the Mother of our Lord and Savior, seeks to become small and humble like the Divine Child to whom she gave birth.  She has accepted her "extraordinary mission," and she will freely and gladly fulfill it both on earth and in heaven.  Still and all, she desires "to disappear unnoticed, without receiving any special attention. She understands that the glory of God consists in hiding His works." 

Ave Maria!  How great is your humility!  And this humility of hers, Father Philippe observes, "divinely prepares Mary's heart to fully receive God's Word, even if this Word will wound her heart."  She knows that she will suffer – like her Son, with her Son, for her Son. All her Son's sufferings and sorrows will be intimately hers.   "And thine own soul a sword shall pierce!" (Lk 2:35) Simeon prophesies, and Our Lady renews her fiat of the Annunciation in humility and also in faith.  There is, Father Philippe notes,  "a very close connection between faith and humility" because humility "makes us capable of accepting a divine message which we may not understand and which at first even seems to conflict with everything we have been told before.  Insofar as pride takes possession of us and exalts us, it closes our intelligence, which then thinks it is capable of attaining the fullness of the truth.  The proud man relies solely on his personal judgment.  Hence he cannot submit to divine truth in its transcendence."  

Ave Maria!  How great is your faith!  Yes, even and especially now, while receiving Simeon's prophecy which, says Father Philippe, "is entirely directed toward sorrow and separation" and "focuses on the sorrowful motherhood – which will culminate on Calvary."  Our Lady's "fiat of faith" at the Presentation "generates in her heart and soul a much greater poverty, which is that of a very sorrowful separation from Him who is everything to her, demanding a complete surrender to God's loving will.  Without understanding, she must radically and fully accept this mysterious will of God for Jesus and for herself, preferring the complete accomplishment of this will – however painful and difficult it may seem to her – to the present possession, so wonderful and so divine, of Jesus."  In faith, Mary accepts what she cannot understand, trusting in God's mercy and rejoicing in His salvation (Ps 13/12:6).

Ave Maria!  Loving Mother of the Divine Child, teach me the humility and faith of your fiat in this "mystery of purification".  Like you, with you and through you, may I offer Your Son all the joys and the sorrows of my poor heart, singing forever of His goodness to me.  Amen.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Feeding our souls...

"The things we think on are the things that feed our souls.  If we think on pure and lovely things, we shall grow pure and lovely like them."  ~Hannah Whitall Smith

"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things...and the God of peace will be with you."  ~Phil 4:8-9

O God of Loveliness, direct my thoughts to lovely things that my soul may be fed with Your peace which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7).  Amen.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"He is a Father..."

"Father, I thank You that You have heard me."  ~John 11:40

"We remember Isaac, when he goes with Abraham to do the sacrifice: Isaac was not stupid, he realized that he was carrying the wood, the fire, but not the sheep for the sacrifice. He was stricken with anguish in his heart! And what does he say? ‘Father!’. And immediately the father replies 'Here I am my son!'. In the same way, Jesus, in the Garden of Olives, said 'with that anguish in his heart: My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by!' And the angels came to give him strength. That’s how our Father is: He is a Father and a Father like this!" ~Pope Francis, 2/4/14 Homily

Father, I adore You
Lay my life before You
How I love You!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Feast of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

"I cling to the Lord Jesus Christ, who renews all things by His word alone."  ~Lauds for the Feast of St. Agatha, Antiphon 2

Ave Maria!  Being a consecrated virgin, I have a great love for the virgins among our saints, especially those of the early Church.  Not much is historically certain about St. Agatha except that she was martyred in Sicily during the persecution of Emperor Decius in 251.  As I reflect upon her steadfastness in the midst of torture and death, I am reminded of these words from the "Prayer of Consecration" that Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza prayed over me when he consecrated me as a virgin:
"Be yourself their glory, their joy, their whole desire. Be their comfort in sorrow, their wisdom in perplexity, their protection in the midst of injustice, their patience in adversity, their riches in poverty, their food in fasting, their remedy in time of sickness. They have chosen you above all things; may they find all things in possessing you."
Dear St. Agatha, pray for me that I may always cling to Him who has espoused Himself to me and made me His bride forever!  Amen.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

To Jesus Through Mary!

"And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord..."  ~Luke 2:22

"O Jesus, You went to the Temple to offer Yourself.  Who offered You?  The Virgin Mary, who has never had, and never will have, an equal.  You were offered by Mary who, through the mouth of Wisdom, was called by Your Father the 'all-beautiful, all-fair.'"  ~St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi

Ave Maria!  In company with many Catholics throughout the world, upon rising each day I pray the traditional Morning Offering:

O Jesus
 through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.
I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart:
the salvation of souls,
reparation for sin, and the
reunion of all Christians.
I offer them
for the intentions of our bishops,
and of all Apostles of Prayer,
and in particular for those recommended
by our Holy Father this month. 


How right and good it is to make my daily offering this way!  As our Blessed Mother offered her Beloved Son to the Lord in the Temple, so through her I desire to offer myself with Jesus to the Eternal Father.  Ah, what joy and confidence is mine -- to Jesus through Mary!  Amen!  Alleluia!

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Let us offer ourselves with Jesus."

"Jesus is taken to the Temple to be offered to the Father, although, being God, He was not subject to the prescriptions of the Jewish law as were the other firstborn of the Hebrews.  He is the Victim who will be immolated for the salvation of the world.  His presentation in the Temple is, so to speak, the offertory of His life; the sacrifice will be consummated later, on Calvary.  Let us offer ourselves with Jesus."  ~Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy

In the simplicity of my heart, O Lord, I have joyfully offered You everything.

~cf. 1 Chronicles 29:17

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Presentation of the Lord

"I have seen, let me go:  I have seen your glory..."

“The just live forever and their reward is in the Lord and their hope in the Most High.” Time will not suffice for us to recount the virtues of all the saints, so let us consider for the moment the last of the righteous men of old. Whom do I mean? Simeon, whose name is given in the gospel according to Luke. He stands both first and last, being the last to live under the law and the first to live by grace. In observance he was a Jew, in thanksgiving a Christian; by training he was a lawyer, but by knowledge of God an ambassador.

This Simeon, whose story has just been read to us, was plucked from the ill-fame of the Pharisees like a rose from thorns, and became the first to win renown through the gift of grace. Because of his righteousness God revealed to him, while he was still in the body, that he would not depart this present transitory life until his own arms had enfolded life eternal, our Lord Jesus Christ. Simeon the righteous, who before the incarnation had longed to see the Lord, saw him incarnate, recognized him and took him in his arms. Then he cried for release from the prison of his body, calling as a servant on the Lord of all who appeared as a child, in the words you have just heard: “Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace as you promised, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”

I have seen, allow me to leave, do not keep me here. Let me depart in peace, do not keep me in distress. I have seen, let me go: I have seen your glory, seen the angels dancing, the archangels praising you, creation leaping for joy, a way made between heaven and earth. Now let me depart, do not keep me here below.

Do not let me see the insolence of fellow Jews, the crown of thorns being plaited, a slave beating you, or a spear being thrust into you: do not let me see the sun darkened, the moon fading, the elements altered: do not let me see you broken on a cross, the rocks split asunder, the veil of the temple rent. The elements themselves will not endure this audacity, and will share in the suffering of the Lord. “Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace as you promised, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all the nations” (Luke 2:29-31).

~Timothy of Jerusalem