Sunday, August 31, 2014

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

If any man would come after me, 
let him deny himself 
and take up his cross 
and follow me.  
~Matthew 16:24

Our Lord’s command seems hard and heavy, that anyone who wants to follow him must renounce himself. But no command is hard and heavy when it comes from one who helps to carry it out. That other saying of his is true: “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Whatever is hard in his commands is made easy by love.

We know what great things love can accomplish, even though it is often base and sensual. We know what hardships people have endured, what intolerable indignities they have borne to attain the object of their love.

What we love indicates the sort of people we are, and therefore making a decision about this should be our one concern in choosing a way of life.

Why be surprised if people who set their hearts on Christ and want to follow him renounce themselves out of love? If we lose ourselves through self-love we must surely find ourselves through self-renunciation.

Who would not wish to follow Christ to supreme happiness, perfect peace, and lasting security? We shall do well to follow him there, but we need to know the way.

The Lord Jesus had not yet risen from the dead when he gave this invitation. His passion was still before him; he had still to endure the cross, to face outrages, reproaches, scourging; to be pierced by thorns, wounded, insulted, taunted, and put to death.

The road seems rough, you draw back, you do not want to follow Christ. Follow him just the same. The road we made for ourselves is rough, but Christ has leveled it by passing over it himself.

Who does not desire to be exalted?

Everyone enjoys a high position. But self-abasement is the step that leads to it. Why take strides that are too big for you -- do you want to fall instead of going up? Begin with this step and you will find yourself climbing.

The two disciples who said: “Lord, command that one of us shall sit at your right hand in your kingdom and the other at your left” had no wish to think about this step of self-abasement. They wanted to reach the top without noticing the step that led there.

The Lord showed them the step, however, by his reply: “Can you drink the cup that I am to drink?” You who aim at the highest exaltation, can you drink the cup of humiliation?

He did not simply give the general command: “Let him renounce himself and follow me” but added: “Let him take up his cross and follow me.”

What does it mean to take up one’s cross?  It means bearing whatever is unpleasant -- that is following me. Once you begin to follow me by conforming your life to my commandments, you will find many to contradict you, forbid you, or dissuade you, and some of these will be people calling themselves followers of Christ.

Therefore if you meet with threats, flattery, or opposition, let this be your cross; pick it up and carry it -- do not collapse under it. These words of our Lord are like an exhortation to endure martyrdom.

If you are persecuted you ought, surely, to make light of any suffering for the sake of Christ.

~St. Augustine
Dear Jesus, our Crucified Lord and Savior, today I will strive not only to carry my cross but to love it because it is Your gift of love to me.  Amen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Passion of St. John the Baptist

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice, rescue me, free me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
~Psalm 71(70):1-2

The task set before the Baptist as he lay in prison was to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God's obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. John even in his prison cell had to respond once again and anew to his own call for metanoia or a change of mentality, in order that he might recognize his God in the night in which all things earthly exist. Only when we act in this manner does another -- and doubtless the greatest -- saying of the Baptist reveal its full significance: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3.30). We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves.  ~Pope Benedict XVI

O God,
who willed that Saint John the Baptist
should go ahead of your Son
both in his birth and in his death,
grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice,
we, too, may fight hard
for the confession of what you teach.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
~Collect for the Mass for the Passion of St. John the Baptist

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo

God loves each of us 
as if there were only one of us. 
 ~St. Augustine of Hippo

I have called you by name; 
you are mine.  
~Isaiah 43:1

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Glory

"Poppy Fringes" by Ann L. Krumrein

God, who touchest earth with beauty,
Make me lovely too...
~Mary S. Edgar

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

True Blessedness

But this is the man to whom I will look,
he that is humble and contrite in spirit, 
and trembles at my word.  
~Isaiah 66:2

God is not looking for heroic figures, wonderful people who captivate others with their charisma. It must have been quite baffling to the educated world when Jesus pronounced, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Blessed are the simple and those with limited education who do not want to understand everything with their intellect. Blessed are they who do not always think they have to put themselves forward to show how smart they are. Blessed are they who do not theorize about heavenly things. Blessed are they who keep to the way that is shown them, whatever life brings.  ~Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

Dear Lord, help me to be poor in spirit so that I may rich in You.  Amen.

Monday, August 25, 2014

"But you, who do you say that I am?"

Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.  ~1 Peter 2:5

Brothers and sisters, what happened in a unique way in Saint Peter, also takes place in every Christian who develops a sincere faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. Today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:13-20) challenges each of us: How is your faith? Let each of us answer in our heart. How is your faith? How is it? What does the Lord find in our hearts: a firm heart, like a rock? Or a heart like sand, that is, doubtful, mistrustful, unbelieving? It would do us good to think about this throughout the day. If the Lord finds in our hearts a faith – I won’t say perfect, but sincere, genuine, then He will see in us, too, the living rocks on which He builds His community. For this community, the foundation stone is Christ, the unique cornerstone. For his part, Peter is the rock, as the visible foundation of the unity of the Church; but every baptized person is called to offer to Jesus his or her own faith, poor but sincere, so that He can continue to build His Church, today, in every part of the world.

Even in our days, many people think that Jesus is a great prophet, a teacher of wisdom, a model of justice… And even today, Jesus asks His disciples – that is, us, all of us – “But you, who do you say that I am?” A prophet? A teacher of wisdom? A model of justice? How will we answer? Let us think about it. But above all let us pray to God the Father, that He will give us the answer, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary; let us pray that He will give us the gift to respond with sincere hearts: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This is a confession of faith, this is a the creed. 

~Pope Francis, 8/24/14 Homily

Please, dear Lord, increase my faith until at last, every thought, word and action of mine -- yes, even every breath I take -- proclaims the glorious truth that You and You alone are now and forever the Christ, the Son of the Living God!  Amen.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Living in the Light

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. ~1 Peter 2:9

Let us ask the Lord for this grace: that our hearts become free and filled with light, so that we can rejoice as children of God.  ~Pope Francis, 8/21/14 Tweet

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Great Souls

Great souls do everything they can
 to be pleasing to God.  
~St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Dear Lord, 
may everything I do this day
be pleasing to You
for the praise of Your glory.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Prayer and Love

"Consequently, prayer is a matter of love. Man expresses love through prayer, and if we pray, it is an indication that we love God. If we do not pray this indicates we do not love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of our love for God."  ~Archimandrite Zacharias, The Hidden Man of the Heart

Dear Lord, teach us to pray,
teach us to love...

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Glorious things are spoken of you, O Mary, who today were exalted above the choirs of Angels into eternal triumph with Christ.  ~Entrance Antiphon, Vigil Mass of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In union with the whole Church, we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady, body and soul, into the glory of heaven. Mary’s Assumption shows us our own destiny as God’s adoptive children and members of the body of Christ. Like Mary our Mother, we are called to share fully in the Lord’s victory over sin and death, and to reign with him in his eternal Kingdom....

In celebrating this feast, we join the Church throughout the world in looking to Mary as our Mother of Hope. Her song of praise reminds us that God never forgets his promise of mercy (cf. Lk 1:54-55). Mary is the one who is blessed because “she believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). In her, all God’s promises have been proved trustworthy. Enthroned in glory, she shows us that our hope is real; even now it reaches as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19) to where Jesus is seated in glory.

This hope, dear brothers and sisters, the hope held out by the Gospel, is the antidote to the spirit of despair that seems to grow like a cancer in societies which are outwardly affluent, yet often experience inner sadness and emptiness. Upon how many of our young has this despair taken its toll! May they, the young who surround us in these days with their joy and confidence, never be robbed of their hope!

Let us turn to Our Lady and implore the grace to rejoice in the freedom of the children of God, to use that freedom wisely in the service of our brothers and sisters, and to live and work as signs of the hope which will find its fulfillment in that eternal Kingdom where to reign is to serve. Amen.

~Pope Francis, Homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 8/15/14 , Daejeon, Korea

O Mother full of grace,
today and always,
lead us to Jesus,
your Beloved Son!

Monday, August 11, 2014

"If you love God you will have power to walk upon the waters..."

Bid me come to you upon the water.  ~Matthew 14:28

The gospel (Mt. 14:22-23) tells us how Christ the Lord walked upon the waters of the sea, and how the apostle Peter did the same until fear made him falter and lose confidence. Then he began to sink and emerged from the water only after calling on the Lord with renewed faith.

Now we must regard the sea as a symbol of the present world, and the apostle Peter as a symbol of the one and only Church. For Peter, who ranked first among the apostles and was always the most ready to declare his love for Christ, often acted as spokesman for them all.

For instance, when the Lord Jesus Christ asked who people thought he was and the other disciples had cited various opinions, it was Peter who responded to the Lord’s further question, “But who do you say I am?” with the affirmation: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” One replied for all because all were united.

When we consider Peter as a representative member of the Church we should distinguish between what was due to God’s action in him and what was attributable to himself. Then we ourselves shall not falter; then we shall be founded upon rock and remain firm and unmoved in the face of the wind, rain, and floods, which are the trials and temptations of this present world.

Look at Peter, who in this episode is an image of ourselves; at one moment he is all confidence, at the next all uncertainty and doubt; now he professes faith in the immortal One, now he fears for his life.

“Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you upon the water.” When the Lord said “Come,” Peter climbed out of the boat and began to walk on the water. This is what he could do through the power of the Lord; what by himself? “Realizing how violently the wind was blowing, he lost his nerve, and as he began to sink he called out, 'Lord, I am drowning, save me'!”

When he counted on the Lord’s help it enabled him to walk on the water; when human frailty made him falter he turned once more to the Lord, who immediately stretched out his hand to help him, raised him up as he was sinking, and rebuked him for his lack of faith.

Think, then, of this world as a sea, whipped up to tempestuous heights by violent winds. A person’s own private tempest will be his or her unruly desires. If you love God you will have power to walk upon the waters, and all the world’s swell and turmoil will remain beneath your feet. But if you love the world it will surely engulf you, for it always devours its lovers, never sustains them.

If you feel your foot slipping beneath you, if you become a prey to doubt or realize that you are losing control, if, in a word, you begin to sink, say: “Lord, I am drowning, save me!” Only he who for your sake died in your fallen nature can save you from the death inherent in that fallen nature.

St. Augustine, 354-430

Strength my faith and my love, dear Lord,
that I may keep coming to You.  Amen.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

"The love of Christ impels us." 2 Cor. 5:14

“And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda.” ~Luke 1:39

"...Mary, in the exquisite delicacy of her charity, has such a profound sense of the needs of others, that as soon as she hears of them, she acts spontaneously and decisively to bring help. Having learned from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin was about to become a mother, she goes immediately to offer her humble services.

"If we consider the difficulty of traveling in those days, when the poor, such as Mary, had to go on foot over difficult roads, or at best, by means of some rude conveyance, and also the fact that Mary remained three months with Elizabeth, we can readily understand that she had to face many hardships in performing this act of charity. However, she was in no way disturbed: charity urged her, making her wholly forgetful of herself, for as St. Paul says: “Charity seeketh not her own” (1 Cor 13:5). How many times, perhaps, have you omitted an act of kindness, not to spare yourself a hard journey, but only to avoid a little trouble. Think how uncharitable you are and how slow to help others. Look at Mary, and see how much you can learn from her!"

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

Dear Mary, Mother of Our Lord
"teach us wisdom, teach us love."

Friday, August 8, 2014

Houston Heat

Dios mio
the sun is like a big fire
in the sky. it is hot
and the cat is crabby.
i best stay
    in my house today.
Dios mio -- make some shade for the people...

~God and a Mouse

Ave Maria! Right now I'm feeling a lot like this little mouse, whose name is Topolito.  Thanks to his creator, Sr. M. Angela, O.S.B, he's been a buddy of mine for over 40 years and has taught me a more than a few lessons about prayer. You can read more about Topolito here. Meanwhile, I'm going to find something cool to drink -- lest I become crabby like the cat!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My life is in Your hands...

"Your Father knows what is needful for you, before you ask him." ~Matthew 6:8

"St. Paul lays it down as an axiom of the spiritual life that all things -- without exception -- work together unto good to them that love God (Rom 8:28). What does loving God mean, save looking upon Him as a Father, speaking to Him, relying upon Him for everything, acting and cooperating with His grace, and, having done on our part all that He expects of us, trusting solely to His love and mercy? O filial trust! What anxiety you would spare Christians who sincerely desire their salvation, and how you would assure it much better than all the sufferings of mind that self-love brings in its train! Leave to your heavenly Father the direction of your inner life, follow quietly the attraction of grace, consult His holy will in all things, oppose it in nothing. For the rest, pay no heed to your foolish questionings, calm your imagination, and despise the vain fears that would weaken your trust in Him. This is the way to heaven, and if you meet with difficulties on the way, they come from you, not from God."  ~John Nicholas Grou, S.J.

Dear Father -- my Father! -- I will trust in You and be at peace.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“This is my beloved Son, 
with whom I am well pleased;
 listen to him.” ~Matthew 17:5

O Eternal Word, 
Word of my God, 
would that I might spend my life listening to you, 
would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from you; 
in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, 
may I ever keep my eyes fixed on you 
and abide under your great light; 
O my Beloved Star,
fascinate me 
so that I may never be able 
to leave your radiance. 
~Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Burned Out!

Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  ~Ephesians 5:8

Christ Himself says, "I am the light of the world." And we are the light, we ourselves, if we receive it from Him.... But how do we receive it, how do we make it shine? ... The candle tells us: by burning, and being consumed in the burning.  A spark of fire, a ray of love, an inevitable immolation are celebrated over that pure, straight candle, as, pouring forth its gift of light, it exhausts itself in silent sacrifice.”  ~Pope Paul VI

Dear Jesus, gladly let me be burned out for love of You!  Amen.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The gift God loves most

"How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?"  ~Psalm 116:12

"Put your heart at His feet. It is the gift He loves most."  ~St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Sunday, August 3, 2014

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"They all ate and were satisfied."  ~Matthew 14:20

Our Lord in a desert place changed a few loaves into many, and at Cana turned water into wine. Thus before the time came to give men and women his own body and blood to feed on, he accustomed their palates to his bread and wine, giving them a taste of transitory bread and wine to teach them to delight in his life-giving body and blood.

He gave them things of little value for nothing to make them understand that his supreme gift would be given yet more freely. He gave them for nothing what they could have bought from him, what in fact they wanted to buy, to teach them that he asked them for no payment.

When it was not permitted them to give him the price of bread and wine, which they could have done, they certainly could not pay him for his body and blood.

Moreover, as well as giving freely he lovingly cajoled us, offering us these small things without charge to attract us and cause us to go and receive something greater and beyond all price.

He awakened our desire by things pleasing to the palate in order to draw us to that which gives life to the soul. He gave a sweet taste to the wine he created to show how great is the treasure hidden in his life-giving blood.

Consider how his creative power penetrates everything. Our Lord took a little bread, and in the twinkling of an eye multiplied it. Work that would take us ten months to accomplish he did with his ten fingers in a moment.

His hands were as earth beneath the bread and his voice was as thunder above it. The movement of his lips acted as dew, the breath of his mouth as sunlight, and in a brief moment he accomplished what normally takes much time.

Thus the shortage was forgotten; many loaves came from few as in the first blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

The Lord also showed those to whom he gave his precepts the power of his holy word, and how swiftly he would reward those who accepted it. Nevertheless, he did not increase the number of loaves as much as he could have done, but only enough to satisfy those who were to eat them.

His power was not the measure of his miracle, but the people’s hunger. Had his miracle been measured by his power it would have been a victory beyond all measure. Measured by the hunger of thousands, there was a surplus of twelve baskets full.

Humans who practice any craft always fall short of their customers’ desires—they are unable to meet their requirements; but what God does goes beyond anyone’s desire.

The Lord said: “Gather up what remains so that nothing is wasted” because he wanted to be sure they would not think they had seen a vision. When the fragments had been kept for a day or two they would believe the Lord had really done this, and they had not just imagined it.

~St. Ephrem, c.306-373

Dear Lord, awaken and increase
my desire for You, 
the True and Living Bread,
You who alone can satisfy
all the hungers of the human heart.