Friday, January 22, 2016

Salvation Through Forgiveness of Our Sins

Many sorrows has the wicked,
but loving mercy surrounds one who trusts in the Lord.
~Psalm 32(31):10

I am meditating.  I am thinking of what I have come to think of as fundamental to our search for peace, for non-violence.  A flood of water (and Christ is living water) washes out sins -- all manner of filth, degradation, fear, horror.  He is also the Word.  And studying the New Testament, and its commentators, I have come in this my seventy-sixth year, to think of a few holy words of Jesus as the greatest comfort of my life:  "Judge not.... Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.... Forgive seventy times seven times."  All words of our Lord and Savior.  "I have knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of my sins," Zechariah sang in his canticle (Luke 1:68-79).

...The teaching of Christ, the Word, must be upheld.  Held up though one would think that it is completely beyond us -- out of our reach, impossible to follow.  I believe Christ is our Truth and is with us always.  We may stretch towards it, falling show, falling seventy times seven, but forgiveness is always there.  He is a kind and loving judge....

~Dorothy Day

But I have trusted in thy mercy.
My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation:
I will sing to the Lord, who giveth me good things:
yea I will sing to the name of the Lord the most high.
~Psalm 13(12):6-7

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"he is always close to us"

Even the most sincere, the most deeply founded in faith, go through hours of despair. At such times it is important to continue praying. Perhaps it will sound as if we are talking into an echo chamber. Or perhaps we will feel that our efforts are so insignificant, so weak, that our voice can never reach heaven. But prayer never depends on our feeling close to God; he is always close to us, and he does hear us.  
~Johann Christoph Arnold

Fear not, for I am with you,
be not dismayed, for I am your God
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
~Isaiah 41:10

Dear Lord, I will listen to You and not my feelings.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"let your trust in God be great and humble"

O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!
How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!
~Romans 11:33

When you see wicked people living in lust and happiness while godly ones live in poverty and pain, let your trust in God be great and humble. Who are you, that you should have the impudence to know the ways of the One, or search the paths of the Incomprehensible? It is enough that you know what is required for your own righteousness. So be silent before God’s righteousness, which is far beyond your grasp.  ~Else Schubert-Christaller
O my Jesus, unfathomable mystery of the Father's eternal love, I trust in You!

Monday, January 18, 2016

"Let me not sink to be a clod..."

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified;
Not this way went the Crucified;)
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God!

~Amy Carmichael, 1867-1951

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Wedding at Cana

"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee..."  ~John 2:1

The Son of God went to the wedding so that marriage, which had been instituted by his own authority, might be sanctified by his blessed presence. He went to a wedding of the old order when he was about to take a new bride for himself through the conversion of the Gentiles, a bride who would for ever remain a virgin. He went to a wedding even though he himself was not born of human wedlock. He went to the wedding not, certainly, to enjoy a banquet, but rather to make himself known by miracles. He went to the wedding not to drink wine, but to give it, for when there was none left for the wedding guests, the most blessed Mary said to him: “They have no wine.”

Jesus answered as though he were displeased. “Woman,” he said, “is that my concern, or yours?” It can hardly be doubted that these were words of displeasure. However, this I think was only because his mother mentioned to him so casually the lack of earthly wine, when he had come to offer the peoples of the whole world the new chalice of eternal salvation. By his reply, “My hour has not yet come,” he was foretelling the most glorious hour of his passion, and the wine of our redemption which would obtain life for all. Mary was asking for a temporal favor, but Christ was preparing joys that would be eternal. Nevertheless, the Lord in his goodness did not refuse this small grace while great graces were awaited.

Holy Mary, therefore, since she was in very truth the Mother of the Lord, and in her spirit knew in advance what would happen and foresaw the Lord’s will, took care to advise the servants to do whatever he told them. Of course this holy Mother knew that the rebuke of her Son and Lord was not an insult born of anger, but that it contained a mysterious compassion.

Then, to save his Mother from embarrassment because of his reproach, the Lord revealed his sovereign power. Addressing the expectant servants he said: “Fill the jars with water.” The servants promptly obeyed, and suddenly in a marvelous way the water began to acquire potency, take on color, emit fragrance, and gain flavor—all at once it changed its nature completely!

Now this transformation of the water from its own substance into another testified to the powerful presence of the Creator. Only he who had made it out of nothing could change water into something whose use was quite different. Dearly beloved, have no doubt that he who changed water into wine is the same as he who from the beginning has thickened it into snow and hardened it into ice. It is he who changed it into blood for the Egyptians and bade it flow from the dry rock for the thirsty Hebrews—the rock which, newly transformed into a spring, was like a mother’s breast refreshing with its gentle flow a countless multitude of people.

Scripture says that “this sign at Cana in Galilee was the first that Jesus performed He manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” It was not what they saw happening that the disciples believed, but what could not be seen by bodily eyes. They did not believe that Jesus Christ was the son of the Virgin—that was something they knew. Rather they believed that he was the only Son of the Most High, as this miracle proved.

And so let us too believe wholeheartedly that he whom we confess to be the Son of Man is also the Son of God. Let us believe not only that he shared our nature, but also that he was consubstantial with the Father; for as a man he was present at the wedding, and as God he changed the water into wine. If such is our faith, the Lord will give us also to drink of the sobering wine of his grace.

~Attributed to Maximus of Turin

Beloved Lord Jesus, Son of the Most High and Son of the Virgin Mary,
give us to drink always of the sobering wine of Your most amazing grace!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The joy of the Lord is our strength. ~Nehemiah 8:10

It is wrong to be sad. Christians cannot be pessimists. Christians must always nourish in their hearts the fullness of joy. Try it, brothers and sisters; I have tried it many times and in the darkest moments, when slander and persecution were at their worst: to unite myself intimately with Christ, my friend, and to feel a comfort that all the joys of the earth do not give – the joy of feeling yourself close to God, even when humans do not understand you. It is the deepest joy the heart can have. ~Oscar Romero
Glorify the Lord with me;
together let us praise his name.
~Psalm 34(35):4

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Holy Family

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another, 
if one has a grievance against another; 
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love, 
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, 
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
~Colossians 3:12-15

"Jesus, blest light of heaven and highest hope of earth...
Grant that we may be able to reproduce in our family life
the grace of every virtue with which Your home abounded."
Hymn for Vespers for the Feast of the Holy Family

Friday, January 8, 2016

"In Jesus of Nazareth, mercy has appeared and lives." ~Pope Francis, 1/5/16 Tweet

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
~William Blake, "The Divine Image"

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  The saying is sure.  ~Titus 3:4-8

Jesus, my mercy and joy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"imitate the Magi"

The star of the Magi is thus an inspiration in the heart.  Something unknown shines within you.  You are in the darkness and among dissipations, or perhaps even the world's corruption:  turn to the East, where the stars arise; turn to Jesus Christ, who is the Orient, where you will see arising like a star the love of virtue and truth.  Go forward then; imitate the Magi.  "We have seen his star, and we have come" (Mt 2:2).  We saw it, and we started after it.  To go where?  We still do not know.  We begin by leaving our homes.  You should leave the world itself, that world for which this new star, this chaste inspiration that burns your heart, begins to give you a secret distaste.

Go to Jerusalem; receive the light of the Church.  Go, leave behind your home, or rather, leave the place of your banishment that you take to be your home, because it is in corruption that you were born.  From your mother's womb, accustomed to the life of the senses, pass now to another region.  There you will find the doctors who will interpret the prophecies for you and help you to understand the plan of God.  And you will walk securely, thanks to their direction.  Learn to  know Jerusalem, and the creche of your Savior, and the bread that he prepares for you in Bethlehem.

~Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, 1627-1704

O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
to You I turn, to You I come --
my Star, my Sun,
my Everlasting Light!
Jesus, my Lord!
My God and my All!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"We always have these precious, irreplaceable moments..."

To Your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, or like a watch in the night. ~Psalm 90:4

This God who came to dwell among us, who knew the same servitude we ourselves know, and who, in particular, knew all the boredom of a monotonous life -- may He deign to lighten for us the use we must make of time....  Our Lord, first as a child, then as an adolescent, then as an adult, shows us the true attitude we should have.  We must redeem time, and transform each moment into the will of God realized, that is to say, make an act of love.  All the rest has no importance.  It is not the number nor the grandeur of our actions that counts.  It has nothing to do with breaking records. The time Jesus spent at Nazareth was a slow time, a time of calm and quiet, monotonous, dull, and in the judgment of most people, boring.

Oh, mystery of the hidden life!  Oh, slow days of Jesus and Mary and Joseph, rich, overflowing with the same gestures, accomplished in humility, and performed for the Father in heaven!  Oh, remedy against boredom!

...couldn't we learn to busy ourselves worthily?  Don't we have everything in our heads, in our hearts?  Can't we take advantage of these passing moments which will soon be lost to us for eternity?  Couldn't we grab hold of them and make them yield all the goodness and sweetness and effacement they contain?  Let's never believe we have nothing to do.  We always have these precious, irreplaceable moments, which we would love so much if we could understand that they are fleeting, nevermore to return.  Even the most difficult moments would have an extraordinary delectability if we learned to redeem them instead of always stupidly wanting them to run away.

Let us learn, by the spectacle of a God waiting thirty years in what we would call "doing nothing," the true value of time and in what our dignity consists.  It is certainly not merely going as fast as possible without knowing why, for whom, or toward what.

~Mother Marie des Douleurs, Joy Out of Sorrow
Dear Lord, deliver me from boredom.  In other words, deliver me from myself, for I alone am the source and cause of my boredom.  Teach me the wondrous "mystery of the hidden life" and show me how to redeem every moment of every day as You did, by living with and for the Father, confident of His goodness and secure in His love.  O Jesus, God-with-us!

Monday, January 4, 2016

"creeping up to Christ"

Adoration of the Magi by William Blake

Humility alone has the key in Divine mysteries. Think what a surprise awaited the Magi at Bethlehem – the star resting there, over that poor cottage! The Desired of all nations, the King of kings so housed; an artisan the sole attendant of the Royal Mother and her Child! Yet how quickly they adjusted themselves to it all – "and falling down they adored Him."  Only by divesting ourselves of our preconceived notions and creeping up to Christ with the open mind of one who knows nothing of His ways but is prepared to be a docile student, do we come to feel – first wonder, then admiration, love, gratitude, and at last, God helping, the desire to follow.

O come, let us bow and bend low!
~Psalm 95:6

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Epiphany of the Lord

Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.
~Matthew 2:2

Ave Maria! On this gladsome feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, I share with you this beautiful reflection on the Magi as they followed the star that led them to the Divine Child -- "God from God, light from light, true God from true God!" This meditation is a letter from our pastor, Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds, that appeared in our bulletin today at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church here in Houston, TX. Come, dear friends, let us hasten to Bethlehem and see! Let us adore our dear Lord and Savior and let Him make us His light-bearers to the dark and weary world. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The Magi, who made their way to the manger of Bethlehem, are only the beginning of a great procession, which winds throughout history. On this Epiphany – a word that means, “manifestation” – we commemorate Christ’s revelation of himself to the wider world, represented by the three Wise Men who comes from the peripheries of the world to worship the Word-Made-Flesh. We join them in humbling ourselves before the Lord of all the world, our Savior.

The Old Testaments readings from today’s Mass depict in bold imagery the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jerusalem: both the Jerusalem on earth and the new and eternal Jerusalem, where Christ reigns in Glory. Isaiah writes, “Nations shall walk by your light, kings by the radiance of your dawning” (Isaiah 60:3). A pilgrimage that began with the shepherds now continues with the Magi, and we are invited to take part, for in the Incarnation, God is revealed to us as well.

If we need a lesson in what it means to be a pilgrim, we have only to look at the Wise Men of the Gospel. They were not aimless wanderers or vagabonds, but travelers with a purpose and destination. They were also seekers of the truth. Their own cultures and religions could not supply adequate answers to their questions, and they were looking for something great. They found it in a manger in Bethlehem.

The Magi were also men of courage. They were willing to go forth towards the unknown and uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers. Their decision to go to Israel may have been meet with derision by their peers, but the Magi could not do otherwise. They were seized inwardly by God, and so the way that he pointed out to them was more important than what other people thought.

We need to become more like these Wise Men, not necessarily by undertaking an outward journey, but by making an inner pilgrimage of the heart. This is accomplished by being attentive to God’s presence, by moving through life with a purpose born of faith, and by living with courage, knowing that doing God’s will is more life-giving than surrendering to the whims of others or to the expectations of the popular culture.

We ask Mary, who as a loving mother showed the new King of the world to the Magi, to show Jesus Christ to us and to guide us along the way that leads to Him.
~Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds, Pastor, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Houston, TX 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

"not simply a season of merriment"

But if [our] thankfulness is genuine, where are its fruits? What return have I made to this "God with us," for His Life on earth for me? (cf, Ps 116:12) Have I even taken the trouble to know it in any detail, to bring myself under its influence, to study its lessons, to suffer myself to be won by His generosity so as to return Him love for love?

This is what the saints have done and are doing on earth today. To them Christmas is not simply a season of merriment that happily closes the year. The Crib is not a mere accessory of the time, to be visited by the elders out of condescension to the children or for the satisfaction of curiosity should it happen to offer any attraction to artistic taste. The Crib of St. Francis was a study, a model for imitation. How many of us go to it for this?

~Mother Mary Loyola, With the Church, Volume 1, Advent to the Ascension
Originally published in 1924 by Burns, Oates & Washbourne
Republished  by St. Augustine Academy Press, 2015

O Beloved Child of Bethlehem, lead me to Your crib that I may not only learn of You, so gentle and humble of heart, but also, through Your grace and truth, become ever more like You, for the Father's honor, praise and glory. Amen.