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The Eucharist, Our Food for the Journey

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 23:02

Why do we receive the Eucharist? To some, that may seem like a silly question. It’s the body and blood of Jesus, so why wouldn’t we receive it? However, I don’t think the issue is quite so simple. Yes, it’s great to have God physically present among us, but why would we want to eat and drink that presence? What exactly does consuming Jesus’ body and blood do for us? That’s a much tougher question to answer, and in this article, I want to look at how the Bible answers it. Specifically, I want to look at what Jesus said about the importance of the Eucharist in our spiritual lives.

For the Life of the World

Many Catholics are familiar with the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. In it, Jesus gives a sermon that scholars call the Bread of Life Discourse, and this sermon (particularly verses 51-58) is often used in apologetics to show that the Eucharist really is Jesus’ body and blood. He repeatedly tells his followers that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, clearly confirming the Catholic belief that the Eucharist is not just a symbol.

However, this sermon teaches us more than just the bare fact of Jesus’ real presence; it also tells us a bit about the role the Eucharist is supposed to play in our spiritual lives. In particular, one thing Jesus says in it is packed to the brim with meaning:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

When we read Jesus’ words about his flesh being given “for the life of the world,” most of us understand him to be referring to his sacrificial death. On the cross, Jesus gave his life, his flesh, to redeem the entire world (1 John 2:1-2), and he gives us that very same flesh in the Eucharist. However, I would suggest that there is more here than meets the eye. Yes, Jesus is referring to his death, but his words have a second meaning as well, one that tells us a lot more about the role the Eucharist should play in our spiritual lives.

The New Manna

If we go back and read this verse in context, we can see that the Bread of Life Discourse was prompted by a short dialogue that Jesus had with his audience. In this dialogue, the people ask him what sign he would perform so they could know for sure that he came from God, and they cite the manna, the miraculous bread from heaven that sustained the Israelites as they traveled to the Promised Land after their exodus from Egypt (the story is recounted in Exodus 16:1-36), as an example of the kind of sign they’re looking for (John 6:30-31). In response, Jesus tells them that the manna foreshadowed the “true bread from heaven” that God would later give his people (John 6:32), and then he begins his Bread of Life Discourse, where he explains that he himself (and ultimately his body and blood in the Eucharist) is the “bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:41, 51).

With that background, we can see that when Jesus says that his flesh is given “for the life of the world” in the Eucharist, he means that his flesh is the new manna, the “true bread from heaven” that is intended to sustain all of us on our journey to our heavenly homeland just as the manna in the Old Testament fed the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land. However, this raises a question for us. How exactly does the Eucharist sustain us spiritually? What does it really mean to say that the Eucharist is our food for our journey to heaven?

Eternal Life

In the rest of the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus gives us a few clues to help us answer those questions. First, he tells us:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:53-54)

In this passage, Jesus teaches us that the Eucharist quite literally sustains our spiritual lives. Without it, as he says, we “have no [spiritual] life” in us. In other words, it helps to sustain the life of grace within us, the grace that we receive at baptism and that we believe will flower into the life of heaven once we die, just as earthly food sustains our physical lives. More specifically, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, the Eucharist “preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace,” “separates us from sin,” and “preserves us from future mortal sins” (CCC 1392-1393, 1395).

Abiding in Christ

Secondly, Jesus tells us that “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56). Now, this verse is interesting because it’s the reverse of what we would expect him to say. We would expect Jesus to first say that the Eucharist allows him to abide in us (after all, we receive him in this sacrament, not the other way around) and only secondly to say that it allows us to abide in him, but that’s not what he does. No, he reverses the order, implying that our presence within him is more important than his presence within us.

But what does that mean? How can we abide in Jesus? He doesn’t answer this question in the Bread of Life Discourse, but he picks up this loose thread later in John’s Gospel and subtly explains what he means:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6)

Now, the connection between these two passages is obscured a bit in many English translations. In the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus says that the Eucharist allows us to “abide” in him, and here he’s saying that we must “remain” in him. Those are two different verbs, but in Greek they’re actually the same word. Consequently, for John’s original readers, the connection would have been crystal clear.

And what precisely is that connection? The Eucharist allows us to “abide” or “remain” in Jesus just as branches abide in their vine. Just as a vine gives life to its branches and allows them to grow and flourish, so too does the Eucharist connect us to the source of our spiritual life, Jesus, allowing us to grow and flourish spiritually. It allows us to bear fruit for God, obeying his laws and following his will for our lives, and without it, we can’t fulfill our vocations or live faithful Catholic lives. In a nutshell, this sacrament connects us to the source of all grace and holiness, and the more we receive it, the stronger that connection becomes.

Food for the Journey

So the next time you go to Mass and receive Communion, remember that you’re not just performing some archaic religious ritual that Jesus instituted a couple thousand years ago. No, when we receive the Eucharist, we nourish our souls with the new manna, the new bread from heaven that sustains our spiritual lives just like the manna in the Old Testament sustained the Israelites’ physical lives. It strengthens us to live as faithful Christians in a hostile world, making sure that we remain connected to the source of all holiness and spiritual strength, Jesus Christ. Simply put, the Eucharist is food for our journey home, food that helps us to survive the hostile desert of this world and arrive safely at our heavenly homeland.

image: pixabay (cc0)

Today we celebrate the feast of the

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 23:00

Today we celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. An avid persecutor of Christians, he is knocked down from his horse and transformed into God’s great Apostle to the Gentiles: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

In the Gospel reading, before the risen Jesus ascends into heaven, he commissions his disciples to preach the Good News, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.” Salvation is for all: nobody should set limits to whom the Good News is preached.

The mission to preach the Good News is as valid today as it was at the time of Jesus. Though we may not be ordained ministers of the Church, by our baptism we are called to share the same Good News to all. Most of us do so not by active preaching but by witnessing to the Good News by the lives we live. In the way we live we radiate the goodness and love of God. Hopefully others will find their way to God in and through us.

General Audience

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 23:00

St Peter`s Square
Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Dear brothers and sisters: In my recent Apostolic Journey to Chile and Peru, I had the joy of encountering God’s pilgrim people and encouraging the growth of social harmony in respect for the rich diversity of those nations. In Chile, I stressed the importance of listening to the voices of all: the poor, the young and the elderly, the immigrant and the voice of the earth itself. I encouraged the Church in its path of purification and renewal, and, appealing to the example of Saint Alberto Hurtado, I encouraged educators to help the young to share in the building of a just and inclusive society. In Peru, I expressed my confidence that the nation’s environmental, spiritual and cultural riches can contribute to to building unity and cooperation in meeting the grave challenges facing society. In my meeting with the Amazonian peoples, I stressed the importance of mutual respect and care for the natural environment. In Trujillo, hard hit by natural disasters, I invited all to work together in confronting the social problems of crime and the lack of education, employment and housing. In Lima, I concluded my visit to these two countries by appealing to the example of the saints and asking their intercession as the Church pursues the path of conversion and mission, and strives to be a messenger of unity, hope and peace for all peoples.

The Conversion of St. Paul

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 23:00

St. Paul, known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, was born in the city of Tarsus, a Roman city, thereby giving him Roman citizenship. At his circumcision, he was given the Hebrew name Saul. At a young age his parents sent him to Jerusalem to be instructed in the Mosaic Law under the greatest Rabbi of his time, Gamaliel.

Saul was an excellent student and as a Pharisee was respected for his great intellect and zeal for the Jewish faith and traditions. Because the Jews had a rule that their children should learn a trade along with their studies, Saul learned to make tents.  This is a trade that provided him with the finances he needed later in his life to travel and evangelize. Because of Saul’s great zeal for Jewish law and traditions, he was very upset about his Jewish brethren who were following the New Way, as Christianity was first called. So, thinking that he was serving God, Saul became the worst enemy of Christians. He hunted them down and dragged them out of their homes, imprisoning them and even having them killed. In fact, Saul was a witness to the stoning of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. Because Saul was a leader, he stood by and watched as those stoning Stephen laid their cloaks at his feet. It’s very likely that Saul ordered Stephen to be stoned.

Saint Luke’s recording of this story in his book of Acts is not merely an historical account. While drawing his last breath, Stephen called out to God to forgive those that were stoning him. St. Augustine later declared that had Stephen not prayed, the Church would have never had the great Apostle Paul. For it was Stephen’s prayer that planted the seed which later helped Saul on his path to conversion.

Saul’s conversion occurred when he was on his way to the city of Damascus. He had gone to the high priest and the Sanhedrin for a commission to allow him to go where he knew there were many new Christians, to arrest them and take them back to Jerusalem for trial. The journey to Damascus took about two days by horseback. When he and his men were very near the city, they were suddenly surrounded by a light so bright that it knocked Saul to the ground. The account of what happened then is related in the book of Acts, chapter 9. “They heard a voice from heaven that said: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ And Saul said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground and when his eyes were opened he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.

“For three days he was without sight and neither ate nor drank. There was a disciple there named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying.  And he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name.’

“So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me that you may regain you sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.” From that time forth, Saul went on to preach about Christ. Because he was so well-known as a Pharisee and was now evangelizing for Christ, Saul began being persecuted by his Jewish brethren in the same way he had been persecuting the Christians. At some point he decided to start using his Roman name, Paul.

After spending some time with the disciples of Christ in Damascus, God called Paul to Arabia where he spent at least two years or more in the desert. It is believed that this is where Paul had visions much like the vision St. John writes about in his book of Revelation. The Lord prepared Paul to teach the Gospel, and when Paul returned from the desert, after a short stay in Damascus, he went directly to Jerusalem where he met with Peter, our first pope, and some of the other Apostles, to receive Peter’s blessing before he started on his ministry. Paul spent the rest of his life traveling and spreading the Gospel of Jesus, establishing churches and teaching others to lead in his absence. Paul’s epistles to the churches that he established make up over one-fourth of the New Testament. He truly is the greatest missionary in Church history.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

— 2 Corinthians 12:10

Dear St. Paul, I wish I could say that I am content with weakness, mistreatment, distress, persecution, and dif­ficulties, but that is not the case. All too often I complain at the least struggle or trial. Pray for me that I obtain the grace I need to endure all things for the sake of Christ. Help me to see that when I am most powerless, Christ can fortify me if I surrender my suffering to Him. May the strength of Christ fill me, and may I embrace the Cross with valor and conviction.

Lessons

There is much we can learn from the conversion of St. Paul. One lesson is that we should never judge others. St. Paul, the worst enemy of the early Christians, would seem to be the most unlikely convert to the Church. But God had a plan for Saul, just as He does for each of us. We never know how some small thing that we may say or do will affect another person. When Paul watched Stephen die a holy death, praying for his persecutors, it had to have an impact on him.  And Stephen’s prayer was heard by God. The seed that Stephen planted by his Christian forgiveness of his enemies helped in the conversion of St. Paul. We are all called to be evangelists, to plant seeds of faith wherever we can — in our families and our work places.  We never know when something we do or say might transform another or even bring a great saint and missionary to the Church like St. Paul.

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, we thank you for St. Paul and his tremendous witness in the early Church that is still impacting us today. We pray that You will bring others into today’s Church — our separated brethren, who like Paul are so often misguided, and also like St. Paul are zealous in their persecution of Catholics. We pray that You will bring them back to the one fold and that through their zeal for the faith, millions will come to the fullness of Truth. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.

A Real Picture of Loving in Sickness and in Health

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 12:03

Imagine a man linking arms with his wife and leading her everywhere she goes.  She has lost nearly all her sight, so must rely on himShe is also quite ill and utterly exhausted.  The man longs for a happier season of marriage, but this is what they’ve been dealt, so he bears it.  He picks up her prescriptions, he helps her eat her meals, and take her medications.   He leads her into the doctor’s, and out.  He helps her out of the car, and into the car—mostly with success, though at one point she sits down facing backward in the front passenger seat.  In short, this man serves his wife…as best he can.

You might be surprised to find out that I was this man—no less than a week after mine and my wife’s honeymoon.  To clear things up, though, my wife is not blind. Shortly after our marriage, both of her eyes became terribly affected by a viral infection, so much so that it left scarring on her face.  The doctor also thought she might permanently lose some sight.  Thanks be to God, she didn’t lose any sight, and she recovered quite well.

But our interactions as described above lasted—if I recall correctly—for over a week.  No less than a month into our marriage, then, it seemed God was really seeking to teach us about the whole “in sickness and in health” thing.  As a Catholic man, I learned about this fundamental aspect of marriage in that experience.

Living with someone as sickly as my wife (this wasn’t just some fluke episode), I have seen the real nastiness of sickness.  Sickness is, in the words of a Priest who served at my college, a “harbinger of death.”  There is really no pretending one is strong when one is terribly sick.  One becomes incapacitated, as it were, and overcome by the fragility of one’s body, spirit and mind.  To rely on the care of another feels almost like a necessity.  In the context of marriage, the couple’s experience of this can serve to teach them invaluable lessons.  For my own part, mine and my wife’s experience has caused me to reflect on the deepest and most fundamental meaning of marriage.

There is a particularly troubling conception of marriage in our time that basically posits that one’s spouse is primarily a means for the fulfillment of one’s emotional and sexual desires.  The Church’s conception of marriage is quite different.  Of course, She doesn’t claim that God forbids the fulfillment of these desires within marriage.  In fact, She knows that our Lord, having Himself made such desires, sees their fulfillment as good—almost necessary—aspects of marriage.  That said, She also knows that He desires for spouses to penetrate deeper, to the very heart of marriage—which, as Pope John Paul II reminded us of in his Theology of the Body, is self-gift.

Having experienced my wife being very ill on many occasions has helped me see what is required of the man who desires to make a gift of himself to his wife in marriage.  Two words come to mind in this regard: sacrifice and service. In scripture, St. Paul instructs us: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church” (Eph. 5:25).  How did Christ love the Church?  He loved Her precisely through sacrifice and service, as was evidenced most perfectly on the Cross.  On that terrible instrument of torture, He sacrificed His very life for all of mankind. In so doing, He accomplished everything necessary for the possibility of reconciliation between God and man, and made Himself radically available to all men, to serve them in all their needs and when they are at their weakest.

This has major implications for our marriages, brothers.  If we cannot serve our wives, making the necessary sacrifices to be radically available to them when they are needy and weak from illness, then we will have failed to love them as they ought to be loved.  What is more, we will have failed to love God as He ought to be loved.  To love one’s wife well in health and in sickness (I like the words better in that order) can be very difficult…but so was the Cross.

The post A Real Picture of Loving in Sickness and in Health appeared first on Those Catholic Men.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Those Catholic Men.

What Is the Sign of the Cross?

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 23:07

The Sign of the Cross is a Christian ceremony that represents the Passion of our Lord by tracing the shape of the Cross with a simple motion.

It is a ceremony, I say, and here is what is meant by that term. A skillful manager assigns to each of his subordinates his proper task, making all of them useful, not only those who are vigorous and energetic, but also those who are less so. Similarly, the virtue of religion, hav­ing for its proper and natural work to render to God the honor that is His due, draws up each of our virtuous ac­tions into its own work by directing them all to the honor of God. Religion makes use of faith, constancy, and tem­perance for the good deeds of testimony, martyrdom, and fasting. These actions are already virtuous and good in themselves; religion merely directs them to its particular intention, which is to give honor to God. Yet not only does religion make use of actions that are in themselves good and useful; it also employs actions that are indiffer­ent or even entirely useless. In this regard the virtue of re­ligion is like that good man in the Gospel (Matt. 20:6–7) who hires the lazy and those for whom others had found no use to work in his vineyard.

Indifferent actions would remain useless if religion did not employ them, but once put to work by it, they become noble, useful, and holy, and henceforth capable of earning their daily wage. This right of ennobling ac­tions which if left to themselves would be only common and indifferent belongs to religion, the princess of the virtues. It is a sign of her sovereignty. It is religion alone that makes use of such actions, which are — and are prop­erly called — ceremonies as soon as they enter into her service. Truly, inasmuch as the whole man with all of his actions and belongings ought to give honor to God, and inasmuch as he is composed of soul and body, interior and exterior, and in the exterior there are indifferent actions, it is no wonder that religion — having the duty to sum­mon man to pay this tribute — demands and receives in payment exterior actions, indifferent and bodily though they be.

Let us consider the world at its birth. Abel and Cain made their offerings (Gen. 4:3–4). What virtue called upon them to make these offerings if not religion? A little while later, the world came forth from the ark as from its cradle, and without a moment’s delay an altar was arranged and several animals were immolated upon it in a holocaust whose sweet odor was received by God (Gen. 8:18–21). In train there followed the sacrifices of Abraham (Gen. 12:8; 13:18; 22:13), Melchizedek (14:18), Isaac (26:25), Jacob (28:18; 33:20; 35:14), and the change and washing of the clothes associated with it (35:2–3). The greater part of the Law of Moses was taken up with ceremonies. Let us now come to the Gospel. How many ceremonies do we see there in our sacraments (Luke 22; John 3), in the healing of the blind (Mark 8), the raising of the dead (John 11:35–44), and the washing of the Apostles’ feet (John 13:4–5)?

This article is from “The Sign of the Cross.” Click on image to preview or order.

Some will say that in these things God did what He pleased and that no consequences for our practice can be inferred from them. Yet here is St. John baptizing (Mark 1:4), and St. Paul having his hair cut in accord with a vow (Acts 18:18) and then praying on his knees with the church in Miletus (Acts 20:36). All of these actions would have been sterile and fruitless in themselves, but employed in the work of religion they became honorable and effica­cious ceremonies.

Now here is what I have to say: the Sign of the Cross of itself has neither strength, nor power, nor any quality that merits honor, and, furthermore, I confess that “God does not work by figures or characters alone,” as the au­thor of one treatise says, and that “in natural things the power proceeds from the essence and quality of the thing, while in supernatural things God works by a miraculous power that is not attached either to signs or to figures.” But I also know that God, in making use of His miracu­lous power, very often employs signs, ceremonies, figures, and characters, without attaching His power to those things. Moses touching the rock with his staff (Exod. 17:6, Num. 20:11), Elisha striking the water with Elijah’s coat (2 Kings 2:14), the sick having recourse to St. Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15), to St. Paul’s handkerchiefs (Acts 19:12), or to the robe of our Lord (Matt. 14:36), and the Apostles anointing the sick with oil (Mark 6:13): what were these other than pure ceremonies, which had no natural power and were nevertheless employed unto miraculous ends? Is it necessary for us to say that the power of God was tied down and bound to these ceremonies? On the contrary, it would be more fitting to say that the power of God, by making use of so many different signs and ceremonies, shows that it is not bound to any one of them alone.

Our Five Points

Five points have thus far been made. First, the Sign of the Cross is a ceremony. In its natural quality a cross-like motion has nothing in it that is either good or evil, praiseworthy or blameworthy. How many times is such a motion made by weavers, painters, tailors, and others, whom nobody honors or troubles for it? It is the same with the cross-like shapes and figures that we see in ev­eryday images, windows, and buildings: these crosses are not directed to the honor of God or to any religious use. Yet when this sign is employed so as to give honor to God, even though it be indifferent in itself, it becomes a holy ceremony, one that God uses to many good ends.

Second, this ceremony is Christian. The Cross, to­gether with all that it represents, is folly to the pagans and a scandal to the Jews. Under the Old Law and under the law of nature, the death of the Messiah was heralded in different ways, but these signs were only shadows and confused, obscure marks compared with those we now use, and, moreover, they were not the ordinary ceremonies of the Old Law. The pagans and other infidels have also sometimes made use of this sign, but as something bor­rowed, as a sign not of their religion but of ours, and in this way the traitor himself confesses that the Sign of the Cross is a mark of Christianity.

Third, this ceremony represents the Passion. In truth, this is its first and chief end — that upon which all the others depend and which serves to differentiate it from several other Christian ceremonies that serve to repre­sent other mysteries.

Fourth, it represents the Passion by making a simple motion, which is what differentiates the Sign of the Cross from the Eucharist. For the Eucharist represents the Pas­sion by the perfect identity of the one who is offered in it and the one who was offered on the Cross, which is none other than the same Jesus Christ. The Sign of the Cross, however, represents the Passion by a simple motion that reproduces the form and shape of the Crucifixion.

Fifth, the Sign of the Cross consists in a motion, which is what differentiates it from permanent signs, engraved or marked out in enduring materials.

Making the Sign of the Cross

As a rule, the Sign of the Cross is made in the follow­ing way. It is made with the right hand, which, as Justin Martyr says, is esteemed the more worthy of the two. It is made either with three fingers, in order to signify the Blessed Trinity, or five, in order to signify the Sav-ior’s five wounds; and although it does not much matter whether one makes the Sign of the Cross with more or fewer fingers, still one may wish to conform to the com­mon practice of Catholics in order not to seem to agree with certain heretics, such as the Jacobites and the Ar­menians, who each make it with one finger alone, the former in denial of the Trinity and the latter in denial of the two natures of Christ.

The Christian first lifts his hand toward his head while saying, “In the name of the Father,” in order to show that the Father is the first person of the Blessed Trinity and the principle and origin of the others. Then, he moves his hand downward toward the stomach while saying, “and of the Son,” in order to show that the Son proceeds from the Father, who sent Him here below into the Vir-gin’s womb. Finally, he pulls his hand across from the left shoulder to the right while saying, “and of the Holy Spirit,” in order to show that the Holy Spirit, being the third person of the Blessed Trinity, proceeds from the Father and from the Son and is Their bond of love and charity, and that it is by His grace that we enjoy the ef­fects of the Passion.

When making the Sign of the Cross, therefore, we confess three great mysteries: the Trinity, the Passion, and the remission of sins, by which we are moved from the left, the hand of the curse, to the right, the hand of blessing.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in St. Francis de Sales’ The Sign of the Crosswhich is available through Sophia Institute Press. 

The Language of the Heaven-Bound

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 23:02

Jesus confirms that the only way to heaven is to become like a little child, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” So it is possible for us to do all that we are doing now supposedly for the sake of the kingdom but still miss out on this kingdom because we do not have that fundamental disposition of becoming like little children.

So we must ask what it means to become like little children on our way to the Father’s kingdom. How do we know that we are doing and enduring all things with a childlike disposition as we strive for the kingdom of God?

Our language in our relationship with God and with ourselves will show how childlike we are. There are five ways that we can know if our language reflects that of God’s children bound for heaven or not.

1. “Thank you, Lord.” To enter into the kingdom of God, we must see it as first and foremost a gift from God and not something that we can merit or earn in anyway. It is Jesus Christ alone who reveals the kingdom to us, makes it present in Himself, and affords us entry into this kingdom. We can neither believe in this kingdom nor lay claim to it apart from the merits of Christ won for us on the Cross and disposed to us in the sacraments of the Church, beginning with holy baptism. Though we are sinners with the potential to sin again, we must embrace the kingdom of God with gratitude because “Christ died for us while we were still sinners,”(Rom 5:8), His grace is “sufficient for us,”(2Cor 12:9) and He has come “not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”(Lk 5:32) The kingdom of God remains a gift no matter what we have to do or suffer to possess it.

2. “I cannot do anything on my own.” We must humbly admit that on our own, we cannot do anything worthy of the kingdom. We need the light and strength of divine grace to enlighten us to the beauty and glory of this mysterious kingdom, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.”(Lk 17:20) On our own, we cannot turn away from sin and all that is contrary to the divine will, love like Christ Jesus, cooperate with the His grace, and follow Him till the end of our lives. It is by the grace of God alone that we can embrace the mystery of the cross and suffering in our lives and be faithful to His divine will even at great costs. As Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing,”(Jn 15:5); in addition, “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”(Phil 4:13)

3. “Jesus, I trust in you.” Lest we fall into discouragement after admitting our inability to do anything without the grace of God, we place all our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and we depend on Him alone for everything. We trust in Jesus’ words to us and His promises to us and in the redemption that He has already won for us. We trust not only in the person of Jesus, but in the mysterious ways that He brings us into His kingdom. We trust that He chooses to communicate His own divine life to us through the sacramental signs of bread and wine in the Eucharist, “This is my body… this is my blood.”(Mt 26:26,28) We trust that the seed of the kingdom is growing mysteriously in this weak and sinful Catholic Church. We trust that He offers us in His kingdom communion with His own mother too, “Behold, your mother.”(Jn 19:27) We do not just trust in Jesus and His words and promises to us also, but also in the mysterious ways that He chooses to bring us into His kingdom.

4. “Lord Jesus, please help me.” If our trust in Jesus is as it should be, then we shall approach Jesus in all our needs with confidence as He invites us to do, “Ask and you shall receive… whoever asks receives.”(Mt 7:7) We can make all our requests and needs known to Him without any shame or fear of our prayers not being granted. As God’s children, we pray with the certainty that our prayers will be answered according to God’s mysterious holy will for our good and for the good of others.

5. “Lord, I come to do your will.” Having expressed our prayers sincerely and confidently from the heart, we will seek the will of God above all things. Filled with the sense of God’s goodness, we know that what God wills is the very best for us. We do not seek to please ourselves but to please God in all that we do. We would not be content in claiming that He is our Lord and master, but we will seek to do His will above all things, “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of God, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven.”(Mt 7:21)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Readings on the Feast of the Santo Niño fill us with this hope that is ours as God’s children. We now have access to God because “a child is born to us, a son is given us.” In this son, Jesus Christ, God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens.” In this son, God has “destined us for adoption to Himself.”

In today’s Gospel, we see this same Jesus Christ becoming indignant at His disciples who try to prevent the children from being brought to Him, “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” In Jesus Christ, God has drawn near to us all. Yet the children in today’s Gospel cannot approach Him on their own but they depend on others to bring them to Jesus. They have a sense of their need for the blessings of Jesus as well as their need for help to approach Him.

What prevents us from approaching Jesus like the children of God that we are? Has the sins and sufferings of our lives made us take the gift of His kingdom for granted? Are we trying to enter His kingdom by our own efforts and wisdom? Can we humbly admit our need for His help? Are we trusting in Him to the point that we accept the often mysterious ways that He chooses to guide us to His kingdom? Does our prayer life show that we depend on Him alone for all our needs? Where are we placing our trust today? Are we bent on doing our own will because we think we know what is best for us?

The image of the Santo Niño reminds us that Jesus has come to us in the form of an infant born of the Virgin so that we too may approach God as His beloved children. He comes to us hidden under the form of bread and wine in today’s Eucharist because He desires to treat us like He treated the children in today’s gospel, “He embraced the children and blessed them, placing His hands on them.” We have access to the embrace, blessings, and touch of Jesus that we need in this life to remain faithful to Him and to enter into His heavenly kingdom. All we have to do is always speak from the depths of our hearts the language of the heaven-bound children of God: “Thank you, Lord… I cannot do anything on my own….I trust in you, Lord…Please help me, Lord…Lord, I come to do your will.”

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

The Eastern Cross

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 23:01

Q: I was visiting an Orthodox Church, and I have always wondered why their cross has three bars with the bottom one slanted. Do you know?

The cross with which most Roman Catholics are familiar is technically termed the “Latin Cross,” which has the long vertical beam crossed about two-thirds up by a horizontal beam. This type of Cross,” is believed to be the one upon which the Romans crucified our Lord’ nailing His outstretched hands to the ends of the horizontal beam and his feet to the lower portion of the vertical beam.

In the Eastern Rite tradition of our Catholic Church and for the Orthodox Churches, a tradition developed of adding a shorter horizontal beam above the one holding the arms, and at the bottom of the cross, a lower slanted beam. This type of cross is commonly called the “Eastern Cross.”

The smaller upper beam represents Pontius Pilate’s inscription written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew: Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews (John 19:19). In Latin, the inscription reads, “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum,” which is simply reduced to “INRI” on most replicas.

The lower beam represents the footrest upon which our Lord’s feet were nailed. Several traditions exist which explain the slanting. In the sixth century, the slanted beam symbolized the agony and struggle of our Lord during His suffering on the cross. The Gospel of St. Matthew reads, “Once again Jesus cried out in a loud voice, and then gave up His spirit. Suddenly the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, boulders split, tombs opened” (Matthew 27:50-52). At the traumatic climax when He gave up His spirit, the horizontal beam jerked from its horizontal position to the slanting position.

A tradition arising around the 11th century holds that the slanting beam symbolized the balance between the good thief and the bad thief: the good thief, known as St. Dismas, found salvation at the last moment of his life and would be raised up to Heaven, while the bad thief, cursing God in his last breath, would be thrust downward to Hell.

Another explanation for the slanted beam is that the cross is a combination of the Latin cross with the cross of St. Andrew. After Pentecost, St. Andrew evangelized the area of Asia Minor. One story recounts that he journeyed up the Dnieper River, planted a cross on a hill, and prophesied that one day there would be a great city, a center of Christianity. This city would one day be Kiev. Tradition also records that St. Andrew was martyred on an X-shaped cross on November 30, A.D. 60 during the reign of Emperor Nero at Patrae in Achaia in Greece.

When St. Vladimir converted to Christianity in 989, Kiev became the center of Christianity for the Slavic and Russian peoples, and St. Andrew was highly venerated. After the Schism of 1054 resulting from the political struggle and mutual excommunication between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Church in Russia eventually severed ties with Rome and became the Russian Orthodox Church. With the Mongol invasions beginning in the latter 1200s, the See of Kiev was abandoned and moved to Moscow, and Bishop Alexis (1354-89) adopted the title, “Metropolitan of Kiev and all of Russia.”

At this time, the Russian Orthodox Church officially adopted St. Andrew as its patron saint. Therefore, St. Andrew’s X-shaped cross, depicted by the slanted beam, was incorporated into the cross of our Lord, the traditional Latin cross. Moreover, political overtones motivated the incorporation: According to the Gospel of St. John, St. Andrew was the first to find the Messiah and then informed his brother Simon Peter (John 1:40-42); therefore, from a political perspective, the Bishop of Moscow under the patronage of St. Andrew claimed some preeminence over the Bishop of Rome under the patronage of St. Peter. Also, the distinctive cross with the upper beam and the slanted lower beam distinguished Orthodox Christianity from Roman Catholicism.

In all, whether we reverence the traditional Latin cross or the Eastern cross, we remember the sacrifice our Lord endured for our salvation, and we pray, “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Editor’s note: This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.

 

Jesus used the parable of the sower and

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 23:00

Jesus used the parable of the sower and the seed to give light to the kingdom of God which he had come to preach and initiate. He hoped that the parable taken from the daily life and experiences of his listeners would help his audience understand the nature and growth of the kingdom of God among the people.

In the parable he stressed that the seed of God’s word or message has to be received in fertile soil, in men and women with love of God and their fellow humans.

In order for God’s word to grow, there is need to remove obstacles against its acceptance and growth: worldly enticements and allurements, lack of interest and doubts, lack of perseverance in the midst of difficulties and challenges, useless worries and concerns, living lives of fantasy rather than of reality.

These and other temptations will test the survival and growth of the seed that we receive. Human preparation to be fertile ground for the seed is needed: willingness to listen and pray, generosity to work for and with others, willingness to sacrifice for others as may be needed. However, human efforts are not enough; eventually we need God’s grace and help.

We can learn from the lives of saints and holy people how they have allowed the seed of God’s word to grow and bear much fruit. Are we doing what must be done for us to bear fruit from hearing God’s word to us? What prevents our bearing fruit for the fuller growth and spread of the Kingdom of God in us and in our time?

St. Francis de Sales

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 23:00

St. Francis was born in France on August 21, 1567, to aristocratic parents. He had five younger brothers. Francis’ father desired for him to attend college in hopes that Francis would someday be a magistrate. For years, however, Francis felt God calling him to the priesthood, though he never mentioned it to his family.

He attended the colleges of La Roche and Annecy and then studied at the college of Clermont, Paris, under the care of Jesuits from 1583 until 1588. While at Clermont he began a course in theology. Once, while upset over discussions with other theologians about the question of predestination, Francis knelt before an image of our Blessed Mother and made a vow of chastity, consecrating himself to the Blessed Virgin.

In 1592, Francis received a doctorate in law and was about to be appointed a senator. His father even picked a wife for him, but Francis made it clear that he was intent on leading the ecclesiastical life. This did not go over well with his father, who continued trying to push a secular lifestyle on Francis. Then the Bishop of Geneva obtained for Francis the high position of Provost of the Chapter of Geneva. It was the highest office in the diocese, and finally Francis’ father relented. Francis received Holy Orders in the year 1593.

Francis didn’t immediately take to his position. He was not very happy to have his long golden locks cut, nor did he seem to be the most able preacher. Some complained to the bishop that he was conceited and seemed to be talking down to them. But soon Francis came to realize what God had called him to do. He was living during the time of the Protestant Reformation near Switzerland — Calvinist territory. At least 60,000 Swiss Catholics had left the Church to follow John Calvin and become Protestants. Francis decided that he needed to convert these souls back to the true Church.

The diocese could not afford to send anyone with him, nor would his father support what he felt to be a crazy idea. So Francis went to Switzerland with a cousin and spent the next three years having doors slammed in his face, spending nights out in the freezing cold, and sleeping wherever he could find shelter. After three years of this kind of torment and no results, his cousin abandoned him. Francis had not inspired even one conversion, and people were now no longer even opening their doors to him. He would not give up; however, and began writing his sermons on pieces of paper and sliding them under doors.

It seems that Francis had invented what we now call religious tracts. Francis befriended the children; and the parents, seeing how the children trusted him and how kind he was to them, soon started talking to him as well. By the time Francis returned to France, it is estimated that he had converted over 40,000 souls back to Catholicism.

In 1602, Francis was appointed Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland — the heart of Calvinist territory. In 1604, the Lord called Francis into an even deeper relationship with Him. Francis noticed a woman who was listening intently to one of his sermons. He recognized her as a woman whom he had seen in a dream. After his sermon, Jane de Chantal approached him about being her spiritual advisor. Francis was hesitant; he wanted to be sure the direction he took was God’s will. Jane was on the path to becoming a mystic and it wasn’t long after befriending her that Francis felt the Lord calling him in the same direction. Three years after meeting Jane, Francis decided they should form a new religious order. A stranger came and donated a convent to them. This came to be known as the Institute of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin.

Francis was tireless in his evangelization. He spent hours answering letters and preaching to lay persons. So many came to him for instruction in the faith that he hardly had any time for himself. This was a time when only monks and nuns would receive instruction on the way to holiness. But Francis decided that all people should be allowed to know how to become holier and gave of his time to people from all walks of life. He believed that even those who were very active in occupations could still lead holy lives. His most famous book, Introduction to the Devout Life, was written in 1608 for the ordinary people. It was a huge success all over Europe even though some priests felt it was shameful because Francis was tolerant of some jokes and dancing.

Francis advised busy people of the world to “retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others, and talk to God.” He was a great advocate of prayer but cautioned, “To be an angel in prayer and a beast in one’s relations with people is to go lame on both legs.”

Francis died three days after Christmas in 1622.

In 1877, Saint Francis de Sales was declared a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of journalists because of the books and tracts that he wrote which impacted so many lives. In 1923, he was also designated patron saint of the Catholic press.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

Our business is to love what God would have done. He wills our vocation as it is. Let us love that and not trifle away our time hankering after other people’s vocations.

— From a letter of St. Francis de Sales

How can “hankering after other people’s vocations” lead me to be discontented with what God has chosen for me? How does it deprive me of grace? In what ways can it lead me into sin?

Prayer

Dear Father, in these days of thousands of religious sects, we truly need the inspiration of saints like dear Francis de Sales. We pray that many will answer Your calling as Saint Francis did to bring our separated brethren home and to bring the Gospel to all. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Timothy (97), Bishop, Martyr, Patron Against Stomach Disorders

Are You a Thinker or a Doer?

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 23:07

“Accordingly, since certain men are especially intent on the contemplation of truth, while others are especially intent on external actions, it follows that man’s life is fittingly divided into active and contemplative.”

 St. Thomas Aquinas, ST, II-II, Q. 179, art. 1

After having considered differences among people in terms of the special graces some receive, Thomas examines differences in the types of lives that Christians may be called to live. These primary callings are to the contemplative life, where a person focuses on the inward contemplation of truth, and the active life, where he focuses on external actions and affairs in the world. I think of such people as thinkers and doers (and lovers as well).

These categories derive from the very nature of the human intellectual soul. “The life of plants consists of nourishment and generation; the life of animals of sensation and movement; and the life of men in their understanding and acting according to reason.” God gave us the capacities to know truth and to act for good We see this in the two main functions of our reasoning powers. By the workings of our speculative intellect, we contemplate truths and are perfected by the intellectual virtues of understanding, science, and reason. By the workings of our practical intellect, we get things done and are perfected by the virtues of art and prudence.

What do holy thinkers think?

Christian contemplatives are thinkers indeed, but they are far from professional academics or cool “Mr Spock” types who analyze the world with reason alone in detachment from the truths they seek. Indeed, contemplatives seek the highest truths of God, and their wills are fired by their love for him.  As Thomas notes, “There is delight in the contemplative life, not only by reason of the contemplation itself, but also by reason of the Divine love.” Citing St Gregory the Great, he expands on this theme: “The contemplative life is sweetness exceedingly lovable; for it carries the soul away above itself, it opens heaven and discovers the spiritual world to the eyes of the mind.” Contemplation of God is a foretaste of the eternal bliss of the beatific vision of God, although in a very imperfect form here on earth—“for the contemplation of wayfarers is imperfect, according to 1 Cor 13:12, We see now through a glass in a dark manner. ” It will be perfect in heaven when we see God “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12).

This article is from “The One-Minute Aquinas.” Click image to preview or order.

Four things necessary to the contemplative life are obtained in this order:

  • 1) moral virtues, which must be attained so we will not be disturbed by our passions or outward events and will be free to focus on truth.
  • 2) intellectual preparation in the form of acts such as focusing our attention, studying, and reasoning, to set the stage for contemplation.
  • 3) contemplation of divine effects, that is, of creatures and the workings of the world God created, which paves the way toward the final step.
  • 4) contemplation of the divine truth of God, the origin and sustainer of all of creation. A contemplative soul sees the goodness and beauty of God in even the least of his creatures, and when his eye sees the creature, his mind and his heart rise to the Creator.
What do holy doers do?

God has given us the capacity not only to know the truth, but to do the good In Aristotle’s terms, he has made us not only “rational animals,” but “political animals” too. We live together in communities and are called to look after each other’s welfare. As Christ told us, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and this suggests that we take actions for our neighbors’ good.  This is particularly the stuff of the moral virtues.

The moral virtues are geared toward action, and as Thomas notes: “The chief of the moral virtues is justice, by which one man is directed in his relations towards another. ” So then, “when we practice the works of the moral virtues as being good in themselves, and not as dispositions to the contemplative life, the moral virtues belong to the active life .” Prudence, that blend of intellectual and moral virtue that gets things done, is “right reason applied to action” and is therefore a quintessential virtue of the active life.

For a sample of the kinds of actions that those of the active life are called to do, I direct readers to St. Thomas’s excellent consideration of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in his article “Of Almsdeeds,” in question 32 of the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologica. In this part of the Summa, Thomas focuses attention on one particular act of the active life that might at first glance seem contemplative; this is the act of teaching The teacher must indeed contemplate truths and acquire wisdom. Indeed, a sure sign that someone possesses wisdom and knowledge is his ability to teach others Even when he shares those fruits of his contemplation, it is the work of the active life as well.

Thinking vs. doing: which one wins?

In one sense it is a false match-up to pit the two kinds of life against each other, since, although some of us are especially disposed to one or the other, we are all called to some extent to think about God and to do good things Thomas draws heavily on the writings of St Gregory the Great in his comparisons of the contemplative and active lives.  In using an example from the Old Testament, Gregory wrote that Jacob’s wife Leah, who was “blear-eyed” (Gen 29:17) but fruitful, “signifies the active life; which being occupied with work, sees less, and yet since it urges one’s neighbor both by word and example to its imitation, begets a number of offspring of good deeds. ” Gregory adds, “The contemplative life gives beauty to the soul, wherefore it is signified by Rachel, of whom it is said (Gen 29:17) that she was of a beautiful countenance.

The most famous biblical example is that of Martha, representing the active life, and her sister Mary, the contemplative Jesus declared, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41–42). Here we see Christ’s acknowledgment of the value of contemplation. Gregory would say: “Great are the merits of the active life, but greater still those of the contemplative.” Thomas would note as well that the contemplative part will not be taken away, since our eternal bliss will consist in the beatific vision of God himself.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Dr. Vost’s The One-Minute Aquinas, which is available from Sophia Institute Press

Three Ways to Overcome Perfectionism

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 23:05

In the age of social media, self-criticism and perfectionism are more prominent than ever. We continue to become increasingly focused on being “perfect”: having the perfect physique, having the perfect job, or keeping the perfect house. In reality, however, this striving for “perfection” simply makes us increasingly unhappy as we lose focus of what we are really working towards.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve ourselves, but both theology and science show us that it is a mistake to believe that we can somehow mentally force ourselves into perfection.

The Theology of the Body reminds us that God’s plan for us is written in the design of our bodies. Brain science shows that the more self-critical we are, the more our brains lock down and become resistant to change. It’s actually self-acceptance that creates the chemistry necessary for new neural connections to form.  Ultimately, it’s important to remember that while none of us is perfect, it is God’s love that perfects us.  We are destined to be, as Jesus puts it, “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” God does not expect us to get there on our own.  TOB teaches us that it only by cultivating a receptive posture to God’s love and grace that we are able to be transformed from the inside out through an authentic encounter with God’s love.  Perfection doesn’t come from flogging ourselves to be better. It comes from letting God love us and learning to see ourselves as he sees us–works in progress, certainly–but on the road, by his love and grace, to becoming the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people we are meant to be.

Here are three life hacks for preventing perfectionism from taking its toll on you:

1. Mind Your Mind

Beating yourself up, feeling “not good enough,” engaging in  self criticism are all signs that your brain is overheating. Brain science shows that giving into these behaviors actually makes the brain resistant to change as it locks down in the face of a perceived threat.  When you hear that inner-critic ramping up, don’t try to challenge those thoughts directly at first.

Instead, remind yourself that self-criticism is just a symptom of the real problem–trying to do too much, too fast.  Give yourself permission to slow down, to create more realistic goals, and make a more realistic plan.  Remind yourself that jobs take the time they take.  Getting mad at them, or yourself, doesn’t alter time.  It just makes you less able to make good time by making you less efficient and less effective.

2. Deadline and Done

Perfectionistic people have a hard time just walking away. They always feel like they have to add just a little more or review it just one more time. A better approach is to pretend that you are on one of those reality shows where you have a certain amount of time to complete a task and when the clock runs down you have to step away and be done.  Whether you are working on a particular project or trying to plan your day, give yourself what you think will be a reasonably generous amount of time to accomplish your tasks, but when that time hits, walk away.  You can always come back to it some other time if you need to.  But for today? Be done! Perfectionistic people tend to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture.

Setting an arbitrary deadline allows you to step back and gain perspective.  If a particular project really needs a little more effort, then it will still be there tomorrow. For now, move on to other things–like taking a break to connect with the people who love you and can remind you that you are a person, not a machine.

3. What’s the Point?  

Perfectionism is almost always a faulty means to achieve some deeper end.  We want love, approval, validation, acceptance, peace, but we pursue being a perfect employee, a perfect parent, a perfect homemaker, a perfect…whatever.  But the harder we work at being perfect, the further we get from satisfying the real emotional need driving our perfectionism.  Ask yourself what the point of your perfectionism really is.  Take some time in prayer to reflect on what you are trying to accomplish–emotionally and spiritually–by being so self-critical and task oriented?

When you find yourself giving into the temptation to perfectionism, remind yourself what you are really looking for, and ask yourself what you would need to do to get that?  If you honestly don’t know, then it’s time to seek some help so that you can step off the hamster wheel and start getting your needs met instead of constantly running but never getting anywhere.

Following Christ in Prayer

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 23:02

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In all His words, actions, and miracles, Jesus serves as the best model for us to study, meditate, contemplate, and, of course, imitate.

A good part of His private life were absorbed in prayer. At the moment of His Baptism, Saint Luke presents Jesus absorbed in prayer. Before choosing the 12 Apostles who would carry out His mission, Jesus spent the whole night in communion with the heavenly Father, once again, in prayer.

The essence of this short essay will be to show Jesus’ deep, filial, fervent, humble, and you might even say heart-rending prayer that Holy Thursday night, shortly after the Last Supper, in the Garden of Olives. Let us step back and calmly contemplate all of the elements of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Olives, also called the Garden of Gethsemane. May this be an inspiring lesson for us so that we will strive with all the fiber of our being to upgrade, improve, and motivate our own personal prayer life.

1. Prayer

Jesus would go to the Garden of Olives where He would dedicate prolonged periods of silence to prayer and immerse Himself in a profound dialogue with Abba—Father! Likewise, we should have some specific place that is propitious for prayer, a place that fosters deep recollection and union with our Heavenly Father.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen found his prayer-abode in Church in front of the Blessed Sacrament. If this is not possible for you, at least find a place where there is silence. Why? God speaks most eloquently when we are not bombarded by noise-pollution. With the young Samuel we can listen and respond: Speak O Lord, for your servant is listening!

2. Prostration 

In the Garden, Jesus prostrated Himself on the ground. Abram did this and God spoke to him. The Magi prostrated themselves before the Infant King Jesus and gave Him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Finally, at Fatima in 1916, the Angels taught the children — Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta — to kneel and prostrate themselves, and then address their prayers to God. The bodily posture of prostration is very deep in symbolism. It means humility, subjection to God, and penance in recognition of our nature as sinners. God loves a humble heart; He wants us to submit our wills to His will; and He wants us to humbly beg pardon for our many sins!

3. Filial Prayer

By filial we mean a prayer of loving trust and confidence between Father and Son. Jesus calls His Father Abba—which loosely translated is Daddy! Like Jesus our prayer must be one of loving trust in our Heavenly Father who loves us infinitely and cares for us so much that He even knows how many hairs we have on our head and even when one hair falls to the ground.

4. Submission to God

In this same heart-rending prayer Jesus knows that His Passion, suffering, and death is looming before Him and He asks God to remove the chalice of suffering from Him, but He ends with a total submission to His Heavenly Father: Father, not my will but yours be done! Our sanctification, growth in holiness, and perseverance depends in large part on assuming this attitude of Jesus—submitting our will to the will of the Heavenly Father. We reiterate this same interior disposition of heart in the Our Father: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

5. Perseverance in Prayer

A very interesting highlight of the model-prayer of Jesus in the Garden is that Jesus says this prayer three times:  Father, if it be possible remove this chalice from me; nevertheless, not my will but your will be done.The lesson? We must persevere in our prayer life to the very end. The message of the insistent widow clamoring for justice to the unjust judge is simply this: we must keep praying and never give up.  Saint Teresa of Avila expressed it in these words: We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.

6. Prayer, Companionship, and Friendship

In His humanity, Jesus desired His friends to stay with Him and pray in this critical moment. For this reason He took with Him His three best friends—Peter, James and John. However, this companionship in prayer proved to be a total failure as His three chosen friends fell asleep, and more than once, when Jesus needed them most. Thus they failed Him. There is a key lesson here for all of us. If we do not propose to pray well, pray fervently, and pray with trust, then like the Apostles, it is more than likely that we will succumb to temptation and give in to sin. Jesus left us with these poignant words:  Stay awake and pray because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. May we propose to be faithful to the Lord in good times and bad, health and sickness, riches and poverty, until the end of our lives!  Spouses promise faithfulness to each other; so should we promise faithfulness to Jesus!

7. Jesus Sweats Blood

According to Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the suffering of Jesus was so intense that He sweat His Precious Blood for these reasons. All of the sins of humanity were descending upon Him like a torrential downpour—the sins of Adam and Eve, your sins and mine, and all sins even up to the last generation and last person in the world. However, that which caused Jesus to suffer most was the cruel reality that many people, despite the intense suffering of Jesus, would willfully decide to reject His redemptive act and choose to live and die in their sins totally unrepentant. Due to this, they would willfully lose their soul and be eternally damned. This reality of Jesus’ loving sacrifice being rejected was what caused Jesus to suffer most and to sweat large drops of His Precious Blood. This bloody and anguished prayer of Jesus should motivate us to recognize our sins, and make a firm purpose to renounce them and all that leads to sin in any size, form, or type!

8. Prayer of Reparation

Of course the shedding of the Blood of Jesus and His anguish of heart should challenge us to offer frequent reparation for our sins and those of the whole world. In the words of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy: “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

9. The Angel of Consolation 

Immersed in the most profound state of desolation, God the Father consoles Jesus by sending an angel to Him, The Angel of Consolation. Exactly what went on in this encounter, we will know only in eternity. However, the most immediate interpretation and application should be the transference of the Angel of Consolation in the Garden to our own relationship to Jesus. Yes! You and I are called to be the present and active Angel of Consolation in the life of Jesus and His Mystical Body that we call the Catholic Church. Why not try to make an effort to console the Wounded Sacred Heart of Jesus with your prayers of consolation and reparation? There are so many sins that need to be repaired for today, and today more than ever! Abortions, the practice of homosexuality, contraception, euthanasia, despair, and an overall religious indifference that is downright appalling! These sins and countless others need to be objects of our fervent prayer of reparation so as to be the modern Angel of Consolation in the life of Jesus!

10. Our Lady of Sorrows

In all of our meditations on the Passion of Jesus, most specifically the Agony in the Garden, which is the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary, we want to ask Our Lady of Sorrows to pray with us and to pray for us so that our prayer might be transformed into a fragrant aroma of incense that ascends on high to the heavenly heights! May Our Lady of Sorrows’ fervent prayers and our prayers result in consoling the wounded Heart of Jesus and the salvation of countless souls!

The first reading shows David and all

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 23:00

The first reading shows David and all Israel bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem in triumphal procession. The Ark contained the tablets of the 10 commandments which God personally wrote on and gave to Moses. For the Israelites, it was the most sacred thing in the world because it was the sign of God’s election of Israel as His own people so they adored the Ark which contained the tablets.

The Ark was also a symbol of God’s presence among men and so its religious significance was paramount. So when it was brought into Jerusalem, the whole community rejoiced, danced and sang in total abandon. When have we truly been happy beyond compare because of the Lord? Do we always welcome His presence in our lives, even if this means to give up some things? Have you ever been a fool for Christ as David was when he danced with abandon as the Ark was being brought to Jerusalem?

The gospel message is very striking. Jesus puts spiritual ties as more important than blood relationship. Family is important but doing the will of God is more important. Man was created to know God, to love Him and to serve Him. The family is the place where a man learns to do God’s will. So if the family has fulfilled its mission, then we will have many people who are always doing things for God and their fellowmen. Jesus also grew up in a family and there he was taught to love God above all things. When we love God first, we are already loving our families because we are becoming bridges of hope for them and saving them even if they do not care so much for God. We must believe that a Christian’s acts always save others, including his family.

St. Ildephonsus

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 23:00

Ildephonsus was born around the year 607 in Spain to a noble family. It is believed that he was a student of Saint Isidore of Seville. He entered the Benedictine Monastery of Agalia near Toledo when he was still very young and later became the abbot.

As abbot, he attended the Councils of Toledo in the years 653 and 655.

In 657, he was elected to succeed his uncle, Saint Eugenius, as Archbishop of Toledo. Ildephonsus had a very deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and wrote many theological treatises, most notably, De virginitate perpetua sanctae Mariae.

Saint Ildephonsus was a favorite subject for medieval artists, mainly because of a legend of our Lady appearing to him and presenting him with a chalice.

He is honored a doctor of the Church in Spain.

Prayer

Father in heaven, thank you for Saint Ildephonsus’s testimony and writings that have inspired devotion in so many, especially our Spanish brethren. May he continue to lead others to greater devotion to You through his intercessions. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Raymond of Peñafort (1275), Priest, Religious, Patron of canon lawyers

St. Emerentiana (304), Virgin, Martyr, foster-sister of St. Agnes

Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1 B.C.)

Jesus and the Glory of the Father

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 02:35
Jesus and the Glory of the Father

Presence of God – O Jesus, increase within me Your love and Your zeal for the glory of the Father; teach me to despise all personal glory and to flee from it.

MEDITATION

 “I honor My Father…. I seek not My own glory.”
“I receive not glory from men”

(John 8:49, 50; John 5:41).

Jesus ever sought His Father’s glory, and to this end He chose for Himself utter humiliation, even to becoming “the reproach of men and the outcast of the people” (cf Psalm 22:7). Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary—the three great stages of the humble, hidden life of Jesus, in which He veiled His glory as the Son of God. Even during His public life, when His divinity was more openly manifested, Jesus tried to flee as much as possible from human glory. Many times after performing a miracle, He imposed silence on those who had witnessed it. He forbade the three Apostles who had been present at the Transfiguration “to tell any man what things they had seen, till the Son of Man shall be risen again from the dead” (Mark 9:8). After the first multiplication of the loaves, “when He knew that they would come to take Him by force and make Him king [He] fled again into the mountain Himself alone” (John 6:15).

The glory of Jesus lies in the fact that He is the Son of God; He desires no other glory. It is as though He would relinquish this essential glory by accepting any other. Therefore He said: “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father that glorifieth Me” (John 8:54). Jesus knows that after His death He will be glorified and acknowledged as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, but He desires that even this glory may be for the glorification of His Father: “Father, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee” (John 17:1).

COLLOQUY

O Lord, give me Your love for Your Father’s glory, so that I too, wretched and poor though I am, may serve my God in some small way and give Him glory.

“May it be Your pleasure, my God, that the time may come when I shall be able to pay at least a small part of the immense debt I owe You; do You ordain it, Lord, according to Your pleasure, that I may in some way serve You. There have been others who have done heroic deeds for love of You; I myself am capable of words only; and therefore, my God, it is not Your good pleasure to test me by actions. All my will to serve You amounts to nothing but words and desires, and even here I have no freedom, for it is always possible that I may fail altogether. Strengthen and prepare my soul, Good of all good, my Jesus, and then ordain means whereby I may do something for You, for no one could bear to receive as much as I have and pay nothing in return. Cost what it may, Lord, permit me not to come into Your presence with such empty hands, since a man’s reward must be according to his works! O Lord, here is my life, my honor, and my will! I have given it all to You; I am Yours; dispose of me according to Your desire. Well do I know, Lord, how little I am capable of, but keep me near You. I shall be able to do all things, provided You do not withdraw from me. If You should withdraw, for however short a time, I should go where I have already been—namely, to hell” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 21).

Make me understand, O Lord, that if I wish to work for Your glory and the glory of Your Father, I must be entirely detached from every desire for personal glory; otherwise I shall deceive myself, thinking that I am working for You, whereas in reality I am but serving my own ego.

You know, O Jesus, that herein lies the greatest danger for me, that which I fear most in my good works, especially in the works of my apostolate. Therefore, I beg You, Lord, to use every means to save me from it. And if this requires humiliations, failure, criticism, use them, and use them abundantly. Do not consider my repugnance, pay no attention to my tears, for I do not want to lessen Your glory or ruin Your works by my pride.

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Note from Dan: These posts are provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contain one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art for this post on Jesus and the Glory of the Father: Mirror of Teresa of Avila, Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio – Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, the High Calling Seminary Preparation Program, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer, speaker and pilgrimage director who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

 

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This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

Why God Is ‘Nearer to Us Than Our Innermost Being’

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 23:07

Early in the Confessions, when he is recalling his days of wandering from God, Augustine makes a remarkable observation in passing: God had not only with been him, but was more aware of the future saint’s true self than he was.

As Augustine puts it, “You were more inward to me than my most inward part and higher than my highest” (Confessions 3.6.11). (In the Latin, the statement is interior intimo meo et superior summo meo.)

The line, which is one of the most memorable and oft-quoted of the Confessions, is packed with theological insight. Augustine, at the time, was “wandering away from” God. His separation from God also entailed estrangement from his very self. As Augustine describes it, his soul had become dislocated “beyond its portals, dwelling in the eye of my flesh.” While he had abandoned God, His Creator had not abandoned him. He had forgotten his true self, while God had not.

The implication, then, is that in order to find God, Augustine must turn inward, away from the enticements of worldly pleasures or dependency on naked reason alone to find the truth. One could also say that in order to find his true self, Augustine must seek God.

But why is this so?

In Augustine’s words we find an echo of the Old Testament. In particular there is Psalm 139,

Lord, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar. …
Even before a word is on my tongue,
Lord, you know it all.
Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.
Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell beyond the sea,
Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.
You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth (verses 1-2, 4-10, 13-15).

This psalm points to two reasons as to why God is present to us in our innermost being. First, there is the divine attribute of omnipresence: God is everywhere. If His omnipresence stretches all the way up to the heavens and all the way down to Sheol, the underworld, then it surely includes the heights and depths of our innermost being.

But God also is with us because He created us. Each of us was “formed” and “knit together” by God. We are therefore “wonderfully made.” In a sense, because we are not self-made, we can never know ourselves fully. This is why the psalm suggests that knowledge of our being is something secret, as if we’d been molded in the bowels of the earth, out of sight of all living creatures.

This explains the second half of Augustine’s statement in the Confessions: “You were … higher than my highest.” Even as God is closer to us than we are to our inmost selves, so also He is beyond us just as full knowledge of our inner being is beyond us.

Turning inward, then, as Augustine suggests, does not mean our experience of God is subjective or that God becomes for us whatever we imagine Him to be in our thoughts, as some modern pop spirituality might have it. Rather, the turn inward only properly orients us outward toward God.

Augustine elaborates on this in Book 10 of the Confessions. He acknowledges that man cannot fully know himself, only God does. The best way to knowing oneself, then, is to seek God. Where might God be found?

I asked the earth; and it answered, I am not He; and whatsoever are therein made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the creeping things that lived, and they replied, ‘We are not your God, seek higher than we.’ I asked the breezy air, and the universal air with its inhabitants answered, ‘Anaximenes was deceived, I am not God.’ I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars: ‘Neither, say they, are we the God whom you seek (10.6.9.)’

And so Augustine turns inward. He quickly concludes that God is not in the general powers of the body or the soul. But then he is particularly struck by the wonder of memory. Could it be here that he discovers God?

I will soar, then, beyond this power of my nature also, ascending by degrees unto Him who made me. And I enter the fields and roomy chambers of memory, where are the treasures of countless images, imported into it from all manner of things by the senses (10.8.12). …

And men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the extent of the ocean, and the courses of the stars, and omit to wonder at themselves (10.8.15).

Augustine proceeds with a lengthy exploration of all the aspects of his memory. But, as wonderful as it is, the saint realizes that God is still beyond it:

Great is the power of memory; very wonderful is it, O my God, a profound and infinite manifoldness; and this thing is the mind, and this I myself am. What then am I, O my God? Of what nature am I? A life various and manifold, and exceeding vast. … So great is the power of memory, so great the power of life in man, whose life is mortal. What then shall I do, O Thou my true life, my God? I will pass even beyond this power of mine which is called memory — I will pass beyond it, that I may proceed to You, O Thou sweet Light. What sayest Thou to me? Behold, I am soaring by my mind towards You who remainest above me (10.17.26).

And yet, paradoxically, memory is the key to his quest. For if he did not remember God, Augustine says, how could he go looking for Him?

But where in my memory do You abide, O Lord? Where do You there abide? What manner of chamber have You there formed for Yourself? What sort of sanctuary have You erected for Yourself? You have granted this honour to my memory, to take up Your abode in it; but in what quarter of it You abide, I am considering. For in calling You to mind, I soared beyond those parts of it which the beasts also possess, since I found You not there among the images of corporeal things; and I arrived at those parts where I had committed the affections of my mind, nor there did I find You. And I entered into the very seat of my mind, which it has in my memory, since the mind remembers itself also — nor were You there. For as You are not a bodily image, nor the affection of a living creature, as when we rejoice, condole, desire, fear, remember, forget, or anything of the kind; so neither are You the mind itself, because You are the Lord God of the mind; and all these things are changed, but You remain unchangeable over all, yet vouchsafe to dwell in my memory, from the time I learned You. But why do I now seek in what part of it You dwell, as if truly there were places in it? You dwell in it assuredly, since I have remembered You from the time I learned You, and I find You in it when I call You to mind (10.25.36).

In the end, Augustine arrives at a mystery: God is beyond him — ‘higher than his highest’ — yet God is also dwelling within Him — ‘more inward to me than my most inward part.’ Precisely because He is so far beyond us—not merely in a spatial sense, but more importantly, in terms of the excellence of His being — God is also able to dwell so intimately within us.

image: Giovanni Battista Gaulli [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Repentance: Getting Your Priorities Straight

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 23:05

Recently, when attending Divine Liturgy, the priest’s sermon was about the topic of repentance. He started off by acknowledging that most people don’t like the word repentance.

He explained that the word “repentance” can lead people to thoughts like:

  • Boring
  • No fun
  • Restriction

But what I found most interesting about the sermon was when the priest said the following:

“Repentance means simply this: Getting your priorities straight.”

And you know what, he’s right! It was definitely a “nail-on-the-head” moment.

I think sometimes in life we often tend to forget about some very important things: Our faith. Our values. Virtue…God.

By this I’m not implying that we’re all terrible people, committing terrible acts. Although, yes, that can happen – what I’m referring to is the easy ability to slip off course a bit. Perhaps letting the world in more than it should be. Thus allowing God into our hearts less.

Spiritual tepidity. A half-hearted service to God.

And when this happens, as it does with most of us when we lose site of our priorities, just as Father said in his sermon – it’s time to reset our priorities through an honest examination of conscience, repentance, and finally – course-correction.

When we start to grow lukewarm in the service of God, it’s a dangerous place to be. It usually starts with praying less, thinking about God less, thinking about others less, and thinking about ourselves more than is needed. This often happens without us even being fully aware of it, as we start to search for happiness and consolation from the worldly things around us. We may start to lie to ourselves.

This is when our thoughts and desires become too influenced by time-consuming interests, selfish ambitions, and the wrong standards of worldly people.

And even when looking at each thing objectively, it may not appear negative, or wrong, but collectively in essence, it can develop into a disease that can bring spiritual death if we don’t quickly fight against it.

Getting your priorities straight.

Because if we don’t, we risk contracting the germs of laziness and worldliness that will grow into a deadly disease that if left unexamined can eventually rob the soul of its life.

And in the end, Death will take all of the world’s things from us, and nothing will matter except for our love for God and the state of our soul.

Sound dramatic? Perhaps. But wake-up calls usually are.

Through true repentance (getting our priorities straight), we acknowledge and feel genuine sorrow for where we’re slipping in our daily life and behaviors. And this then provides us with the opportunity to course-correct, so we can then pay closer attention to our true purpose in life: keeping our heart and mind always on Jesus Christ, our Savior.

And depending on how far we’ve slipped, it probably won’t be an immediate course-correction. And that’s ok. But as our loyalty and faithfulness in serving our Lord improves each day, so will we.

It’s so easy to become half-hearted and inattentive to our spiritual life living in the world in which we do. Everyday we’re assaulted with negativity, worldliness and superficiality (and worse) – and at a level that has never been heard of before in history.

I always think that from a bird’s-eye-view of our current reality, we must seem like crazy folk. But I also don’t believe that’s who we really are or have to be.

Sure, there are some people in serious need of help, and we should do our best to provide it for them through our support and prayer. But for the most part, I think people are inherently good.

We just need to take a step back sometimes – examine, repent and get our priorities straight.

And by the way, prayer is a necessary help to get there. Pray about everything. Pray without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:16-18.)

St. Ignatius says that we must pray as though the matter we desire depended entirely upon God, and we must work as though it depended entirely upon ourselves.

Each hour of the day is an important part of our lives. Whether we’re at work, at home, at play, or rest, we can either spend this time in the company of God, trying our best to serve him well …

Or we can live life only for ourselves.

Examine. Repent and get your priorities straight.

Both you and Our Lord will be glad you did.

image: By Angela Marie from NRW/Germany (Confessional) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Moments of Light

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 23:02

Do you ever have moments when you just know—in a way you did not before—that something you do all the time or a way you think about things is a bit off or wrong? Perhaps you often say things that are not quite true. Perhaps you find yourself in an immoral friendship or harbor an animus against someone unjustifiably. Maybe you fail to do something? Perhaps you rarely give alms or tithe. Maybe you have not frequented Confession in a long time or are not fully on board with the Church’s moral teachings. It could be anything, yet now you see it. Somehow you have never, or not for a long time, questioned what you did or thought. But now it is staring you in the face. Even if it should have been obvious before, now it is as obvious as when something once obscured shines in the light.

And it is disconcerting and destabilizing. Can I really let this thinking in? Am I really lying like this all the time? Am I really the good person I think I am when I am with this friend? If you entertain these thoughts any further, you know you will feel badly about yourself. Perhaps you will not change, but this thinking will spoil what you once enjoyed. Perhaps you will change and give up something you like or endure something you dislike. Perhaps you will endure humiliation or something even worse.

Often these moments of light frighten us. We think we must check them and shoo away the light. Related to these moments is a whole chapter in John’s Gospel where Jesus heals a man born blind. It is worth reading slowly and meditatively.

Once cured, the man born blind is brought to the Pharisees who are confronted with the miracle. The cured man explains, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” The miracle Jesus performs by divine power should illumine for the Pharisees the reality of his ministry’s divine origin—that ministry they have been working against. In flooding the blind man with light, Jesus also throws light onto the paths of the Pharisees, but they refuse to see and remain in darkness about who Jesus is and how they should receive his ministry.

We need not fear these moments of light. If we refuse them, as the Pharisees did, we shut out the light, and the darkness after is greater than before. Before healing the blind man, Jesus instructs, “We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.” Moments of light are critical because when it is night, when we cannot see that we need a remedy, we cannot seek one. We are powerless to choose what we do not know. When these moments of light come—even a dim glimmer of light—we must act. Yet if we refuse the light, we return to a darkness we had a hand in making. After the Pharisees panic and cast out the man born blind, they question Jesus if they too are blind. Jesus responds, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” They refuse the light while claiming to see, and thus they are responsible for their blindness.

But what if we choose to see? When the light of Christ shimmers on our paths, we see our error and run to him to banish our darkness. We could too easily think this light will destroy our happiness. But the contrary is true! We make vulnerable our hearts, dragged this way and that by sin, to one who loves us tenderly, who comforts and strengthens us. We bathe our minds in the light that lets us see clearly the truths about ourselves and about God. We let that light pour into our deepest parts, those hidden away even from ourselves. The light rectifies and purifies our perceptions, making them resilient to the tugging and pulling of wayward passions, especially fear and despair. We rest in Christ’s peace, stirred only by a rolling, bouncing joy rumbling from within and pouring out into our lives. A moment of light is not a threat; it is a chance! When the blind man saw physically, he also saw spiritually. Once he was cast out from the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus found him and made himself known to him.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicana, the Dominican student blog of the Province of St. Joseph, and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

In the first reading King David is

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 23:00

In the first reading King David is anointed king of Israel, as God’s chosen one to be king. It was very important for Israel to be united under one king, not divided. David was a very good king because Yahweh God was with him.

In our world there are so many divisions among men: nation against nation, race against race, family against family, and even dissension in the same family. This results in conflicts and even armed hostilities.

In the Gospel reading the teachers of the Law claim that Jesus was driven by Beelzebub: “He is possessed by Beelzebub: the chief of the demons helps him to drive out demons.”

Jesus refutes them, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand…. In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished.”

There are also conflicts in our own lives. To do good or to do evil? To put family or career first? To love and serve God or money?

We can have only one Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. May we stand by and for him whatever the cost may be.

The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.