Thursday, October 31, 2013
Jesus went so far as to call Herod a fox. What did he mean by such an expression? The fox was regarded as the slyest of all animals and one of the most destructive as well. Any farmer will tell you how difficult it is to get rid of foxes who under the cover of night steal and destroy. The fox became a symbol of what was worthless, insignificant, and destructive. It takes great courage to stand up and openly oppose a tyrant. Jesus knew that he would suffer the same fate as the prophets who came before him. He not only willingly exposed himself to such danger, but he prayed for his persecutors and for those who rejected the prophets who spoke in God's name. Do you pray for your enemies and for those who oppose the gospel today?
Jesus contrasts his desire for Jerusalem – the holy city and temple of God – with Jerusalem's lack of desire for him as their long-expected Messiah. Jesus compares his longing for Jerusalem with a mother hen gathering her chicks under her protective wings. Psalm 91 speaks of God's protection in such terms: He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge (Psalm 91:4). Jesus willingly set his face toward Jerusalem, knowing that he would meet certain betrayal, rejection, and death on a cross. His death on the cross, however, brought about victory and salvation, not only for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but for all – both Jew and Gentile – who would accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Jesus' prophecy is a two-edged sword, pointing to his victory over sin and death and foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and the dire consequences for all who would reject him and his saving message. While the destruction of Jerusalem's temple was determined – it was razed by the Romans in 70 A.D. – there remained for its inhabitants a narrow open door leading to deliverance. Jesus says: I am the door; whoever enters by me will be saved (John 10:9). The Lord Jesus opens the way for each of us to have direct access to God who adopts us as his children and who makes his home with us. Do you make room for the Lord in your life? The Lord is knocking at the door of your heart (Revelations 3:20) and he wishes to enter into a close personal relationship with you. Receive him who is the giver of expectant faith, unwavering hope, and undying love. And long for the true home which God has prepared for you in his heavenly city, Jerusalem (Revelations 21:2-4).
"Lord Jesus, I place all my trust and hope in you. Come make your home with me and take possession of my heart and will that I may wholly desire what is pleasing to you. Fill my heart with love and mercy for others that I may boldly witness to the truth and joy of the gospel through word and example, both to those who accept it and to those who oppose it."
Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.
What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.
Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
and save us from pretension
and every arrogant folly.
You have made us, and not we ourselves.
Help us to remember the limits
of our power and our wisdom,
but help us, also,
to do our duty within the limits
of our power and our wisdom.
— Reinhold Niebuhr
What can mustard seeds and leaven teach us about the kingdom of God? The tiny mustard seed literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they loved the little black mustard seed it produced. God's kingdom works in a similar fashion. It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of men and women who are receptive to God's word. And it works unseen and causes a transformation from within. Leaven is another powerful agent of change. A lump of dough left to itself remains just what it is, a lump of dough. But when the leaven is added to it a transformation takes place which produces rich and wholesome bread when heated – the staple of life for humans. The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive the new life which Jesus Christ offers. When we yield to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Paul the Apostle says, "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Do you believe in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit?
"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform me into the Christ-like holiness you desire. Increase my zeal for your kingdom and instill in me a holy desire to live for your greater glory."
-Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net
Monday, October 28, 2013
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Do we sound like that sometimes when we talk to God? Jesus shows us another way to pray--a way that is more pleasing, honest, and humble--like the tax collector who prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Why is this more pleasing to God? When we are not honest with God, there is a danger of abandoning our relationship with God altogether. How many of us said this to ourselves? “I am full of faults, I’m not making any progress, I’m incapable of being really converted and loving God seriously. Presenting myself before God in such a state is just hypocrisy—I’m pretending to be a saint, when I am worth no more than people who don’t pray at all. It would be much more honest in God’s eyes if I just dropped it completely!”
Cultivating a relationship with God is no different than cultivating a relationship with our loved ones. What do good friends do for each other? They are patient, gentle, and kind with each other's faults. They keep no record of wrongs. They always protect, trust, hope, and persevere. They look forward to spending time with each other. What friends enjoy is quality time with each other, even if it means 5 minutes.
Do you remember the dying man that I spoke about last weekend? I saw him again, and he is now much closer to departing his wife, children, and friends. He is less conscious and sleeps most of the time. Each time he awakes from his sleep, he is conscious for less than five minutes. Outside his bedroom, his grieving wife showed me a note that her husband had given her when he proposed to marry her more than 56 years ago. The note was given to her on a Christmas day. He wrote,
I shall come to you for help and comfort which only you can give to me. I also beg of you to ask for my aid when ever possible; to be outspoken and frank in all situations. I want very much to be needed by you. As long as it is within my power to make you happy, I also shall be happy.
I shall expect from you only what you are willing to give and nothing more. My love for you shall not die! Forever! ”
Although this wife now only gets less than five minutes of time with her dying best friend, who is her husband, she knows how much he loves her. He is frail, weak, and unable to tell her how much he loves her, but she knows.
Isn’t that how God wants us to approach Him? He knows how frail and weak we are, but when we look deep into our hearts, can we not find the desire in us to express to Him in less than five minutes, how much we love Him? Are our prayers honest, sincere, and humble?
Friday, October 25, 2013
Fill my heart and my whole being
with the wonder of your presence.
Lord you gave me life and the gift of freedom.
Through Your love I exist in this world.
May I never take the gift of life for granted.
May I always respect the right to life of others.
We watch out daily for signs of change in the weather. But Jesus advises us to put more effort into working out our relationship with God. The wise move would be to settle our affairs while we are still free to do so. As we stand before God in prayer, we must search our hearts with honesty and humility and ask God to straighten us out.
What are the present signs in my life telling me? Am I missing the point about something? For instance, I am growing older. Or perhaps I am nourishing dislike of another person? But how do I connect these facts with my relationship to God? Remove the cloud from my vision, Lord, and inspire me to act upon your truth.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I hope, Lord, but let me hope more surely.
I love, Lord, but let me love more warmly.
I repent, Lord, but let me repent more deeply.
Lord, give me humility, meekness,
chastity, patience and charity.
Teach me goodness, knowledge and discipline.
Give me your love together with your grace
and I will be rich enough.
My God, my Jesus, my all in all.
— St. Anthony Mary Claret
Do you want to be on fire for God? Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth. What kind of fire did Jesus have in mind here? The image of fire in biblical times was often associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people. God sometimes manifested his presence by use of fire, such as the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:2). The image of fire was also used to symbolize God's glory (Ezekiel 1:4, 13), his protective presence (2 Kings 6:17), his holiness (Deuteronomy 4:24), righteous judgment (Zechariah 13:9), and his wrath against sin (Isaiah 66:15-16). It is also used of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3). God's fire both purifies and cleanses, and it inspires a reverent fear of God and of his word in us.
Jesus’ sharp statement that he would cause division rather than peace within families must have shocked his disciples.Was he exaggerating? Jesus used a typical Hebrew hyperbole [a figure of speech which uses exaggeration for emphasis] to drive home an important lesson. We often do the same when we want to emphasize something very strongly. Jesus’ hyperbole, however, did contain a real warning that the gospel message does have consequences for our lives. It has the power to heal, restore, and unite those who believe its message. But the consequence of ignoring or rejecting the gospel can lead to many hurtful desires and seduction by the world.
When Jesus spoke about division he likely had in mind the prophecy of Micah: a man's enemies are the men of his own household (Micah 7:6). The essence of Christianity is loyalty to Jesus Christ – the Son of God and Savior of the world – a loyalty that takes precedence over every other relationship. The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives. To place any relationship (or anything else) above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin. It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies, if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)?
"Lord Jesus, may your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Make me strong in love and fidelity that nothing may hinder me from doing your will."
Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
that as you have graciously granted
to me here on earth
sweetly to partake of the words
of your wisdom and knowledge,
so grant that I may some day come to you,
the fountain of all wisdom,
and always appear before your face,
who lives and reigns,
world without end. Amen.
— St. Bede the Venerable
What lesson can a thief in the night teach us about the kingdom of God? Jesus loved to tell stories, many which ended with a dramatic and unexpected change of circumstances. Can you imagine a thief calling ahead to tell his victim when he would strike? The intruder usually strikes when he is least expected and under the cover of darkness and secrecy. Should we be surprised to see a thief making off with a great treasure or prized possession which has been left unguarded or unlocked?
What does this say about the gift and great treasure which God has entrusted to you? When God offers us his kingdom he gives us a priceless treasure (see the parable of the treasure hidden in a field and the pearl of great price in Matthew 13:44-46). What is this treasure of immeasurable value? The Lord Jesus himself is our treasure (Job 22:22-23) and the kingdom he offers us is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). The Lord offers us a relationship with God the Father as his sons and daughters and the promise of eternal life as well. This treasure is of far greater value that any earthly treasure because nothing can diminish its insurpassable worth or destroy it. But it's possible to lose this great treasure if we do not guard it with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We can lose heaven and eternal friendship with God if we allow Satan – the deceiver and father of lies – to rob us of our faith and make us deny God's word of truth! The Lord Jesus fortunately does not leave us on our own – he stands watch with us to guide, direct, and keep us from the snares of the evil one. Do you keep vigilant watch over the treasure which God has entrusted to you?
Jesus ends his teaching on watchfulness and vigilance with another parable about a master and his servants (similr to the parable in Matthew 24:.45-49). The storyline is similar. There is an element of surprise – the master suddenly returns home unexpectedly, probably from a long journey. He rewards the dutiful servant for his faithfulness to his master. He has performed his service with diligence and has done all that the master required of him. The master punishes the other servant who behaved wickedly. This servant was not only irresponsible – he was frequently absent from work and spent his master's money by throwing endless parties with his friends. The wicked servant also abused his fellow workers with physical force and violence – probably to make them do the work he was supposed to do for his master. The master not only strips him of his job and a secure place to live, but removes him from the joy and fellowship of the people he lived and worked with. The wicked servant is cast into a prison of like-minded rebels, trouble-makers, thieves, and murderers.
This vivid picture gives us a glimpse of wht hell is like – a dark and dismal society of endless quarreling, strife, envy, and hatred. Should we be surprised to see a just master acting with such swift judgment? After all the master is only giving back to the wicked servant what he has given to others through his abusive and irresponsible behavior. The master rewards the faithful servant with friendship, honor, and promotion But the master punishes the unfaithful servant, who stole from his master and used his position to abuse others, by removing him from his position of trust. The Lord has entrusted each one of us with his gifts and grace – the grace to love God with faithfulness, trust, and obedience – and the grace to love our neighbor as ourself. Do you want to be faithful and reliable as the Lord is faithful and trustworthy?
The Lord loves faithfulness and richly rewards those who are faithful to him. What is faithfulness? It's keeping one's word, promise, and commitments no matter how tough or difficult it gets. Faithfulness is a key character trait of God and one that he expects of us. Fortunately God gives the grace and strength to remain faithful. He also rewards faithfulness. The joy and privilege of being a son or daughter of God carries with it an awesome responsibility. The Lord expects us to make good use of the gifts and graces he gives to us. The more he gives, the more he requires. The temptation while the Master is away is to put off for tomorrow what we know the Master expects us to do today. How can we grow in faithfulness? God's grace shows us the way. When we are faithful in the little tasks and promises we make, we learn to be faithful in the bigger and more important responsibilities and tasks entrusted to us.
The Lord Jesus calls us to be vigilant in watching for his return and to be ready to meet him when he calls us to himself. The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit so that we may have the wisdom, help, and strength we need to turn away from sin to embrace God's way of love, justice, and holiness. The Lord's warning of judgment causes dismay for those who are unprepared, but it brings joyful hope to those who eagerly wait for his return in glory. God's judgment is good news for those who are ready to meet him. Their reward is God himself, the source of all truth, beauty, goodness, love and everlasting life.
“Lord Jesus, you have captured my heart and it is yours. Take it that I may have you alone as my treasure and joy. Make me strong in faith, steadfast in hope, and generous in love that I may seek to please you in all things and bring you glory.”
Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
You are good and your mercy knows no bounds.
To you arises the praise of every creature.
O God, you have given us an inner law by which we must live.
To do your will is our task.
To follow your ways is to know peace of heart.
To you we offer our homage.
Guide us on all the paths we travel upon this earth.
Free us from all the evil tendencies which lead our hearts away from your will.
Never allow us to stray from you.
O God, judge of all humankind, help us to be included among your chosen ones on the last day.
O God, Author of peace and justice, give us true joy and authentic love, and a lasting solidarity among peoples.
Give us your everlasting gifts. Amen.
— Bl. Pope John Paul II
Extraordinary Encounters with Blessed John Paul II
Giving a country new hope
The year was 1983, I was 14 years old, and in Nicaragua, the Sandinista revolution had pretty much destroyed any semblance of illusion, hope, and expectations for the future of the nation. My brother was dead, and the youth of the country was faced with a stark choice, to fight for the communist government, via a draft, or to fight against it, with the Contras. All political opposition had been crushed, and in the midst of this desperation, of this suicidal youth march, we are told that Pope John Paul II would visit Nicaragua. As a non-practicing Catholic, I was aware of who the pope was, but I was not prepared for the enormous impact this man, with his humble yet forthright countenance, would unleash on the totalitarian regime. That day, the pope held mass in front of over one million faithful, the mass of people completely awestruck and in trance, for nobody had ever meant so much to so many. On that sunny afternoon, He was the voice of justice, reason, hope and love, to a depressed youth, that had lost faith in the future of a nation. John Paul II gave Nicaraguans a reason to hope, a reason to live, and a reason to continue the fight for freedom, against totalitarian rule. On one sunny, warm, afternoon, and in one fell swoop, this pope gave us back our faith, and let us know that freedom is God's greatest gift to mankind. As he well put it: "Be Not Afraid". May God hold you in his stead, John Paul II, forever.
—Lionel Quinteros, Cape Coral, Fla.
‘Being in his presence was breathtaking’
When my daughter was attending college during her sophomore year in Rome I had the opportunity to visit her and attend the Holy Father's Wednesday outdoor audience one beautiful spring day. Through the intervention of close friendBein who knew a Swiss guard my husband and I were able to obtain some very good seats near the Pope. One of the images that will always remain with me is of him bestowing his blessing upon recent brides and grooms. As so many people have expressed, just being in his presence was breathtaking!
—Donna Andrews, Oakton, Va.
Goodbye rain, hello sun
When he came to Yankee Stadium in New York City so many years ago I was there with my ten year old son who had just become an alter boy at our parish. The weather was horrendous with wind and heavy rain. As we waited for the arrival of Pope John Paul an announcement was made on the loud speakers for all of us to pray that the weather would clear for the Pope. The thousands of us prayed outloud and to ourselves and as the motorcade approached and the rains continued to beat down we all felt sad. They stopped outside the gate and seconds before Pope John Paul entered the rain stopped, the sun shown through the clouds making the rain on the field glitter like gold. It was absolutely breathtaking and you could hear the gasp from the crowd for what we had witnessed. The Pope came through the gates and the sun continued to shine. When he left and went out of the gates the rain came down. I will never forget that day and I will forever remember the beloved Pope John. Although he is no longer of this earth I think of all of the gloriously happy people in Heaven rejoicing in his coming home. May he rest in peace.
—Kathy Pallotta, Morristown, N.J.
I was blessed to be in the Pope presence two times. My first was in New York at the racetrack in Queens. I was so overwhelmed I felt this was Jesus on earth. The tears came down my eyes uncontrollably. The next time I was at the Vatican for the beatification of Mother Teresa. I was on the tenth row seat from the Pope's podium. It was awesome. I felt warmth, beauty and a profound feeling of oneness with all those thousands of people who were there. Being in the presence of the Pope John Paul II makes me feel heavenly. I could not believe my eyes. I was really looking at him. He is indeed a precious gift to us Catholics and to the world. Tonight, I shall look at my photo album with pictures of the Pope that I took at the Vatican and reflect upon the life of this Holy Man.
I was assigned to the security detail for the Pope's visit to Newark. At the time, my daughter was being treated for Nueroblastoma, a very nasty pediatric cancer. As the Pope mobile passed the area that I was assigned, he was blessing the crowd that had formed to meet him. As I made the sign of the cross, he looked briefly at me and we made eye contact for just a second. I felt that my daughter would be alright. Now, some nine years later, she is considered "cured". I began to walk parallel to the Popemobile for about 20-25 yards as it approached the front of the cathedral. I looked at the jumbotron Television screen that was erected and saw that I was on TV with the Pope. I went home and luckily a friend had recorded the news coverage. SO now I have a video of the Holy Father and me.
—Bill Whitley, Basking Ridge, N.J.
In September 1987, my husband of two months and I went to San Antonio to see Pope John Paul II. We were lucky to be at the end of our row, where the Pope would be going past to get to the altar to celebrate mass. As the Pope passed by us, his procession stopped and he looked out into the crowd. He seemed to look directly into my eyes, and I remember the love and gentleness emanating from him. He passed a blessing on to me and smiled, and at that moment I looked at my husband and told him that I thought I might be pregnant, even though I had had no symptoms.
The next week my doctor verified that I was indeed about two weeks pregnant. My son was born in June 30, 1988, nine months and two weeks after seeing the Pope. To this day my son is an extremely devout Catholic, and is a very strong and loving person. He seems to have the same love and gentleness is his eyes as he was blessed with so long before his birth.
I have always felt that my son would have a calling for the church, but have never stated this to him. In the past two years he has several times asked me questions about joining the seminary, which I would be so proud for him to do. So I honestly feel that not me, but by son was truly blessed by the Pope on his visit to San Antonio in 1987.
--Becky Mullican, Baytown, Texas
Monday, October 21, 2013
The ten commandments were summarized into two prohibitions do not worship false idols and do not covet what belongs to another. It's the flip side of the two great commandments love God and love your neighbor. Jesus warned the man who wanted half of his brother's inheritance to "beware of all covetousness." To covet is to wish to get wrongfully what another possesses or to begrudge what God has given to another. Jesus restates the commandment "do not covet", but he also states that a person's life does not consist in the abundance of his or her possessions.
August of Hippo (354-430 AD) comments on Jesus' words to the brother who wanted more:
Greed wants to divide, just as love desires to gather. What is the significance of guard against all greed, unless it is fill yourselves with love? We, possessing love for our portion, inconvenience the Lord because of our brother just as that man did against his brother, but we do not use the same plea. He said, Master, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. We say, Master, tell my brother that he may have my inheritance. [Sermon 265.9]
Jesus reinforces his point with a parable about a foolish rich man. Why does Jesus call this wealthy landowner a fool? Jesus does not fault the rich man for his industriousness and skill in acquiring wealth, but rather for his egoism and selfishness it's mine, all mine, and no one else's. This parable is similar to the parable of the rich man who refused to give any help to the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich fool had lost the capacity to be concerned for others. His life was consumed with his possessions and his only interests were in himself. His death was the final loss of his soul!
In the parable of the rich fool Jesus gives a lesson on using material possessions. It is in giving that we receive. Those who are rich towards God receive ample reward not only in this life but in eternity as well.
Cyril of Alexandria, a fifth century church father, comments on Jesus' word to be rich toward God:
It is true that a persons life is not from ones possessions or because of having an overabundance. He who is rich toward God is very blessed and has glorious hope. Who is he? Evidently, one who does not love wealth but rather loves virtue, and to whom few things are sufficient. It is one whose hand is open to the needs of the poor, comforting the sorrows of those in poverty according to his means and the utmost of his power. He gathers in the storehouses that are above and lays up treasures in heaven. Such a one shall find the interest of his virtue and the reward of his right and blameless life. [Commentary on Luke, Homily 89]
In this little parable Jesus probes our heart where is your treasure? Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. What do you treasure above all else?
"Lord Jesus, free my heart from all possessivness and from coveting what belongs to another. May I desire you alone as the one true treasure worth possessing above all else. Help me to make good use of the material blessings you give me that I may use them generously for your glory and for the good of others."
Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013
St. Luke's Gospel is principally concerned with salvation and mercy; in it are preserved some of our Lord's most moving parables, like those of the lost sheep and the prodigal son. Dante calls St. Luke the "historian of the meekness of Christ." It is also St. Luke who tells us the greater part of what we know about our Lord's childhood.
"According to tradition he was an artist, as well as a man of letters; and with a soul alive to all the most delicate inspirations, he consecrated his pencil to the holiest use, and handed down to us the features of the Mother of God. It was an illustration worthy of the Gospel which relates to the divine Infancy; and it won for the artist a new title to the gratitude of those who never saw Jesus and Mary in the flesh. Hence St. Luke is the patron of Christian art."
St. Luke did not personally know our Lord, and like St. Mark, the author of the second Gospel, he is not included among the apostles. For this reason the Gospel chosen for their feast is the account of the sending forth of the seventy-two disciples. According to St. Jerome, St. Luke died in Achaia (Greece) at the age of 84, and it is unknown whether or not he died a martyr's death. His name means "bringer of light" (= luke).
Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Help us to bear difficulty, pain,
disappointment and sorrow
knowing that in your perfect working and design
you can use such bitter experiences
to shape our characters
and make us more like Christ.
We look with hope for that day
when we shall be wholly like Christ,
because we shall see him as he is.
— St. Ignatius of Antioch
"I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire." -St. Ignatius of Antioch
A letter to the Romans by St Ignatius of Antioch
“I am God's wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of wild animals. I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.
The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you – still - my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.
I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favour, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ himself will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from that mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think that you wish me harm.”
-St. Ignatius of Antioch
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
I put all my confidence in you,
for I fear everything
from my own wickedness and frailty,
but I hope for all things
from your goodness and bounty.
Let your pure love
imprint itself so deeply on my heart,
that I shall never be able
to forget or be separated from you. Amen.
— St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
On May 25, 1671, at the age of 23, Margaret entered the Order of the Visitation convent at Paray-le-Monial. She pronounced her final vows on November 6, 1672 and took the name Mary. During her retreat before her profession, she had a vision of Jesus in which He said, "Behold the wound in my side, wherein you are to make your abode, now and forever." The Lord continued to appear to her in visions and on December 27, 1673, the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, as she knelt at the grill before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, she experienced a vision in which the Lord told her to take the place that Saint John had occupied at the Last Supper, and that she would act as His instrument. Jesus revealed His Sacred Heart as a symbol of His love for mankind, saying, "My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for mankind ... that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its burning charity and must spread them abroad by your means." She described that His Heart was on fire and surrounded by a crown of thorns. Our Lord told her that the flames represented His love for humanity, and the thorns represented man's sinfulness and ingratitude. Jesus informed her that her mission was to establish the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart, and He revealed twelve promises that He would bestow upon all those who practice the devotion.
The Twelve Promises of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
for those who practice devotion to His Sacred Heart
I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
I will establish peace in their families.
I will console them in all their troubles.
They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.
I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
Tepid souls shall become fervent.
Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Has something preoccupied you for the past few days?
Have you lost your interior peace? Have the surface of the still lake of your soul been disturbed by something lately?
Are you afraid of something that's going to happen?
Do you feel fear in your heart?
St. Teresa of Avila offers us this following prayer to calm our soul and restore the interior peace that we long for:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
-- St. Teresa of Avila
Monday, October 14, 2013
God surprises us. The story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, is remarkable. In order to be healed of leprosy, he turns to the prophet of God, Elisha, who does not perform magic or demand anything unusual of him, but asks him simply to trust in God and to wash in the waters of the river. Not, however, in one of the great rivers of Damascus, but in the little stream of the Jordan. Naaman is left surprised, even taken aback. What kind of God is this who asks for something so simple? He wants to turn back, but then he goes ahead, he immerses himself in the Jordan and is immediately healed (cf. 2 Kg 5:1-4). There it is: God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness and in humility that he reveals himself and grants us his love, which saves us, heals us and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey his word and to trust in him.
This was the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. It is the astonishment of realizing that God, to become man, had chosen her, a simple maid of Nazareth. Not someone who lived in a palace amid power and riches, or one who had done extraordinary things, but simply someone who was open to God and put her trust in him, even without understanding everything: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). That was her answer. God constantly surprises us, he bursts our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans. And he tells us: trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!
Today let us all ask ourselves whether we are afraid of what God might ask, or of what he does ask. Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own safety zone: in forms of material, intellectual or ideological security, taking refuge in my own projects and plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I answer him?
-Pope Francis, 10/13/13
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Friday, October 11, 2013
You reign on high
Every mountain stream every sunset sky
But my one request Lord my only aim
Is that you reign in me again
Lord reign in me
Reign in your power
Over all my dreams
In my darkest hour
You are the Lord of all I am
So won't you reign in me again
Over every thought
Over every word
May my life reflect the beauty of my Lord
'Cause you mean more to me than any Earthly thing
So won't you reign in me again
When danger lurks, what kind of protection do you seek? Jesus came to free us from the greatest danger of all – the corrupting force of evil which destroys us from within and makes us slaves to sin and Satan (John 8:34). Evil is not an impersonal force that just happens. It has a name and a face and it seeks to master every heart and soul on the face of the earth (1 Peter 5:8-9). Scripture identifies the Evil One by many names, 'Satan', 'Be-el'zebul – the prince of demons', the 'Devil', the 'Deceiver', the 'Father of Lies', and 'Lucifier', the fallen angel who broke rank with God and established his own army and kingdom in opposition to God. Jesus declared that he came to overthrow the power of Satan and his kingdom (John 12:31). Jesus' numerous exorcisms brought freedom to many who were troubled and oppressed by the work of evil spirits. Jesus himself encountered personal opposition and battle with Satan when he was put to the test in the wilderness just before his public ministry (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1). He overcame the Evil One through his obedience to the will of his Father.
How can a strong person be defeated except by someone who is stronger? Jesus asserted his power and authority to cast out demons as a clear demonstration of the reign of God. Jesus' reference to the 'finger of God' points back to Moses' confrontation with Pharoah and his magicians who represented Satan and the kingdom of darkness (see Exodus 8:19). Jesus claims to be carrying on the tradition of Moses whose miracles freed the Israelites from bondage by the finger of God. God's power is clearly at work in the exorcisms which Jesus performed and they give evidence that God's kingdom has come.
What is the point of Jesus' grim story about a vacant house being occupied by an evil force? It is not enough to banish evil thoughts and habits from our lives. We must also fill the void with God who is the source of all that is good, wholesome, true, and life-giving for us. Augustine of Hippo said that our lives have a God-shaped void which only God can fill satisfactorily. If we attempt to leave it vacant or to fill it with something else, we will end up being in a worse state in the end. What do you fill the void in your life with? The Lord Jesus wants to fill our hearts and minds with the power of his life-giving word and healing love. Jesus makes it very clear that there are no neutral parties in this world. We are either for Jesus or against him, for the kingdom of God or against it. There are ultimately only two kingdoms which stand in opposition to one another – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness which is under the rule of Satan. If we disobey God's word, we open to door to the power of sin and Satan. If we want to live in true freedom, then our "house" (the inner core of our true being) must be occupied by Jesus where he is enthroned as Lord and Savior. The Lord assures us of his protection from spiritual harm and he gives us the help and strength we need to resist the devil and his lies (James 4:7). "Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways"(Psalm 91:9-11). Do you know the peace and security of a life submitted to God and his word?
Lord Jesus, be the ruler of my heart and the master of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your lordship."
Don Schwager, www.dailyscripture.net
Thursday, October 10, 2013
“This makes us think, in our prayer: how do we pray? Do we pray like this, out of habit, piously but unbothered, or do we put ourselves forward with courage before the Lord to ask for the grace, to ask for what we’re praying for? Courage in prayer: a prayer that is not courageous is not a real prayer. The courage to trust that the Lord listens to us, the courage to knock on the door . . . The Lord says: ‘For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’ But you have to ask, seek, and knock.”
“Do we get ourselves involved in prayer,” the Pope asked. “Do we know to knock at the heart of God?” In the Gospel Jesus says, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” This, the Pope said, “is a great thing”:
“When we pray courageously, the Lord gives us the grace, but He also gives us Himself in the grace: the Holy Spirit, that is, Himself! The Lord never gives or sends a grace by mail: never! He brings it Himself! What we ask for is a little bit like [laughing] . . . it is the envelope that grace is wrapped in. But the true grace is Him, Who comes to bring it to me. It’s Him. Our prayer, if it is courageous, receives what it asks for, but also that which is more important: the Lord.”
In the Gospel, the Pope noted, “some people receive the grace and then go away”: of the ten lepers healed by Jesus, only once returned to thank him. Even the blind man of Jericho found the Lord in the healing, and praised God. But we must pray “with the courage of faith” Pope Francis insisted, prompting us to ask even for those things that prayer does not dare hope for — that is, God Himself:
"We ask for a grace, but we don’t dare say, 'But come Yourself to bring it to me.' We know that a grace is always brought by Him: It is He Himself who comes and brings it to us. Let us not embarrass ourselves by taking the grace and not recognizing Him who brings it to us, Him who gives it to us: The Lord. That the Lord may give us the grace of giving us Himself, always, in every grace. And that we might recognize Him, and that we might praise Him as did the sick people in the Gospel who were healed. So that, in that grace, we might find the Lord."
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
-Pope Francis, Oct. 9, 2013
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
In his homily at daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis explained that a Christian is a person who has a heart that knows how to pray and knows how to forgive. The Gospel of the day was dedicated to the story of Saint Martha, the titular saint of his residence. The Pope took the Gospel story as the starting point, reminding us that “prayer works miracles” as long as it is not a purely mechanical act.
The very human figures of Saint Martha, from the New Testament, and the Prophet Jonah of the Old, the central characters of the day’s readings, are united by a common incapacity: they did not know to pray. Pope Francis built his homily on this aspect, beginning with the famous scene in the Gospel where Martha asks Jesus, in an almost critical tone, to have her sister to help her do the serving, rather than sitting at His feet listening to Him. Jesus replied, “Mary has chosen the better part.” This part, Pope Francis said, is “that of prayer, that of the contemplation of Jesus”:
“To the eyes of the sister, this was time lost, it even seemed, perhaps, a bit of a fantasy: gazing upon the Lord as if she were a awestruck child. But who wants that? The Lord: ‘This is the better part,’ because Mary heard the Lord and prayed with her heart. And the Lord tells us: ‘the first task in life is this: prayer.’ But not the prayer of words, like a parrot; but the prayer, the heart: gazing on the Lord, hearing the Lord, asking the Lord. We know that prayer works miracles.”
And prayer produces a miracle even in the ancient city of Niniveh. Jonah, on God’s instructions, had preached the imminent destruction of the city; the city, though, was saved because the inhabitants, believing the prophet, were converted, and from the greatest to the least called upon the divine forgiveness with all their strength. However, even in this story of redemption, the Pope took note of the erroneous attitude of Jonah, who was more disposed to justice without mercy. His attitude was similar to Martha’s, inclining to service that excludes interiority:
“And Martha does this. Does what? But she didn’t pray! But there are others like this stubborn Jonah, who are the executioners. He went, he prophesied, but in his heart he said: ‘But if they deserve it. If they deserve it. If they were asking for it!’ He prophesied, but he didn’t pray! He didn’t ask the Lord to forgive him. Only to beat them. They are executioners, those that believe themselves to be just! And in the end, the book of Jonah continues, it is seen that he was a selfish man, when the Lord saved Nineveh through the prayer of the people, he was angry with the Lord: ‘You are always like that. You always forgive!’”
And so, the Pope concluded, prayer that is only a formula, without heart, as well as pessimism or the desire for justice without forgiveness, are the temptations a Christian must always guard against in order to be able to choose “the better part”:
“And we ourselves, when we don’t pray, what we’re doing is closing the door to the Lord. And not praying is this: closing the door to the Lord, so that He can do nothing. On the other hand, prayer, in the face of a problem, a difficult situation, a calamity, is opening the door to the Lord so that He will come. So that He builds things, He knows to arrange things, to reorganize things. This is what praying is: opening the door to the Lord, so that he can do something. But if we close the door, God can do nothing! Let us think on this Mary who has chosen the better part, and makes us see the way, as the door is opened to the Lord.”
Monday, October 7, 2013
The passage from Revelation presents the vision of the struggle between the woman and the dragon. The figure of the woman, representing the Church, is, on the one hand, glorious and triumphant and yet, on the other, still in travail. And the Church is like that: if in heaven she is already associated in some way with the glory of her Lord, in history she continually lives through the trials and challenges which the conflict between God and the evil one, the perennial enemy, brings. And in the struggle which the disciples must confront – all of us, all the disciples of Jesus, we must face this struggle - Mary does not leave them alone: the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us. And in a way, Mary shares this dual condition. She has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory. But this does not mean that she is distant or detached from us; rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the rosary – but listen carefully: the Rosary. Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do [the people shout “Yes!”]… Really? Well, prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this “suffering” dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.
Mary also experienced the martyrdom of the Cross: the martyrdom of her heart, the martyrdom of her soul. She lived her Son’s Passion to the depths of her soul. She was fully united to him in his death, and so she was given the gift of resurrection. Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of “those who are in Christ”. She is our Mother, but we can also say that she is our representative, our sister, our eldest sister, she is the first of the redeemed, who has arrived in heaven.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, with all our heart let us too unite ourselves to this song of patience and victory, of struggle and joy, that unites the triumphant Church with the pilgrim one, earth with heaven, and that joins our lives to the eternity towards which we journey.
HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Castel Gandolfo, 15 August 2013