When we partake of the flesh of Jesus and assimilate Him into our very being, are we transformed into His body? Are we merciful and forgiving? Are we loving and kind?
Archive for the ‘Meditations’ Category
Reflection on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ +
The agony in the garden was really the agony in His mind. He suffered the passion in His mind before He suffered it in His body—to the point of actually affecting the latter by sweating blood. But from then on, it was His bodily suffering that affected His mental suffering.
At the base of all His suffering was the one thing that human beings dread the most: rejection. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter and abandoned by all the rest of His Apostles; those He had hand picked as His closest intimates. He was most rejected by those who put Him to death. They not only wanted Him dead, they wanted Him to suffer. They not only considered Him to be worth nothing, they considered Him to be worth minus nothing! This significance was not lost on Him. He felt fully the rejection as each physical agony reminded Him.
So we thank Him for I us on our human journey and actually choosing to experience what we fear the most.
We thank Him for enduring the arrest and the cruelty of the guards and the Sanhedrin. We thank Him for enduring the cruelty of Pilate who allowed Him to be executed rather than risk his own political ruin—and for the cruelty of Herod who wanted to be entertained by having Him work a miracle. We thank Him for all the time He spent satisfying their preoccupation with themselves, just delaying His ultimate death. We thank Him for the anxiety of that night in a cell.
The next morning He was brutally scourged with such intensity and violence that He became as an aged man in a matter of minutes. His multiple wounds bloodied His entire body. The loss of so much blood not only severely weakened Him; it also caused a severe, throbbing headache that remained with Him for the duration.
We thank Him for this and for the mockery He received when they put a purple cloth on His shoulders and pushed a crown of thorns down into His head which intensified His headache. They blindfolded Him and slapped Him, insisting that He ‘prophesy’ who had hit Him. They spat on Him and beat Him. But it was they who were blind. He knew who they were. This is what we do when we sin. We blot him out of our consciousness as if He can’t see us. But it is we who choose to not see.
He stood at the praetorium in utter disgrace according to the attitude of the crowd—while in reality, He stood in utter glory: almighty God, being present to every person who has ever suffered rejection, joining them in their
moment of pain. It was there that He was sentenced to death by crucifixion. As a further humiliation, He was forced to carry His instrument of execution. He revealed to St. Bernard that carrying the cross was His most painful agony. He was so weak, He could hardly walk. So the weight of the cross on His shoulder was unbearable. It most likely dislocated His shoulder. It is not surprising that He fell down on the stone streets that were filthy with animal dung—with the cross on top of Him. And He got up each time.
It was only with the help of Simon of Cyrene that He made it to the top of Calvary. There they drove the nails into the carpal tunnels of His hands, causing pain throughout His upper body. The nail in His feet registered great pain through all the sensitive nerves there. When the cross was righted, His up-stretched arms squeezed His lungs and He began to pant for lack of oxygen. So He had to push down on His crucified feet to push His body up in order to fill His lungs with air. This took great effort because He was so weak. Yet He managed to maintain such effort for three hours of agony which increased gradually as He became weaker moment by moment.
By the end of the third hour, His agony was at its peak and His self-gift was exquisite. He had come to the point where His strength simply gave out and He suffocated. In this eternal moment as He died, He gave us His life. Transcending time, this moment of divine love is present to us in the tabernacles of the world.
Thank you, Lord. We adore you O Christ and we praise you. By your holy cross, you have redeemed the world!
If this still matters to you, then it must matter more than anyone and anything. One day you will see Him face to face. If you go through with this marriage, what will you tell Him? If you read this reflection every day, He will give you the strength to be faithful to Him. You are in our prayers.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
As I continue to journey in faith, one of my greatest challenges is remaining humble and holy when faced with confrontation. The temptation to be snide, defensive and in certain situations even a little aggressive is overwhelming. I have given in to the weakness from time to time though not as often as I used to in the past. As I was reflecting on this weakness today, this came to mind….
If I see every situation or encounter as an opportunity to bear witness to Christ then I remain walking in the Light.
Later this morning, I brought my kids for their swimming lesson and decided to go for a swim as well. And again I believe inspired by the Holy Spirit I came up with this mantra/prayer which I intend to recite every day first thing I wake up and need be throughout the day until it I am one with it. It incorporates the Jesus prayer as well as a desire to live in discipleship.
“Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God have mercy on me a sinner, with, through and in your Love let me always bear witness to you in thought, word and deed.” Amen
“How fortunate we are…to have a God as a model. Are we poor? We have a God who is born in a stable, who lies in a manger. Are we despised? We have a God who led the way, who was crowned with thorns, dressed in a filthy red cloak and treated as a madman. Are we tormented by pain and suffering? Before our eyes we have a God covered with wounds, dying in unimaginable pain. Are we being persecuted? How can we dare complain when have a God who is being put to death by executioners? Finally, we are being tempted by the demon? We have our lovable redeemer:He was also tempted by the demon and was twice taken up by that hellish spirit :therefore, no matter what sufferings, pains, or temptations we are experiencing, we always have, everywhere, our God leading the way for us and assuring us of victory as long as we genuinely desire it.” – St John Vianney
“Jesus of Nazareth….is so intrinsically king that the title ‘King’ has become his name. By calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the king…. God did not intend Israel to have a Kingdom. The Kingdom was a result of Israel’s rebellion against God…. The law was to be Israel’s king, and, through the law, God himself… God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The King is Jesus; in Him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself. This is the usual form of the divine activity in relation to mankind. God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways… The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.”
Pope Benedict XVI
From a letter to Proba by Saint Augustine, bishop
(Ep. 130, 11,21-12,22; CSEL 44, 63-64)
We need to use words so that we may remind ourselves to consider carefully what we are asking, not so that we may think we can instruct the Lord or prevail upon him.
Thus, when we say: Hallowed be your name, we are reminding ourselves to desire that his name, which in fact is always holy, should also be considered holy among men. I mean that it should not be held in contempt. But this is a help for men, not for God.
And as for our saying: Your kingdom come, it will surely come whether we will it or not. But we are stirring up our desires for the kingdom so that it can come to us and we can deserve to reign there.
When we say: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are asking him to make us obedient so that his will may be done in us as it is done in heaven by his angels.
When we say: Give us this day our daily bread, in saying this day we mean “in this world.” Here we ask for a sufficiency by specifying the most important part of it; that is, we use the word “bread” to stand for everything. Or else we are asking for the sacrament of the faithful, which is necessary in this world, not to gain temporal happiness but to gain the happiness that is everlasting.
When we say: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, we are reminding ourselves of what we must ask and what we must do in order to be worthy in turn to receive.
When we say: Lead us not into temptation, we are reminding ourselves to ask that his help may not depart from us; otherwise we could be seduced and consent to some temptation, or despair and yield to it.
When we say: Deliver us from evil, we are reminding ourselves to reflect on the fact that we do not yet enjoy the state of blessedness in which we shall suffer no evil. This is the final petition contained in the Lord’s Prayer, and it has a wide application. In this petition the Christian can utter his cries of sorrow, in it he can shed his tears, and through it he can begin, continue and conclude his prayer, whatever the distress in which he finds himself. Yes, it was very appropriate that all these truths should be entrusted to us to remember in these very words.
Whatever be the other words we may prefer to say (words which the one praying chooses so that his disposition may become clearer to himself or which he simply adopts so that his disposition may be intensified), we say nothing that is not contained in the Lord’s Prayer, provided of course we are praying in a correct and proper way. But if anyone says something which is incompatible with this prayer of the Gospel, he is praying in the flesh, even if he is not praying sinfully. And yet I do not know how this could be termed anything but sinful, since those who are born again through the Spirit ought to pray only in the Spirit.
I found this to be helpful with quite a fair bit of interesting insights, hence sharing this with you
A key to the reading:
The Gospel text of the 26th Sunday of ordinary time recounts part of a long instruction that Jesus addressed to his disciples (Mc 8,22 a 10,52). (See the commentary on the Gospel of 24th Sunday). This Gospel especially sets down three conditions necessary for the conversion of someone who wishes to follow him: (i) it corrects the wrong idea of those who think they own Jesus (Mk 9:38-40); (ii) it insists on welcoming little ones (Mk 9:41-42) and (iii) it demands a radical commitment to the Gospel (Mk 9:43-48).
This Sunday’s Gospel presents three important requirements for the conversion of anyone who wishes to be Jesus’ disciple: (i) Not to have a closed mentality like that of John the disciple who thought he owned Jesus, but to be open and ecumenical, able to recognise good in others, even though they may belong to another religion. (ii) To overcome the mentality of those who considered themselves superior to others and who, thus, despised the little ones and the poor and drew apart from the community. According to Jesus, such a person deserves to have a millstone tied round his neck and to be thrown into the depths of the sea. (iii) Jesus asks us not to let routine enter our living out of the Gospel, but that we may be able to break the ties that prevent us from living it fully.
● These three pointers are very real for us today. Many members of the Catholic Church tend to be anti-ecumenical and have a closed mentality as if we Christians are better than others. In today’s world, dominated by a neo-liberal system, many despise the little ones and everywhere poverty, hunger, refugees and those abandoned are on the increase. We Christians are often not committed to live the Gospel. If we, millions of Christians, were to really live the Gospel, the world would be a different place.
b) A commentary on the text:
Mark 9:38-40: A closed mentality.
One who did not belong to the community, used Jesus’ name to drive out devils. John, the disciple, sees this and forbids it: Because he was not one of us, we tried to stop him. In the name of the community, John tries to stop someone else from doing good! He thought that to be a good disciple he had to monopolize Jesus and, thus, wanted to stop others from using the name of Jesus in doing good. This was the closed and old mind of the “Chosen people, a people set apart!” Jesus replies: You must not stop him! Anyone who is not against us is for us! (Mk 9:40). For Jesus, what is important is not whether the person is or is not a member of the community, but whether this person does or does not do the good that the community should be doing. Jesus had an ecumenical mind.
Mark 9:41: Anyone who offers a cup of water will be rewarded.
One of Jesus’ sayings was inserted here: If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not lose his reward. Two thoughts to comment on this saying: i) “If anyone gives you a cup of water”: Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to give his life. The sign of a great offering! But he does not forget little offerings in daily life: a cup of water, a sign of welcome, an act of charity, and so many other signs to show our love. Anyone who despises the brick will never build a house! ii) “Because you belong to Christ”: Jesus identifies himself with us who wish to belong to him. This means that, for him, we are of great worth. Thus we must always ask ourselves: “Who is Jesus for me?” and also ask ourselves: “Who am I for Jesus?” This verse gives us an answer that is encouraging and full of hope.
Mark 9:42: A scandal to little ones.
A scandal is something that makes a person deviate from the straight path. To scandalize little ones is to cause little ones to deviate from the path and lose faith in God. Anyone who does so, is condemned to be: “thrown into the sea with a great millstone hung round his neck!” Why such harshness? Because Jesus identifies himself with the little ones (Mt 25:40.45). Anyone who hurts them, hurts Jesus! Today, in many places, the little ones, the poor, leave the Catholic Church and go to other churches. They can no longer believe in the Church! Why? Before we point the finger at the other churches, it is good to ask ourselves: why do they leave our house? If they leave it is because they do not feel at home with us. There must be something missing in us. How far are we to blame? Do we deserve the millstone around our necks?
Mark 9:43-48: Cutting off the hand and foot.
Jesus tells us to cut the hand or foot, to pluck out the eye, if these are the cause of scandal. He says: “It is better for you to enter into life crippled (maimed, with one eye), than to have two hands (feet, eyes) and go to hell”. These sayings cannot be taken literally. They are saying that we must be radical in our choice for God and for the Gospel. The expression, “Gehenna (hell), where their worm will never die nor their fire be put out”, is an image that depicts the situation of one without God. Gehenna was the name of a valley near Jerusalem, where the rubbish of the city was thrown and where there was a constant fire to burn the rubbish. This malodorous place was used by the people to symbolize the situation of one who had no part in the Kingdom of God.
c) Further information:
Jesus welcomes and defends the little ones
Many times, Jesus insists on welcoming little ones. “Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me” (Mk 9:37). “If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not go without his reward” (Mt 10,42). He asks that we do not despise the little ones (Mt 18:10). At the final judgment, the just will be welcomed because they gave food to “one of the least of these brothers of mine” (Mt 25:40).
If Jesus insists so much on welcoming little ones, it is because many little ones were not made welcome! In fact, women and children did not count (Mt 14:21; 15:38), they were despised (Mt 18:10) and bound to silence (Mt 21:15-16). Even the apostles forbade them to go near Jesus (Mt 19:13; Mk 10:13-14). In the name of God’s law, badly interpreted by the religious authorities, many good people were excluded. Rather than welcoming the excluded, the law was used to legitimise exclusion.
In the Gospels, the expression “little ones” (in Greek elachistoi, mikroi or nepioi), sometimes means “children”, at other times it means those excluded from society. It is not easy to distinguish. Sometimes what is “little” in the Gospel, means “children” because children belonged to the category of “little ones”, of the excluded. Also, it is not easy to distinguish between what comes from the time of Jesus and what from the time of the communities for whom the Gospels were written. In any case, what is clear is the context of exclusion in practice at the time, and the image that the first communities had of Jesus: Jesus places himself on the side of the little ones and defends them. What Jesus does in defence of the life of children, of little ones, is striking:
● Welcomes and forbids scandalizing them. One of Jesus’ hardest sayings is against those who give scandal to little ones, that is, who by their attitude deprive children of their faith in God. For such as these, it would be better to have a millstone tied round their necks and be thrown into the sea (Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2; Mt 18:6).
● Welcomes and touches. When children come to Jesus to get his blessing, the apostles are upset and want to send them away. According to the customs of those days, mothers and little children lived practically in a permanent state of legal impurity. To touch them meant incurring impurity! But Jesus corrects the disciples and welcomes the mothers and children. He embraces the children. “Let the little children come to me, do not stop them!” (Mk 10:13-16; Mt 19:13-15).
● Identifies with the little ones. Jesus embraces the children and identifies with them. Anyone who welcomes them “welcomes me” (Mk 9:37). “In so far as you did this to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
● Asks the disciples to become like children. Jesus wants the disciples to become like children who receive the Kingdom like children. Otherwise it is not possible to enter the Kingdom (Mk 10:15; Mt 18:3; Lk 9:46-48). He says that children are the teachers of adults! This was not normal. We want to do the opposite.
● Defends their right to shout. When Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, it is the children who shout the loudest: “Hosanna to the son of David!” (Mt 21:15). Children were criticised by the chief priests and Scribes, but Jesus defends them and even quotes Scripture in their defence (Mt 21:16).
● Is grateful for the Kingdom present in little ones. Jesus greatly rejoices when he realizes that the little ones understand the matters concerning the Kingdom that he proclaimed to the people. “Father, I thank you!” (Mt 11:25-26) Jesus sees that the little ones understand the things concerning the Kingdom better than the doctors!
● Welcomes and heals. Jesus welcomes, heals or raises from the dead many children and young people: Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter (Mk 5:41-42), the Canaanites’ daughter (Mk 7:29-30), the widow from Naim’s son (Lk 7: 14-15), the epileptic child (Mk 9:25-26), the public servant’s son (Jn 4:50), the child with five loaves and two fishes (Jn 6:9).
In the stillness of your heart I speak to you, are you listening? My love speaks volumes, if only you would listen.
The cross is a passageway; it is a Passover. The cross is God’s true “passage”. But one does not stop or remain there. One does not abide in the cross; one abides in love. Abiding in suffering is bad. One does not abide in suffering, but in love. And because one abides in love, one assumes suffering; one assumes the cross. It is important to have a good understanding of this. The cross is unbearable if viewed from the outside. The cross is wisdom if viewed in the light of faith, that is, from the inside, as God himself views it.
Father Marie-Dominique Phillipe, o.p.
“God has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work, I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it if I just keep His commandments. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain… He knows what He is about.”
Blessed John Henry Newman
Do not let the cares of the world overwhelm you, sit by my side and I will give you living water to drink.
(SACCRE Ablaze Rally at Church Of The Holy Cross And A Talk by Jim Murphy ICCRS – Theme “The Royal Commission”)
Bring me the sign of true humility by being not overly ambitious in your position, but lowly. Don’t be impatient over any pain or abuse you might suffer, but endure within the body of holy Church by the firm power of patience, even to the point of death. When you speak and proclaim the truth, whether in giving counsel or in any other role, do it fearlessly, looking only to God’s honour, the salvation of souls, and the advancement of holy Church, as her true son, nurtured by so tender a Mother. In this way you will demonstrate gentle divine charity and patience as well. Be generous in your charity – spiritually, as I’ve already said, but materially too. Reflect that the hands of the poor are helping you to offer and receive divine grace. I want you begin a new life, a new way of living: slumber no more in the sleep of foolish indifference. Be a real champion for me, please.
I told you that I want you to be lamb, a follower of the true lamb. Now I’m telling you that I want you to be a lion, roaring loudly in holy Church, your virtue and your voice so strong that you help bring back to life the children lying dead with her. Perhaps you are asking: “Where can I get such a strong roaring voice?” From the lamb, who in his humility remains meek and does not cry out, but whose divinity lends power to the Son’s cry with the voice of it’s immeasurable charity. And so, by the strength and power of divine being and of the love that joined God with humanity, the lamb becomes a lion. From the chair of the cross he roared so loudly over the dead child, the human race, that he freed us from death and gave us life. It is from him, then, that we will receive strength, for the love we will drink from the gentle Jesus will give us a share in the Father’s power.
Saint Catherine Of Siena +1380
From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope
The Lord reveals his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses. His body is like that of the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such splendor that his face becomes like the sun in glory, and his garments as white as snow.
The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.
With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.
The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Saint Paul the apostle bore witness to this same truth when he said: I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared with the future glory that is to be revealed in us. In another place he says: You are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
This marvel of the transfiguration contains another lesson for the apostles, to strengthen them and lead them into the fullness of knowledge. Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, appeared with the Lord in conversation with him. This was in order to fulfill exactly, through the presence of these five men, the text which says: Before two or three witnesses every word is ratified. What word could be more firmly established, more securely based, than the word which is proclaimed by the trumpets of both old and new testaments, sounding in harmony, and by the utterances of ancient prophecy and the teaching of the Gospel, in full agreement with each other?
The writings of the two testaments support each other. The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under the veils of mystery. As Saint John says: The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. In him the promise made through the shadows of prophecy stands revealed, along with the full meaning of the precepts of the law. He is the one who teaches the truth of prophecy through his presence, and makes obedience to the commandments possible through grace.
In the preaching of the holy Gospel all should receive a strengthening of their faith. No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed.
No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.
When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears: This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.
From a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr
Dear brothers, the commands of the Gospel are nothing else than God’s lessons, the foundations on which to build up hope, the supports for strengthening faith, the food that nourishes the heart. They are the rudder for keeping us on the right course, the protection that keeps our salvation secure. As they instruct the receptive minds of believers on earth, they lead safely to the kingdom of heaven.
God willed that many things should be said by the prophets, his servants, and listened to by his people. How much greater are the things spoken by the Son. These are now witnessed to by the very Word of God who spoke through the prophets. The Word of God does not now command us to prepare the way for his coming: he comes in person and opens up the way for us and directs us toward it. Before, we wandered in the darkness of death, aimlessly and blindly. Now we are enlightened by the light of grace, and are to keep to the highway of life, with the Lord to precede and direct us.
The Lord has given us many counsels and commandments to help us toward salvation. He has even given us a pattern of prayer, instructing us on how we are to pray. He has given us life, and with his accustomed generosity, he has also taught us how to pray. He has made it easy for us to be heard as we pray to the Father in the words taught us by the Son.
He had already foretold that the hour was coming when true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth. He fulfilled what he had promised before, so that we who have received the spirit and the truth through the holiness he has given us may worship in truth and in the spirit through the prayer he has taught.
What prayer could be more a prayer in the spirit than the one given us by Christ, by whom the Holy Spirit was sent upon us? What prayer could be more a prayer in the truth than the one spoken by the lips of the Son, who is truth himself? It follows that to pray in any other way than the Son has taught us is not only the result of ignorance but of sin. He himself has commanded it, and has said: You reject the command of God, to set up your own tradition.
So, my brothers, let us pray as God our master has taught us. To ask the Father in words his Son has given us, to let him hear the prayer of Christ ringing in his ears, is to make our prayer one of friendship, a family prayer. Let the Father recognize the words of his Son. Let the Son who lives in our hearts be also on our lips. We have him as an advocate for sinners before the Father; when we ask forgiveness for our sins, let us use the words given by our advocate. He tells us: Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. What more effective prayer could we then make in the name of Christ than in the words of his own prayer?
I seek the fruit which increases to your credit. The gain is yours, not mine, except that because it is yours, it is ours, too, the benefit glancing from you to us just like the reflected rays of the sun. Did you feed the poor? Did you show hospitality? Did you wash the feet of the saints?…
To preach the Gospel is a matter of necessity: the honour lies in doing so free of charge but so that you may learn to serve Christ by serving even one of the least. For just as, for my sake, he became everything that I am, except for sin, in the same way he accepts as his own even my smallest acts of kindness, whether you give of your shelter; whether of your clothing; whether you visit the prisons; whether you tend the sick; whether you just perform the most ordinary gesture of refreshing with a cup of cool water the tongue of a man parched with thirst, just as the rich man tormented in the flame asked of the beggar Lazarus but, in a measure of return for a life of indulgence on this earth and his neglect of Lazarus, who was hungry and full of sores, asked of Lazarus in the other and did not receive.
This, then, is what we require of you; and I know that you are not discomfited at the prospect of having an account asked of you either by us, or on the last day when all our affairs are gathered up. As Scripture says, And I am coming to gather your intentions and your actions; and Behold man, and his work, and his reward with him.
Saint Gregory Nazianzen +390
Because of its rebellion against God, here are the devils, holding this sheep as their own possession. Then along comes God’s infinite goodness and sees the sheep’s sorry state its ruin and damnation. He knows he cannot use wrath or war to entice it away from them. Supreme eternal Wisdom doesn’t want to do it that way, even though the sheep has wronged him (for humankind, by its rebellion in disobedience, was deserving of infinite punishment). No, he finds a delightful way – the most sweet and loving way possible; for he sees that the human heart is drawn by love as by nothing else, since it is made of love. This seems to be why human beings love so much, because they are made of nothing but love, body and soul. In love God created them in his own image and likeness, and in love father and mother conceive and bring forth their children, giving them a share in their own substance. So God, seeing that humankind is so quick to love, throws out to us right away the hook of love, giving us the Word, his only-begotten Son. He takes on our humanity to make a great peace….
This Word played life against death and death against life in tournament on the wood of the most holy cross, so that by his death he destroyed our death, and to give us life he spent his own bodily life. With love, then, he has so drawn us and with his kindness so conquered our malice that every heart should be won over. For a person can show no greater love (he said so himself) than to give his or her life for a friend. And if he praises the love that gives one’s life for a friend, what shall we say of the consummate blazing love that gave his life for his enemy? For through sin we had become God’s enemies. Oh, gentle loving Word, with love you recovered your little sheep, and with love gave them life. You brought them back to the fold by restoring to them the grace they had lost.
Saint Catherine of Siena +1380
From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop
Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is a partnership and union with God. As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light. I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods but continuous throughout the day and night.
Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe. Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time to it.
Prayer is the light of the spirit, true knowledge of God, mediating between God and man. The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides. It seeks the satisfaction of its own desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.
Prayer stands before God as an honored ambassador. It gives joy to the spirit, peace to the heart. I speak of prayer, not words. It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but by God’s grace. The apostle Paul says: We do not know how we are to pray but the Spirit himself pleads for us with inexpressible longings.
When the Lord gives this kind of prayer to a man, he gives him riches that cannot be taken away, heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. One who tastes this food is set on fire with an eternal longing for the Lord: his spirit burns as in a fire of utmost intensity.
Practice prayer from the beginning. Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer. In this way you will make it a perfect dwelling place for the Lord. You will be able to receive him as in a splendid palace, and through his grace you will already possess him, his image enthroned in the temple of your spirit.
From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope
Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvellous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of its gratitude.
But with the return of that season marked out in a special way by the mystery of our redemption, and of the days that lead up to the paschal feast, we are summoned more urgently to prepare ourselves by a purification of spirit. The special note of the paschal feast is this: the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins. It rejoices in the forgiveness not only of those who are then reborn in holy baptism but also of those who are already numbered among God’s adopted children.
Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of baptism. Yet there still is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made there is no one who should not be more advanced. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.
Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin.
There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving. This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful may be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention. The angels sang: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed, not only with the virtue of good will but also with the gift of peace.
The works of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts.
It is necessary to mention here a great deception that often befalls those who begin to serve God. Sometimes they read in spiritual books how great are the consolations of the Holy Spirit and how sweet charity is and they think that the whole path to perfection is filled with delights and that there is no effort or fatigue involved. As a result, they prepare themselves for it as for something easy and pleasant and do not arm themselves for entering battle. They do not realise that while the love of God is in itself very sweet and delectable, the way to perfect charity is arduous, because to attain it, one must completely conquer self-love, and this involves a constant struggle against self. Thus Isaiah says :” Shake yourself from the dust; arise, sit up, O Jerusalem.” In other words, the soul must shake off the dust of worldly affections and attachments and arise from it’s sins before it can enjoy the pleasure of seating itself in charity. However, God bestows marvellous consolations on those who faithfully struggle and on all those who trade the delights of earth for the joys of heaven. But if this barter is not made and a man does not want to surrender his spoils, this celestial refreshment will not be given to him. For we know that the heavenly manna was not given to the children of Israel until they finished the grain that they had brought with them out of Egypt.
Those who do not fortify themselves with courage are incapable of attaining what they seek, and until they are properly armed they will never find it. They should understand that rest is won only with effort, the crown is gained only after the battle, joy follows tears, and the most sweet love of God is gained only when one spiritually hates himself. That is why Scripture so often condemns and severely censures sloth and indifference, and praises fortitude so highly, because the Holy Spirit knows what a great impediment the one is to virtue and what a great help the other is.
Venerable Louis Of Granada O.P. +1588
The danger of Catholicism is its power to help. It is a faith that even to those who do not believe seems to carry with it comfort and reality. Yet it is not wise to come to the Catholic Church because you need comfort. It is never wise to join any cause or any ideal for what one can make out of it or get out of it. We should come in for what we can give….
I think that the best thing of all is your devotion to our Lord. It is to give ourselves to him that we must come. It must be under the inspiration of his unselfishness, of his service of God in man and of man in God, that we seek to join ourselves to him: there were those who followed because they had been fed in the wilderness. This wasn’t enough. “Signs and wonders” are not good enough proofs; the only great proof is that people have followed him down narrow lanes and over uneven paths and wearing thorns and carrying their cross. It is along that line then that you must pray that he would help you to give yourself to him, patiently, indeed serenely. You won’t then bother about arguing or the need of it. You will just follow where he leads you, sure that all will be well: “Be not solicitous.” For the past, remember his injunction to let the dead bury their dead; for the future, remember that the morrow, so he said would take care of itself. All that’s to be done is to hold oneself in the Everlasting Arms or rather be held by them. The rest is peace that comes of having nothing left.
Father Bede Jarret, O.P. (+1934)
From the Explanations of the Psalms by Saint Ambrose, bishop
We must always meditate on God’s wisdom, keeping it in our hearts and on our lips. Your tongue must speak justice, the law of God must be in your heart. Hence Scripture tells you: You shall speak of these commandments when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down, and when you get up. Let us then speak of the Lord Jesus, for he is wisdom, he is the word, the Word indeed of God.
It is also written: Open your lips, and let God’s word be heard. God’s word is uttered by those who repeat Christ’s teaching and meditate on his sayings. Let us always speak this word. When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.
Open your lips, says Scripture, and let God’s word be heard. It is for you to open, it is for him to be heard. So David said: I shall hear what the Lord says in me. The very Son of God says: Open your lips, and I will fill them. Not all can attain to the perfection of wisdom as Solomon or Daniel did, but the spirit of wisdom is poured out on all according to their capacity, that is, on all the faithful. If you believe, you have the spirit of wisdom.
Meditate, then, at all times on the things of God, and speak the things of God, when you sit in your house. By house we can understand the Church, or the secret place within us, so that we are to speak within ourselves. Speak with prudence, so as to avoid falling into sin, as by excess of talking. When you sit in your house, speak to yourself as if you were a judge. When you walk along the way, speak so as to never be idle. You speak along the way if you speak in Christ, for Christ is the way. When you walk along the way, speak to yourself, speak to Christ. Hear him say to you: I desire that in every place men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. When you lie down, speak so that the sleep of death may not steal upon you. Listen and learn how you are to speak as you lie down; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
When you get up or rise again, speak of Christ, so as to fulfill what you are commanded. Listen and learn how Christ is to awaken you from sleep. Your soul says: I hear my brother knocking at the door. Then Christ says to you: Open the door to me, my sister, my spouse. Listen and learn how you are to awaken Christ. Your soul says: I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, awaken or reawaken the love of my heart. Christ is that love.
- For those who are serving in a Ministry but have become disenchanted or disheartened.
- For those who are serving but feel that God doesn’t know how much they labour or feel unrewarded when they see others seemingly happier doing as they please.
- For those who are not using their gifts provided for by their Creator.
13 You have spoken harsh words against me, says the LORD. Yet you say, “How have we spoken against you?” 14 You have said, “It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the LORD of hosts? 15 Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape.”
16 Then those who revered the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the LORD and thought on his name. 17 They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. 18 Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
From a sermon by Blessed Isaac of Stella, abbot
(Sermo 31: PL 194, 1292-1293)
Why, brothers, are we so little concerned to seek one another’s well-being, so that where we see a greater need, we might show a greater readiness to help and carry one another’s burdens? For this is what the blessed apostle Paul urges us to do in the words: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ; and also: Support each other in charity. For this surely is the law of Christ.
Why can I not patiently bear the weaknesses I see in my brother which, either out of necessity or because of physical or moral weakness, cannot be corrected? And why can I not instead generously offer him consolation, as it is written: Their children shall be carried on their shoulders and consoled upon their knees? Is it because I lack that virtue which suffers all things, is patient enough to bear all, and generous enough to love?
This is indeed the law of Christ, who truly bore our weaknesses in his passion and carried our sorrows out of pity, loving those he carried and carrying those he loved. Whoever attacks a brother in need, or plots against him in his weakness of whatever sort, surely fulfills the devil’s law and subjects himself to it. Let us then be compassionate toward one another, loving all our brothers, bearing one another’s weaknesses, yet ridding ourselves of our sins.
The more any way of life sincerely strives for the love of God and the love of our neighbor for God’s sake, the more acceptable it is to God, no matter what be its observances or external form. For charity is the reason why anything should be done or left undone, changed or left unchanged; it is the initial principle and the end to which all things should be directed. Whatever is honestly done out of love and in accordance with love can never be blameworthy. May he then deign to grant us this love, for without it we cannot please him, and without him we can do absolutely nothing, God, who lives and reigns for ever. Amen.
From an explanation of Paul’s letter to the Galatians by Saint Augustine, bishop
( From the letter to the Galatians 4:8-31 )
The Apostle says, Be like me, for though born a Jew, by reason of spiritual discernment I now consider carnal things of small importance. And he adds, For I am as you are, that is to say: For I, like you, am a man. Then he tactfully reminds them of his love so that they will not look on him as an enemy: Brothers, I beseech you, he says, you did me no wrong, as if to say, “Do not imagine that I want to wrong you.” And to have them imitate him as they would a parent, he addresses them as little children:My little children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you. Actually he is here speaking more in the person of Mother Church that his own. So too he says elsewhere: I was gentle among you like a nurse fondling her little ones.
Christ is formed in the believer by faith of the inner man, called to the freedom that grace bestows, meek and gentle, not boasting of nonexistent merits, but through grace making some beginning of merit. Hence he can be called “my least one” by him who said: Inasmuch as you did it to the least of my brethren you did it to me.
Christ is formed in him who receives Christ’s mold, who clings to him in spiritual love. By imitating him he becomes, as far as is possible to his condition, what Christ is. John says: He who remains in Christ should walk as he did.
Children are conceived in order to be formed in their mother’s womb, and when they have been so formed, mothers are in travail to give them birth. We can thus understand Paul’s words: With whom I am in labor until Christ be formed in you. By labor we understand his anxiety for those with whom he is in travail, that they be born unto Christ. And he is again in labor when he sees them in danger of being led astray. These anxieties, which can be likened to the pangs of childbirth, will continue until they come to full age in Christ, so as not to be moved by every wind of doctrine.
He is not therefore talking about the beginnings of faith by which they were born, but of strong and perfect faith when he says: With whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you. He also refers elsewhere in different words to his being in labor, when he says: There is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
From a homily on Genesis by Origen, priest
Abraham took wood for the burnt offering and placed it upon Isaac his son, and he took fire and a sword in his hands, and together they went off. Isaac himself carries the wood for his own holocaust: this is a figure of Christ. For he bore the burden of the cross, and yet to carry the wood for the holocaust is really the duty of the priest. He is then both victim and priest. This is the meaning of the expression: together they went off. For when Abraham, who was to perform the sacrifice, carried the fire and the knife, Isaac did not walk behind him, but with him. In this way he showed that he exercised the priesthood equally with Abraham.
What happens after this? Isaac said to Abraham his father: Father. This plea from the son was at that instant the voice of temptation. For do you not think the voice of the son who was about to be sacrificed struck a responsive chord in the heart of the father? Although Abraham did not waver because of his faith, he responded with a voice full of affection and asked: What is it, my son? Isaac answered him: Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust? And Abraham replied: God will provide for himself a sheep for the holocaust, my son. The careful yet loving response of Abraham moves me greatly. I do not know what he saw in spirit, because he did not speak of the present but of the future: God will provide for himself a sheep. His reply concerns the future, yet his son inquires about the present. Indeed, the Lord himself provided a sheep for himself in Christ.
Abraham extended his hand to take the sword and slay his son, and the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said: Abraham, Abraham. And he responded: Here I am. And the angel said: Do not put your hand upon the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God. Compare these words to those of the Apostle when he speaks of God: He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. God emulates man with magnificent generosity. Abraham offered to God his mortal son who did not die, and God gave up his immortal Son who died for all of us.
And Abraham, looking about him, saw a ram caught by the horns in a bush. We said before that Isaac is a type of Christ. Yet this also seems true of the ram. To understand how both are figures of Christ—Isaac who was not slain and the ram who was—is well worth our inquiry.
Christ is the Word of God, but the Word became flesh. Christ therefore suffered and died, but in the flesh. In this respect, the ram is the type, just as John said: Behold the lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. The Word, however, remained incorruptible. This is Christ according to the spirit, and Isaac is the type. Therefore, Christ himself is both victim and priest according to the spirit. For he offers the victim to the Father according to the flesh, and he is himself offered on the altar of the cross.
Here we discover something that must be considered attentively: Mary’s mediation implies that we rest in her as the place God has given us to enable us to contemplate, to go to the end in love. To recognise Mary’s mediation practically and divinely is to rest in her in our contemplation. It is to rest in her heart, a heart transformed by the fullness of charity, to rest in her wounded heart, in the seven wounds of her heart. If we do not rest in Mary’s heart, we only live by her moral mediation, by her mediation as advocate. We do not live by the proper mystery of Mary’s mediation, which is that of the cross, where in unity with Jesus, she communicates grace to John- grace in superabundance – as instrument of the Holy Spirit for him. Under the motion of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us by Mary’s prayer, by the deep unity between Mary’s royal priesthood and the priesthood of Jesus(Jesus and Mary become sources for us – instrumental sources yet sources – of the gift of the Holy Spirit), we understand that having received the Holy Spirit through Mary, we must rest in her since an instrument is one with the principal cause. Thus the Holy Spirit can ask us to have in our contemplation this attitude of littleness, of trust, of love for Mary, this attitude that consists in resting in her and even accepting to find no rest except in her. Jesus and the Holy Spirit can remain hidden, the Father can remain silent in order for Mary to be alone, so that we may place all our trust in her and rest in here alone, as we rest in the one who carries us and is the maternal source of divine life for us.
Father Marie-Dominique Philippe O.P. +2006
On today’s feast we contemplate the Lord Jesus, whom Mary and Joseph bring to the temple “to present him to the Lord” (LK 2:22). This Gospel scene reveals the mystery of the Son of the Virgin, the consecrated One of the Father who came into the world to do his will faithfully (cf He 10:5-7).
Simeon identifies him as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32) and announces with prophetic words his supreme offering to God and his final victory (cf Lk 2:32-35). This is the meeting point of the two Testaments, Old and New. Jesus enters the ancient Temple, he who is the new Temple of God:he comes to visit his people, thus bringing to fulfilment obedience to the Law and ushering in the last times of salvation.
It is interesting to take a close look at this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the Temple, in the great comings and goings of many people, busy with their work: priests and Levites taking turns to be on duty, the numerous devout people and pilgrims anxious to encounter the Holy God of Israel. Yet none of them noticed anything. Jesus was a child like others, a first-born son of very simple parents.
Even the priests proved incapable of recognising the signs of the new and special presence of the Messiah and Saviour. Alone two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, discover this great newness. Led by the Holy Spirit, in this Child they find the fulfilment of their long waiting and watchfulness. They both contemplate the light of God that comes to illuminate the world and their prophetic gaze is opened to the future in the proclamation of the Messiah: “Lumen ad revelationem gentium!” (Lk 2:32). The prophetic attitude of the two elderly people contains the entire Old Covenant which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer: Upon seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna understood that he was the Awaited One.
Pope Benedict XVI
In doing external acts we must use a certain measure of discretion. The attitude of a religious man towards the acts by which he acknowledges God to be God, is quite different according as those acts are internal or external. It is principally in the internal acts, the acts by which he believes, hopes and loves that man’s good consists and what makes man good in God’s sight. Whence it is written, The kingdom of God is within you (Lk 17:21). Man’s good and what makes man good in God’s sight does not, principally, consist in external acts. The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, says Saint Paul (Rm 14:17)
Whence the internal acts are as the end, the thing, that is to say, which is sought for its own sake; the external acts, through which the body is shown as God’s creature, are but as means i.e. , things directed to and existing for the sake of the end.
Now when it is a question of seeking the end we do not measure our energy or resource, but the greater the end the better our endeavour.
When on the other hand, it is a question of things we only seek because of the end, we measure our energy according to the relation of the things to the end. Thus a physician restores health as much as he possibly can. He does not give as much medicine as he possibly can, but only just so much as he sees to be necessary for the attainment of health.
In a similar way man puts no measure to his faith, his hope, and charity, but the more he believes,hopes and loves, so much the better man he is. That is why it is said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength (Dt 6:5).
But in the external actions, we must use discretion and make charity the measure of our use of them.
Saint Thomas Aquinas +1274
It is important for the process of spiritual growth that you don’t just pray and study your faith at times when it happens to cross your mind, when it suits you, but that you observe some discipline…. I should say, never begin with thinking alone. For if you try to pull God toward you in the laboratory of rational thought and to attach him to you in what is to some extent a purely theoretical fashion, you find you can’t do it. You always have to combine the questions with action. Pascal once said to an unbelieving friend: Start by doing what believers do, even if it still makes no sense to you… You can never look for faith in isolation; it is only found in an encounter with people who believe, who can understand you, who have perhaps come by way of a similar situation themselves, who can in some way lead you and help you. It is always among us that faith grows. Anyone who wants to go it alone has thus got it wrong from the very start.
Pope Benedict XVI
The Holy Ghost, I have said dwells in body and soul, as in a temple. Evil Spirits indeed have power to possess sinners, but his indwelling is far more perfect; for he is all-knowing and omnipresent, he is able to search into all our thoughts, and penetrate into every motive of the heart. Therefore, he pervades us ( if may be so said) as light pervades a building, or as sweet perfume the folds of some honourable robe; so that, in Scripture language, we are said to be in him, and he in us. It is plain that such an inhabitation brings the Christian into a state altogether new and marvelous, far above the possession of mere gifts, exalts him inconceivably in the scale of beings, and gives him a place and an office which he had not before. In Saint Peter’s forcible language, he becomes “partaker of the Divine Nature”, and has “power” or authority, as Saint John says, “to become the Son of God”. Or, to use the words of Saint Paul, “he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new”. [...]
This wonderful change from darkness to light, through the entrance of the Spirit into the soul, is called Regeneration, or the New Birth; a blessing which, before Christ’s coming, not even Prophets and righteous men possessed, but which is now conveyed to all men freely through the Sacrament of Baptism. By nature we are children of wrath;the heart is sold under sin, possessed by evil spirits; and inherits death as its eternal portion. But by the coming of the Holy Ghost, all guilt and pollution are burned away as by fire, the devil is driven forth, sin, original and actual, is forgiven, and the whole man is consecrated to God. And this is the reason why he is called “the earnest” of that Saviour who died for us, and will one day give us the fullness of his own presence in heaven. Hence, too, the is our “seal unto the day of redemption”; for as the potter moulds the clay, so he impresses the Divine image on us members of the household of God. And his work may truly be called Regeneration; for though the original nature of the soul is not destroyed, yet its past transgressions are pardoned once and for ever, and its source of evil staunched and gradually dried up by the pervading health and purity which has set up its abode in it.
Blessed John Henry Newman +1890
From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop
Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.
Thus, amid the traps set for him by his enemies, with exultant heart he turned their every attack into a victory for himself; constantly beaten, abused and cursed, he boasted of it as though he were celebrating a triumphal procession and taking trophies home, and offered thanks to God for it all: Thanks be to God who is always victorious in us! This is why he was far more eager for the shameful abuse that his zeal in preaching brought upon him than we are for the most pleasing honors, more eager for death than we are for life, for poverty than we are for wealth; he yearned for toil far more than others yearn for rest after toil. The one thing he feared, indeed dreaded, was to offend God; nothing else could sway him. Therefore, the only thing he really wanted was always to please God.
The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored.
To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.
So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.
Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field. As for tyrannical rulers or the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats.
Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child’s play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ.
I am a poor, frightened little creature, the baby of the family, timid and shy by nature and completely lacking in self confidence; and that is why I should like the people to let me live unnoticed and all on my own according to my inclination, because I have to make such enormous efforts about shyness and my excessive fears. Who can fail to see that this is not living according to the spirit?
No indeed,….for when I was still very young and had little understanding I already lived like this; but although according to my temperament I am shy, nervous, and as timid as a mole, I want to have a good try to overcome these natural passions and little by little learn to do everything that belongs to the office which obedience, proceeding from God, has laid upon me. Who can fail to see that this is living according to the spirit?
Living according to the spirit means doing the actions which the spirit of God asks of us, saying the words and thinking the things he wants. And when I say thinking the things he wants, I am referring to your willed thoughts. I am miserable and so I don’t feel like talking:draymen and parrots do as much; I feel miserable but since charity demands that I should talk I will do it: that is what spiritual people say. I have been slighted and I get cross: peacocks and monkeys do as much; I have been slighted and I rejoice:that is what the Apostles did. So to live according to the spirit is to do what faith, hope and charity teach us to do, whether in things temporal or things spiritual.
So live wholly according to the spirit,….live sweetly and in peace. Be quite confident that God will help you, and in all that happens rest in the arms of his mercy and fatherly goodness.
Saint Francis De Sales +1622
From the treatise On Spiritual Perfection by Diadochus of Photice, bishop
(Cap. 12. 13. 14: PG 65, 1171-1172)
No one who is in love with himself is capable of loving God. The man who loves God is the one who mortifies his self-love for the sake of the immeasurable blessings of divine love. Such a man never seeks his own glory but only the glory of God. If a person loves himself he seeks his own glory, but the man who loves God loves the glory of his Creator. Anyone alive to the love of God can be recognized from the way he constantly strives to glorify him by fulfilling all his commandments and by delighting in his own
abasement. Because of his great majesty it is fitting that God should receive glory, but if he hopes to win God’s favor it becomes man to be humble. If we possess this love for God, we too will rejoice in his glory as Saint John the Baptist did, and we shall never stop repeating: His fame must increase, but mine must diminish.
I know a man who, though lamenting his failure to love God as much as he desires, yet loves him so much that his soul burns with ceaseless longing for God to be glorified, and for his own complete effacement. This man has no feeling of self-importance even when he receives praise. So deep is his desire to humble himself that he never even thinks of his own dignity. He fulfills his priestly duty be celebrating the Liturgy, but his intense love for God is an abyss that swallows up all consciousness of his high office. His humility makes him oblivious of any honor it might bring him, so that in his own estimation he is never anything but a useless servant. Because of his desire for self-abasement, he regards himself as though degraded from his office. His example is one that we ourselves should follow
by fleeing from all honor and glory for the sake of the immeasurable blessings of God’s love, for he has loved us so much!
Anyone who loves God in the depths of his heart has already been loved by God. In fact, the measure of a man’s love for God depends upon how deeply aware he is of God’s love for him. When this awareness is keen it makes whoever possesses it long to be enlightened by the divine light, and this longing is so intense that it seems to penetrate his very bones. He loses all consciousness of himself and is entirely transformed by the love of God.
Such a man lives in this life and at the same time does not live in it, for although he still inhabits his body, he is constantly leaving it in spirit because of the love that draws him toward God. Once the love of God has released him from self-love, the flame of divine love never ceases to burn in his heart and he remains united to God by an irresistible longing. As the Apostle says: If we are taken out of ourselves it is for the love of God; if we are brought back to our senses it is for your sake.
Faith is not a magic formula. But it does give us the key to learning for ourselves. So that we can get answers and find out for ourselves who we are. It is always the case that a person first recognizes himself in others and through others. No one can arrive at knowledge of himself just by looking within himself and trying to build up his personality from what he finds there. Man as a being is so constructed for relationships that he grows in relation to others. So that his own meaning, his task in life, his advancement in life, and his potential are unlocked in his meeting with others. From the starting point of this basic structure of human existence we can understand faith and our meeting with Jesus.
Faith is not just a system of knowledge, things we are told; at the heart of it is a meeting with Jesus. This meeting with Jesus, among all those other meetings we have need of, is the truly decisive one. All our other meetings leave the ultimate goal unclear, where we are coming from, where we are going. At our meeting with him the fundamental light dawns, by which I can understand God, man, the world, mission, and meaning ~ and by which all the other meetings fall into place.
Pope Benedict XVI
Christians are Sunday people. What does that mean? Before we ask ourselves how we “observe Sunday,” we have to consider what we Christians actually celebrate on Sunday. The real and first reason for celebrating Sunday lies in the fact that on this day Christ rose from the dead. In doing so, he inaugurated a new age. For the first time someone returns from the dead and will not die again. For the first time someone has broken the bonds of time that holds us all in captivity. But Jesus did not pass quickly into heaven. He did not simply shed time as one might shed a worn-out garment; on the contrary, he remains with us. He has returned and will never leave us again. The feast of Sunday is, therefore, above all a profession of faith in the Resurrection. It is a profession of faith that life is good. Very early in the history of the Church Christians asked themselves: “Why did the Lord choose this day? What meaning did he intend to convey thereby?” According to Jewish reckoning, Sunday was the first day of the week. It was therefore the day on which God created the world. It was the day on which God ended his rest and spoke: “Let there be light” (GN 1:3). Sunday is the first day of the week, the day of thanks and creation….. Creation has been given us by God as our living space, as the scene of our labour and our leisure, in which we find both the necessities and the superfluities of life, the beauty of images and sounds, which we need precisely as much as we need food and clothing.
Pope Benedict XVI
From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Saint Basil the Great, bishop
(Resp. 2, 1: PG 31, 908-910)
Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same-perhaps even more so—with our love for God: it does not come by another’s teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God’s law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God’s help brings it to perfection.
For this reason, as by God’s gift, I find you with the zeal necessary to attain this end, and you on your part help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit.
First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfill all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.
This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commands. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command.
Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel well disposed to our benefactors.
What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and wonderful than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.
Today’s Gospel appears simple but is profound on many levels. There are one or two passages that stumped me till I did some research. Below are notes which I found helpful and am delighted to share. But first here are my reflections :-
- How many of us upon hearing our Lord’s voice will pick ourselves up to follow him?
- How many of us are comfortable sitting under a tree, reflecting on God’s goodness and Word without recognising that He is watching and waiting for us to be moved into action to build His Kingdom?
- Do we always see Him with the eyes of faith in the Eucharist? Rabbi! The Son of God…The King of Kings!
- Do we bear witness to His Glory in All things?
1:43 - Bethsaida: A village on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee. Nathanael: Also called “Bartholomew” in the Synoptic Gospels. See chart: The Twelve Apostles at Mk 3
Nathanael was profoundly versed in the SS. Scriptures; and hence, accommodating himself to Nathanael’s character for sacred erudition. Philip said, “We have found Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth, of whom Moses wrote,” etc., Him of whom Moses wrote in the Law and the Prophets, the long expected of the Jewish nation—who is no other, than Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth. He was reupted to be the son of Joseph of the Royal House of David. Our Lord was a Galilean, being educated and brought up at Nazareth. “Of Nazareth,” is to be joined with the word “Jesus,” not with Joseph,” as is clear from the Greek. The words of this verse are precisely the same as those briefly addressed by Andrew to Peter (v. 41, “We have found the Messiah.”
“Can any good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael, versed in the SS. Scriptures, knew that Christ was to come from Bethlehem (Micheas 5), and the Scribes, in their reply to Herod, said the same (Matthew 2:5). The Jews, in reply to Nicodemus (John 7:52), said that no Prophet could come out of Nazareth. Hence, Nathanael, in admiration, asks, can any thing extraordinary, can so great a blessing come from this obscure, mean village, in the despised Province of Galilee? Still, Nathanael does not deny it. He only seems to wonder at it. It might be true. For, although Micheas pointed to Bethlehem as his birthplace; still, other Prophecies said he would come from Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). Hence, the prudence of Nathanael, who, answering in hesitation, does not deny it, but only expresses surprise at such a great blessing coming from Nazareth, since the prevalent opinion among the people was, that He was to come from the seed of David and the town of Bethlehem (c. 7:42). “Come and see.” Philip had no doubt that a brief conversation with our Lord would at once convince Nathanael that He was the promised Messiah.
1:47 an Israelite indeed: i.e., a descendant of the patriarch Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” (Gen 32:28). Ironically, Jacob himself was known for his beguiling ways, especially when he intercepted the family blessing intended for his older brother Esau (Gen 27:35).
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. vii. c. 21) Has this fig tree any meaning? We read of one fig tree which was cursed, because it had only leaves, and no fruit. Again, at the creation, Adam and Eve, after sinning, made themselves aprons of fig leaves. Fig leaves then signify sins; and Nathanael, when he was under the fig tree, was under the shadow of death: so that our Lord seemeth to say, O Israel, whoever of you is without guile, O people of the Jewish faith, before that I called thee by My Apostles, when thou wert as yet under the shadow of death, and sawest Me not, I saw thee.
Another view of “Under The Fig Tree” : a symbol of messianic peace (cf. Mi 4:4; Zec 3:10).
Nathanael declares three things, which had been predicted of our Lord in the SS. Scriptures. 1st, he declares Him a doctor and teacher, “Rabbi,’ This was prophesied regarding Him by Joel (2:23)(NAB,Clemetine Vulagate), who calls Him “a teacher of justice.” 2nd, “the Son of God.” declared long before by the Psalmist, “filius meus es tu.” 3rdly, King of Israel, as predicted by Zacharias (9:9).
1:51 – An allusion to Jacob’s Ladder (GN 28:12)
From a treatise on John by Saint Augustine, bishop
The Lord, the teacher of love, full of love, came in person with summary judgment on the world, as had been foretold of him, and showed that the law and the prophets are summed up in two commandments of love.
Call to mind, brethren, what these two commandments are. They ought to be very familiar to you; they should not only spring to mind when I mention them, but ought never to be absent from your hearts. Keep always in mind that we must love God and our neighbor: Love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
These two commandments must be always in your thoughts and in your hearts, treasured, acted on, fulfilled. Love of God is the first to be commanded, but love of neighbor is the first to be put into practice. In giving two commandments of love Christ would not commend to you first your neighbor and then God but first God and then your neighbor.
Since you do not yet see God, you merit the vision of God by loving your neighbor. By loving your neighbor you prepare your eye to see God. Saint John says clearly: If you do not love your brother whom you see, how will you love God whom you do not see!
Consider what is said to you: Love God. If you say to me: Show me whom I am to love, what shall I say if not what Saint John says: No one has ever seen God! But in case you should think that you are completely cut off from the sight of God, he says: God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God.Love your neighbor, then, and see within yourself the power by which you love your neighbor; there you will see God, as far as you are able.
Begin, then, to love your neighbor. Break your bread to feed the hungry, and bring into your home the homeless poor; if you see someone naked, clothe him, and do not look down on your own flesh and blood.
What will you gain by doing this? Your light will then burst forth like the dawn.Your light is your God; he is your dawn, for he will come to you when the night of time is over. He does not rise or set but remains for ever.
In loving your neighbor and caring for him you are on a journey. Where are you traveling if not to the Lord God, to him whom we should love with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind? We have not yet reached his presence, but we have our neighbor at our side. Support, then, this companion of your pilgrimage if you want to come into the presence of the one with whom you desire to remain for ever.
From a sermon by Saint Bernard, abbot
(Sermo 1, in Epiphania Domini, 1-2: PL 133, 141-143)
The goodness and humanity of God our Savior have appeared in our midst. We thank God for the many consolations he has given us during this sad exile of our pilgrimage here on earth. Before the Son of God became man his goodness was hidden, for God’s mercy is eternal, but how could such goodness be recognized? It was promised, but it was not experienced, and as a result few have believed in it. Often and in many ways the Lord used to speak through the prophets. Among other things, God said: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. But what did men respond, thinking thoughts of affliction and knowing nothing of peace? They said: Peace, peace, there is no peace. This response made the angels of peace weep bitterly, saying: Lord, who has believed our message? But now men believe because they see with their own eyes, and because God’s testimony has now become even more credible. He has gone so far as to pitch his tent in the sun so even the dimmest eyes see him.
Notice that peace is not promised but sent to us; it is no longer deferred, it is given; peace is not prophesied but achieved. It is as if God the Father sent upon the earth a purse full of his mercy. This purse was burst open during the Lord’s passion to pour forth its hidden contents—the price of our redemption. It was only a small purse, but it was very full. As the Scriptures tell us: A little child has been given to us, but in him dwells all the fullness of the divine nature. The fullness of time brought with it the fullness of divinity. God’s Son came in the flesh so that mortal men could see and recognize God’s kindness. When God reveals his humanity, his goodness cannot possibly remain hidden. To show his kindness what more could he do beyond taking my human form? My humanity, I say, not Adam’s—that is, not such as he had before his fall.
How could he have shown his mercy more clearly than by taking on himself our condition? For our sake the Word of God became as grass. What better proof could he have given of his love? Scripture says: Lord, what is man that you are mindful of him; why does your heart go out to him? The incarnation teaches us how much God cares for us and what he thinks and feels about us. We should stop thinking of our own sufferings and remember what he has suffered. Let us think of all the Lord has done for us, and then we shall realize how his goodness appears through his humanity. The lesser he became through his human nature the greater was his goodness; the more he lowered himself for me, the dearer he is to me. The goodness and humanity of God our Savior have appeared, says the Apostle.
Truly great and manifest are the goodness and humanity of God. He has given us a most wonderful proof of his goodness by adding humanity to his own divine nature.
When we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we are transformed into living tabernacles of our Lord, our God. How can our hearts not sing with joy? How can we not spread the Good News? How can we allow the evils of the world to rob us of this honour by our actions?
The third blind man is the soul which, by not understanding itself, disturbs and harms itself. Since it only knows how to act by means of the senses and discursive reflection, it thinks it is doing nothing when God introduces it into that emptiness and solitude where it is unable to use the faculties and make acts, and as a result it strains to perform these acts. The soul, therefore, that was enjoying the idleness of spiritual peace and silence, in which God was secretly adorning it, is distracted and filled with dryness and displeasure.
It will happen that while God persists in keeping the soul in that silent quietude, it persists in its desire to act through its own efforts with the intellect and the imagination. It resembles a child who kicks and cries in order to walk when his mother wants to carry him, and thus neither allows his mother to make any headway nor makes any himself; or it resembles one who moves a painting back and forth while the artist is at work so that either nothing is accomplished or the painting is damaged.
A person should take note that even though he does not seem to be making any progress in this quietude or doing anything, he is advancing much faster than if he were treading along on foot, for God is carrying him. Although he is walking at God’s pace, he does not feel this pace. Even though he does no work with his faculties, he achieves much more than if he did, for God is the agent.
It is no wonder if he does not advert to this, for the senses do not attain to what God effects in the soul at this time. As the Wise Man says: “The words of wisdom are heard in silence” (Qo 9:17).
A soul then, should abandon itself into God’s hands and not it’s own, nor those of the other blind men; for insofar as it abandons itself to God and does not apply its faculties to anything, it will advance securely.
Saint John Of The Cross +1591
The Lord of all comes as a slave amidst poverty. The hunter has no wish to startle his prey. Choosing for his birthplace an unknown village in a remote province, he is born of a poor maiden and accepts that poverty implies, for he hopes by stealth to ensnare and save us.
If he had been born to high rank and amidst luxury, unbelievers would have said the world had been transformed by wealth. If he had chosen as his birthplace the great city of Rome, they would have thought the transformation had been brought about by civil power. Suppose he had been the son of an emperor. They would Say:” How useful it is to be powerful!” Imagine him the son of a senator. It would have been: “Look what can be accomplished by legislation!”
But in fact what did he do? He chose surroundings that were poor and simple, so ordinary as to be almost unnoticed, so that people would know it was the Godhead alone that had changed the world. This was his reason for choosing his Mother from among the poor of a very poor country, and for becoming poor himself.
Theodotus Of Ancyra
+446 Bishop of Ancyra (modern Ankara)
With voices in harmony and hearts in concord we have begged the Lord for our own hearts by saying, Create a clean heart in me, O God and renew an upright spirit in my bowels (Ps 50:12) …..*see Ps 51:10 new nos. and translation.
It’s a psalm of someone repenting, someone wishing to retrieve the hope he had lost, lying where he had fallen, begging the Lord to give him a had to raise him up again; like someone quite capable of injuring himself but not of healing himself. After all, we can stab and wound our own flesh whenever we want, but to heal it we look for a doctor; well, in the same way the soul is perfectly able to sin all by itself, but to heal the hurt it has caused by sinning, it implores the helping hand of God.
That’s why he says in another psalm, I myself have said, Lord. Have mercy on me, heal my soul since I have sinned against you (Ps 40:4). see Ps 41:4 new nos. & translation The reason he says I myself have said it, Lord, is to thrust before our eyes the fact that the will and decision to sin arises from the soul and that we are fully capable of destroying ourselves, while it takes God to seek that which was lost and to save that which has wounded itself. For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost (Lk 19:10). It is Him that we pour out our prayers and say Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew an upright spirit in my bowels (Ps 50:12). *see Ps 51:10 new nos. and translation. Let the soul that has sinned say this, or it may perish twice over through despair, having lost itself once already by its delinquency.
Saint Augustine of Hippo +430
Can we content ourselves with such an unreal faith in Christ, as in no sufficient measure includes self abasement, or thankfulness, or the desire or effort to be holy? For how can we feel our need of his help, or our dependence on him, or our debt to him, or the nature of his gift to us, unless we know ourselves? How can we in any sense be said to have that “mind of Christ,” to which the Apostle exhorts us, if we cannot follow him to the height above, or the depth beneath; if we do not in some measure discern the cause and the meaning of his sorrows….
Obedience to God’s commandments, which implies knowledge of sin and holiness, and the desire and endeavour to please him, this is the only practical interpreter of Scripture doctrine. Without self-knowledge you have no root yourselves personally; you may endure for a time, but under affliction or persecution your faith will not last. This is why many in this age (and in every age) become infidels, heretics, schismatics, disloyal despisers of the Church. They cast off the form of truth, because it never has been to them more than a form. They endure not, because they never have tasted that the Lord is gracious; and they never have had experience of his power and love, because they have never known their own weakness and need.
Blessed John Henry Newman
Is God then so ignorant of things, so unacquainted with the human heart that he has to find out about a man by testing him? Of course not. It is in order that a person may find out about himself……People are not as well known to themselves as well they are to their Creator, nor do the sick know themselves as well as the doctor does. A man is sick; he is suffering, the doctor isn’t suffering, and the patient is waiting to hear what he is suffering from the one who isn’t suffering. That is why a man cries out in a psalm, From my hidden [faults] cleanse me, O Lord (Ps 18:13). There are things in a person which are hidden from the person in whom they are. And they won’t come out, or be opened up, or discovered, except through tests and trials and temptations.
If God stops testing, it means the master is stopping teaching. God tempts or tests in order to teach, the devil tests or tempts in order to mislead. But unless the one being tempted gives him a chance, his temptations can be driven off as as unsubstantial and ridiculous. That is why the Apostle says, Do not give the devil a chance (Ep 4:27) People give the devil a chance with their lusts and longings. Now it is true that people cannot see the devil they are fighting with, but they have a very easy remedy for that; let them conquer themselves within and they will triumph over him without.
Why am I saying this? Because you do know yourself unless you learn yourself through trial, temptation and testing. When you have learned yourself, don’t be heedless about yourself. At least, if you were heedless about yourself when hidden from you, don’t be heedless about that self when it has became known to you.
Saint Augustine Of Hippo
+430 Doctor of Grace
It is reason that creates motives for believing. Faith is to the religion very much like credit is to business. Just as one must have a reason for giving credit, so, too, one must have a reason for believing. The conclusions of reason for accepting the testimony of anyone – for example, the testimony of Christ – are not mathematically certain. They are only morally certain. They are very much like the certitude that you have that you were born of your own parents.
When the soul of God enamoured
Gives her heart and life to Him,
He perfects the patient victim
On the Cross, mid shadows dim…
If I could but tell the treasures
Hidden by our Triune God
For the souls who strive to follow
In the path that Jesus trod!…
But it is a precious secret
To the loving one revealed,
To me, lowly, inexperienced,
It is hidden and concealed…
Blessed is the heart abandoned
To this crucifying pain,
In the arms of the Beloved,
Burned, consumed in love’s pure flame…
Yet more blessed, when the anguish,
Stripped of all consoling forms,
Clothes the soul in desolation,
Into Christ Himself transforms…
Happy blessed soul who suffers
Thus that God alone may reign,
Seeking but to die, the better
Thus His sacred love to gain…
Nailed upon the cross with Jesus,
I to you this lesson give;
You will sound its depth and meaning
If a life of prayer you live. Amen
Saint Paul Of The Cross