Pure love is capable of great deeds, and it is not broken by difficulty or adversity. As it remains strong in the midst of great difficulties, so too it perseveres in the toilsome and drab life of each day. It knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love — love, and always love. Pure love never errs. Its light is strangely plentiful. It will not do anything that might displease God. It is ingenious at doing what is more pleasing to God, and no one will equal it. It is happy when it can empty itself and burn like a pure offering. The more it gives of itself, the happier it is. But also, no one can sense dangers from afar as can love; it knows how to unmask and also knows with whom it has to deal.
To recognize one's nothingness as a creature is to grow in holiness with God. To arrive at the awareness that one cannot take credit for anything without fully crediting God, is to recognize one's true state ― a creature dependent on the Creator for every aspect of one's life. This humility is the path to "right living" with God, living in a relationship without illusion, without pride. It is a relationship of faith and trust, awe and love.
from 14 Days of Prayer with Saint Benedict by André Gozier p.77
Set aside for a minute Peter and John’s arrest and their night in custody. Ignore the leaders’ and elders’ indignation and the bystanders’ wonder and amazement. Consider instead the beggar who was healed. Everyone recognized this man. He routinely begged for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. For his whole life, he was utterly dependent on other people to get around, to be fed, to be clothed and cared for. All he hoped for from Peter and John was a few coins, a little food, or a cast-off piece of clothing.
What this fellow received was not just a physical healing but a whole new life. No longer bound by his disability, he could move on his own. He was no longer powerless or weak, no longer unable to make his way in life. Delivered from hopelessness, he could now rise out of his poverty. Freedom, choices, relief from want and pain—he received so much more than he had asked for or, most likely, so much more than he had imagined he would ever experience.
The same is true for you! Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, a whole new life is now open to you. You can be set free from handicaps of bitterness and resentment. The fears and anxieties and misgivings that preoccupy you don’t have to bind you or paralyze you anymore. You no longer have to feel powerless in the face of anger or addictions or lust. In the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified, whom God raised from the dead, you can be healed!
Christ lives in you. His grace can empower you to resist temptation and be set free from anything that hampers you from feeling his Spirit. Call out to him, just as the beggar called out to Peter and John for alms. Believe that Jesus is standing right in front of you, offering you not silver and gold but the riches of love and joy, patience and self-control. Tell yourself that you belong to Christ and that he wants to set you free. Confess your insufficiency to him, and watch closely to see how he answers you. And then, just as the beggar did, praise him for his goodness to you!
“Jesus, in you alone am I saved. Help me to live a new life, unbound by my sins and weaknesses.”
Daily Reflection from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
YOUR PRAYERS ARE NOT CRIES IN THE DARK. On the contrary, they rise to My kingdom of eternal Light. Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things. Mankind has long been plagued with eyes that do not see what is most important. Many people fail to see the most obvious things: I can perform miracles before their very eyes, yet they see only mundane occurrences or―at best―coincidences. Only the eyes of your heart can see spiritual realities.
One of the things I search for among My children is a teachable attitude. When you come to Me desirous of learning wondrous things which you do not know, I rejoice. A good teacher takes pleasure in a student who really wants to learn, who puts forth extra effort to discover as much as possible. I am the Teacher of teachers, and I delight in your desire to learn amazing, unsearchable things from Me. Your openness to My teaching has a wonderful result: I help you understand at heart level the hope to which I have called you, the riches of My glorious inheritance in which you share. You can look forward to living rapturously with Me in the Holy City, where the Glory of God provides Light.
"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." JEREMIAH 33:3
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. EPHESIANS 1:18
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. PSALM 143:10
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
Hope is the virtue of us wayfarers who have not yet reached the goal but who know that we will always have the means to be faithful to Our Lord and to persevere in our vocation, each of us in the fulfillment of his or her duties. For this we need to be attentive to Christ, who draws near to us in the course of our occupations, and to grasp hold of the strong hand which God never ceases to reach out to us, to keep us from losing our supernatural point of view. Let us persevere even when our passions rear up and attack us, attempting to imprison us within the narrow confines of our selfishness; or when puerile vanity makes us think we are the centre of the universe. I am convinced that unless I look upward, unless I have Jesus, I will never accomplish anything. And I know that the strength to conquer myself and to win comes from repeating that cry, "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13), words which reflect God's firm promise not to abandon his children if they do not abandon him.
from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez p. 313
Dear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter! The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” (Mt 28:5-6). This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death. That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness. With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord! Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you. Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible. Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned. Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty. Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped. Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith. We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent. We pray in a particular way for Syria, beloved Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue! Jesus, Lord of glory, we ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan. We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela. By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future. On this day, may they be able to proclaim, as brothers and sisters, that Christ is risen, Khrystos voskres! Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace! Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!
I AM FAITHFUL: I WILL NOT LET YOU BE TEMPTED BEYOND WHAT YOU CAN BEAR. Find comfort and hope in this powerful promise. I know you sometimes feel as if you're at the outer limits of your endurance. Nonetheless, I am present in the midst of your struggles―available to help you.
Every trial that comes into your life can either strengthen you (if you keep on trusting in My care) or become a temptation to sin (if you choose instead to doubt Me and go your own way). Thus, any difficulty you face becomes a test of your faith. This faith of yours is much more precious than gold, and it grows deeper through the testing process. So your trials contain meaning and purpose. When you feel as if your faith is being stretched to the breaking point, it's helpful to remember that what you're experiencing is common to man. You have not been uniquely singled out to endure adversity; suffering is inevitable in a fallen world. The most important thing to remember is that I am faithful-totally worthy of your trust in all situations. I know exactly how much you can bear, and I set limits to your suffering. Do not multiply your trouble by projecting it into the future as if it were endless, for I can relieve or remove it at any moment. Your job is to continue trusting Me in the present, waiting for Me to provide a way out-in My way and timing! As you wait in My Presence, be of good courage. I will strengthen your heart. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. ―1 CORINTHIANS 10:13 That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 PETER 1:7 Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! ―PSALM 27:14
And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read: “The King of the Jews”. And with him they crucified two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says: “And he was counted among the lawless” (Mk 15:24-28). And they crucified him! The punishment reserved for the despicable, for traitors and rebellious slaves. This is the punishment meted out to our Lord Jesus: coarse nails, spasms of pain, the anguish of his mother, the shame of being associated with two thieves, his garments divided like spoils among the soldiers, the cruel jeers of passers-by: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him!” (Mt 27:42). And they crucified him! Jesus does not come down, he does not leave the cross. He stays there, obedient to the Father’s will to the very end. He loves and he forgives. Today many of our brothers and sisters, like Jesus, are nailed to a bed of pain, at hospital, in homes for the elderly, in our families. It is a time of hardship, with bitter days of solitude and even despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). May we never use our hands to inflict harm, but only to draw near, to comfort and to accompany the sick, raising them from their bed of pain. Sickness does not ask permission. It always comes unannounced. At times it upsets us, it narrows our horizons, it tests our hope. It is a bitter gall. Only if we find at our side someone able to listen to us, to remain close to us, to sit at our bedside… can sickness become a great school of wisdom, an encounter with God, who is ever patient. Whenever someone shares our infirmities out of love, even in the night of pain there dawns the paschal light of Christ, crucified and risen. What, in human terms, is a chastisement can become a redemptive oblation, for the good of our communities and our families. So it was for the saints. PRAYER Lord Jesus, never leave my side, sit beside my bed of pain and keep me company. Do not leave me alone, stretch out your hand and lift me up! I believe that you are Love, and I believe that your will is the expression of your Love; so I abandon myself to your will,
A strong faith in the Word of God is indispensable not only for a Christian’s spiritual life but also for every form of evangelization. There are two ways to prepare a sermon or any proclamation of faith, whether it is oral or written. I can first sit at my desk and choose, on my own, the word to proclaim and the theme to develop based on my understanding, my preferences, etc. Then once the sermon is ready, I can kneel down and hastily ask God to bless what I have written and to make my words effective. This is acceptable, but it is not the prophetic way. It is necessary to reverse the order for that: first on my knees and then to my desk. In every circumstance one needs to begin with the certainty of faith that the risen Lord has a word in his heart that he wants his people to hear. He does not fail to reveal it to his minister who humbly and insistently asks him for it. At the beginning there is a nearly imperceptible movement in your heart. A small light goes on in your mind, a word from the Bible that begins to draw attention to itself and shed light on a situation. At first it is “the smallest of seeds,” but afterwards you realize that everything was contained inside it; in it there was a thunderous roar that could shake the cedars of Lebanon. After that, you go to your desk, you open your books, you look through your notes, you consult the Church Fathers, experts, poets. . . . At this point it has already become something altogether different. It is no longer the Word of God in service to your knowledge but your knowledge in service to the Word of God.
One of the reasons many people find it difficult to forgive is that they have a false understanding or a fuzzy concept of forgiveness. Let me be very clear about what I mean, and don't mean, when I use the word forgiveness. Forgiveness is not based on finding some redeeming quality that makes a person worth forgiving. We can never base genuine forgiveness upon an individual's "good behavior" compensating for his previously hurtful behavior. Forgiveness is something that happens on the inside of you-it comes solely from your desire to forgive for the sake of forgiving. Nobody who intentionally harms another person truly deserves forgiveness from the person he has hurt. Even so, it's far better to forgive and to live in the resulting emotional freedom and health than to suffer the consequences of failing to forgive. Forgiveness does not require that a person minimize the validity of his pain, the amount of pain he suffered, or the importance of a painful experience. To forgive does not mean that a person is saying, "This didn't matter" or "This wasn't a huge wrong committed against me." Rather, it is saying, "I choose no longer to hold this feeling of unforgiveness toward the person who hurt me." Forgiveness does not mean letting a person off the hook so that no justice is required. A forgiving person can still require a person to appear in court or face legal penalties for a crime committed against him. Forgiveness means putting another person squarely in the hands of God, and allowing God to work His justice in that person's life. It is trusting God to deal with the offending person, the hurtful situation, the horrible memories of terrible events. It is trusting God to heal the wound inside. In the end, God's justice coupled with His mercy, love, and desire to redeem and forgive will always be far superior to man's. Some contend that emotional wounds heal over time. I have rarely seen that to be the case. Memories may fade slightly over time. People may mature and change over time. But there's nothing about time that causes a painful toxic emotion automatically to dissipate. Extremely painful events in childhood can hurt just as much seventy or eighty years later. We may brush off minor hurts, superficial offenses, and irritating trespasses in seconds or minutes. But forgiving deep emotional wounds and seriously damaging offenses is nearly always a process. Often it takes both time and intentional effort to forgive. We must never lose sight of the fact that forgiveness is a matter of the will. Finally, forgiveness is an act of strength. Some people see forgiveness as a flaw in a weak person. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It takes little inner fortitude to harbor anger, resentment, or hate. It takes a great deal of courage to lay down one's anger and seek to walk away in peace. Some of the people considered the strongest have voiced the need to forgive. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
from Deadly Emotions―Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You pp.164-166
Jesus gave me to understand how a soul should be faithful to prayer despite torments, dryness and temptations; because oftentimes the realization of God's great plans depends mainly on such prayer. If we do not persevere in such prayer, we frustrate what the Lord wanted to do through us or within us. Let every soul remember these words: "And being in anguish, He prayed longer." I always prolong such prayer as much as is in my power and in conformity with my duty
Dear brothers and sisters, may these days call forth two sentiments in particular: praise, after the example of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with their “Hosanna!”, and thanksgiving, because in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love. But we must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ who suffered, died and rose for us. The early Church Fathers saw a symbol of all this in the gesture of the people who followed Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, the gesture of spreading out their coats before the Lord. Before Christ – the Fathers said – we must spread out our lives, ourselves, in an attitude of gratitude and adoration. As we conclude, let us listen once again to the words of one of these early Fathers, Saint Andrew, Bishop of Crete: “So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ ... so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet ... let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death. Today let us too give voice with the children to that sacred chant, as we wave the spiritual branches of our soul: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel’” (PG 97, 994). Amen!
Pope Benedict XVI―Homily for Palm Sunday (April 1, 2012)
One dreaded job interview question is: "What's your greatest weakness?" Because it's so feared it's often not answered entirely truthfully. Either the one answering will offer something bogus, such as "I work too hard," or attempt to present as a weakness something that's really a strength, like "I used to procrastinate, but now I'm more disciplined." At best, one might reveal a minor character flaw just to prove that he or she's not an egomaniac. We typically hesitate to share our weaknesses, be it to a potential boss or anyone else. Sometimes we don't wish to admit them even to ourselves. We fear being rejected, ridiculed, exploited, put down, or taken advantage of. And so we put on masks to disguise our weaknesses and hide those parts of ourselves from the light of day. Because our culture prizes power and influence, weaknesses are viewed strictly as liabilities. In our hypercompetitive world, it's feared that weaknesses can prevent us from successfully swimming with the sharks; they serve no good purpose in this cutthroat, dog-eat-dog climate. The problem is that this climate can turn us into nervous wrecks! It can also warp our understanding of God. The confusion arises when we assume that God would use his power in the same way the world around us uses power. For instance, we might expect God to crush his enemies, fix all the world's problems with a wave of his hand, or force people to do what he wants them to do, like bow down and worship or get their act together. But when that doesn't happen, we can become frustrated and confused, and our faith can get rattled. At other times, we may assume that because God is so powerful, God looks down upon us as unimportant. He's "up there," so to speak, and could care less about us insignificant peons "down here." Yet the truth is that God doesn't look down upon us. Quite the opposite! Instead of looking down upon us, he came down to us. In Jesus, God came to be one with us and to share our humanity. Jesus came to us in weakness, not in power. Although he is almighty, he chose to become weak in order to share our weakness and then save us from the mess our weakness has made. While this is good news, it can also confuse us at the same time. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, "We can understand the majesty of God; it is very difficult to understand the humility of God." We can be comfortable believing in God's power, but the idea of a humble, suffering God can be hard to swallow. That's why it can be such a challenge to our faith. If we had a choice, we probably wouldn't want to see Jesus on a cross. We'd rather see him on a throne! But that's for the end of time. Not now. We struggle to accept that God embraced weakness because our world sees no value in weakness. But God didn't reject weakness; he embraced it. God invites us to embrace our own weaknesses, so that we might understand him more and grow in faith. Doing this is called "humility." And Jesus himself shows us the way: " . . . coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8). Humility can be misunderstood, and for some has acquired something of a bad rap. We might confuse it with putting one's self down, thinking badly of ourselves, or how we feel when we've been humiliated. But true humility, properly speaking, is none of those things. The word itself finds its roots in humus, the Latin word for "earth." To be humble, then, is to be "down to earth." Humility is liberating: it means that we don't have to pretend that we're someone we aren't. When we're humble, we can accept who we are and, because of that, we can accept that we have a need for God―a God who became weak―because at many times and in many ways we too are weak. Embracing our weakness is a key to cultivating humility. When we try to deny our weaknesses, we delude ourselves into thinking that we're self-sufficient and have no real need for others, including God! But when we can accept that we can't stand alone, that we have needs, that we'll always be far from perfect, and that there is a hunger in our heart that we can't seem to satisfy on our own, we'll become "down to earth," and humility will flourish. Because of this, we can understand our weaknesses to be strengths, as they remind us of our need for God. That's why Saint Paul could say, "I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me" (2 Cor 12:9). Part of being "down to earth" is being good soil, receptive to the seeds that God wishes to plant in us. The flip side of that coin is accepting that all we have, any good we might do, and any noble thing we achieve or accomplish is a gift from the hand of God. It's not we alone who do such things; it's God who does them in us and through us. And should we come to accept that, we'll find ourselves working and acting no longer for our glory, but for the glory of the Lord. "What's your greatest weakness?" need not be a question to dread. Whatever the honest answer might be, we can rejoice that it's a key to growing in faith. That greatest weakness isn't a liability, as it can truly be our greatest strength, because through humility our humble God can bless us with both happiness and holiness. And so, as the English say, "Eat some humble pie." Or better yet, as Scripture says: "Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you" (James 4:10).
from When Faith Feels Fragile―Help for the Wary, Weak, and Wandering by R. Scott Hurd pp. 39-42
Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is... One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation... Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God's love, by man's basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself, thinking himself to be self-sufficient or merely an insignificant and ephemeral fact, a "stranger" in a random universe...The human being develops when ... his soul comes to know itself and the truths that God has implanted deep within, when he enters into dialogue with himself and his Creator... It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God.
I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU; YOU NEED ONLY TO BE still. I know how weary you are, My child. You have been struggling just to keep your head above water, and your strength is running low. Now is the time for you to stop striving and let Me fight for you. I know this is not easy for you to do. You feel as if you must keep struggling in order to survive, but I am calling you to rest in Me. I am working on your behalf; so be still, and know that I am God.
Quieting your body is somewhat challenging for you, but stilling your mind may often seem downright impossible. In your striving to feel secure, you have relied too heavily on your own thinking. This struggle to be in control has elevated your mind to a position of autonomy. So you need the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to control your mind more and more soothing you from the inside out. Take time to rest in the shadow of the Almighty while I fight foryou.
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. ―Exodus 14:14
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! ―Psalm 46:10
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. ―Romans 8:6
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. ―Psalm 91:1
1 Thessalonians 5:14: "And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them."
But how can I encourage anyone when I myself need encouragement?
Padre Pio's assurance: "Do not be discouraged or frightened by your miseries and weaknesses, because God has seen even worse sins in you, and, by his mercy did not reject you. God does not reject poor sinners, and he will not reject you either, but on the contrary, he will grant you his grace, and will erect the throne of his glory on your misery and vileness. Therefore, do not fear and do not be anxious anymore about the doubts of your conscience because fear is in vain and diabolical. Don't worry if your brothers and sisters don't want to listen to you; correct them always and don't worry about anything else."
"Lift up your heart. Do not become discouraged in the face of the trials to which divine mercy wishes to subject you. He wants to test and strengthen you once again at the school of sacrifice and suffering. Do not become discouraged. Pray with humility, and remember the calm after the rain; after the darkness, light; after the storm and the turmoil, placid quiet."
Lord, thank you for the encouragement. Help me to always pass it on to others, assuring them of the calm that will follow their storm. Amen.
from Padre Pio's Words of Hope edited by Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti p.52
A THANKFUL ATTITUDE opens windows of heaven. Spiritual blessings fall freely onto you through those openings into eternity. Moreover, as you look up with a grateful heart, you get glimpses of Glory through those windows. You cannot yet live in heaven, but you can experience foretastes of your ultimate home. Such samples of heavenly fare revive your hope. Thankfulness opens you up to these experiences, which then provide further reasons to be grateful. Thus, your path becomes an upward spiral: ever increasing in gladness.
Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately with Me. A thankful mind-set does not entail a denial of reality with its plethora of problems. Instead, it rejoices in Me, your Savior, in the midst of trials and tribulations. I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present and well-proved help in trouble.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. ―HABAKKUK 3:17-18
God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble. ―PSALM 46:1
BE SELF-CONTROLLED-PUTTING ON FAITH and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. Self-control definitely involves struggle as you exert your will to abstain from ungodly behavior. Nonetheless, there is abundant help available to you in this battle. My Spirit, who lives within you, is your Helper. And the fruit of the Spirit is love ... self-control. A breastplate is designed to protect your heart and other vital organs when you are in battle. Faith and love combine to make an exceptionally effective breastplate. Your faith in Me, your Savior, enables you to trust in My righteousness, which is yours now and always. Love is the essence of My redeeming relationship with you. The hope of salvation makes a wonderful helmet because it protects your mind and reminds you that you belong to Me forever. Faith, hope, and love all work together to shield you as you journey through this world. They also keep you close to Me. Since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. ―1 Thessalonians 5:8 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. ―Galatians 5:22-23 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. ―Ephesians 6:14-15
Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ―1 Corinthians 13:13
What is done outside is exposed to the almost inevitable danger of hypocrisy. The look of other persons has the power to deflect our intention, like certain magnetic fields deflect the waves. Our action loses its authenticity and its recompense. Appearance prevails over being. Because of this, Jesus invites to fasting and almsgiving in a hidden way and to pray to the Father “in secret” (cf. Matthew 6:1-4). Inwardness is the way to an authentic life. There is so much talk today of authenticity and it is made the criterion of success or lack thereof in life. However, where is authenticity for a Christian? When is it that a person is truly himself? Only when he has God as his measure. “There is so much talk – writes the philosopher Kierkegaard – of wasted lives. However, wasted only is the life of a man who never realized that a God exists and that he, his very self, stands before this God.” Persons consecrated to the service of God are the ones who above all are in need of a return to interiority. In an address given to Superiors of a contemplative religious Order, Paul VI said: “Today we are in a world which seems to be gripped by a fever that infiltrates itself even in the sanctuary and in solitude. Noise and din have invaded almost everything. Persons are no longer able to be recollected. They are prey of a thousand distractions, they habitually dissipate their energies behind the different forms of modern culture. Newspapers, magazines, books invade the intimacy of our homes and of our hearts. It is more difficult to find the opportunity for the recollection in which the soul is able to be fully occupied in God.” However, let us try to see what we can do concretely, to rediscover and preserve the habit of inwardness. Moses was a very active man. But we read that he had a portable tent built and at every stage of the exodus, he fixed the tent outside the camp and regularly entered it to consult the Lord. There, the Lord spoke with Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). However, we cannot always do this. We cannot always withdraw into a chapel or a solitary place to renew our contact with God. Therefore, Saint Francis of Assisi suggested another device closer at hand. Sending his friars on the roads of the world, he said: We always have a hermitage with us wherever we go and every time we so wish we can, as hermits, re-enter in this hermitage. “Brother body is the hermitage and the soul is the hermit that dwells within to pray to God and to meditate.” It is like having a desert “in the house,” in which one can withdraw in thought at every moment, even while walking on the street. We conclude this first part of our meditation listening, as addressed to us, the exhortation that Saint Anselm of Aosta addresses to the reader in one of his famous works: “Come now, miserable mortal, flee for a brief time from your occupations, leave for a while your tumultuous thoughts. Move away at this moment from your grave anxieties and put aside your exhausting activities. Attend to God and repose in him. Enter into the depth of your soul, exclude everything, except God and what helps you seek him and, having closed the door, say to God: I seek your face. Your face I seek, Lord."
from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa's 1st Lenten Homily 2014
It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.
As a young man sixteen hundred years ago, Saint Augustine sought meaning and purpose in his life. He had been raised by a Christian mother, Saint Monica, and although he had drifted away from the Church, he was still fascinated by Jesus. That's why, in his quest for truth, he early on turned to the Bible. But as he read it, he felt disappointed. In its pages, he didn't find the scholarly philosophy he enjoyed reading. He found instead, especially in the Old Testament, tales of conflict and very imperfect people. It didn't help that he was reading a poor translation. Augustine concluded that the Bible was of no use to him, so he put his copy aside to gather dust.
Years later, in Milan, Italy, he encountered the magnificent preaching of Saint Ambrose, the local bishop. Ambrose's homilies led Augustine to view the Bible in an entirely new way, especially the Old Testament. Augustine came to appreciate that the Old Testament shouldn't be approached as a philosophy textbook, but as a reflection of the great sweep of God's plan in human history, culminating in Jesus himself. All of which the Old Testament spoke was but a journey toward Jesus.
The real turning point came when Augustine, sitting in a garden, heard what sounded like a child's voice urging him to "take up and read." A Bible was nearby. Augustine opened it and his eyes came to rest on words that cut him to the heart. At that moment, he knew that not only was Jesus the key to understanding the entire Bible, but that Jesus himself could speak with him through the Bible. In other words, the Bible wasn't simply a resource for understanding God; it was instead a book in which one could encounter God.
Elements of Saint Augustine's conversion story may strike a chord with us. Like him, many of us are looking for faith, or hoping to strengthen the faith we have. From time to time we may have turned to the Bible, seeking a clue or inspiration, but found it to be puzzling, overwhelming, unhelpful, or a turnoff. Perhaps, again like Augustine, the Bible we've picked up is a poor translation for our needs; that one in the hotel nightstand was translated four hundred years ago, after all! So we've written off the Bible as irrelevant, and our copy, should we have one, gathers dust.
Yet Saint Augustine ultimately met Jesus in the Bible, and we can too. How? Like him, we can "take up and read"-something we may not be used to doing. Earlier generations of Catholics weren't encouraged to read the Bible, and many Catholic homes didn't have one anyway. But times have changed, and from the highest levels Catholics are invited to learn what generations of Protestant Sunday School kids grew up singing: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!"
When we read the Bible, we may find ourselves confused. That's okay, and thankfully there are excellent resources available to help us view the Scriptures through a Catholic lens. The truth is, the Bible can't be completely understood outside the Church. Consider this: When he ascended into heaven, Jesus didn't leave behind a book; he left behind a Church, filled with the Holy Spirit. The Bible sprang from the Church as part of its living Tradition. For us to fully benefit from the Bible, it should be approached through the framework of the Church and its teaching.
Should we not have much time to read the Bible on our own, we can certainly hear it proclaimed on Sundays. Over any threeyear period, great parts of the Bible are presented to us in the readings at Mass, called the "Liturgy of the Word." Just as those who listened to Jesus were astonished when he taught them during their worship, we can have the same experience when we worship, if we make the effort to pay careful attention to the Scriptures when they're proclaimed. We hear them through the voices of lectors or clergy. But it is God himself who speaks to us: "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children and talks with them."
On our journey of faith, we need food to sustain us and keep us going. Jesus understands this, and he gives us himself as nourishment. "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35), he said. These words refer not only to the gift of the Eucharist, but also to the unique teaching and divine wisdom he offers and through which we come to know God and his love for us. This "bread of life" comes to us today through the pages of the Bible, which we understand to be the word of God.
The Bible was inspired by God as no other written words have been or ever will be. Its books may have been written
ages ago, but they speak of timeless truths and eternal wisdom, without which our faith can become vague or rootless. Scripture instructs, challenges, consoles, and helps diminish the distance between God and us. Without the Bible, we would know precious little about Jesus and what he revealed to us about God. "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ," wrote Saint Jerome. His words may sound blunt, but they're certainly true.
The good news is Jesus doesn't want us to be ignorant of him. To know him is to love him, and Jesus wants us to know and love him deeply. We might understand the Bible, then, as his gift of love to us, that we might come to love him in return, be strengthened in faith, and transformed into generous, compassionate people. In a word, to become more like him.
We might say, then, that in order to be immersed in a life of faith, it is good for us to be fully soaked in Scripture. Jesus says to us, as the child's voice said to Saint Augustine, "Take up and read."
from When Faith Feels Fragile ― Help for the Wary Weak, and Wandering by R. Scott Hurd pp. 57-60
God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn it, but so that the world might be saved through him He came into the world so that men might have light and stop thrashing about in the dark. Having received the light, they can turn the world into a place where everything will be able to give glory to God and help man to achieve his ultimate goal. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. These words are relevant for a good part of today's world which is in deep gloom, for without Christ men will never achieve peace, or happiness, or salvation. Outside of Christ only darkness and sin exist. Whoever rejects Christ remains without light and has no idea which way to go. In the innermost depth of his being he is disorientated.
For centuries, many have lived their lives (of work, study, business, research, social relationships, interests etc.) in separation from the faith. And as a consequence of this separation temporal realities have been adversely affected, existing, as it were, in the shadows on the fringes of the light of Revelation. Without this light many have come to consider the world as an end in itself, without any reference to God; therefore they have distorted the most elementary and basic truths. In western countries, particularly, it becomes necessary to correct this separation because many generations. which should belong to Christ and the Church are being lost in these years, and because, unhappily, from these places the harmful influence of a new paganism is being sent into the whole world. Thus, contemporary paganism is characterized by the search for material well-being at any cost, and by the corresponding disregard - or, to put it more accurately, fear, genuine terror ― of anything that could cause suffering. With this outlook, words such as God, sin, Cross, mortification, eternal life ... become incomprehensible to a great number of people, who are ignorant of their meaning and content. You have witnessed the incredible fact that many people began by putting God in parentheses, in some aspects of their professional lives. But then, as God demands, loves, and asks, they end up throwing Him out - like an intruder - from their civil laws and from the lives of their nations. With a ridiculous and presumptuous pride they want to lift up in his place the poor human creature, who has lost his supernatural and human dignity, and has become reduced - it is no exaggeration, one can see it everywhere - to a stomach, sex and money.
The world remains in darkness because Christians, through lacking a unity of life, do not illuminate or give the realities of each day a special meaning. We know that the approach of true disciples of Christ towards the world is not one of separation; rather is it one of getting involved at the very core of things, as leaven within the lump - transforming it. The Christian, consistent with his faith, is salt which gives taste and preserves from corruption. And for this he relies, above all else, on his witness in the midst of his ordinary occupations with all the tasks he does fulfilled extraordinarily well. If we Christians really lived in accrodance with our faith, the greatest revolution of all times would take place. The effectiveness of our co-redemption depends on each one of us. You should meditate on this. Do I live, at every instant of my life, this unity of life ― at work, in my leisure, at rest. . .?
While a priest was deep in prayer at his desk, his secretary burst into his office. "Thank goodness," she exclaimed in relief, "I see you're not busy!" This joke suggests how easy it is to view prayer as unimportant, considering everything we have heaped on our plates.
So often our daily responsibilities and hectic routines seem to preclude time for prayer. Just getting through the day can be a major accomplishment! Everyone seems to be running around 24/7, and we wind up anxious, overburdened, and exhausted. When we feel this way, prayer becomes just one more box to check off on a "to do" list that's already way too long.
It doesn't help that our culture is burdened by a "bias toward busyness." Our world values who we know, how much we have, what we do, and what we look like doing it. In this climate, we fear losing our edge or falling behind. And since prayer doesn't seem to produce immediate results, let alone a product, we can dismiss it as a waste of effort or a luxury for those with too much time on their hands.
Jesus appreciates what we face; he knows what it's like to be busy. During his ministry, he was often in great demand. Crowds sought him out day and night. It seemed like everybody wanted something from him: a moment of his time, a word of wisdom, a healing touch. All the while, Jesus was on the move, traveling from town to town. Yet the Gospels tell us how, in spite of everything he had to do, Jesus would rise before dawn and pray in solitude. In doing so, he sets an important example for us.
Above all, Jesus prayed because he wanted to spend time with the Father he loved, just as the Father loved him in return. Catholic tradition understands this love as the Holy Spirit. Through the same Spirit, Jesus and the Father share this same love with us. Once we appreciate this, we'll understand that God invites us to prayer not to annoy us, inconvenience us, overburden us, or give us something to feel guilty about, but simply because he loves us so much.
God is constantly reaching out to touch our lives and bring us closer together. Faith is our response to this; it's the foundation of our relationship with God. And as with any relationship, communication is a key to success. For our relationship with God to be honest, fruitful, and deep, we need to communicate with God. We call this communication "prayer," and it's necessary for our faith's health. Understood this way, prayer isn't a waste of time. Instead, if we wish to have a strong faith, time spent in prayer is essential. After all, trust is established only with time. Love grows only with time. And mutual knowledge is built only over time.
Yet finding that time can be hard. Saint Francis de Sales once said that all of us should pray for a half hour each day, except when we're busy-and then we need an hour! But how on earth can we find a half hour a day for prayer―let alone an hour? Saint Francis himself gives us a hint: "Aspire often to God by short, burning elevations of the heart,"! In other words, we can lift up little prayers to God during the little crumbs of time we have throughout our day. And should we gather all these crumbs together, we may be surprised to discover how much time for prayer we actually have!
Our days are filled with opportunities to meet God, think of him, speak with him, and listen to him. Never is there a situation or circumstance in which he is not present. Yet these golden moments can so easily slip through our hands, and God can slide right past us, totally unnoticed. So what can we do? Perhaps we might rise a few minutes earlier each morning or stay up a few minutes later each night, even just once or twice a week. Also, we can take advantage of those little quiet moments that punctuate our day: behind the steering wheel, over the stove, in the shower, waiting in the checkout line, and so forth. And if we're a runner or a walker, we might take a rosary along with us.
Another way to pray more is to make it a habit to pray at the beginning and the end of regular daily events. For instance, we can say a prayer when we first wake up, and again when we turn in for the night. We can also pray at the beginning and end of meals, during commutes to and from our jobs, and when starting and finishing our work. We can pray when we tuck our kids in, pray when we drop them off at school, and again when we pick them up.
Saint Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing! But that's not something that can happen overnight. It's best to start small and then build from there. As a popular slogan puts it, we should "pray as we can and not as we can't." Catholic author Robert Wicks encourages people to pray at least two minutes a day. That advice is often received with skepticism because people generally feel that they owe more time to God than that. But Wicks explains that "simple constant deeds are always more meaningful than rarely fulfilled great promises. And besides, everyone, without exception, can find at least two quality minutes a day to spend with the Lord.
Even a few daily moments of prayer, however, will set the stage for a deeper relationship with God. Itwill certainly strengthen our faith when it feels fragile! And we'll likely find that it will increase our desire to spend even more time with God. We'll also see, perhaps slowly at first, that our lives will have begun to change for the better. So sweep up all the little crumbs of time you have for prayer! They'll provide ample food to feed your faith.
from When Faith Feels Fragile―Help for the Wary, Weak, and Wandering by R. Scott Hurd pp. 53-56