As well as asking the Holy Spirit to give us a great desire to purify our hearts, we have to desire with real sincerity this intimate meeting with the Holy Trinity, without being put off because perhaps we see our weaknesses and the deficiencies of our attitude towards God more clearly. Saint Teresa tells us that as she considered the presence of the Three Divine Persons in her soul she was amazed at seeing so much majesty in a thing as lowly as my soul; then Our Lord said to her: It is not lowly, my daughter, because it is made in my own image. And the saint was filled with consolation. It can do us a great deal of good to consider these words as being spoken to us, and they will encourage us to continue along this path that ends in God. We must treat every person we come across each day as the possessor of an immortal soul, the image of God, which is or can become the temple of God. from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez Volume 6 pp.259-260
It is the Presence of Christ which makes us members of Christ: “neither shall they say, Lo here! and Lo there! for the kingdom of God is within us.” Others marvel; others try to analyze what it is which does the work; they imagine all manner of human causes, because they cannot see, and do not feel, and will not believe the inward influence; and they impute to some caprice or waywardness of mind, or to the force of novelty, or to some mysterious insidious persuasive, or to some concealed enemy, or to some dark and subtle plotting, and they view with alarm, and they fain would baffle, what is really the keen, vivid, constraining glance of Christ’s countenance. “The Lord turned and looked upon Peter”; and “as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so also is the Presence of the Son of man.” It is come, it is gone, it has done its work, its abiding work, before men see it. And what took place in the first years of His Kingdom, when it was brought into being, holds good, in its measure, of all times of the Church; whether before the Law, or under the Law, or in this late and dark age, when Christians have divided into parties, and fight against each other. … Look round, I say, and answer, why it is that there is so much change, so much strife, so many parties and sects, so many creeds? Because men are unsatisfied and restless; and why restless, with every one his psalm, his doctrine, his tongue, his revelation, his interpretation? They are restless because they have not found. Alas! So it is, in this country called Christian, vast numbers have gained little from religion, beyond a thirst after what they have not, a thirst for their true peace, and the fever and restlessness of thirst. It has not yet brought them into the Presence of Christ, in which “is fullness of joy” and “pleasure for evermore.” Had they been fed with the bread of life, and tasted of the honeycomb, their eyes, like Jonathan’s, had been enlightened, to acknowledge the Savior of men; but having no such real apprehension of things unseen, they have still to seek, and are at the mercy of every rumor from without, which purports to bring tidings of Him, and of the place of His abode. “By night on my bed I sought Him whom my soul loveth. I sought Him, but I found Him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek Him whom my soul loveth; I sought Him, but I found Him not.” “I sought Him, but I could not find Him; I called Him, but He gave me no answer. The watchmen that went about the city found me; they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me” (Song 3:1, 2; 5:6, 7). Mary wept because they had taken away her Lord, and she knew not where they had laid Him. She was in trouble because she sought Him, yet in vain. Poor wanderers, helpless and ill-fated generation, who understand that Christ is on earth, yet do but seek Him in the desert or in the secret chambers—Lo here! and Lo there! O sad and pitiable spectacle, when the people of Christ wander on the hills as “sheep which have no shepherd”; and instead of seeking Him in His ancient haunts and His appointed home, busy themselves in human schemes, follow strange guides, are taken captive by new opinions, become the sport of chance, or of the humor of the hour, or the victims of self-will, are full of anxiety, and perplexity, and jealousy, and alarm, “tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive”;—and all because they do not seek the “one body” and the “one Spirit,” and the “one hope of their calling,” the “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,” and find rest for their souls!
Newman, J. H. (2010). Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman (pp. 37–40). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
I now address older people, oftentimes unjustly considered as unproductive, if not directly an insupportable burden. I remind older people that the Church calls and expects them to continue to exercise their mission in the apostolic and missionary life. This is not only a possibility for them, but it is their duty even in this time in their life when age itself provides opportunities in some specific and basic way. The Bible delights in presenting the older person as the symbol of someone rich in wisdom and fear of the Lord (cf. Sir 25:4–6). In this sense the “gift” of older people can be specifically that of being the witness to tradition in the faith both in the Church and in society (cf. Ps 44:2; Ex 12:26–27), the teacher of the lessons of life (cf. Sir 6:34; 8:11–12), and the worker of charity. At this moment the growing number of older people in different countries worldwide and the expected retirement of persons from various professions and the workplace provides older people with a new opportunity in the apostolate. Involved in the task is their determination to overcome the temptation of taking refuge in a nostalgia in a never-to-return past or fleeing from present responsibility because of difficulties encountered in a world of one novelty after another. They must always have a clear knowledge that one’s role in the Church and society does not stop at a certain age at all, but at such times knows only new ways of application. As the Psalmist says: “They still bring forth fruit in old age, they are ever full of sap and green, to show that the Lord is upright” (Ps 92:14–15). I repeat all that I said during the celebration of the Older People’s Jubilee: “Arriving at an older age is to be considered a privilege: not simply because not everyone has the good fortune to reach this stage in life, but also, and above all, because this period provides real possibilities for better evaluating the past, for knowing and living more deeply the Paschal Mystery, for becoming an example in the Church for the whole People of God … Despite the complex nature of the problems you face: a strength that progressively diminishes, the insufficiencies of social organizations, official legislation that comes late, or the lack of understanding by a self-centered society, you are not to feel yourselves as persons underestimated in the life of the Church or as passive objects in a fast-paced world, but as participants at a time of life which is humanly and spiritually fruitful. You still have a mission to fulfill, a contribution to make. According to the divine plan, each individual human being lives a life of continual growth, from the beginning of existence to the moment at which the last breath is taken”(175).
John Paul II. (1988). Christifideles Laici. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Meditatio “Master, I want to see.” Did you ever play childhood games in which you were blindfolded and therefore dependent on sounds and touch to know where you were? Imagine a lifetime of blindness: depending on the help of others, not seeing where you are and the beauty that surrounds you or the nonverbal communication of body language or a glance! Bartimaeus is blind. He longs to be able to see. When he learns that Jesus is passing by, he repeatedly cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” His perseverance and faith are rewarded, for Jesus hears him and tells the bystanders to call Bartimaeus. When Jesus asks what he wants, the blind man replies, “Master, I want to see.” And Jesus heals him. Can we imagine what he first saw? Perhaps he first looked upon the face of Jesus. What was communicated in that gaze? Whatever Bartimaeus learned caused him to follow Jesus on the way. We too might suffer from poor vision and wish to be able to see. Even more than physical blindness, however, we might suffer from spiritual blindness. Then our vision of success or happiness may be limited to having a good-looking body, a house filled with the latest gadgets, or a prestigious job. This blindness inhibits our ability to see God’s presence in our day, or to recognize God’s love and care. Our life could be so different if we had the vision of faith. What can we do? Let us imitate Bartimaeus, recognize our blindness, and strongly desire to see. Let us turn to Jesus and cry out longingly, “Jesus, Master, I want to see!” Jesus never refuses this prayer. Bartimaeus immediately received his sight, but the spiritual vision that we seek grows gradually. As we continue to ask for this gift, we will begin to notice God’s presence and action. We will come to understand life with its circumstances differently. This is the type of vision that we long for. Therefore let us repeatedly cry out, “Jesus, I want to see!”
Oratio Jesus, when I stop to consider how I look at life, at its circumstances, and even at things, I realize that my vision is so superficial. I truly suffer from spiritual blindness. Sometimes I forget that there is more to reality. Sometimes I don’t even remember you and how essential you are to me. Lord, heal my blindness, as you healed Bartimaeus. I want to see with new eyes, with faith. Grant me this vision. Reveal your presence to me today. Help me to see as you see so that I, too, can more closely follow you on the way.
Contemplatio Lord, grant that I may truly see.
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 138–139). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Believe me, my dear Sister, and put an end to all your fears and entrust all to Divine Providence who makes use of hidden but infallible means of bringing everything to serve his ends. Whatever others may say or do, they can only act by God’s will or permission, and everything they do he makes serve the accomplishment of his merciful designs. He is able to attain his purposes by means apparently most contrary, as to refresh his servants in the midst of a fiery furnace or to make them walk on the waters. We shall experience more sensibly this fatherly protection of Providence if we abandon ourselves to him with filial confidence. Quite recently I have had experience of this. Therefore, I have prayed to God with greater fervor than ever to grant me the grace never to have my own will, which is always blind and often dangerous, but always that his will, which is just, holy, loving, and beneficent may be accomplished. Ah! If you only knew what a pleasure it is to find no peace or contentment except in accomplishing the will of God, which is as good as it is powerful, you would not be able to desire anything else. Never look upon any pain, no matter of what kind, as a sign of being far from God; because crosses and sufferings are, on the contrary, effects of his goodness and love. “But,” you say, “what will become of me if …?” This is indeed a temptation of the enemy. Why should you be so ingenious in tormenting yourself beforehand about something which perhaps will never happen? Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Uneasy forebodings do us much harm; why do you so readily give way to them? We make our own troubles and what do we gain by it? Rather we lose so much both for time and eternity. When we are obsessed in spite of ourselves by these worrying anticipations let us be faithful in making a continual offering of them to the sovereign Master. I beg you to do this, as in this way you will induce God to deal favorably with you and to help you in every way. You will acquire a treasure of virtue and merits for heaven and a submission and abandonment which will enable you to make more progress in the ways of God than any other practice of piety. It is possible for this purpose that God permits all these troublesome and trying imaginations. Profit by them then and God will bless you. By your submission to his good pleasure you will make greater progress than you could by hearing beautiful sermons or reading pious books. If you only understood this great truth thoroughly, you would enjoy great peace of mind and advance rapidly in the ways of God. Without this submission to his good pleasure, no spirituality counts for much. As long as people restrict themselves to exterior practices, they can but have a very thin veneer of true and solid piety which essentially consists in willing in all things what God wills and in the manner in which he wills it. When you have attained to this, the Spirit of God will reign absolutely in your heart, will supply for all else, and will never fail you in your need if you call with humble confidence for his help. This is faith, but is known to very few souls who are otherwise pious. Thus, for the want of this disposition we see them kept back and obstructed in the ways of God. What a pitiful blindness! All the business and complicated affairs in which we are immersed by God’s will and by the decrees of his Divine Providence, are equal to the most delightful contemplation, if one says from the bottom of one’s heart, “My God, this is your will, and, therefore, also mine.” Although this is said only in the higher part of the soul without the will seeming to take any share in it, still the offering is no less agreeable to God and meritorious for oneself. Keep with a firm determination to this practice and you will soon experience its excellent results. If you could also combine with it a certain peace and quietness of mind, a certain gentleness of manner toward others and also toward yourself, without ever showing signs of annoyance, worry, or vexation, what great and meritorious sacrifices you will have made! De Caussade, J.-P. (2011). Inner Peace: Wisdom from Jean-Pierre de Caussade. (K. Hermes, Ed.) (pp. 79–82). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Meditatio “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said.…” I don’t think Jesus liked flattery. When the rich man runs up, falls to his knees, and hails Jesus as “Good Teacher,” the Master objects at once. Their dialogue doesn’t have a happy beginning. But Jesus does reply to the man’s question. He summarizes some of the commandments, including deference to parents—which suggests that the man is young. Jesus’ questioner replies eagerly that he has kept all the commandments since early adolescence. Now the dialogue reaches its high point. Jesus looks at the rich young man with love and invites him to take the further step of selling his property and becoming an itinerant disciple. The man’s face falls, and he leaves in sadness. What had he expected? Perhaps he had wanted to be a disciple part time, without having to sell his possessions and give away the proceeds. It seems that the rich young man wanted the best of two worlds. This makes me reflect: how important it is to pray for the men and women whom God is calling! So many other appeals come at them from all sides! Even if we don’t know anyone by name, we can pray for all those unknown vocations, that “the world, the flesh, and the devil” won’t lure those men and women elsewhere. It has been pointed out that one of the best ways to foster religious vocations is to live one’s own vocation well. May all of us—religious, priests, married couples, and single laypeople—live our own state in life well and enthusiastically! Let’s do so while praying that the Lord may shower many graces on the young (and not-so-young) people whom he is calling to the priesthood and religious life.
Oratio Jesus, Divine Master, our world is filled with much more noise than the bleating of horns, the babble of voices, the blaring of music, and the cacophony of ring tones. There are siren songs that may smother your still, small voice speaking to the hearts of men and women whom you wish to follow you more closely. How can they hear you in the midst of all this din? Please break through their “deafness,” as you did with Saint Augustine. I offer you my resolution to live my own vocation with dedication and joy. Please accept my life as a continuous prayer for the men and women you want to follow you in the ordained and consecrated life. Contemplatio Live life well!
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 132–134). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
"It's all your fault for sending her to a Catholic school! " "Don't tell me she's going to be a nun!" "Why does Patti's roommate think she's crazy?" These were some of the comments exchanged by members of my family after that famous phone call during which I told them about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. In 1967, there were no books Mom and Dad could read, no tapes to listen to, no papal statements to assure them that their daughter was still sane. I'm afraid I did very little to quell their fears as I described the tingling sensation in my hands, praying in unknown tongues, and being knocked over by the power of God while kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. No wonder my family was lamenting the fact that this strange thing had to happen to one of their own! Overnight, it seemed, I had become a different person. My interests, ambitions, speech, dress and friendships changed. I had undergone a conversion experience and it touched every aspect of my life. Not all the changes were good. For example, I tended to isolate myself from family members and activities. Unwittingly, I was making it more difficult for them to respond in a positive way to my new walk with the Lord. Only as I matured in the Spirit did I learn how to witness to them with greater sensitivity. The desire of my heart was to share with my family the joy and peace I'd found in surrendering my life to Jesus. As I sought the Lord for wisdom, two inspirations came which proved to be very fruitful. The first inspiration was to pray in a consistent, determined way for them. In 1968 I heard Ralph Martin share that he had set aside one day a week to intercede for his family. Encouraged by his example, I too began to pray and sacrifice every Thursday for my family, interceding that each of them might come to know the Lord in a personal way. The second inspiration came as I was making a visit to the parish of my youth, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Maplewood, New Jersey. There in an alcove, is a life-sized wooden statue of Mary seated with the Infant Jesus on her lap. She looks womanly yet strong, worthy of trust, able to care for all those entrusted to her. As I knelt at the altar I felt inspired to entrust every member of my family to Mary. As I did a deep peace came over me. I love to think of Mary before the throne of her Son in constant intercession for the needs of all God's children. So often I feel my own prayer is limited because of distractions and lack of confidence. But Mary is not distracted. She doesn't grow weary and she doesn't forget. Her entire being has been yielded to proclaim the greatness of the Lord and to bring others to Him. As we entrust our lives and loved ones to Mary, she takes responsibility for us as she speaks to her Son. "They have no more wine," Mary said at Cana. In response to her words, Jesus performed a miracle there. He continues to honor her requests today. So I prayed and Mary prayed. Within one year my two sisters and my mother were baptized in the Holy Spirit. I'll never forget the day my mother told me she wanted to be baptized in the Spirit. I was so thrilled I didn't know what to do or say! "Wait here, Mom, I'll get someone to talk to you," I blurted. Five years passed. I continued to pray and sacrifice on Thursdays and entrust my family to Mary. As May 1973 approached, I felt led to ask my mother and sisters to join me in praying for my dad. During the month of May we agreed to pray the rosary daily for him. On May fourth a relative invited my dad to make a Life in the Spirit Seminar. Wonder of wonders, Dad agreed! We had invited Dad to a Seminar many times before and he had always refused. By God's providence, I was home in New Jersey the night he was prayed with for the Baptism of the Spirit. Dad later told us he smelled the distinct aroma of incense — a beautiful sign of the presence of God. From my immediate family, only my brother was not yet baptized in the Spirit. Nine years passed. We continued to pray. In February, 1982, while my brother was jogging, the Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road with arms outstretched. "Come to me, Peter," Jesus beckoned. Peter said that as he began running toward Jesus, the vision faded but he continued to hear the Lord's voice. There on the road he surrendered his life to Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Imagine my joy when he called with the news! I was especially touched when I realized his encounter with the Lord took place on a Thursday (my regular day to intercede for my family), the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. No coincidence I'm sure. A week later he was prayed for with the laying on of hands. This was the 15th anniversary of my own Baptism in the Spirit. What a wonderful anniversary gift! How faithful our God is! Remember the jailer in the Acts of the Apostles who asked what he must do to be saved? "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and all your household" (Acts 16-31). When this one man came to the Lord, so did his entire family. I believe we can hope and pray for the same grace in our own lives.
from More of God by Patti Gallagher Mansfield pp. 82-85
According to such an exegesis, “blasphemy” does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross. If man rejects the “convincing concerning sin” which comes from the Holy Spirit and which has the power to save, he also rejects the “coming” of the Counselor-that “coming” which was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery, in union with the redemptive power of Christ’s Blood: the Blood which “purifies the conscience from dead works.” We know that the result of such a purification is the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, whoever rejects the Spirit and the Blood remains in “dead works,” in sin. And the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists precisely in the radical refusal to accept this forgiveness, of which he is the intimate giver and which presupposes the genuine conversion which he brings about in the conscience. If Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven either in this life or in the next, it is because this “non-forgiveness” is linked, as to its cause, to “non-repentance,” in other words to the radical refusal to be converted. This means the refusal to come to the sources of Redemption, which nevertheless remain “always” open in the economy of salvation in which the mission of the Holy Spirit is accomplished. The Spirit has infinite power to draw from these sources: “he will take what is mine,” Jesus said. In this way he brings to completion in human souls the work of the Redemption accomplished by Christ, and distributes its fruits. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then, is the sin committed by the person who claims to have a “right” to persist in evil-in any sin at all-and who thus rejects Redemption. One closes oneself up in sin, thus making impossible one’s conversion, and consequently the remission of sins, which one considers not essential or not important for one’s life. This is a state of spiritual ruin, because blasphemy against the Holy Spirit does not allow one to escape from one’s self-imposed imprisonment and open oneself to the divine sources of the purification of consciences and of the remission of sins. The action of the Spirit of truth, which works toward salvific “convincing concerning sin,” encounters in a person in this condition an interior resistance, as it were an impenetrability of conscience, a state of mind which could be described as fixed by reason of a free choice. This is what Sacred Scripture usually calls “hardness of heart.” In our own time this attitude of mind and heart is perhaps reflected in the loss of the sense of sin, to which the Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia devotes many pages. Pope Pius XII had already declared that “the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin,” and this loss goes hand in hand with the “loss of the sense of God.” In the Exhortation just mentioned we read: “In fact, God is the origin and the supreme end of man, and man carries in himself a divine seed. Hence it is the reality of God that reveals and illustrates the mystery of man. It is therefore vain to hope that there will take root a sense of sin against man and against human values, if there is no sense of offense against God, namely the true sense of sin.” Hence the Church constantly implores from God the grace that integrity of human consciences will not be lost, that their healthy sensitivity with regard to good and evil will not be blunted. This integrity and sensitivity are profoundly linked to the intimate action of the Spirit of truth. In this light the exhortations of St. Paul assume particular eloquence: “Do not quench the Spirit”; “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” But above all the Church constantly implores with the greatest fervor that there will be no increase in the world of the sin that the Gospel calls “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” Rather, she prays that it will decrease in human souls-and consequently in the forms and structures of society itself-and that it will make room for that openness of conscience necessary for the saving action of the Holy Spirit. The Church prays that the dangerous sin against the Spirit will give way to a holy readiness to accept his mission as the Counselor, when he comes to “convince the world concerning sin, and righteousness and judgment.”
John Paul II. (1986). Dominum et Vivificantem. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Meditatio “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Long before Peter was crucified for his fidelity to the Lord, Jesus asked him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter’s heartfelt response echoes the response of countless disciples, saints, and martyrs from every culture and epoch of Christianity’s long history. It is love and love alone that gives value to the gift of our life to God and to our acceptance of his will. How many times we must stretch forth our hands in surrender! The martyrs faced fear, misunderstanding, and pain as they handed over their lives as faithful witnesses to Jesus. While we may not be called to that kind of radical witness, many times we need to accept realities, people, and events that we naturally resist and cannot change. Marriage and the birth of a child are strong moments when a young couple take a leap of faith. Ordination and the profession of religious vows are intense occasions when lives are given over in complete surrender. As we age, we often have to endure sickness, diminishing strength, and dependence on others. The acceptance of the daily burdens of life and fidelity to our primary commitments are all ways that we are called to grow in prayer and trust. We may often feel fearful to take a risk of faith. We are afraid that God will ask too much and that we will fall short. God understands this fear! Yet, whatever happens, God is with us and invites us to follow him. Sad and painful events will happen in our lives, but we have no reason to be afraid, because we are never alone. The phrase “Do not be afraid!” occurs many times in Scripture because God wants to assure us of his presence at all times.
Oratio Jesus, Good Shepherd, you first stretched forth your hands for me and showed your love to the end. May I pour out my life for love of you and your people. May I not run away from my Christian vocation when I feel afraid of witnessing to you before others. Help me to be faithful until I enjoy the fullness of your presence. May your Spirit’s gift of fortitude strengthen me to proclaim the truth in love, so that your word may find a home in the hearts of all with whom I live and work.
Contemplatio Jesus, you are my way; help me to follow you.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 126–127). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
If we love, let us give our whole heart. Let us not concern ourselves too much about our frailties and our failings. Nobody knows better than Jesus the clay from which we are formed. Nobody knows better than he how to commiserate with our weakness and how to condescend to our frailty. The one thing we should concern ourselves with is our heart. Let it be pure and free of all attachments; let it be solely for Jesus. Let us not hold back the least fragment of our heart. Let us not take the minutest particle for ourselves: all must be for Jesus.
Martinez, L. (2011). Secrets of the Spirit: Wisdom from Luis Martinez. (G. Santos, Ed.) (p. 33). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Who would find it easy to believe that to become a saint, mildness is just as necessary as strength, perhaps even more so? Mildness is not weakness; rather it indicates strength. Weak souls do their works with noise and show; the strong operate with marvelous gentleness. Life is as strong as it is gentle, while love is as powerful as it is delicate. So the action of God upon nature, in history, and on souls is infinitely mighty and infinitely mild. The action of God upon his saints is most gentle. How he respects our freedom! How he condescends to our weakness! He does not run, jump, or act violently. We rush, being weak creatures, but God works slowly because he deals with eternity. We bewail the passage of minutes, but God serenely watches the flow of years. We wish to achieve the goal of our desires in a hurry, but God prepares his work gently. Our inconstancy does not tire him, nor do our failures startle him, nor do the complicated vicissitudes of human life overturn his eternal designs. Conversions are prodigies of gentleness, as Saint Augustine’s was. The long stages necessary for union are prodigies of gentleness, as were the paths Saint Theresa traveled. Great missions from God are also prodigies of gentleness, as Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque’s was. If we knew how to study the divine action in every saint, in every soul, we would be astonished, perhaps more at the gentleness than at the power of the sanctifying action. Gentleness is indispensable for us if we are to become holy, something we often forget. Undoubtedly many souls do not sanctify themselves because of a lack of power; but many also, indeed very many, fail to do so because of a lack of gentleness. The human soul is precious and delicate. It came forth from the divine lips as a most gentle breath. The divine blood of Jesus cleanses it and renders it beautiful. And the soul is destined to be united with God himself and to participate in the life and ineffable mystery of the most Blessed Trinity. Such an exquisite jewel must be handled with great delicacy. That is how God treats it, and that is how we should treat it. What an atmosphere of purity of mind, of peace, and of delicacy ought to surround a soul for it to achieve its sanctification! When the soul is borne to another atmosphere, it pines and laments! It is like those beautiful and delicate flowers that a strong wind withers or the heat of the sun discolors and parches. I think that the greater part of the spiritual ills of those who seek perfection comes from a lack of gentleness. Our poor, ever disquieted souls need gentleness. Desiring holiness, they want to achieve it all at once. They cannot bear their own miseries. They grow angry at their weaknesses, and with an over-refinement of ingenuity they continually worry and grieve themselves.… Mildness is necessary to those who are strict with themselves to the point of excess. They have forgotten the pages of the Gospel, which tell us about mercy and love. They see in Christ only the severe face of a Judge, without remembering that he is also our Friend, Father, Spouse, and above all, Savior who came to heal our miseries. They do not know that the sweet honey of love achieves more with the poor human heart than the bitter gall of severity.
Martinez, L. (2011). Secrets of the Spirit: Wisdom from Luis Martinez. (G. Santos, Ed.) (pp. 15–17). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
If we make a pilgrimage, we join with other people and journey with them. And it is surely important that we not simply journey side by side, with each person concerned only about himself, but that we are on the way together and, by this fact, recognize the deeper truth about our lives: that we are, in fact, pilgrims in time, but can be so only if we journey together. We join other people and journey with them. But more than that: we want to see heaven, we seek something greater, for the human soul thirsts for God, for the living God. The places of pilgrimage have marked a kind of geography of faith in our country, that is, they make visible, almost tangible, how our forefathers encountered the living God, how HE did not withdraw after creation or after the time of Jesus Christ, but is always present and works in them so that they were able to experience HIM, follow in his footsteps, and see him in the works HE performed. Yes, HE is there, and HE is still there today. It is from this inner encounter with the Lord that there originated the places and images of pilgrimage in which we, so to speak, can participate in what they saw, in what their faith provided for them. And so, through the images that they left us, we can see the reality: we can see the Mother of the Lord, and in her, the mirror of the mercies of God, we can also, as it were, behold the living God in order to learn from HIM who we are and what we must be if humanity is to survive. There is in our land today very little evidence of a militant atheism that openly attacks belief in God as there was in years gone by. It is, so to speak, no longer worthwhile, because God seems to be silently disappearing from Europe.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 164–165). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
The trees of the field shall bear their fruits, and the land its crops, and they shall dwell securely on their own soil. They shall know that I am the LORD when I break the bars of their yoke and deliver them from the power of those who enslaved them.
Through the gift of knowledge the Christian who is docile to the Holy Spirit will learn to discern perfectly between what leads to God and what separates from him, in the field of arts, of fashion, and in the world of ideas. Truly he will be able to say that wisdom guided him on straight paths; she showed him the kingdom of God, and gave him knowledge of angels. The Holy Spirit himself will warn us when what is good and true in itself is in danger of becoming bad by leading us away from our last supernatural end. It could be a disordered desire for material possessions, or an attachment to these goods in a way that does not leave the heart free to serve God. Christians who must sanctify themselves in the middle of the world have a particular need of this gift so as to direct all temporal activities to God, making them a means of holiness and apostolate. Through it a housewife discovers how her work at home is a way to God if it is done with an upright, honest intention and with a desire to please God; a student learns that study is the ordinary way to love God, do apostolate and serve society; for an architect the way to God is through plans and drawings; for a nurse, her care of the sick. We understand that we must love the world and temporal affairs, and come to discover the truth of those words of Blessed Escriva: There is 'something holy', something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it. When a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you repeatedly, and hammered away once and again at the idea, that the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse out of the prose of each day. The epic poetry we men and women write for God is comprised of the ordinary events of the day, the problems and and joys we meet along our way.
We love the things of earth, but we value them correctly, that is, as God values them. Thus we give the utmost importance to being temples of the Holy Spirit because if God is dwelling in our soul, everything else, no matter how important it may seem, is accidental and transitory, whereas we, in God, stand permanent and firm. We treasure our faith more than material goods and even life itself, and would be ready to abandon all else to preserve it. In the light of this gift we see the value of prayer and mortification and appreciate the importance they have in our life. Thus we would never dream of omitting them. from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez Volume 2 pp. 545-546
Open my heart to your law, Lord, and teach me to walk in your commandments. Give me the grace to know your will and to remember reverently and diligently all your blessings, the general as well as the particular ones, so that I may always thank you adequately. I realize and I confess that I am incapable of properly thanking you. I am not worthy of the blessings you have granted me. While I consider your majesty, my spirit faints before your greatness. All that we have in soul and body, all that we possess exteriorly and interiorly of the natural or supernatural order, are your gifts, which celebrate your generosity, mercy, and goodness. We have received all good things from you. Although some have received more, others less, all these gifts are yours. Without you not even the least of it would be possible. One who has received more cannot claim the glory, nor could such a one raise himself above others, nor insult those blessed with less as if anyone were greater or better than another. One will be worthy of greater things who attributes less to self, is more humble and devout in giving thanks, and esteems self to be totally unworthy of more gifts. The one who receives fewer gifts should not be troubled by this, nor take it badly, nor envy one more richly blessed, but rather turn to you, praising your goodness for so generously, freely, and willingly bestowing your gifts without distinguishing among persons. Because all comes from you, you must be praised in all things. You know what should be given to each one. Why this person has less and the other more is not our business, but yours, for you know the merits of each one. Therefore, Lord God, I consider it a great benefit to have few of those things that appear so valuable and are so highly praised; those things that cause some to see themselves impoverished and insignificant, and for lack of them to become disheartened and depressed. Rather I am consoled and very happy because you have chosen the poor, the humble and those of whom the world thinks little, as your friends and family. Your apostles themselves, whom you made “princes in all the earth” (Ps 45:16), are witnesses of this. Nevertheless they lived in this world without complaint, so humble and so simple, without any malice or guile; “they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (Acts 5:41). They embraced with great love what the world abhors. Nothing should give as much joy to those who love you and have experienced your blessings as having your will accomplished in them and sensing your pleasure in that. This makes it possible to be contented and consoled simply to be the least, while others strive to be the greatest, and to enjoy as much peace and contentment in the last place as could be felt in the first, and to willingly be despised and neglected, deprived of worldly recognition and reputation, as if they were the greatest and most respected persons in the world. All this because of the regard due to your will and your glory, which should console and please us more than any other possible benefits we have, or ever could receive.
Thomas à Kempis. (2010). Solace in Suffering: Wisdom from Thomas à Kempis. (M. L. Hill, Ed.) (pp. 51–53). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Inspired by a great desire for God’s glory and the good of others, having spent some time learning virtue and savoring God’s favor privately through self-knowledge, the soul arises, now full of love and anxious to seek truth and be clothed in it. To receive this enlightenment about God and herself, she realizes her need of humility and constant prayer. In truth, when one prays by following the footsteps of Christ crucified, that soul is united with God and he makes it another self because of its desire, affection, and love. This appears to be what Christ meant by saying: To those who love me and observe my word, I will make myself known and they will be one with me and I will be one with them (see Jn 14:21–23). There are similar words in other places which illustrate that it really is by love that a soul becomes his other self. If I can make this even clearer, I recall being told by a certain servant of God how she had been in prayer, her mind elevated to God, and God revealed to her inner vision the love he has for his servants, saying for one thing: “Open your inner eye and gaze into me. See the dignity and the beauty of my intelligent creatures. I have given much beauty to the soul created in my image and likeness. You can see those united with me in love are clothed in the wedding garments of charity and adorned with many virtues. Who are they, you ask me?” The sweet loving Word responds: “These who have given up their own wills are as another me. They are clothed with my will, united to me, conformed to me.” Most certainly it is love that unites the soul to God. When one sincerely wants to know the truth and follow it, one must first lift up her own desires (knowing that a soul can be of little use to anyone else in teaching, example, or prayer, if she has not first mastered them personally), then turning to the gracious, eternal Father she asks these four petitions: first for herself; second for the reformation of Holy Church; third for the world in general, especially peace for those Christians who are disrespectfully in rebellion, persecuting the Church; and fourth, that Divine Providence would take care of everything, but especially for a particular need.
Hill, M. L. (2011). Foreword. In M. L. Hill (Ed.), Path of Holiness: Wisdom from Catherine of Siena (pp. 37–39). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
My child, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble” (Nahum 1:7). Come to me whenever you need help. The greatest hindrance to receiving consolation is your apparent reluctance to pray. Before you ask me for anything earnestly, you try to find other consolations, delighting yourself in so many external things. When it happens that nothing helps you out, you remember that I am the One who saves those who trust in me. Other than me you will find no power, nor profitable advice, nor lasting remedy. Now that you have survived the storm and recovered your spirit, try to grow strong again in the light of my tender mercy. I am here to lend a healing hand, to offer abundant, overflowing help beyond measure. Is anything difficult to me? Shall I be like one who promises and does not perform? Where is your faith? Stand firm and persevere. Be patient and have courage; consolation will come to you in due time. Wait patiently for me and I will come and cure you. It is temptation that bothers you and a useless fear that strikes you with terror. What do you get from worry about what may come in the future, except a multitude of sorrows? “Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Mt 6:34). It is vain and useless to feel grief or joy for future events that may never take place. Although it is natural for us to be deceived by such worries, it is a sign of a weak soul easily drawn away by the suggestions of the enemy. For he does not care if it is true or not when he tricks and deceives you. It matters little whether he overcomes you with love of things present or fear of things to come. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27). Believe in me and confide in my mercy. I am often closest to you when you think that I am far away. When you think that almost all is lost, it is often then that you are about to gain the greatest merit. All is not lost when something happens contrary to what you wanted. You must not judge according to how you feel at present, nor give yourself up easily to any trouble no matter where it comes from, nor imagine that all hope of deliverance is gone. Do not think of yourself as completely forsaken, even if for a while I have sent you some tribulation, or taken some consolation away from you that you desire, for this is the road to the kingdom of heaven. Without a doubt it is more useful for you, and for the rest of my servants, that you be tried by adversity instead of having everything go according to your desires. I know your hidden thoughts. I know that it is very necessary for your salvation that at times you should be left without any consolation. Otherwise you might become proud of your success and complacent about yourself, thinking that you are what you are not. What I have given, I can rightly take away and then give back again when I please. When I give it to you, it is still mine. When I take it away again, I am not taking anything that is yours. “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above” (Jas 1:17). If I send you affliction or some adversity, do not grieve or be downhearted. I can quickly lift you up again and turn all your trouble into joy. However, I am to be praised when I deal with you in this way, for I am just. If you are thinking correctly and consider things in truth, you should never be too downhearted or troubled by adversity. Instead you should rejoice and give thanks. Count it as a special joy that I do not spare you, but send you sorrow. I said to my beloved disciples that “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you” (Jn 15:9), and I certainly did not send them to temporal joys, but to great battles; not to honors, but to contempt; not to idleness, but to work; not to rest, but to “bear fruit with patient endurance” (Lk 8:15). Keep these words in mind, my child.
Thomas à Kempis. (2010). Solace in Suffering: Wisdom from Thomas à Kempis. (M. L. Hill, Ed.) (pp. 61–64). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not—like some well in a retired and shady place, difficult of access. He is the greater part of his time by himself, and when he is in solitude, that is his real state. What he is when left to himself and to his God, that is his true life. He can bear himself; he can (as it were) joy in himself, for it is the grace of God within him, it is the presence of the Eternal Comforter, in which he joys. He can bear, he finds it pleasant, to be with himself at all times—“never less alone than when alone.” He can lay his head on his pillow at night, and own in God’s sight, with overflowing heart, that he wants nothing—that he “is full and abounds”—that God has been all things to him, and that nothing is not his which God could give him. More thankfulness, more holiness, more of heaven he needs indeed, but the thought that he can have more is not a thought of trouble, but of joy. It does not interfere with his peace to know that he may grow nearer God. Such is the Christian’s peace, when, with a single heart and the Cross in his eye, he addresses and commends himself to Him with whom the night is as clear as the day. St. Paul says that “the peace of God shall keep our hearts and minds.” By “keep” is meant “guard,” or “garrison,” our hearts; so as to keep out enemies. And he says, our “hearts and minds” in contrast to what the world sees of us. Many hard things may be said of the Christian, and done against him, but he has a secret preservative or charm, and minds them not. These are some few suggestions on that character of mind which becomes the followers of Him who was once “born of a pure Virgin,” and who bids them as “newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby.” The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretence, no affectation, no ambition, no singularity; because he has neither hope nor fear about this world. He is serious, sober, discreet, grave, moderate, mild, with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man. There are persons who think religion consists in ecstasies, or in set speeches—he is not of those. And it must be confessed, on the other hand, that there is a commonplace state of mind which does show itself calm, composed, and candid, yet is very far from the true Christian temper. In this day especially it is very easy for men to be benevolent, liberal, and dispassionate. It costs nothing to be dispassionate when you feel nothing, to be cheerful when you have nothing to fear, to be generous or liberal when what you give is not your own, and to be benevolent and considerate when you have no principles and no opinions. Men nowadays are moderate and equitable, not because the Lord is at hand, but because they do not feel that He is coming. Quietness is a grace, not in itself, only when it is grafted on the stem of faith, zeal, self-abasement, and diligence. May it be our blessedness, as years go on, to add one grace to another, and advance upward, step by step, neither neglecting the lower after attaining the higher, nor aiming at the higher before attaining the lower. The first grace is faith, the last is love; first comes zeal, afterward comes loving-kindness; first comes humiliation, then comes peace; first comes diligence, then comes resignation. May we learn to mature all graces in us—fearing and trembling, watching and repenting, because Christ is coming; joyful, thankful, and careless of the future, because He is come.
Newman, J. H. (2010). Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman (pp. 61–63). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Saint John Chrysostom comments on the passage in the Acts of the Apostles that relates how Paul and Barnabas healed the lame man in Lystra. The excited crowd saw in these strange individuals who could exercise such power a visitation of the gods Zeus and Hermes. They called the priests and wanted to offer a sacrifice of bullocks. But Barnabas and Paul were appalled and called to the crowd: “We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news” (Acts 14:15). Chrysostom remarks here: They were, to be sure, mortals like the others, yet they were also different from the others because tongues of fire had rested upon their human nature. That is what distinguishes the Christian—that he has received a tongue of fire in addition to his human nature. That is how the Church came into being. Each person receives the tongue of fire that is wholly and personally his and, as this person, he is a Christian in a unique and inimitable way. Admittedly, one who encounters the average Christian today is likely to inquire: “But where, then, is the tongue of fire?” The words spoken by Christian tongues today are unfortunately anything but fire. They taste all too much like water that has been left standing and is barely lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. We have no desire to burn either ourselves or others, but in not doing so we place ourselves at a distance from the Holy Spirit and our Christian Faith degenerates into a self-made philosophy of life that wants to disturb as few as possible of our comfortable habits and relegates the sharpness of protest to a place where it can cause the least inconvenience to our customary way of life. If we elude the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, it is only at first glance that being Christian seems easy for us. What is comfortable for the individual is uncomfortable for the whole. Where we no longer expose ourselves to God’s fire, the frictions among us become insupportable and the Church, to quote Saint Basil, is torn by the cries of interior factionalism. Only when we are not afraid of the tongues of fire or of the strong wind that accompanies them does the Church become an icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God. The Church had her origin when the disciples gathered with one mind in the room where they had celebrated the Last Supper and prayed there together. It is thus that she begins over and over again. In our prayers for the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, let us always call upon her.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Let us continue with the catecheses on the family, and in the family there is the mother. Every human person owes his or her life to a mother, and almost always owes much of what follows in life, both human and spiritual formation, to her. Yet, despite being highly lauded from a symbolic point of view — many poems, many beautiful things said poetically of her — the mother is rarely listened to or helped in daily life, rarely considered central to society in her role. Rather, often the readiness of mothers to make sacrifices for their children is taken advantage of so as to “save” on social spending. It also happens that in Christian communities the mother is not always held in the right regard, she is barely heard. Yet the centre of the life of the Church is the Mother of Jesus. Perhaps mothers, ready to sacrifice so much for their children and often for others as well, ought to be listened to more. We should understand more about their daily struggle to be efficient at work and attentive and affectionate in the family; we should better grasp what they aspire to in order to express the best and most authentic fruits of their emancipation. A mother with her children always has problems, always work. I remember there were five of us children at home, and while one was doing one thing, the other wanted to do another, and our poor mama went back and forth from one’s side to another, but she was happy. She gave us so much. Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred individualism. “Individual” means “what cannot be divided”. Mothers, instead, “divide” themselves, from the moment they bear a child to give him to the world and help him grow. It is they, mothers, who most hate war, which kills their children. Many times I have thought of those mothers who receive the letter: “I inform you that your son has fallen in defense of his homeland...”. The poor women! How a mother suffers! It is they who testify to the beauty of life. Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers experience a “martyrdom of motherhood”. In the homily for the funeral of a priest assassinated by death squads, he said, recalling the Second Vatican Council: “We must be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honour.... Giving one’s life does not only mean being killed; giving one’s life, having the spirit of a martyr, it is in giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in honest fulfilment of his duty; in that silence of daily life; giving one’s life little by little. Yes, like it is given by a mother, who without fear and with the simplicity of the martyrdom of motherhood, conceives a child in her womb, gives birth to him, nurses him, helps them grow and cares for them with affection. She gives her life. That’s martyrdom”. End quote. Yes, being a mother doesn’t only mean bringing a child to the world, but it is also a life choice. What does a mother choose, what is the life choice of a mother? The life choice of a mother is the choice to give life. And this is great, this is beautiful. A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength. Mothers often pass on the deepest sense of religious practice: in a human being’s life, the value of faith is inscribed in the first prayers, the first acts of devotion that a child learns. It is a message that believing mothers are able to pass on without much explanation: these come later, but the seed of faith is those early precious moments. Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth. And the Church is mother, with all of this, she is our mother! We are not orphans, we have a mother! Our Lady, mother Church, is our mom. We are not orphans, we are children of the Church, we are children of Our Lady, and we are children of our mothers.
Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world. And to you, beloved Church, thank you, thank you for being mother. And to you, Mary, Mother of God, thank you for letting us see Jesus. And thank you for all the mammas present here: let us salute them with a round of applause!
In the parable of the Sower … we have set before us four descriptions of men, all of whom receive the word of God. The sower sows first on the hard ground or road, then on the shallow earth or rock, then on a ground where other seeds were sown, and lastly on really good, rich, well-prepared soil. By the sower is meant the preacher; and by the seed the word preached; and by the rock, the road, the preoccupied ground, and the good soil, are meant four different states of mind of those who hear the word. Now here we have a picture laid out before us, which will, through God’s mercy, provide us with a fitting subject of thought this evening … “Today if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness … Exhort one another every day whilst it is called today, lest any be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:7–8, 13). When the heart is hard, the birds take away the divine seed. They do not bring it back; it goes for ever. Make the most of the precious time. Delay not—many a soul has been damned by delay. God’s opportunities do not wait; they come and they go. The word of life waits not—if it is not appropriated by you, the devil will appropriate. He delays not, but has his eyes wide always and is ready to pounce down and carry off the gift which you delay to use. And if you are conscious that your hearts are hard, and are desirous that they should be softened, do not despair. All things are possible to you, through God’s grace. Come to Him for the will and the power to do that to which He calls you. He never forsakes anyone who calls upon him. He never puts any trial on a man but He gives Him grace to overcome it. Do not despair then; nay do not despond, even though you do come to Him, yet are not at once exalted to overcome yourselves. He gives grace by little and little. It is by coming daily into His presence, that by degrees we find ourselves awed by that presence and able to believe and obey Him. Therefore if any one desires illumination to know God’s will as well as strength to do it, let him come to Mass daily, if he possibly can. At least let him present himself daily before the Blessed Sacrament, and, as it were, offer his heart to His Incarnate Savior, presenting it as a reasonable offering to be influenced, changed, and sanctified under the eye and by the grace of the Eternal Son. And let him every now and then through the day make some short prayer to the Lord and Savior, and again to His Blessed Mother, the immaculate most Blessed Virgin Mary, or again to his guardian angel, or to his patron saint. Let him now and then collect his mind and place himself, as if in heaven, in the presence of God; as if before God’s throne; let him fancy he sees the All-Holy Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. These are the means by which, with God’s grace, he will be able in course of time to soften his heart—not all at once, but by degrees; not by his own power or wisdom, but by the grace of God blessing his endeavor. Thus it is that saints have begun. They have begun by these little things, and so become at length saints. They were not saints all at once, but by little and little. And so we, who are not saints, must still proceed by the same road; by lowliness, patience, trust in God, recollection that we are in His presence, and thankfulness for His mercies. And now, my brethren, though I have said but a little on a large subject, I have said enough, not enough for the subject, but enough for you, enough for you to get a lesson from. May you lay it to heart, as I am sure you do and will, may you gain a blessing from it; and in this as in all things may the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, etc. —Excerpt from: Faith and Prejudice and Other Unpublished Sermons, Sermon 3. The Calls of Grace
Newman, J. H. (2010). Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman (pp. 53–56). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Lectio John 15:12–17 Meditatio “I no longer call you slaves … I have called you friends, because I have told you everything.…” We are not slaves of Jesus, but his friends. So why, in the previous line, does he say, “you are my friends if you do what I command you”? That’s a little confusing. Don’t slaves do what they’re commanded to do? But Jesus explains that a slave isn’t “in on” the master’s plans. Slaves do what they’re told without any understanding of the bigger picture, of what part they play, or what the goal is. Friends are different. We can tell things to our friends and share our plans with them. Think back to friends from childhood. Even then, friends were kids we shared things with—secrets, fears, hopes, and dreams. Adult friendships are different in many ways, but it’s still true that our friends are those we can confide in and, of course, who want to listen to what we tell them: “Tell me everything!” For some friends, that’s as far as it goes—they’re “emotional support.” But for others, it goes deeper. Jesus wants friends who not only know about the plan and the goal, but who also pitch in and work toward the goal. Jesus doesn’t tell us what he has “heard from the Father” just so we can cheer him on. He invites us to join him. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” It starts with loving one another, his first command to us. Love is the foundation of the community of his friends. Then he sends us to bear fruit. That is what it means to be friends of Jesus.
Oratio Jesus, I love to hear you call me your friend. I don’t want to be a fair-weather friend who sticks by you only as long as the plan is going well. I don’t want to be your friend in name only. I want to be a true friend who is close to you and hears all that you share with me. Sometimes it’s hard for me to love these others whom you also call your friends. But I know that that is the indispensible first step. First we must love each other; then we can work on your plan to make the love of your Father known to every human being.
Contemplatio I am a friend of Jesus.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 84–85). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
When Jesus draws close, joy takes possession of us. Luke the Evangelist, who composed his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles so meditatively, kept this theme constantly before him. The last sentence of his Gospel tells us, for instance, that when the disciples had seen Jesus ascend into heaven, they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk 24:52). The Acts of the Apostles repeats the theme: “… they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). They went their way after they had seen the Lord ascend into heaven—and their hearts were filled with joy. From a purely human point of view, we would expect their hearts to be “filled with confusion”. But no! One who has seen the Lord not just from the outside; whose heart has been moved by him; who has accepted the Crucified One and, precisely because he has done so, knows the grace of the Resurrection—his heart must be full of joy. In the acceptance of the Cross, the Resurrection becomes visible, the world becomes new, and hearts overflow with joy. When we hear this, we realize how far from the Lord we still are; how far from the moment with which Luke closed his Gospel. We want to ask the Lord to touch our hearts, to come close to us, to let it be true of us also that we will have great joy and that many will be filled with joy.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 153). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Remain in me, as I remain in you. (John 15:4) What do you do when you need to recover from a head cold? You get extra rest, drink more fluids, and take vitamins. But these remedies aren’t directly making you better. They can facilitate the process, but in the end, it’s your own immune system that fights off the sickness, and that process isn’t completely under your control. Spiritual growth is a little like getting over a cold: our efforts are only aids to our growth. The real growth comes from God. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus explains this by saying that he is the vine, and we are the branches. Because we’re just branches, we can’t produce fruit on our own. Only as we are attached to the vine, receiving its vitality, are we fruitful. Sometimes we get these roles confused. We can begin to think that we are the active agent in spiritual growth. “God made the world,” we think, “He sent Jesus to redeem us; now it’s up to me.” While it may sound noble, this approach can lead us to be disconnected from the Lord. And that will render us fruitless. This passage shows us how important it is that we try to stay connected to Jesus. None of us wants to be fruitless. None of us wants to wither and die and fall off of the vine! We want to be useful to the Lord, don’t we? We want to be filled with his vitality, his energy, and his wisdom. This is why it’s important to be faithful to daily prayer, Scripture reading, and the sacraments. It’s also why we need to stay connected with fellow Christians and why we need to serve as he served. These things on their own won’t bring spiritual growth, but they will keep us connected to the life-giving vine. All we have to do is try our best to stay close to Jesus. Abiding in his presence is nothing more than trying to think and act the way we think Jesus would want us to in our day. If we can do just that, we will be giving his Spirit the freedom to shape us and change us. We will become more fruitful!
“Thank you, Jesus, for promising to make me fruitful. Help me, Lord, to stay connected to you.” Daily Reflection from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
Practicing Christian love in the same way as Christ means that we are good to someone who needs our kindness, even if we do not like him. It means committing ourselves to the way of Jesus Christ and thus bringing about something like a Copernican revolution in our own lives. For in a certain sense, we are all still living before Copernicus, so to speak. Not only in that we think, to all appearances, that the sun rises and sets and goes around the earth, but in a far more profound sense. For we all carry within us that inborn illusion by virtue of which each of us takes his own self to be the center of things, around which the world and everyone else have to turn. We all necessarily find ourselves, time and again, construing and seeing other things and people solely in relation to our own selves, regarding them as satellites, as it were, revolving around the hub of our own self. Becoming a Christian, according to what we have just said, is something quite simple and yet completely revolutionary. It is just this: achieving the Copernican revolution and no longer seeing ourselves as the center of the universe, around which everyone else must turn, because instead of that we have begun to accept quite seriously that we are one of many among God’s creatures, all of which turn around God as their center.
Ratzinger, J. (2006). What It Means to Be a Christian. (H. Taylor, Trans.) (pp. 70–71). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Lectio John 14:21–26 Meditatio “… the Holy Spirit … will … remind you of all that I told you.” Once when I was learning a new job, the sister who was teaching me said about a certain task, “Don’t worry. If you forget how to do this, you can ask so-and-so.” And about something else, “It’s all right if you forget to do that. So-and-so will remind you.” It was a relief to know that others would back me up, that I didn’t have to do it all on my own, and that I wouldn’t ruin everything if I forgot a detail. Before Jesus leaves his disciples to return to the Father, he reassures them in a similar way. He’s taught them many things, and here at this Last Supper especially, he has said a lot. Their hearts and minds can hardly contain it all. But they don’t need to be anxious about it. The Holy Spirit will remind them of whatever they need to remember, and will help them learn and apply whatever Jesus has not explained. This reassures and consoles us, too. We don’t need to memorize the Gospels, chapter and verse. We don’t need to figure out on our own what it means to follow Jesus, or what a disciple should do in any given situation. It’s not all on our shoulders. We have the promise of the Holy Spirit. What is on our shoulders is the duty to be open and to listen so that we hear the Holy Spirit’s reminders. We need to ask for assistance when we’re not clear about what to do, or how Jesus would want us to act. Praying with the word of God, praying for guidance, turning to ask the Holy Spirit’s light, discerning God’s will in a certain situation—all these are what we need to do. Then the Holy Spirit will remind us of all that Jesus has told us.
Oratio Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Help me trust that I will receive the help I need, when I need it, and then remind me to ask for that help and not rely completely on my own memory and judgment. I place in your hands, right now, all my concerns about the future and about current situations that are not yet clear to me. Send your Holy Spirit to remind me and teach me all I need to know.
Contemplatio “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:1).
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 76–77). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.