The reason that knowledge alone is not enough for success in the moral life stems from the fact that we have inherited a wounded nature. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, human nature is fallen from its original perfection. Saint Paul describes just how wounded our nature is: We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.… I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom. 7:14–15, 18–19, 24). This condition is an effect of original sin (cf. Catechism, no. 1707). Through original sin every individual is born with a human nature that is weak and inclined to commit personal sin (the theological term for this condition is concupiscence). The mind struggles with ignorance, the body suffers pain and death, and the passions tend to undermine our ability to know and do the good (cf. Catechism, no. 405). We fall into sin not so much out of ignorance but weakness. It is within this context that we understand the virtues as liberating powers, raising man above his fallen nature to the truth and beauty in which each person becomes the person he was created to be. The weakness caused by original sin causes us to be inclined toward sin. The power of virtue is that it reverses the inclination toward evil, and by strength of habit inclines us toward the good. For example, we are inclined to lie when the truth will hurt us, but the man who has the virtue of honesty possesses the inclination to tell the truth. Virtues tip the scales of the moral life toward good and away from evil. How can we do good and live a virtuous life given Saint Paul’s account of our fallen nature? Are we bound to sin? No. Saint Paul gives an answer to the anguished cry, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” when he goes on to give thanks to “God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25). Paul then explains in Romans 8 how Christ has set us free from the captivity of sin and death. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our fallen nature is healed, perfected, and elevated. Thus Saint Paul says that through Baptism we have put on “the new nature” (cf. Col. 3:9–10). The grace and power of Jesus Christ transforms our old nature, referred to by Saint Paul in Romans 7. This means that we can live a virtuous life, thanks to Christ. It is important to note the careful balance between God’s grace and our effort. Apart from God we can do nothing, and apart from our effort God cannot work in our lives. Both God’s grace and our effort are needed. Consider the analogy of a sailboat. The finest sailboat in the world can’t sail far without its sails. Even with much wind and good weather, if the sails are not up, the boat will not make much headway. The sails signify our effort, namely the virtues. Conversely, if the boat has excellent sails but no wind, it cannot sail. The wind is like God’s grace. We can make all the effort and preparation in the world, but without God’s grace we will not make much progress in the moral life. Similarly, we can receive the sacraments and pray, but God’s grace will not avail much if we do not act. The wind will pass over the ship without much effect because the sails are not up. This happens to too many Christians. They go to Church and receive the sacraments, but the wind of God’s grace passes by them, as they do not put much effort into following Christ. God may be present in our lives but, unless we cooperate with His action, we will not reach our destination of eternal life. Success in sailing through the troubled waters of the moral life requires us to rely on God and expend much effort at the same time. Loving God with all our strength will raise the sails so that they can catch God’s grace, which will empower us to move across the rough waters of this world to the tranquil harbor of heaven. This is what the virtues are all about, our cooperation with God and His plan for our lives. Through the virtues, both human and theological, we enable God to fill the sails of our ship and move it in the right direction. The virtuous life is critical because it is the path by which we reach the final purpose of life, eternal happiness. Every person is created for happiness, but final and complete happiness comes only after a life directed to the good that lies beyond our immediate needs or wants. Virtue should not be considered burdensome, but rather as liberating and as the path to personal happiness. Indeed, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that substantial happiness and human flourishing could only be grasped through the virtues.
Gray, T., & Martin, C. (2001). Boys to Men: The Transforming Power of Virtue (pp. 12–14). Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing.
During World War II, Hungary had largely avoided Nazi pressure to persecute the Jews until the spring of 1944, when Adolf Eichmann arrived on the scene. During six weeks of terror, from mid-May to the end of June 1944, Eichmann sent almost 450,000 Hungarian Jews to their deaths. Yet a Swedish diplomat named Raoul Wallenberg managed to get many Jews out of Hungary on Swedish passports. His tireless efforts saved around 30,000 people. His reward? When the Soviets rolled into Hungary, they took Wallenberg prisoner and he disappeared into a Soviet gulag. No one knows exactly what befell him. Despite efforts to get him released, he was never freed and he died, deserted and alone, in a Soviet prison or labor camp.
A cynic would say that no good deed goes unpunished. But today’s Gospel offers comfort to all the Raoul Wallenbergs of the world, and to all those who were herded into cattle cars and dumped into gas chambers. Evil will not triumph. Evil will not have the last word. No matter the degree to which justice is perverted in this world, justice will be done in the next. In the parable of the weeds and the wheat, Jesus counsels us to have patience now, for we are still in the time of mercy. While it lasts, God never stops calling his wayward children to repentance. But at some point the judgment will come, and the angels will reap the harvest of the earth. Some wrongs will never be righted on this earth. But they will be righted—not in our time, but in God’s. And that should reassure us that though it tarries, the day of justice will not be put off forever. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Jesus, this Gospel makes me fear the day of reckoning, but at the same time I find it comforting. I don’t like to dwell on the face of evil in the world. Yet I cannot deny its existence and I can’t make sense of it. You tell us quite plainly that the enemy, the devil, is at work in the world sowing seeds of evil. But the power of your love is stronger than the power of evil. In the end, your love will triumph. Lord, I believe in your love and its power to overcome evil. Increase my faith.
“Explain to us the parable.”
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 296–297). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Important Word of Prophecy From Pope Benedict XVI (Given in 1969)
To put this more positively: the future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered. If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we all are! How does all of this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the sidelines, watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of men, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future. Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship. The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystalization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism of the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.
Benedict XVI. (2009). Faith and the Future (pp. 114–118). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Peace is the gift that Jesus Christ brought us from heaven, his gift, the gift of God. It is a gift so beautiful, so profound, so all-embracing, and efficacious, that we shall never truly comprehend it. We might say concerning peace what our Lord said of himself to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well: “If you knew the gift of God …” (Jn 4:10). Truly, if we understood this God-given gift of peace, we could appreciate how it is the synthesis, the very peak, so to speak, of all the graces and heavenly blessings we have received in Christ Jesus. Peace is the seal of Christ. It is not just one of his many gifts; it is, in a certain way, his own gift. When Jesus appeared in the world on that unforgettable night in Bethlehem, the angels proclaimed peace. On another unforgettable night, the last that he spent on earth, the pivotal night of the Cenacle and the Eucharist, Jesus left peace to his loved ones as a testament of his love: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). Our Lord’s customary greeting to his apostles after his resurrection was “Peace be with you!” Furthermore, he recommended that in pursuing their apostolic mission, they should always say these words upon arriving at any house: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21, 26), and any person of peace who dwelt there should receive their peace; if not, their good wishes for peace should return to the apostles.… Our Lord’s peace has distinctive characteristics, which call for at least a brief consideration. First, it is a peace exclusively his own; he has a monopoly on peace. On the eve of his passion, he said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (Jn 14:27). The world, which counterfeits everything, cannot counterfeit peace, no matter how much it tries. It misrepresents joy; the world’s happiness is always superficial and sometimes even bitter. The world counterfeits wisdom, dazzling the credulous with a showy but empty knowledge. It counterfeits love, giving this sacred name to mere passion or to base egoism. The world, the offspring of Satan, father of lies, is essentially an imposter, falsifying everything. But it is powerless in counterfeiting one thing: peace. The world cannot give peace because peace is a divine thing; it is the seal of Jesus Christ. A second characteristic of our Lord’s peace is its profundity. It is not superficial, merely exterior, the peace of the tomb or the desert. Such is not really peace, but solitude, emptiness, desolation. The peace of God, on the other hand, reaches even to the depths of our hearts. It pervades our innermost being, penetrating it like an exquisite perfume. Peace is plenitude; it is life. Thirdly, peace is indestructible. Nothing and no one can force the peace of heaven out of a person who has received this gift of God. Neither the persecutions of tyrants, nor the snares of the devil, nor the vicissitudes of earth can disturb a soul in which God has established his peace. On the night before his passion, Jesus told his apostles that he gave them his joy and added: “… and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). The same may be said of peace: “Nobody can take it away from you.” Everything else may be taken away from us: our homes, property, liberty, and even our lives. In a certain sense, we can be deprived of happiness. It is true that perfect joy can be experienced even when the eyes weep and the heart suffers, but such heights are characteristic of only very elevated, perfect souls. Consequently enemies may take from us, in some measure, even our joy. But they can never deprive us of peace when Jesus has given it to us. Peace can continue its reign in our hearts in spite of the miseries, sadness, and bitterness of life. Finally, the peace of Christ is a rich peace, full of sweetness and mildness. Saint Paul describes it as “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7). This peace is the only form of happiness unparalleled upon earth; it is the substance of heaven. Without the splendors of the beatific vision, without the overflowing happiness of that everlasting state, peace is the substance of what we hope to enjoy in heaven.… But is it always possible to preserve peace of soul? Should our hearts never be disturbed by anything at all?… I would like to present the means whereby the soul may preserve peace despite all obstacles. The first path to peace is faith. In fact, if we lived by faith, we would live in peace.… Faith teaches that God loves us, and that he loves us not as a group, but personally, individually. “He loved me!” (cf. Gal 2:20). Each one of us can make these words of Saint Paul our own without fear of error. God knows my name; he has engraved my image in his heart. Still more, I can be assured that his heart is all mine because our Lord cannot love as we do, by halves. When he loves, he loves with his whole heart, infinitely.… We may go a step farther. God’s love for us is not a sterile love, confined to heaven. It is an active love, provident, watchful, solicitous. It is a love that does not forget us for one moment, but protects us unceasingly, and keeps arranging minutely all the events of our life from the most far-reaching to the most insignificant. I am not exaggerating. Jesus himself affirmed it: “But not a hair of your head will perish” (Lk 21:18). Some persons may consider this hyperbole. Perhaps, but at any rate it is a hyperbole that expresses the solicitude, constancy, and minute care of God’s love for us.… Through what strange phenomenon, through what inexplicable illusion do we Christians disquiet ourselves, knowing with the certainty of faith that a loving God bears us in his arms and surrounds us with his divine tenderness? Martinez, L. (2011). Secrets of the Spirit: Wisdom from Luis Martinez. (G. Santos, Ed.) (pp. 1–5). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
A trader from Genoa had to visit Foggia to negotiate an oil sale. One of his friends, who knew he had been away from the Church for a long time, planned to lay a trap for him! The friend asked the trader to make a little detour to San Giovanni Rotondo to deliver a letter to Padre Pio, hoping that his friend would meet the priest. The man accepted this task and took the letter. At Foggia he boarded the bus for San Giovanni Rotondo. Tired out by such a long journey, he had but one thought in mind—to get rid of the letter as quickly as possible. When a Brother opened the door, the trader gave him the letter and said he wanted an immediate reply because he had to be on his way. He was invited into the sacristy to wait until Padre Pio would come down to give him an answer. The trader waited a few minutes in the sacristy and began to grow impatient. Padre Pio arrived but made no impression on his visitor. The priest approached, looked him straight in the eye, and asked, “Now you, what do you want?” The man answered that he just wanted a reply to the letter. “Ah, yes,” Padre Pio said, “the letter! But what about you? Don’t you want to go to confession?” The man admitted that he had not practiced his religion for a very long time. Padre Pio asked him, “How long is it since your last confession?” “I was seven years old,” said the trader. The priest looked at him in such a way that it seemed he saw into his soul, and said, “How long do you intend living this disgusting kind of life?” In a flash he saw how his life had been lived without God, so he repented, went to confession, and was filled with joy! He had gone to the monastery rather unwillingly as a favor to his friend, intending to be done with this obligation as quickly as possible. He stayed for another week, fascinated by Padre Pio, attending his Mass and receiving communion at his hands. The trap set by the trader’s friend had worked perfectly!
Cataneo, P. (2013). Padre Pio, Glimpse into the Miraculous. (M. McCollum & G. Dextraze, Trans.) (pp. 31–32). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
One of the conversions brought about by Padre Pio resulted in a chain reaction. It was that of the lawyer Cesare Festa, an avowed and prominent Freemason, cousin of Padre Pio’s personal doctor, Giorgio Festa. One day Giorgio challenged his cousin to visit Padre Pio and see for himself the supernatural powers he denounced so strongly. The lawyer accepted the challenge and went to San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio was talking with some people when he noticed Cesare Festa. Immediately Padre Pio left the group and confronted the lawyer: “Well! Why are you here with us? You are a prominent Freemason.” The lawyer agreed. Padre Pio then asked, “What is the duty of freemasonry?” The lawyer replied, “To overthrow the Church.”
After this preamble, which no one had expected, Padre Pio changed his clothes, took the lawyer by the hand, and invited him to follow him. Padre Pio told the story of the Prodigal Son simply and effectively. Suddenly Cesare identified with the young man and, even more, began to feel very intensely the love that God has for those who stray from him. Cesare gave in and went to confession, and when he got up from his knees, he had the impression that he had been born again into a new kind of life. Some days later he went back to Padre Pio who wrote these words for him on the title page of a New Testament: “Blessed are those who listen to the word of God, guard it jealously, and accomplish it faithfully.” This was a warning and an exhortation to Cesare to be rooted in his new state of grace. The lawyer understood and welcomed this. He resolved to remain faithful to this new way of life. One day he decided to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. When members of the Freemasons’ Lodge in Genoa heard of this, they became alarmed at the possible consequences of such a conversion. They called a meeting to solemnly condemn this turncoat. In no way intimidated, Cesare Festa decided to attend the meeting. As he was leaving for the meeting, someone brought him a letter from Padre Pio encouraging him not to be ashamed of his faith and to fight: “The Lord will help you.” At the meeting, the former Freemason explained his conversion and rigorously defended the Church. After this he became a fervent Christian and a devout follower of Padre Pio.
Cataneo, P. (2013). Padre Pio, Glimpse into the Miraculous. (M. McCollum & G. Dextraze, Trans.) (pp. 16–17). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
You see, my dear brothers and lords, that self-love ruins the city of the soul and ruins, as well as conquers, the cities of this world. I want you to also know that the world has been divided into so many groups of peoples by self-love, which also gives birth to injustice.
It seems that you desire to enhance and protect your own city, dearest brothers. This desire has inspired you to write to me, poor, miserable person that I am, so full of faults. I both listened attentively to your letter, and read it lovingly. I certainly hope that I can satisfy your request, and I will certainly exert myself, with God’s grace, to pray continually for your intention. If you act in justice and conduct your government business as I have suggested, without bitter argument, selfishness, or self-interest, but for the common good and built on Jesus Christ the rock, and conduct all your business in fear of him, your prayers will preserve your city with strength, peace, and unity. Even though you have the help of the prayers of God’s good servants, there is no other remedy but through love for Christ crucified. So I beg you do not drop your part of the bargain. Although you do have the help of those prayers, if you let down your guard and fail on your part to help yourselves, all will flounder.
… You must clothe yourselves with the New Man, sweet Jesus Christ and his immense charity. For this to happen, however, we must first be divested of self. But I will not do this unless I understand how harmful it is to cling to sin, and how very useful are these new clothes of divine love. When one witnesses his own sin, he will despise it and quickly rip it off. He will then love and dress himself up in new clothes of virtue created by love of the New Man. This is the Way. Because of this I told you of my desire to see you divested of the old man and clothed with the New Man, Christ crucified. This is how you will prevail, remain in the state of grace, and preserve your city. You will also not fail to reverence the Holy Church.
—Excerpt from an undated letter written to the elders and councilors of Bologna
Hill, M. L. (2011). Foreword. In M. L. Hill (Ed.), Path of Holiness: Wisdom from Catherine of Siena (pp. 33–35). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Lectio Matthew 12:46–50 Meditatio “… whoever does the will of my heavenly Father …” Have you ever found yourself admiring other persons for their strength, patience, noble character, or goodness of heart? “Wow, they are truly blessed,” we might think. “They certainly have it all together.” Admiration is appropriate when we witness the best in others, but looked at from another perspective, admiration lets us off the hook. The others are admirable for what they have chosen to do or be. Admiration often implies that others are far above us, doing something we could never aspire to. We might think we live in another realm, one that is mediocre and humdrum. So we can’t expect ourselves to be as great as the ones we admire. Like the woman in today’s Gospel who admired the mother of Jesus, we too might be tempted to only worship, adore, and admire the Son of this mother. While there is nothing wrong with that, Jesus quickly calls us to something deeper: I, Jesus says, am the yes of God. Spoken by the Father as the Word, I am one with the Father in obedience and complete, responsive love. Mary is the highest model in the human race of yes. Without hesitation, consideration, calculation of what it would cost or how she would perform, she simply surrendered her entire life, her body, her future to the Father, desiring that the will of God be completely fulfilled in her. You are most truly yourself when you become yes. And you can make this choice for yes. Jesus says, don’t admire those who had physical contact with me during my life on earth. That physical proximity does not give them an edge over you. You have the same possibility as they did to be yes. Open your heart, your life, your mind, your desires, your words, your actions to the Father, becoming an empty canvas upon which he draws. Become the “handmaiden of the Lord.” Allow the story of salvation to be accomplished in you and through you. Without hesitation, say yes to all that God wills in your life. Oratio Jesus, yes of the Father, it is not as easy as it sounds to say yes. I’m afraid of the unknown. I want to control my life. I like adventures but not those that put my career or dreams at risk. Still, that is what makes this yes so powerful. The writings of the saints are full of this invitation to complete surrender to your Father … and mine. From this moment on, my Lord, I say yes.
Contemplatio From this moment on, my Lord, I say yes.
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 278–279). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
When a soul recognizes the will of God and shows a readiness to submit to it entirely, then God gives himself to such a soul and renders it most powerful succor under all circumstances. Thus it experiences a great happiness in this advent of God and enjoys it the more, the more it has learned to abandon itself at every moment to his adorable will.
De Caussade, J.-P. (2011). Inner Peace: Wisdom from Jean-Pierre de Caussade. (K. Hermes, Ed.) (p. 27). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
A central part of any suspense movie is the cat and mouse game between the villain and the hero. Whether it’s a high-speed chase, a game of wits, or a race against the clock, the villain is seeking to trap the hero in some kind of web to render him powerless against the villain’s schemes. For his part, the hero uses his quick reflexes, his street smarts, and his charm to avoid capture and save the day. Well, in today’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus employ a unique strategy that probably wouldn’t play out well in a suspense movie. After he heals a man on the Sabbath, some of the Pharisees set out on an elaborate cat and mouse game in which they hope to trap Jesus in his own words so that they can put him to death. But Jesus, realizing what is going on, decides not to get drawn into their web or provoke a confrontation. Instead, he simply withdraws. He avoids confrontation altogether so that he can keep ministering to the people. That, after all, is what he had been sent to do. What a model for us! God wants us to take after Jesus, the ultimate servant who kept his eyes focused only on doing his Father’s will. Instead of engaging in confrontation, he wants us to become agents of consolation. Instead of “crying out,” he wants us to move on to the next thing on our list. Instead of getting distracted by the enemy’s plans, God wants us to be absorbed with forwarding his plans. Imagine how many more people could hear the good news if we were all to learn the art of letting go of controversy, conflict, and condemnation! In a culture that thrives on argument and conflict, it can be hard to remember that the only One whose opinion really matters is God. Focus on loving him and serving his people. Make it your goal only to do what you know God is asking of you. Then move on to the next task, trusting that your Father sees all that you’re doing and will both protect and reward you.
“Jesus, help me learn to walk away from needless conflict. I want to be like you, not crying out or raising my voice, but simply loving and serving your people.”
Daily Meditation from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
Meditatio “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Probably few people reading this book have ever plowed a field with a yoke of oxen, churning the soil to prepare it for planting. But everyone has sat in a classroom, writing in notebooks, taking tests, or watching the hands of the clock sweep off the minutes until the bell would ring. In fact, the classroom image is closer to what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel passage. Consider this other Scripture text, “… gain, at no cost, wisdom for yourselves. Submit your neck to her yoke, that your mind may accept her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her” (Sir 51:25–26). This text aligns acquiring wisdom with being under a yoke. That image is in the background of Jesus’ saying that his burden is light. Jesus is inviting us to go to his school, the school of wisdom. Today’s Gospel needs to be read together with yesterday’s, in which Jesus tells us about knowing his Father. Only Jesus reveals the Father to us. That is where wisdom lies. In the school of Jesus, we can learn about what really matters in life. In today’s society, education offers people a boost up the ladder of success. That is surely important to pursue in the business of making a living. But what about making a life? Jesus offers all of us the knowledge that we need to succeed in making a life. In his school, we can all have scholarships and we can all be honor students. He imparts knowledge freely to anyone who wants it. He teaches us about love. He’ll ask us to ponder questions like this: at the end of life, how will we see the times we made selfish choices, and the times that we sacrificed ourselves for someone else? On the balance scales of life, love outweighs everything else. Jesus the Teacher will help us tip the scales in the right direction.
Oratio Jesus, you are the Teacher of truth, Wisdom incarnate. Teach me to value what really matters in life. Don’t let me get so caught up in pursuing other things that I forget that love is what counts most. Help me to build up my family relationships and pay attention to the needs of the people around me.
Contemplatio “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 264–265). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
The world needs God. We need God. But what God do we need? In the first reading, the prophet tells a people suffering oppression that: “He will come with vengeance” (Is 35:4). We can easily suppose how the people imagined that vengeance. But the prophet himself goes on to reveal what it really is: the healing goodness of God. And the definitive explanation of the prophet’s word is to be found in the one who died for us on the Cross: in Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, who here looks at us so closely. His “vengeance” is the Cross: a “No” to violence and a “love to the end”. This is the God we need. We do not fail to show respect for other religions and cultures, we do not fail to show profound respect for their faith, when we proclaim clearly and uncompromisingly the God who has countered violence with his own suffering; who in the face of the power of evil exalts his mercy, in order that evil may be limited and overcome. To him we now lift up our prayer, that he may remain with us and help us to be credible witnesses to himself. Amen!
Benedict XVI. (2013). Homilies of His Holiness Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Next to the word stands the sacrament. Luke refers to it right away according to what is at its heart: They remained steadfast in the breaking of bread. Ultimately, the Church draws her life from the Eucharist, from this real, self-giving presence of the Lord. Without this ever-new encounter with him, she would necessarily wither. That is why our priesthood, too, draws life from the eucharistic community with the Lord, from the way that the Eucharist is the constant heart and strength of our life. Anyone who repeatedly exposes himself to it and confides in it will be changed. You cannot walk constantly with the Lord, cannot ever anew pronounce these tremendous words, This is my Body and my Blood, you cannot touch the Body of the Lord again and again, without being affected by him and challenged by him, being changed and led by him. We may of course lag behind him, and will again and again lag immeasurably far behind, but in the long run there are only really two possibilities: either to shake off the Eucharist, with the enormous demands and power it sets up in life, or to surrender to it, to hold fast to it. Anyone who holds fast to the Lord will not be abandoned by him. Anyone who grapples with him calmly and patiently, humbly and sincerely, will be led by him; he will never be denied his light. They remained steadfast in the breaking of bread. A parish priest of this diocese, who died this year, once told me, in a most moving way, how he had personally experienced this saying. As a soldier he took part in the invasion of Crete and went to look for a billet in a house. He noticed there how the man who met him was having a struggle because he was suffering on account of this trampling upon his homeland and because he knew that he himself would be in danger if he offered hospitality in this case. But he saw how in the end the man overcame his feelings, invited him to sit at the table, took a piece of bread, broke it in two, and gave him a piece of bread. And he noticed that this was more than a mere gesture; he realized what it meant: I accept you as a guest, as a brother; this is my life, you are protected by my life, just as I accept the danger to myself. He had noticed how, when the man was tearing the bread up, it was as if he were really sharing out his own life, giving of his own without taking notice of the danger threatening him. And still, after nearly forty years, the emotion of this experience, of how that life was shared-out with the bread, still made him tremble. Christ genuinely shared himself out, gave himself with the torn-up bread, so that his life might be ours: that is the incredible event that occurs ever anew. Herein lies the great significance of the Eucharist, and that is why it is no game, but quite real. When death comes onstage the game is at an end. Man is set before the truth. But only when this encounter reaches right down unto death can true hope arise for man. Christ shares himself with us. Let us take this to heart again and again, so that we may share him out; it is immediately clear that we can devote ourselves to the breaking of bread only if we ourselves become breakers of bread in the fullest sense. Hence the Eucharist is the true motive power for all social transformation in the world. From Elizabeth of Hungary, by way of Nicholas of Flüe and Vincent de Paul, right up to Mother Teresa, it is evident that wherever the gestures of the Lord, the breaker of bread, are accepted, then the breaking of bread must be carried on right into everyday life. There is no longer any stranger there who means nothing to me; rather, there is a brother there who calls on me and who is waiting for the broken bread, to find a resting place in his love.
Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (H. Taylor, Trans., S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds.) (pp. 126–128). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Jesus knows that in this world filled with competition, envy and aggressiveness, true happiness comes from learning to be patient, from respecting others, from refusing to condemn or judge others. As the saying goes: 'When you get angry, you lose.' Don’t let your heart give in to anger and resentment. Happy are the merciful. Happy are those who know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, those who are able to embrace, to forgive.
We have all experienced this at one time or another. And how beautiful it is! It is like getting our lives back, getting a new chance. Nothing is more beautiful than to have a new chance. It is as if life can start all over again. Pope Francis Meeting with Young People July 12, 2015 “Costanera” riverside area, Asunción, Paraguay
Lectio Matthew 10:24–42 Meditatio “… do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Jesus has just commissioned his apostles, giving them detailed instructions for their preaching. He has also given them some dire warnings about the persecutions they will face as they proclaim the kingdom. They are to be afraid only of the one “who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” Today’s Gospel also gives us some of Jesus’ words of encouragement to the small band of apostles. They are to speak in the light and proclaim from the housetops. They will need to recall the Father’s care for the sparrows, knowing that they are worth more than many sparrows. They are to believe firmly that, in losing their lives for Jesus’ sake, they will find them. People who assist them will receive their reward, even if they only give them a cup of cold water. When I consider Jesus’ clear instructions, I wonder what a public relations person would think of it all. If I were in that group of disciples, would I have stayed the course with all those warnings and admonitions? Then Jesus’ words shine in the depths of my soul: “You are worth more than many sparrows.” I begin to see what an impression Jesus left in the hearts of his first followers. The love and loyalty he asked of them could never be compared to the fidelity and self-emptying love he had for each one of them. Jesus had called these men, and they had left all to follow him. I think of the great magnetism Jesus must have radiated from his heart, so full of love for all people. The strength and loyalty of this love far outshone the difficulties Jesus predicted would come their way. They were going to spread the Good News about a Person. They would spread this message by the contagion of their enthusiasm and the zeal of their preaching. Their lives would never again be the same—nor would ours! Oratio Jesus, your words were carved on the hearts of your disciples, and the message they spread has been stamped on my life, too. I ask for their same loyal love and steadfast courage as I go about the works of your kingdom in my own small corner of your world. Contemplatio “For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:20).
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 250–252). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
BE NOT troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take care that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience clear and God will protect you, for the malice of man cannot harm one whom God wishes to help. If you know how to suffer in silence, you will undoubtedly experience God’s help. He knows when and how to deliver you; therefore, place yourself in His hands, for it is a divine prerogative to help men and free them from all distress. It is often good for us to have others know our faults and rebuke them, for it gives us greater humility. When a man humbles himself because of his faults, he easily placates those about him and readily appeases those who are angry with him. It is the humble man whom God protects and liberates; it is the humble whom He loves and consoles. To the humble He turns and upon them bestows great grace, that after their humiliation He may raise them up to glory. He reveals His secrets to the humble, and with kind invitation bids them come to Him. Thus, the humble man enjoys peace in the midst of many vexations, because his trust is in God, not in the world. Hence, you must not think that you have made any progress until you look upon yourself as inferior to all others.
Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (pp. 63–64). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
Our cry, in this place linked to the original cry for freedom in this country, echoes that of Saint Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). It is a cry every bit as urgent and pressing as was the cry for independence. It is similarly thrilling in its ardor. Brothers and sisters, have the same mind as Christ: May each of you be a witness to a fraternal communion which shines forth in our world!
And how beautiful it would be if all could admire how much we care for one another, how we encourage and help each other. Giving of ourselves establishes an interpersonal relationship; we do not give “things” but our very selves. Any act of giving means that we give ourselves. “Giving of oneself” means letting all the power of that love which is God’s Holy Spirit take root in our lives, opening our hearts to his creative power. And giving of oneself even in the most difficult moments as on that Holy Thursday of the Lord when he perceived how they weaved a plot to betray him; but he gave himself, he gave himself for us with his plan of salvation. When we give of ourselves, we discover our true identity as children of God in the image of the Father and, like him, givers of life; we discover that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, to whom we bear witness. This is what it means to evangelize; this is the new revolution – for our faith is always revolutionary –, this is our deepest and most enduring cry. Excerpt from the Homily of Pope Francis Parque Bicentenario, Quito, Ecuador Tuesday, 7 July 2015
What is your name? (Genesis 32:28) Your name defines you in a significant way. It identifies the family into which you were born. It often has a particular meaning or honors a particular ancestor. Add-ons like “Junior” and “Mrs./Miss/Ms.” further tell who you are. And when you fall in love, your beloved may also have a special name for your ears alone. When Jacob realizes that he has been wrestling with an angel, he begs for a blessing before his heavenly visitor departs. That blessing is expressed as a new name. “Jacob” (one who trips up) is the one who grasped his twin brother’s heel as they were being born; ever since, he’s been using his devious wits to trick people into giving him what he regards as his due. But now he has a new identity: “Israel,” or “one who strives—or sticks—with God.” From this time on, Israel is most true to himself when he relies on God and not on his own clever plans. That’s quite an identity change! When we were plunged into the waters of baptism, each of us was also made into a new creation and given a new identity and name: “Christian,” a child of God who shares in the life of the Trinity. At our confirmation, we may have taken additional names in honor of saints we hope to imitate. Added to this, we also have a special God-given name, a name that describes how our Father sees us and the calling he has placed on our lives. The Spirit says, “To the victor I shall give … a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). Spend some time today basking in God’s love for you. Ask him to give you just a glimpse of how valuable and precious you are to him. Let him whisper to you the name he has chosen to express who you truly are. Then, every time you face a new choice in your life, take a small but decisive step in the direction of that God-given identity.
“Father, thank you for naming me your beloved. Give me the grace to grow into the way you see me.”
Daily Thought From The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
UNTIL God ordains otherwise, a man ought to bear patiently whatever he cannot correct in himself and in others. Consider it better thus—perhaps to try your patience and to test you, for without such patience and trial your merits are of little account. Nevertheless, under such difficulties you should pray that God will consent to help you bear them calmly. If, after being admonished once or twice, a person does not amend, do not argue with him but commit the whole matter to God that His will and honor may be furthered in all His servants, for God knows well how to turn evil to good. Try to bear patiently with the defects and infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many a fault which others must endure. If you cannot make yourself what you would wish to be, how can you bend others to your will? We want them to be perfect, yet we do not correct our own faults. We wish them to be severely corrected, yet we will not correct ourselves. Their great liberty displeases us, yet we would not be denied what we ask. We would have them bound by laws, yet we will allow ourselves to be restrained in nothing. Hence, it is clear how seldom we think of others as we do of ourselves. If all were perfect, what should we have to suffer from others for God’s sake? But God has so ordained, that we may learn to bear with one another’s burdens, for there is no man without fault, no man without burden, no man sufficient to himself nor wise enough. Hence we must support one another, console one another, mutually help, counsel, and advise, for the measure of every man’s virtue is best revealed in time of adversity—adversity that does not weaken a man but rather shows what he is.
Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (pp. 27–28). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature. Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.
from Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home) by Pope Francis #47
Silence, even naturally speaking, invites us to concentrate and think about serious, profound things. For example, when we are in the midst of a forest, or on the ocean, or in a deserted place, we feel the need to concentrate and recollect ourselves. Due to our psychological structure, noise forces us outside of ourselves, distracting us and scattering our powers. It forces our spirit to skip around through external things. But when silence prevails, we can again concentrate and live within. In accordance with this law of our psychology, we need to live within to live with God, because we always find God in the interior of our soul. It is natural that exterior silence is not only an invitation to an interior life, but a necessary condition for that life of intimate communication with God. The atmosphere of the interior life, of the contemplative life, is silence. Hence, the masters of the spiritual life recommend it so highly.… In order to live the contemplative life, or the religious life in any of its forms, exterior silence is indispensable. This is true for all true interior life. We must realize its importance in living above and not below, in living a life of intimacy and union with God. Let us not forget that silence should not be treated as a mere constraint or as a means of order like those used in a school or in a class, but as a necessary condition for living within and not living without.… The contemplative life is an intimate affair. It is a loving conversation of a person with God. But in order that God may speak to the soul, and the soul speak with God, silence is necessary. Neither God nor our hearts will be silent, but the earth and created things must be hushed because everything worldly hinders the intimate conversation of our souls with God. This silence is not the silence of the desert nor of the tomb—a negative silence, the lack or suspension of life. It is like the apparel of a more interior life that one wears outside because inside he is singing a love song. He does not speak with creatures, because he is speaking with God; he does not listen to the noise of earth, so that he may hear the harmonies of heaven. As an audience maintains silence to hear better the voice of an orator, as music lovers keep silence during a symphony to admire its artistic beauty, so the silence of contemplation is nothing other than the indispensable condition for hearing the voice of God and speaking to him with heartfelt words.… … [W]hen we see a splendid spectacle of nature, we are silent. Ordinary sights, on the contrary, make us talk and we casually comment on them. But we fall silent before something sublime. Therefore, admiration, sorrow, love, all the great sentiments of our heart, all the deep impressions of our soul are like this: when imperfect and limited they can be expressed with human speech. But when they increase and reach their peak, they cannot be expressed by weak words. Their only language is silence. In heaven, love is not expressed in this way because another language exists there, a language not of this earth. Here below the greatest love is silent love. Such is the love of Jesus in the Eucharist. Happy are we if we love Jesus with that sublime silence! Many a time our love speaks, our love sings, our love expresses itself in various ways. But when love increases in our hearts, it tends to become silent. That is when it has reached maturity. It has become so intense and so deep that it cannot be expressed with our dull human language.
Martinez, L. (2011). Secrets of the Spirit: Wisdom from Luis Martinez. (G. Santos, Ed.) (pp. 7–10). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
He will create beauty from the ashes. I know this. From the depths of my soul, I know this. Still, there are times I insist on doing it my way. I do it my way until an assaulting blow leaves me on my knees wondering if this is when he stops gluing together the pieces of my brokenness into something anew. I cry out to him and he pulls me into the shelter of his arms. With a gentle whisper he reminds me: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). He assures me of his promise through the example of Saints Peter and Paul. Through them, he teaches me his glory has no boundaries and love no limit. Without hesitation, Peter lays down his nets and steps off the boat when Jesus calls. Peter's love is deep-rooted and indisputable. And still, the beloved Peter denies him. Yet, with his faults and cracks, Peter is the rock he uses to build the Church. And Paul-Paul spit venom at believers and stood watch while they were beaten and bruised. And still he draws Paul close. He opens Paul's eyes and places his cloak over his shoulders. Paul surrenders to his complete will and in the darkest hours, from the smallest of confines, proclaims his glory.
Just as with Peter and Paul, he has a purpose for my weakness. He reveals his love for me, assures me he will never leave, and restores the broken pieces of my life into a beautiful mosaic. Jennifer Hubbard resides in Newtown, CT. The younger of her two children, Catherine Violet, was a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.