Our present life is given only to gain the eternal one and if we don’t think about it, we build our affections on what belongs to this world, where our life is transitory. When we have to leave it we are afraid and become agitated. Believe me, to live happily in this pilgrimage, we have to aim at the hope of arriving at our Homeland, where we will stay eternally. Meanwhile we have to believe firmly that God calls us to Himself and follows us along the path towards Him. He will never permit anything to happen to us that is not for our greater good. He knows who we are and He will hold out His paternal hand to us during difficulties, so that nothing prevents us from running to Him swiftly. But to enjoy this grace we must have complete trust in Him.
St. Padre Pio
**I am leaving tomorrow morning for vacation. The next Daily Thought will be on September 5th.
We have lost sight of the fact that Christians cannot live like “everyone else”. The foolish notion that there is no specifically Christian morality is merely one way of saying that a fundamental concept has been lost: the “distinctively Christian” as opposed to the models offered by the “world”. Even religious orders and congregations have confused true reform with a relaxation of the traditional austerity previously practiced. They have confused renewal with comfort. To give a small but concrete example: a religious reported to me that the downfall of his monastery began very concretely with the declaration that it was “no longer practicable” for the religious to rise during the night to recite the nocturnal office. But that was not the end of the matter. The religious replaced this uncontested but significant “sacrifice” by staying up late at night to watch television. An apparently minor matter. But the present-day decline of the indispensable austerity of Christian life, beginning with that of religious orders, is composed of just such “minor matters”. Christians must realize today more than ever before that they belong to a minority and are in opposition to all that appears good, natural, and logical, to what the New Testament calls “the spirit of the world”.
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. 273). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Sorrow for sin is indeed necessary, but it should not be an endless preoccupation. You must dwell also on the glad remembrance of God's loving-kindness; otherwise, sadness will harden the heart and lead it more deeply into despair.
Lectio Matthew 20:1–16 Meditatio “… my own money.…”
God doesn’t have money, and he certainly doesn’t need it, so this parable must be about something else. Most people would say, “This parable is about rewarding the work we do for God. The people who go into the vineyard early are like good Christians, who support their parish, donate to the food pantry, make honest decisions in their businesses, protect life, and take their kids to church on Sunday.” Well, if that’s so, I ask, then who are the latecomers who were hired throughout the day? At this point people begin to squirm a bit. It’s hard to point the finger at others and identify them as the latecomers who don’t deserve a full day’s wages. We might name those whom everyone would agree are either sinners or scoundrels: murderers, terrorists, those involved in child slave traffic or pornography rings. These people make us feel more secure in our place among the laborers who have worked all day in the sun. We, after all, haven’t done such awful things. We have a right to heaven and glory. But somehow we know deep inside that when we point our finger at another, three fingers still point at ourselves. Regardless of how good or bad we feel ourselves or others to be, we are all laborers, “useless servants.” If we were wise, we would take on the attitude of the truly evangelical image of the tax collector in the temple: “Forgive me, Lord, I am a sinner.” At some moment in our lives God will convict us of our sin, and in the same moment, he will wrap us in an unexpected, incredibly powerful embrace of love. At that moment we will realize that grace is “his own money.” He gives it as a gift to everyone, even to me. I will discover then that I am the last laborer hired, and I am still paid for a full day, because there are no wages. There is only the gift of God’s love and the merits of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, which belong to all the sinners he came to save. Oratio Jesus, it’s easy to convince myself that I’m very good, or despair that I’m very bad. Today I simply want to be who I am: a loved sinner, the lost sheep you searched for and found. It’s good to be here.
Contemplatio Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 18–34: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 52–53). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
I thank you, Lord, with all my heart; in the presence of the angels to you I sing. I bow low toward your holy temple; I praise your name for your mercy and faithfulness. For you have exalted over all your name and your promise. On the day I cried out, you answered; you strengthened my spirit.
The young athlete approached the Olympic trainer. “What do I need to be really good?” Unimpressed, the trainer yawned and said, “You know the routine: eat right, work out daily, see your doctor.” “But I’ve done that since I could walk! What else?” The coach turned. He sensed something here. With a glint in his eye, he ventured, “If you want to go for the gold, leave everything—family, school, friends, and options. Give away the amateur’s gear. Then come, train with me.” Later, the youth confessed, “I wanted more, but not that much more!” What do we really want? Paul writes, “… the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tm 6:10). “Stuff” doesn’t make us bad or unhappy, just the attachment does, the clinging for dear life to it. “It” can also be security, position, ability, or friendship. And when these are somehow wrested from our grasp, then come the tantrums. Our relationship to what we value can make or break every other relationship and can lead us into either communion or isolation with respect to others, including Christ. What we want can really impede what we truly want. A thirty-something woman offered herself to God in prayer one day. Then, realizing the risk, she cried out in her heart, “God, you’re always on the take! Can’t you leave me, just once, with something?” Silently she heard the reply, “I take so you won’t be alone.” Here is discipleship’s payoff: we follow, Jesus accompanies, and this “treasure” lasts forever. This understanding illustrates why this text has traditionally been used to describe “consecrated life”—a radical form of Christian discipleship. Such a life reminds us that willingness to give oneself to Christ makes space within us and among us for a new relationship with him, with our community, with the world, and indeed with ourselves. We are much more than what we own; in fact, we are other than what we own. If we want, we can be free to proclaim this Good News with Christ. Oratio Teacher, like the young man in today’s Gospel, I myself often frame everlasting life in terms of gain and lack. Thank you for inviting me to enter into that life. I know that what I possess tightly possesses me. Give me the courage and trust to face the grasping that prevents me from saying yes. “Many say, ‘May we see better times!’ But you have given my heart more joy than when grain and wine abound” (Ps 4:7–8).
Contemplatio “You alone, LORD, make me secure” (Ps 4:9).
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 18–34: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 48–49). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
It is necessary sometimes to relax our minds as well as our bodies by some kind of recreation. St. John the Evangelist, as Cassian relates, amusing himself one day with a partridge on his hand, was asked by a huntsman: How such a man as he could spend his time in so unprofitable a manner? St. John said to him: Why do you not carry your bow always bent? Because, answered the huntsman, if it were always bent I fear it would lose its spring and become useless. Be not surprised, then, replied the apostle, that I should sometimes remit somewhat of my close application and attention of spirit in order to enjoy a little recreation, that I may afterwards employ myself more fervently in divine contemplation. It is doubtless a vice to be so rigorous and austere, as neither to be willing to take any recreation ourselves, nor allow it to others. To take the air, to walk, to entertain ourselves with cheerful and friendly conversations, to play on musical instruments, to sing, or to hunt, are recreations so innocent, that in a proper use of them there needs but that common prudence, which gives to everything its due order, time, place, and measures. Those games in which the gain serves as a recompense for the dexterity and industry of the body or of the mind, such as tennis, ball-playing, chess, backgammon, &c., are recreations in themselves good and lawful: provided that excess, either in the time employed in them, or in stakes played for, is avoided, because if too much time is spent in them, they are no longer an amusement, but an occupation, in which neither the mind nor the body is refreshed, but, on the contrary, stupefied and oppressed. After playing five or six hours at chess the mind is quite fatigued and exhausted. To play long at tennis is not to recreate but to fatigue the body; and if the sum played for is too great the passion for gambling is excited; besides, it is unjust to hazard so much upon abilities of so little importance as those which are exercised at play. But above all, Philothea, take especial care not to set your affections upon these amusements; for how innocent soever any amusements may be, when we set our hearts upon them they become vicious. I do not say that you must take no pleasure whilst at play, for then it would not be recreation; but I say, you must not fix your affection on it, nor amuse yourself too long with it, nor be too eager after it.
Francis de Sales, S. (1885). An Introduction to the Devout Life (pp. 190–191). Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son.
Sometimes our health and our own duties do not allow us to suffer the hardships of penance, even though everybody admits that the road of our earthly existence is covered with small crosses. The acceptance of these crosses in the spirit of penance is the vast field where we can exercise penance. Besides, we are to fulfill our everyday duties and the will of God in every instant of our lives. The latter, which we must do perfectly in every action, word, and thought, demands giving up a lot of things we like: and this is a plentiful source of penance. However, Jesus urges us not to be sad when doing penance, but to do it for love. A soul that loves God is always ready to please, with every thought, word, and action, throughout one’s entire existence. And should any affection be sacrificed in order to give joy to God, we should consider ourselves fortunate to have the opportunity to prove our unselfish love. That is why the saints were always willing to make sacrifices and to suffer. In fact, that was how they could prove the purity of their love; in the cross their love was purified and every affection that was contrary to it was rooted out.
Thus, we can all do penance without considering our health conditions, the type of occupations and duties that our own status or calling in life calls for; in fact, we can do penance every moment of our lives, as long as we do it for love.
No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hetacombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning! Today we begin a short course of reflection on three dimensions that beat the time, so to speak, of the rhythm of family life: celebration, work and prayer. We begin with celebration. Today we will speak of celebration. And we say immediately that a celebration is an invention of God. We recall the conclusion of the account of Creation in the Book of Genesis, which we heard: “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation” (2:2-3). God himself teaches us the importance of dedicating a time to contemplate and enjoy what was well done in work. I speak of work, of course, not only in the sense of a job or profession, but in the wider sense: every action with which we men and women can collaborate in the creative work of God. Therefore, a celebration is not the laziness of being in an armchair, or the elation of a foolish evasion, no. A celebration is first of all a loving and thankful look on work well done; we celebrate a work. Also you, newlyweds, are celebrating the work of a good time of engagement: and this is beautiful! It is the time to look at children or grandchildren who are growing and to think: how lovely! It is the time to look at our home, the guests we entertain, the community that surrounds us, and to think: what a good thing! God did this when he created the world, and he does so continually because God always creates, also at this moment! It can happen that a celebration arrives in difficult or painful circumstances, and one celebrates perhaps “with a lump in one’s throat.” Yet, in these cases also we ask God for the strength not to divest it completely. You mothers and fathers know this well: how many times, out of love for the children, you are able to put aside displeasures to let them live a celebration well, to taste the good sense of life! There is so much love in this! Sometimes in the work environment also – without failing in duties – we are able to “infiltrate” a burst of celebration: a birthday, a marriage, a new birth, as also a departure or a new arrival ... it’s important. It’s important to celebrate. They are moments of familiarity in the gears of the productive machine: it does us good! However, a true time of celebration halts professional work and is sacred, because it reminds man and woman that they are made in the image of God, who is not a slave of work, but Lord; therefore, we also must never be slaves of work, but “lords.” There is a commandment for this, a commandment that concerns all; no one is excluded! And instead we know that there are millions of men and women and even children that are slaves of work! In this time they are slaves, they are exploited, slaves of work and this is against God and against the dignity of the human person! The obsession of economic profit and the efficiency of technology put at risk the human rhythms of life, because life has its human rhythms. A time of rest, especially that of Sunday, is given to us so that we can enjoy what is not produced or consumed, not purchased or sold. And instead we see that the ideology of profit and consumption also wants to consume the celebration: the latter is also reduced sometimes to a “doing,” to a way of making and spending money. But do we work for this? The greed of consuming, which entails waste is an awful virus that, among other things, in the end makes us feel more tired than before. It harms true work and consumes life. The disorderly rhythms of a celebration create victims -- often young people. Finally, the time of celebration is sacred because God dwells in it in a special way. The Sunday Eucharist brings to a celebration all the grace of Jesus Christ: his presence, his love, his sacrifice, his making us community, his being with us ... And in this way every reality receives its full meaning: work, family, the joys and efforts of every day, also suffering and death; everything is transfigured by the grace of Christ.
The family is endowed with an extraordinary capacity to understand, direct and sustain the genuine value of the time of celebration. But how lovely are the celebrations in the family, they are most beautiful! – and, in particular, those of Sunday. It is no accident that the celebrations in which there is place for the whole family are those that succeed better! Family life itself, looked at with the eyes of faith, seems better than the efforts it costs. It seems a masterpiece of simplicity, good precisely because it is not artificial, or false, but able to incorporate in itself all the aspects of a true life. It appears as something “very good,” as God says at the end of the creation of man and of woman (cf. Genesis 1:31). Therefore, a celebration is a precious gift of God; a precious gift that God has made to the human family: let’s not ruin it!
Never refuse any who ask you for help; if your pockets are empty, give them hope. Your every action must be born of kindness, your every word spoken with love. Live as God would have you live, and others will be inspired to do the same.
We must apply remedies against rash judgments, according to their different causes. There are some hearts naturally so sour, bitter, and harsh, as to make everything bitter and sour that comes into them: “turning judgment,” as the prophet Amos says, into wormwood, by never judging their neighbor but with rigor and harshness. Such have great need to fall into the hands of a good spiritual physician; for this bitterness of heart being natural to them, it is hard to overcome it, and though it be not in itself a sin, but an imperfection, yet it is dangerous, because it introduces and causes rash judgment and detraction to remain in the soul. Some judge rashly, not through harshness, but through pride, imagining that in the same proportion as they lower the honor of other men they raise their own. Arrogant and presumptuous spirits, who admire themselves so much and place themselves so high in their own esteem, look on all the rest of mankind as mean and abject. “I am not like the rest of men,” saith the foolish Pharisee (Luke, 18:11). Others, who have not altogether this manifest pride, feel a certain satisfaction in thinking over the evil qualities of other men, in contradistinction to the good qualities wherewith they think themselves endowed. Now, this self-complacency is so imperceptible as not to be discovered even by those who are tainted with it. Others, to excuse themselves to themselves and to assuage the remorse of their own conscience, very willingly judge others to be guilty of the same kind of vice to which they themselves are addicted, or some other as great; thinking that the multitude of offenders make the sin the less blamable. Many take the liberty to judge others rashly, merely for the pleasure of delivering their opinion and conjectures on their manners and humors, by way of exercising their wit; and if, unhappily, they sometimes happen not to err in their judgment, their rashness increases to so violent an excess as to render it, in a manner, impossible ever to effect their cure. Others judge through passion and prejudice, always thinking well of what they love, and ill of what they hate; excepting in one case only, not less wonderful than true, in which the excess of love incites them to pass an ill judgment on that which they love; and this is jealousy, through which, as everyone knows, one simple look, or the least smile may convict the beloved person of disloyalty or infidelity. In fine, fear, ambition, and other such weaknesses of the mind frequently contribute towards the forming of suspicions and rash judgments.
Francis de Sales, S. (1885). An Introduction to the Devout Life (pp. 178–179). Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son.
Pray to the Holy Spirit that you may know Christ in the fullness of His gospel and the love of the Father that you may understand He is the source of power, the Holy Spirit. Our Lord said, “I will send you power from on high.”. Every day of my priestly life I pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. The power that is not human, not physical, not intellectual; rather a power coming solely from living the Christ life, the power to influence people, the power to impress you with the divinity of the Holy Spirit. We tell ourselves that we are not meant to be saints, yet we know we are. Pray for us.
Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
I must admit that to me this unholy holiness of the Church has in itself something infinitely comforting about it. Would one not be bound to despair in face of a holiness that was spotless and could only operate on us by judging us and consuming us by fire? Who would dare to assert of himself that he did not need to be tolerated by others, indeed borne up by them? And how can someone who lives on the forbearance of others himself renounce forbearing? Is it not the only gift he can offer in return, the only comfort remaining to him, that he endures just as he, too, is endured? Holiness in the Church begins with forbearance and leads to bearing up; where there is no more forbearing, there is no more bearing up either, and existence, lacking support, can only sink into the void. People may well say that such words express a sickly existence—but it is part of being a Christian to accept the impossibility of autonomy and the weakness of one’s own resources. At bottom there is always hidden pride at work when criticism of the Church adopts that tone of rancorous bitterness which today is already beginning to become a fashionable habit. Unfortunately it is accompanied only too often by a spiritual emptiness in which the specific nature of the Church as a whole is no longer seen, in which she is only regarded as a political instrument whose organization is felt to be pitiable or brutal, as if the real function of the Church did not lie beyond organization, in the comfort of the Word and of the sacraments that she provides in good and bad days alike. Those who really believe do not attribute too much importance to the struggle for the reform of ecclesiastical structures. They live on what the Church always is; and if one wants to know what the Church really is one must go to them. For the Church is most present, not where organizing, reforming, and governing are going on, but in those who simply believe and receive from her the gift of faith that is life to them. Only someone who has experienced how, regardless of changes in her ministers and forms, the Church raises men up, gives them a home and a hope, a home that is hope—the path to eternal life—only someone who has experienced this knows what the Church is, both in days gone by and now. This does not mean that everything must be left undisturbed and endured as it is. Endurance can also be a highly active process, a struggle to make the Church herself more and more that which supports and endures. After all, the Church does not live otherwise than in us; she lives from the struggle of the unholy to attain holiness, just as of course this struggle lives from the gift of God, without which it could not exist. But this effort only becomes fruitful and constructive if it is inspired by the spirit of forbearance, by real love. And here we have arrived at the criterion by which that critical struggle for better holiness must always be judged, a criterion that is not only not in contradiction with forbearance but is demanded by it. This criterion is constructiveness. A bitterness that only destroys stands self-condemned. A slammed door can, it is true, become a sign that shakes up those inside. But the idea that one can do more constructive work in isolation than in fellowship with others is just as much of an illusion as the notion of a Church of “holy people” instead of a “holy Church” that is holy because the Lord bestows holiness on her as a quite unmerited gift.
Ratzinger, J. (2004). Introduction to Christianity (Revised Edition). (J. R. Foster, Trans.) (pp. 343–344). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
If you were to read this quote on its own and tried to guess who said it, chances are you wouldn’t think it was Moses. He was a holy hero of the Old Testament; he received the Ten Commandments and saw God face-to-face. He would never dare to speak so disrespectfully to the Lord! But don’t forget, Moses was called a “friend” of God (Exodus 33:11). And with friends, you feel free to speak your mind. Moses showed no pretense. He didn’t put on an act. So when the people were complaining and Moses was at the end of his rope, he told God so. He understood God knew him inside and out, so what was the point of putting on a façade? Moses knew he couldn’t handle the people’s problems himself. So he confidently poured out his feelings to God, as he would to any friend. And because he spoke so freely, God was able to help him. Now, that doesn’t mean we should spend all of our prayer time complaining or rehashing the negative! One good way to find that “sweet spot” between honesty and whining is to consider Psalm 13. David is frustrated with God, feeling cut off from the Lord; but in the end, he finishes with a statement of faith: “How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? … But I trust in your mercy. Grant my heart joy in your salvation” (Psalm 13:1, 6). Even if you feel that your faith is weak, tell the Lord that you still believe in him. Just think how pleased he is when you lean on him, even in the midst of struggle! So if you’re frustrated, let God know. If you’re annoyed, don’t try to hide it from him. If you’re happy, share your joy. But if you’re at the end of your rope, tell him. Let go, and trust him to catch you! No matter what your situation is, your best friend listens patiently as you sift through the contents of your heart. “Thank you, heavenly Father, for your faithfulness, as I sit with you and pour out my heart.”
(Daily Reflection from the Word Among Us - www. wau.org)