Blessed be Your words, O Lord, sweeter to my mouth than honey and the honeycomb. What would I do in such great trials and anxieties, if You did not strengthen me with Your holy words? If I may but attain to the haven of salvation, what does it matter what or how much I suffer? Grant me a good end. Grant me a happy passage out of this world. Remember me, my God, and lead me by the right way into Your kingdom.
Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (p. 222). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
Meditatio “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Taken out of context, John’s chapter 15 is simply one of the loveliest passages in the Bible. But put into perspective it becomes both stunningly gorgeous and gut-wrenchingly painful at the same time. Jesus sits at table with his disciples. They must sense the tensions that surround the Master, but do they realize what events will unfold on that evening and the following day? Jesus stands on the brink of his passion and death, and he speaks of joy being complete. Eighteen hours later, these words will seem ironic at best. “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.…” In the short run this love doesn’t look so inviting. The Father has sent the Son on what looks like a wild goose chase after God’s wayward people. Jesus’ whole ministry is about to come crashing down, ending brutally on the cross. The Father’s love has set the Son an impossible task—or so it seems—yet he sits here talking about his joy being complete? But Christ is risen. The fact of the resurrection changes everything. The complete self-emptying of the Son is met by the complete outpouring of the Father and the Spirit. In the mystery of the Trinity, death and chaos cannot bind Jesus because his life is held, sustained, and honored by the Father and Spirit. This is life—true life—that does not decay or come to an end. This incredible gift of God’s life is shared with us in baptism. “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” In the end death and chaos have no permanent hold on us, either. We are in Christ. Given this knowledge, the confidence and joy that pulsate in the words of Jesus in this Gospel become our joy. This joy is complete.
Oratio Lord, your love persistently waits for a response. You want us to live in your love; to remain with you. Day after day you repeat this invitation. Day after day you nourish us with your words and with the Eucharist. Let me enter into your joie de vivre, to deal with people and approach situations with your perspective. Live in me, so that my presence brings grace and consolation. Live in me, so that I may live in you. Contemplatio “… so that my joy might be in you …”
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 82–83). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
From The Office of Readings: "The Christian In The World"
Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred. To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments. Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.
Nothing is more certain in matter of fact, than that some men do feel themselves called to high duties and works, to which others are not called. Why this is we do not know; whether it be that those who are not called, forfeit the call from having failed in former trials, or have been called and have not followed; or that though God gives baptismal grace to all, yet He really does call some men by His free grace to higher things than others; but so it is; this man sees sights which that man does not see, has a larger faith, a more ardent love, and a more spiritual understanding. No one has any leave to take another’s lower standard of holiness for his own. It is nothing to us what others are. If God calls us to greater renunciation of the world, and exacts a sacrifice of our hopes and fears, this is our gain, this is a mark of His love for us, this is a thing to be rejoiced in. Such thoughts, when properly entertained, have no tendency to puff us up; for if the prospect is noble, yet the risk is more fearful. While we pursue high excellence, we walk among precipices, and a fall is easy. Hence the Apostle says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you” (Phil. 2:12, 13). Again, the more men aim at high things, the more sensitive perception they have of their own shortcomings; and this again is adapted to humble them especially. We need not fear spiritual pride then, in following Christ’s call, if we follow it as men in earnest. Earnestness has no time to compare itself with the state of other men; earnestness has too vivid a feeling of its own infirmities to be elated at itself. Earnestness is simply set on doing God’s will. It simply says, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth,” “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Oh that we had more of this spirit! Oh that we could take that simple view of things, as to feel that the one thing which lies before us is to please God! What gain is it to please the world, to please the great, nay, even to please those whom we love, compared with this? What gain is it to be applauded, admired, courted, followed, compared with this one aim, of not being disobedient to a heavenly vision? What can this world offer comparable with that insight into spiritual things, that keen faith, that heavenly peace, that high sanctity, that everlasting righteousness, that hope of glory, which they have who in sincerity love and follow our Lord Jesus Christ? Let us beg and pray Him day by day to reveal Himself to our souls more fully; to quicken our senses; to give us sight and hearing, taste and touch of the world to come; so to work within us that we may sincerely say, “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and after that receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee: my flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” —Excerpt from: Parochial and Plain Sermons, Book 8. Sermon 2. Divine Calls
Newman, J. H. (2010). Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman (pp. 69–71). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
My dear young friends, the Holy Spirit continues today to act with power in the Church, and the fruits of the Spirit are abundant in the measure in which we are ready to open up to this power that makes all things new. For this reason it is important that each one of us know the Spirit, establish a relationship with Him and allow ourselves to be guided by Him. However, at this point a question naturally arises: who is the Holy Spirit for me? It is a fact that for many Christians He is still the “great unknown”. This is why, as we prepare for the next World Youth Day, I wanted to invite you to come to know the Holy Spirit more deeply at a personal level. In our profession of faith we proclaim: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son” (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). Yes, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the love of the Father and of the Son, is the Source of life that makes us holy, “because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Nevertheless, it is not enough to know the Spirit; we must welcome Him as the guide of our souls, as the “Teacher of the interior life” who introduces us to the Mystery of the Trinity, because He alone can open us up to faith and allow us to live it each day to the full. The Spirit impels us forward towards others, enkindles in us the fire of love, makes us missionaries of God’s charity.
I know very well that you young people hold in your hearts great appreciation and love for Jesus, and that you desire to meet Him and speak with Him. Indeed, remember that it is precisely the presence of the Spirit within us that confirms, constitutes and builds our person on the very Person of Jesus crucified and risen. So let us become familiar with the Holy Spirit in order to be familiar with Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI - World Youth Day Message XXIII World Youth Day, 2008
Sing to the Lord a new song. (Psalm 98:1) Why should we sing? Because singing engages our hearts as well as our minds, and God cares about the whole person, emotions included. He wants to breathe life into our spirits and minds and bodies. Singing offers him entry into our whole being in a way that ordinary speech doesn’t. And if we have difficulty opening our hearts, singing can open the pathway for his Spirit to move in us. So sing! Sing of Jesus’ victory on the cross, his victory over sin. Sing because God has given you victory through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Sing because you do not have to live mired in guilt and shame. Sing because you have access to the Father through the blood of Jesus’ cross. Sing because he who is faithful will cleanse you in the pure water of life. These aren’t things we just hope will happen; they are steadfast promises of God! Yes, sing a new song to the Lord! Sing of God’s justice, revealed in his unfathomable mercy and kindness toward us. Sing of his dedication to his plan and his will that no one will perish but that all people will “be saved” and “come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Sing because he has redeemed you from sin—yes, even the sin you brought upon yourself. Sing because he wants to make you holy and blameless—and because he is faithful and will accomplish it! Sing because God wants to make you holy and blameless in his sight and in the sight of all those around you. Sing a song of gratitude as he leads you in paths of righteousness today. Sing as he cleanses your conscience and gives you rest. Sing of what is pure and right, lovely and good. Sing joyfully as you see his kindness and faithfulness toward you. Sing of your longing to know all of this more, to experience his love and mercy more and more deeply. Sing the new song that all the saints and angels are singing in heaven right now: “God is good! He has done marvelous things!”
“Father, you are marvelous! I praise you for your goodness in my life. You are faithful, just, and merciful, and I am hungry to experience more of you. Father, I will sing today of your victory and your mercy!”
Daily Reflection From The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
“Do you ask how to resist anger? As soon as you feel the slightest resentment, gather together your powers, not hastily or impetuously, but gently and seriously. For as in some law courts, the criers make more noise in their efforts to preserve quiet than those they seek to still, so, if we are impetuous in our attempts to restrain our anger, we cause greater discomposure in our hearts than before; and once thrown off its balance, the heart is no longer its own master.”
MY CHILD, when you feel the desire for everlasting happiness poured out upon you from above, and when you long to depart out of the tabernacle of the body that you may contemplate My glory without threat of change, open wide your heart and receive this holy inspiration with all eagerness. Give deepest thanks to the heavenly Goodness which deals with you so understandingly, visits you so mercifully, stirs you so fervently, and sustains you so powerfully lest under your own weight you sink down to earthly things. For you obtain this not by your own thought or effort, but simply by the condescension of heavenly grace and divine regard. And the purpose of it is that you may advance in virtue and in greater humility, that you may prepare yourself for future trials, that you may strive to cling to Me with all the affection of your heart, and may serve Me with a fervent will. My child, often, when the fire is burning the flame does not ascend without smoke. Likewise, the desires of some burn toward heavenly things, and yet they are not free from temptations of carnal affection. Therefore, it is not altogether for the pure honor of God that they act when they petition Him so earnestly. Such, too, is often your desire which you profess to be so strong. For that which is alloyed with self-interest is not pure and perfect. Ask, therefore, not for what is pleasing and convenient to yourself, but for what is acceptable to Me and is for My honor, because if you judge rightly, you ought to prefer and follow My will, not your own desire or whatever things you wish. I know your longings and I have heard your frequent sighs. Already you wish to be in the liberty of the glory of the sons of God. Already you desire the delights of the eternal home, the heavenly land that is full of joy. But that hour is not yet come. There remains yet another hour, a time of war, of labor, and of trial. You long to be filled with the highest good, but you cannot attain it now. I am that sovereign Good. Await Me, until the kingdom of God shall come. You must still be tried on earth, and exercised in many things. Consolation will sometimes be given you, but the complete fullness of it is not granted. Take courage, therefore, and be strong both to do and to suffer what is contrary to nature. You must put on the new man. You must be changed into another man. You must often do the things you do not wish to do and forego those you do wish. What pleases others will succeed; what pleases you will not. The words of others will be heard; what you say will be accounted as nothing. Others will ask and receive; you will ask and not receive. Others will gain great fame among men; about you nothing will be said. To others the doing of this or that will be entrusted; you will be judged useless. At all this nature will sometimes be sad, and it will be a great thing if you bear this sadness in silence. For in these and many similar ways the faithful servant of the Lord is wont to be tried, to see how far he can deny himself and break himself in all things. There is scarcely anything in which you so need to die to self as in seeing and suffering things that are against your will, especially when things that are commanded seem inconvenient or useless. Then, because you are under authority, and dare not resist the higher power, it seems hard to submit to the will of another and give up your own opinion entirely. But consider, my child, the fruit of these labors, how soon they will end and how greatly they will be rewarded, and you will not be saddened by them, but your patience will receive the strongest consolation. For instead of the little will that you now readily give up, you shall always have your will in heaven. There, indeed, you shall find all that you could desire. There you shall have possession of every good without fear of losing it. There shall your will be forever one with Mine. It shall desire nothing outside of Me and nothing for itself. There no one shall oppose you, no one shall complain of you, no one hinder you, and nothing stand in your way. All that you desire will be present there, replenishing your affection and satisfying it to the full. There I shall render you glory for the reproach you have suffered here; for your sorrow I shall give you a garment of praise, and for the lowest place a seat of power forever. There the fruit of glory will appear, the labor of penance rejoice, and humble subjection be gloriously crowned. Bow humbly, therefore, under the will of all, and do not heed who said this or commanded that. But let it be your special care when something is commanded, or even hinted at, whether by a superior or an inferior or an equal, that you take it in good part and try honestly to perform it. Let one person seek one thing and another something else. Let one glory in this, another in that, and both be praised a thousand times over. But as for you, rejoice neither in one or the other, but only in contempt of yourself and in My pleasure and honor. Let this be your wish: That whether in life or in death God may be glorified in you.
Thomas à Kempis. (1996). The Imitation of Christ (pp. 199–202). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
In the knowledge of his imminent death on the Cross, he felt immense anguish at the closeness of death. In this situation an element appeared that was of great importance to the whole Church. Jesus said to his followers: stay here and keep watch; and this appeal for vigilance concerns precisely this moment of anguish, of threats, in which the traitor was to arrive, but it concerns the whole history of the Church. It is a permanent message for every era because the disciples’ drowsiness was not just a problem at that moment but is a problem for the whole of history. The question is: in what does this apathy consist? What would the watchfulness to which the Lord invites us consist of? I would say that the disciples’ somnolence in the course of history is a certain insensitiveness of the soul with regard to the power of evil, an insensibility to all the evil in the world. We do not wish to be unduly disturbed by these things, we prefer to forget them. We think that perhaps, after all, it will not be so serious and we forget. Moreover, it is not only insensibility to evil, when we should be watchful in order to do good, to fight for the force of goodness. Rather it is an insensibility to God: this is our true sleepiness, this insensibility to God’s presence that also makes us insensible to evil. We are not aware of God—he would disturb us—hence we are naturally not aware of the force of evil and continue on the path of our own convenience.
Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. (April 20, 2011)
Meditatio “No one can take them out of my hand.” Jesus didn’t respond to the ultimatums and the timetable of those who demanded to know if he was the messiah. They were looking for easy answers, unwilling to walk the journey of faith and surrender. Because they had already made up their minds, they could not accept it when Jesus told them his true identity: “The Father and I are one.” God does marvels for those who listen to his voice, who follow his invitations and the movements of his Holy Spirit. Saint Paul referred to Jesus’ followers as temples of the Spirit. The more receptive we are to his presence and peace, the more we become worthy temples where God is pleased to dwell. No matter our struggles, temptations, or difficulties, God invites us into a deeper relationship with him. God knows us personally, and the more we wholeheartedly seek him, the deeper that relationship will grow. Human relationships grow when persons communicate with sincerity. Similarly, our relationship with God deepens when we honestly tell him what we think and feel. We never have to be afraid of being ourselves with him, because he knows and accepts us already. God wants us to reveal ourselves to him as we are, not for his sake, but for ours. We need to know that God always loves us unconditionally, just as we are. Not only will God reveal himself to us, but God reveals himself according to our needs. Jesus promises us: “No one can take them out of my hand.” Jesus, the Risen One, is alive and present to us now. We can begin to share the experience of his resurrection even in this life, not only after our death. God promises us life in eternity, but he also gives life to our spirit now, everyday. Everyone who sincerely approaches God can trust in his love, for he forever cherishes us. Oratio Lord, give me an open ear to listen to your word. Help me to surrender in trust to your plan for me, for I know that your providence guides and permits everything for my good. You invite me to an intimate relationship and hold me in your good hands. Jesus Way, may I follow you as your disciple and lead others to you. Jesus Truth, give me zeal for what is good and true, and a mind that is open to truth. Jesus Life, may your sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit fill me with love that is expressed in acts of justice and charity. Contemplatio Jesus, you know me and give me eternal life.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 60–61). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! Today’s Gospel (JN 10: 27-30) gives us some expressions spoken by Jesus during the feast of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, which was celebrated at the end of December. He is right in the temple area, and perhaps that enclosed sacred space suggests the image of the sheepfold and the shepherd. Jesus presents himself as “the Good Shepherd” and says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”(vv. 27-28). These words help us to understand that no one can be said to be a follower of Jesus, if one does not listen to His voice. And this “listening” should not be understood in a superficial, but in a very involved, way, as to make possible a true mutual understanding, which can come from a generous following, expressed in the words “and they follow me” (v. 27). It is not only a listening ear, but a listening of the heart! Therefore, the image of the shepherd and the sheep indicates the close relationship that Jesus wants to establish with each of us. He is our guide, our teacher, our friend, our model, but above all, He is our Savior. In fact, the next sentence of the Gospel says: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” (v. 28). Who can speak like that? Only Jesus, because the “hand” of Jesus is one with the “hand” of the Father, and the Father is “greater than all” (v. 29). These words convey a sense of absolute security and immense tenderness. Our life is completely safe in the hands of Jesus and the Father, Who are one, one love, one mercy, revealed once and for all in the sacrifice of the Cross. To save the lost sheep that is all of us, the Pastor became Lamb and let Himself be sacrificed to take upon Himself, and take away, the sin of the world. In this way, He has given us life, but life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10)! This mystery is renewed, in an always surprising humility, the Eucharistic table. That’s where the sheep gather to feed themselves; that’s where they become one single [thing], among themselves and with the Good Shepherd. That is why we no longer fear. Our lives are now saved from perdition. Nothing and no one can snatch us out of the hands of Jesus, because nothing and no one can win His love. The love of Jesus is invincible! The evil, the great enemy of God and of His creatures, tries in many ways to snatch eternal life. But the evil one cannot do anything if we do not open the doors of our soul and do not follow his deceitful flattery.
The Virgin Mary listened and followed obediently the Good Shepherd’s voice. May she help us to accept with joy the invitation of Jesus to become his disciples, and to always live in the certainty of being in the fatherly hands of God.
Saint Augustine, in a homily on the First Letter of John, describes very beautifully the intimate relationship between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. “By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him]”. Augustine refers to Saint Paul, who speaks of himself as straining forward to the things that are to come (cf. Phil 3:13). He then uses a very beautiful image to describe this process of enlargement and preparation of the human heart. “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God’s tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?” The vessel, that is your heart, must first be enlarged and then cleansed, freed from the vinegar and its taste. This requires hard work and is painful, but in this way alone do we become suited to that for which we are destined. Even if Augustine speaks directly only of our capacity for God, it is nevertheless clear that through this effort by which we are freed from vinegar and the taste of vinegar, not only are we made free for God, but we also become open to others. It is only by becoming children of God, that we can be with our common Father. To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer we must learn what we can truly ask of God—what is worthy of God. We must learn that we cannot pray against others. We must learn that we cannot ask for the superficial and comfortable things that we desire at this moment—that meagre, misplaced hope that leads us away from God. We must learn to purify our desires and our hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves. God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them. “But who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults” prays the Psalmist (Ps 19:12 [18:13]). Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my incapacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is. If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Yet my encounter with God awakens my conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of me and those of my contemporaries who shape my thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself. For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly. Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, in his book of spiritual exercises, tells us that during his life there were long periods when he was unable to pray and that he would hold fast to the texts of the Church’s prayer: the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the prayers of the liturgy. Praying must always involve this intermingling of public and personal prayer. This is how we can speak to God and how God speaks to us. In this way we undergo those purifications by which we become open to God and are prepared for the service of our fellow human beings. We become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others. Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle to prevent things moving towards the “perverse end”. It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God. Only in this way does it continue to be a truly human hope.
One of the most important things in the spiritual life is to understand well the close relationship between love and sacrifice. It is easily understood that love is the basis of perfection, and the soul delights in confirming it. For love marvelously corresponds to something deep that the soul bears in its interior: a vital yearning that is vehement and, in a certain sense, unparalleled. And when we come in contact with what is fleeting and superficial, the emptiness of the affections of earth, we impetuously fling toward divine love. That love is so profound that it reaches to the deepest part of our soul, into regions that mundane affections never touch. It is so perfect that it satisfies forever without ever tiring. It is so enduring that it is immortal and so abiding that nothing and no one can uproot it when it has implanted itself in our heart. Frequently, however, one has an inexact concept of love.… It [the soul] does not understand that in this life, to love is to suffer, that on this earth, the eternal symbol of love is the cross of Christ.… When we come to understand that perfection consists in love, and that this love is attained, conserved, and consummated only by sacrifice, then we have found the path of sanctity, for then we have entered the luminous region of truth.… Love snatches the soul from all things, even from itself, and places it in ineffable and magnificent solitude.… Ordinarily we do not take account of the solitariness that love causes in our hearts except when separation or death deprives us of that beloved object upon whom love centers our lives and our beings, after isolating us from all other things. Who has not felt this? The world has not changed. Life follows its course, the sky remains blue, flowers diffuse their perfumes, birds sing, the sun warms and gives life, the same things surround us and the same people associate with us. But alas, one thing is absent, one thing alone. It is enough to make us feel lonely in the midst of a multitude, to induce a vast void in the soul, to make the earth appear to us like a desert.… … [T]here is no comparison between the solitariness produced by human love and that which divine love demands, for there is no comparison between these two loves. Human love is shallow, divine love is profound. The first is partial and fragmentary; it never completely embraces the heart. The second is entire, absorbing, unparalleled. Human love has its own tint, and excludes at least all affections of that shade, but divine love embraces all colors, and consequently it excludes all other loves. … [W]hat can I give to God, if he is in himself eternally rich, happy, the fount of love, and ocean of beatitude? What can I give him, if I receive everything from him? Lord, I feel the compelling need to love you. It is my duty, my glory, my happiness. If I do not love you, my life has no reason for being. O God of love! If love consists in giving, how can I love you? And if I cannot love you, how can I live? There is one thing I can give to God, only one; I can give him glory. The universe was created for the glory of God. Christ lived and the Church exists for the glory of God. I ought to live for the glory of God. To love God is to give him glory. The motto of Saint Ignatius, “For the greater glory of God,” is the supreme formula of love.… When I give glory to God, I do a divine work. My action has the same end as the action of God. I rise above all created things. I enter into the thoughts and desires of God. If it were known what the glory of God is, one would think of nothing else. One would love that glory as the saints have loved it, passionately, regarding as lost every action that did not have it as its purpose.… Heaven is the country of love, yet on earth one can burn with seraphic love. With Jesus and love, everywhere is heaven. There is one difference between the heaven of time and the heaven of eternity. No one will suffer in the latter. Here, suffering abounds. Does not this difference give a certain advantage to the earthly heaven? Is the value of suffering understood? Is its excellence esteemed? Is its beauty known? The only thing that the angels would envy us, if they were capable of envy, would be suffering. God fell in love with this precious pearl hidden among life’s miseries. He loved it, came and died from it. The angels cannot say to God: “I love you even to sacrifice, even to death.” Only human beings can taste the delicacy of that phrase. —Excerpts from Secrets of the Interior Life, pp. 59–62; Only Jesus, pp. 97–99, 101
Martinez, L. (2011). Secrets of the Spirit: Wisdom from Luis Martinez. (G. Santos, Ed.) (pp. 19–22). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Meditatio “I am the bread of life.” Do you want to live forever? How much would you pay for eternal life? I did an Internet search for the words “how to live forever” and got almost 52 million hits! Some people are going to great lengths to try and live forever, from having their dead bodies frozen in liquid nitrogen in hopes of future revival, to developing gene therapy that short-circuits the aging process. Perhaps a better question is: where do you want to live forever? Do you want to live forever on an earth filled with suffering and sadness, or do you want eternal life with God in the perfect happiness of heaven? In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.… Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus is telling us the secret of eternal life, the secret that so many desperate people are paying huge amounts of money to discover. It’s ironic and a little sad to see them go to such extraordinary lengths to get something that Jesus offers us freely. It would be like excavating a field to dig up a treasure that was sitting in plain sight. As Jesus tells us in this Gospel, faith is the key that unlocks the door to this treasure: “Whoever believes has eternal life.” It takes faith to believe that the bread Jesus gives us is actually his body, his “Flesh for the life of the world.” But when we receive the Eucharist with faith, Jesus gives us a pledge of eternal life. If we want to live forever, we don’t need to have our body frozen after death or to undergo gene therapy. We only need to turn to Jesus with faith, eat his Body and drink his Blood, and after death he will meet us with open arms.
Oratio Thank you, Lord, for giving us yourself in the Eucharist, our pledge of eternal life. I often get caught up in the mundane details of each day and don’t think much about eternal life. But as I live in this passing world, help me to keep my final destination in mind: eternal life with you forever in heaven. I believe in your promise. Lord, increase my faith.
Contemplatio Lord, you have the words of eternal life.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 46–47). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Let us then put aside vain excuses; and, instead of looking for outward events to change our course of life, be sure of this, that if our course of life is to be changed, it must be from within. God’s grace moves us from within, so does our own will. External circumstances have no real power over us. If we do not love God, it is because we have not wished to love Him, tried to love Him, prayed to love Him. We have not borne the idea and the wish in our mind day by day, we have not had it before us in the little matters of the day, we have not lamented that we loved Him not, we have been too indolent, sluggish, carnal, to attempt to love Him in little things, and begin at the beginning; we have shrunk from the effort of moving from within; we have been like persons who cannot get themselves to rise in the morning; and we have desired and waited for a thing impossible—to be changed once and for all, all at once, by some great excitement from without, or some great event, or some special season; something or other we go on expecting, which is to change us without our having the trouble to change ourselves. We covet some miraculous warning, or we complain that we are not in happier circumstances, that we have so many cares, or so few religious privileges; or we look forward for a time when religion will come easy to us as a matter of course. This we used to look out for as boys; we used to think there was time enough yet to think of religion, and that it was a natural thing, that it came without trouble or effort, for men to be religious as life went on; we fancied that all old persons must be religious; and now even, as grown men, we have not put off this deceit; but, instead of giving our hearts to God, we are waiting, with Felix, for a convenient season. Let us rouse ourselves, and act as reasonable men, before it is too late; let us understand, as a first truth in religion, that love of heaven is the only way to heaven. Sight will not move us; else why did Judas persist in covetousness in the very presence of Christ? Why did Balaam, whose eyes were opened, remain with a closed heart? Why did Satan fall, when he was a bright archangel? Nor will reason subdue us; else why was the Gospel, in the beginning, “to the Greeks foolishness”? Nor will excited feelings convert us; for there is one who “heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it”; yet “hath no root in himself,” and “dureth” only “for a while.” Nor will self-interest prevail with us; or the rich man would have been more prudent, whose “ground brought forth plentifully,” and would have recollected that “that night his soul” might be “required of him.” Let us understand that nothing but the love of God can make us believe in Him or obey Him; and let us pray Him, who has “prepared for them that love Him, such good things as pass man’s understanding, to pour into our hearts such love toward Him, that we, loving Him above all things, may obtain His promises, which exceed all that we can desire.” —Excerpt from: Parochial and Plain Sermons, Book 8. Sermon 6. Miracles No Remedy for Unbelief
Newman, J. H. (2010). Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman (pp. 65–67). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
What matters to God is people, not structures. It is souls that make the church beautiful, and therefore she must adorn herself with souls. God is concerned about the hearts of His people, the love of His people, and everything else is meant to function as a support to that priority.
The Presence Of The Risen Lord Transforms Everything
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! The Gospel of today tells of the third apparition of the Risen Jesus to the disciples, at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, with the recounting of the miraculous catch (cf John 21:1-19). The story is placed in the framework of the daily life of the disciples, when they have returned to their lands and their work as fishermen, after the distressing days of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. It was difficult for them to understand what had happened. But while everything seemed to have ended, it is once again Jesus who “seeks” his disciples. It is he who goes in search of them. This time he finds them on the lake, where they have spent the night in the boats without having caught anything. In some sense, the nets appear empty just as the outcome of their experience with Jesus seems: They had met him, they had left everything to follow him, full of hope… and now? Yes, they had seen him risen and they thought, “he’s left, he’s left us.” All of this has seemed like a dream. But Jesus at daybreak reveals himself at the shore of the lake; yet they don’t recognize him (cf v. 4). The Lord says to these tired and discouraged fishermen: “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something” (v. 6). The disciples did what Jesus said and the result was an incredibly abundant catch. At this point, John speaks to Peter and says, “It is the Lord!” (v. 7). And immediately, Peter dives into the water and swims to shore, toward Jesus. In this exclamation, “It is the Lord,” there is all of the enthusiasm of paschal faith. “It is the Lord,” full of joy and wonder, in stark contrast with the confusion, the desperation, the sense of impotence that had afflicted the spirit of the disciples. The presence of the Risen Jesus transforms everything: darkness is overcome by light; useless work becomes again fruitful and promising; the feeling of tiredness and abandonment gives way to a new strength and the certainty that he is with us. Since then, these sentiments animate the Church, the Community of the Risen One. All of us are the Community of the Risen One. If with a superficial glance, it can sometimes seem that the darkness of evil and the tiredness of daily living dominate a situation, the Church knows with certainty that upon those who follow the Lord Jesus, the light of Easter already shines forever. The great proclamation of the Resurrection instills in the hearts of believers an intimate joy and an invincible hope. Christ has truly risen! Today, too, the Church continues to make this joyous proclamation resound: joy and hope will continue flowing in hearts, upon faces, in gestures, in words. All of us Christians are called to communicate this message of resurrection to those whom we meet, especially to the one who is suffering, to the one who is alone, to the one who finds himself in precarious situations, to the sick, the refugees, the marginalized. Let us bring to all a ray of light from the Risen Jesus, a sign of his merciful power.
May he, the Lord, renew in us as well the paschal faith. May he make us ever more aware of our mission at the service of the Gospel and of our neighbor. May he fill us with his Holy Spirit so that, sustained by the intercession of Mary, with all of the Church, we can proclaim the greatness of his love and the richness of his mercy.
The boat rocks gently on placid waters that mirror the coloring sky. Vague shapes can be seen in the semidarkness as the fishermen move about swiftly, casting the net. Once the mesh sinks into the water, the sea boils with fish and the net fills quickly. It almost bursts. All this happens because the disciples had obeyed the dim figure standing on the lake-shore.
In his document for the beginning of the third millennium, John Paul II wrote about another marvelous catch—one recounted in the Gospel of Luke. In that document, the Holy Father urged the Church—urged us—to “put out into the deep” (see Lk 5:4) and lower our own nets.
The Pope sent out a call to each of us, and that call needn’t frighten us. Lowering the nets doesn’t have to involve great things. It needn’t require much time. Often it just asks a little effort. We don’t need to be gifted speakers or have winsome personalities. We simply need to ask the Lord to work through us, and then avoid getting in his way. If we’re convinced of Jesus’ unconditional love for us and others, we can do it.
Where to begin?
If my time is limited, I can start very simply. Where can I come out of my comfort zone and do an act of kindness? Is there some good deed I’ve intended to do but haven’t gotten around to? When will I schedule it in? If I provide opportunities, the Lord’s goodness can reach out through me.
If I have more time, so much the better. Can I join a church or civic volunteer group, for example? Or simply form the habit of visiting the sick to say a good word?
My world teems with possibilities. How will I respond?
Lord Jesus, Risen One, may I see the world with new eyes, bathed in the light of your resurrection. Your paschal mystery has brought you among us in a new way, present through the action of your Spirit but invisible to our earthly sight. You call me to be your hands, feet, and voice, so you can reach out to the people of this time and place through me. You want me to help them know about your love and concern for them. Let me know the right moment and help me choose the right words or actions. Enable me to forget myself so that you can act. Amen.
Yes! At the first opportunity I will “cast my net.”
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 38–39). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
POPE BENEDICT HAS FREQUENTLY SPOKEN ABOUT faith as the foundation of all Catholic life and put particular emphasis on this fundamental truth when he designated an entire year devoted to growth in faith. This call to faith is not an optional extra for our daily prayer. In highlighting faith, Pope Benedict has chosen wisely and well in the power of the Holy Spirit. Each of us is being called to a level of faith we have not known before. The Holy Spirit seeks to increase and, in fact, to fan into a flame this gift of faith given in Baptism. This booklet will show us the absolute necessity to do all we can to respond to the grace God is offering us so that the roots of our faith may go deeper in Christ to sustain us in the battles ahead. Let me give you a very concrete example from nature of the power of living faith. Many years ago when I was teaching at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I lived on a street that had a literal canopy of large, strong, and beautiful trees lining both sides of the street for six or seven blocks. One day while on campus at the University a very sudden and unexpected wind storm arose. It blew across Steubenville in a matter of minutes and did significant damage. When I was able, I returned to our house, only to find seven blocks of utter devastation. All the trees had been blown over, one falling on another. I stared at the effects of that wind and noticed that the uprooted trees all had very shallow roots. For years I have used the example of those trees as I speak to people about making sure that their roots are not shallow; that they are planted deeply into Christ. The trees looked good but they were actually very vulnerable since they did not have a solid foundation.
Just before writing this booklet, I was speaking in a Midwestern city and used this example of the trees. When the talk ended a man came up to me and asked me if I knew why those roots were so shallow. I replied that I assumed it was the type of tree. "No," he said, "The trees' roots were shallow because they were never tested." He explained that when trees have to search for water they put their roots down very deep to find it. The toppled trees never had to search for water. The water was plentiful, abundant. Only when the trees have to seek what they need do they grow .... very strong and are able to endure when a storm or calamity hit them. I think the application to us is quite clear. In North America we have enjoyed freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom to grow in Christian countries. As a result, we have been able to take some things for granted. In our history our forefathers had to fight for these freedoms; our soldiers fight today to maintain those freedoms. But we have not, as a people, had to eke out an existence in war torn towns and villages and cities. Most of us have not watched our children starve to death; we have not had loved ones die unspeakable deaths with no one to comfort and provide for them in their suffering. Many, many people in the world have experienced such sorrows. As a nation, we have not really been tested in this way. As a result, for most of us our roots collectively and personally, are very shallow. Much has been given to us but the day is coming when we will be examined-each of us. Are our roots in Christ shallow or deep? Can we withstand the storms of persecution? Can we persevere in Christ, letting our roots go deeper and deeper in Him as the winds break over us? How strong am I in the truth? How deep is my daily prayer in nourishing my roots in Christ? Are the roots of my life so deep in Christ that I can withstand the storm by His power and grace? Are my roots in Christ or are they in my achievements, my possessions, my influence, my job, my bank account, and my friends? Do I understand that ultimately none of those things will be able to strengthen me in the midst of a terrible storm? Where will I look for my security? Keep these questions in mind as you read this booklet and use it as a handbook for faith, a guide to help you grow and deepen your roots in Christ. from Faith More Precious Than Gold by Sister Ann Shield, S.G.L. pp.1-3
To be a disciple of Jesus means that we can and must follow a way that is directly opposed to our own natural gravity, to the gravity of egoism, to the search for what is merely material and for the maximum pleasure that we confuse with happiness. Discipleship is a way through agitated, stormy waters that we can follow only if we are in the gravitational field of the love of Jesus Christ, if our gaze is fixed on him and therefore supported by the new gravity of grace that makes possible for us the way to truth and to God that we would have been unable to follow by our own efforts. That is why being a disciple of Jesus is more than concurrence with a definite program, more than sympathy and solidarity with a person whom we regard as a model. It is not just Jesus, a human being, that we follow; we follow the Son of the living God. We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ. And every single step is different depending on whether we intend to go the whole way or merely to carve out for ourselves a kind of human party program. We can come to Christ only if we have the courage to walk on the water and to entrust ourselves to his gravity, the gravity of grace.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Meditatio “… The one whom God sent …” I can hear in this passage the response to a genuine, profound human need—that of knowing who can be believed. So many television shows are based on this premise. With such a plethora of mystery and courtroom dramas on television, it’s hard to believe that new programs based on the same basic plots can make it. Yet they do. What’s even more fascinating is that they hold our attention. Why? Because of this deep need—perhaps obsession—to know who is telling the truth. Whose testimony is true? That is what’s happening in this passage from John. It seems to form the conclusion to a disagreement between John the Baptist’s “camp” and “a Jew” regarding ceremonial washing. John realizes that the Person of Jesus is at the heart of the disagreement. What he hears in the disagreement is an underlying need to know if Jesus can be believed—is he telling the truth? Through the gift of the Spirit, it has been revealed to John that Jesus has been sent by God. Unlike others, he alone can communicate about God from what he “has seen and heard.” John is a model of one who has received the gift of the Spirit, which is not rationed. He communicates the truth about Jesus, who has been sent from above and is, therefore, able to reveal the intimate relationship shared with his Father. By accepting the revelation of the Spirit, John “certifies that God is trustworthy.” By this faith, John stakes his life on this truth to the point of dying to defend it. Have I accepted Jesus’ testimony? Today’s Gospel seems to say that this is the key to the discipleship that John models and in which I can participate. I too can be sent by God and speak his words. But that depends on my acceptance of Jesus’ testimony, which leads to a certification that “God is trustworthy.”
Oratio Father, you are the One who sent your son, Jesus, into our world. We have just celebrated Easter and commemorated the greatest testimony you gave to your Son—his resurrection. Like the apostles, I don’t understand everything you have revealed. Pour out the gift of the Spirit upon me as you have promised—without ration. Thus may I begin to testify to you by my life that I am your Son’s disciple. Amen. Contemplatio “He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.”
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 28–29). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own. (Acts 4:32) “Mine, mine, mine!” chirped the crowd of seagulls in the movie Finding Nemo as they eyed a baby crab. Each of them was trying to claim it for dinner—and very loudly! Isn’t that how we can feel sometimes? Today’s first reading shows us a different way. We see the first Christians generously sharing their possessions so that “there was no needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). Rather than shouting “Mine,” “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own” (4:32). Something had happened in them when they were baptized and filled with the Spirit. They began to feel responsible for each other and committed themselves to caring for one another. During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we have been hearing a lot about how Jesus wants us to be agents of his love and compassion. We have been hearing a lot about our call to be as merciful with each other as God is with us. But this can seem like a huge burden at times. “How can I possibly imitate Jesus? It seems next to impossible!” If you ever feel that way, keep one vital truth in mind: you have the Holy Spirit! God never intended for you to try to do this on your own. This is, after all, why Jesus came—to save us from selfishness and to empower us to live a new life. So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you want to say, “Mine!” turn to the Spirit, and ask for his help. It can be as simple as saying, “Holy Spirit, help me to be generous!” Then take just one step closer to the kind of love that the first disciples showed. Try your best, and watch as the Spirit softens your heart over time. God doesn’t expect us to give away everything in the name of generosity. But today’s reading isn’t just a fairy-tale either. It’s a picture of his desire that we all be of one heart and mind. With the help of his Spirit, we certainly can do this!
“Holy Spirit, give me the grace to be generous. Help me to tell Jesus, ‘It’s all yours.’ Help me to say the same thing to my brothers and sisters.”
Daily Reflection from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
In God’s mercy, all of our infirmities find healing. His mercy, in fact, does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us. So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return.
excerpt from the homily of Pope Francis, April 3, 2016
Meditatio “When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.” Imagine being in the upper room. Apostles and disciples, men and women, are gathered for safety. The disciples are close to despair, hovering on the edge of hope. Their dreams have been shattered. They had asked Jesus what they would receive if they followed him—and he had promised them so much! Now he was dead. His life ended ignobly—or so it seemed. Someone in the group reminds them that Jesus had said he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If he was the Life, the speaker wonders, then how do we understand his death? Suddenly Mary Magdalene bangs on the locked door. They all look at each other, afraid to open it. Mary continues knocking. The door finally opens and Mary bursts into the dark room with her message, light streaming into each darkened corner: “He is alive! He is alive! I saw him! I spoke with him!” Mary goes to each person in the room with the message: “Don’t fear; he sent me to tell you he is raised!” When Jesus knocks on the door of our heart, are we afraid to open it? What is our fear? Like the disciples, we may find it easier to ignore the knock, to turn on the television, go shopping, surf the Internet, or turn to another diversion. The light of God shines so brightly, and the news of the resurrection so overwhelms us, that we may have a hard time believing, as did the apostles. Later, Jesus appears in the same room and chides the disciples for their unwillingness to believe. His reproach is like that of a lover who sends a letter only to later find it unopened. Like Mary we receive a love letter from God. We carry the message to everyone we meet: “Do not be afraid. God is with us! He is alive! He sent me to tell you.”
Oratio Jesus, I renew my baptismal dialogue with you. To your “Do you believe?” I respond, “I do believe!” I pray that this will be a decisive renewal in faith. Transform me in your love, and lead me to a life of communion with my brothers and sisters. I want to bring the message of your love to everyone I meet.
Contemplatio I do believe, not as an idea, but as fullness of life.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2011). Easter Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 18–19). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.