Music, great music, distends the spirit, arouses profound emotions and almost naturally invites us to raise our minds and hearts to God in all situations of human existence, the joyful and the sad. Music can become prayer.
If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well, we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them. Let us open wide our hearts. It is joy which invites us. Press forward and fear nothing.
Follow me. (Luke 5:27) These two words changed everything for Levi, for Simon and Andrew, for Philip, for unnamed disciples—and for us. Jesus is not pleading or begging. He is inviting, earnestly and lovingly. Follow him, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Follow him, who is the light in the darkness, the spring of water that never fails, the One who promises to guide you always. Follow me, just as you are. Not because you’re particularly good or talented or holy. According to Jewish law, Levi was “impure” because of his association with Gentiles. He was also probably dishonest and greedy. Peter was impulsive and stubborn. James and John wanted places of honor. All of the disciples had issues, but Jesus called them just the same—just as he is calling you. Follow me, and be part of my Church. Once you were no people, and you had not received mercy. But everyone who follows him becomes part of God’s people and receives mercy. Once you were in darkness, and now you are in God’s wonderful light. You are chosen, royal, holy, a people belonging to God himself (1 Peter 2:9-10). That is who you are. That is how your heavenly Father sees you. Follow me, and your heart will begin to change. You may not start out as an ideal disciple, but remember that this is just the beginning. What you are now isn’t an obstacle to what you can become—not to the Lord. He has had a vision for your life from the moment you were conceived. And that vision is one of blessing, not of curse. It’s a vision of fullness, not emptiness. It’s a vision in which every part of your personality—your talents, your character traits, and even your unique quirks—is filled with his life and is used to build his kingdom. We all know that following Jesus has its ups and downs. But no matter what challenges we may face, we can always face them knowing that we belong to Jesus and that he will never abandon us. For not only are we following Jesus, but he is leading us, always calling us to his side with words of love and peace.
“Yes, Jesus! I will follow you. I want to walk in your light every day of my life.”
Daily Reflection From The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)
Meditatio “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?”
Today’s reference to the bridegroom is one of many uses of marriage imagery in the Gospels. Jesus refers to himself as the “bridegroom” and tells a parable about a king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. In another passage, the familiar story of the wise and foolish virgins also centers on the arrival of the bridegroom. Those who were ready went in with him to celebrate the wedding feast. In John’s Gospel the Baptist declares: “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete” (Jn 3:29). A major wedding connection is also made in the Gospel of John with the marriage feast at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine. In the Old Testament we find the Song of Songs and, in the prophets, the heart-rending love God has for his people who turned away from him adulterously to follow false idols. Augustine also used this nuptial imagery, speaking of Jesus’ coming into the world in terms of marriage. For Augustine this imagery of bride and bridegroom is a symbol of Jesus’ spousal desire for us, his love that blindly gives itself over to union whatever the cost, the beginning of a love affair born in eternity, to be consummated on the marriage bed of the cross, and finally raised in glory to the right hand of the Father. When disciples fast today, it is a fasting of faith because Jesus has ascended into heaven. More than the lack of food, it is the absence of the sight of the bridegroom. It is a continual search for him and a longing for his return. Fasting from food, from TV, from complaining, or whatever else we decide to fast from, is a discipline that helps us keep focused on why we are here: we are invited to a forever wedding feast, not simply as a guest, but as the bride. Oratio Jesus, when we could not come to you, you came to us to forge an unbreakable bond between us and God, a bond of love that will last for eternity. At the beginning of these days of penitence, I feel this bond strengthening. I feel that you care about me and my life. I feel that you want me to realize how close you are to me. Help me to let go of whatever habits have become obstacles to living in your presence.
Contemplatio You have come into the world as to a marriage.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 10–11). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Observe this beautiful fact: By bringing us into communion with God, prayer makes us share in God’s creativity. Contemplation nourishes our creative faculties and our inventiveness, particularly in the realm of beauty. Contemporary art is cruelly lacking in inspiration and very often produces nothing but painful ugliness, when people are so thirsty for beauty. Only a renewal of faith and prayer will enable artists to rediscover the sources of true creativity, so that they will once again be able to provide people with the beauty they so badly need, as was done by Fra Angelico, Rembrandt, or Johann Sebastian Bach.
Lectio Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18 Meditatio “… [Do not] perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them … your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
“What are you going to do for Lent?” As children each year we had to answer this question. We gave up cookies, candy, TV, video games …; the list was made up of our most precious pleasures. We struggled through the forty days of Lent, flexing our spiritual muscles as we raced toward the Easter Day finish line. As adults we’ve settled into a more sophisticated Lenten spirituality, but often we end up giving up the same things we did as kids, perhaps hoping to lose a little weight or gain a little time. Today’s Gospel reading prods us to go deeper. It centers around theatrics. We all are mini-celebrities of our own lives, imagining a trail of adoring fans following us. We can even make Lent into a minor Hollywood production. We conceive the idea for our Lenten penance. We write the script. We are producer, director, actor, and audience all wrapped in one. And we end up at the Easter Day finish line as self-absorbed as we were on Ash Wednesday. Perhaps these words of Jesus spoken to us today are asking us to go backstage, take the last seat, sit down, and wait for God to reveal to us the script he has written for us this Lent. Perhaps as adults we should be asking at the beginning of Lent: What is God going to do for me in these next forty days? What is it that I desire God to do for me in this long Lenten retreat? Instead of theatrics, Jesus is inviting us to simple honesty. To smallness. To just being there and sensing his grace, quiet enough, still enough to feel the gentle tugs of the Spirit to newness, to giving up obstacles to the growth of a treasured relationship, to finding a few moments daily to read the Word of God, to surrender fear.… What God is going to do in your life will surprise you. Expect it.
Oratio Jesus, I am not accustomed to telling you to do whatever you want in my life. In fact, it’s kind of scary to see what you would do if I let you write my life’s script. I think I am doing a pretty good job at my life on my own. But it seems you want something more of me now. Instead of Lent being my focus, you are placing me front and center in your focus. I am expecting you to show me what you want to give me at this stage of my life. I trust you. Contemplatio I expect you, God, to do something with me this Lent.
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 6–7). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
All of us should work for peace. But to obtain that peace all of us have to learn from Jesus to be meek and humble of heart. Only humility will lead us to unity, and unity to peace. To that end, let us help each other draw closer to Jesus, so that we learn the lesson of humility with joy.
Let us think about oppressed countries. The greatest need of Bangladesh is forgiveness — there is so much bitterness and hatred! It is impossible to imagine how those people suffer. If they realize that we care for them, that we love them, perhaps they will find strength in their hearts to forgive. I think this is the only thing that can bring them peace.
We want this year to be, above all, a year of peace. With that aim, we will try to talk more with God than with men.
Let us spread Christ’s peace as he did. He planted good everywhere. He did not forsake his works of charity because the Pharisees and others rejected him and tried to spoil his Father’s work.
Cardinal Newman wrote: “Help me, wherever I may be, to spread your perfume. May I preach you without preaching — without words but with my example, through the force of attraction, the example of my actions, the obvious fullness of love that carries my heart to you.”
Pray with great confidence, with confidence based upon the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray.
If you want a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit, give God a blank check. Decide in your heart that you want whatever he wants for you, no matter what it is. Don’t put limits on him. Be willing to come out of your comfort zones and the grooves you’ve dug to ensure your safety, comfort, and security. Tell the Lord every morning that your life is his and that you give him permission to do with it whatever he wants. Then walk throughout your day with one ear turned toward the Spirit. Don’t leave the Spirit at home or in church. Be conscious of his presence; attempt to listen even amidst the noise and frantic pace of life. When you hear him, or sense his prompting or gentle nudge, act on it. Don’t hesitate, do what he wants you to do. If you do this consistently, the Spirit will become your intimate friend and he will make something beautiful out of your life.
Pope John Paul II told the whole Church as we entered the third millennium, that the Spirit is leading us to, “put out into the deep.” It’s time for the Church to leave the shallow end of the pool; the purposes of Christ and the power of the Spirit are being released in the deep end. It’s time for each one of us to dive into the deep water of the Spirit’s purpose and will for us.
When the Spirit Comes in Power- by Peter Herbeck p.148
Christians who are too sensitive about their good names and reputations are like those who take medicine for a slight indisposition. They think they are taking care of their health, but they are ruining it. When we are overly protective of our reputation, we may lose it completely. This is because our tenderness makes us argumentative and unbearable. This provokes our detractors even more.
Ignoring a negative comment about yourself is a better remedy than becoming resentful and planning revenge. Contempt for injuries makes them vanish. If we become angry, we tacitly admit the truth of the accusation. Fear of losing our good name is the result of not trusting its foundation-a good life. Souls firmly anchored on Christian virtue can pay little attention to the torrent of a critical tongue.
Reputation is like a sign. It points to virtue. If your reputation is taken away by wagging tongues, don't be disturbed. Like a beard, it will grow out again. If God permits it to be taken from us, he will either give us a better one or help us with holy humility.
I would make only a few exceptions. If the unjust accusation refers to horrible crimes, no one should be expected to put up with it. Let the accused justly acquit himself of it. Additionally, if an individual needs a spotless reputation in order to help others, that person should quietly seek a correction.
A friend once sent me a snapshot that had been taken four decades ago, when we were in the novitiate together. The photo shows me as a seventeen-year old sitting on a park bench talking with my father. . . . I was struck by how peaceful and contented I looked in the photo. I remember asking myself, “How in the world did this boy ever survive all these years? He looks so terribly vulnerable.”
Survival at best―that has literally been my experience. But I have survived the swirling tides of life because I discovered a little harbor inside my soul―a haven that I didn’t build, a refuge that I didn’t set apart from the winds of life. Sometimes, in the midst of storms, I couldn’t find this sanctuary, but I knew it was there anyway.
Because he is the God of peace, the Father provides this inner haven for each of us, a shelter that allows us to survive during difficult times, a place where we can receive the light of grace. If we are trying desperately to hold onto him, God will allow us to find this precious place of peace. He will hold out his hand.
Choosing To Be Merciful - Never Easy But The Key To Peace
It should be of no concern to you how anyone else acts; you are to be My living reflection, through love and mercy. I answered, "Lord, but they often take advantage of my goodness." That makes no difference, My daughter. That is no concern of yours. As for you, be always merciful toward other people, and especially toward sinners.
O God, give me a deeper faith that I may always see in [my neighbor] Your Holy Image which has been engraved in [his] soul.
Have great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you. I answered, "O my Master, You see very well that I feel no love for them, and that troubles me." Jesus answered, It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well.
"What did I ever do to deserve this?" I kept asking as I stood looking out over the muddy Monongahela River from my dormitory window. It was September, 1964 and I had just arrived at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh to begin my freshman year. The resident assistant told me how lucky I was to have a room "with a view." "Some view!", I grumbled inwardly. I was convinced I had made a huge mistake by coming to Duquesne. It certainly wasn't Plan A.
You see, I had set my heart on going to Boston College after a visit to its beautiful campus. Although I was accepted at BC, I received no financial aid. A full tuition scholarship from Duquesne lured me there instead. After my choice was made, I won a larger scholarship which could have been used at any school, including Boston. However, I decided to hold fast to my choice of Duquesne, even though I had never seen the campus.
Words cannot describe my dismay when I first laid eyes on Duquesne University that September. It was thoroughly unimpressive compared to Boston College. Many departments were housed in old homes along the Bluff of the river. Other homes were boarded up and vacant. A few poor families still remained in the dying neighborhood. I found the surroundings absolutely depressing. Victory Gardens in the middle of the campus was made to look like a park in the Duquesne catalog; in actuality it was a small patch of grass. "I could be at beautiful Boston College or at any school in the country," I groaned, "and instead I chose this awful place."
That first night on campus my parents took me out to dinner.
My disappointment with Duquesne was so intense I broke down crying. Weakened by my tears, my father was too upset to even finish his meal. "Drive home with us, honey," Daddy said. "You can transfer to Boston College next semester."
"No," I protested, playing the martyr, "I'll stick it out here for a semester." So, reluctantly, they left me in Pittsburgh.
Within just a few weeks, as I got to know the students and faculty at Duquesne, I really grew to love the school and decided to make it my home. That decision profoundly affected the course of my entire life. Although I didn't realize it at the time, it was God's providence that led me to Duquesne. He had plans for me there I would never have dreamed nor imagined possible.
In God's inscrutable wisdom, He chose to visit Duquesne University in February, 1967 when a group of us made a weekend retreat on the theme of the Holy Spirit. Until that time, my prayer followed these general lines: "Lord, bless my plans, do my will, according to my timetable. Amen."
During that retreat I realized my deep need for conversion. On Saturday night I knelt in the chapel and made an unconditional surrender to God. I prayed that I might do the Father's will, learn to follow Jesus and be filled with His love. In answer to my simple prayer of faith, God baptized me in His Holy Spirit. As I fell prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament I felt inundated with the incredibly merciful, totally unmerited love of God. Within a short time I was joined by the other students in the chapel where we experienced a sovereign outpouring of the Spirit of the living God. From that moment on, my life has never been the same.
That retreat, now known as the "Duquesne Weekend," was much more than a moving personal experience. It marked the beginning of the worldwide outpouring of God's Spirit we call the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The spark that was ignited at Duquesne has become a fire that is inflaming the hearts of millions of people across the face of the earth! God visited Duquesne. It was His choice. What a privilege to be there when He arrived!
Shortly after my conversion, I was walking along the Bluff, looking out over the muddy Monongahela River once again. It was the same view I saw on my first day on campus, but I was a different person. Gratitude welled up within my heart for the grace of experiencing His visitation. "What did I ever do to deserve this, Jesus?" I asked in prayer, filled with amazement and awe. Of course, I had done nothing to deserve it. No one could ever merit God's gift of the Holy Spirit. But, in His mercy, the Lord guided me to a place where I could encounter His love. Choosing Duquesne was not a huge mistake after all. In fact, it was one of the greatest graces of my entire life!
In the summer of 1988 I returned to Duquesne for the first time since my graduation in 1968 . . . a kind of 20 year reunion. A sense of awe came over me as I considered how the Holy Spirit has moved since the Duquesne weekend. Walking across the small campus, I marveled anew at what a humble place Duquesne really is.
God didn't choose the most impressive, prestigious or influential school for His first stop in this modern day outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Instead, He visited an ordinary group of people at an ordinary campus in the Pittsburgh hills. God's wisdom and His way always defy human understanding. Perhaps the Duquesne story serves as a reminder that we can never merit His gifts. Rather, it is the Father's good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. Of ourselves we deserve nothing, in Jesus we receive everything! Praise God for His grace and mercy!
from More of God— Inspirational Selections from the Notebook Column by Patti Gallagher Mansfield p.96-99
The past casts its shadow over the present whenever we brood about old failures and yesterday's choices. Of course we should ask God's forgiveness for our faults and should learn from them where appropriate. But once we've said we're sorry and meant it, that is enough. While seeking to make amends where possible for the harm we have caused, most of the time we should simply leave things in God's hands, trusting him to put everything right. We must put a stop to attitudes or thoughts that keep us from living trustingly in the present moment.
Sometimes we feel we've wasted much time and missed all too many opportunities to love and grow. If the feeling leads to real repentance and to starting again courageously and trustingly, then it is something positive. But if the sense of time wasted gets us down and makes us feel we have ruined our lives, we must reject it. To lock ourselves in the past would only add another sin to those already committed. It would be a serious lack of trust in the infinite mercy and power of God, who loves us and wants always to offer us a new chance to become holy, despite the past. When the thought of how little progress we've made threatens to overwhelm us, we must make an act of faith and hope, such as: "Thank you, my God, for all my past. I firmly believe that you can draw good out of everything I have lived through. I want to have no regrets, and I resolve today to begin from zero, with exactly the same trust as if all my past history were made up of nothing but faithfulness and holiness." Nothing could please God more than that!
from Interior Freedom by Fr. Jacques Philippe p.86.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
Jesus' mercy for people never faltered for a moment, despite all the ingratitude, difficulties and hatred he encountered. His love for men is so great because He is concerned above all for their souls, and to bring them with his powerful help to eternal life; at the same time, it knows no bounds and extends to all mankind. He is the Good Shepherd of our souls, who knows us all and calls each one of us by our name' and leaves none abandoned on the mountainside. He has given his life for each man and woman. When a soul strays, Christ's immediate reaction is to do all He can to help it return, and we can visualize him watching daily to catch a glimpse of it in the distance. Whenever someone offends him grievously, He tries to draw him to his merciful Heart. He doesn't break the bruised reed, he doesn't finally snap it off and throw it away. Instead, he mends it very carefully, giving it all the attention it needs.
What does He say to those who are devastated by sin, or who no longer give any light because the divine fire in their soul has gone out? Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest? He has pity on the great misfortune they have suffered on account of sin, and leads them to repentance without judging them harshly. He is the father who embraces his prodigal son after he has fallen into disgrace through his own fault. He it is who pardons the adulterous woman who is being threatened with stoning. He receives the repentant Magdalen and immediately opens to her the mystery of his intimate life. He speaks about eternal life to the Samaritan woman in spite of her waywardness; He promises heaven to the good thief Truly in him are fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah: 'A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly-burning wick he will not quench.
No one ever loved us, or will love us, as Christ does; no one understands us better than He. When the faithful of Corinth went about, divided, saying to one another: 'I belong to Paul, I belong to Apollos, I belong to Cephas, I belong to Christ,' Saint Paul writes to them: Was Paul crucified for you. That is the ultimate argument.
We can never lose hope. God wants us to be saints, and puts his power and his providence at the service of his mercy. Therefore, we cannot pass the time dwelling on our evil fortune, losing sight of God, getting discouraged by our failures, feeling tempted to say: 'What's the use of trying, considering how much I have sinned, how much I have failed my Lord?' No, we must trust in the love and power of Our Father God, and in his Son, sent into the world to redeem and strengthen us.
It is very good for our soul to see ourselves, in Our Lord's sight, like a bruised reed which needs a lot of care, like a flickering wick which needs the oil of divine love in order to burn as God wants! We never lose hope as long as we realize that we are weak, full of defects and dirt. Our Lord never leaves us; we just need to use the means and not reject the hand that He offers us.
from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez Volume 4 pp.169-170