Understanding is like a light turned on in a darkened room, or like the dawn that enables one to see things as they really are. We speak of being enlightened when confusion yields to clarity or ignorance yields knowledge. I am coming to see, as never before, that the true light, the uncreated light, the light that gives life, comes from the cross. The elements of the natural world must receive light in order to shine forth and dazzle us with their beauty. But the cross-the cross emanates light and enlightens everything that its shadow touches. Light comes from the cross: a simple realization, to be sure. Simple, as all the deep things of life are simple. The cross, icon of all that is hateful and diabolical, is transformed by him who willingly, lovingly, passionately, ascends it. On the cross, love is revealed as sacrifice. When I gaze on the cross, when I ponder Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection, when I fix my inward eye upon him, I am drawn out of myself. My vision becomes clearer and my hope grows stronger.
A Grief Unveiled - A Father’s Journey Through the Death of a Child p. 155
We Christians know that spirituality is not a method but a person. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
We believe that God personally created each one of us to be part of humanity, but also unique selves. We join with other believers to follow God’s way, but simultaneously make our own individual journey. We hope that, in spite of all our many faults and sins, we will let God demonstrate His creative and redemptive power as He forms us. We want to become persons with nothing but love in our hearts.
Ronda Chervin Called By Name: Following A Personal Spirituality p.6
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.
New American Bible. (2011). (Revised Edition, 2 Co 1:3–5). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
God did not withdraw into his heaven but lowered himself to man’s experience: a great mystery that succeeds in surpassing every possible expectation. God entered human time in the most unthinkable way: by making himself a child and going through the stages of human life, so that our whole existence, spirit, soul and body — as St Paul has reminded us — might be kept blameless and be raised to God’s heights. And he did all this out of his faithful love for humanity. When love is true, by its nature it strives for the good of others, for their greatest possible good. It is not limited merely to respecting the commitments of friendship that have been taken on, but goes further, without calculation or measure. This is precisely what the living, true God did, whose profound mystery is revealed to us in St John’s words: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16). In Jesus of Nazareth this God takes upon himself the whole of humanity, the whole history of man, and he gives it a decisive reorientation toward a new manner of human existence, characterized by having been generated by God and by aspiring to him (cf. Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 3, The Infancy Narratives).
Address To Rome's Universities (1st Sunday of Advent Vespers) Pope Benedict XVI December 1, 2012
How little too is our faith when we doubt whether the storm will abate! Too often we allow ourselves to be discouraged by circumstances: sickness, work, reverses of fortune, opposition to us in our surroundings. Fear is a phenomenon which covers almost every aspect of life. It is often the result of ignorance or of selfishness stemming from an excessive concern for oneself or anxiety over things that perhaps will never happen. But, above all else, fear often stems from the awareness that the security of our life is based on very weak foundations. Here we are forgetting an essential truth: Jesus Christ is our constant security. This does not mean to say that we are insensitive to events, but that we should have more confidence in using the human means at our disposal. We must never forget that to be close to Jesus, even when he appears to be asleep, is to be safe. When we are confused and going through unpleasant times, Jesus does not forget us. As St Teresa said: he never fails his friends.
from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez Volume 1 p. 270
Lectio Luke 6:27–38 Meditatio “Do good … pray for … give … love … forgive.…”
When I read this section of Jesus’ teachings, I always seem to snag on the part where Jesus says, “the measure with which you measure will … be measured out to you.” It makes me shiver when I imagine the half plateful that would be placed in front of me! Jesus’ words make me reflect on how generous I am to others. He is giving us a way of life based on honesty, lending, gentility, loving concern, and selfless giving. Am I up to the challenge?
I imagine that Jesus is speaking to a large group of people who want to hear what he is teaching, people who are more interested in the trials and challenges of everyday life than in the intricacies of the Law. Jesus is sharing his view of a life lived as God’s child, and it is a picture of light, goodness, reaching out, mercy—all done with the great courage that comes from believing the best about one another. Jesus is asking me to live that life. This is his recipe for a life of love. The ingredients are truly demanding! Still, I cannot turn my back on his words if I want to be among the “children of the Most High.”
I wonder how this lesson would sound if it were put on prime-time TV as an advertisement. How very not Wall Street these words of Jesus would sound. But their force and value for today’s world and my life cannot be ignored. In the last decade we have seen how misplaced confidence in money, careless monitoring, and unchecked greed have carried us to the brink and damaged the trust upon which relationships in every society are built. But I know that Jesus has redeemed the world, through a relationship full of eternal, infinite love. We can always trust and learn from this infinite love. Oratio Jesus, I ask you to give me the courage I need to look at everyone with the eyes of love, not suspicion. If I want to follow you, I need to begin with myself and help to transform our world. I want to place my footsteps firmly in those you traced out for us all, you who are the only true Way. Trust is the big stumbling block for me, Jesus. Teach me to trust you and others. Give me some of the infinite goodness of your heart, a heart that knows the secrets and yearnings of every heart, and loves us all into gratitude and hope.
Contemplatio Jesus, make my heart like yours.
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 18–34: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 108–109). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.
Living in the risen Christ, we baptized Christians have new powers. We have become adopted children of God (Galatians 4:5; 3:26) and are aware through the Holy Spirit that we live in a relationship similar to that which exists between God the Father and his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, because we now have same life within us. In Baptism we become like Christ.
Fr. George Maloney, "The Mystery of Christ in You" p. 27
A characteristic of generosity is knowing how to forget quickly those little irritations that can crop up in daily life. It is knowing how to smile and make life more agreeable for those around us, even though they may be suffering setbacks; to give others the benefit of the doubt; to do the least pleasant tasks first in our work or in family life; to accept people as they are, without attaching too much importance to their defects; to be ready with a pat on the back for a job well done; to give a positive tone to our conversation and, if the occasion arises, to a possible correction that we ought to make; to avoid negative criticism, which is often useless and unfair; to open up wider horizons, both human and supernatural, for our friends. All these betoken generosity of spirit, but above all, if we are to be really generous in loving our neighbor, we must do our best to make it easier for those around us to come closer to Christ. That is the best thing we can do.
Every day we have a treasure to distribute. If we don't give it, we lose it. If we share it, Our Lord multiplies it. If we are attentive, if we contemplate his life, He will find for us opportunities of serving voluntarily where, perhaps, few people would wish to do so. Like Jesus who, at the Last Supper, washed the feet of his disciples, 11 we will not be deterred by the lowliest chores, which are often the most necessary and will involve us in the most thankless of tasks. We will learn that the occasions of serving are turned to reality through sacrifice, as the fruit of an interior attitude of abnegation and renunciation. We will realize that to find these opportunities of service it is necessary to look for them, thinking of the personalities of the people with whom we live or work, of what they need, of how we can be helpful or useful to them. The selfish person who lives far away from God is aware only of his own needs and whims.
from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez pp. 194-195
There is a holiness and a power in the things that belong to holy people. If your making is worship, if you make because you love what you set out to make and because you love men, but most of all because you love God, then you will be trebly a maker, and your work will serve humanity because it will help to lead humanity back to God.
Think of some very humble and ordinary form of making, like the sewing of a patch on a coat. You can regard it as drudgery, and do it with careless or perhaps with savage impatience; and then you turn it into a job….
You can regard the patch very differently. You can do it with pride in your workmanship, so that it becomes a thing of beauty; then you are already an artist. You can do it with love, and so turn it into love-making; and then you are twice an artist. You can do it as an act of worship of God—“I patch this coat for this poor child for whom I am for ever responsible, as a part of our life together that you have given us and that we turn into worship of you”—and then you are three times an artist; you are completely alive. And why should not every action that you do be like this? But we are enslaved by a system that despises art and has no room for love and reverence; and so we can be excused if we think sometimes that the end draws near; the soil is stale.
Unless there can be a rebirth our world is doomed; and it must be a rebirth of reverence.
In our ascetical struggle, we have to acknowledge what we are really like and accept our limitations, knowing that God sees them and takes them into account. Far from worrying us, this should lead us to trust in Him more, asking his help to overcome our defects and to achieve the aims which we see are currently necessary in our interior life - those points we are following up more closely in our particular and general examinations of conscience.
If we are simple before God we will know how to be simple with those whom we meet every day - our relations, friends and colleagues. The simple person is one who acts and speaks in complete harmony with what he thinks and desires. He is a person who shows himself as he is, without trying to appear to be what he is not, or to have what he does not have. It always gives one great joy to meet a straightforward soul, without nooks and crannies, someone we can trust, like Nathanael who earned Our Lord's praise: "Here comes one who belongs to the true Israel; there is no falsehood in him." On the other hand, elsewhere Our Lord puts us on guard against false prophets, men who come to you in sheep's clothing, against those who think one thing and do another.
from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez pp. 315-316
How can I overcome the insecurities that get in the way of allowing God to use me?
We are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
You should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God's very own children, adopted into his family---calling him "Father, dear Father." For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God's children. Romans 8: 15-16
I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. Philippians 4: 13
✚ God made you in his own image, so he must value you highly! He doesn't make mistakes; he created you with unique gifts so that you can do the specific tasks he has for you to do. He does not expect more from you than what he knows you can give, but he does expect you to use what he has given you. That is why it is so important to discover your own special gifts. When you match your unique God-given gifts with the right area of service, you have a match made in heaven. Your insecurities will melt away and you will become bold in serving God. Then service will no longer be a chore, but a joy and passion.
It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. 1 CORINTHIANS 12:11
Our Lord's repeated calls for us to be charitable at all times, and especially in his New Commandment must stimulate us to follow His lead by finding concrete ways of being of help to others, such as by making those at our side happy, realizing that we can never be too extravagant in the practice of this virtue. Most of the time the practice of charity will consist in little details, something as simple as a smile, a word of encouragement, a kind gesture ... In the eyes of God all of this is very pleasing and draws us closer to Him. In our prayer today we should also consider areas where we can easily lack charity if we are not careful: rash judgements, negative criticism, neglect of others due to self-centeredness, forgetfulness ... The Christian way of conduct is not the way of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but to do good always, even though occasionally such an attitude will not result in any human gain in this world - but at least we will have enriched our hearts.
from In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez Volume Three p.341
David Patterson shared a hopeful story of the Lord’s healing strength and the power of prayer, at the 2017 Lift Jesus Higher Rally in Toronto, Ontario. Although David’s mother was Catholic, after his parents divorced, David found himself bitter toward his father, and wanting his dad “to feel his hurt.” He also began to wonder “if people really believed in Jesus.” In ninth grade, he spent time at his dad’s cottage one summer, and ended up heavily involved in marijuana, alcohol, and partying. When he returned to school in the fall, he fell in with the “wrong crowd,” and continued living a reckless lifestyle through high school and college. In fact, at one point, David asked a friend why he had headaches when he didn’t drink, and the friend replied, “You’ve got the fangs of the wolf. You’re an alcoholic; welcome to the club.” Fortunately, David’s mother never stopped praying for his conversion. When she asked him to attend a Catholic retreat, he reluctantly agreed—simply to get her to leave him alone. “On the way to the retreat, I was angry,” David explained. “I was yelling at my mom in the parking lot, when I felt a tap on my shoulder, and there was a priest in a cowboy hat. He was loving and patient, and said, ‘Son, I think you should stay. Then, one of the speakers, who was funny, cool, and loved God, said ‘God doesn’t care about your mess. A simple ‘yes’ to God will change your life forever. It’s August 15—you can change your life today.” David answered “yes” to God that day. He went to confession, where he said, “As I kept unloading, I got a little lighter and a little lighter, and as He gave me absolution, I felt free.” It was difficult to go back to school, he explained: “My buddies asked what had happened. They said I was joyful. I had to tell my bros I had encountered the living God, and do you think that went well?” David continued struggling with temptation, particularly to drink and to swear. He persevered by going to confession regularly; after six months, he said, “God set me free,” and he no longer struggled with those temptations. He later attended another retreat his mom suggested—Lift Jesus Higher—where, during the Eucharistic procession, the Lord put an image on his heart that led David to become a youth minister. And then, exactly four years after David said “yes” to God, his future wife said “yes” to him, when they became engaged. The couple is now married and expecting their second child.
“The reality is, I was a mess,” said David. “But He took the mess and He turned it into a message.”
I just completed a retreat for priests called "Healing The Whole Person" with Dr. Bob Schuchts from the John Paul II Healing Center. I can't even put into words how powerful the teachings and prayer experiences were. It was incredible!
We began the retreat by meditating upon the painting below, Caravaggio's "The Incredulity of St. Thomas". What I enjoyed most about the image was Jesus pulling Thomas' hand towards Him. I saw this as His desire to do anything to help Thomas overcome doubt. God doesn't want us condemning ourselves when we have doubts but to simply ask for more faith. I did that a lot during the retreat!
What stands out for you as you reflect on the painting?