John 12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
The power of forgiveness. We hear about it, we know about it, and most of us have experienced it. Those of us who take advantage of frequent confession—especially if we are prodigal children returned to the embrace of our Father—know very well the power of forgiveness and what it has meant in our own lives. But have we reciprocated that gratuitous gift to others? This is something we must examine ourselves thoroughly on, for it is one of the criteria we will be judged on and it is the true sign of a humble, contrite, and grateful heart.
John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
I have been pondering lately the importance of words. Our culture constantly bombards us with words—written, spoken, tweeted or texted, there is no escape. As with all things, it seems that an excess of anything cheapens the whole. On further examination there is a whiff of the diabolical in this.
St. John’s Gospel begins with the words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” No wonder the enemy wants to cheapen the word—he is trying to undermine the Word made flesh by drowning the Word in a trash heap of words.
Philippians 2:9-11 God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In her Fatima apparitions, Our Lady told the little visionaries: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” This was to follow a great chastisement in the world, including wars, sufferings, martyrdom. Our Lady also asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not the requested consecration of Russia was done to Our Lady’s satisfaction. I personally try not to get drawn into such debates, feeling the issue is best left with the Holy Father and the Bishops. For my part, I have to examine whether or not I have done my part in fulfilling Our Lady’s Fatima requests.
Matthew 5:43-45 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…
I’m sure we have all heard the cliché line that a counsellor or therapist might use: “How did that make you feel?” The popular theory is that if we can identify our feelings, we can communicate more effectively and our relationships will improve. To paraphrase a 60s pop song, society is hooked on feelings.
Colossians 1: 12-20 Brothers and sisters: Give thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
I have found throughout my life that the Holy Spirit teaches in themes. I love that He does that. We come across something that speaks to us, and then some unrelated source confirms it and the lesson continues through a series of seemingly unrelated experiences. When that happens, I have learned that it is time to pay attention.
Luke 21:9-19 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
The Mass readings in November are somber in tone—dire even. The fact that the month preceding Advent offers Mass readings that are meant to shake us up, is an annual reminder that followers of Christ should guard against getting too comfortable; the Lord, through the Church, is warning us against complacency. We are not meant for this world and so the world will necessarily hate us. I heard a bishop say once that if you’re fitting in quite well with the world, you’re doing it wrong! Those of us striving to live “in the world, but not of it” would do well to check ourselves often. The pull of the world is subtle; before we know it, we can be pulled under! We must remain vigilant!
However, if we only look at the warnings in the November readings we are missing something crucial. Read again the last half of the above Scripture passage. The Lord is promising to be with us in all our trials in a powerful way. He promises wisdom to confound our persecutors; he promises the greatest reward of all for what we suffer in his name—eternal life with him.
…Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-4)
As each day passes I hear of more and more people of faith being asked to carry heavy crosses. I believe this cross-ifying will intensify as the Year of Mercy draws to a close. What is the connection?
Brothers and sisters: May I never boast of anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
Talk shows, social media, the “like” button, opinion polls—there’s no denying we are living in cult of opinion. Everybody these days has an opinion, whether they have all the information or not. Sometimes opinions are delivered violently—tires get slashed, politicians get things thrown at them, peaceful protests turn ugly. It seems to me it’s time to step back and discern how a Christian is called to manage their opinions. Continue reading
But Jesus said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish…” […] And taking the five loaves and the two fish (Jesus) looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. (Luke 9:13, 16-17)
The donor in the scripture passage above could have had no idea of the magnitude of the miracle that would take place as a result of giving all he had to Jesus. All of us, but especially us penitents are are called to the same generosity of spirit exhibited by the boy in the scripture passage. However, as Franciscans living “in the world” there are constant temptations to keep something for ourselves rather than give it all to God. One need only read the story of Annanias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 to see where that attitude will get us. They sold their land to give the money to their community but secretly kept back a portion. When Peter confronted them about it (he had been enlightened by the Holy Spirit about their deed) they each in turn fell down dead! That story should certainly give us pause!
“So, then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:12-13)
This summer will mark nine years since I made my profession to live the Rule of The Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis for life. Thanks be to God! I am constantly amazed that God would call this particular sinner to the way of penance.
Long ago I came to the realization that God has not called me to the way of penance because I am strong, but because I am weak. I have spent most of my life in love with food and even now the fasting and abstinence of the Rule is the aspect with which I struggle the most. However, the paradox is that I prefer the discipline of Lent to the Octaves and Solemnities where the Rule is relaxed. I take this to be a confirmation of the call, for the Lord knows my weakness. He knows I need discipline to be imposed upon me as I have no discipline on my own when it comes to food. The discipline gives me freedom from the slavery of my disordered passions. Continue reading