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 26:39 My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want, but what you want.
In some Christian circles, any form of suffering, especially if it follows a good deed, is seen as an “attack”. But, I think we do God a disservice if we are too quick to attribute these things to the evil one. I have often thought of what Sirach says about suffering:
“My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes. Cling to him and do not leave him, so that you may be honoured at the end of your days. Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and the chosen in the furnace of humiliation.” [Sirach 2:1-5]
Read this again: “If you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.” How many of us know the truth of this first-hand! St. Theresa of Avila, once complained to the Lord about a trial she was undergoing, to which Jesus replied, “Teresa, that’s how I treat all my friends.” Teresa responded, “No wonder you have so few of them.”
Acts 1:6-8 So when they had come together, (the disciples) asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
It is important to read the signs of the times, to watch and pray. Something is definitely afoot in our day. Anyone who follows the Church-approved apparitions of Our Lady beginning with those to Catherine Labouré in 1830 through to the present day, will comprehend that Our Lady is the new John the Baptist calling us all to repentance. She is warning us of the consequences of our sins and exhorting us to do penance for the salvation of souls. And we must not forget what Jesus told St. Faustina: we are living in the days of mercy that precede the Day of Judgment.
Matthew 24:42 Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Most people in the secular world—and many believers as well—are afraid of death. Certainly a good deal of money is spent in first world countries in an attempt to live longer and put off the inevitable. In the past, some people even experimented with cryogenics so that they could be frozen in the instant after (or even before) death and thawed out once a cure was discovered for whatever had killed them. There is always a buck to be made off people’s desire to avoid death.
I recently watched a series of short videos by Jeff Cavins on the Rabbi-Disciple Relationship*. In the last video of the series, Cavins quotes Archbishop Fulton Sheen as saying that the reason we’re so afraid of dying is that “we have not practiced for it.” It is not difficult to picture Archbishop Sheen saying that, with his characteristic twinkle. But what did he mean?
“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
Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man with give you. (Mark 5:28)
I must confess feeling sometimes that I am not living up to my calling as a penitent. I explained to a friend once that it is as if I am following the letter of the rule but not the spirit. My greatest temptation is in the area of food—and the evil one knows it. That, I suppose, is why the Scripture passage above caught my eye. I have been a professed member of the BSP since 2007. I suppose the evil one must wait for days when professed members become complacent or let their guard down. Then he hits you with a temptation just made to measure. Sigh. What weak creatures we are!
So (the shepherds) went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:16)
So little is said about Mary in Scripture. She remained largely hidden in Scripture. In our day, the expectation of many is that the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart is near and will usher in the Kingdom of the Divine Will, the Sabbath rest, the Era of Peace. Oh Mother! How we long for peace! May God will it!
Providentially, a few Marian graces have lined up for me recently. December 12, feast of Our Lady of Tepeyac (Guadalupe) will mark the 10th anniversary of my total consecration to Mary. For the last nine years I have used St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration preparation to renew my consecration annually. This year, as I missed my regular start date, I decided to use the simpler format of “33 Days to Morning Glory”. This book had been recommended to me numerous times over the years, but I always went back to de Montfort. This year, am I ever glad I missed my start date! “33 Days” is a jewel that cites the superb teachings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Mother Teresa, and St. John Paul II to lead us to Jesus through the bosom of our Mother.
“Thus says the Lord: Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
What a sublime passage from Isaiah about the fasting that God desires! Certainly its message is echoed in much of what Pope Francis has taught since becoming Pope. Those of us who are living a penitential lifestyle have much to ponder here. We fast regularly. Does this passage negate the fasts we observe as part of our Rule? Not at all, but it does warn us that without charity, our fasting cannot please God. The fact that our Rule also requires that we give to the poor, testifies to the Scriptural solidity of our Rule. Thanks be to God for the great gift he has given us through St. Francis.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” (Mark 1:31-38)
“For this purpose I have come…” And for what purpose have we come? For what purpose are we called to a life of penance? Is it penance for the sake of penance or is it something more?
Each of us is called to the penitential lifestyle for a unique reason. Jesus spent time in prayer, penitentially in the middle of the night, in order to be strengthened for mission. That he lived in poverty and simplicity was not accidental, but essential. He knew that if he did not die to self every day, he would be unable to die at the appointed time. If our Lord practiced these mortifications, and so many more that we do not know about, how much more does the mission of sinners require that we live a life of penance.