Merely doing the just thing is not really the goal. Merely not robbing the poor of what is rightfully theirs is not heroic sanctity. What is called for is not mere fairness but love that goes above and beyond. — from The Work of Mercy
Giles, one of the first followers of St. Francis, was a simple and prayerful man.
Giles the farmer distributed his goods to the poor and became one of Francis' first disciples on April 23, 1208. He introduced Giles to the others saying, "Here is a good brother God has sent us! Let us sit down to table and celebrate his coming."
Early in his life as a Franciscan, Giles went on pilgrimages to Rome, to the Holy Land and to the famous shrine of St. James at Compostela, Spain. His 1219 preaching mission to the Muslims of Tunis was cut short when Christians there, fearing he would cause trouble for them, put him on the boat back to Italy. Giles then worked several years as a day-laborer. In 1234 he moved to Monte Ripido near Perugia to pursue a contemplative life. Giles lived there until his death.
Giles always worked for his daily bread even if he was a guest someplace. Once when he was staying with a cardinal, the morning brought a hard rain. The cardinal happily thought that Giles would miss a day's work and have to accept his charity. The ingenious friar, however, went to the kitchen of the palace and spent the day helping the cook clean it and prepare the evening meal!
When St. Bonaventure came to Perugia, Giles asked him if an ignorant person could love God as much as a scholar. Bonaventure, one of the leading theologians from the University of Paris and at the time minister general of the friars, responded, "A little old woman can love God even more than a master of theology." Giles immediately ran out, met an old woman and told her, "O poor little old woman, though you are simple and uneducated, just love the Lord God and you can be greater than Brother Bonaventure."
Pope Gregory IX, the former Cardinal Hugolino and a great admirer of St. Francis, once brought Giles to Viterbo in order to experience his holiness firsthand. They began speaking of heaven, and Giles twice went into ecstasy for long periods of time. The pope was convinced. Another time the pope asked Giles for some advice about fulfilling his duties as pope. Giles told him that he should have two eyes in his soul: one to contemplate heavenly things and the other to direct earthly things. As the pope and Bonaventure agreed, Giles was a master of the spiritual life. The Golden Sayings of Brother Giles records some of his most memorable quotes.
One of the last of Francis' early followers to die, Giles denounced any relaxation of discipline in the Rule of St. Francis. He was particularly worried that some of the young friars being educated at the University of Paris would develop the intellectual pride so foreign to St. Francis. Giles was beatified in 1777.
We are created for a purpose. Giles knew that our goal is life with God and happily prepared himself for it.
"The birds of the air and the beasts of the earth and the fishes of the sea are satisfied when they have enough food for themselves. But since man is not satisfied with the things of this world and always longs for others, it is clear that he was not made primarily for them but for others. For the body was made for the sake of the soul, and this world for the sake of the other world" (Golden Sayings).
Lord, you are always there waiting for me. May I never be too busy to find time to spend in your presence.
God is not foreign to my freedom. Instead the Spirit breathes life into my most intimate desires, gently nudging me towards all that is good. I ask for the grace to let myself be enfolded by the Spirit.
How do I find myself today? Where am I with God? With others? Do I have something to be grateful for? Then I give thanks. Is there something I am sorry for? Then I ask forgiveness.
The Word of God
Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Reading 1 Is 1:10, 16-20
Hear the word of the LORD, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah!
Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow.
Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!
Responsorial Psalm PS 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23
R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, for your burnt offerings are before me always. I take from your house no bullock, no goats out of your fold."
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, Though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?"
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it? Or do you think that I am like yourself? I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes. He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me; and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God."
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
Verse Before the Gospel Ez 18:31
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
Gospel Mt 23:1-12
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.' As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Lord, you pick out the manifestations of vanity and self-importance. 'You are all students', you say. In the mysterious way that scripture works, I am growing daily in knowledge of God's ways. You, Lord, are my teacher.
▪ The Christian identity is servant, disciple, humble follower. Greatness is seen in love, in being willing to serve the needs of others, as Jesus did. These words can be remembered at the last supper when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. Many cultures and groups of people honour success, wealth, and the pretence of self-importance. Remember in prayer a moment when you felt humbled as you served somebody, or did something really relevant for them. Offer this memory to God in thanks.
Dear Lord, stay by my side always. Gain for me a trusting heart. Thank you for loving me.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Optional Memorial)
You have but one master, the Christ. (Matthew 23:10)
A successful athlete hails the stadium with outstretched hands, and the crowd erupts in loud cheers. Politicians, celebrities, and well-known religious leaders receive similar star treatment. People hang on their words and pay attention to everything about them, even their style of clothing. It was similar in Jesus' day. In today's Gospel passage, Jesus laments how religious leaders enjoy the privileges of their office. "They love places of honor at banquets . . . greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi'" (Matthew 23:6).
Clearly, religious authority came with perks. Leadership meant status. But Jesus turns this model of leadership upside down. Immediately after his description of those Pharisees who enjoyed their high-and-mighty status, he sets up a new paradigm: "The greatest among you must be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).
The best part of this teaching is that Jesus himself lived it out day after day. He, our Master and Lord, happily welcomed little children. He came into contact with contagious lepers and delivered his healing touch. He showed special tenderness to a prostitute who came uncomfortably close to him. He even got down on his knees to wash his disciples' feet. Clearly, Jesus is not a taskmaster; he is a true shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.
As one of Jesus' followers, you, too, are called to accept him as Lord and Master. What a relief to know that your Master is gracious and forgiving, that he has come not to be served but to serve! So claiming Jesus as your Lord means inviting him to take care of you. The image of Jesus washing your feet may make you feel uncomfortable, but remember what he told Peter: "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me" (John 13:8). That's how deeply he wants to help us.
Will you let Jesus minister to you today? He wants to lighten your burdens and remove your sins. He wants you to encounter him personally, no matter your status or what you've been through. Let him touch your heart so that you will be freed up to follow him with joy and gratitude.
"Jesus, I accept you as my Lord. Teach me to have a heart of service just like yours."
"The whole Lent is a great catechesis (teaching) about conversion, and Isaiah chapter 1 gives us a series of guidelines of what it means: "cease doing evil; learn to do good." And this, many times implies that our thoughts, our habits, our friendships and places we frequent have to change. This is why, to learn to do good, is to start to select what parts of my life have to change. Our conversion process can not tolerate any distance between the saying and the doing, and this requires our coherence and a radical change. A Doctor Maxwell Maltz said a man was severely burned attempting to rescue his parents in a fire. He was not successful and they died. Depressed and disfigured, he isolated himself and didn't want anyone o see him, not even his wife. Desperately, she went to Maltz, a prominent plastic surgeon, to seek help. Even though he said he could probably restore the face of her husband, he stubbornly rejected the help. When the woman came back to see Maltz, he was greatly surprised, but this time the question she made was: "Can you deform my face so that I can be like my husband and share his pain?" How much she loved him! Maltz was moved so much that he insisted the husband to accept the help, and fortunately, the story had a happy ending, his look changed and he let himself be transformed".
Today's First Holy Scripture is asking for our departure. Do you have your ticket? You know, as I meditated before writing and prayed, a thought hit me, 'if you travel into space far enough, if you try to return, the world would have ended.' What does this mean? It means to strive for eternity with Him. It means depart from our ways that ties us down. It means to do as He says and did. If you notice, Jesus didn't write anything. He Did so many things that there wouldn't be enough books in the world to write all He did. So many of us say much, and don't do much. Too many quarterbacks on the team when it should only be Jesus. Too many coaches on the team, when it should just be Jesus. Too many advisers when it should be just Jesus. Too many thinkers, and not enough doers. Too many philosophers, when it should only be Jesus. Too many bible scholars and not enough looking for the Truth. Too many laws, so many that the main law is forgotten. This was the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees, the writers of the laws. And the same is happening today.
"To the upright I will show the saving power of God." This is a dumbfounding, that is profound Psalm. Because it has weighed many thoughts on me for a long time. Too much thinking huh? What I mean is the whole of salvation. God will show His saving power to the upright, and it is absolute truth. He shows the way to salvation and it is all about holiness. To the upright, those that depart to Him...He shows the way, the saving power of God. ""Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, Though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?" People learn bible verses, fling them left and right, and "share" them, but few, very few take them to heart. Because taking them to heart means a conversion. A profound change of heart, mind, and soul. This is the purpose of lent. A saving time. Saving for Him. Saving some money for the poor. Have you done it yet? Saving some time to be with Him more, have you done it? Saving some food for Him (fast), have you done it? What about saving some room for when He wants to come in? And what if He comes and you had no room with so much going on in your little world? Saving oil, saving time, saving means setting aside, and the old translation of Hebrew "Kadosh" the word for Holy means setting aside. This means setting ourselves aside, and for what? To be with Him, or better said, allowing Him to be with us! In comes our Lord our God into our lives in the Holy Gospel:
".. do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice." Can I get an Amen!? Amen to what? OBEDIENCE! LOL. Oh, I don't hear anyone. There is a small gold particle in obedience, (better than nothing), but there is a greater nugget awaiting that accumulates. Little sins accumulate into big ones. But, little goods can roll up to bigger ones! Do more good, until you can do no bad, harmful bad things. Sin harms. Your little harmful thoughts, guess what? They are harming the greater good. Cast them off into the sea, and if you are Catholic the casting is a step away into Holy Confession, a Sacrament, a sealed deal with the Lord. You surrender to Him, and the gates of Heaven are opened a little more. What will throw them wide open? A sincere and contrite heart. Be sincere. Be human. Jesus became human to show us how to be a real human. Pro-life, He Defeated Death! Pro-servant, He washes the feet of His followers! Pro-giving, He gave everything He had, even His own mother to us on the cross! LOL, in church, usually the first seats to fill up are the last in the back, and the last ones coming in are forced to sit in the front, thus the last shall be first! But many refuse to be brought closer to the Lord and so they stand in the back, far away. In Holy Mass, He literally is made manifest in the Holy Eucharist. How come? How come are we like that? This past Sunday, I asked the priest "can they bring us Communion to the choir so we don't have to walk in front of all and take up time?" The answer was like "the ministers go to the ones who can't walk and then they come help me". OOPS! Was it my pride asking if Jesus could come to me, instead of me to Him. I've asked the co-workers to move our weekly class from our office to the church hall. None have gone. This is crazy, because one of the jokes we laugh at is at how we used to go to a co-worker's house and when moved to the shop, he stopped going. Well, I guess he actually never "went" to class. And this is a lesson for all of us. Just because we read these scriptures brought to you by this email, or blog, or audio, it doesn't mean that much...unless! Unless our hearts are moved and motivated, to what? Holiness. As I was driving the kids to school, after listening to scriptures and reflections, I pondered, "is our life pointless? I mean, are we really worth nothing? What did God create us for? If He has no need for us, then why are we here?" Truth is though, we live in a backwards world. It's not about ME!!! When will that get through my thick skull!? Just because God doesn't need me, it sure don't mean that I don't need HIM!!! My life depends on Him. And He looks out for those looking out for Him (seeking) being torn apart to be set apart.
This is the life conversion God seeks for our own good... seek the good, seek God. Get out of your comfort zone. Get out of your little box. Zoom out of your little world. Get out of this He must serve me only business. He washes the feet of those following Him. And guess what else He washes? Every little sin! But we got to go for it!