Everybody can read the words in the Bible, but only some discover there the Word of God and the meaning of that Word. And only the Spirit enables us to discover that in the Scriptures, God is speaking to us, and to discover what it is that God is saying to us in Scripture. — from The Gospels According to Saint Francis
Agnes had no children of her own but was certainly life-giving for all who knew her.
Agnes was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. At the age of three, she was betrothed to the Duke of Silesia, who died three years later. As she grew up, she decided she wanted to enter the religious life.
After declining marriages to King Henry VII of Germany and Henry III of England, Agnes was faced with a proposal from Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. She appealed to Pope Gregory IX for help. The pope was persuasive; Frederick magnanimously said that he could not be offended if Agnes preferred the King of Heaven to him.
After Agnes built a hospital for the poor and a residence for the friars, she financed the construction of a Poor Clare monastery in Prague. In 1236, she and seven other noblewomen entered this monastery. St. Clare sent five sisters from San Damiano to join them, and wrote Agnes four letters advising her on the beauty of her vocation and her duties as abbess.
Agnes became known for prayer, obedience and mortification. Papal pressure forced her to accept her election as abbess; nevertheless, the title she preferred was "senior sister." Her position did not prevent her from cooking for the other sisters and mending the clothes of lepers. The sisters found her kind but very strict regarding the observance of poverty; she declined her royal brother's offer to set up an endowment for the monastery.
Devotion to Agnes arose soon after her death on March 6, 1282. She was canonized in 1989.
Agnes spent at least 45 years in a Poor Clare monastery. Such a life requires a great deal of patience and charity. The temptation to selfishness certainly didn't vanish when Agnes walked into the monastery. It is perhaps easy for us to think that cloistered nuns "have it made" regarding holiness. Their route is the same as ours: gradual exchange of our standards (inclination to selfishness) for God's standard of generosity.
"Have nothing to do with anyone who would stand in your way and would seek to turn you aside from fulfilling the vows which you have made to the Most High (Psalm 49:14) and from living in that perfection to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you" (Clare to Agnes of Bohemia, Letter II in Murray Bodo, O.F.M., Clare: A Light in the Garden, p. 118).
I pause for a moment and think of the love and the grace that God showers on me: I am created in the image and likeness of God; I am God's dwelling-place.
By God's grace I was born to live in freedom. Free to enjoy the pleasures He created for me. Dear Lord, grant that I may live as You intended, with complete confidence in Your Loving care.
There is a time and place for everything, as the saying goes. Lord, grant that I may always desire to spend time in your presence. To hear your call.
Where do I sense hope, encouragement, and growth areas in my life? By looking back over the last few months, I may be able to see which activities and occasions have produced rich fruit. If I do notice such areas, I will determine to give those areas both time and space in the future.
The Word of God
Reading 1 Dt 4:1, 5-9
Moses spoke to the people and said: "Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the LORD, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, 'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.' For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?
"However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children's children."
Responsorial Psalm PS 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
R. (12a) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion. For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He sends forth his command to the earth; swiftly runs his word! He spreads snow like wool; frost he strews like ashes.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob, his statutes and his ordinances to Israel. He has not done thus for any other nation; his ordinances he has not made known to them.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Verse Before the Gospel See Jn 6:63c, 68c
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.
Gospel Mt 5:17-19
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ What role do the law and the prophets play in the new covenant instituted by Jesus? This issue was critical for Jewish converts in the early church, as Matthew realised. It is still relevant for us today. Jesus speaks of "fulfilling" rather than "abolishing" the law and the prophets. How do you understand the word "fulfil" in this context?
▪ This reading may spark off other questions also such as: How well do I know the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament)? Do I notice how frequently they are quoted or are echoed in the New Testament? Where do I stand in discussions about the "letter" and the "spirit" of Scripture, etc.?
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
Hear the statutes and decrees . . . that you may live. (Deuteronomy 4:1)
In ancient times, God's Law set the Israelites apart. In his graciousness, he had given his chosen people a glimpse into his mind and heart. He showed them how to live together in the harmony and justice that reflected his glory. The Law made them unique among the ancient peoples—their God was so close that he shared his very thoughts and desires with them!
Today, as we consider God's Law, we can see what a gift it is. Not only does God tell us to love him and love our neighbor, but he also tells us how to do it. What's more, he gave us Jesus, who came to fulfill the Law! Jesus showed that it really is possible to live a life pleasing to God, a life that combines faithfulness to the commandments with a radical openness to the Holy Spirit.
Thank God for the Spirit—and for his gifts of grace and mercy! Without these, we would never be able to live the way God asks us to. And while we're at it, let's thank God for Jesus, who shows us that fulfilling the Law is not just a matter of keeping the rules. It's also about learning how to open ourselves to the Spirit so that we can grow closer to the Lord and receive his grace. It's giving the Spirit a chance to change our hearts and minds, even as we try to change our actions.
At its best, fulfilling the Law is all about being changed on the inside. We look to the Spirit to help us put off our own preferences and tendencies in order to begin to think and love as God does. What a relief to know that when we feel weak and unable to obey, the Holy Spirit is with us to help us! And what a relief to know that when we fall, our Father is right there to pick us up and help us start afresh!
So don't let the thought of fulfilling God's laws overwhelm you. Just take it one step at a time. And make sure that you are taking each step with the Holy Spirit!
"Thank you, Father, for your laws. Thank you for revealing your thoughts and desires through your commandments. And thank you for giving me your grace to transform me and make me more faithful."
Moses says today "take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children's children." The most spectacular things I have seen, are of God. The workings in people's lives, I have seen and can testify. The people of Moses where called to be the people of God after long having abandoned our Lord and being slaves for hundreds of years, slaves of their own likings. Yesterday in RCIA, we discussed lent, and how its focus is for us to become detached from worldly things, all those things we love and cling to. For some, I said, they cling to people, work, money, material things, but what caught some off guard last night was when it said that some cling to bad habits, gossiping, frustrations, anxiety, worries, and so forth. I told them that for Lent, as I've mentioned to you, I am giving up my worries, my frustrations because I get desperate when people won't listen to me about the Lord. And you know what? I feel at peace. I feel more in grace. More calm. It's what happens when you take His burden, His yoke, take to His Way. Moses says to live and never forget...the Lord. So forget yourself, and never the Lord. This world, it's not about me. This world is passing. This world is deceiving. This world is not where we will be forever. My grandma, Lord rest her soul, passed Monday, to the next life. She never forgot the Lord. And what does forgetting and remembering mean? It means living. We re-live the moment Christ gave His body in the Holy mass, it is a re-presentation, and all of us are to live that life, that giving, especially of what we most love...to Him.
"Praise the Lord, Jerusalem." This is the Lord asking in this small phrase, this small writing, this small letter. Jerusalem stands for the world. Just look at it today, it represents the billions across the world, of religion, of faith, of who we are. Praise the Lord. What does praise mean? The Catechism brings the explanation with "Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God". It encompasses our relationship with Him. Should praise be from lips? Yes. Lips only? Nope. Should praise be with the mind? Yes. Mind only? Nope. Should praise be with the heart? Yes. The heart only? Nope. It should be with every ounce of your being, body, mind, and soul. The catechism continues "The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer: it is "the pure offering" of the whole Body of Christ to the glory of God's name and, according to the traditions of East and West, it is the "sacrifice of praise." Let not this letter pass you by, for it is Christ.
In comes our Lord, into our lives, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." Upon reflection, the Lord spoke to my heart "I have not come to change the world, I have come to change you". Will I allow this change from dark to light? Listen to what else He says "whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven." Back to square one, in the first Holy Scripture, teach your children and live it out, never forget! Are you a teacher? They called our Lord Jesus "teacher", and "master", and rabbi. We are called to be His followers, as teachers, and like it or not, you are a teacher of the faith, by the life you live. People are very smart. Much of what is learned is not just by what is said, but by your praise. Your praise then, it is the life you live. And rightly learn this, how you praise now will say how you will praise later. Let's focus on our Lord "whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven." and what do you think the greatest word in that line is? Here, it is OBEY. Whoever obeys. In the world you will have fools for Christ. Fools like me. Sinners yes, but trying. If you can see the world with the eyes of Christ, you will see the world with hope, like a true mother. Hope for Christ. You can suffer one of two ways: For Christ, or for yourself. This is life. This is teaching. This is preaching. This is praise. Today, the small Gospel, is the small letter God will base love on. Loving God above all and one another. Trust me, and if you can't, trust God. Or do you trust yourself more? I am then, simply an instrument of God's word. Not just as I write or talk, but singing a praise in the daily life in preparation for the next. Obey, it leads you to the Way. The way of true praise, being one with Him, in Him and through Him, His body and yours, His soul and yours....