"It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption." — Pope St. John Paul II
MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"Be faithful to the time spent in prayer and make sure that at least half of your prayer is spent in silence. This will bring you closer to Jesus. If you deepen your prayer life you will grow in holiness and obtain many graces for the souls entrusted to your care. Deepen your love for one another by praying for each other and by sharing thoughts and graces you have received in prayer and reading." — Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, p. 56
According to the legend, martyrs under Diocletian; feast, 15 June. The earliest testimony for their veneration is offered by the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum" (ed. De Rossi-Duchesne, 78: "In Sicilia, Viti, Modesti et Crescentiae"). The fact that the note is in the three most important manuscripts proves that it was also in the common exemplar of these, which appeared in the fifth century. The same Martyrologium has under the same day another Vitus at the head of a list of nine martyrs, with the statement of the place, "In Lucania", that is, in the Roman province of that name in Southern Italy between the Tuscan Sea and the Gulf of Taranto. It is easily possible that the same martyr Vitus in both cases, because only the name of a territory is given, not of a city, as the place where the martyr was venerated. This testimony to the public veneration of the three saints in the fifth century proves positively that they are historical martyrs. There are, nevertheless, no historical accounts of them, nor of the time or the details of their martyrdom. During the sixth and seventh centuries a purely legendary narrative of their martyrdom appeared which was based upon other legends, especially on the legend of Poitus, and ornamented with accounts of fantastic miracles. It still exists in various versions, but has no historical value.
According to this legend Vitus was a boy seven years of age (other versions make him twelve years old), the son of a pagan senator of Lucania. During the era of the Emperors Diocletian and Maximilian, his father sought in every way, including various forms of torture, to make him apostatize. But he remained steadfast, and God aided him in a wonderful manner. He fled with his tutor Modestus in a boat to Lucania. From Lucania he was taken to Rome to drive out a demon which had taken possession of a son of the Emperor Diocletian. This he did, and yet, because he remained steadfast in the Christian Faith, he was tortured together with his tutor Modestus and his nurse Crescentia. By a miracle an angel brought back the martyrs to Lucania, where they died from the tortures they had endured. Three days later Vitus appeared to a distinguished matron named Florentia, who then found the bodies and buried them in the spot where they were. It is evident that the author of the legend has connected in his invention three saints who apparently suffered death in Lucania, and were first venerated there. The veneration of the martyrs spread rapidly in Southern Italy and Sicily, as is shown by the note in the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum". Pope Gregory the Great mentions a monastery dedicated to Vitus in Sicily ("Epist.", I, xlviii, P.L., LXXXVII, 511). The veneration of Vitus, the chief saint of the group, also appeared very early at Rome. Pope Gelasius (492-496) mentions a shrine dedicated to him (Jaffé, "Reg. Rom. Pont.", 2nd ed., I, 6 79), and at Rome in the seventh century the chapel of a deaconry was dedicated to him ("Liber Pont.", ed. Duchesne, I, 470 sq.). In the eighth century it is said that relics of St. Vitus were brought to the monastery of St-Denis by Abbot Fulrad. They were later presented to Abbot Warin of Corvey in Germany, who solemnly transferred them to this abbey in 836. From Corvey the veneration of St. Vitus spread throughout Westphalia and in the districts of eastern and northern Germany. St. Vitus is appealed to, above all, against epilepsy, which is called St. Vitus's Dance, and he is one of the Fourteen Martyrs who give aid in times of trouble. He is represented near a kettle of boiling oil, because according to the legend he was thrown into such a kettle, but escaped miraculously. The feast of the three saints was adopted in the historical Martyrologies of the early Middle Ages and is also recorded in the present Roman Martyrology on 15 June.
Lord, God, my Creator, Be close to me now. My soul yearns for your presence.
Many countries are at this moment suffering the agonies of war. I bow my head in thanksgiving for my freedom. I pray for all prisoners and captives.
My soul longs for your presence, Lord. When I turn my thoughts to you, I find peace and contentment.
The Word of God
Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 2 Kgs 2:1, 6-14
When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, "Please stay here; the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan." "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you," Elisha replied. And so the two went on together. Fifty of the guild prophets followed and when the two stopped at the Jordan, they stood facing them at a distance. Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water, which divided, and both crossed over on dry ground.
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha answered, "May I receive a double portion of your spirit." "You have asked something that is not easy," Elijah replied. "Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not." As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. When Elisha saw it happen he cried out, "My father! my father! Israel's chariots and drivers!" But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.
Then he picked up Elijah's mantle that had fallen from him, and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan. Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah, Elisha struck the water in his turn and said, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 31:20, 21, 24 R. (25) Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord. How great is the goodness, O LORD, which you have in store for those who fear you, And which, toward those who take refuge in you, you show in the sight of the children of men.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord. You hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plottings of men; You screen them within your abode from the strife of tongues.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord. Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones! The LORD keeps those who are constant, but more than requites those who act proudly.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Alleluia Jn 14:23 R. Alleluia, alleluia. Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Jesus said to his disciples: "Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
"When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Praying, almsgiving and fasting were the three actions expected of the pious Jew of Jesus' time. As he had already said, Jesus did not come to destroy the law, but to bring it to perfection, to raise it to a higher level. So he insists on performing these good actions not to be seen and praised by others, but 'in secret', for the Father who sees the heart will reward us.
▪ Our consumerist culture lays great store on what is seen outwardly, and often we do catch ourselves being influenced by the widely publicised actions of celebrities, even though we know that most of this is artificial hype. So Jesus' words remain a real challenge to me, and I let them shine a light on my actions and choices. I ask for the purity of heart of the beatitudes, and I ask pardon for the frivolities in my life choices.
What is stirring in me as I pray? Am I consoled, troubled, left cold? I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting at my side and share my feelings with him.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah? (2 Kings 2:14)
Watch a major football game, and you'll notice that the fans make more noise when the opposing team is in possession of the ball than when their team has it. They want to distract the players so that they will misstep and lose the ball. In a similar way, we are often surrounded by a myriad of voices that are trying to distract us from our goal. And in the midst of all the chaos, our heavenly Father is there, inviting us to a quiet place where we can hear his voice.
We see a similar story unfold in today's first reading. Elijah was headed to the Jordan, and his protégé, Elisha, refused to leave his side. Scripture tells us that fifty other prophets followed them on the way, but when they reached the river, only Elijah and Elisha remained. It was there, in that place of quiet, that Elisha found the boldness to ask Elijah for a double portion of his prophetic spirit. It was there also that God sent a flaming chariot for Elijah. And it was there that Elisha found the power to divide the water.
Jesus is well aware of the voices that surround us. That's why he tells us to go to our "inner room" when we pray (Matthew 6:6). He wants us to leave all the other voices behind so that we can focus on him. He also wants us to be free from the desire to impress other people, so that he can get on with the work of impressing us and teaching us how to love and serve him above all else.
Do you have a quiet place set aside for prayer? A quiet time? Try your best to get away from distracting voices. Put aside the concerns about what other people might think of you. Just focus on the Lord. Expect wondrous things to happen, just as they happened for Elisha. Boldly ask God to fill you with his presence and to speak to your heart. Here is where you'll find wisdom for your life. Here is where you'll find healing for your heart. And here is where you'll find the joy and peace that only God can give.
"Here I am, Lord. For just these few minutes, help me silence all the other voices around me. Jesus, I want to hear your voice!"
Elijah goes up in a chariot of fire, horses and all, and Elisha "...picked up Elijah's mantle that had fallen from him, and went back...". Picking up the mantle is carrying on, with the torch of faith. With the same faith, Elisha crosses the river, making it part into two, and continuing with the prophets of God...which still carry the mantle today, along with the Pope and the Holy Priests. And it is only enough to touch the tassel, to touch the mantle, and that faith is enough.
"Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord." Be comforted! I read words like "Trust in the Lord" and "Be comforted", and at times, I find it hard, to be comforted, and to trust. Yet, those are the very moments of truth. Will your faith shine, or your light dim? And we pray on, "Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!" Love then, it is a choice, not a feeling. And do not forget "The LORD keeps those who are constant, but more than requites those who act proudly." A coworker saw my cap I was wearing and I mentioned how I wasn't fond of the business/owner because of the ill works he does in dealings with people, but I sure like his cap! The co-worker said something like "you're pride" and I wondered if it was pride rearing its ugliness in my life. Pride that won't let you like someone. Pride that not liking someone leads to not being one with the Lord. I didn't like his sinfulness,(stealing work, and adultering) but that doesn't mean I shouldn't like the guy at all! In fact, those are the people I should seek more, especially, in prayer, in fasting, and giving charity to...wait... In comes the Lord of our lives and speaks of praying, giving in charity of alms, and fasting. How many of us fast frequently? How many of us spend 30 minutes just praying and listening to God, daily? How many of us are giving of our own selves, our money, and time, and talents? How many of us are doing as the Lord says? I'm sure many pray behind closed doors and not on street corners, lest we be called "hypocrites". I'm sure many of us help each other out here and there. I'm sure many of us ...don't fast. Fasting is what gets rid of evils in lives. Praying in the recess of your heart is not a frequent type of prayer. The Holy Rosary is meant to take you there. It is a meditating prayer, and then after, we should have a contemplative prayer, much of what we aim to do in lectio divina, delving into the Spirit of the Word, and then the Word becomes flesh. I have a hard time being an adult. Why? Because, I miss the joy of being a child. A child knows how to give and be joyful in giving. Some are stingy, but it goes away in a matter of seconds. Then repentance and humility are shown. As an adult, being stingy becomes a way of life. I won't fast for my family or friends, much less strangers. I won't give because I'm too tied up in my own bills and problems. I won't pray because I just can't, and I just don't got time. Whoa! We got serious issues...spiritual issues. Let's say, prayer and faith are gifts. If you pick up the phone, your loved one will be on the other side, listening. And the other side is literally "the other side", in Heaven.
Faith then has to pick up. Your faith has to pick up. Your faith must be like that of Elisha, who dared to ask for more than even the great Elijah thought possible. Yesterday, I looked for a random word of God in my app "Going4thday" which pulls up Sander's site Random Bible verse, and it said to take refuge in the Lord, to trust in the Lord. That's not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear clear cut answers to my questions and problems, for the bible to spell it out and predict the future for me. But that's why people turn to witchery, cards, and fortunetellers, astrology, and horoscopes. They want answers, and they believe those answers that are not of God. No, God asked me for one thing only...to trust in Him, to have faith, to take refuge in Him. He is asking me to get into the palm of His hand. And looking up, I saw a cloud like a hand holding something up. Let that something be you, the child of God in His hands, have faith. Have the faith of Elijah and Elisha and more.
God's words today are not mere advice or suggestions, they are things He wants us to actually do...love one another, with humility, obedience, and constancy. This will lend a greater Ear to Him, because we are lending ourselves to Him who created us. The Father, the true and loving God.