"Let us never forget that if we wish to die like the saints we must live like them." — St. Théodore Guérin
MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"He that sacrifices to God his property by alms-deeds, his honor by bearing insults, or his body by mortifications, by fasts and penitential rigours, offers to Him a part of himself and of what belongs to him; but he that sacrifices to God his will, by obedience, gives to Him all that he has, and can say: Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you." — St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 191
AN EXCERPT FROM The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguiori
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St. Anthony Zaccaria
At the same time that Martin Luther was attacking abuses in the Church, a reformation within the Church was already being attempted. Among the early movers of the Counter-Reformation was Anthony Zaccaria. His mother became a widow at 18 and devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son. He received a medical doctorate at 22 and, while working among the poor of his native Cremona in Italy, was attracted to the religious apostolate. He renounced his rights to any future inheritance, worked as a catechist and was ordained a priest at the age of 26. Called to Milan in a few years, he laid the foundations of three religious congregations, one for men and one for women, plus an association of married couples. Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy, religious and lay people.
Greatly inspired by St. Paul (his congregation is named the Barnabites, after the companion of that saint), Anthony preached with great vigor in church and street, conducted popular missions and was not ashamed of doing public penance.
He encouraged such innovations as the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate, frequent Communion, the Forty Hours devotion and the ringing of church bells at 3:00 p.m. on Fridays.
His holiness moved many to reform their lives but, as with all saints, it also moved many to oppose him. Twice his community had to undergo official religious investigation, and twice it was exonerated.
While on a mission of peace, he became seriously ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona at the age of 36.
The austerity of Anthony's spirituality and the Pauline ardor of his preaching would probably "turn off" many people today. When even some psychiatrists complain at the lack of a sense of sin, it may be time to tell ourselves that not all evil is explained by emotional disorder, subconscious and unconscious drives, parental influence and so on. The old-time "hell and damnation" mission sermons have given way to positive, encouraging, biblical homilies. We do indeed need assurance of forgiveness, relief from existential anxiety and future shock. But we still need prophets to stand up and tell us, "If we say 'We are without sin,' we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
''I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths" (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
As I begin this prayer, God is present, breathing life into me and into everything around me. For a few moments, I remain silent, and become aware of God's loving presence.
"Leave me here freely all alone In cell where never sunlight shone should no one ever speak to me This golden silence makes me free." Part of a poem written by a prisoner at Dachau concentration camp
How am I really feeling? Lighthearted? Heavy-hearted? I may be very much at peace, happy to be here. Equally, I may be frustrated, worried or angry. I acknowledge how I really am. It is the real me that the Lord loves.
The Word of God
Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 Hos 8:4-7, 11-13 8
Thus says the LORD: They made kings in Israel, but not by my authority; they established princes, but without my approval. With their silver and gold they made idols for themselves, to their own destruction. Cast away your calf, O Samaria! my wrath is kindled against them; How long will they be unable to attain innocence in Israel? The work of an artisan, no god at all, Destined for the flames— such is the calf of Samaria!
When they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind; The stalk of grain that forms no ear can yield no flour; Even if it could, strangers would swallow it.
When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin, his altars became occasions of sin. Though I write for him my many ordinances, they are considered as a stranger's. Though they offer sacrifice, immolate flesh and eat it, the LORD is not pleased with them. He shall still remember their guilt and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 115:3-4, 5-6, 7ab-8, 9-10
R. (9a) The house of Israel trusts in the Lord. or: R. Alleluia. Our God is in heaven; whatever he wills, he does. Their idols are silver and gold, the handiwork of men.
R. The house of Israel trusts in the Lord. or: R. Alleluia. They have mouths but speak not; they have eyes but see not; They have ears but hear not; they have noses but smell not.
R. The house of Israel trusts in the Lord. or: R. Alleluia. They have hands but feel not; they have feet but walk not. Their makers shall be like them, everyone that trusts in them.
R. The house of Israel trusts in the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
Alleluia Jn 10:14 R. Alleluia, alleluia. I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 9:32-38
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." But the Pharisees said, "He drives out demons by the prince of demons."
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Jesus has deep compassion for the needs of all people. He sees when they are harassed and dejected, wandering and aimless like sheep without a guiding shepherd. At the same time he has to contend with the Pharisees who are not open to listening, seeing or indeed speaking of his goodness.
▪ Jesus needs many helpers today. The harvest is as big as ever; people are as lost and rudderless as they have ever been. Where are the labourers? They are not just the bishops, priests, or religious. Every baptised person is called, in some way, to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Each of us has a vocation, a call to serve and to build the Kingdom of God. Let us pray today to know our unique vocation.
Conversation requires talking and listening. As I talk to Jesus may I also learn to be still and listen. I picture the gentleness in His eyes and the smile full of love as he gazes on me. I can be totally honest with Jesus as I tell Him of my worries and my cares. I will open up my heart to Him as I tell Him of my fears and my doubts. I will ask Him to help me to place myself fully in His care, to abandon myself to Him, knowing that He always wants what is best for me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. (Matthew 9:38)
Be careful what you pray for; you might be called upon to answer your own prayer! Or as one paraphrase renders the verse right after today's Gospel, "The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields" (Matthew 10:1).
Intercession may be a very important form of prayer, but we need to remember that all prayer originates with Jesus and not with us. When a need strikes us, whether we see that need in the world, the Church, our neighborhood, or our family, we can be confident that this need is on Jesus' own heart. He is the One who has opened our eyes to it and moved us to pray for this need to be met.
Sometimes we clearly know what to pray for: "Heal this sickness, Lord." "Let food aid get through to this starving child." "Give me the strength to make the right decision." But other times we don't know how to pray; we just sense that something is wrong and that we need to take action. The best thing we can do in these situations is to place it in God's hands and ask him to act in whatever way he knows is best.
Intercessory prayer is a beautiful way to work with the harvest master, but it's not the only way. As we pray for people, we can also ask, "Lord, is there something you want me to do for him or her?"
Jesus loves it when we bring people's needs before him. It shows that we aren't concerned only for ourselves. It shows that our vision is broadening to the world around us and that our hearts are becoming more like his. Jesus loves it even more when we roll up our sleeves and try to help the people we are praying for—again, because that's exactly what he did for us. It may not always be easy. It may cost us some of our time and energy. But at the same time, it is very rewarding to work alongside Jesus, the master of the harvest.
"Jesus, thank you for the needs you are laying on my heart. Help me find the courage to take action as well."
The Prophet Hosea says "When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin, his altars became occasions of sin." Is there no greater deceit than a lie? Only from the teeth out they care, and I point the finger like the Pharisees saying that the Lord was casting demons in the name of demons. From my own teeth out, I say I care. How many times has my mouth received the Lord and how many times has sinfulness spewed from that same mouth? With kiss of Judas, the altars become occasions of sin. The priest kisses the Altar when he goes up to Holy Mass. The kiss of the bride, and her purity? We are that bride. The altar is Jesus. Then, how can I be a liar? This is my own torment then, my own falseness, my own duplicity, my own two faces, and I fall into the temptations of the world with all its lies and false idols, and there are many, because if at one time people agreed on one idol, today there are hundreds if not thousands of idols, that what takes our worship away, that what takes our attention away, that what we invest our love and passions and wills into, that what takes the place of our Lord in our hearts.
We prayed today " The house of Israel trusts in the Lord." and They have mouths but speak not; (about the Love of the Lord, our love). they have eyes but see not; (do not see the Lord, blind to the Lord) They have ears but hear not; ( can not hear the Lord, and will not hear) they have noses but smell not. ( can not sense His presence, deadened sense, untrained to sense Him and holiness).
The Lord of our lives enters with all His grandeur in saving presence, but the Pharisees can not see, nor hear, nor smell what is good. They say if the world stinks, you should probably check what is under your nose, because often, it is not the world that stinks, but your very nose and where it has been. We are designed for more, and our Lord is moved, because He sees our design and it is not fulfilled...in Him. We were specifically designed, even scientists say we seem to be programmed to worship. Yet, we wonder and we wander. We go to what fascinates us, and captivates our imaginations and passions, instead of where we should go by the Spirit, we go by the temporal, the flesh, the thrills and exhilaration, indeed the Spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak. Therefore, a sinful man is weak man. And the Prophet Jeremiah says "We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead." and all because "The altars had become places of self-serving worship." We serve self, and not serve Him through others. And so, now that the problem or problems have been mentioned, what am I to do? Follow Jesus. He went around proclaiming, teaching, and curing. But He did it with an authenticity and mercy, compassion and love. So how can I apply this to my daily life? Can I go around teaching and proclaiming, thus curing the possessed? Of course you can, every single day. Pray. I have never met a soul that does not need prayer. And let my prayer be my compassion, and love that sees as the Lord sees, a lamb without a shepherd, or a weak lamb that needs to be nourished. If you yourself can not be a shepherding lamb, then be fed to lead. In your venture as a leader, you too will be lied about, like today's saint, and our Lord Himself in the Gospel. It is the works of the devil, like today blaming the Church for all the problems, religion as the problem, therefore seeking to silence the lambs. But you can not silence the truth, it is a seed that grows through anything.
Seeing the world with compassion is to see the world as Christ. And this is a life of grace. To be enamored in the saving work of the Lord. To be honored to be used by Him.
I am moved, and does this moving force move me to the cross? Because ultimately, there would be one way for salvation...