"All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully." — St. Ignatius of Loyola
MEDITATION OF THE DAY "Without doubt, Jesus Christ could have abolished pain at a single stroke, and, by virtue of the infinite grace of the Redemption, restored man to the state of complete, unmixed bliss that he enjoyed in the paradise of innocence. He did not so wish. He judged that, for some, suffering would be a source of merit, a gain, a source of glory, and a means of renewal and triumph; that, for the greater number, it would be a necessary expiation. He therefore maintained suffering, but purified, ennobled, and transfigured it by taking it upon Himself. He became the man of sorrows, virum dolorum, in the strict and absolute sense of these words." — Fr. Charles Arminjon, p. 276 AN EXCERPT FROM The End of the Present World, p276
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St. Gregory Grassi and Companions
Christian missionaries have often gotten caught in the crossfire of wars against their own countries. When the governments of Britain, Germany, Russia and France forced substantial territorial concessions from the Chinese in 1898, anti-foreign sentiment grew very strong among many Chinese people.
Gregory Grassi was born in Italy in 1833, ordained in 1856 and sent to China five years later. Gregory was later ordained Bishop of North Shanxi. With 14 other European missionaries and 14 Chinese religious, he was martyred during the short but bloody Boxer Uprising of 1900.
Twenty-six of these martyrs were arrested on the orders of Yu Hsien, the governor of Shanxi province. They were hacked to death on July 9, 1900. Five of them were Friars Minor; seven were Franciscan Missionaries of Mary — the first martyrs of their congregation. Seven were Chinese seminarians and Secular Franciscans; four martyrs were Chinese laymen and Secular Franciscans. The other three Chinese laymen killed in Shanxi simply worked for the Franciscans and were rounded up with all the others. Three Italian Franciscans were martyred that same week in the province of Hunan. All these martyrs were beatified in 1946 and were among teh 120 martyrs canonized in 2000.
Martyrdom is the occupational hazard of missionaries. Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, five bishops, 50 priests, two brothers, 15 sisters and 40,000 Chinese Christians were killed. The 146,575 Catholics served by the Franciscans in China in 1906 had grown to 303,760 by 1924 and were served by 282 Franciscans and 174 local priests. Great sacrifices often bring great results.
"Martyrdom is part of the Church's nature since it manifests Christian death in its pure form, as the death of unrestrained faith, which is otherwise hidden in the ambivalence of all human events. Through martyrdom the Church's holiness, instead of remaining purely subjective, achieves by God's grace the visible expression it needs. As early as the second century one who accepted death for the sake of Christian faith or Christian morals was looked on and revered as a 'martus' (witness). The term is scriptural in that Jesus Christ is the 'faithful witness' absolutely (Revelations 1:5; 3:14)" (Karl Rahner, Theological Dictionary, volume 2, pp. 108-09).
Sacred Space Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 387 Reading 1
Thus says the LORD: Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the LORD; Say to him, "Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; We shall say no more, 'Our god,' to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion." I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. "I am like a verdant cypress tree"— because of me you bear fruit!
Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 8-9, 12-13, 14 and 17 R. (17b) My mouth will declare your praise. Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.
R. My mouth will declare your praise. Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart, and in my inmost being you teach me wisdom. Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be purified; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
R. My mouth will declare your praise. A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. My mouth will declare your praise. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R. My mouth will declare your praise.
Alleluia Jn 16:13a; 14:26d R. Alleluia, alleluia. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you to all truth and remind you of all I told you. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus said to his Apostles: "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."
In a speech in 1910 about courage and risk taking, US president Theodore Roosevelt said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. . . . The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who spends himself in a worthy cause."
The people of Israel were certainly marred, but not from wars and battles. For them, it was their struggle to stay faithful to the Lord in the midst of much temptation. Too often they had stumbled and given in to sin. But rather than sit on the sidelines and criticize them, God calls them to get back up and keep fighting: "You have collapsed through your guilt," he says through Hosea. "Return . . . to the Lord, your God" (Hosea 14:2). He makes it clear that God is with them, ready to forgive and restore them.
As we walk through life, we, too, will struggle with sin and temptation. There will be moments when our faces will be marred. There will be times when we won't feel like fighting the battle anymore. It's so much easier to give in! But this is when we can remember the "worthy cause" we are fighting for: our relationship with the Lord and the building of his kingdom. There is nothing more precious and noble!
Listen to what God has promised to do for us every time we turn back to him: "I will heal their defection . . . love them freely . . . be like the dew for Israel" (Hosea 14:5, 6). He is always ready to flood us with love at our weakest and messiest moments. No matter how often we do it, when we reach out to God, he will help us.
Remember too that God has also decided to spend himself on a worthy cause: you! Your heavenly Father, whose power is made perfect in your weakness, has a reservoir of grace, compassion, and strength waiting just for you. All you have to do is ask.
"Father, thank you for your mercy and love, which are new every day. Be with me today; help me stay true to you."
my2cents: The Prophet Hosea says in the Word "Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt." This is what sin does to us exactly, makes us collapse. If there is ever a great nation, it is only defeated by a collapse, and this means internal, through sin, and we are one united, right? That is to say, if you are a supposed Christian, why have you a share in hatred and division? One spark makes a difference, and today with mass media, the masses are easily moved to like this or hate that, and why don't we hate sin? Why do we like to be a part of it? That is the question of sincerity, of faithfulness, of a plea of the Lord today, when He asks us simply to...return. We pray " My mouth will declare your praise." And what else does your mouth declare? "Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart" and our Lord says today "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves" to test the sincerity of your heart. And we continued praying "...and in my inmost being you teach me wisdom" and Psalm 139 says "…Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.…", and so we also prayed today "Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be purified; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Remember when Jesus was dying to cleanse us of our sins and death, dying on the cross, the soldiers put some vinegar on a sponge and dipped with hyssop, they put it up to His mouth, and it was a sign of our cleansing through Him, exactly of the cleansing of our sins through the Father in Holy Reconciliation. Mercy, came through suffering, came through loving, caring, and sharing.
The Lord of our lives enters our today "be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." Luke 16 tells us ""For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,* so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones." For the Kingdom of God, everything is to be given. Watch out, be watchful, the serpent is a great tracker, the dove, the bird is ready to fly at an instant. Be watchful of sinful behaviors and habits, and be ready to fly at the moment it comes, be ready to pray, be ready to stay away, be shrewd in your dealings, in your home, in your church, in your business, watch for traps of division and dissent, watch for moments of pride trying to ensnare the people. Watch for temptations, watch for souls, beginning with yours, because the blind can not lead the blind. One of the craziest things I hear people say is that they can not go out and teach or preach, and this is a lie, because Jesus says "When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say." This is a fact, all it takes is the will. And watch this, you imagine yourself when you apply the will, that things will turn out the way imagined, but things turn out in truth, that is to say, the simple fact that you took a step out on to the water speaks volumes, even though you sank, you had the faith, you have the faith in you to one day be able to walk after you fall. This is inspiring, this is an encouragement, because now, Saint Peter can walk on water, when he had failed, he learned how to not fail. This is inspiring for holiness in my own life. I fail, alot. I get up, alot. And they say that it is the difference between a saint and a sinner...the saint always gets back up. Jesus leaves with a most perplexing line "...you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes." That is to say, before you finish, indeed, before you even begin...I AM already there.