"God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall." — St. Juliana of Norwich
MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"In this life no one can fulfill his longing, nor can any creature satisfy man's desire. Only God satisfies, he infinitely exceeds all other pleasures. That is why man can rest in nothing but God." — St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 184
AN EXCERPT FROM Witness of the Saints
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Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica
First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary's title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honoring God through Mary. Standing atop one of Rome's seven hills, the Esquiline, it has survived many restorations without losing its character as an early Roman basilica. Its interior retains three naves divided by colonnades in the style of Constantine's era. Fifth-century mosaics on its walls testify to its antiquity.
St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church. St. John Lateran (November 9) represents Rome, the See of Peter; St. Paul Outside the Walls, the See of Alexandria, allegedly the see presided over by Mark (April 25); St. Peter's, the See of Constantinople; and St. Mary's, the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.
One legend, unreported before the year 1000, gives another name to this feast: Our Lady of the Snows. According to that story, a wealthy Roman couple pledged their fortune to the Mother of God. In affirmation, she produced a miraculous summer snowfall and told them to build a church on the site. The legend was long celebrated by releasing a shower of white rose petals from the basilica's dome every August 5.
Theological debate over Christ's nature as God and man reached fever pitch in Constantinople in the early fifth century. The chaplain of Bishop Nestorius began preaching against the title Theotokos, "Mother of God," insisting that the Virgin was mother only of the human Jesus. Nestorius agreed, decreeing that Mary would henceforth be named "Mother of Christ" in his see. The people of Constantinople virtually revolted against their bishop's refutation of a cherished belief. When the Council of Ephesus refuted Nestorius, believers took to the streets, enthusiastically chanting, "Theotokos! Theotokos!"
"From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, in whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs. Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the People of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation..." (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 66).
Sacred Space (stop, slow down, breathe, we're about to receive the Word of God) Daily Prayer - 2016-08-05
I reflect for a moment on God's presence around me and in me. Creator of the universe, the sun and the moon, the earth, every molecule, every atom, everything that is: God is in every beat of my heart. God is with me, now.
Lord, I pray for your gift of freedom. May your Holy Spirit guide those in power to work for equality for all your people.
To be conscious about something is to be aware of it. Dear Lord help me to remember that You gave me life. Thank you for the gift of life. Teach me to slow down, to be still and enjoy the pleasures created for me. To be aware of the beauty that surrounds me. The marvel of mountains, the calmness of lakes, the fragility of a flower petal. I need to remember that all these things come from you.
See, upon the mountains there advances the bearer of good news, announcing peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah, fulfill your vows! For nevermore shall you be invaded by the scoundrel; he is completely destroyed. The LORD will restore the vine of Jacob, the pride of Israel, Though ravagers have ravaged them and ruined the tendrils.
Woe to the bloody city, all lies, full of plunder, whose looting never stops! The crack of the whip, the rumbling sounds of wheels; horses a-gallop, chariots bounding, Cavalry charging, the flame of the sword, the flash of the spear, the many slain, the heaping corpses, the endless bodies to stumble upon! I will cast filth upon you, disgrace you and put you to shame; Till everyone who sees you runs from you, saying, "Nineveh is destroyed; who can pity her? Where can one find any to console her?"
Responsorial Psalm Dt 32:35cd-36ab, 39abcd, 41 R. (39c) It is I who deal death and give life. Close at hand is the day of their disaster, and their doom is rushing upon them! Surely, the LORD shall do justice for his people; on his servants he shall have pity.
R. It is I who deal death and give life. "Learn then that I, I alone, am God, and there is no god besides me. It is I who bring both death and life, I who inflict wounds and heal them."
R. It is I who deal death and give life. I will sharpen my flashing sword, and my hand shall lay hold of my quiver, "With vengeance I will repay my foes and requite those who hate me."
R. It is I who deal death and give life.
Alleluia Mt 5:10 R. Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 16:24-28
Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay each according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Taking up your cross could mean facing into a day of drudgery at a work; carrying wood and water to the family at dawn; costly service of a loved one who is ill; embracing illness, even terminal illness.
▪ We have become so covetous of the hours given to us. Every minute has to be productive.
▪ Time away from work enables us to understand the meaning of work. As Pope Francis has put it: "We tend to demean contemplative rest as something unproductive and unnecessary, but this is to do away with the very thing which is most important about work: its meaning."
▪ Are you living the biblical value of "Sabbath": time when you are not using, earning or producing?
Dear Lord, stay by my side always. Gain for me a trusting heart. Thank you for loving 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.
The Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Optional Memorial)
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)
How far could you walk with a three-hundred-pound weight on your shoulders?
Some historians believe that Jesus' cross could have weighed about three hundred pounds. This is why, they surmise, the Romans often had the condemned carry only the crossbeam—which still weighed more than one hundred pounds.
When we consider this kind of weight—not to mention the spiritual and emotional weight that the cross also entailed—we can appreciate the Bible telling us that Jesus understands our own suffering and challenges. He shared the same sorrows, pains, and weight of the crosses that we bear in our lives. This means that Jesus doesn't just empathize with us. He suffers with us as well. That's how much he loves us. He is willing to walk the same paths that we walk and help us along the way.
In the light of such love, we can see that Jesus' call to take up our crosses and follow him is not a callous command to pick up our burdens and march. It's an invitation to join him and to find our strength in his companionship.
Jesus knows that suffering can make us want to run and hide. But he also knows that if we try to follow him, he will make our yoke easier and our burden lighter.
This is the depth of Jesus' love for you. He wants to help you carry your cross, just as Simon of Cyrene agreed to help carry Jesus'. He wants to wipe your face, just as Veronica wiped his. Most important, he wants to promise you, "Today you will be with me in Paradise," just as he promised the good thief (Luke 23:43). Why wouldn't we want to be united with him?
Times of suffering can bring us closer to God, or they can push us further away from him. It's our choice. It may not be easy at the start, but staying close to Jesus in the midst of difficulties can bring us peace and comfort. All we need to do is take that first step.
"Lord, thank you for continuing to come to me when I need help. Thank you for walking alongside me and making my burdens lighter."
From the first Holy Scripture today "See, upon the mountains there advances the bearer of good news, announcing peace!", let us pay attention to the Prince of Peace, as we continue "Celebrate your feasts, O Judah, fulfill your vows!", keep your promises as He keeps His, and celebrate with HIM! Let us read on "For nevermore shall you be invaded by the scoundrel; he is completely destroyed." Sounds like the prophecy is more about the Lord defeating Sin and Death, and showing the way to Life, amen? Let us pray the Psalms ""Learn then that I, I alone, am God, and there is no god besides me. It is I who bring both death and life, I who inflict wounds and heal them." This should serve one purpose, to realize just WHO our Lord and God and Father really is...the almighty, and all things are susceptible to Him, and He has all mighty power and authority over sin and death, for even the dead arise. Let us come to the Lord of Life; and so, in comes our Lord ""Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Deny myself? But the world teaches to never deny yourself! Deny yourself? But why should I deny myself? Carry a cross? Why? If the Lord did it for me? LOL. Aren't you a Christ follower? I was on a microphone last night at a reception of our new Cursillistas on the song called "Cristo Rey" (Christ King) and said "onward soldiers!" And why shall we be called soldiers? Aren't soldier's fighting? Yes, but this here is a spiritual combat, and if there are battles, it means there is a war. And so, in an ultreya, or any gathering for the Lord, there is a place to gather the troops, and reinforce and have a plan. I read today from the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2725: "Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. the great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. the "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer." The battle then is on many fronts. For your brother Adrian, it is much like exercise and feeding of the body, it is all the same for the spirit within, and your soul. You must exercise when you do not feel like it. You must eat to be nourished, but what you eat makes a difference. For this year, I have lost about 25 pounds by denying myself foods that I have learned aren't really helping, and I've forced myself to walk more counting steps with a pedometer. You have to deny yourself pleasures for the spirit as well, for your soul. You have to be nourished in prayer and for Catholics, be nourished with the LORD Himself, in the Most Holy Eucharist. Living and dying are synonymous, because something has to die for something else to live. Let sin die from your life, the more, the better, the holier, the more open to life you will be. I told a brother at the cursillo "hey bro, you and your wife are using contraception, and that is a sin". He said "whoa, nobody has ever told me so bluntly in my face what you have just said". I explained NFP (Natural Family Planning, using no contraceptives), and how hard it is to abstain, basically, I said, "it becomes a cross...a matter of obedience". He told me his wife had cysts on her ovaries. It didn't click till we left each other that from our experience, contraceptives cause disorder in the woman and the family. It is the leading cause of cancers and divorces, and this coupled with pornography, it is a life of death. What then we have is the truth. Deny yourself. Die to yourself. It must be the first death we experience in life in the spirit. Only then are we open to life...and life is obedience and this leads to love. This is why there is a catastrophe with gender confusion, for the devil hates life, it is designed to hate life and holiness, the opposite of everything it stands for. Deny yourself. I was thinking this morning as I got ready for work "for those that surrender to God and become clergy, ordained into priesthood or diaconate, this is a denial to the world. It is a bold statement that says "I Love God More". And this is Christ showing the way. And Christ leads to eternal LIFE. For if this life is temporal, Eternity awaits.
"Mr. Adrian, what does the cross feel like?". The cross my friend, it is bitter sweet. It hurts, it is an extreme weight of love. That is why in the book "The Imitation of Christ" (which I recommend) says in chapter 11 in opening: "Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few cross-bearers. Many desire His consoloation, but few His tribulation. Many will sit down with Him at table, but few will share His fast. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few will suffer for Him. Many will follow Him to the breaking of the bread, but few will drink of the bitter cup of His Passion. Many revere His miracles, but few follow the shame of His cross. Many love Jesus when all goes well with them, and praise Him when He does them a favor; but if Jesus conceals Himself and leaves them for a little while, they fall to complaining or become depressed."