"Never give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere in it for this very reason. God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction." — St. John of the Cross
MEDITATION OF THE DAY "The strength of the soul consists in its faculties, passions and desires, all of which are governed by the will. Now when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the will toward God, and turned away from all that is not God, then the strength of the soul is kept for God, and thus the soul is able to love God with all its strength." — St. John of the Cross, p. 259 AN EXCERPT FROM Ascent of Mt. Carmel
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St. John Eudes
How little we know where God's grace will lead. Born on a farm in northern France, John died at 79 in the next "county" or department. In that time he was a religious, a parish missionary, founder of two religious communities and a great promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
He joined the religious community of the Oratorians and was ordained a priest at 24. During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese. Lest he infect his fellow religious, he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field during the plague.
At age 32, John became a parish missionary. His gifts as preacher and confessor won him great popularity. He preached over 100 parish missions, some lasting from several weeks to several months.
In his concern with the spiritual improvement of the clergy, he realized that the greatest need was for seminaries. He had permission from his general superior, the bishop and even Cardinal Richelieu to begin this work, but the succeeding general superior disapproved. After prayer and counsel, John decided it was best to leave the religious community. The same year he founded a new one, ultimately called the Eudists (Congregation of Jesus and Mary), devoted to the formation of the clergy by conducting diocesan seminaries. The new venture, while approved by individual bishops, met with immediate opposition, especially from Jansenists and some of his former associates. John founded several seminaries in Normandy, but was unable to get approval from Rome (partly, it was said, because he did not use the most tactful approach).
In his parish mission work, John was disturbed by the sad condition of prostitutes who sought to escape their miserable life. Temporary shelters were found but arrangements were not satisfactory. A certain Madeleine Lamy, who had cared for several of the women, one day said to him, "Where are you off to now? To some church, I suppose, where you'll gaze at the images and think yourself pious. And all the time what is really wanted of you is a decent house for these poor creatures." The words, and the laughter of those present, struck deeply within him. The result was another new religious community, called the Sisters of Charity of the Refuge.
He is probably best known for the central theme of his writings: Jesus as the source of holiness, Mary as the model of the Christian life. John's devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary led Pius XI to declare him the father of the liturgical cult of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Holiness is the wholehearted openness to the love of God. It is visibly expressed in many ways, but the variety of expression has one common quality: concern for the needs of others. In John's case, those who were in need were plague-stricken people, ordinary parishioners, those preparing for the priesthood, prostitutes and all Christians called to imitate the love of Jesus and his mother.
"Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make his spirit, his devotion, his affections, his desires and his disposition live and reign there. All our religious exercises should be directed to this end. It is the work which God has given us to do unceasingly" (St. John Eudes, The Life and Reign of Jesus in Christian Souls).
The hand of the LORD came upon me, and led me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the plain, which was now filled with bones. He made me walk among the bones in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were! He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life? I answered, "Lord GOD, you alone know that." Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD. I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone. I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them. Then the LORD said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life. I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army. Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, "Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off." Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 R. (1) Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say, those whom he has redeemed from the hand of the foe And gathered from the lands, from the east and the west, from the north and the south.
R. Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting. They went astray in the desert wilderness; the way to an inhabited city they did not find. Hungry and thirsty, their life was wasting away within them.
R. Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting. They cried to the LORD in their distress; from their straits he rescued them. And he led them by a direct way to reach an inhabited city.
R. Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy and his wondrous deeds to the children of men, Because he satisfied the longing soul and filled the hungry soul with good things.
R. Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting.
Alleluia Ps 25:4b, 5a R. Alleluia, alleluia. Teach me your paths, my God, guide me in your truth. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ The Pharisees appear to operate out of fear and insecurity. Their greatest opponents the Sadducees have been silenced by Jesus and now they are trying their hand. But Jesus rises to the challenge and declares nothing other than the fundamental teachings of the Jewish faith.
▪ Great leaders are those who re-state with clarity what we all feel to be right. They know what is important and what is not. Do you think they went away satisfied with Jesus's reply?
▪ Inside every one of us is a little Pharisee. We have our fears and insecurities; we seek certainty and need help to prioritise. Have you thought of asking Jesus what's important for you?
Do I notice myself reacting as I pray with the Word of God? Do I feel challenged, comforted, angry? Imagining Jesus sitting or standing by me, I speak out my feelings, as one trusted 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.
As I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone. (Ezekiel 37:7)
Recently, several young women were inspired by the story of Ezekiel's vision of dry bones to create their own "dry bones" list. They recorded a handful of prayers and dreams that seemed, at best, far- fetched: for an atheist friend to experience conversion, for a dramatic physical healing, and for a few other requests. They committed to bringing the "dry bones" of these challenging situations before the Lord every day, asking him to breathe life into them. For a year, nothing happened. But then, a few bones started rattling! To their amazement, God began answering some of their prayers.
We can be so quick to say, "That's impossible." We're ordinary people with limited abilities and weak faith. But God seems to enjoy making impossible things a reality. Think of a universe unfolding from nothing. Think of a crucified man, buried for three days, erupting out of hell, then appearing before his disciples. Could this God become intimidated by any prayer requests we can dream up? Now, that's an impossible idea!
Try to come up with your own "dry bones" list today. Search for your biggest prayers or dreams. If one is immediately met by doubt, it probably belongs on your list! And if you're unsure, let these ideas be your springboard:
• For an end to abortion.
• For your child to come back to the Lord.
• For the mending of your most broken relationship.
• For your dream of conceiving a child or founding an orphanage.
Before you commit to bringing these dry bones before the Lord, why not answer the same question God asked Ezekiel? "Can these bones come to life?" (Ezekiel 37:3). Maybe the right answer is that only God knows. Maybe he has a better plan, something we cannot yet fathom. But that's okay, because the more we pray, the closer we get to embracing that plan—a plan that promises new life for all of our dry bones—in his time and according to his wisdom. It takes courage to prophesy over dry bones, but you can still be confident. Remember, "Nothing is impossible for my God."
"Lord, help me walk through the valley of dry bones and believe."
"Son of man, can these bones come to life?" we heard in today's 1st Holy Scripture, "Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!" Just like when the Lord created the earth, there was a wind that came over it....life.
We prayed today "Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting." And Love is brought into the world with that breath before man was even created, God IS. "Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy and his wondrous deeds to the children of men, Because he satisfied the longing soul and filled the hungry soul with good things." Hungry souls are what is of a soul without complete unity with God. Hungry souls exist on earth and after death. Satisfy your thirst and hunger...with JESUS!
In comes the Lord Himself, proclaiming the greatest commandment(s) when they tried to trick Him when asked of the greatest. He may as well have said "You're looking at the Greatest Commandment that ever lived and ever will live". He embodies the greatest commandment, that of Loving God with all one's heart, strength, mind, body, and soul. When He gives to the Lord, He gives totally, TOTALLY, Himself. He doesn't give a little bit, He doesn't give half, He doesn't give 90 percent, but ALL of Himself to the Lord. In this way was He able to totally love those around Him. First God, then everyone else in that order. Because back in those days, people watched out for themselves, even the 600 or so Jewish laws was all about "protecting themselves" trying to stay away from "impurities" and quarantined themselves in to such a small circle that it was impossible for anyone to come in or anyone inside to reach out. And just as the world was created out of an intense atom, so was this new Life, this new Adam to give life to the world. And this love I dare say, is not a love of this world. We get a glimpse of God's love, His paternal love, His fraternal love, but His love is truly unfathomable, and completely amazing. That is why people were always amazed at what Jesus our Lord did. And this is why people get amazed today....to see how He loves us. Now, that it is so vague in your mind and mine, let's try to explain this love. Because I do not feel adequate to speak, nor eloquent to speak, and I come short and fail in speaking about this great love. I read a spanish 5minutos reflection that said:
" The Priest asked little John, "Do you love the Lord?" , he replies "oh yes, Father,".
Do you love Him with all your heart?" And Lil John stayed thinking. And suddenly he lightened up and responded: "No Father, my heart is too small to love God. I love God with all the heart of Jesus!" A stupendous answer. In reality we can only love God and our brethren with the "Love" that God our Father gave us by sending us the Holy Spirit."
Romans 13:8 says "Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, [namely] "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law."
In other words...simply, do not sin, if you want to love. Sin keeps us from loving. A person's sin harms the whole of the body of Christ. There's one way to fix it...mercy. Jesus is Mercy. Uniting ourselves to Him means complete unity and complete love. I owe you nothing but love. You owe me nothing but love. We owe each other love. The more...the better. Because this love...is eternal.