"Be brave and try to detach your heart from worldly things. Do your utmost to banish darkness from your mind and come to understand what true, selfless piety is. Through confession, endeavor to purify your heart of anything which may still taint it. Enliven your faith, which is essential to understand and achieve piety." — St. John Bosco
MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"In Jesus' fall beneath the weight of the cross, the meaning of his whole life is seen: his voluntary abasement that lifts us up from the depths of our pride. The nature of our pride is also revealed: it is that arrogance which makes us think that we do not need his eternal love, but can be the masters of our own lives. In this rebellion against truth, in this attempt to be our own god, creator, and judge, we fall headlong and plunge into self-destruction. The humility of Jesus is the surmounting of our pride; by his abasement he lifts us up. Let us allow him to lift us up." — Pope Benedict XVI, p. 34-5 AN EXCERPT FROM Way of the Cross
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St. Augustine of Canterbury
In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless.
Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester.
Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors
Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the "Apostle of England."
Augustine of Canterbury comes across today as a very human saint, one who could suffer like many of us from a failure of nerve. For example, his first venture to England ended in a big U-turn back to Rome. He made mistakes and met failure in his peacemaking attempts with the Briton Christians. He often wrote to Rome for decisions on matters he could have decided on his own had he been more self-assured. He even received mild warnings against pride from Pope Gregory, who cautioned him to "fear lest, amidst the wonders that are done, the weak mind be puffed up by self-esteem." Augustine's perseverance amidst obstacles and only partial success teaches today's apostles and pioneers to struggle on despite frustrations and be satisfied with gradual advances.
In a letter to Augustine, Pope Gregory the Great wrote: "He who would climb to a lofty height must go by steps, not leaps."
I remind myself that, as I sit here now, God is gazing on me with love and holding me in being. I pause for a moment and think of this.
Lord you gave me life and the gift of freedom. Through Your love I exist in this world. May I never take the gift of life for granted. May I always respect the right to life of others.
Help me Lord to be more conscious of your presence. Teach me to recognise your presence in others. Fill my heart with gratitude for the times Your love has been shown to me through the care of others.
The Word of God
Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 1 Pt 4:7-13
Beloved: The end of all things is at hand. Therefore be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.
Responsorial Psalm PS 96:10, 11-12, 13 R. (13b) The Lord comes to judge the earth. Say among the nations: The LORD is king. He has made the world firm, not to be moved; he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them! Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth. Before the LORD, for he comes; for he comes to rule the earth. He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Alleluia See Jn 15:16 R. Alleluia, alleluia. I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mk 11:11-26
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area. He looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And he said to it in reply, "May no one ever eat of your fruit again!" And his disciples heard it.
They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area. Then he taught them saying, "Is it not written:
My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have made it a den of thieves."
The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city.
Early in the morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." Jesus said to them in reply, "Have faith in God. Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Jesus is on his way to the Temple to carry out the act that will hasten his crucifixion. The incident of the fig tree (which is, in the Old Testament, a symbol of the nation of Israel) is closely connected to the cleansing of the Temple. Jesus is condemning a religion which does not bear fruit. What fruit will I bear today?
▪ CS Lewis wrote, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."
Sometimes I wonder what I might say if I were to meet you in person Lord. I think I might say "Thank You Lord" for always being there for me. I know with certainty there were times when you carried me, Lord. When it was through your strength I got through the dark times in my life.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Optional Memorial)
All that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. (Mark 11:24)
There are a lot of good reasons to wonder why Jesus cursed the fig tree in today's Gospel reading. After all, it doesn't seem like the tree had done anything wrong! But this story is more about Jesus' authority than the fig tree's lack of fruitfulness. It's about how we can bear fruit for the Lord—by believing instead of doubting and by trusting in God instead of thinking we have been left to go it alone.
Over and over again, Jesus tells his disciples to pray for their needs. He tells them that nothing will be impossible for them and that if they have even a tiny "mustard seed" of faith, whatever they ask for will be done for them (Matthew 17:20; 21:22). He also reminds them that if they know how to provide for their children, their heavenly Father will provide for them even more faithfully (Luke 11:11-13).
What Jesus said to the disciples so long ago, he says to us today. We should rejoice, in fact, that he has given us the same rights and privileges that his first followers had. But what about those times when we find ourselves asking, "I have prayed and prayed about this situation; why is God turning a deaf ear?"
We may never understand why God seems to delay answering us. The best we can say is that there will be situations in which our Father will ask us to trust that he will ultimately work out all things for our good (Romans 8:28). There will be times that call for faith and patience.
This is the heart of the issue. No matter what happens, we can trust God, even when we don't understand him. We can trust that as his children, we can go before him boldly and confidently and ask for whatever we need, and he will answer us according to his wisdom and his timing. So take Jesus at his word today and pray to him with every ounce of faith you can muster. He will answer you at just the right time and in just the right way. And your heart will rejoice.
"Father, I join everyone reading this magazine today, and I trust that whenever two or more are gathered in your name, you are with them. May your blessings fall on us. May we begin to look for, and expect, great things from your hand!"
"The end of all things is at hand." Keep this in mind as we read about our Lord today. "Therefore be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray." Or else my mind will be plagued with so many things and my prayers are empty. "Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins." Love makes up for many faults, but not just any love...an intense love, and God's love is intense. "Be hospitable to one another without complaining." How many of us like to complain, especially about one another? Be Hospitable, be welcoming, be found giving. "As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace." Let us be fruitful with God's grace!
We prayed today the Holy Psalm: "The Lord comes to judge the earth." and He came, and He judged, and He found us wanting (lacking), and I say "us" as if we lived 2,000 years ago, because we are the people of God. He found the people in an un-giving state. He found the Jewish people building up walls, more and more thick between them and God. Allow me to give you today's 5 minutos before reciting the last of the Psalms: "A very pious woman went every single morning to the neighborhood chapel to pray, rain or shine, healthy or sick, at 7a.m. on the dot, she was the first to arrive, push the door and pray. One morning she awoke shocked. It was 6:50 and she wouldn't be on time! in a rush, she combed and dressed herself as she could. As she left, she tripped over an elderly person on a bicycle who fell. She was so much in a hurry that she couldn't stop, and she could barely say sorry and continued. Then, a woman crossed her way who asked for help for an appointment to the hospital, "Sorry I'm in a hurry", and without stopping she continued. A little boy asked her for some bread. "Sorry little boy, but I have an appointment with God and I can not be late", when she finally arrived to the chapel, she saw the clock, it was 7:00 on the dot! Very emotional on not missing her appointment, she pushed on the door as was her custom, but it did not open. She tried again with more strength, and nothing. "How strange! Never in the twelve years on her daily routine had the door ever been locked. But she noticed a note nailed to the door. Disconcerted, she took it down and read it "Sorry for not being here. This morning I had an accident on the bicycle, and on top of all this I couldn't get any money to go to the hospital, not even a piece of bread for breakfast, and so I'll probably be a little late. Signed: GOD. " The Psalm continues "Before the LORD, for he comes; for he comes to rule the earth. He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy." And His constancy is true.
In comes the Lord of our lives in the fullness of truth, and He is the culmination of all prophecies, He walks in the temple in Jerusalem, and leaves for Bethany, and on walking back he speaks to the fig tree. The fig tree is found wanting (lacking), even though it was not it's time, God said it was time. That is to say, that at any unexpected moment, God's time arrives and we are to be found eternally fruitful, giving fruit. I can not say, like I used to say "I'll go to a cursillo (when I'm an old man)". That is why the churches are full of older people and younger people are missing. The youth believe they have all the time in the world, and it is a lie. They want to live in "freedom" and it is a lie. They believe they are not being requested of any fruit, just being a Christian is enough, and it is a lie. Should I go on with the lies? It is the this false belief that "I am good enough", that is a lie. "I'm good" and don't go to confession. "I'm good" and don't visit the needy. "I'm good" and do not plan any time for God in my life daily. "I'm good" and I ramble and babble my way through "routine" prayers. "I'm good" and I go and say and think bad things. And the list goes on with "I'm good", and good for what? Good for fire wood, like the fig tree? And the fires of tests and hell are ready, with only need of fuel. And so our Lord comes and flips the tables in the temple, and whips out the animals. Because when we are not human any more, we are like animals, and animals can only satisfy one fleshly desire after another. We were not created to be animals. We were created for so much more. We are more than the eye beholds. We are much more and worth much more, if it were not the case, the Lord would not had become flesh to dwell among us and to die for us so that we could be free of sin and death.
And so, the truth is, we are good because we are made in His image, but let's not say we are good, because then we lie, because as Jesus said "Only God is good". And because the truth was brought to the temple, the people began to focus on getting the good out, you see, darkness engulfs the light. Isn't it strange that a black hole is a caving in of the light? What happens with all the light? Nobody really knows, but God does. And so we have to trust in Him and be ready to receive Him. I look to people daily and I look for Christ. Many times, He would have been the overlooked and forgotten. Many times the last...and the first? They are last because I make myself first, more important, me and "my problems", me and "my life". Blinded by smoke and mirrors, we fail to see the Lord right there. The key question then becomes, how can I be found giving fruit...always? For sure, the love of God must be intense. For sure, we must be found serving with strength, and the mind must be strong for the Lord. For sure we must be serious about our faith, sober minded, not drunk on worldly things. For sure the end of all things is at hand. If I am to be found giving fruit, I am to be tapped to the source of the vine. The Lord provides the proper nutrients to give forever.