Following the Ways of Jesus
Following the ways of Jesus: That was how Saint Francis and his brothers were to live their lives, and they would do it by being poor like Christ; by being men of the road like Jesus and his Apostles; by preaching God's word as Jesus did; by being brothers to one another, to others, and to all creatures; and by the penance of their lives, emptying themselves for love of him who had emptied himself for love of them. And all of it flowed in and out of prayer, the prayer of the mountain, sometimes in darkness, sometimes in light, but always clear in what it moved them to do once they left the mountain.
—from the book Francis and Jesus by Murray Bodo
"Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward and learning to enjoy whatever life has, and this requires transforming greed into gratitude."
— St. John Chrysostom
✞ MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"I would, then, that I could convince spiritual persons that this road to God consists not in a multiplicity of meditations nor in ways or methods of such, nor in consolations, although these things may in their own way be necessary to beginners; but that it consists only in the one thing that is needful, which is the ability to deny oneself truly, according to that which is without and to that which is within, giving oneself up to suffering for Christ's sake . . . For progress comes not save through the imitation of Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no man comes to the Father but by Him."
— St. John of the Cross, p. 91
AN EXCERPT FROM
Ascent of Mt Carmel
✞ VERSE OF THE DAY
"Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me."
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Saint John of God
(March 8, 1495 – March 8, 1550)
Saint John of God's Story
Having given up active Christian belief while a soldier, John was 40 before the depth of his sinfulness began to dawn on him. He decided to give the rest of his life to God's service, and headed at once for Africa where he hoped to free captive Christians and, possibly, be martyred.
He was soon advised that his desire for martyrdom was not spiritually well based, and returned to Spain and the relatively prosaic activity of a religious goods store. Yet he was still not settled. Moved initially by a sermon of Saint John of Avila, he one day engaged in a public beating of himself, begging mercy and wildly repenting for his past life.
Committed to a mental hospital for these actions, John was visited by Saint John, who advised him to be more actively involved in tending to the needs of others rather than in enduring personal hardships. John gained peace of heart, and shortly after left the hospital to begin work among the poor.
He established a house where he wisely tended to the needs of the sick poor, at first doing his own begging. But, excited by the saint's great work and inspired by his devotion, many people began to back him up with money and provisions. Among them were the archbishop and marquis of Tarifa.
Behind John's outward acts of total concern and love for Christ's sick poor was a deep interior prayer life which was reflected in his spirit of humility. These qualities attracted helpers who, 20 years after John's death, formed the Brothers Hospitallers, now a worldwide religious order.
John became ill after 10 years of service, but tried to disguise his ill health. He began to put the hospital's administrative work into order and appointed a leader for his helpers. He died under the care of a spiritual friend and admirer, Lady Ana Ossorio.
The utter humility of John of God, which led to a totally selfless dedication to others, is most impressive. Here is a man who realized his nothingness in the face of God. The Lord blessed him with the gifts of prudence, patience, courage, enthusiasm, and the ability to influence and inspire others. He saw that in his early life he had turned away from the Lord, and, moved to receive his mercy, John began his new commitment to love others in openness to God's love.
Saint John of God is the Patron Saint of:
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Reading 1 JER 7:23-28
Thus says the LORD:
This is what I commanded my people:
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.
But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them, they will not answer you.
Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.
Responsorial Psalm PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
"Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works."
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Verse Before The Gospel JL 2:12-13
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
for I am gracious and merciful.
Gospel LK 11:14-23
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,
and when the demon had gone out,
the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, "By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons."
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
"Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself,
how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters."
Meditation: Jeremiah 7:23-28
Saint John of God, Religious (Optional Memorial)
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets. (Jeremiah 7:25)
Did you know that approximately 205 billion e-mails are sent every day? This means people send almost 74 trillion e-mails each year. That's a lot of messages whizzing around cyberspace!
As immense as this number might seem, consider this: the number of messages God will send us in our lifetimes might surpass even 74 trillion. Why? Because God loves to speak to us. He speaks in grand, expansive ways and in small, everyday ways. Nothing delights him more than connecting with us. He never wearies of sending us his messages of love, encouragement, hope, and direction. Just as he sent "untiringly all" his prophets to Israel, he now reaches out to us in the same way (Jeremiah 7:25). How, you may wonder? Let's take a look:
Consider the last warm embrace you received from a loved one. Maybe it was just this morning. God was there too, wrapping his arms around you.
Think about the last time you were refreshed by the beauty of nature. God was telling you about how creative his love is. The words he spoke to St. Teresa of Ávila are for you too: "I would create the universe again, just to hear you say that you love me."
We know that God speaks through the Scriptures. Every verse is like a letter from him. Today try to hear these verses in just that way, as God's personal messages to you. "With age-old love I have loved you" (Jeremiah 31:3). "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine" (Isaiah 43:1). "Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
The Mass is full of messages from God to you. When you are at Mass, try to imagine Jesus speaking the words of the consecration directly to you: "This is my Body, which will be given up for you." "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you."
Try to listen for God's messages today. Tell him that you want to hear him and be careful to listen for his voice. Then when you hear him speak—even if it's just a few words—write it down, and thank him for opening your heart.
"Jesus, thank you for all the ways you love me!"
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
At one point the Lord said "...Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers." You know, children are like that. If they see their parents doing something, they will want to do it...to the next degree. If the parents believe truly, the kids too may believe even more. If they do not really believe...they may become atheist...or worse. And then, they will convince their parents to be atheist..or worse. Is this the case always? Perhaps not, but very often...it can be. It is to the point that they say God is not good, and by the power of the devil....well, you know where we are going with this.
But first, let us pray: " If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides." He guides us to Heaven. I think there are some of us that are spinning our wheels, meaning, we are not getting traction, in our faith, our community, and so forth. We have a lot of good thoughts, and prayers and intentions, but are not going anywhere, not moving...not, lifting a finger. And as you know, some say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". Things aren't happening. I see things dwindling in church ministries, both adults and youth are distracted, severely. And I wave my arms in front of them while I'm teaching "can you see? can you see the Lord"....No. The blind then have to make up things. You know where this is going.
We lead up to our Lord. He heals someone that could not speak. Some people are shocked, and some say "it was the prince of demons" power. Did we not read earlier when Holy Scripture said "Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech." Speech impediment. Completely mute. He cured someone of this horrible thing that happens in the world....faithlessness. It is contagious and is attacking the world. Distractions abound. Making people dumb and mute, for they can not fathom nor speak about the Goodness of God. I woke up this morning thinking about the words our Lord said at one point "As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah." One could say instead of wicked...faithless generation too, right? So it is easy to see why Jesus would say they wouldn't get a sign...because there was no faith present to witness to give life to a real sign. You see, with faith, all things are possible, if you believe in Love...And God is Love.
At another point Jesus said:
19"O unbelieving generation! Jesus replied. "How long must I remain with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to Me." 20So they brought him, and seeing Jesus, the spirit immediately threw the (possessed and mute) boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.…".
They could not cast demons, they tried everything they knew and could...except one thing...they had lost to a great degree, faith, hope, and love. "He said to them, "Because of your little faith." Little faith works virtually nothing. Great faith, like a mustard seeds makes great things happen. A seed contains ferocious power. Placed properly, life happens.
So what do I see with dwindling ministries and in a faithless generation? I see an immense opportunity for Jesus. It would only take one seed where you are at. That seed inside. That faith. That love of God. It has the intensity and power to grow very rapidly and soon give fruit, and shade and protection for souls. When Saint Thomas Aquinas was writing his final book on faith I believe the Summa, this power house of faith, he stopped suddenly, and when asked why he simply said ""I cannot, for everything I have written seems to me like straw." What does this mean? It means, all of what we've said and done is as if nothing. There is so much more. More in store of God's revelation. To live in a despondent world is actually nothing new. But what is always new is what is Good, and only God is Good. So His news is the Good news. Yesterday, I left teenagers with a challenge. To do something with their faith.
I will leave you with a challenge. (Oh great, as if I had nothing else to do, right? Hmmmmm ) Let us change our attitude to what God asks. Let us pretend God is actually writing to you and reaching out to you. Reach out in faith.
Challenge: Before the week ends, before Sunday, speak to someone that doesn't speak normally about their faith. Just ask, "what's up with your faith?".
Up for more? Want extra credit?
Super Challenge: Offer 30 minutes of prayer for a family that has stopped going to church. (Praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament would be even better)
Extreme Challenge: Start an outreach group. Reach out to those who are divorced, or those suffering a loss of a loved one through death. Simply reach out to them frequently, asking if they need anything, and if nothing, pray for them with them. Hopefully a regular group meets weekly at least, with prayer and scripture as the basis.
If you do nothing, then nothing will happen. A faithless generation will see no sign.
If you do something, something will happen. To the person you attend, life will happen, eternal. Or for you, life will happen, eternal. Or, both will see life and be changed, eternal. This is a miracle, and we live for miracles, don't we? We live through miracles already....
Third Thursday of Lent
"Some people lose their tongues in the
confessional and babble their sins in a whisper.
They weren't ashamed to commit them,
but they are ashamed to confess them."
During the same talk that was quoted in yesterday's
reflection, Pope Francis told a group of priests:
"It is characteristic of mercy to cover sin with its
cloak. We can think of that touching passage about
the two sons of Noah, who covered with a cloak
their father's nakedness in his drunkenness" (Gn
9:23). Confessors and penitents both need to be
covered with the cloak of God's mercy.
Praying with Saint Anthony
Forgiving God, help all those now on the cusp of
conversion to take the next step that will lead them