Life Is Amazing
Life is amazing. All life is utterly dependent upon our planet for everything it needs. God provides everything through creation. Water falls from the sky and runs through creeks and rivers. Plants and animals grow and are all part of the circle of life. Air circulates around the globe, refreshing and renewing all of life's creatures. The sun, trees, plants, oil, coal and gas provide energy. The beauty of creation grabs our attention, inspiring us and providing for our needs. God truly cares for us like a mother cares for her children and expresses this care through the goodness of creation.
—from Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth
"It is not lengthy prayers, but generous deeds that touch God's heart."
— St. Arnold Janssen
✞ MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"[Mary] is the heavenly archetype. The Church—the rest of us—must struggle toward those mystical realties during all our days on this earth. Thus says the council: 'While in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin. And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues' (Lumen Gentium 65). Our struggle is individual, but it is communal, too. As members of God's family, we are concerned for one another and concerned to bring many others into the family. ... Indeed, our efforts at evangelization must have a Marian component. Evangelization should begin with Marian prayer and it should be suffused with Marian doctrine and devotion. For evangelization is all about building up a family, and no one can belong to a family without honoring the family's mother. ... Mary plays an indispensable role in each of her children's growth in holiness. Yet how many people, even among those who are brothers of Christ, do not know they are children of Mary?"
— Scott Hahn, p.144-45
AN EXCERPT FROM
Hail, Holy Queen
✞ VERSE OF THE DAY
"Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock."
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Saint Benedict Joseph Labre
(March 25, 1748 – April 17, 1783)
Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God's special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest. Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life. Then, at age 16, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives.
He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms. He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor. Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called "the poor man of the Forty Hours devotion" and "the beggar of Rome." The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did. His excuse to himself was that "our comfort is not in this world."
On April 16, 1783, the last day of his life, Benedict dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. Immediately after his death, the people proclaimed him a saint.
Benedict Joseph Labre was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881. His Liturgical Feast Day is April 16.
In a modern inner city, one local character kneels for hours on the sidewalk and prays. Swathed in his entire wardrobe winter and summer, he greets passersby with a blessing. Where he sleeps no one knows, but he is surely a direct spiritual descendant of Benedict, the ragged man who slept in the ruins of Rome's Colosseum. These days we ascribe such behavior to mental illness; Benedict's contemporaries called him holy. Holiness is always a bit mad by earthly standards.
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre is the Patron Saint of:
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
Reading 1 Acts 7:51—8:1a
Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it."
When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them";
and when he said this, he fell asleep.
Now Saul was consenting to his execution.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 31:3cd-4, 6 and 7b and 8a, 17 and 21ab
R. (6a) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
My trust is in the LORD;
I will rejoice and be glad of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Alleluia Jn 6:35ab
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the bread of life, says the Lord;
whoever comes to me will never hunger.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 6:30-35
The crowd said to Jesus:
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat."
So Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world."
So they said to Jesus,
"Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
Meditation: Acts 7:51–8:1
Stephen . . . looked up intently to heaven. (Acts 7:55)
According to St. Robert Bellarmine, "The secret to dying well is living well." It's a simple formula: those who "live well" by trying their best to keep the commandments and embody the beatitudes will feel more prepared to meet the Lord at the end of their lives. They will be more peaceful, less fearful, and more concerned about the people they are leaving behind.
Of all the deaths we read about in Scripture (apart from Jesus' death, of course), it would be hard to find one more inspiring than Stephen's. Luke tells us that at the beginning of Stephen's trial, "his face was like the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15). And today, we read how his last words were words of forgiveness: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (7:60). Now that's what dying well looks like!
Stephen's faith-filled death can seem very heroic to us. And to a degree it is—he even had a vision of Jesus in heaven just before he died! But let's take Robert Bellarmine's words and apply them to Stephen. Clearly, this was a man who lived well. The grace that he showed at his death was just a continuation of the grace he had experienced throughout his life. Stephen was already in the habit of looking "intently to heaven" (Acts 7:55). He was already in the habit of "seeing" Jesus and feeling his presence. He was already in the habit of forgiving his persecutors and surrendering his life to the Lord. So his death was nothing more—and nothing less—than an extension of his life of discipleship.
Now, it's only natural to feel some fear of death. It's the biggest unknown of our existence. What will heaven be like? What will we do for all eternity? What about our bodies? Will we really see God? What if it's only a story? Questions like these come to us almost instinctively, and we shouldn't be ashamed of them. But they don't have to control us. Thank God we have people like Stephen who can show us how to "live well" and who can help us learn how to "die well"!
"Thank you, Jesus, for opening heaven to me every day. Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on you."
Psalm 31:3-4, 6-8, 17, 21
Words from a believer: ""Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." The unbelievers close their ears and continue the attack. And Stephen says words directly of Christ and from Christ and with Christ: ""Lord, do not hold this sin against them". Words of outpouring. As if to say "even though they don't understand me, I understand them", they are lost. They need Jesus. We need Jesus. And Jesus? Does He need us? For sure, He needs us to follow the Way to eternal life...eternity with Him.
"Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God. My trust is in the LORD; I will rejoice and be glad of your mercy." Our Lord prayed and lived the Psalms. Words that came out of Him and the way He lived were both in the bible and not in the bible. He was fulfilling and making anew all at the same time. Now here's a line to remember "My trust is in the Lord". Easy to say. Hard to live. How do you live trust? I was told in confession, after an inner struggle during Lent, that I had to have confidence in the Lord. But confidence demands some type of strength, no? Don't you have to be bold for that? Isn't that someone without any low self-esteem? How can a typical and average Joe have confidence in the Lord? Trust. I think it demands one thing that we are afraid to do...empty ourselves.
In the Holy Gospel, our Lord is approached about giving a sign, like Moses did, but God says "Moses didn't do that! I DID!". How often we attribute things to people that are actually God's gift. Take electricity for example. It has changed history, we live in a different world with it; lightning fast power, communications, and travel, with it you are receiving this message. People will attribute this finding to an inventor or inventors, but God must smile and say "it wasn't them, it was ME!". "And by the way, you're welcome!". How often do we thank God for the sun? The sun gives light and life! But we complain on how hot it is, or how bright and we cover our eyes, as we cover our ears to His message. So, soon as someone brings up God in conversation and people want to close their ears. "I don't want to hear it". One lady said she'd talk to her relative about God or play Christian music in the car, and the relative would curl up into a ball and rock herself and close her ears, a weird physical reaction to God's word. It isn't comfortable to many. In our culture, we rather hear about drama of politics, or sports, or anything but...what Stephen was saying: Holy Spirit. And this is what it boils down to. Trust. Our culture wants you to accept anything and anyone, except Christ. It wants you to love anything and anyone, except Christ. It is a twisted truth. Yes love and accept anyone and everything...except Sin! Sin is to deny Christ. Sin is to leave Him out. Let's bring Him in. It is possible you know. Begin with this praise and thanksgiving when you see the sun today, "God, I love you, thank you for the light".
Light means life.
Life to God means eternity.
And that's what He means when He says today ""I am the bread of life
whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
Today's saint is fitting for this day's scriptures. He was always where this bread was...among the poor, on the streets, and in the church, all the time, adoring, and never ceasing to seek the bread always. Why? What drove him to be so crazy? The answer is simple, he hungered no more...for things of this world. He was no longer thirsty for love. Jesus was thirsty on the cross, for our love and our salvation. We may act like we don't need God, but that is just an act. We all need Him, and you know this. Sit Him at your place. Invite Him in. Daily. "Come eat". And then, when He invites you, to eat with Him....GO!. Eat at His banquet. He aims to train us for Heaven. Where the heavenly banquet awaits. What is beautiful about this banquet?
Everyone wants to be there.
So does God!